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Who will pay the price for baby bonuses

Mar 16, 2023

“We will support baby boomers and we will support baby bonuses for a new baby boom, how does that sound? I want a baby boom,” Trump said, chuckling, “You men are so lucky out there. You are so lucky, men.” This was his introduction to creating “technologically advanced, freedom cities” throughout the United States.  

Donald Trump

Yes, men. You are so lucky because this person does not care a bit about the health and well-being of women or babies, gives no thought to long-term impacts, and thinks about “baby bonuses” purely as an incentive for men to have more sex. “You are so lucky, men.” Did anyone inquire with women as to how much luck they will feel? Or the planet?

DailyKos recently reported “Texas Republican looks to Stalin, Putin for ‘family values’ policy ideas” including the proposed policy from GOP state Rep. Bryan Salmon, who is proposing property tax cuts for married straight people who are committed to having more babies. But only married, straight people. No one else.  Starting at four children, you get a 40% tax cut. Ten kids? 100% tax break. No property taxes at all. “With this bill, Texas will start saying to couples, ‘Get married, stay married, and be fruitful and multiply,” Slaton said in a statement.  

There’s a catch though. In order to qualify for the tax benefit, couples need to be heterosexual, never divorced, and their children born or adopted after their date of marriage. LGBTQ couples, single parents, divorced parents, and blended families will not qualify for full benefits. Be fruitful and multiply, but only if you meet a very specific and narrow requirement of what a family should look like. As though anti-sustainability, anti-planet Earth, and anti-woman wasn’t enough, this is also anti-LGBTQIA+ and anti-so many things that it would be difficult to list all the people this discriminates against. 

But let’s get back to the “right” people who the bill is supposed to encourage to have babies.

With this bill, women will be valued, literally worth tax credits, if they are married with their value increasing when they have more kids.  This is pronatalism in action.  Pronatalism has a very specific definition of a woman’s role: to produce children. Women’s value and productivity should not be measured by their ability to bear children. And our societal structures should support people pursuing lives that are fulfilling and healthy. Nobody should be pressured into specific roles, specific futures. 

The concept of “baby bonuses” is not new. Baby bonuses have been used by some governments as a way to encourage higher fertility rates, particularly in countries with aging populations and low birth rates. The idea is that by offering financial incentives to families to have children, governments can boost the number of births and alleviate some of the economic and social challenges associated with an aging population. (This is a flawed thought process because those economic and social challenges are far easier to adapt to than environmental and human rights collapse, but that is a separate blog.) 

And the truth is, while baby bonuses may have some short-term effects on fertility rates, their impact on long-term fertility trends is unclear. Some studies suggest that baby bonuses may have only a temporary effect on fertility rates, and that any increase in births is likely to be offset by a decline in fertility rates in subsequent years. But even if that is true, these efforts to incentivize childbearing cannot go ignored because they influence our communities and our lives in many ways. 

Baby bonuses multiply negative societal realities for women in many ways. Here are a few: 

  1. Reinforces gender roles: Baby bonuses often reinforce traditional gender roles, where women are expected to bear and raise children while men are the breadwinners. This can perpetuate inequality between men and women and limit women’s opportunities in the workforce and other areas of life. 
  1. Inadequate support: While baby bonuses may provide some financial support, they do not address larger structural barriers that women disproportionately face when trying to balance work and family life, such as inadequate childcare and paid parental leave. As a result, women may be forced to choose between having children and pursuing a career. 
  1. Increases pressure: Baby bonuses can also increase societal pressure on women to have children, even if they are not financially or emotionally ready to do so. This can lead to feelings of guilt, anxiety, and stress, and may even result in women having children they did not want or are unable to care for . 
  1. Devalues women: Baby bonuses reinforce harmful concepts that devalue everything about a person except their womb. By framing motherhood as the most important role for women, we create a culture that devalues women’s professional, artistic, creative, and intellectual selves. All contributions outside the home and childbearing are “less than.” This is called pronatalism and baby bonuses reinforce and lift up pronatalism in the most dangerous ways possible.  

It is important to note that overpopulation and global sustainability is not just about the number of people, but also about the way that resources are managed and distributed. But the number of people is also a vital factor to assess in global sustainability conversations – and population growth is caused by harmful social norms that give women poor social status, unequal access to education and a lack of job opportunities. Give women opportunities, not mandates to have babies, and let them choose when and if they want to have children. 

But this latest “baby bonus” will not be the last we see of this. In many developed countries, birth rates are already below replacement level, meaning that the population is expected to decline over time. We can expect politicians and pro-growth economists across the world to cook up new ways to prop up populations. These policies aren’t only hurting women. They hurt our communities; they hurt the places we call home.  

The Trump policy was put forth as a way to create “new” populations in freedom cities, where technology will cure all of society’s ills and more babies will create more consumers who need more resources, and growth will freely flow in these new cities, bringing prosperity to all. Except that is the opposite of the truth. Freedom cities won’t be free for women, even if they are being paid to have kids. Freedom cities won’t lift up our planet, they will tear it down. Freedom cities really aren’t free at all. Women will pay the price. Wildlife will pay the price. Humanity will pay the price. All living species will pay for these disastrous policies.