Friday, November 9, 2007

Family Task Force

I'm sure that a lot of people in other parts of America probably are scratching their heads about a news story like this one. From the November 9, 2007 Idaho Statesman:
Rep. Steven Thayn and his wife, Sherry, raised eight children on their family farm. She stayed home, and they home-schooled several of their children before eventually sending them to local schools.

Thayn said more two-parent homes and fewer working mothers could be both a social and economic boon. The Emmett Republican sees the breakdown of the traditional family structure as the root of societal ills such as drug abuse, crime and domestic violence.

That's why, as chairman of the Idaho House of Representatives' Family Task Force, he and others are considering controversial solutions such as repealing no-fault divorce laws and finding ways to encourage mothers to stay home with their children.

"In one of the articles I read, quite a large percentage of mothers really do want to spend more time at home, and if that's the case, what can we do to help them?" Thayn said.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats are just horrified at the concept of trying to help families.

What drives me really crazy about this is the unwillingness to face some unpleasant facts.

1. There's no question in my mind that a society is better off when kids, especially small children, are being raised by their own parents. Traditionally, this has been the mother, but as far as I am concerned, if Dad wants to stay home and raise kids instead, that's fine.

I know that a lot of daycare providers mean well, and some of them probably do a great job. But realistically, lots of daycare providers do it because they couldn't get any other job. And this is who is raising the next generation?

When we lived in Rohnert Park, we had a neighbor that did daycare. She was a high school dropout. She was a very nice person. But she was poorly educated, and the environment was not something that was going to do much for the kids who she watched compared to being raised by their own, middle class and above mothers.

She finally stopped doing daycare because of one child in particular that she started watching at six weeks (which is how long unemployment insurance pays new moms to stay home). Mom and Dad had important jobs down in San Francisco, and drove shiny new BMWs. Mom dropped off her son at about 6:00 AM, and didn't arrive to pick up her son until after 6:30 PM. Dad asked the daycare provider not to let Mom know when her son started walking or talking--so that Mom would think that this happened when Mom was home. By the time the son was two years old, he would only call the daycare provider, "Mom" and would literally attack his biological mother when she came to pick him up. Why did this couple decide to have children?

2. Back in the 1960s, while most mothers were staying home, raising their own kids, there were some who didn't have that choice. Not every father was making enough money, and even then, there were fathers who flaked out, or drank their paychecks. But over all, most families managed to operate in something similar to the idealized Ozzie and Harriet fashion.

What happened when the feminists started telling women that they weren't "fulfilled" if they didn't have high powered careers? Lots of women went out, joined the workforce, and in the process, almost doubled the fraction of workers. What happens when you dramatically expand the number of workers? It drives down wages.

As long as just a few mothers were out working, it didn't make a big difference. But as the number of working mothers rose higher and higher, the wages of all workers had to fall to compensate--and what used to be a choice that some mothers could make, became something that most mothers had to do.

3. This problem is more severe among the poorest parts of our society for a simple reason: a couple where both of them are making $60,000 a year can, with a little effort, cut their expenses back to a point where Mom can stay home, at least for the first few years of childrearing, or at least work part time. When Mom and Dad are both bringing in $25,000 a year, there's a limit to what can be cut back.

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