Wall Street Journal Argues Against Child Tax Credit Unless There’s Also a Puppy Tax Credit

Two-week-old puppies play on June 4, 200
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

One of these days I’m going to write a novel about a conservative columnist who writes a parody that his editors mistake for brilliant policy advice and print as if it were a straight bit of punditry.

I just hope I don’t get sued for stealing the idea from the Wall Street Journal‘s Adam O’Neal.

O’Neal has printed a column ridiculing the idea of increasing the child tax credit by comparing it to providing a puppy tax credit.

I swear I’m pretty sure I’m not making this up. But just in case, here’s a link to the page that I think says:

As tax reform snakes its way through the legislative process, it’s becoming clear that one critical group could come out behind: dog families. This inequity must be remedied. I suggest Republicans cancel their proposed Child Tax Credit expansion and instead offer a fully refundable Canine Tax Credit worth at least $500 a dog.

Congress is preparing to maybe even double the Child Tax Credit. But what about couples who opted for dogs instead of children?

If one were trying to discern a serious point in O’Neal’s column, one might be tempted to say that he was mocking favoritism that runs riot in our tax code. Folks in high tax states get a tax break for the spendthrift habits of the government they elect. That’s is a bit like getting to write a charitable deduction for buying yourself a very good meal. Folks who own homes get to deduct their mortgages while the rest of us renters just get to laugh at their undiversified asset portfolios. Corporations get to deduct the cost of debt but not the cost of equity.

But denigrating the child tax credit is so stupid that it’s not worth trying to discern a serious point in O’Neal’s column. Because a child tax credit is not like those other tax breaks. It’s a way of acknowledging that children are people and that the government should not tax their very existence. Without a dependent exemption or a child tax credit, that is exactly what the income tax on families would do: not make room for the idea that your very presence among us means you deserve an economic space carved out for you before the government starts collecting its due.

And we know O’Neal must be smarter than that, because he can spell the words dog, child, tax, and credit. And anyone who can spell four words successfully knows better.

Here’s what I think happened. A few days ago, first-daughter and senior White House Adviser on Everything Ivanka Trump got a little peeved in an interview with the Associated Press. She told them that she gets “a little bit frustrated when people call it a pet project.” By “it” she meant her work to get Republicans to expand the child tax credit.

What happened next was that O’Neal decided to mock people who think the child tax credit could be a “pet project” by comparing it to a credit for pets.

He probably could have stayed in the clear if he’d made the clever point that dogs are under-taxed. Dogs have huge untaxed incomes paid in non-cash benefits that include shelter, meals, walks, and streetside fecal retrieval. The entire dog-kennel industry seems rooted in the tax-free nature of dog income. From my careful reading of the tax code–although, please note I am not a certified tax adviser–I believe none of this gets taxed. Yet nary a word is uttered about canine tax avoidance. Unleash the IRS on the hounds of the tax code!

But O’Neal went for something subtler, wherein he sought to make fun of those who do not see the importance of the child tax credit by comparing it to a puppy-credit. And then his editors at the Wall Street Journal got confused about his point and changed it around just a bit. So now it reads as if it were a parody not of people who do not understand the importance of the child tax credit but of people who think it is important. That is, people who think that the only worthy goal of tax reform is slashing taxes for corporations and the wealthy, because if the market wanted middle income people to have smaller tax bills, why wouldn’t it have made them rich?

I mean, that’s what must have happened. And if it is not, well, then I can write my novel without fear of getting sued.

Full disclosure: I used to work at the Wall Street Journal. I have at least two children. And the market must want me to pay lots of taxes, because it didn’t make me rich.

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