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CHAKRA just received this submission from the wife of an ex-gurukuli. It’s a response to Raghunnatha’s “Supermom” article which we posted on September 7, 1999. It’s thoughtful and well written.
- Madhusudani Radha dasi
Super Mom places more mothers on the government payroll...
By Easter Christopher
There are so many problems with Raghunnatha's Supermom
“plan.” I’ll only address the economics in this response.
First of all, Super Mom greatly reduces the number of
people cared for by each person; a teacher teaches a class of 25 students,
while a mother would care for only her own children, say 2 or 3 children
on the average. Similarly, a nurse cares for more patients than a mother
caring for a maximum of four (her parents and her husband’s parents).
This reduces economic efficiency, which means higher costs.
Let’s work through the math with a couple of
Example 1: The ‘94 US budget for education and
health and human services totaled $236 billion. Of course, these budgets
include costs that would still be necessary under this program, costs like
doctors, surgery, medicine, text books, meals, and so on. But for the sake
of argument, let’s assume that the government gives the entire $236
billion to pay mothers a $20,000 per mother stipend for the Super Mom
program. $236 billion divided by $20,000 is 11.8 million. So the
government could sign up 11.8 million women for the program before it ran
out of money. According to the US Census information for 1995, there were
57.4 million children under the age of 15 and 33.6 million people over the
age of 65. So, the government can afford to pay 11.8 million women, and it
would have to discontinue all other government programs paid for by the
Dept. of Education and the Dept. of Health and Human Services because
their entire budgets are now devoted to Super Mom. That means each of the
11.8 million women would be responsible for the care of approximately 8
people. At $20,000 per mother per year, she is making $2500 per person per
year In fact, if we assume the mother works only 8 hours per day, five
days per week, that comes out to $1.20 per hour per person. Our 12 year
old next door neighbor makes more than that babysitting!! But here, Mom is
on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And with no more government
medical care or education, those costs would have to come from her $20,000
Example 2: I have served as the president of the Yuba
Sutter Head Start Policy Council. As president, I served on the budget
council as well and am very familiar with the relevant numbers, so I’ll
use that budget to do the math on a smaller scale. The Yuba Sutter Head
Start budget for 1997-98 was $585,000, and the program served 226 children
that school year. $585,000 divided by 226 children is $2588.50 per child.
That $2588.50 per child paid for teachers, administrators, consultants,
buildings, meals, curriculum, etc. Assume that all the Head Start parents
in Yuba Sutter pull their children out so that they can participate in the
Super Mom program. The Super Mom plan says that the mothers would do the
work for half the program’s cost, but we’ll pay them half of the
teacher’s salary. In Yuba Sutter, a Head Start teacher earns $8.05 an
hour. Half of that is $4.02 per hour (less than minimum wage, by the way).
Multiply that times 4 hours per day, 180 days per year. Each mother would
make $2894.40 per year, not an impressive salary. Meanwhile, we’ve
increased the per child cost by $305.90 and eliminated all the costs other
than the mother’s time - costs like food and curriculum materials.
We’ve also increased the annual budget to $654,134, an increase of
$96,134. So we’ve increased government expenditures, reduced the goods
and services provided and cost the government almost $100,000 - all of
this for just two counties of Head Start students.
Another argument made for the Super Mom program is
that more workers equals more tax revenue for the government.
Unfortunately, this only works if the jobs are private sector jobs. Super
Mom places more mothers on the government payroll. To oversimplify, say
each mom added to the government payroll under Super Mom earns $4.00 per
hour. That’s $4.00 the government was not paying her before. Now she is
a taxpaying citizen. She pays 25% in income tax. That’s $1.00 for every
dollar she earns. So the government, by adding a worker to the payroll,
pays out $4.00 and hour and gets back $1.00 an hour in taxes. That’s a
net loss of $3.00 an hour. And that’s only one hypothetical worker.
Multiply that by the number of women Raghunatha hopes to sign on to his
The Super Mom essay also claims that the working
family pays 30 to 40% in taxes, so one person in the family is working
simply to pay taxes. This is not the case. Say one parent works and the
other stays at home. The worker earns $100 and pays $30 in taxes. The
worker brings home $70. Now, say both parents work. Both earn $100 and
both pay $30 in taxes. Yes, the taxes paid double. But so does the take
home pay - to $140. Both workers bring income into the home; neither of
them is working simply to pay taxes.
Super Mom also fails to address the macroeconomics
involved. Super Mom is basically a government welfare program. It pays
women to stay at home instead of working and contributing to our
country’s productivity. Raghunnatha assumes that large numbers of women
would leap at the chance to sign on to his program. This would mean
millions of women leaving private sector employment, ceasing production
contributing to the Gross Domestic Product, and going on the government
payroll. Domestic production would plummet due to the decreased number of
workers. Government income comes from the country’s production, and if
US production decreases, so does the government’s income. This would
send us into an economic situation similar to the “stagflation” of the
1970s: stagnation of the goods produced and inflation of prices due to
fewer goods in the marketplace and more money. This would quite probably
throw the country into a major recession, rivaling the economic conditions
of the Great Depression.
Any way you look at it, the Super Mom program would
equal reduced economic efficiency, higher costs, and higher taxes.
© CHAKRA 28-Sep-1999
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