Last night during the State of the Union, President Obama touted his desire for an economics that prioritizes the needs of the middle class. That had my ear. I’m a suburban, middle class father of two young children whose wife does not work outside the home. We’re a one income household. This is our choice and we gladly own this decision and the constraints that arise from from having only one income. We’re not disadvantaged. The cost of my wife not working means only that we forgo large cash down-payments for such things as vehicles. We don’t have the opportunity to save at rates of dual income homes. Vacations to exotic destinations aren’t really in our future either. That’s entirely okay. The privilege of my daughters having access to their mom 24 hours a day is better than vacationing for a week on a beach somewhere in Hawaii.
At times, however, it feels as though the economic situation in America looks at families likes ours in the rear view mirror. Last night, the President’s tax plan for the “middle class” solidified that intuition.
His tax plan for middle class families includes an expanded child care tax credit for families with dual earners, meaning that putting your child in day care just became more affordable. What are the other specifics? According to Tim Carney:
Obama called for a new “second-earner tax credit” and expanding a tax credit for commercial child care. Obama’s second-earner credit is worth $500 for any dual-income family where the lower-income spouse earns between $10,000 and $120,000 (and reduced credits for others between $0 and $210,000).
The president also encouraged Congress to expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. The child and dependent care credit is different from the more widely used child tax credit. The child care credit is a 50-percent tax credit for a parent’s first $2,000 in babysitting or daycare costs, but this credit is available only for parents who use the child care to do paid work.
But there was something absent in his tax plan: Any type of targeted relief for families with one income. No mention, for example, of increasing the flaccid child tax credit, which some analysts think should be robustly expanded to meet the demands of our economy.
Carney suggests the following about the President’s plan:
But rather than ignore Obama’s plan totally, it’s worth studying it as a statement of his values and the values of his party. Doing this, you see it’s less class warfare and more culture war. One clear message of the president’s tax plan: Moms who stay at home with their children are less valuable than moms who work for pay.
Obama, alongside his tax hikes on the wealthy and on people who save for their children’s college, proposed tax cuts that go only to dual-income families.
Yes, it is costly for a mother to enter the workforce. But it is also costly for a mother to exit or stay out of the workforce. Switching jobs has costs, just as staying in your job has costs. Every life decision includes risks and costs and benefits. Obama has decided that the cost of a mother returning to work and placing her children in daycare is something he wants to subsidize.
Obama is saying he values working parents more than stay-at-home parents.
Carney is exactly right. The government is not neutral toward family structure. We’re taught that progressivism promises solidarity and a promise to look out for the little man in society. But honestly, on this policy initiative, one income families ought to feel left behind.
This isn’t about me, it’s about the aching sense of disrespect I sense for all women who courageously stay home with children, yet their government chooses to overlook. They’re being told by their government that their devotion and commitment isn’t a reality that our government should prioritize or incentivize. In the Obama economy, mothers at home don’t factor into the ideal economic scenario. They are an afterthought on the road to the new standard of dual incomes.
Progressives will of course deny that such policies are designed to target other types of families. But their plan does make a suggestion. It says, in effect, “put yourself into this family structure, and the government will incentivize it by offsetting its costs.”
We’re told that progressives looks out for families. Don’t buy it, because they’re only looking out for the families whose situations they can engineer into deserving economic incentives.