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Children and taxes: A Mother’s Day Special

8 May
No babies for me, thanks. No, not even turkey baster babies.

No babies for me, thanks. No, not even turkey baster babies.

This mother’s day, let’s skip the adorable kitten greeting cards and bunches of roses bred to within an inch of scentlessness, picked by fourth-world residents working in inhumane conditions, trucked halfway across the globe and sold at ridiculous markups, shall we? Instead, let’s talk about the politics of child-rearing! Or, more specifically, the politics of taxes for child-education and other kiddo-focused expenses.

I recently heard a new-to-me, somewhat shocking opinion on the topic. Here it is in summary:

“People who make the responsible choice not to have squalling brats should not have to pay to educate and feed other people’s mistakes.”

Harsh words, no? That’s not quite how it was put, but that was the basic premise.

As a properly trained tax-and-spend liberal, I like having lots and lots of social services, some of which I use, some of which I don’t: Maintained roads, public libraries, rest stops, Medicare, social security, food stamps. And I’ve seen the contrast between public schools in well-heeled communities and those in poor towns: I have matriculated at some of the west coast’s best-funded and highest-performing public schools, and also attended the educational equivalent of Siberia in the state’s poorest county. But still, it got me thinking.

As an adult, my senses and my pocketbook are constantly assaulted by pleas for the children. Stop domestic violence … for the children. Build new libraries … for the children. Fund high school sports teams … for the children. Build shiny new after-school facilities with free classes in underwater basketweaving and Tae-Kwon-Do and other oh-so-useful life skills … for the children. Build cushy juvenile detention and drug rehabilitation facilities … for the children, dammit!

It makes one wonder – who is looking out for the old people while we’re busy babying the babies? Social services (in this state, at least) are almost exclusively focused on children, or people with children. As an example, kids under 18 can get subsidized health insurance, but adults cannot (the one notable exception being pregnant women).

This makes a modicum of sense. Faced with a choice between cutting the service entirely or funding it for kids only, it’s a no-brainer. But still. There are a lot of very sick, very poor adults out there not getting the care they need. Why? Because they don’t have cute button noses and tiny little hands. They’re not helpless. Poor children, they just can’t help being born poor! It’s not their fault their parents made such terrible life decisions like being born poor themselves. But once they’re adults it is 100 percent their fault that they’re still poor. What’s changed, other than 15 years, give or take? Nothing but society’s attitude toward them.

And don’t even get me started on the blatantly pandering marketing campaigns around school-funding measures. It’s voting time here, and The Hizzy is being hit with slick upon slick, all featuring pictures of cherubic, well-scrubbed white kids with pleading, watery eyes in grayscale. Turn the slick over and you’ve got the skinny white moms, looking concerned and wearing North Face sweaters, standing sternly with crossed arms next to bulleted lists of reasons why their little Madisons and Jacobs need music programs, shiny new cafeteria platters and better insulation.

So my opinion is wavering. I don’t have kids. I’m not GOING to have kids. Why should I pay to polish the silverware at the elementary school in my neighborhood? Those children having their school spiffed today will be the bitter, abusive high school dropouts that will wipe my nose at the health-code violating old people’s home I’ll live in during my infirmity. If I want care that minimizes humiliation in my old age, I’ll have to shell out for a private facility, since wrinkled faces with watery, pleading eyes just don’t test well with the focus groups.

Grown-ups, especially those with lots of wrinkles or otherwise socially undesirable characteristics (like poverty or disability), get the short end of the stick. They work their whole lives paying taxes to educate and care for the next generation, only to get tossed aside once they can no longer care for themselves. Where are the direct-mail marketing campaigns advocating for safe wheelchair routes and better elder-care facilities? Where are the ballot measures begging for community education and outreach programs designed specifically with old fogeys in mind? And what about crime – why does a 17-year-old get leniency and a clean record, when an 18-year-old in the exact same circumstances gets prison and a lifetime of employment discrimination?

Cutting services to young people can’t be the answer, but a more balanced approach to public policy is certainly worth a look-see. What are your voting habits? Does your having or not having kids influence how you vote on school tax measures and the like? Or are you an across-the-board voter in one way or the other? Any tea party types out there? If so, do you make an exception for social services for youngsters? Any socialist types out there who’ve sworn off baby-having? How do you vote? No name-calling in the comments, please – but do tell me your opinions!

Into moving pictures? Here are some amusing parent- or mom-themed videos you might like:

Happy Mother’s Day, pedophobes!
Pregnant women are smug
Hipster parents: The perfect target market

Wal-Mart Sex Discrimination: Let’s Sue the Patriarchy Too!

29 Mar

The Supreme Court heard opening arguments on behalf (and against) up to a million women today to determine the class action status of a Wal-Mart employment discrimination case. Those of us who’ve been following the case know what’s at stake if the court finds in favor of Wal-Mart: Not only would the corporate juggernaut responsible for filling your house with cheap plastic crap be more or less let off the hook for systematized sex discrimination, it would become harder for victims of job bias to secure class-action status, forcing low-wage workers to try their cases individually – virtually ensuring no future employee litigation case ever reaches viability, ever.

Dire, no? First, a brief history of the arguments for and against (more or less) from the magazine Corporate Counsel:

In certifying the class, the lower court said it found that there was significant evidence of centralized corporate-wide practices involving sexual stereotyping and excessive subjectivity in personnel decisions, as well as statistical evidence of gender disparities, and anecdotal evidence of gender bias. The court said it saw a “common pattern” of Wal-Mart’s discriminating against women workers nationwide.

In its brief to the Court, Wal-Mart argues that millions of discretionary personnel decisions on pay and promotions by thousands of individual managers defy any common pattern of treatment.

Let’s entertain Wal-Mart’s counterargument, shall we? From a purely feminist theory perspective, this argument actually holds some water. Why? Because those “millions of discretionary personnel decisions on pay and promotions by thousands of individual managers” were surely not solely influenced by the Long Arm of Corporate America (although surely that played a not-insignificant part), they were also influenced by the sexism that runs rampant through every fiber of society’s fabric.

So instead of suing Wal-Mart*, let’s certify every victim of the existing gender wage gap (read: all women worldwide) as members of a giant class action against the patriarchy. Since millions of discretionary personnel decisions are made every single day by managers who really ARE independent and not affiliated with Wal-Mart, but they’re made to consistently favor men in terms of power, prestige, and money, it’s clear that there is significant evidence of centralized worldwide practices involving sexual stereotyping, gender disparities, and gender bias.

Let’s sue the patriarchy! Who’s with me?

*Actually, not instead of, in addition to. Wal-Mart deserves to get sued, a lot. And so does every company that filed an Amicus Brief in support of Wal-Mart’s Evil Anti-Largesse.

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