Taxing women and their wombs hurts all of us. It’s a better plan to tax those who can best afford it.
It’s time to talk about women’s economics with attitude. It’s time to laugh at what is often absurd and call out what is dangerous. By focusing on voices not typically part of mainstream man-to-man economic discourse, Women Unscrewing Screwnomics will bring you news of hopeful and practical changes and celebrate an economy waged as life—not as war.
Physicians were reporting a trending increase in sterilization procedures before the Supreme Court’s Dobbs opinion on June 24, 2022. On that day, Planned Parenthood reported an “unprecedented” number of “sterilization” searches on its national webpage—an increase of 2,205 percent. When you’re worried about going to jail for planning when and whether to have kids, this makes a sad kind of sense. And wouldn’t you know it? Sexism’s costs extend to getting spayed: Men’s procedure costs no more than $1,500. A tubal ligation will likely cost $6,000.
Combine that fact with The National Center for Health Statistics report released this year, which shows a sharp decrease in fertility rates. U.S. women average 1.3 babies today, with a growing number waiting until they’re 35 or older. This also seems unsurprising, given young people’s worries about jobs and the economics of parenting.
The cost of raising a child in the U.S., calculated annually by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is now estimated at $17,000 a year. By age 18, this adds up to a total of $310,605—and that’s not counting any college costs. (Without loan forgiveness, a lot of parents may still be paying off their own college loans when they fill out their kids FAFSA.)
True, PBS reported a COVID baby bump—hardly the “boom” of their headline, but a small increase in people choosing to have a child while much of the economy slowed or shut down. New mothers were mostly educated, well-paid workers, not the women whose kids were latchkey, who still had to work as meat packers or fruit pickers during COVID.
But all these mothers, regardless of status, mostly mothered without government help in a nation unlike other developed nations, which on average contribute $14,000 a year for toddler care. The U.S. invests $500. That’s not only stingy. It’s stupid.
More paid workers put more money in circulation; they can save and purchase more. Without childcare, women who “choose” motherhood cannot work, Reshma Saujani points out in her new campaign called #MomsFirst. Writing from New York City, she says that women who leave the workforce for just three years to care for a child, leave on the table six figures in lifetime earnings. In NYC, that’s an estimated half-million dollars. Meanwhile, she says, the city’s women who provide childcare are in the bottom 3 percent of earners.
Other developed nations on average contribute $14,000 a year for toddler care. The U.S. invests $500. That’s not only stingy. It’s stupid.
Something has long been badly broken in our economic system, and that is its definition of “workers” as people who get money in wages or salaries, in return for renting out a share of their time. Our economic ideas, including those of the labor movement, have consistently omitted and made invisible the essential so-called “women’s” work of raising children and provisioning workers with nourishing food, clean clothing, and an organized inventory of supplies and activities to maintain physical and mental health.
This supposedly separate “domestic sphere” was long kept exclusively women’s, by means of blocking her education and access to professions. The second wave of the women’s movement brought changes, but since 1970, wages have steadily shrunk in relationship to costs. One paycheck alone seldom can meet basic family needs. Now more commonly two people work double shifts, paid and unpaid—if a woman is lucky enough to have a partner who helps maintain their home, which she reports she often doesn’t.
Children bring us happiness and shared hope for our future. Yet, the surest route to U.S. poverty is simply being a child or a mother. Brown or black mothers and children cross another intersection that steeply increases their risks of poverty and what the government calls extreme poverty. Our wildly out-of-date federal poverty lines omit daycare and work costs and paint a rosier collective picture than many families feel.
Last October, a Forbes survey reported 59 percent of women they surveyed worried about their finances at least once a week, “and a whopping 43 percent of women actively worry about money at least once a day.”
Children bring us happiness and shared hope for our future. Yet, the surest route to U.S. poverty is simply being a child or a mother.
The American Association of University Women devotes a webpage to this phenomenon, adding women’s pay equity issues to the mix: “Though childbearing has economic benefits for our society, women are financially penalized for having children.” They cite Census Bureau research that found a “motherhood penalty“—namely an earning gap between opposite-sex spouses that doubles in the first two years a child is born, persists until their child is age 10, and then narrows but never goes away.
Ask your grandma about how loving and caring for family paid off in her social security check.
Avoiding a meaner future, young women can hardly be blamed for saying, “Tie my tubes!” and, “No, I won’t go to jail for planning my babies and I won’t settle for a strapped and stressful family I never intended when I took out my student loans.”
Literally, our national security depends on young people, especially young women, who alone can birth the next generation and a future—and who are now backed by Dobbs into an ugly corner.
This is not an individual problem. There is no economic advantage for our collectively remaining the stingiest, meanest nation, nearly free of caring policies that competing nations enjoy—like say, national healthcare that won’t bankrupt its own citizens, parental leave policies, family sick days, and flextime for those workers of both sexes with illness or family responsibilities.
The American Rescue Plan during COVID expanded our child tax credit and by all reports helped lift families out of poverty. Studies showed no reduction in parents’ working because of the increase from $2,000 to $3,000. Families benefitted from monthly checks, instead of having to wait for an annual IRS refund. Nevertheless, Republicans and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin killed these measures, claiming without evidence that parents would buy drugs and goof off.
This year, tell young parents you know, they can still get a $2,000 child tax credit; it’s not fully refundable, but still, it will help.
Also share this good news: Biden’s new budget for 2023 proposed last month seeks to renew our investment in young families and children: a fully refundable tax credit of $3,000 for each child 6 years and older, and $3,600 for children under 6—and monthly checks.
He’s proposing this poverty-reducing measure while also reducing the deficit. How? By helping the upper crust do the trickling down that we were promised 10 years ago, if only we would cut all those mean taxes on the richest.
Dozens of economic reports have instead found a trend of our U.S. dollars sloshing in a great wave upward, not down. Heather Cox Richardson cites a Rand report that studied trends from 1975 to 2018, finding about $50 trillion moved from 90 percent of Americans to the top 1 percent—just as Occupy Wall Street put it years ago.
It’s hard for us thousandaires, if we’re lucky, to appreciate how huge such numbers are. Just a small uptick in taxes on the richest will help loosen the debt noose around too many American necks. The newest budget puts what Biden calls the American Families Plan on the table. He seeks to roll back Trump’s corporate tax rate, slashed from 35 percent to 21 percent, back up to 28 percent. He’s increasing the tax on stock buybacks, discouraging Wall Street manipulation.
Importantly, he wants to raise taxes on those who earn more than a million bucks a year in “capital gains,” and a 25 percent minimum tax rate on households worth at least $100 million—a group with a cadre of tax lawyers, who now on average pay only 8 percent.
According to The Tax Foundation, Biden’s budget also seeks to raise the top marginal tax rate from 37 percent to 39.6 percent—meaning single filers earning more than $539,900 annually, and couples whose income is above $693,750 a year, will pay more too.
These big numbers are easier to grasp if you consider the monthly gross. Divide these numbers by 12. If you are a mother who makes less than $45,000 a month, I’m thinking you needn’t worry about Biden’s plan. But do expect screams of bloody murder and predicted disasters from Republicans and Fox News.
Tell the mothers you know; tell all the parents you know. Taxing women and their wombs hurts all of us. It’s a better plan to tax those who can best afford it.
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