We Love the Kids
Back in October, I discussed some of my thoughts about Proposition 1. Just to refresh your memory, Saint Louis County was faced with a new annual tax of one quarter of a cent to fund programs for the mental health and well-being of area youth. Well, the proposition passed on Tuesday by an overwhelming 61 percent of the vote. Now, St. Louis County tax dollars will help to collect $40 million to create a steady stream of funding for emergency shelters, transitional living programs for older youth, outpatient substance abuse treatment, and services to teen mothers.
Here at the Show-Me Institute, we truly love the kids. The purpose of my op-ed was to just open up new alternatives to old problems. It would have been really interesting to see if/how the community might have come together to support at-risk youth through charitable tax credits. Whether or not we could have collected $40 million just from charitable giving is debatable. Nonetheless, it think it could help strengthen some of that social fabric that we seem to have lost in our society.
Unlike most of the staff here at Show-Me, I do not have an economics background (I am sure many of you might be able to tell. Wink wink, Vroman). I did, however, major in sociology as an undergrad, and am currently studying social policy in graduate school. One of my favorite books of all time is Bowling Alone, by Robert Putnam. The book talks about many issues, such as the drastic decrease in civic engagement in the United States, and the demise of social capital. I always thought that social capital and civic virtue were closely related. The only difference is that social capital focuses on the fact that civic virtue is most powerful when it is embedded in a sense network of common social relations. A society of many benevolent but isolated individuals does not have a strong social fabric. Thus, forcing a tax on St. Louis County will not solve the issues plaguing the region’s youth.
This is evident from the reaction of the campaign manager of Putting Kids First, who “praised St. Louis Countians’ concern for children.” Making people pay taxes for youth programs does not show that the constituency cares. It just shows that they are obedient taxpayers. Only close interactions enable people to build communities and allow them to commit themselves to each other, therefore knitting social fabric.