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Campaign Finance Reform and Fascism

Some folks to the left of the center line in Rhode Island politics would probably like me a whole lot more if I didn’t get so heated on the subject of campaign finance reform.  For much of the last two decades, that subject has been an area of rare agreement between left and right, but the more I’ve thought about it, and the more I’ve observed, the more convinced I’ve become that campaign finance reform actually does a great deal of harm to our country and that its supporters on the right have been suckered.

Among the many benefits of Scott Walker’s push against public-sector labor unions in Wisconsin may be its effect in prodding the left to start leveraging the campaign finance advantage before it was politically wise to do so on the national stage.  I’m referring to the infamous “John Doe” investigations, which I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere in Rhode Island news media, other than on Anchor Rising-Ocean State Current:

In April, National Review told — for the first time — the stories of the targets of Wisconsin’s “John Doe” investigations. The accounts were harrowing. Anonymous sources told of pre-dawn raids, with police swarming into their homes, walking into sleeping children’s rooms, denying the targets immediate access to lawyers, and then imposing gag orders that prevented them from telling friends, family, and supporters about their ordeal.

These raids were not launched against hardened criminals but against conservative activists, and the “crimes” they were accused of turned out not to be crimes at all.  Rather, a hyper-partisan district attorney, John Chisholm, and his special prosecutor, Francis Schmitz, launched a multi-county criminal investigation of First Amendment–protected speech. They wanted to know the extent to which conservative individuals and groups had coordinated with Scott Walker’s campaign — and the campaigns of various state senators — to advocate conservative issues.

On the surface, it sounds like a great idea to increase transparency in politics, down to the donations and spending by every candidate for every office.  The problem is that insiders have all of the advantages, on that count, and ruthless people can make better use of the information than moral grassroots volunteers and candidates, whether the ruthlessness manifests as a literal government conspiracy, as in Wisconsin, or merely run-of-the-mill intimidation of donors who back the non-ruthless.


Responding to the Incentives of Ideological Regulation in Barrington

ecoRI News reports that some larger chain stores in Barrington are reacting to the town’s ban on disposable plastic shopping bags by searching for the line at which bags are no longer considered disposable:

CVS and Shaw’s are promoting their thicker plastic bags as reusable. Shaw’s currently offers free paper bags and charges 10 cents apiece for the plastic bags. CVS stopped using paper bags altogether and this year shifted to free plastic bags.

Town Council vice president Kate Weymouth claims the thicker checkout bags defy the intent, if not the letter of the ordinance. In an e-mail to supporters of the ban, Weymouth wrote that the town’s ordinance relied on boiler-plate language from other bans across the country.

She wrote that the oil, gas and plastic industries fear losing revenue from the bans, so “they have legally worked around the language of these bans, and in ours specifically, by producing a thicker ply plastic, sticking handles to the top and stamping them with the word ‘reusable.’”

Well, good for them.  If only do-gooder progressives would start learning how incentives work.  Somewhere, in Barrington, a family that would otherwise drive its station wagon home full of thin plastic bags is now driving their SUV home filled with thicker plastic bags.

The council vice president’s response is instructive.  Inasmuch as they are characterized by their faith in government, progressives have a strange reverence for the government’s decrees (at least when those decrees align with their ideology).  The biggest incentive that they may be missing, though, is the incentive to stop taking the law seriously when it becomes too meddling and dictated.

The other day, I described two understandings of government and democracy: one seeing government as a means of relieving citizens of the need to build their lives around protection of their own rights (especially through violence), and the other seeing democracy as a means of making people feel like they have both buy-in and a means of acting peacefully to change the regime when they disagree.  (Digression: Arguably, these were jointly benefits of representative democracy, once, but with the expansion of government and the deterioration of politicians’ willingness to abide by their own laws, the principles are separating.)

The question that Ms. Weymouth should consider is why these companies — or anybody, at this point, really — should care one bit about “the intent” or the spirit of the law.  They don’t feel represented in the government, and they feel the direct burden of its decrees while doubting that the intent will have a real, positive effect on outcomes.

I’ve said it before:  We’ve reached the point, in this country, that one complies with the law simply to stay out of jail, not because the law deserves our respect.


Government Built on the Principal-Agency Problem

Writing on the quagmire of President Obama’s foreign policy, Richard Fernandez introduces a term that describes very well the challenge I observed on Friday, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and in Rhode Island:

To understand how defeat can be winning  recall the old principal-agent problem. “The dilemma exists because sometimes the agent is motivated to act in his own best interests rather than those of the principal.” Even though the people might gain more by “winning” if the political class can do better by “losing” then they lose.

The Wikipedia entry to which Fernandez links for a quick explanation places at the core of the dilemma the fact that the agent (say, a corporate board) has an advantage in information over the principal (e.g., shareholders).  The board can better see the conditions of the investment and may find itself in a position in which recommending one path would pay off for the shareholders, but cost the board.

In the case of government, the asymmetry of information certainly exists, but the greater problem is the asymmetry of power.  In theory, of course, government agents must convince voters that public actions are in their best interest, which is an information issue, but the government has the advantage that direct consent is not immediately necessary, so its persuasion can be done post facto.  ObamaCare would never have won a national referendum, but imposing it and then manipulating asymmetrical information has kept it lumbering along.

The Greenhouse Compact failed in Rhode Island because it came to a vote of the people, while RhodeMap RI insinuated its way into law and now can continue based on the false information that it’s simply sitting on a shelf, or the even more obvious stratagem of changing its name.  Remember that Governor Raimondo used a refinancing gimmick to produce the $80 million needed for part of her plan without the requirement of public consent, and some of her wealthy backers are helping to fund some of the planning stage, perhaps with reinforcement from the Boston Fed.

Decisions are being made that will affect every part of your life in Rhode Island.  You still have time (theoretically) to change the people making the decisions or to take their authority away for specific actions.  Many have already concluded that the only way to escape their authority is to leave, although the disinclination to stand up against them does not bode well for the hope that their approach won’t spread around the country and the world.


When the Government Finds a Better Tenant

Yesterday, I mentioned, by the by, that folks who support a broad scope for government tend to assume that the things that they like and that they receive will always be included within that scope.  Well, turn your eyes to Europe:

A woman in Germany is being evicted from her home of 23 years to make way for asylum-seekers, in the second such case to emerge.

Gabrielle Keller has been given until the end of the year to leave her flat in the small southern town of Eschbach, near the border with France.

The flat belongs to the local municipality, which says it is needed to house refugees.

As I’ve also suggested recently, a government built on a central-planning philosophy will also tend to resemble private organizations for which we assume action in self interest.  When the government finds a better use for its apartment buildings, well, it will give the current tenants notice.

The crucial question, in this instance, is why the government believes housing for refugees trumps housing for citizens and how much this example is symbolic more broadly in the West, as Sarah Hoyt implies.


Letting Them Take Away Our Government and Our Civil Rights

Via Instapundit comes an excellent illustration of the degree to which we’re simply allowing our right to self governance evaporate away in favor of the radical ideology of an elite administrative class:

Even [Deputy Education Assistant Secretary Amy McIntosh], despite her dodging and weaving, concedes that Catherine E. Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and head of the DoE Office of Civil Rights has gone off the reservation.  She has no lawful authority to mandate colleges and universities adhere to her political whims, as reflected in her “guidance,” upon pain of losing federal funds.*

When asked (see 1:37 in the video) who gave Lhamon the authority to impose her personal will upon the nation’s colleges and universities, she responded, “with gratitude, you did when I was confirmed.”

The United States of America did not confer upon a person named Lhamon the authority to recreate Title IX in her image, to impose threat of the loss of public monies upon failure to adhere to her vision, to force a fundamental and systemic change that created a wholly new authority to rid the nation’s higher educational system of anything that might adversely affect the feelings of “marginalized” students, ascertain and punish students who are alleged to have engaged in conduct that caused such unpleasantness.

Our government is no longer following the rules that ensure that ours is a representative democracy, and the tendency simply to implement the preferred policy of whichever party can claim the White House will only expand, and rapidly.  We desperately need to begin populating elective offices with people who will insist on the rules of government… and then we need to cycle in new officials on a regular basis.

This ratcheting constraint on our civil rights has been happening for a long time, but the Obama presidency has left the rule of law a wasteland.  If we don’t change things now — right down to convincing the news and entertainment media to take the side of the people over government interests (or to drive them out of business) — it’s going to come to oppression and violence sooner than later.


Gina’s Gleichschaltung

Ed Driscoll recalls a Jonah Goldberg column from 2010, and it makes me think of Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and the Brookings Institution:

Now, contemporary liberalism is not an evil ideology. Its intentions aren’t evil or even fruitfully comparable to Hitlerism. But there is a liberal Gleichschaltung all the same. Every institution must be on the same page. Every agency must advance the liberal agenda.

And this is where the Catch-22 catches. The dream of a nimble, focused, problem-solving government is undone by the reality of hyper-mission creep. When every institution is yoked to an overarching philosophy or mission, its actual purpose can become an afterthought.

Here’s Bruce Katz, of Brookings, talking about the study on which his institution is currently working for the benefit of the Raimondo Administration:

“I think in most parts of the U.S. it’s still, the government does this, the corporations do that, the universities are somewhere else,” [Bruce Katz, the nationally-known head of the Metropolitan Policy Program] said. “In the successful places around the world there’s a seamless interaction between all these different sectors, and if they’re all on the same page – then that’s when you get the bigger returns. So it’s not just the policy … it’s this foundation of collaboration.”

Unfortunately for the central planners, this is a pipe dream.  Just look at Stephen Beale’s article on GoLocalProv, today:

The Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families is riddled with severe financial problems and shoddy record keeping, leading to running deficits, a potential misuse of funds, and violation of state purchasing regulations, according to a state audit.

The problem isn’t only that a government in which unity of purpose is paramount hinders each organization or agency from fulfilling its own unique purpose, but also that the purpose of the whole collective stops being to solve problems and starts being to support the collective.  As I suggest in Beale’s article, the people who do the stuff of government know that the folks at the top, including those who are elected, are on their side and reluctant to raise questions about the whole big-government enterprise; they also know that like-minded people have a lock on those offices.

Under such circumstances, belief in the principle of central planning becomes the first requirement for employees, and the first objective of any process to catch and stop bad management becomes not catching and stopping bad management, but preventing incidents from making people think society might have other ways to solve its problems.


Hey, You Kids Get Off of Your Own Lawn!

The government’s war on children’s lemonade stands has been the subject of much mockery on the right for years, but here’s a new one:

You may have seen one of these little bird house turned mini-libraries in your neighborhood. They’re a lovely idea. Simple, no fuss, and quite fun. Donate a book, borrow a book. Nothing to sign, no due date, no late fees, just common courtesy.

Conor Freidersdorf of The Atlantic explored the ridiculous trend of “shutting down” unregulated community book sharing.

At the first stop, of course, this is a story of excessive government, but the Legal Insurrection post linked above brings out a key consideration that’s often overlooked: “The Leawood City Council said it had received a couple of complaints about Spencer Collins’ Little Free Library.”  Not only do people contribute to the creation of invasive zoning laws, but they exercise them, too.

What our current approach to government does, in this country, is to allow the curmudgeons to project their old remonstrance for the kids “to get off of my lawn” across the street, allowing them to tell them to get off of their own lawns.  To be clear, people should have a right to develop communities that are free of just about anything they find offensive.  It’s safe to say, however, that the rest of us have become too tangled up in our political philosophies to stop the curmudgeons from giving themselves far too much power.

We need to push back, even if it means getting into ridiculously heated battles over silly matters in local government.


Keep It Up, Coventry!

Hey, in Rhode Island, lovers of freedom and the rule of law have to take what victories they can, and I’d count this as one:

State officials effectively threw up their hands Friday in trying to prop up the Central Coventry Fire District, saying they wanted to pull the plug on their bankruptcy reorganization plan after uncooperative town officials threatened to sue the plan’s chief architect and the district’s board proved to be perpetual obstructionists.

“It isn’t in Rhode Island taxpayers’ best interest to continue spending thousands of dollars on a plan that will not be successful because it lacks the support from the leadership of the town and from the CCFD board,” said David Sullivan, acting director of the state Department of Revenue.

Of course, that’s from the Providence Journal, so it has to be rephrased in a way that isn’t heavily slanted toward government officials.  You have to look into the direct quotes of the “obstructionists” to understand what’s really happening.  Here’s the Town Council’s lawyer, Nicholas Gorham:

“It was clear the people wanted profound change, and with all due respect to Judge Pfeifer, his plan did not do that. Consideration of private services, more volunteers; those are the things that have been repeated over and over again. And there is really no evidence they were even ever considered.”

So to revisit the first paragraph, above, the receiver came in not with the intention of figuring out how to satisfy the voters and taxpayers who have a right to determine how their fire district will run while balancing safety concerns and employee rights, but with the view that the status quo should be preserved as much as possible.  Calling the people who’ll have to live with any arrangement long after the receiver (i.e., state-appointed dictator) has collected his paycheck and gone home “obstructionist” for insisting that any deal must meet their interests is a pretty aggressive attack.

That said, if “obstructionist” is what the establishment and its newspaper want to call free citizens asserting their rights, then we need more obstructionists across the state and in state government.


Wall Street and a Political Showdown

Ed Driscoll kicks off an Instapundit post noting the Wall Street panic over the possibility that Donald Trump might actually win the Republican nomination, quoting from a Politico article by Ben White (emphasis Driscoll’s):

The latest frightening broadside for the Wall Street class came on Sunday when Trump said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that executive pay in America is “a complete joke” and promised to raise taxes on “the hedge fund guys.” In a statement sent to POLITICO on Monday from his campaign, Trump relished in the attacks from Wall Street, singling out both Bush and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, another favorite on Wall Street.

At this point, it’s not unreasonable to speculate that the best thing Wall Street can do to help Donald Trump is to be vocal in their fear of him.  As Driscoll goes on to point out, by the time of Barack Obama’s election to the presidency, Wall Street had disconnected itself from both the Republican Party and the American Main Street.

It serves progressives, liberals, and the media (forgive the repetition) to attempt to disguise the fact that the Democrat Party has become the party of the rich investor class (see: Raimondo, Gina), but over the last seven years, vocal observation of that reality has been expanding across the political right and center and the realization thereof is surely quietly permeating much of the left, too.  (A big clue, for some years, has been when the stock market has responded well to bad employment news and badly to good employment news because of the likely effect on the Federal Reserve and interest rates.)

Meanwhile, the Republican establishment has proven itself to be almost completely disinterested in championing conservative causes — or even just Main Street causes — when doing so would involve political risks imposed by the news media and a lawless president.

The political game isn’t even creating the semblance of working for the great majority of taxpayers and voters, so those taxpayers and voters are going to be increasingly willing to take risks with their votes.  Even blowing up the status quo would be preferable to letting the noose continue to tighten.

A wise observer would have some fear that the establishment will respond by rushing for the golden ring of a political system in which there is absolutely zero chance that they can be voted out of power, but for those of us who’ve been watching the slow advance toward that outcome for years, a showdown sooner than later would be a hopeful turn of events.


Rhode Island as Experiment in Decline of Nations

As Robert Samuelson describes him in Washington Post essay, Mancur Olson should be made the official patron economist of Rhode Island, or something:

Although an economist, Olson revolutionized thinking about the political power of interest groups. Until Olson, conventional wisdom held that large groups were more powerful than small groups in pursuing their self-interest — say, a government subsidy, tax preference or a protective tariff. Bigness conveyed power.

Just the opposite, Olson said in his 1965 book “The Logic of Collective Action.” With so many people in the large group, the benefits of collective action were often spread so thinly that no individual had much of an incentive to become politically active. The tendency was to “let George do it,” but George had no incentive either. By contrast, the members of smaller groups often could see the benefits of their collective action directly. They were motivated to organize and to pursue their self-interest aggressively.

Here’s an example: A company and its workers lobby for import protection, which saves jobs and raises prices and profits. But consumers — who pay the higher prices — don’t create a counter-lobby, because it’s too much trouble and the higher prices are diluted among many individual consumers. Gains are concentrated, losses dispersed.

Around here, one can see this dynamic at both the state and local levels.  The special interests have much more incentive to become active.  So conspicuous is this, at the local level, that those who benefit disproportionately from the higher taxes find it selfish when those who do not push back on excesses.  The doubling of a town’s tax levy over a decade is just a few thousand dollars per year to the average taxpayer, but it’s $30 million in brand new elementary schools to teachers, administrators, and parents, as happened not long ago in Tiverton.

Of course, if the effort required of the large group (Samuelson’s term) is relatively minor, and if a small, motivated team can offer the people an option, the large group can still win.  However, the special interests will do their best to utterly destroy that team, working especially hard to make sure that few see them as motivated out of a sense of fairness and justice.  Rather, there must be some explanation of greed or personal corruption.  They must be bad, evil people.

It’s quite an education to be on the receiving end of that dynamic.  In some local circles, for example, I’m the symbol of all politically empowered greed in the world because I work to give people a substantive option when it comes to their tax bills, which causes problems for those who want to take money away from their neighbors by force and spend it on things that benefit themselves.

We’ve reached the point, in other words, that the special interest advantage has become a sense of entitlement.  That attitude, if not stopped, will lead inexorably to tyranny as entitlement transitions into a sense of a right of ownership.


Another Lesson for RI: Vomit on the City Hall Stairs

If you missed this telling editorial in Saturday’s Providence Journal, be sure to read the whole thing:

The other day, the son of Cumberland’s David Ram-pone, president of Hart Engineering Corporation, was married at the Biltmore Hotel, in downtown Providence. Before the wedding, the bride wanted some pictures taken at leafy Burnside Park, with its lovely water fountain. So the entire wedding party, including two toddlers, trooped across the street.

Unfortunately, Mr. Rampone recounted, “we left in short order, as there were needles on the ground, human feces on some of the artwork, and a couple of people smoking crack. Nice environment for our small grandsons to be around.”

So the group moved on to the City Hall, a striking 1878 gem that is on the National Register of Historic Places and which The Providence Journal once called “our municipal palace.” They thought of taking photographs on the steps, from which such luminaries as Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy have addressed Providence crowds. But that was a no-go too. “Dried vomit and urine were all over the stairs.”

As fascinating as the original testimony, though, was the Twitter exchange that it prompted between progressive blogger Bob Plain, Democrat lobbyist Bill Fischer, and Providence firefighter union head Paul Doughty.  Plain voiced a “poor little rich people” sarcasm, to which Fischer took some umbrage, with Doughty chiming in to say that city government should be able to fund both jobs for cleaners and poverty programs.

Ladies and gentlemen, Rhode Island government in a nutshell.  The progressive heart bleeds so for the disadvantaged that those who are not poor become the enemy, and are well advised simply not to make the state their problem.  Organized labor drives up the cost of accomplishing anything through government, under the assumption that there will always be people with more money to foot the bill.  And the Democrat lobbyist and mainstream newspaper lament the results achieved by the politicians and policies that they have backed, without going so far as to reconsider those politicians and policies.

Even putting aside the inevitable raw corruption, big government inevitably comes to the point of vomit on the city hall stairs when it is built on the premise that government’s role is to redistribute wealth and simply make positive outcomes happen by fiat.  We should try allowing government simply to be a civic framework that allows the market to work, perhaps with some carefully considered corrections where there are cracks, and trusting in people to resolve problems (because we’ve encouraged them to do so through strong cultural institutions).

It will not help the poor of Providence if nobody with money ever goes there, and chasing redistribution up the government ladder — attempting to redistribute at the state, national, and international levels, so there’s nowhere for those with money to run — will only ensure that the hammer falls harder when it falls.


Kentucky County Clerk and the Rule of Law

The specific controversy of the Kentucky county clerk who is refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses will come and go, but David French gets at the more important point:

… what we’re watching unfold in Kentucky isn’t so much the “rule of law” as the raw exercise of power. Judicial revolutionaries simply wield more power than Kentucky county clerks — partly because the judges enjoy the popular support of millions of Americans (including public officials), partly because their lifetime tenure almost entirely insulates them from accountability, and partly because even the most vigorous dissenters understand that answering one revolution with another will upend the entire system, a price they’re not willing to pay. At least not yet.

In fact, the rule of law has increasingly become a mere talking point, a weapon wielded by the Courts and the Obama administration when it likes a given legal outcome, but disregarded when pesky things like “democracy” and “procedure” interfere with the demands of social justice. For the Obama administration, even proper regulatory rulemaking can be too burdensome. Rule by executive order or even departmental letter replaces constitutional process, with the social-justice Left cheering every step of the way.

We’ve allowed so much authority to bubble up to the highest level of government that it’s increasingly impossible for people who disagree with the elite to find a place in which to live under the policies that they would prefer.  We’re also allowing deterioration of the sense that the law applies to everybody equally — and means what it says in all cases.  That makes control over the federal government an absolute necessity (including circumventing a body of elected representatives from around the country if they impede that control).

Some see the surprisingly successful campaign of Donald Trump as primarily an expression of frustration that the system appears to be rigged to allow no real choices at the highest level. Unless we give Americans tangible evidence that participation in the political process really does make a difference, even at the federal level, and unless we return to toleration for substantially different government at the local and state levels from one place to the next, and unless our broader civic system (expanded to include news media and social institutions) is more overtly fair and even-handed, we’re guaranteeing tyranny from the powerful and revolutionary unrest from those who have been shut out.


When the Elite’s Political Equation Breaks Down

Donald Devine makes some interesting points about Donald Trump and political science, following Aaron Wildavsky in his theory about “four fundamental political types”: egalitarians, individualists, social conservatives, and fatalists.  That last group, he says, don’t often vote, partly because they see the world as a chaotic mess, so what’s the point?  They will vote, though, for an autocratic hero whom they believe will be able to grab the reins.

The key paragraph in Devine’s essay, though, is this one:

Pollster Frank Luntz came reeling out of one of his distinctive focus groups the other day crying “my legs are shaking” from seeing the depth of commitment of the Trump supporters he interviewed at the session. “I want to put the Republican leadership behind this mirror and let them see. They need to wake up. They don’t realize how the grassroots have abandoned them. Donald Trump is punishment to a Republican elite that wasn’t listening to their grassroots.” He even showed the audience unflattering images of and statements by Trump meant to turn them off. It did not work. At the end they were more committed than at the beginning.

I wonder if this is the fatal flaw of elite technocrats who think they’ve got everything all figured out and locked up.  If so, it can apply to much more than just politics (such as the economic gear spinning of the Fed).  At a certain level of analysis, people stop being people and become data points.  Actions stop being taken because of their effect on people, and people’s responses to them, but because the formulas and the analysis suggest that they will bring advantage at a particular time.

Making a statement of a particular sort will produce a desirable reaction from group X and an undesirable reaction from group Y.  At this political moment, the value of the positive reaction is (a) and the detriment of the negative reaction is (b), so if (a)X > (b)Y, you make the statement.  Considerations such as the etiquette of the political system and the truth of the statement don’t get any more value than what the equation suggests that they should.

The problem is that people aren’t automatons; we have emotions as part of a nature that helps us learn and adapt, and we exist along a spectrum.  At some point, when tossing aside the etiquette of the system and a culture that prioritizes truth, the elite reaches a point at which somebody who is even more shameless than they are steps in, and the folks along the spectrum who would normally be able to sniff out the falsehood have learned that truth can’t be expected, anyway.


Are Children a Lifestyle Choice or a Social Necessity?

In a conversation about government-run schools’ use of taxpayer dollars to out-compete private schools, Mike678 asks:

Are not children these days a choice and a lifestyle? Why do taxpayers w/o children have to pay for other peoples choices?

Those questions rely on a pretty progressive premise that people are burdens to manage, not ends in themselves.  The implied point of view also skips over the fact that having children is pretty much the social and biological default for human beings (yes, still).  That is, for most couples, not having children is the more deliberate choice.

And it’s a choice with severe ramifications for the rest of us.  Very directly, for example, one might ask why somebody else’s children, as taxpayers, should have to carry a heavier burden to pay the Social Security of a childless senior’s choices.  Even without entitlement programs, though, the fact is that a society needs children.  Look to Japan:

… in the long run the fortunes of nations are determined by population trends. Japan is not only the world’s fastest-aging major economy (already every fourth person is older than 65, and by 2050 that share will be nearly 40 percent), its population is also declining. Today’s 127 million will shrink to 97 million by 2050, and forecasts show shortages of the young labor force needed in construction and health care. Who will maintain Japan’s extensive and admirably efficient transportation infrastructures? Who will take care of millions of old people? By 2050 people above the age of 80 will outnumber the children.

I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest new child tax credits or a directly paid government child allowance, as some do.  Social engineering is, after all, social engineering, and the government tends to plod along in a march of unintended consequences.  (It matters, for one thing, for whom in our society we create incentives to birth more children.)  However, when children are born, it behooves us to ensure that education is a priority, and alleviating that burden becomes quite a different thing than subsidizing the procreation.