Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

In June, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and returned lawmaking authority over abortion to the legislatures. This was an enormous victory for the pro-life movement. But as we have already witnessed in summer election results, a post-Roe political climate will be challenging for the GOP to navigate. Democrats intend to spend millions of dollars this fall telling voters that Republicans want to ban all abortions without exception—and that these same politicians have no interest in helping new mothers provide for their babies.

The GOP will need to explicitly counter this messaging if it wants to take back Congress. Passing the buck to the states won’t cut it. Republicans will need to articulate exactly what they believe about abortion and contrast that with the Democrats’ forty-week, taxpayer-funded abortion extremism. On top of that, Republicans will need to make it clear to voters that they support a number of pro-family economic policies aimed at helping new mothers who choose life over abortion. Fortunately, on that last point, a serious effort is already underway.

In 2016, a moderator at a Republican primary debate expressed skepticism about Marco Rubio’s plan to triple the Child Tax Credit (CTC). “Normally, it’s liberals who like to use the tax code to influence social policy,” the moderator quipped. “Why should conservatives want a tax plan that adopts the other side’s approach?”

Rubio was ahead of the curve. Working with Sen. Mike Lee, he ensured that the CTC was doubled to $2,000 in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, substantively reducing the tax burden for millions of working families. That might have annoyed some GOP senators at the time, but it has become party orthodoxy now, especially post-Roe. Last year, as an amendment to the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion “COVID-19 relief” bill that passed into law, Senate Republicans unanimously voted in favor of a Rubio-Lee proposal to expand the CTC again to $3,300 (and $4,200 for children under age six). The amendment failed, but the vote established CTC expansion as a GOP priority.

Sen. Mitt Romney has also proposed converting the CTC into a permanent child allowance, providing families with $350 per month for each child under age six, and $250 per month for children between ages six and seventeen. Notably, Romney’s plan would create an unborn child benefit, providing pregnant women with $700 per month during the last four months of a pregnancy. Romney’s plan would allow for payments in excess of tax liability if certain work requirements are met. It is also budget neutral—the benefit is fully paid for by eliminating the State And Local Tax (SALT) deduction for high earners and reforming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Sen. Josh Hawley has proposed a “parent tax credit,” which can exceed one’s tax liability, for all parents of children under the age of thirteen. Like Romney’s plan, Hawley’s includes a small work requirement for the previous tax year. It also explicitly favors marriage, providing a $6,000 annual credit to single parents of young children and a $12,000 annual credit to married parents.

In the states, Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis has set the standard high. This summer, he announced that approximately 59,000 families in need would receive checks of $450 per child to help offset inflation and afford school supplies. He also established a Back-to-School Sales Tax holiday that lasted for two weeks and applied to a long list of education-related products, including clothing and electronics.

Furthermore, several Republicans have proposed programs to provide new parents with a way to supplement lost income when they take parental leave from work. Both Sens. Rubio and Lee have introduced their own versions of paid family leave, allowing new parents to borrow from their future Social Security payments. Sen. Bill Cassidy teamed up with Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema to propose a unique take on paid family leave—a $5,000 “baby bonus” that could be accessed upon the birth or adoption of a child. The benefit would borrow from the CTC and be paid back over a period of ten years via a diminished CTC benefit, essentially serving as an interest-free loan. While some conservatives vocally oppose paid family leave as a Big Government program, and others criticize it as far too timid, passing one of these proposals would be a relatively easy lift for Republicans.

All of this is a good start. Republicans should be applauded for shifting their policy priorities to better reflect the needs of their most important political constituency: the family. This is especially important as Democrats try to monopolize this policy space with dystopian proposals like Biden’s American Families Plan, which would “help” working families by penalizing stay-at-home mothers, exacerbating the “two-income trap,” and replacing daycare workers without college degrees with government-approved, woke post-graduates properly educated in queer theory.

But ultimately the GOP will need to think bigger.

We know what Joe Biden and the Democrats have done to the economy. Energy prices are higher across the board. Food prices have skyrocketed. Supply chain issues and critical product shortages have disrupted everyday life. Parents are struggling to afford the rising costs of not only childcare, but healthcare and education.

There exists a structural economic problem plaguing families that, while exacerbated in the last eighteen months, has certainly predated recent history: It is no longer possible for most families to survive on one full-time income. For many, it is becoming difficult to survive on two. By almost every objective measure, we are passing on a worse economy to the next generation of Americans than the one we inherited. The American dream appears to be on life support.

The Republican proposals described above would help to address the short-term economic pain inflicted on families by Biden’s disastrous policies. But to truly address the structural economic problem of stagnant wages and rising costs, which is not only hurting existing families but likely preventing the formation of new families, we must holistically embrace pro-family economics. That means we need a shift in perspective—a reimagining of means, and a realignment of ends.

We have long viewed Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the gold standard of economic measurement. Just as language determines how we think, the way we measure data shapes how we view the world. But GDP would seem to indicate that mothers who choose to raise their children at home are a net drag on the economy. Is it right to think this way? A rigid belief that positive GDP growth is of the utmost importance would lead one to absurd policy conclusions: It would be better for stay-at-home mothers to hire each other as nannies and work by raising each other’s children—after all, that would contribute to GDP and increase the labor force participation rate.

In fact, as Peter Thiel has argued, a significant portion of GDP growth over the years may be illusory for similar reasons: “[If] you shift an economy from a single-income household with a homemaker to one with two breadwinners and a third person who’s a child-carer, statistically you have three jobs instead of one and therefore you have more GDP, and you will exaggerate the amount of progress that’s happened.”

By adopting a philosophy that all economics should be pro-family economics—hardly a controversial concept given that the entire purpose of the oikonomia is the oikos, the household—we will naturally begin to question dead consensus economic orthodoxies that don’t work to the benefit of working-class families. We will begin to think about long-standing policies on trade, immigration, financialization, and even monetary policy in fundamentally different ways. And we will finally be able to tackle the crisis of the American family and promote a sustainable culture of life.

Jon Schweppe is the policy director at American Principles Project.

First Things depends on its subscribers and supporters. Join the conversation and make a contribution today.

Click here to make a donation.

Click here to subscribe to First Things.

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter Web Exclusive Articles

Related Articles