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March 28, 2007
Column #1,335
How To Strengthen The Family Structure
by Michael J. McManus

"For the first time, less than a quarter of American households are headed by a married mother and father," said Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS). "They have plummeted to the lowest level ever. Yet the family, with mom and dad bonded together, is the best place to raise the next generation."

Therefore, he and Rep. Lee Terry, R-NE, introduced a package of bills, "the most important pro-family legislation to be created in several decades," according to Dr. Allan Carlson, President of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society. "It recognizes the importance of parental care of young children by expanding the dependent care child tax credit to cover stay-at-home moms."

At present the tax credit is given only to parents whose children are in daycare. Imagine what will happen if Congress adopts the Brownback-Terry proposal to extend the $2,100 credit to mothers who remain at home to care for young children.  Many will leap at the chance to be full-time mothers.

A new study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development underscores the importance of this initiative. In a long-term $200 million study following children from infancy through the 6th grade, researchers found that putting a child into daycare for as little as a year, increases the odds the child will become disruptive in class years later.

"Children with more experience in center settings continued to manifest somewhat more problem behaviors through sixth grade," the report stated.  And this impact on behavior was manifest even if the child attended high quality day care.

By comparison, children reared by parents or grandparents were "relatively stable" emotionally. The report says, "Parents and children also share genes, further contributing to the relative strength of associations between parenting and child functioning through the sixth grade."

This massive proves what has long been obvious, that kids do better if nurtured by their own parents. 

Therefore, the package of bills proposed by Brownback/Terry is particularly important:

I. Increase the child tax exemption to $5,000 from $3,400 and index it to inflation.
It started at $600 in 1948 when average family income was $3,000 and would be $10,000 today if it had been indexed to inflation.

II. Make the child tax credit of $1,000 permanent, scheduled to sunset in 2010.

III. Make permanent the elimination of a marriage penalty in both the tax rate tables and the standard deduction.

IV. Allow a simple $2,500 deduction for a home-based business.

V. Give businesses who allow workers to work at home, a $2,400 tax credit.

VI. Give Social Security credits for at home work, as if the worker were earning the national average wage, as long as children are under age 6.

The Social Security provision is particularly important.  My wife was a stay-at-home mother who was out of the workforce for more than a decade while our children were young. Although she now receives Social Security benefits, they are substantially less than if she had been credited as a full-time worker, which she certainly was - though not for pay.

The Social Security system is in fiscal crisis today because Baby Boomers had fewer children.  Abortion alone has resulted in more than 40 million fewer births. Had those children been born, there would be many more workers to pay for the retirement of their parents in the Baby Boom generation. The long-term future of Social Security rests on birth rates.

If Congress were to pass this package of family-friendly laws, the lure of work for parents of young children would diminish, and the joy of being a full-time mother would be rewarded economically. It would level the playing field of home and work.

Also, it would begin to rebuild the family structure which has deteriorated as cohabitation has soared 10-fold since 1970, and as marriage rates have plunged in half, a million couples divorce annually affecting a million children, and nearly two out of five children are born out-of-wedlock.

"Why not use the tax code to empower the family, if one parent wishes to stay home?" suggests Rep. Terry.

However, the package would be very expensive, in the tens of billions. Allan Carlson suggests one solution: "Raise the overall tax rate a point or two, to put more of a burden on people not raising children."  Of course, such a hike would be very controversial.

Not a problem for Senator Brownback who told a press conference, as he unveiled the proposals, "I want to be known as the Family President."

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