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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...”

Response to Raghunnatha's Supermom
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 examples.

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 stipend.

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 program.

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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