Is helping middle class families social engineering?
One frequently mentioned criticism of the plan in “Room to Grow” to dramatically expand the child tax credit* is that it’s somehow “social engineering.” But as Bob Stein, the author of that chapter, has patiently pointed out, the expansion would actually help offset the anti-family “social engineering” of current government policy and make Americans less dependent on government.
Anyway, all this talk of “social engineering” reminded me of a passage in “Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II” by George Weigel (bold is mine):
Perhaps the hardest-fought battle between Church and [Poland’s] regime involved family life, for the communists understood that men and women secure in the love of their families were a danger. Housing, work schedules, and school hours were all organized by the state to separate parents from their children as frequently as possible. Apartments were constructed to accommodate only small families, so that children would be regarded as a problem. Work was organized in four shifts and families were rarely together. The workday began at 6 or 7 a.m., so children had to be consigned to state-run child-care centers before school. The schools themselves were consolidated, and children were moved out of their local communities for schooling.
Now that’s social engineering. I guess my point here is that policy reformers should think carefully about the roadblocks government inadvertently puts up to Americans conducting a healthy family life. Maybe that’s tax policy. Maybe it’s welfare policy. . . .
I am not a fan of Working for Families when it is given to people earning well above the average wage.
However, I do accept it has a place at the lower end of the wage scale to ensure families are better off with a parent in work than on welfare.
Anecdotal evidence says it discourages a second parent from seeking work because what’s earned is cancelled out by what’s lost in steep abatements from WFF.
If financial reward was a major consideration in the parent seeking work that could be the case.
Another issue which impacts on family life is the push for urban development which promotes infill-housing and going up rather than out.
Going up results in apartment blocks and in-fill housing – both usually have hardly any outside areas for relaxation and play which families need.
That is the norm in many other countries and isn’t a problem if there are plenty of public recreation areas which isn’t always the case.
The concern people have over the ageing population is not just a function of the post-war baby-boom. It’s a function of people having fewer or no children since then.
How many children people have, or if they have any at all, is entirely their business.
However, governments can influence that by policies which are or aren’t family friendly.
WFF is family friendly although it gives support to some who might not need it.
Sole parent benefits do support families in need, but they can also sabotage family relationships if the state is a better bread-winner than the absent parent.