Thursday, March 15, 2012

Susan Faludi, Backlash 14

For my write-up today on Susan Faludi's 1991 book Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, I'll use at my starting point Faludi's criticism of George H.W. Bush on page 273:

"His one seeming nod in the direction of working women's needs during the campaign was a penny-ante child care proposal that would give the poorest working families about $20 a week in tax breaks. This pocket change was supposed to pay for basic child care that, on average, costs four times as much."

I was in the sixth grade during the 1988 Presidential election, and my class was discussing some of the issues of that election year. When we got to the issue of child care, the teacher told us Michael Dukakis' position, and George Bush's proposal of a tax-credit. One of the few Democrats in my classes was defending Dukakis, but I do not remember what his argument was. I do, however, recall my teacher's response to him: "But shouldn't parents get a tax break?"

Years later, sometime during the Clinton Administration, I was listening to conservative radio host Stan Solomon, and he was contrasting liberalism with conservatism. What I vaguely recall him saying was that liberals tried to solve problems through government spending on programs, whereas conservatives preferred tax credits as a solution. In a sense, he was right on that. Faludi mentions conservative Gary Bauer's proposal to give families with housewives a $5000 tax credit, which she says "would have cost the deficit-stricken government about $20 million a year in lost tax revenues" (page 267). I remember that Republican Presidential candidate Bob Dole in 1996 promoted a per-child tax credit. But I saw a slight shift in the attitude of conservatives towards tax credits in 2000, when Dick Cheney in the 2000 Vice-Presidential debate challenged Al Gore's proposed tax credits, saying that it would basically be the government rewarding people for doing what it wanted, and that the best solution was to give people a tax cut so that they could spend their own money as they saw fit----without having to conform to federal standards of how that money should be spent. Although Republicans have often supported tax credits (for energy companies, etc.), as of late, my impression is that Republicans express discomfort with all of the tax deductions and loopholes that are available to people. I once saw Niel Boortz on Fox News lament that many people pay into Medicare and the Social Security system through their payroll taxes, but then they get all of that money back, and more----which wipes out the contribution that they made at the outset.

The reason that I appreciated Faludi's critique of Bush's child care proposal was that I believe that many Republican proposals will not help the working poor. Faludi mentions child care and how Bush's tax credit would not satisfy the high cost of child care. I think of Health Savings Accounts, which conservatives tout as a major solution to our country's problems with health care. But would those accounts even begin to pay the high costs of health care? People's accounts have been wiped out by high health care costs!

But is the solution entitlements, or government programs? These, too, can take their toll, and Americans do not like the higher taxes that these things entail. But people at least would get their money back in the form of services. Hopefully, the services would be run rather well, as many say occurs in Canada and European countries----even though these systems have their pluses and minuses.

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