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The Price of Motherhood

by Ann Crittendon

A rotten year for important books, worse than the usual dreckage, 2001 offers little worth reading. The Big Five—Cheerleaders, infotainers, ultraliberals, ultraconservatives, and status quo cynics—tightened their media strangleholds. The public is clueless, and those mentioning the publics' cluelessness, are attacked with a variety of ad hominems, including being anti-American. If you are not aligned with the Big Five, you are allegedly, hopelessly, relentlessly out of the loops. Paula Poundstone, who asserted no politicians are anti-family, sums up much. The media are unwilling to see the difference between rhetoric and policies. And now on to this book.

 

Ann Crittendon writes that the work done by mothers is the basic building block of the economy, yet we penalize that work. Stay at home mothers do not build up points for Social Security income, though their husbands do, even men who abandon families. Mothers receive smaller pensions than men and the childfree. Law treats married mothers as dependents. A huge lifetime income gap between mothers and others results.

 

Mothers, Crittendon notes, are loved on Mother's Day, yet mistreated and disdained in not so obvious ways. No one puts mothering on her resume. Feminism, more worried about cultural fashions and losing gains in the paid work force, fails mothers. Ultraconservatives merely embrace the ideal of the self-sacrificing mother. The same one-sided slogans get repeated. Pro-family policies are a hard sell. They face the usual opponents, and well-meaning mothers who wear the sucker badge as a badge of honor, not to mention wealthy mothers who do not care about the lives of other mothers. The situation for mothers in non-Western countries is beyond deplorable.

 

Crittendon's recommendations, unfortunately, are too general, poorly targeted, and not beneficial enough. Among her better recommendations she pushes to:

·        "Equalize Social Security for spouses" (eqaul social security credits during marriage.)

·        Institute child allowances.

·        Require spouses to pool economic resources.

 

Many of her prescriptions are too socialistic, inflexible, and harmful. Crittendon supports one year of paid maternity or paternity leave, or a mix of the two--a leave benefiting wealthy parents, with little benefit for other parents. Highly paid professionals would get six or seven figure leaves while lower income workers get little. Many parents would get nothing because they would simply be relabeled as subcontractors. Her plan is too economically inflexible. Federal child allowances and the option of unpaid leave would be better. Child policy done at the employer level encourages employers to avoid hiring and promoting potential parents.

 

Crittendon claims childcare expenditures should be deductible on federal income taxes, a flawed idea primarily benefiting wealthy parents. Vouchers and refundable tax credits work better. She says after divorce income should be shared, but this takes no account of post divorce behavior. She argues for universal health care for children and their primary caregiver. Why not universal health care for every citizen and legal VISA holder?

 

A mandatory shorter workweek would be a disaster. Employees and employers best decide work length. Equal benefits for part-time workers for the same job is also inflexible. Banning "discrimination against parents in the workplace" invites legal abuse. Separate tax filing for married persons targets the wrong parents. About half of married couples do not have minor children, and separate filing mostly benefits wealthier couples. Enough marriage benefits already fill the economic system. "Universal preschool for all" three and four-year-old children? Too expensive and inflexible. Little evidence exists that moral or academic benefits would result. Worth skimming.        

Book review article by J.T. Fournier. Last updated 1/22/09.

 

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