Public Speaker on Public Issues



- Powell Tribune, August 1999

How long has it been since we had an election where campaign rhetoric did not include talk about tax changes of some sort? Who's old enough to remember?

Actually, I'm glad the topic of taxes continually comes up. Taxes are an out of control burden on the lives of Americans. Don't you just love it-one year we have no money, the next we have a giant surplus looking for a home. Does anybody, or any agency really know? One has to wonder. Maybe the Y2K problem will fix all the arithmetic!

In the meantime, I am going to suggest something that I think should be given serious consideration. It is an idea whose time has not only come but is overdue. Tax exemptions should be given to those people who do not have children, and a limit should be set for a specific number of children-shall we say 2 for the sake of discussion for those folks who decide to have children. There is a relationship between the number of children in a family and the natural resources they will consume over their lifetimes. Our government has an obligation to recognize this fact for the sake of our natural resources, other species and future generations.

World population is expected to reach 6 billion by October of this year. In 1960 world population was 3 billion-so we have managed to double that in less then 40 years. Way to go! If population trends continue then there will be 27 billion humans on this planet by the year 2150. Currently a city the size of San Francisco is added to the population every three days.

I could not disagree more with the Polyanna perspective of Judie Brown, president of the American Life League who is on record as saying "Human ingenuity, human creativity, human beings! We can never have too many". Now isn't that a classic example of ego outdistancing sensitivity and serious thought!

There can be too many of anything on this planet-and that includes too many of us. I am proudly a proponent of natural resource utilization. I am not, however, a proponent of self indulgence at the expense of all other forms on this earth. Realizing that may put me well outside the mainstream of many liberals and conservatives but I still maintain that position.

Probably the most protected and politically volatile tax deduction is the one given for children. I am not suggesting that these deductions be eliminated. I am suggesting that they be modified, and directly linked to sustainable resource utilization. An immediate and/or future timeline for implementation could be set so families could plan.

Right now, a tax deduction is given for each child. The more children the more deductions. I am suggesting that we set a limit on the number of deductions for children in each family. For each child over the threshold, there would be no tax deduction. That same threshold could be set for those who do not have children.

Tax deductions are no reason to decide to have children. Let us hope we never drop to such a primitive level as that in deciding to have children. And spare me the ill conceived idea that the Bible has something to do with tax deductions and children. Tax deductions for children are new on the scene compared to the Bible. More importantly, to embrace that concept as a reason for tax deductions is to exclude millions of fine Americans who live worthwhile lives following other spiritual doctrines, scriptures and avenues.

Parents would make the decision and exercise their choice of family size. In doing so, however, they should be willing to acknowledge that more children mean more consumption of resources. Public policies that encourage thoughtful consideration of such actions are well within the scope of responsible government.

The deductions for the yours, mine and ours families, so prevalent today could be worked out. The concept of such a public policy is what is important.
Historically we are at a point where mature and thoughtful government should clearly encourage sustainable approaches to consumption. Without infringing on personal and intrinsic rights, such a tax approach would better balance the impacts of personal actions, personal responsibility and the needs of future generations. Simply put, if you exercise your right to have a family that consumes more of the earth's resources, then you should be willing to bear a greater share of that consumption cost. Seems reasonable to me.

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