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So this is what’s it’s like to be a second-class citizen. This is what it’s like to have government, the one you pay taxes to support, turn its back on you and blatantly discriminate in favor of someone else – all under the color of law.

This is what it’s like to be childless in New York State.

We now have “separate and unequal” revived in the name of pandering so blatant they can even schedule it a year ahead of time. Hence the budget scheme being finalized this week to shower $350 in tax relief on families with kids – and nothing on the rest of us.

New York’s clear violation of the equal-protection clause not only institutionalizes bias – lending credence to those who say discrimination is worse in the North – it’s also bad social policy.

Basic economic theory says that when the government subsidizes something, you get more of it. Do we really want more people, in expectation of future such tax credits, creating more little brats who wreak havoc, don’t graduate and who can’t find jobs if they do? No wonder Mr. Wilson was so grouchy. Imagine if he’d also had to subsidize Dennis the Menace.

Welfare reform was supposed to eliminate this perverse incentive. But leave it to liberal New York to undo all of the gains we’ve made in instilling personal responsibility in the pro-procreation crowd.

Beyond the policy implications, there’s also the timing of the expected checks, which – no doubt fortuitously – will be mailed to parents shortly before the governor and legislators run for re-election next year.

But that’s a minor concern because the retort is so obvious: Challengers should send election-year mock checks to childless voters at the same time – just as a reminder.

No, the real issue is equal treatment under the law. African-Americans fought long and hard to overcome discrimination. Women are approaching equality in the workplace and the tax code. And gays are on the verge of being treated just like every other American when it comes to the spoils of marriage.

The only group it’s still acceptable to single out are the childless, who – requiring no schools, day care centers or family leave – make few demands on society and, in all fairness, should be rewarded, not gouged.

And make no mistake, we will get gouged. Budgets are like balloons: Squeeze them in one place, and they expand someplace else. Rob the treasury by buying off parents, and nonparents will have to make up the difference. As Martin Luther King Jr. warned in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I’m biased against kids. Honestly, when I look at people, I don’t see age.

But great Scott! How can we not dread the implications of a policy that suggests that childless people have no economic rights the government is bound to respect?

Nevertheless, I’m not worried. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward tax cuts for all.

In fact, in his final days, King – killed while in Memphis to fight for garbage workers – had turned increasingly to economic equality.

Guided by his spirit, we shall overcome. It just shouldn’t require the fruits of pregnancy to do it.

email: rwatson@buffnews.com