The Baby Subsidy

Since Nadya Suleman gave birth last month to octuplets, there has been a lot of attention to how the cost of birthing the babies and caring for them (along with the six children Suleman already had) falls to taxpayers. It’s unfair, commentators say, for the public to subsidize Suleman’s family. Perhaps. But let’s widen the lens a bit. Many babies are subsidized by other people. Workers with health insurance take for granted that their insurance plans will pick up the costs of the medical care required during pregnancy and delivery. Yet it isn’t obvious that insurance should cover pregnancy. Pregnancy isn’t an illness. The costs associated with pregnancy are more like those associated with an elective procedure. Insurance doesn’t typically pay for elective procedures (tummy tucks, LASIK, hair transplants, and so on) because there isn’t anything to insure against. From the perspective of somebody in the insurance pool who elects not to have babies, coverage for pregnancy isn’t far from the taxpayer’s coverage of Suleman’s bills. Paid parenting leave and other employee benefits further subsidize babies; employees who do not have children cannot normally ask for a Caribbean cruise instead. Perhaps the lesson is: people in subsidized houses shouldn’t cast stones.

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7 Responses

  1. True to a point, but most elective surgeries do little to perpetuate the species (a worthwhile objective), though I suppose an argument could be made for making one more appealing to potential mates. Perhaps insurance and other taxpayer-supported child-related benefits should only cover the first two children?

  2. CheaperByTheDozen says:

    Well, here’s one possible difference. Raising some kids is often a wondrous “sentimental education,” teaching the parents how to be compassionate, caring, and totally devoted to another human being.

    But it is hard to imagine how octo-mom is going to manage here, and we can count on her ultrafecundity to seriously undermine the training in virtue that childbearing usually results in. Only a Reader’s Digest sop can believe in the old saw “I don’t divide my love across the kids, I multiply it” in this odd case.

    A state might want to reward parents a little for one kid, more for two, then phase out the rewards as the kids proliferate. THink of it as a moderately natalist policy, the opposite of the French gov’t’s practice (under Petain?) of giving gold medals to moms wiht more than 7 kids.

  3. Brett Bellmore says:

    I’ll agree to lose my tax deduction for Victor when you agree that his SS taxes won’t fund your retirement. How’s that for a deal?

    Indeed, unlike just about any other elective medical condition, THIS one is necessary for the species’ survival.

  4. Brett Bellmore says:

    Indeed, here’s a “modest proposal”: Phase out some portion of social security in favor of a system where parents are simply allocated some fixed percentage of the taxes levied on their children.

    This would have the salutary effect of making clear exactly how dependent the non-reproducing segment of society are on the efforts of those of us who have children, as well as providing parents with a good incentive to make sure their children grow up to be as productive as possible.

  5. A.J. Sutter says:

    Maybe the real lesson is that people who don’t want to bear any cost for being part of society should secede from that society. People who want some of the benefits of living in a community, nation or “pool” should not be so insistent on going Dutch when it comes to the costs.

    As for Brett’s incentive idea, though, I think you’d need either to repeal child labor laws or to postpone the age of majority. The productivity of most children is still small by age 21, and after that age (by the latest) how are parents to make sure their kids do anything?

  6. I think the writer of the post needs to clarify that most insurance plans charge women a lot more each month if they choose maternity coverage. These days women have to choose a plan that covers maternity care or choose maternity care as an additional coverage to their plan. Both options are more expensive, and often a lot more expensive. If a woman wants to become pregnant, she often has to wait a year or more for recently elected maternity coverage to become effective. If a woman becomes pregnant without that coverage, it’s a preexisting condition and is not covered if she trys to add it. This shows the sorry state of our health care system and the people who support it as is are the same ones always claiming to be for families and against abortion.

  7. cheer bows says:

    I agree with CheaperByTheDozen.

    Parents who will bear 1-2 kids should receive rewards but more than that, they should pay. By that we also help control the bursting population. We should help each other not just ourselves.