Carol Platt Liebau

Call her Mrs. Santa Claus – or Ms. Santa Claus, perhaps. Just last week at a forum hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus, Hillary Clinton proposed that each baby born in the United States receive a $5,000 “baby bond” from the federal government.

Of course, the idea is designed to have a certain superficial appeal. The program would be for everyone, not just the needy, and it’s tempting for already overburdened taxpayers to decide that yes, indeed, they deserve a little of their own back. What could sound better than welcoming a new baby with a generous $5,000 shower gift, courtesy of the U.S. government?

But like all schemes that seem too good to be true, Hillary’s proposal is worth considerably less than meets the eye. It’s fair to ask: Why should a struggling, childless member of the middle class be forced to subsidize Bill Gates’ children, or Warren Buffett’s grandchildren? Why, for that matter, should someone as rich as Oprah – when Gates, Buffett (and most other Americans, for that matter) are perfectly capable of providing for their own offspring? How ironic that a liberal Democrat like Hillary Clinton, who has spent much of her career advocating “progressive” politics, would embrace a plan that in many cases would involve transfers of wealth up the economic ladder.

Despite that obvious inconsistency, there are solid reasons that Clinton has proposed a universal program. For starters, many voters wouldn’t embrace a policy that would provide an economic incentive for the poorest Americans to enlarge their families – after all, it’s just been a little over a decade since the abolition of a welfare system whose subsidies increased when unmarried mothers bore more children.

But there’s an even more compelling rationale from Clinton’s perspective for offering taxpayer money to childbearing Americans of all income levels. Such a program extends government’s hold over Americans’ lives, from cradle to grave, and provides yet another “benefit” that can be used to justify higher taxes and greater regulation. It would help condition otherwise self-sufficient voters to sup at the government trough – to expect government assistance even when it’s not necessary. For a liberal like Clinton, whose ideology calls for transferring control over Americans’ lives from private to government hands, even an economically regressive policy is palatable if it helps advance that agenda.

Lest anyone suspect that Senator Clinton and her ideological compatriots are being judged too harshly, test their reaction to a similar proposal – say, a plan to offer $5000 worth of tax cuts or tax credits for each child. If their enthusiasm is less than overwhelming, it may be because the tax cut or credit policy would remind Americans that, in fact, there’s no such thing as a “gift” from the federal government – rather, every check from the U.S. Treasury is nothing more than a return of the money that taxpayers have been required to pay into the system. And it would deprive the government treasury of the tax dollars so necessary for liberal politicians to expand the scope of the welfare state.

With roughly 4,000,000 babies born each year in the United States, the cost of Clinton’s proposal is significant, totaling a whopping $20,000,000,000. But for those who really do believe that they know best, that’s a small price to pay for the incremental undermining of the American ethic of self-reliance, and for gaining another opportunity to insinuate the government more deeply into the very fabric of our lives.

Carol Platt Liebau

Carol Platt Liebau is an attorney, political commentator and guest radio talk show host based near New York. Learn more about her new book, "Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Hurts Young Women (and America, Too!)" here.