Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Family Values Platform

If Republicans wish to remain the party of "family values", then they need to do more to help out actually families instead of only taking on culture war issues. There is a lot more that the government can do to make parenting easier; Here are just a few ideas:

1) Paid Paternity/Maternity Leave - The US is one of the few developed countries in the world that still does not offer paid maternity leave to mothers - while paid paternity leave to new fathers seems like a far off pipe dream. New parents have to choose between taking care of their newborn or earning a paycheck. Doing the two simultaneously is nearly impossible. It is no wonder that so many people put off having kids until much later, if at all, considering these circumstances. If mothers and fathers did not have to make this decision, then they would be more likely to start families.

As an additional side benefit, giving men paternity leave will close the gender wage differential as employers see both parents as equally likely to take off from work to raise a family. Some companies are already beginning to offer this benefit and may lobby to make it happen on the federal level.

2) Refundable Tax Credits for Parenting Classes - Raising a child is the single most important thing that many of us will ever do, and yet no one ever teaches people how to be parents. This is a mistake. Even knowing what is going to happen to a toddler before it does will ease much anxiety (and many emergency room visits). Knowing best practices, different strategies, and other musings from the voices of experiences would go a long way to raising children more effectively. The government could offer refundable tax credits, or even deductions, to all parents who take courses through their local non-profit (may it be a church or otherwise) on child rearing, therefore making life just a little bit easier on those who have families.

3) Increased funding for after-school programs - School gets out at 3:30pm at most places, while most adults do not end their workday until 5pm (if they are lucky). Holding a job while raising a child becomes difficult to do simultaneously, unless the children can attend some after-school program that keeps them watched until their parents get out of work. Unfortunately, these are also the type of programs that get the ax whenever budget cuts come around. By having the federal government offer increased funding for after-school programs (or extending school days), it allows parents to not have to choose between raising a child and maintaining a career.


4) Tax Deductions for Contributions to Coverdell Educational Savings Accounts - Educating children is expensive. University tuition has been increasing exponentially over the last several decades. There also might not be the best K-12 public schools in your local area, so private primary education could also be another hit to your pocketbook.

Coverdell educational savings plans, also known as Coverdell IRAs, allow parents to put away money for their children's educational expenses. Any interest or dividends earned on Coverdell IRAs are not taxed as long as the money is withdrawn for educational expenses. If all contributions to Coverdell plans were tax deductible, then parents could spend more money taking care of their children instead of paying federal taxes.

5) A general goal to have the lowest infant mortality rate in the world - The United States ranks 34th in the world with 6 deaths per thousand live births. That is 20 percent higher (and 10 ranks worse) than neighboring Canada. It is 3 times the number of deaths of the #1 ranking Singapore. Infant mortality is horrifying experience that should have no opposition. To accomplish this change, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should establish best practices for hospitals (and future mothers) to follow.

Update: Eric Cantor (R) just introduced a bill to federally fund more research on pediatric diseases. A win for babies everywhere.

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