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A Modest Proposal to End Child Abuse

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The statistics on child abuse in the United States are shocking and appalling.

According to the child advocacy website, a report of child abuse is made in the U.S. every 10 seconds. Each year, child protection agencies around the country receive referrals involving 6.6 million children. In 2014, over 700,000 of those referrals were confirmed cases of child maltreatment. It is estimated that between four and seven children die every day from abuse and neglect -- as many as 2,000 children every year. (And some experts assert that the actual numbers are grossly underreported). The vast majority of child abuse fatalities involve children under 5 or 6 years old, and 80 percent of these deaths involve at least one parent as a perpetrator.

Among those children who survive, the statistics are just as disturbing. Victims of child abuse are substantially more likely to engage in criminal conduct, to display psychological and behavioral issues (such as substance abuse and eating disorders), to have other serious health problems, and to continue the cycle of abuse by abusing or neglecting their own children.

Something must be done; would you not agree?

It's clear that traditional parenting is not working. Congress must act, and act now. Specifically, we need federal legislation that ends child abuse by vesting all parenting responsibilities in the federal government. Congress should create a new federal agency that will be responsible for dispensing parental care to all children in the United States under 18 years of age. For simplicity's sake, we'll call it the Federal Parenting Agency, or FPA.

The magnitude of such a task means that we will have to ease into such a system. We can start with parental licensing, and eventually work to a single-parenting system. It will of course be necessary to make private parenting illegal. The only way the system will work is if everyone is required to participate. Otherwise, some children will be afforded advantages -- like being read to at night -- that others do not get. This is an impermissible form of privilege and discrimination that the federal government must step in to remedy.

Needless to say, there will be those who object. But we are well-prepared for their arguments.

First, a safe and healthy childhood is a right, not a privilege. Those who object to this federal program because they wish to raise their own children are doing so at the expense of other children. They are elitist, selfish and clearly want other children to die.

Second, yes, it will be expensive. But given what child abuse costs us in terms of health care, law enforcement and incarceration, we're sure that we'll save money by the creation of the FPA. We will have the Congressional Budget Office score the costs of creating and running the FPA. (It will probably be off by a factor of 10 or more, but that hasn't stopped us before.)

I hope it's clear at this point that my "modest proposal," a la Jonathan Swift, is an absurd and unserious "solution" to a deeply serious problem. Most parents are good and decent. As bad as the child abuse statistics are (and they are horrid), most children in the United States are not neglected or abused.

And yet these are the types of arguments we hear every day for health care. Most Americans who want insurance can get it, and most of those who have insurance are happy with it. But that doesn't stop those who advocate for single-payer from arguing that everyone should give up their health care and be forced into the federal leviathan they are proposing. And it isn't just an economic issue; it's a moral one: If you oppose single-payer, you are a terrible human being and you want other people to die.

Ditto for constitutional rights, like those under the First and Second Amendments. Speech that offends other people should be banned. So should firearms ownership. (The historical risks of government abuse in an unarmed population notwithstanding.) There are over 300 million firearms in the U.S. (perhaps many more), and the overwhelming majority of their owners never violate any laws. Gun violence is actually down. But every time some nutcase decides to kill people, we're told that the only way we can protect ourselves from people who don't obey the laws or respect our rights is by writing new laws and giving up our rights.

Swiftian sarcasm aside, something truly does need to be done about child abuse. But it should be obvious to everyone that taking children away from good parents is a manifestly wrong approach. So consider -- if you are not willing to give up your rights to raise your children because some people abuse theirs, why would you swallow that argument for any other right?

The call for a Federal Parenting Agency should be patently absurd. But given the way we do everything else, it's completely logical.

That's what's truly absurd.

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