Paying for babies isn’t just a seedy black market adoption scheme anymore. It was one of the solutions suggested to boost the U.S. birth rate among college student loan-strapped couples at a recent Family Research Council policy lecture.
Allan Carlson proposes paying up to $5,000 per baby born, or one-quarter of each parents’ outstanding loan balances, to reduce the financial burden he claims is preventing debt-laden young married couples from starting families.
Carlson isn’t some benevolent socialist from a former eastern bloc nation. He’s the president of the conservative Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society that operates the right wing World Congress of Families.
According to Carlson, adoptions would also qualify, but like births, would be capped at a maximum of four children — twice the current average birth rate for U.S. women. That could net recent graduates $40,000 in total loan forgiveness from the federal government.
It’s unclear if men and women placing their children up for adoption would also be eligible for the natal discount. And curiously, he never addresses single parenthood and loan assistance but that probably doesn’t square with the moral rectitude of what he refers to as "responsible homes."
Carlson has been shopping his jaw-dropping idea since at least 2004 with little to show for it. But with unemployment rates for recent graduates topping 10.6 percent in Sept. and college seniors’ average debt loads rising to $23,200, the Family Research Council snagged the politically volatile situation to push its stock ultra-conservative beliefs.
Carlson’s remarks at the sparsely attended lecture, bolstered by his previous commentaries on the state of family life, were infused with a heavy strain of anti-feminist contempt. He frequently bemoans how marriage and childbirth rates were higher 40-50 years ago.
He blames the "growing obstacle to marriage and children" as a manifestation of more women attending college and insisting on marrying men with equal post-secondary education achievement.
In other words, had young women not attended school, become burdened by massive student loan debt and narrowed their marriageable prospects they would not now be delaying marriage and childbearing.
Carlson snears that college loans stunt young people’s transition from adolescence to adulthood, which he identifies as solely attained by marriage and making babies, because recent graduates are living with their parents while starting their careers or, worse, cohabitating sans wedding bells.
"The anti-natalist, or anti-birth trend, may also be associated in part with rising debt levels and financial stress, including student loans," Carlson asserts comparing the 34 percent decline in birth rates among women with an undergraduate degree between 1984-1995. During the same period, Census data found births among 1,000 women without a college education slipped 14 percent.
Carlson charges this is irrefutable proof of "a special anti-natalist force is now at work among the young college education and the evidence points to student loan debt."
Carlson goes on to state that government policy makers have a "special moral imperative" to address the problems of debt-burdened students that result in anti-family public policies. Yet, nowhere does he note that effects of lobbying by the Family Research Council and other conservatives against expanded family leave or efforts to abolish gender disparity in wages and benefits, and insufficient maternal health insurance options that directly dissuade couples from having children.
Recall the Religious Right’s deafening silence in response to Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl’s boneheaded Sept. 25 remark during a congressional health care debate:
"I don’t need maternity care, and so requiring that to be in my insurance policy is something that I don’t need and will make the policy more expensive."
However, never fear non-college students without boatloads of school debt. Carlson proposes a whole catalog of other things, like expanding child tax credits and reducing Social Security taxes for families so you, too, can join the baby-making gravy train.
He estimates the five grand per baby bonus/loan forgiveness scheme alone would cost the recession-mired federal government $8-10 billion.