Stop shedding crocodile tears over the death of BBB

This may be the most controversial article I ever write, knowing the readership of Middle Wisconsin. In a move that should surprise no one, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) refused to go along with the proposed $2 trillion Build Back Better (BBB) bill, and while I am not happy about how this undercuts President Biden’s climate agenda, I was never in agreement with the increases in the child tax credit.

Democrats are not alone in incentivizing people to have children; President George W. Bush increased the child tax credit significantly during his time in office. It would seem that nearly every politician in Washington, and many politicians in other countries as well, are crapping their pants because more people are opting to be childfree for a variety of reasons, including the environment.

What is causing people on the left and right to be so deeply concerned is that the rate of procreation is falling shy of a true replacement rate. With less people working and paying into the system, the social safety net is in jeopardy, especially when it comes to paying out benefits to retirees.

We are already feeling the pinch in this country, and it isn’t just “the great resignation.” We have a worker shortage because the largest age demographic— the baby boomers — have entered retirement. The silver tsunami has reached landfall a bit earlier than expected because many boomers either made the decision to, or as is the case with my dad, were forced to retire early as a result of the pandemic.

There is another option to solving the problem with Social Security: raise the cap, or as Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) has recommended, eliminate the cap altogether. Do we really need to require less financial obligation from people who have had the great fortune of being able to accumulate wealth?

I made the decision early on in my life that I didn’t want to have children, and one of my main reasons was rooted in my concern for the environment. I simply did not want to burden the planet with another carbon intensive human life. It is the same reason why I adopted every cat I have ever owned from a humane society rather than buy from a breeder. I know there are reputable breeders, and I am not anti-purebred, but when there is an overpopulation of any species it isn’t the brightest decision to keep adding to the numbers.

Adopting unwanted kids or animals is carbon neutral because you are caring for a life that is already here. But to choose to create another life because your ego demands that you must pass on your DNA isn’t this noble venture that so many people crack it up to be.

Childfree people should, at the very least, be respected. Isn’t it enough that we pay for public education for other people’s children? Must we pay other people to breed as well? We can never expect our choice to be appreciated by people with children. If you are a childfree woman, you have probably been informed that you have not fulfilled your true purpose and obligation, or some similar patronizing bullshit. I have been told this by women as well as men.

Some of us childfree people have worked as teachers, and have, at times, provided more care for the children in our classes than their parents. Yet we are called child haters. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just happen to care about the planet that future generations are to inherit.

I have known people who chose to have children simply because it improved their bottom line. They were able to get a college education paid for, put food on the table, and qualify for free healthcare, all of which they would not have had without bearing children. I appreciated the honesty of these people for admitting as much. And despite all the incentives that already exist, many younger people are making the responsible choice. I call it the responsible choice, because no other individual action even comes close to lessening one’s carbon footprint.

To include incentives for one of the most carbon intensive actions a person can take in a bill with so much long overdue attention to mitigating climate change never made sense to me. It is not that I don’t want help for poor families, but to commodify children for people making up to $400,000 per year… this isn’t merely about alleviating poverty. After all, if you are poor and childfree, it’s “no soup for you!”

I think it is entirely possible that our planet is no worse off by Manchin’s deathblow to BBB. One of the most costly parts of the bill, the enhanced child tax credits, were also bound to be costly for the planet. When upper middle class individuals get extra money from the government, they often spend that money on excesses that put more carbon into our atmosphere, such as plane travel.

Globally, the world’s poorest people contribute the least to climate change yet suffer the most because of it. How in the hell do we build back better when we give out money just to fuel more consumption?

If the death of BBB means you need to be more frugal, then do yourself and the planet a favor by eating beans and rice instead of beef and chicken. Save your crocodile tears for actual crocodiles and other animals that may become extinct due to human overpopulation. By the way, Christmas isn’t just for kids, so give some thought to and be kind to other living things as well.