Work and Life
by Ms. Boomer-ang
Claims that having fewer children than one would like and that spending most of the day working away from one’s children (and other dependents) are necessary for the economy and good behavior rule out many occupations that are responsible, are not lazy or idle, and are for some people psychologically enjoyable. Instead, costs should be restructured so that people can have economic security on a lower earned income.
A senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Scott Winship, calls for an end to child allowances, in a December 21, 2022, essay in The New York Times. (Some background: The American Rescue Plan of 2021 expanded the credit to more people, sending out allowance checks to people with children. Now that is expiring.) With such allowances, Winship reasons, some parents would reduce their work hours and/or “have a child they would not have had.”
What does Mr. Winship find so bad about that? Some women want to have more children.
Some parents enjoy playing with their children, reading to them, and engaging them in educational activities. Some parents seek to expand their children’s world with alternatives to screens. And some seek, for their children and themselves, more natural light, more outdoor air, and fewer workplace toxins. Some want time to prepare meals directly from fresh ingredients. Some want to prepare many items for reuse, rather than constantly discarding them and buying replacements. This is not lazy idleness! And it can be better for both the health of people concerned and the environment.
In addition, working fewer hours gives people time for more exposure to opinions less often acknowledged by the mainstream corporate-bankrolled media. Because my mother did not work outside the home (as I was growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s), she read some books with alternate interpretations of science and society. Even when I disagreed with her opinions, I absorbed that one need not take what the media says is best as best and what it says is settled as settled.
Mr. Winship says that in the long run, such “behavior, no matter however warranted in individual cases, leads to greater poverty in general..” He adds, “low income families that become less attached to work…are stuck in multi-generational poverty,” making upward mobility harder.
But instead of requiring every adult to work in or be looking for work in an “economically approved” job, our society should be structured so that people can avoid poverty and financial insecurity and strain on less money. Only after mainstream society began telling women with children that they should prefer working outside the home (in the 1970’s) did the price of housing leap into unaffordability on one middle-class income (in the 1980’s).
In addition, children should not be bound by their parents’ economic and lifestyle choices. Society should offer children of parents who choose a non-lucrative lifestyle the same opportunities to get education and training for a more lucrative job or lifestyle.
In response to Winship’s article, some people suggest the solution is better jobs and childcare. One woman wrote The New York Times (published January 4): “If the money from tax credits enables working-class parents to quit or reduce [the hours they work in] an undervalued, low-paying job and stay home to nurture and raise their children, [avoiding] the stress and anxiety of…unreliable childcare,…what’s so wrong with that? Let them enjoy the options more financially secure parents enjoy.”
Actually, society should go beyond that. Two-parent households should be able to be financially secure with only one parent working, or with both working half-time, or if one or both chooses to spend their days subsistence farming or creating art or literature writing that doesn’t don’t make them rich or famous. They might have to give up luxury, but they shouldn’t have to give up financial security or the ability to have more children.
After all, said artist and cartoonist Tim Kreider, in The New York Times, July 10, 2020, “One important function of jobs is to keep you too preoccupied and tired to do anything else.”
The doctrine that everyone must “work” has also been used to promote abortion, euthanasia, population control, and accepting the reduction of lifespans through exposure to lucrative but dangerous toxins and radiation.
Matthew Walther in a New York Times essay of May 12, 2022, noted that what abortion supporters “hail as the society-wide benefits of decades of legal abortion” include: more women participating in the labor force, a more “flexible” work force, and “the maximization of shareholder value.” Oh, and a more “dynamic” workforce with less turnover.
But why must we measure a nation’s advancedness by the percentage of its population working a minimum number of hours in Wall-Street-approved jobs or by the value of stock? And must every employee be so “flexible” that they easily change hours, locations, and roles with little notice? In addition, are not some of the biggest corporations powerful enough that they have some control over which events and trends raise and lower the price of stock? Therefore, if the price of stock jumps when something happens, can we not suspect that the powerful directors of these powerful corporations really like what happened?
That a purpose of work requirements is to get parents away from children is illustrated by the following observation made by Matthew Desmond (New York Times Magazine, September 16, 2018):
Actually, what is desirable is women participating in the workforce if and when they want to. But women who want to stay home with their children should be just as respected.
The best measure of progress, the ultimate goal one should measure all society goals against, should be human health, life, and contentment, not shareholder value. The measure of progress by shareholder value has been used to justify harmful exploitation of the environment and living things.
More of our posts from Ms. Boomer-ang: