Thursday, February 17, 2011

Debate on Taxes and Breastfeeding

It all started when I posted this status update on Facebook:

I know that few things make right-wingers happier than embracing their delusion about liberals loving Big Government (understanding our actual ideology would be too taxing - pun intended), but this... this is friggin' ridiculous.

The following transcript captures the debate which followed. It has not been edited or altered in any way:

Well, she does have a partial point. When it comes to personal choices in child rearing, (with the lone exception being education) I don't think the government should make any easier or any harder to choose a certain path.

‎(1) The problem is that Bachmann assumes that the IRS is including tax deductions from breastfeeding nursing supplies for the explicit purpose of encouraging that practice, as opposed to doing this so as to offer financial relief for families who just added a new member.

(2) Even if the IRS was motivated by a desire to promote certain lifestyles, how would this be any different from policies like offering tax breaks to married individuals or couples who have just had children, both of which seem to encourage Americans to live in traditional nuclear families by rewarding those who do (and, implicitly, punishing those who don't)?

(3) Even though Michelle Obama is encouraging new mothers to breastfeed, is that any different from campaigns waged by other prominent political figures (including First Ladies) to promote what they perceive to be healthier lifestyles, from Obama's anti-obesity campaign to Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" effort?

(4) Based on your logic, you should also agree that it is wrong for so many obstacles to exist for homosexual couples who want to raise children.

‎1) By that logic, where do you draw the line? Tax credits for diapers and cribs too?

2) Because it's offering discounts on physical products related to the lifestyle choices, not the choice itself. See point number 1.

3) It's not any different in that respect, and in this arena, Bachmann is definitely overreacting.

4) Perhaps. As I've said before, the government doesn't have much legal recourse there... Of course, in my opinion, it's wrong for homosexual couples to be raising children anyway...


‎(1) I wouldn't oppose tax credits for cribs and diapers. These things are necessities, not luxuries, and since people who are less economically advantaged have just as much right to them as those who are better off, I fail to see the problem with lending them a helping hand.

(2) The basis of your agreement with Bachmann wasn't that the government was offering unfair discounts on products, but that you "don't think the government should make (it) any easier or harder to choose a certain (child rearing) path." If this is your position, I fail to see how it makes any difference whether the government achieves that goal by offering discounts on products or rewarding certain lifestyle choices. The distinction you've identified is a red herring.

(3) Agreed.

(4) While you are entitled to your opinions on whether homosexuals should raise children (even though I must say I am personally repulsed by the prejudice in your views), the reality is that that is one scenario in which the government IS imposing personal lifestyle choices on people. Although you acknowledge this point (albeit with a distinct lack of enthusiasm), Bachmann and similar right-wingers have no problem with policies that discriminate against would-be gay parents. It seems that they are very selective in how they apply their "small government" philosophy.

Incidentally, you didn't address the main point I raised, i.e., that Bachmann and her supporters assume the IRS is doing this to promote a larger lifestyle agenda, as opposed to actually having a substantial factual case for believing that that is so. This traces back to a much larger problem; the right-wing is so zealous in embracing their delusion about liberals supporting "Big Government" that they jettison common sense.

‎1) At the same time, you have to acknowledge that the line between "necessities" and "luxuries" is nowhere close to being clear-cut and by expanding recognition of material items like that, it DOES open the door to what Bachmann is calling the "nanny state."

2) Of course it was. The basis of my agreement was that the government shouldn't be offering unfair discounts on products like that BECAUSE the government should not determine child-rearing paths.

3) You're right that Bachmann is ignoring any possible arguments for IRS actions being other than promoting lifestyle agendas. However, your argument about the Right's "delusion" is delusional. To say that liberals don't support greater government involvement in daily life and services is to deny the basic tenets of liberal philosophy. Your argument here is founded on one case of hyperpartisanship and overreaction.

‎(1a) While I agree that the line between necessities and luxuries can be ambiguous, I don't see how that applies in this case.

(1b) Even if that did apply in this case, I don't see how it could be argued to lead to a "nanny state." At worse, it would simply mean that the government is wasting money, which sounds a lot more like fiscal irresponsibility than the existence of a "nanny state."

Once again, the key issue is NOT whether you like or dislike certain policies, but rather whether a logically sound link can be established between those policies and an allegation you wish to make about them. For example, even though I oppose school vouchers, I'm not going to say that they're "fascistic", since I can't draw a causal link between the policy itself and the disparaging term which I wish to associate with it. Bachmann clearly doesn't like the tax credit on breastfeeding aides, which is her right, but she then claims that this could entail the first step toward the creation of a nanny state, even though she has not provided any reasonable proof to back up that assertion.

(2) When I asked how the IRS's tax policies favoring married couples and nuclear families (which Bachmann doesn't decry) are any different from the IRS tax breaks on breastfeeding aides (which she does decry), you said the key difference was that the latter involved discounts on products while the former only rewards lifestyles. Since the whole basis of your defense of Bachmann is that you "don't think the government should make (it) any easier or any harder to choose a certain path (for child rearing)", my response to that argument was to say that "if this is your position, I fail to see how it makes any difference whether the government achieves that goal by offering discounts on products or rewarding certain lifestyle choices." Your latest comment did not address that point.

(3a) Thank you for making that concession (in the first sentence).

I responded to the last three sentences of Kevin's post in a much longer and separate rebuttal. Since it detaches from the subject of this conversation and begins an entirely new one, I have created a second article entirely dedicated to it (

Here is the remainder of the breastfeeding debate:

Kevin B.

In this case, I'd have to say that Michele Bachmann is off her rocker. Study after study has shown that breastfeeding is beneficial to children. Giving a small tax incentive to do so is a good policy.

If Republicans want to keep women in their place, they could at least provide the odd incentive to do so. Plus, I mean, Bachmann paid for her own breast pumps and stuff. Why can't everyone just be rich and make the same choices she did? Come on.


Bachmann has no idea what it's like for struggling families. You know how doctors say things like, "Our country doesn't have healthcare, it has SICK care"? You know how they talk about how Americans don't impliment a simple ounce of prevention, and we pay for it with a pound of cure? The debate between formula and breast-feeding is among the greatest examples of that. Bachmann cares about fetuses but she doesn't give a crap about the baby. It's as though babies can defend themselves; it makes no logical sense. I could sympathize with an antichoicer's point of view if they still had concern for life in general, but anyone supporting Bachmann's statements clearly does not fall into that category.

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