Keeping Down Child-Care Costs

Last Friday, I moderated a panel discussion about work/family issues at the Wharton Women in Business conference in Philadelphia. The alumnae on the panel, mostly very successful Wall Street moms, shared nitty gritty details about how much their husbands helped with the kids, how frequently they traveled, and most important, what kind of child care they had. Not surprisingly, a lot of the curiosity from current, pre-mom business school students in the audience focused on child care -- and how incredibly much it costs.

Reality is simple: When your kids are young, you cannot work full-time outside of your home without child care or a stay-at-home spouse or relative. Our federal government does blessedly little to help parents find affordable, quality child care -- and it does little to encourage the proliferation of good child-care providers, a nice entrepreneurial option for moms who have to work but would like to spend their days with their children. But there is one relatively small bone the government throws families -- The $5,000 pre-tax Flexible Spending Account Dependent Care contribution program.

This is how it works. You contribute up to $5,000 pre-tax over the course of a calendar year and you are reimbursed as long for eligible expenses up to $5,000. Those are defined as placement fees for a dependent care provider or services, in or out of your home, for the care of a qualified dependent necessary to allow you and your spouse to work, look for work or attend school full-time. The savings come from not having to pay taxes on that money. One drawback is that if you don't spend the money within the year and apply for reimbursement by the end of the first quarter of the next year, you forfeit your contributions.

Another drawback is that child care for one year costs far more than $5,000, which translates to $96 per week. I have yet to come across quality child care for less than $100 per week, have you? Over the years, I've paid from $250 to $550 per week for child care, which annualizes to $13,000 to $28,600.

A relatively straightforward solution would be to raise the Dependent Care ceiling to a more realistic $10,000 to $25,000 pre-tax. What if our politicians lobbied to increase this amount so it was more than a token? Or added an incentive for businesses offering child-care services? Would it make a difference in your life?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  November 10, 2006; 7:48 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All
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The $5,000 FSA we all get is a drop in the bucket. I think it should be raised to at least $20,000, probably more like $25,000. I've got two preschool-age children and the cost of their care is very close to that. (And we don't live in DC or NY.)

I just saw that there will be a report on 20/20 tonight about working moms and the cost of care. Elizabeth Vargas returns to work tonight, so it's a timely piece.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | November 10, 2006 7:58 AM

Here we go again. Lobbying for a tax break for the upper middle class who can afford to pay $25,000 a year in child care costs.


Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 8:26 AM

How many times are we going to discuss the same issues? Can't we talk about something new and fresh?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 8:33 AM

Why don't you anonymous braniacs suggest a topic, then?

I agree with Leslie and Working Mom X. The dependent care ceiling needs to be raised, not the least because some or many (depending on what you read) of the "sandwich generation" is or will be caring for both kids and parents . . .

Posted by: Okay, then | November 10, 2006 8:38 AM

That would be amazing. I am not upper class by any stretch of the paycheck, and I pay roughly $925/month for childcare. So that $5000 limit is reached by June.

Everyone would benefit from this increase in flex plans. If only all employers use them.

I work for a small business, which is exempt from so many laws (FMLA, etc) that I joke they are probably exempt from having to pay employees.

Posted by: MD | November 10, 2006 8:45 AM

>>Here we go again. Lobbying for a tax break for the upper middle class who can afford to pay $25,000 a year in child care costs.>>

If I was a SAHM, I would not be contributing to income tax, Social Security, or Medicare. As a working mom, I contribute a big chunk of what I earn to those programs. And because I have young kids, I have to pay upwards of $20K a year for the privilege of working and paying taxes. The least the gov't can do is let me exempt or deduct some of that cost.

Posted by: Arlmom | November 10, 2006 8:46 AM

There are 24 million women with their own children under 18 in the US labor force (and 5.4 million with kids under 6) - 2000 census figures.

So let's say only the 5.4 million need day care.

Let's be super conservative...Say half of them pay for it (don't have relatives).

Say they each have just 1 kid. (2,700,000 kids).

At 30% of $5,000, ($1,500), already the govt. forgoes $4 Billion dollars in tax revenue.

$10,000 = 8 billion
$15,000 = 12.2 billion
$20,000 = 16.2 billion

The shortfall has to be recovered somewhere. This is not free money or chump change we are talking about...

Posted by: figures | November 10, 2006 9:00 AM

>>And because I have young kids, I have to pay upwards of $20K a year for the privilege of working and paying taxes. The least the gov't can do is let me exempt or deduct some of that cost.<<

No ... because you have young kids, you have to make arrangements for them to be cared for while you go and do other things. It has always been so.

Why does everyone look to the government to make things easier for them?

My husband works full-time, and I work part-time. We work at different times so that even though we can both work, we can raise our own kids. That's why we wanted them, after all.

Posted by: TexMom | November 10, 2006 9:04 AM

Well, 24 million women, assume they each make $35K and pay 10% fed tax, that is $84 billion they are adding. Even if you only count the taxes the working women with small kids are adding (the 5.4 million women), that is about $19 billion in taxes they are paying (and that's not counting FICA, etc.) Even if their contributions to federal taxes are wiped out by the child care deductions, there is a massive productivity benefit of having these people out in the workforce.

Posted by: to figures | November 10, 2006 9:06 AM

Texmom, that is just obnoxious. I am raising my own kids and every time one of you jerks opsts something like that on the board you are just trying to insult working moms and derail the conversation.

Posted by: Arlmom | November 10, 2006 9:08 AM

The USA is the only first world country that puts 100% of the responsibility of child care on parents. All other civilized countries understand (and more importantly) do something to help parents with child care needs. Child care should be tax free, corporations and companies should be encouraged and rewarded for offering child care and child care should be subsidized based on income. Low wage workers should receive free, high quality care.

Posted by: The Dane | November 10, 2006 9:10 AM

Another issue with this program, which is probably unavoidable but once again affects the poor the most, is that expenses must be paid to a legal entity - a business or a person for whom all taxes, FICA etc are tracked and paid. When we briefly had a legal babysitter that we shared with two other families, we worked with her and the other families to do all the filings and the time and costs were prohibitive. Now we are only able to afford a mixture of college students and retirees doing in-home childcare, who are great but are not declaring the income, so of course these are not deductible expenses. Catch-22 - we can't afford "legal" childcare so we have to pay out of pocket with no reimbursement or tax benefit. If we could get the tax benefit we would be closer to being able to afford "legal" childcare. The consolation is that our tax liability is so low that the tax benefit would be nearly useless anyway.

Posted by: Burg Dad | November 10, 2006 9:11 AM

The government does subsidize child care- if you are poor. My sister worked in a day care center where they were woefully underpaid and had to hear the complaints from middle & upper class mothers about the cost and then deal with the poor mothers who shuffled their kids in the center late without breakfast or lunch.
When you complain that day care centers cost too much, you're basically insulting the people who are working for a little more than minimum wage because they like to take care of your children. My sister regularly became chafed when she heard this comment about costing too much. People also try to pull this one when hiring a nanny. Pay for quality. Also, many can't afford to get college degrees and become teachers. Being a certified day care worker bridges that. Sorry to go off tangent but women know this is an expense to having a child and we all know the government isn't going to be socialized any time soon.

Posted by: H. | November 10, 2006 9:12 AM

I just realized that my figures (while technically correct) are horribly biased in the sense that they assume only mothers with children need day care - I don't discuss fathers with children or the fact that it's the FAMILY that needs daycare, gender aside

And yes, parents (mothers and fathers) with young children in the work force are an import driver of our economic engine. The choice is not them working or not, however, but how much we subsidize their childcare arrangements. I don't mean to imply that the current number is good or bad, only that when you lose govt. revenue somewhere it needs (generally) to be made up somewhere else.

Posted by: figures | November 10, 2006 9:16 AM

---Texmom, that is just obnoxious. I am raising my own kids and every time one of you jerks opsts something like that on the board you are just trying to insult working moms and derail the conversation.---

Obnoxious or true? So you truly believe that raising children only occurs outside of business hours?

Posted by: MBA Mom | November 10, 2006 9:21 AM

I am exceptionally blessed with an incredibly humane child-care situation. However, it seems clear to me that we should have child care that the government provides at sliding scale cost. We provide care, in the form of school, starting at the arbitrary age of 5. Most experts will tell you that good care before the age of 5 is essential for future success. It is in the best interests of the country for its young to be well cared for.

Posted by: Baltimore | November 10, 2006 9:24 AM

Apt topic as today is the deadline at my company to file for benefits and I was just printing out my confirmation form when I read the blog.
I really don't understand when people make comments like "don't look to the government for help with childcare". What makes childcare deductions any different from other deductions we already get such as the mortgage interest deduction? Why don't people say "don't look to the government to help you with your mortgage" or "don't look to the government to reward you for giving to charity"? Having good childcare is as important as having a roof over your head. Deductions tend to get reduced as your income threshold increases (AMT anyone?) so the whole argument saying that this is just for "upper class" people who can afford expensive child care doesn't have merit.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | November 10, 2006 9:36 AM

"It is in the best interests of the country for its young to be well cared for."

this should mean that we should try to help out the parent who raises their own kid independently and doesn't rely on paid strangers to carry out their responsibility. How about coming up with a plan that helps out SAHPs instead
of taking the money out of their pockets to subsidize the working wealthy?

Posted by: Robbing Hood | November 10, 2006 9:42 AM

Majority of readers have 6-figure household income. Wharton grads are future 6-figure earners too. Sure it's nice to keep more of what you earn, but does the govt really need to be helping 6-figure earners? I thought everyone (esp dems) rail against tax breaks for the "rich".

Govt's already running a huge deficit, anyone can list hundreds of ways the govt can be helping people. When you prioritize them, giving 6-figure earners a bigger child care tax break falls pretty far down. There are many folks that really need help that aren't getting it.

I could see the govt laddering this tax break according to AGI. Bigger break for lower/middle income folks, smaller for 6-figure folks.

"Quality" child care is a subjective term. I've put my kids in a lady's home for $100/wk 9hrs/day. She didn't play baby einstein, do baby signing or increase their IQ by 50pts, but it was safe and clean. I've seen spa-like places that massage junior, play classical music, baby einstein and sesame street them to death, has trained child development supervisors, organic food only, all the works.... for $450/wk 10hrs/day. Maybe I'm a bad parent for not giving junior the very best, but we did all we could with what we had. And I don't expect the govt to go overboard to help me with it.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 10, 2006 9:44 AM

First of all, in the DC area and I bet many other parts of the country even home childcare doesn't go for as low as $100/wk. Even if one could find a good place for $100/wk, the $5000 maximum will only cover one child, most families have more than one child in childcare at any point in time.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | November 10, 2006 9:47 AM

Robbing Hodd states : "How about coming up with a plan that helps out SAHPs instead
of taking the money out of their pockets to subsidize the working wealthy?"

"Working wealthy" is an interesting term given that most families with 2 parents working have both working because they can't afford one parent to stay home. On the other hand, homes with SAHPs are typically on both ends of the income strata - either too poor to be able to afford childcare or "wealthy" enough for the family to be comfortable with only one parent working. And we all know that we would not be taxing poor families under the scenarios we are describing.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | November 10, 2006 9:50 AM

A couple of comments about the $5,000 dependent care flexible spending account limit ... that limit has not been increased by Congress since the 1980's! Decent child care probably cost about $5,000 back then. Today, it's not even close.

We are willing as a country to give our executives all kinds of tax breaks on deferred compensation plans, stock options, etc. ... how many millions of dollars are going untaxed because of the special perks provided to executives? We also have a huge group of well-paid taxpayers who are not paying social security taxes once their income reaches the FICA limit for the year (about $95,000, I think). Are these tax breaks more important to us as a country than a tax break for working parents?

Perhaps now that we have a Democratic Congress that understands that two-income families are a fact of life for many and child care is not a bad thing, we can raise the limit to once again provide a meaningul benefit!

Posted by: WorkingMom11 | November 10, 2006 9:51 AM

I agree that a tax-based solution such as this is a great idea! When my second child get into daycare, our costs will be greater than our mortgage. I have friends who bought a cheap house in the 1990s and they claim they spend TWICE as much on childcare as on their mortgage. I think that non-taxed childcare costs at $10k, $20k, $25k would be very important. What I find strange is that today, in 2006, people without kids can't believe we're not paying like $300 per month for daycare. The childless public just doesn't understand the choice is between paying 25% of your salary for daycare or Mom staying home and we lose $75k off our budget. We have European friends who get a year off with reduced pay. a YEAR off.

Posted by: Bethesdan | November 10, 2006 10:00 AM

I don't understand the argument that the FSA is just for the rich. It seems to me that this FSA can benefit anyone. It just so happens that the FSA is most used by households with two working parents. And yes, it can't be used to pay people who perform childcare "off the books."

The Government can't support any type of "off the books" activities, right? So that argument can't hold any water. "Off the books" work is by definition unregulated, whether it be childcare, construction/handymen, housecleaning, whatever.

If the argument is that only the "rich" can afford regulated, above-board childcare, well then that is a different (granted related) problem that needs to be solved.

Problem 1: Regulated, above-board childcare too expensive.
Problem 2: Goverment subsidy in the form of tax break is inadequate.

Perhaps problem #1 affects the poor disproportionately. That does not discount the notion that Problem #2 is valid.

Posted by: Proud Papa | November 10, 2006 10:00 AM

Burg Dad and others who are paying nannies under the table, you ARE breaking the law; you are supposed to be filing and paying social security taxes, and possibly federal withholding, and giving your employees (yes, they are employees) a W-2 at the end of the year. I just pulled up IRS publication 926 that answers, in plain English, any questions you might have. Burg Dad's lame excuse that the filings are too time consuming and expensive is riduculous, especially with the availablity of Excel, the IRS.gov website, and their 800 numbers for tax help. It just isn't that hard, I do it every quarter. This is just another example of how people justify their own behavior while cheating the government, and then whine about how the government can't afford to give them more tax breaks. Ugh.

Posted by: Glad | November 10, 2006 10:05 AM

I agree--your comment was obnoxious. When your kids are in school full time, are you not raising them? What about when they are in sports two hours a day after school? Still not raising them? I see my kids for about 15 minutes in the morning before they hit the bus for school. I make them breakfast and make sure they have what they need. The get up earlier than 15 minutes before they leave, but I am not talking to them while they are in the bathroom or getting dressed. And even when they are eating breakfast, they would rather read or just gather their thoughts. They kiss me goodbye, tell me to have a good day, etc.

16.2 billion is chump change. The federal goverment spends that in two DAYS. Less, actually. Let's see what happens when these fed up moms quit their jobs and stay home for a couple of years. They are currently paying a lot of money in taxes. Let's see what gets cut when they pay NOTHING in taxes. The real tax money should be coming from the trillion dollar industries, like Exxon, for example, who made record profits this year. When my kids were little, I ran a home daycare, Mr. Honda. My house was safe and clean, I sang to the kids, read to them, took them to the park, did arts and crafts, and kissed and hugged them. We played music, but we also ate pbj's sometimes. Just like home!

Posted by: to texmom and working mom11 | November 10, 2006 10:06 AM

So Glad, if I hire a babysitter, am I breaking the law?

Posted by: robbing Hood | November 10, 2006 10:08 AM

You said it, fabworkingmom. The economic formula is simple-- tax what you want to discourage, subsidize what you want to encourage. Removing the taxes associated with childcare dollars at least makes the decision neutral (though I would think quality childcare is something we would want to encourage in this country). As usual, the 'why should the gov help you' argument ignores the enormous positive social and economic benefits (for everyone) of having our society's children well-cared for and well-educated. If you think quality childcare and good public schools don't matter for their own sake today, what about juvenile crime, drop out rates and adult economic productivity tomorrow? Kids don't grow up in a vacuum, and we can't wall ourselves off from large scale socio-economic dynamics.

At the same time, H. and Burg Dad brought up the other troubling aspect of this, which is that no matter how much money folks have, they they think they're paying "too much" for childcare. How much is "too much"? I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where a lot of those Wall Street Moms on Leslie's panel live. During the day, when the Moms and Dads are downtown at work, Central Park is filled with black and brown nannies from Queens and Brooklyn pushing $1000 dollar strollers with blond children in them (while their own children are where?). Here in Manhattan, the prevailing nanny wage is about $10-$14/hour-- cash, no benefits, no taxes. The Manhattanites who decry Wal-Mart's labor practices give fewer benefits (at least some Wal-Mart employees qualify for health care, and they all have Social Security, unemployment insurance, etc. paid) and less flexibility to their own domestic employees. Of course, these people don't call them "nannies" or think of themselves as having "domestic help"... they call the women who spend 40-50 hours per week looking after their children "baby sitters", as if to equate them with a 15 year-old watching the kid for a couple of hours on a Friday night. You don't declare pay to a "baby-sitter", right? Besides, the "baby-sitters want cash" according to the parents, so they don't have to pay taxes... never mind that even at the max rate of $14/hr., most of these women (given their own family situations) would likely not have to pay much in taxes anyway. But since the employers don't want to deal with it, they don't have any interest in trying to convince the women it's worth social security and unemployment benefits to conduct business above board.

Granted, Manhattan is a weird microcosm that is not necessarily reflective of what's going on in the country as a whole, but if even people paying $1 million for a 2-bedroom apartment (and Leslie's Wall Street Moms all live in 3-4 bedroom apartments) say they "can't afford" to pay employment taxes and benefits to their nanny, what does the rest of America say? If truly quality childcare is a real priority, both parents (and the gov't in the form of tax breaks/subsidies) have to be willing to pay the price for well-paid, above board caregivers.

Posted by: JKR | November 10, 2006 10:10 AM

H. - I do not think reasonable people on this board are complaining that child care is too expensive. You make a good point that child care workers are underpaid for the services they provide. However, this underpayment, is, at least partially because, without some type of help from the government, through tax breaks, vouchers, whatever, working parents don't have enough money to pay for more. (I'm not talking about six figure salary workers, I'm talking about lower middle class, etc.) However, if there was some type of assistance for these payments from the government, in whatever form, hopefully everyone would benefit, because the child care workers could be paid more, the children would hopefully receive even better care, and the parents would not feel such a crunch on their incomes from having to pay the childcare costs for the privilege of working outside the home.

Posted by: Momof2 | November 10, 2006 10:17 AM

I'm pretty sure that paying a babysitter is illegal, yes.

So is paying a kid to mow your lawn or shovel your snow.

However, it all falls into the category of stuff that is too small for the government to police. They would spend more trying to police these things than they would actually gain in collections.

Posted by: to Robbing Hood | November 10, 2006 10:20 AM

Leslie, I have been reading a book called "Money, a Memoir" by Liz Perle. It is a fascinating book on women and money. I think every woman, mother or not, should read it. It has certainly galvanized ME into action! Has anyone here read it?

Posted by: Jane | November 10, 2006 10:20 AM

"The USA is the only first world country that puts 100% of the responsibility of child care on parents. "

God Bless America. Because the responsibility of child rearing/care DOES belong to the parent.

You are already getting a large tax credit for each of your children. You're getting a tax deduction for each of your children. You're getting a tax deduction for some of your child care expenses. What more do you people want?

Posted by: Whine, whine, whine!!! | November 10, 2006 10:28 AM

Here we go. Rich people wanting a bigger tax break.

Posted by: A democrat | November 10, 2006 10:29 AM

While I empathize with moms who HAVE to work out of financial necessity, I know for a good number of working moms, they'd rather be at work in their new dresses walking through power corridors and chatting with colleagues than at home raising their children. This is not imagination, women have admitted to it. Raising a child less than 5 yrs old is an enormous and demanding task.

There is undisputed evidence that the first 5 years of a child's life are critical to overall emotional/intellectual/personal development. The govt. should then not just provide incentives to get back to work but also for those who choose to stay at home. Why not also provide an equivalent tax break for potential lost income that stay at home mom's encounter and for their sacrifice in ensuring good future citizens?

And yeah, texmom, you are not paying for the privilege of working. You are paying fo r the privilege of working while leaving someone else to take care of a totally dependent human being who got into that state for no fault of their own. If you don't want to pay childcare to go back to work, then don't have children. Its that simple. Stop reducing children into trophies/accomplishments!

Posted by: lop-sided | November 10, 2006 10:33 AM

TO Robbing Hood, and Burg Dad: you are breaking the law when you pay your babysitter more than the minimum non-taxed income, you are required by law to report the income and/or pay the payroll taxes.

TO Texmom: My husband works a different shift than I do, that doesn't mean we can't go without the great childcare we have. The sad reality is that even at nearly $80K a year gross, we still have to work very hard at staying ahead. We are middle class but we would have to forgo things like saving for retirement without my income. Retirement savings may sound like a luxury to you, but I for one don't plan on waiting for the government to pay for my golden years. The meager savings I get from the pre-tax FSA help to ensure that I and my children will not be future financial burdens on the government. And, the FSA, if your employer participates, is available to ALL employees, regardless of whether one or both partners work.

To Mr. Honda: Our childcare is $190 a week and that takes nearly 50% of my paycheck. The problem is that so many people have bought into this Republican myth that people who make more than $25K are "middle class." I would argue that figures in the low six figures is where the real middle class is, nasty liberal that I am. Finally, it just seems to me like this whole thing is a win-win. Working families (who contribute to the productivity and economic prosperity of our country, even if only ONE parent works) will have more affordable childcare, freeing more of their income for savings, investing, buying.

Posted by: LM in WI | November 10, 2006 10:33 AM

"My husband works full-time, and I work part-time. We work at different times so that even though we can both work, we can raise our own kids. That's why we wanted them, after all."

She has the right idea. It's sad and rather disgusts me that daycare providers, TV, and video games are raising the next generation.
Most parents are so self-absorbed and un-involved, they don't even know that their kid is making a bomb in their bedroom. And they got the recipe for it on the family computer.
I say if you really want kids, you raise them yourselves and make it work with no assistance, and with the schedule and resources you have. People need to take a hard long look at this before just cranking these kids out and leaving everyone else to suffer the consequences.

Posted by: RaiseYourOwnKids | November 10, 2006 10:33 AM

I have my infant daughter in a not-for-profit daycare and I pay $1414 per month. When she turns 2 it'll drop to somewhere around $1050 depending on inflation between now and then. The least expensive in-home care I found was $800 per month. We make decent money, but live in an expensive area. I'll bet our Texan friend cannot conceive of the cost of living in the DC area.

I certainly believe that $5000 is an out-of-date figure for tax exemption purposes. I also agree that child-care providers are underpaid and have inadequate benefits, but I personally cannot afford to pay more and live here. I don't know how people with more than 1 child do it, but my decision to have only 1 was made partly because of the childcare situation.

Posted by: MaryB | November 10, 2006 10:39 AM

"you are breaking the law when you pay your babysitter more than the minimum non-taxed income"

Any idea what this minimum is?

Posted by: Robbing Hood | November 10, 2006 10:42 AM

"The govt. should then not just provide incentives to get back to work but also for those who choose to stay at home. Why not also provide an equivalent tax break for potential lost income that stay at home mom's encounter and for their sacrifice in ensuring good future citizens?"

Because tax breaks are supposed to be reductions of taxes that you already owe. If you're not working, you're not paying income tax, thus you don't deserve a tax break.

"I would argue that figures in the low six figures is where the real middle class is, nasty liberal that I am. "

Wow - I never realized that at $85K a year, my family was lower class! I guess we should be striving for more - the fact that we have retirement, college, and regular savings; a home; two cars; children who are well fed and clothed; vacations; etc. means nada.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 10:44 AM

The $5000 only applies if you have below a certain income. I earn $90,000/year, so my DCRA maximum is $4500 (my bonus is not included in the DCRA formula). My daughter's daycare is $275/week (with an employer discount). My husband is doing a residency in medicine and earns $35,000/year. I don't think I pay too much for childcare -- she's in a place where she is well-loved, with qualified teachers, and flexible hours. Her childcare is more expensive than my mortgage. My husband and my student loans are more expensive than my mortgage. We don't have a lot of the little luxuries of life (like cable). But I would love to sock more money into my DCRA. Right now, my husband earns barely enough to pay for childcare and the increased taxes on his income. It would be far better to forego him working in the short term. But long-term, it's a bad deal -- in seven years he'll earn around $200,000/year. Like Leslie, I went to a business school that spits out high-wage earners. If the government wanted to encourage more parents to put their children in licensed, taxed daycare situations, the government would offer an incentive to do so. The government earns a lot of money on the taxes I pay currently, and the present value of my family's future taxes is quite high. Why not encourage me to stay in the workforce earning a six-figure salary so I pay lots of taxes?

Posted by: Mpls Mama | November 10, 2006 10:47 AM

To LM in WI. I agree with you. The govt could do more to help the middle class, and those who aren't in the 6-figure club. It'd be nice to increase the $5K to per-child and subject to AGI. I just think it is troubling that people like Leslie and some upper-class folks who don't need this help are clamoring for it.
They justify it in admirable terms like sacrificing for the next generation, ensuring happy productive workers, all the while hiding their own selfishness.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 10, 2006 10:48 AM

"I also agree that child-care providers are underpaid and have inadequate benefits, but I personally cannot afford to pay more and live here. "

So make a stand against it and move to a lesser expensive area where child care doesn't cost as much or where you can afford to not work and care for your own child. Getting a higher tax deduction does absolutely nothing for the underpaid/benefited child care worker.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 10:49 AM


1) On the timeworn "but why don't you subsidize SAHs as well" argument. The point is, the childcare is a cost associated with generating the income in the first place; the income doesn't exist without the expense; and it is unfair to tax the gross income instead of the net. The current credit comes nowhere close to accounting for that. SAH moms are essentially forgoing their entire salary for childcare, and *none* of that foregone income is taxed. A WOH mom instead foregoes a sizable fraction of her income, and most of that foregone income *is* still taxed, unlike the foregone income of the SAH mom. If a WOH mom were taxed more fairly, on net income after a deduction of childcare costs (or a reasonable market cap), she is still generating more income and paying more into taxes, that is, our communal pot for funding societal goals, than the SAH mom does. So who is being "subsidized"? (Not that I'm against subsidizing parents raising children in either mode, I do think society should do more to make parenting more manageable whether SAH, WOH, whatever, as families raising children are the foundation and future of the society. I'm just saying, why do so many SAHs seem to begrudge what is so piddling and symbolic a concession that WOH parents must pay to free their time for work?)

2) On the under-the-table economy:
When we first looked for sitters for our then-baby daughter, many applicants (sent over by a screening agency!) wanted to be paid under the table, or to have income underreported as being the max value before Social Security income becomes taxable.

To me, that was an immediate disqualifier --- you want me to entrust you with the care of my child, and the first words out of your mouth show me you're a liar who cuts inconvenient corners?!

We did the quarterly employment taxes, social security withholding, etc (our state has now made it only an annual filing for domestic employees, so it's now much easier --- only have to quicken all that info annually instead of quarterly, and you need to do it for the flex benefit claim anyway). Actually, it was a much bigger hassle to generate the weekly paystub and paycheck on time, due to the sitter's ever-changing hours, than it was to file unemployment and federal taxes and to withhold ss, medicare, and federal income tax.

*Of course* the flex accounts are only for legitimate providers --- that forces the providers to pay income tax on their income, *like everyone else does, as they are morally and socially obligated to do*, which further increases the tax paid to the government for all of our collective goals. Why should tax cheats be subsidized by all of us?

Posted by: KB | November 10, 2006 10:50 AM

Robbing Hood, since you have so much time on your hands today, PLEASE go to IRS.gov and print off a copy of Publication 926 - it's really easy. Like your mother would say, "Look it up yourself".

I logged back on to see what snarky comments you people would make, and was not disappointed. If you don't know the difference between a babysitter and a day care provider, I'm sure one of the many working mothers on this forum can tell you. Or you could spend some of your obviously free time to look up the IRS rules. Thats www.irs.gov.

Posted by: Glad | November 10, 2006 10:50 AM

TO RaiseYourOwnKids

Certainly parents need to be responsible. In making sure my children are well provided for when I work, I am doing just that. I provide for the economic welfare not just for my own children, but for the childen of the woman who takes care of mine while I work. I choose to work out of the home, where most jobs are. She runs a childcare business from her home, enabling her to work at home, be there when her kids get home from school, and have dinner ready when her husband get home. I envy her in many ways but childcare is not a profession for me. I don't judge her for her choices, and she doesn't judge mine. Motherhood on the otherhand, is different. I am a great mom. As for kids turning out rotten, see a previous discussion regarding parenting choices. Even great parents have rotten kids (usually called teenagers). Most of the time, they grow out of it. Finally, I am willing to guess that at some time, most families do rely on others at some point. If we are to take your "make it work with no assistance" comment seriously, then these same "responsible" parents are not dropping the kids off with an Aunt or grandparents free of charge because that would be sloughing their parental responsibilities onto someone else.

Posted by: LM in WI | November 10, 2006 10:54 AM

To the anonymous poster (coward!) that responded to my posting: do you think it is easy to find any kind of job in a less expensive place? Why do you think so many people are living in the DC area and more flooding in all the time? There are good jobs here, most government jobs are here, most contractor jobs are here. It is not so easy to just pick up and move as that. Do you have any more one-liner anonymous answers to the world's problems to share with us?

Posted by: MaryB | November 10, 2006 10:55 AM

"Why should the government help parents"

That's an easy one... because that's what it's there for!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 10:55 AM

According to nolo.com, you must start reporting babysitter payments after paying more than $1400/year.

http://www.nolo.com/product.cfm/objectID/E9E8FD58-0776-4C38-AF967F47E5361CF5/samplechapter/1/104/

Posted by: Neighbor | November 10, 2006 11:01 AM

Who is middle class?

Turns out, everyone thinks they are middle class. A New York Times Magazine article a couple of years ago profiled New Yorkers, starting with a recent college grad making $28K at an admin job to a $10 million/yr hedge fund manager. They all thought they were middle class-- well, to be fair, the hedge fund guy knew he was "upper class". But the interesting part was this-- asked to describe how much income makes a person "rich" every single person described just the very next income bracket up from theirs, i.e. the $28K person thinks $50K/yr is a ton of money, the $50K person thinks $100K/yr makes you rich, that person thinks $300K/yr makes you rich and so on and so on. Even the hedge fund manager insisted his income was small potatoes compared to most of his friends.

This all has to do with the prevailing American national myth of the American dream and the middle class core of that myth. This is a country where being upper class is distained and being middle class lends you credibility. So everyone wants to be middle class, everyone thinks they are middle class. There is an interesting discussion of the topic here:

http://www.answers.com/topic/american-middle-class


But the truth is, this country is less middle class than it ever was-- the gap between rich and poor is huge and while the definition of middle class seems to be totally elastic, the true economic middle class is shrinking. My husband and I combined make $200K-- we don't think we are rich, but honestly, when you look at the numbers and what constitutes average salary, OF COURSE we are rich in a relative sense-- that household income puts us in the top 5% of households, something I try to remind myself of everytime I start to gripe about not being able to afford something. Even if I quit working or go back to grad school when I have my baby, we'll still be well in the top 15%-- and yet I worry about having enough money for childcare, a big enough house, etc. I'm beginning to realize this worry is largely psychological, that griping about not having enough money and thinking everyone else has more is quite simply a mental habit that A LOT of us have-- maybe I would be better served by gratitude for the abundance I have instead of worrying about what I don't have. We still need practical solutions to the issue of quality childcare (especially for the poor and median income earners) and yes, even people who have a lot of blessings can have problems, too-- I'm just calling for a little perspective here.

Check out this info regarding American income distribution and see if you still feel 'middle class': http://www.answers.com/topic/income-quintiles

Posted by: JKR | November 10, 2006 11:01 AM

To LM in WI,

When we filed our 2005 taxes in MD, we found out that, if one parent is technically SAHM but is looking for a job or trying to build a business, they cannot claim tax benefits on the child care money the family pays out. I am not sure, but I think if one parent is SAH and the working parents uses the FSA for "childcare" expenses, they will not get the tax break.

To RaiseYourOwnKids,

Pls take the argument a little further and say if you really want to own a house, make it work with the resources you have. No looking for loans, tax breaks etc.

People do not and cannot live for the moment and must take all factors that affect their future into account. College loans, supporting older family members, medical conditions etc. If we all agree to what you are proposing, "each ti his/her own", we will not be a society anymore.

Posted by: AnotherRockvilleMom | November 10, 2006 11:05 AM

To Robbing Hood

According to the IRS, wages in excess of $1000 requires an employer of household employees (of which a nanny/babsitter would qualify) to pay federal unemployment tax. Wages over $1500 paying social security and medicare tax.

For your perusal
http://www.irs.gov/publications/p926/ar02.html#d0e303

Posted by: LM in WI | November 10, 2006 11:05 AM

Let's just change the gender on lop-sided's post and see if it still sounds reasonable: "While I empathize with [fathers] who HAVE to work out of financial necessity, I know for a good number of working [fathers], they'd rather be at work in their new [suits] walking through power corridors and chatting with colleagues than at home raising their children." MEOW! That sure doesn't sound like my job. And if that's all America is capable of producing, it's no wonder the trade deficit is so bad: we have nothing worth exporting.

Posted by: Columbia MD (working) mom | November 10, 2006 11:06 AM

Where I live, the cost of living index is 0.95 and decent childcare at a lady's house is $100-$150/wk. The $5000 limit is enough for 1 child, maybe 2. Salaries are also pretty low.

Cost of living in the DC area is very high, hence many request increasing the $5000 limit. However, aren't the salaries much higher as well?

I know someone who pays her mom $2500 and dad $2500 to care for her infant. Her parents report that income and she gets the full $5000 deduction.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 10, 2006 11:07 AM

I used the dependent care tax credit for many years. That $5,000 has been around a long time. I think it's a good program because it lets the parent pick the care. Also you have to have a documented caregiver. It is in everyones' interest to document and pay various taxes on employees.

I agree with those who feel it isn't equitable to raise the limit so those with fancy-pants nannies can take the full amount.

My thought would be to index it so the amount keeps up with general increases. I'm sure somebody at BLS can extract some kind of child care cost index. Let that be the guidance.

I'd also add the the medical spending part is a great way to keep down the cost of braces and counseling for families that might need it but find that health coverage doesn't cover it very well.

Posted by: RoseG | November 10, 2006 11:12 AM

To LM in WI:

I see what you're saying, and that's fine.

My beef is when parents complain and whine about the cost associated with having children, and why aren't they given more by the government, and subsidized for this and that...when perhaps they should've considered that before having children.
If it's more economical to say, have one child, then perhaps that's what certain parents should do. More kids=more expense. More kids justifies the bigger house, the obnoxious SUV (that is contributing to the environmental detriment, which the next generation--i.e., their kids--will have to shoulder.), more stress for the parents to earn more money. More, more, more!

I honestly think daycare should really only be available to single parents. But in regards to two-parent homes, if people set their priorities in a common-sensical manner (and yes, that means giving up the SUV), adjust their lives accordingly, they could make it work. But most people are unwilling to bend or give up these things, so then they whine about the cost of daycare, it just doesn't make sense to me. But they justify having that vehicle that has an astronomical car payment attached to it, and Lord knows about the insurance.

It all boils down to choices, and planning better for said choices.

Posted by: RaiseYourOwnKids | November 10, 2006 11:14 AM

thanks neighbor!

$1,400 a year. Not bad. For that I can get a cleaning lady under the table once a month and still be perfectly legal. I like it!

Posted by: Robbing Hood | November 10, 2006 11:15 AM

In a similar vein, why not raise limit of the child tax credit? This benefits (potentially) all people with minor children, regardless of whether they use childcare or have access to a FSA.

Posted by: LM inWI | November 10, 2006 11:15 AM

Did you see the article in the post today about Fairfax putting 4 million into their subsidized (subisidized so low income or signle parents can afford to work) to maintain the existing slots, and there are 3,200 kids on the waiting lists.

I think increasing the tax deduction and increasing the child care subsidy for low income parents is beneficial to kids, parents and society as a whole. We want people to move out of welfare, but there are many times when economically (as in meeting basic needs, not vli) a parent can make ends meet by not working due to the lack of daycare/inability to afford daycare. And for those who say that people who are poor should not have children, remember, things happen that can cause a drastic change in income after the kids are born (illness, uncovered medical expenses, death of a spouse).

There were times when my children were small that with my husband and I both working, wecouldnt live on one income, with two incomes, daycare ate up a huge amount of money but that small amount of money left over from two incomes made all the difference in a monthly budget as tight as ours, my employer covered my health insurance, his employer didnt do health insurance, we couldnt afford family insurance so the kids had no health insurance, and with both working we werent eligible for medicaid. We kept working of course, and had to choose many times between paying the utilities/buying groceries/paying the car insurance/paying daycare. I worked as a secretary, he worked as a salesman in an area where wages/jobs were stagnant. You may look down on people with "lower incomes" but someone needs to do those jobs.

Posted by: jessker9 | November 10, 2006 11:18 AM

"$1,400 a year. Not bad. For that I can get a cleaning lady under the table once a month and still be perfectly legal"

I can get the cleaning lady under the table for $50 a pop. `:)

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 11:19 AM

"To the anonymous poster (coward!) that responded to my posting: do you think it is easy to find any kind of job in a less expensive place? Why do you think so many people are living in the DC area and more flooding in all the time? There are good jobs here, most government jobs are here, most contractor jobs are here. It is not so easy to just pick up and move as that. Do you have any more one-liner anonymous answers to the world's problems to share with us?"

Well, first of all, the vast majority of the people of this country have managed to find jobs in other areas of the country. Just because there are a lot of good jobs in DC does not mean that there are zero jobs elsewhere.

And second of all, do you have an answer to the problem of underpaid/benefited childcare workers other than one liners excusing yourself from responsibility? ("I realize it's a problem but I can't afford to pay any more than I already do and still live here.")


Posted by: coward | November 10, 2006 11:20 AM

Wow, this is getting off-track.
No ladies under the table, please!

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 10, 2006 11:22 AM

Raiseyourownkids said "I honestly think daycare should really only be available to single parents"

Seriously! Not only are you extremely judgmental but you also want to regulate what services working parents can buy. Amazing!

Posted by: fabworkingmom | November 10, 2006 11:23 AM

"Pls take the argument a little further and say if you really want to own a house, make it work with the resources you have. No looking for loans, tax breaks etc."

That's apples and oranges. You have to have shelter. Granted, you don't necessarily have to live in Potomac. And certainly, you don't have to have 3+ kids. If one makes life comfortable and less stressed, why can't people just be happy with that?

Posted by: RaiseYourOwnKids | November 10, 2006 11:24 AM

Yes, the big problem is helping the single welfare mom with 2 kids. If she makes $12/hr = $100/day = $500/wk, how is she going to find affordable childcare? It's a big disincentive for her to work, and she'll be trapped in welfare. Yes, the govt is already helping them, and they are the ones that truly NEED help.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 10, 2006 11:27 AM

Why do we have sidewalks, public schools, social security, and a police force? The reason we look to the gov't to make things easier for us is that that is why gov't exists -- to make society better and stronger. Helping the 150 million parents in America -- and our children -- is good for society overall, in the short term and long term.

Posted by: Leslie | November 10, 2006 11:31 AM

Yes, we need this. $25,000 would be appropriate as a maximum.

To the person (no name or psuedoname), who complained about 'yet another tax break'; we pay close to $30,000 a year for our childcare costs - if we were to get a tax break, we would certainly be able to spend that money on the stuff we actually need, (not want), in addition to child care. Frankly if we could not afford this childcare, we would not be able to have children, and those kids will certainily pay taxes over time that more than make up for the tax break of childcare. Factor in a large mortgage (housing is an expensive necessity), 2 cars (transportation is a necessity), food, etc, and a couple earning say $150,000 a year, now has a whole lot less purchasing power than one might think.

If the tax break is allocated to everyone, that could be unfairly applied to someone earning say upwards of 2 million a year; but around this area the AVERAGE income is $100k a year. And that, for a family of 4, is just getting by.

You clearly do not have children, nor childcare issues

Posted by: Tax break wanted! | November 10, 2006 11:32 AM

Correction:

We want people to move out of welfare, but there are many times when economically (as in meeting basic needs, not vli) a parent cant make ends meet by working due to the lack of daycare/inability to afford daycare.

I need more coffee.

Posted by: jessker10 | November 10, 2006 11:32 AM

Jane -- I have heard good things about Liz Perle's memoir about women and money. Glad you like it. I look forward to checking it out.

What in particular did you like the most about it?

Posted by: Leslie | November 10, 2006 11:33 AM

RaiseYourOwnKids and Mr Honda

So true. Fact is, wealth is relative. Middle-class and the priorities therein are relative. Providing a general benefit will obviously help most middle-income families. And of course, the not so middle-class (six figure folks) and the wealthy will, as they invariably do, find a way to make the system work for them. Just as there are free loaders at the bottom, there are freeloaders at the top. That having been said, the freeloaders should not prevent taking positive action.

Posted by: LM in WI | November 10, 2006 11:36 AM

How long until someone says they don't want their taxes going to support someone else's "X"?

Rufus, Mcewen, CMAC, you guys out there today?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 11:38 AM

Leslie... that is a ridiculous comment. The government DOES NOT exist to make all things easier for us. The main function of a government in a liberal democracy, which is what the US is (I say liberal here with a little "l" not liberal as in a Liberal Democrat) is to protect its citizens individual rights and freedoms in order for them to live their lives as they see fit. It emphasizes SELF-INTEREST and CHOICE. We are an individualist society and have been since our founding. If anyone thinks the government is trying to make our lives easier, they have not been to the DMV.

Posted by: gradstudent | November 10, 2006 11:43 AM

Truth be told, I not only have more children than you do, but my family makes about half of what yours does. We also live in an area where the cost of living is much higher than the national average. I still have a problem with those who are paying an amount for childcare which is almost twice the income of a family at the poverty level demanding a tax break on those payments.

For those who think that childcare should be tax free because it is a necessity of working, do you also advocate for tax deductions for your work wardrobes, drycleaning, lunches out, commuting expenses, etc.?


Posted by: to Tax Break Wanted! | November 10, 2006 11:43 AM

To the anonymous poster.... haha pick up and move to a less expensive place where childcare is cheaper!

Sure you could move to a small town where you can get cheap(er) childcare, but you'll likely not find (good-paying) jobs. Even after my move from AshburnVA to Madison, I only pay $50 less/week on daycare for my 3yr old.
I'm sure if we lived in smaller urban area, we might find daycare to be cheaper, but then we'd either be commuting to a city for our work or earning 1/4 of what we used to make by working in Podunk, USA.
Moving cross-country or cross town or even 100 miles away with children is NOT easy. Selling your house, finding/changing jobs, losing vacation, losing seniority, and starting all over again is something to be undertaken to save $50-$100/week on childcare. It's simply not even an option most people have available to them.
Clearly, we need solutions that help people regardless of geographic location and economic situations.

Posted by: MadisonWIMom | November 10, 2006 11:44 AM

No, not everyone can make ends meet by cutting things out of the budget and having one spouse stay home. With us, it takes two working parents to afford housing (not a big fancy house), one used car (rural area, no public transportation), basic utilities and clothing. Cant sacrifice the SUV if yo cant afford it in the first place.

Not to mention the sacrifice of not continously working and losing the chances of future income increases as the kids get older, enabling us to save for college/retirement. But I guess some would say that low income people shouldnt want to send their kids (which they shouldnt have had in the first place) to college. Or retire. :)

btw, I'm the same Jessker every time, just have to put another number after my name or I cant post. Not sure why.

Posted by: jessker11 | November 10, 2006 11:44 AM

"Well, first of all, the vast majority of the people of this country have managed to find jobs in other areas of the country. Just because there are a lot of good jobs in DC does not mean that there are zero jobs elsewhere.

And second of all, do you have an answer to the problem of underpaid/benefited childcare workers other than one liners excusing yourself from responsibility? ("I realize it's a problem but I can't afford to pay any more than I already do and still live here.")"

Of course there are jobs everywhere, but what I said was not all jobs can be found everywhere. My husband is a scientist who does highly specialized work that most universities cannot afford to do (equipment costs). Finding another position doing what he does would be difficult in the first place and you won't find that job in an inexpensive location. I'm a bit more flexible, but not wildly so. Should we go back to school? He is 54 and has a PhD, I am 38 and have a master's degree.

And about doing what I can for the underpaid childcare workers, I did take that into strong consideration. This is why, as I pointed out, I use a not-for-profit daycare. The workers (we call them teachers) there, are not rich, but they have good, stable, legal employment with benefits. The low turnover of employees speaks to the fact that it is a pleasant place to work - there are 6 employees who have worked there more than 20 years. Most stay more than 5 years. Tuition is on a sliding scale, though the ceiling for that is a family income of $55,000 or less, which in this area would not pay for a roof over your head anymore.

Posted by: MaryB | November 10, 2006 11:44 AM

If you can't afford them, you shouldn't have them.

There's a paradox here -- If people are paying so much for childcare, why are the childcare workers so poorly paid?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 11:45 AM

"Rufus, Mcewen, CMAC, you guys out there today?"

they might be govt workers with the day off.
the next time a govt worker complains about their job or how little time off they get, we should point out how many holidays they get.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 11:46 AM

Yes, $10,000-$25,000 pre-tax IS more realistic, and not just for childcare, for elder care as well. But my company doesn't offer that as an option, anyways - be nice if that was a requirement for employers to offer it.

Personally, I think the idea of incentives for businesses offering child-care services would have a lot more rtaction in getting parents more quality, convenient child care.

About quality - I agree with the poster who said sometimes quality is not paying top buck just because its "THE" center that serves organic meals or whatever! I found this great place for my kids (after too many, poor quality, bad experiences)that doesn't have all the bells and whistles, costs me $160/week, and my kids are absolutely thriving in the environment. I don't know what the secret to their success is - I think they must get subsidies from somehwere. And it sure isn't perfect - the place is not sparkling clean with the latest gadgets (yet in the past year my children have not missed a single day due to an illness that they picked up there), the teachers seem to have some literacy issues (but hey, they are reading to my kids, and not sticking them in front of the tv!), and they respect the individuality of my kids.

I would definitely pay more for child care if I knew the teachers had a higher education, were committed to staying at the center (god- turnover at childcare centers is awful!), and that the center eagerly welcomed parent input into all aspects of care and curriculum.

Posted by: Silver Spring Mom | November 10, 2006 11:48 AM

"The childless public just doesn't understand the choice is between paying 25% of your salary for daycare or Mom staying home and we lose $75k off our budget."

Perhaps it would be a good idea if the parenting public were to do the math BEFORE having the kids.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 11:48 AM

tax credits are nice for some, but don't do anything for parents making too little money to owe any taxes, or who can't afford to write the check every month/week and wait until March of the next year to be reimbursed. What about the childcare costs of the fast-food employees, hairstylists, cafeteria workers, non-unionized grocery cashiers, etc. in small towns? What about the home child-care providers who don't want to charge more in order to recoup the costs of complying with state regulations, and who provide safe, nurturing, affordable environments? I'd rather discuss proposals that give all parents at all income levels more options in childcare, particularly for those parents who need evening coverage for late shifts. Come on Leslie, let's broaden our discussions to include the concerns of most posters.

To TexMom and MBA Mom -- Please limit your condescension, if at all, to those you know personally. Parenting in our family involves, from time to time, a combination of my husband, myself, family members, home healthcare providers, clean-cut responsible teenagers, neighbors, members of our church congregation, and wonderful teachers, during the schoolday. Our kids, as a result, are respectful of adults, are close to their adult extended-family member, and understand that everyone in our family works together for the good of our family. I am confident that you have made the best choices for your family and assume that, despite the tone of your comments today, you agree that parents -- not the government, not the community, and not you -- are in the best position to determine the parenting styles and details that are best suited to their respective children.

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 10, 2006 11:50 AM

TO Anon

"If you can't afford them, you shouldn't have them.

There's a paradox here -- If people are paying so much for childcare, why are the childcare workers so poorly paid?"

Let me answer that. Childcare fees include not just salaries for the workers, but supplies (some places provide food!) maintenence costs (heat/air, phone, electric), property taxes, insurance, etc. At the center where I work (not where I send my child) the reduced cost to employee for an infant full time five days a week is $220/week. Parents must supply diapers, formula, wipes, and lunch. A snack is provided. As the kids get older, the cost come down somewhat but the incidental fees go up (field-trips, etc).

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 11:57 AM

On the topic of women--and mothers--in the workforce, is there anyone else who is upset that washingtonpost.com has a front page article analyzing Nancy Pelosi's Fashion choices two days after she became speaker of the house? What other Speaker of the House was ever graded on their choice of dress on par with their political strategy?

Posted by: Farragut Square | November 10, 2006 11:57 AM

On the topic of women--and mothers--in the workforce, is there anyone else who is outraged that washingtonpost.com has a front page article analyzing Nancy Pelosi's Fashion choices two days after she became speaker of the house? What other Speaker of the House was ever graded on their choice of dress on par with their political strategy?

Posted by: Farragut Square | November 10, 2006 11:57 AM

On the topic of women--and mothers--in the workforce, is there anyone else who is upset that washingtonpost.com has a front page article analyzing Nancy Pelosi's Fashion choices two days after she became speaker of the house? What other Speaker of the House was ever graded on their choice of dress on par with their political strategy?

Posted by: Farragut Square | November 10, 2006 11:58 AM

Can't believe anyone thinks childcare should only be for single parents!!!

Posted by: Leslie | November 10, 2006 12:06 PM

Given the current economic conditions in our society today, I'm kind of surprised that all the well-to-do folks on this blog aren't embarrassed to be asking for more gov't support for childcare.

For heaven's sake, just the leap in health insurance costs for 2007 is staggering. Working adults in non-gov't jobs are being slapped with enormous rate hikes for the coming year, and you people are complaining that you don't get enough from the govt to handle your childcare issues.

Truly amazing.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 12:08 PM

Whoever mentioned elder care...I think that should be a topic for another post. Many of us will/have faced this issue! What do you all think?

Posted by: Missicat | November 10, 2006 12:08 PM

"Pls take the argument a little further and say if you really want to own a house, make it work with the resources you have. No looking for loans, tax breaks etc."

That's apples and oranges. You have to have shelter."

Yeah, but you don't have to OWN your own home. Yet the government subsidizes people who want to buy a house -- heck, the government subsidizes people who want to buy VACATION homes.

The fact is, our tax policy rewards and penalizes certain actions every day. Right now, we're giving tax breaks to oil companies who are earning $60 billion a quarter. Just last week, the government decided not to pursue another big oil & gas company for billions of dollars in royalties (i.e., the federal govt's share)from oil & gas produced on federal lands, under federal contracts -- something that you know all of the other companies who have been paying those royalties are now going to take advantage of. So please, don't tell me that raising the dependent care credit from $5,000 to $10,000 or so is going to break the budget, or represent some sort of socialist society. There are plenty of places from which such a relatively small amount of money could be found, even within the existing system -- it's just a question of whether the government cares enough to do so. As is, our tax code speaks volumes about our priorities.

Personally, I have no problem if you want to cap the deductibility above certain income levels, or adjust it for the cost of living in certain areas, or whatever. I can get by just fine. But I have siblings and relatives and friends who are struggling to get by, even on two (moderate) incomes. And I think it is far more valuable to help lower and moderate income people take care of their kids and pay their bills than it is to keep giving huge, unnecessary breaks to big companies and wealthy people who don't need it.

Posted by: Laura | November 10, 2006 12:10 PM

"I honestly think daycare should really only be available to single parents."

this is simply brilliant. that way we can destroy another generation of working poor families by incentivizing divorce. it would be nice if posters actually considered the implications of their beliefs before they thoughtlessly spew stupidity.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 12:13 PM

raiseyourownkids: I tend to agree with you. Most people are unwilling to go without the cars, big houses. We have had many discussions on this board of women wanting to "have it all" - career, kids, happy marriage. I liked the quote that you can "have it all" but sometimes not all at once.

I have heard a lot of people praising Nancy Pelosi in the past couple days. Although she had always been very wealthy (everything is relative) she did manage to raise 5 kids THEN have a career. Being wealthy doesn't hurt - however I know a number of people that live in a smaller house, drive old cars, shop with coupons - whatever they need to do to stay home for those first years. Lots of women take unconventional jobs to make ends meet. These women are hard to find but they have their priorities straignt. I don't agree with anything Nancy Pelosi stands for but staying home with her kids certainly didn't hurt her career.

If you "want it all" then you will pay for it in one form or another. It may be monetary, it may be time with your kids, it may be a divorce or just gray hair.

Posted by: cmac | November 10, 2006 12:18 PM

Anonymous:
"Rufus, Mcewen, CMAC, you guys out there today?"

they might be govt workers with the day off.
the next time a govt worker complains about their job or how little time off they get, we should point out how many holidays they get.

Posted by: | November 10, 2006 11:46 AM


Anonymous: Are you posting to yourself or is there another anonymous poster posting to you? I asked why you (if it is you)wouldn't sign your name and the reponse I got was because you (if it is you) is at work. Why not pick a name like "Annoying poster" - how will they trace it you - unless you are just really annoying and they make an educated guess?

Is anyone else irritated by the anonymous poster/s that do nothing but throw bombs?

Just venting.

Posted by: cmac | November 10, 2006 12:26 PM

but cmac, why isn't the conversation about parents wanting to have it all, and whether men have their priorities straight? why is the matter of family priorities gender-specific? I'm asking, because I generally respect your opinion -- no snarkiness here.

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 10, 2006 12:27 PM

"I know a number of people that live in a smaller house, drive old cars, shop with coupons - whatever they need to do to stay home for those first years."

Well, I already do most of this (actually have a newish car, but it is not an SUV or luxury vehicle and is the first new car I've ever had). Our house is 2BR, 2Bath 900 square feet, 60 years old. I do not have an extravagant wardrobe or hobbies (I run and sing in a chorus).

Besides any of this, we still live on a budget. I also find having money to save for retirement and college to be very important and that money just wouldn't be there if I stayed at home.

Posted by: MaryB | November 10, 2006 12:30 PM

The government gives tax breaks for home ownership because personal property ownership has been one of the most important aspects of American democracy since it was founded. In fact, the wording in the declaration of independence regarding an unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, was actually supposed to be "life, liberty, and property" as said by John Locke, but Jefferson changed the last part because of slavery (he didn't want slaves thinking they had a right to property). Property ownership is part of the American tradition. If you look at other countries that is not so, where most people rent. You can't compare subsidizing childcare to an ideal that has been a basic tenent of our society since its founding. It is apples and oranges as stated by an earlier poster... find a better comparison.

Posted by: gradstudent | November 10, 2006 12:31 PM

"Parenting in our family involves, from time to time, a combination of my husband, myself, family members, home healthcare providers, clean-cut responsible teenagers, neighbors, members of our church congregation, and wonderful teachers, during the schoolday."

NC lawyer --

It really does take a village, doesn't it?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 12:31 PM

Regarding paying taxes, social security, etc. for household employees. The $1500 is just ridiculously low. We have three small children and typically pay $15/hour for a babysitter. If we go out two times a month we hit that $1500. I think it is crazy to have to go through the whole process of filing and paying taxes for that. I think the $1500 must have been set when wages were much lower.

We had a woman come in one morning a week for 4 hours and we quickly reached the $1500. Childcare was her sole source of income and we felt strongly that we should do it by the books. Our options were to pay a service to do it which was expensive given she was only working 4 hours a week, so we tried to do it on our own. It was not as easy as some people have written above. The federal form wasn't too bad because we could just pay the taxes when we filed our taxes and TurboTax figured it all out, but the state stuff was a total pain. Plus, the forms we needed to complete (request a taxpayer i.d. number, etc.) were not at all tailored for household employees. For example it would ask questions like, "what is the purpose of your business?" or "what is the name of the CEO?" My husband has an MBA and these forms just about drove him over a cliff. Plus, we really had no idea what to do for federal tax withholding. The social security and medicare is straight-forward. I think if they made the filing easier, more people would actually do it.

Posted by: 1+2mom | November 10, 2006 12:33 PM

Yikes! Lots of bitterness on this discussion.

My husband and I hope for a child in the future. Seems like this venue could provide true opportunity for good, positive discussion, but I guarantee I won't be back to this site to check in. I feel we'd be better off making our parenting decisions without knowing the judgment and hatred with which strangers can judge each other.

Life is hard enough; can't we just encourage each other's parenting - in all its many facets?! Geez, people.

Posted by: Washington, DC | November 10, 2006 12:34 PM

NCLawyer: I didn't mean to be gender specific - glad you pointed that out. Absolutely - dads are equally responsible.

Case in point - I stayed home last week with a sick kid for 2 days - altered the rest of my week and worked odd hours the other days. Same kid is sick today (mysterious "stomach pains" - anyone gone through this before??)- guess what? Dad had to stay home. He was not happy about it but that's life!

Posted by: CMAC | November 10, 2006 12:37 PM

ok, final post, then I am going to read Hax.

Yes, you can move out of DC (which I did and I regret). Childcare here is only slightly less, the pay is a lot lower, wages and job growth are stagnant, and because there are so few even decent paying jobs, there is little incentive to offer health insurance or other benefits by
most employers. My husband stayed in a job where he was never paid for the overtime he worked, but didnt leave because finding another job at the same pay was impossible.

And as for doing the math; yes, we did it. We didnt count on my husband having a heart attack, or the fact that over ten years of working since we had kids all costs have increased, but my income has only grown by $1,000.00. Once you have kids, you cant just send them back if your finances change!! fwiw, I have a masters degree, work hard, and am always being told I am too smart for my job (but there is nothing to move up to.) I'm not whining - I come to work cheeerfully everyday and work hard, but the assumption that people decide to have children without thinking about the costs is ignorant.

Finally, helping parents afford decent daycare helps kids the most. It really should be thought of as early childhood education, not babysitting: the long term educational benefits have been proven. Why should kids of low to moderate income be punished by being in inadequate to possibly abusive or dangerous care situations because of the lack of subisidized child care slots or tax breaks that would enable parents to pay for better care?

I work in a community hospital. All patients get the same quality of care (not jsut emergerncy care) regardless of income level. Why cant we treat one of our most vulnerable groups, children, with the same respect and decency?

Posted by: jessker12 | November 10, 2006 12:44 PM

MaryB - Welcome to the club! One of the reasons I work is so that we can save - for college, retirement. My husband works shift work so we alter schedules. I work part time, we live in a townhouse, I drive an 8 year old minivan. I COULD work fulltime - triple my paycheck - get a new car - bigger house - but it is not worth it. It is all about choices is what I was trying to say. If I wanted all the bling - my kids would pay the price because I would never be with them.

Everyone's situation is different but I think a lot of people put their desire for the material things in life above their families. Kind of philosophical today, huh?

Posted by: cmac | November 10, 2006 12:46 PM

thanks, cmac. I just laugh when people go on about big houses and SUVs, and women wanting to have it all when this topic comes up. Our cars are 4-door sedans of questionable structural safety, respectively 6 and 8 years old and our house is a lovely 1980s porous, unremodeled, small piece of junk. and we alternate coverage for sick days, etc., and sometimes bring work home if that's the best call that day. no nannies or maids are in my world. (not that there's anything wrong with that in the event that someone here's an unintended insult). posters shouldn't have to know parents' medical history and career path in order to comprehend that alot of two-employed-parent households -- like yours and mine -- are not abdicating responsibility for their kids because that second job is the difference between solvency and insolvency. sorry for the ranting today.

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 10, 2006 12:51 PM

First, I just had to laugh:

"The alumnae on the panel, mostly very successful Wall Street moms, .... a lot of the curiosity from current, pre-mom business school students in the audience focused on child care -- and how incredibly much it costs."

Yeah, because that's what successful Wall Street moms worry about. How much daycare costs.

Why offer up all these elaborate solutions? Make childcare tax deductible up to $15K, provided you are paying a legitimate business.

I know why we don't, of course. I'm just pointing out that special tax accounts that not everyone qualifies for and absurdly small ceilings are pointless. Make it tax deductible and be done with it.

Posted by: Cal | November 10, 2006 12:59 PM

One the one hand, I definitely think there should be a higher tax break for child care costs (measured per child); but I really have no patience for the Wharton crowd wanting a $25K tax break. Believe it or not, there are families living on less than $25K per year. There are child care costs, then there are "I-want-a-live-in-European-au-pair" choices. Sometimes we simply need to manage our expectations a little...

Posted by: single western mom | November 10, 2006 1:00 PM

I think it is higher tax breaks that are the answer. We can't lower the cost of daycare, lest daycare workers become even lower paid than they already are.

We live in one of the most expensive towns in the country, if not THE most. My husband is a student, I work full-time, and day care takes up 75% of my income. How do we live? Off our savings. My husband and I both grew up in upper-middle class families, so it is only looking at these numbers that I begin to get an inkling that we're not even middle class anymore.

Posted by: Emma | November 10, 2006 1:12 PM

Does anyone recall having a home economics class in junior or senior high school with the lesson: how much does that first baby, second, baby, etc. cost? (Probably because they didn't want to encourage any bad behavior). But, my point is that I hear a lot of whining and not many people saying- I did my research about all aspects of having a kid and I did it anyhow, I'm paying for it, and this is the most important thing in my life. All I hear is boo-hooing that our government isn't like a socialized government paying for you to have kids.

Posted by: H. | November 10, 2006 1:19 PM

Raising the ceiling on this would actually lead to better pay for child-care workers, IMO. This isn't a help for the parents vs. help for the providers issue.

I'm expecting my first any day now, and I'm lucky that my best friend also had her first a few months ago. We both work unusual hours (and have husbands who work very loooong hours), making regular daycare options not feasible at all. Our plan: Watch each other's kids. We save money, get to spend time with each other's kiddos, and know that the person caring for them in our absence loves them like family. It also helps, of course, that we have very similar parenting philosophies.

I'm going to need more daycare than she will each week, though, so she gets $15 an hour from me for the difference (out of my FSA, of course!).

Posted by: Brookland | November 10, 2006 1:35 PM

In regards to my comment about daycare being for single parents, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Obviously it's never going to happen, it's just an opinion. Nothing more than that.
And I don't see how that promotes divorce. People do that on their own very well. They don't communicate to each other what they both want out of marriage and life. Women often think they can "change" a man, and are in for a rude awakening when it doesn't happen. People spend too much money, go into too much debt, and don't consider the consequences. And then the end becomes embittered, and people fight over their kids and use them as pawns and weapons.
So, no, I don't believe that the idea of childcare being provided to single parents encourages divorce. But those who are in two-parent situations can't tell me that if the system was designed that way, you wouldn't find another way to make it work? I guarantee the picture would look a lot different for most. Priorities would be better set, and better planning would be facilitated.
There'd also be a lot less spoiled parents who think they're entitled to everything because they have kids. Sometimes, you just don't know how good you've got it.

Posted by: RaiseYourOwnKids | November 10, 2006 1:37 PM

No thank you.
I do not want any more of my tax money subsidizing childcare expenditures for the six-figure club.

Posted by: Koko | November 10, 2006 1:43 PM

so, just to be clear, in your utopia, what arrangements fall under your heading of "daycare"? is grandparent or other family care unavailable? neighbors watching kids on alternate shifts unavailable? are teenaged babysitters still ok for limited social engagements? but not okay if work is the issue? I'm not clear on whether your ultimate goal is that only one parent should work for compensation, or whether your ultimate goal is that institutionalized or group childcare arrangements should be eliminated for the children of married couples.

Posted by: to RaiseYour OwnKids | November 10, 2006 1:46 PM

"posters shouldn't have to know parents' medical history and career path in order to comprehend that alot of two-employed-parent households -- like yours and mine -- are not abdicating responsibility for their kids because that second job is the difference between solvency and insolvency. "

You are right. I brought up my personal examples to counter some of the sweeping generalizations, and your post nicely brings it back from the personal to the general.

Posted by: jessker13 | November 10, 2006 1:47 PM

Jessker13,

Your personal examples are the story that gives the lie to assumptions by some posters that the need for greater childcare options is driven largely by spoiled upperclass moms whose personal values are suspect. I'm perfectly happy to engage in a public policy discussion about values, priorities and whether the government should be involved (generally, not, but to help the working poor, I'm all for it), but neither you, nor I, nor any other working mom should have to peel back the layers of her personal choices in order to win the approval of those who appear not to have dealt with medical problems, layoffs, or other non-imposed financial struggles.

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 10, 2006 1:59 PM

Even when I was WOH I didn't really agree with government giving tax breaks for child care. Now that I am SAH I agree even less. Child care expenses don't last forever. When you WOH you maintain earning power that will help you later. The cost of maintainig that earning power is that you have to pay for childcare now. Why should everyone else subsidize your decision to maximize your work opportunities? Whether you take your kids to daycare, have a nanny, or watch them yourself, that is productive work. It is one of the few forms of productivity in the world that is absolutely essential. If we all just left our kids alone all day to watch themselves the human race would go extinct. SO i take issue with those who argue that WOH should get tax breaks because it allows them to add to the country's productivity. Whatever! If you make paid childcare basically free for the consumer then that says to me that you see parent-provided care as even less valuable than "paid" care. In that case, it would make more sense for me to send my kid to daycare and watch someone else's kid for pay, than to watch my kid myself. How ridiculous!

It's not that I'm unsympathetic to the plight of working parents: I had the devil of a time finding daycare for my first kid, and I signed up two years before he was born! But I don't think tax breaks are a fair solution.

Posted by: m | November 10, 2006 1:59 PM

To Koko - But what about the 50K club, point is many tax breaks phase out with higher incomes. IRA contributions, childcare credits (which are different than the flexible spending accounts Leslie is talking about), etc and don't forget the theory behind the AMT. We may disagree about the exact income levels, but to say no help because the upper middle or wealthy may take advantage is unfair to others.

To the person who said about waiting until March to get your money back on Flexible spending accounts you can file whenever you have an expense and the amount withheld covers the expense.

As for single parents only subsidy not encouraging divorce, maybe not , but it could discourage remarriage or marriage in the first place. Raise your own kids - one of the motivations behind welfare reform was the acceptance that AFDC encouraged poor women to stay single (many were better off single than married to a poor man) and this contributed to the high acceptance of single parenthood and the attitude that marriage wasn't necessary before having children among many of these women. The same type calculation could come into play with some single parents at middle and upper middle class levels if daycare assistance was only available to single parents.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | November 10, 2006 2:01 PM

"so, just to be clear, in your utopia, what arrangements fall under your heading of "daycare"? is grandparent or other family care unavailable? neighbors watching kids on alternate shifts unavailable? are teenaged babysitters still ok for limited social engagements? but not okay if work is the issue? I'm not clear on whether your ultimate goal is that only one parent should work for compensation, or whether your ultimate goal is that institutionalized or group childcare arrangements should be eliminated for the children of married couples."

Well, ideally, at least one parent would remain at home with the child, at least until school starts. Of course, this can't always be done. So yes, another family member or trusted teen would most likely be preferrable to a daycare provider--and less costly.
Yet, I realize these options aren't always available, either. So, people need to take that into consideration, and not just hope for the best, and wind up disappointed later on. What I'm advocating here is better decisions--made mutually between parents who bring these kids into this world. And that can be a multitude of things, like where to live, what industry to work for, what kind of car to drive, how many kids is enough, etc. And, if 3+ kids is really neceessary, then, based on income and living expenses, other material items must be sacrificed to accomodate this.


Posted by: RaiseYourOwnKids | November 10, 2006 2:01 PM

What I mean is don't expand the $5000 anymore in order to help six figure club folks. By all means expand it to help the middle income and lower-income folks who really need it. Put some AGI limit on it.

Having a group of Wharton MBA women sitting around shocked ... "you mean when I go to my $100K/yr executive job, I have to pay $20K for childcare?!" is laughable.
To propose that everyone chip in to increase their childcare tax break is simply ridiculous.


Posted by: Koko | November 10, 2006 2:19 PM

"As for single parents only subsidy not encouraging divorce, maybe not , but it could discourage remarriage or marriage in the first place."

Given the divorce rate, I don't know that this is such a bad thing. People often consider divorce as too easy an option if the marriage doesn't work out. But who really suffers the most for it? The kids. And that's not fair to them at all.

And if that means an increase in single-parent situations, then so be it. I'd much rather see children come from a one-parent home, than two, if it means saving them from being scarred and embittered because of their parent's divorce--and thus increasing the chances that those kids themselves become divorced later on as adults.

Just as the decision to have kids is a societal pressure, so is being getting married. Neither is for everyone, but too often people believe a "one size fits all" notion can be applied to both decisions. But they really can't.

Posted by: RaiseYourOwnKids | November 10, 2006 2:22 PM

Good God, a $10-25k per year tax break? If you can afford to spend that much, then you really don't have many financial problems at all. You MUST be kidding ... please stop Leslie or you're gonna trip and fall over that big ole hubris of yours.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 2:24 PM

You chose to have a child. Hence:
- pay for childcare if you want to continue working OR
- stay at home

It makes sense for the govt to help single parents in this regard. It makes more sense for the govt. to protect institutions that help make the single parents an exception rather than the norm - heterosexual monogamous marriage for instance.

If the govt gives childcare a tax break, do you think you will pay less? Commercial enterprises will simply move in and the overall cost of childcare will go up. If I know that the $300 you pay really only costs you $200, I'll jack up the price. Thats how pricing works in the marketplace - charge the highest possible value at which the service still makes sense.

Posted by: simple_rules | November 10, 2006 2:25 PM

whoa, nelly. I understand your point; however, and excluding single parents who adopt kids from the conversation, if you don't think kids often are scarred and embittered when the man or woman who fathered or mothered them is voluntarily out of the picture, you perhaps need to meet more kids from a wider variety of backgrounds.

Posted by: to RaiseYourOwnKids | November 10, 2006 2:28 PM

'"Working wealthy" is an interesting term given that most families with 2 parents working have both working because they can't afford one parent to stay home.'

Yeah ... can't expect you to live in a smaller house, with one fewer car, fewer electronics, and have to deal with no vacations, now can we? You poor baby.

Posted by: UAin'tSoFab | November 10, 2006 2:28 PM

raiseyourownkids: You are injecting WAY to much common sense into the discussion - JUST KIDDING. Really - it is all about personal responsibility. I agree that as a society we must take care of the poor, weak, impoverished, those unable to take care of themselves - however when the benefit to the poor becomes the norm - or is expected by the rest of us - then we are doomed to living life in the nanny state. It perpetuates the mentality that no matter what choices I make the government will take care of me.

I would much rather give my money to a local charitable organization - church, soup kitchen, private homeless shelter - to help the impoverished then the inefficient and bloated federal govt.

Posted by: cmac | November 10, 2006 2:29 PM

Someone tell me why "Leslie, very successful Wall Street moms, pre-mom business school students at Wharton" who are making or will make >$100K/yr NEED more govt help for their childcare expenses? Did the market just drop 2000 points?

Don't confuse NEED vs. want.

Posted by: Koko | November 10, 2006 2:32 PM

Raise your own kids stated I'd much rather see children come from a one-parent home, than two, if it means saving them from being scarred and embittered because of their parent's divorce--and thus increasing the chances that those kids themselves become divorced later on as adults. - but how many people stay married because they quit work to raise their children and now unable to support themselves and their children because they have to go back to starting salaries because they have been out of the work force for so long - if it was a stretch to provide one home how would you expect the working spouse to support two homes. Sorry Raise your own kids - which is it quit work for at least 5 years (more if more children) or be able to leave a bad marriage easily?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 2:33 PM

cmac said: "I would much rather give my money to a local charitable organization - church, soup kitchen, private homeless shelter - to help the impoverished then the inefficient and bloated federal govt."

But if you don't render more tribute to the inefficient and bloated federal government, how are all the working wealthy in DC going to buy bigger houses, drive flashier cars, and hire more household servants? Don't you see? Handouts and tax breaks for the overprivileged in DC and on Wall Street is the foundation of our statist economy!

Posted by: Flyover Country | November 10, 2006 2:37 PM

The fact that supposedly educated people believe that "govt. exists to help us" is so scary to me. What were you smoking during your civics class? And you people vote! It's staggering.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 2:37 PM

"Someone tell me why "Leslie, very successful Wall Street moms, pre-mom business school students at Wharton" who are making or will make >$100K/yr NEED more govt help for their childcare expenses? Did the market just drop 2000 points?

Don't confuse NEED vs. want"

A big AMEN sister/brother - whoever you are! I love getting lectured by Leslie on why we should be insisting our federal govt provide more services (meaning higher taxes for the slower folk) for benefits for upper income wall street moms/dads.

Posted by: cmac | November 10, 2006 2:38 PM

I actually don't have time to read all the comments today. But to be honest, I think the Dependent care income deductions should start at 5,000 and go up based on income and number of children. So at different income thresholds, I think the government should give bigger breaks. Personally, I love my day care and I think we pay an adequate amount of money. They are doing the best job they can and my DD is thriving. We also can afford child care for two children. So why give us a break. I would rather see the break going to people who really need it. I also think the high cost of child care does prevent people from having larger families. Personally, I think this is a good thing. I am not sure everyone should be having 3+ kids. If the cost of child care and college, stops people at one or two, then I say that is actually a good thing. I know for people in my income bracket, people generally halt their families at two kids due to a number of reasons. Money being the least of them. Time being the largest reason cited. But let's help the ones who really need it. If your against helping the poor and the lower middle class, then you really are just greedy!

Posted by: foamgnome | November 10, 2006 2:47 PM

"Sorry Raise your own kids - which is it quit work for at least 5 years (more if more children) or be able to leave a bad marriage easily?"

Well (and sorry if this is too much common sense), but, most bad marriages could be avoided. Seriously. Aside from abuse and adultery, people divorce for some pretty petty reasons. Conversely, people also marry for dumb reasons.
But let's say a marriage ends because a spouse was unfaithful--and this person cheated before the couple was married (and the other spouse knew about it, and took them back or whatever). This is not only a bad marriage, it's a bad decision overall. And to bring kids into it is pretty stupid. In a case like that, I can't feel sorry for either party involved, except for the kids.
My whole argument today--from the childcare issue to the marriage issue, is communicating effectively with your spouse BEFORE marriage or kids enter the picture. Less surprises, better planning. Less whining. Period.

Posted by: RaiseYourOwnKids | November 10, 2006 2:48 PM

To the anon poster at 2:37. The government is supposed to help us (help us to stay safe from terrorists or the rapist, help us educate our children K-12, help to make sure that the wildfire doesn't go out of control, help to ensure that the products I buy are actually what they are labeled, etc.) We may disagree on where the line is drawn - but the government is supposed to be there to help us - what did you learn is the role of a democratic government?

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | November 10, 2006 2:51 PM

The government exists to preserve your right to life, liberty and property. It does not exist to make your life easier or to cater to your wishes (though that is the horrible terrible perversion it has morphed into).

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 2:59 PM

Folks, I know it is a federal holiday and many are gone, but it's 3pm and only 140 comments. Step it up!!

WaPo advertising money is tied to number of blog comments. Good bait today, Leslie.

Posted by: Counting | November 10, 2006 3:03 PM

My daughter is cared for by a lovely group of caring ladies at a not-for-profit daycare center which cares for children from a diverse range of backgrounds and income levels. It is expensive for the area, but we figure the first few years are very important, and so we think it's worth it. She is being raised by a caring village, so I don't feel guilty that I'm not at home with her, and she is thriving interacting with other children and adults. I think the $5000 limit is OK. However, I think that if raising the limit will allow for better quality care, then that's what should happen. For those who are against the government encouraging this through raising the limit are forgetting that giving children the best start in life is only an investment in their own future, since the children are the ones who are going to pay for their Social Security and Medicare coverage (with or without Part D).

Posted by: Working Happy Mom | November 10, 2006 3:11 PM

For every person who complains about the wealthy asking for a tax break, if I'm making so much more money than you, then I'm also paying a lot more taxes than you. Shouldn't I be entitled to a similar tax savings as you, even though it amounts to a much smaller portion of the taxes I paid?

Posted by: workingdad | November 10, 2006 3:11 PM

"WaPo advertising money is tied to number of blog comments. " - That is an incorrect statement, as we've discussed before (and it's getting tired), websites make money by the amount of views they get (posting or not) and also the number of links they get.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | November 10, 2006 3:14 PM

OK anonymous poster at 2:59. you are right tax breaks for childcare don't preserve my ability to live, be free or affect my current property, but then neither do credits that pay for college and neither do parks, and neither do libraries and neither do memorials, etc. What I see you saying is the same as you had them you should take care of them no matter what. And if you say you make an expection for single parents or people below the poverty line. then the issue isn't whether or not the government should help but where the line is drawn.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | November 10, 2006 3:14 PM

popcorn break

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 3:14 PM

The government exists to preserve your right to life, liberty and property. It does not exist to make your life easier or to cater to your wishes (though that is the horrible terrible perversion it has morphed into).

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

IMHO, this is a somewhat broader agenda than just the protection of life, liberty, and property, although it certainly includes those. Of course, the Preamble is probably even more open to interpretation than the rest of the Constitution.

Posted by: SheGeek | November 10, 2006 3:17 PM

Divorced mom of 1 - Where in the consitution does it say that the government exists to "help us?" I believe in a very limited federal gov't - like our founding fathers. It exists to protect us from foreign enemies and protect the "rights" established in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Believe it or not - there is no "right" to protection from private industry, for education or against wildfires. There is also no "right" to a driver's license, marriage or health care.

What our government has morphed into is quite the opposite. Everyone thinks they have a "right" to things like free childcare - but that is not the case.

Again - it is "wants" not "rights" we are discussing here.

Have you ever heard the Ronald Reagan quip:
"The most 9 terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 3:18 PM

My take home salary: $1,600 (this is less child's health insurance)
Rent: $1,010
Daycare: $120 (subsidized)
Phone: $40

This leaves me approximately $430/month for other expenses such as food, laundry, bus/metro, etc. Are you all finished complaining yet?

Posted by: Monthly expenses | November 10, 2006 3:19 PM

potty break (too much popcorn)

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 3:25 PM

Question:

Why is it that I see a lot of parents mentioning college savings as part of their savings? Unless there are some pretty beneficial tax breaks associated with that, why would you work yourselves that much harder for this?

The cost of college should be the child's responsibility, not the parent's. For one, it helps them build their own credit. More important, it makes them more responsible. When Mom and Dad are flipping the bill, college kids are more likely to slack off and choose "party schools."
Most of all though, it doesn't make sense to me to be working that much harder for something your children should take responsibility for.
It builds a heck of a lot more character when the kid realizes they're going to owe close to $100k, than if the parents just ask who to make the check out to. And this is also presuming that the kid doesn't get any scholarships or grants for their own accomplishments, hence reducing college costs that much more.

Posted by: RaiseYourOwnKids | November 10, 2006 3:26 PM

And the "pursuit of happiness" is not just a substitue for "property" in the Declaration of Indepencence. I suspect it's another deliberately ambiguous term. Jefferson knew the "life, liberty, property" formulation, but his reasons for not using it weren't just (if at all) about slavery. Some think he intended something like the concept of "public happiness".

From http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2003/12/09/shapiro_dean.html


"Thomas Jefferson's understanding of freedom included what Hannah Arendt calls "public freedom"-- the citizen's right to share in the direction of society and the discussion of common affairs. This is why, late in life, he placed so much emphasis on dividing all the counties and parishes of the states into smaller units, which he called wards. About this famous flourish in Jefferson's thought, Arendt says:

'The basic assumption of the ward system, whether Jefferson knew it or not, was that no one could be called happy without his share in public happiness, that no one could be called free without his experience in public freedom, and that no one could be called either happy of free without participating, and having a share, in public power.'

Posted by: SheGeek | November 10, 2006 3:32 PM

RE; College Savings.

One of the BEST gifts my parents ever gave me was a college education, they did it out of the kindness of their hearts. It was restricted though - I had to go in-state and they paid for room and board only. My dad worked his way through college and knew how hard it was - he had 3 kids and put them all through college. And it is very much appreciated.

I think it is natural for a parent to want their child to have it "easier then they did" - and I am all for building character and responsibility - but if I can save some money and make it a little easier on my kids if they want to go to college - I am going to do it. I will never be able to pay for it all - estimates for my kids to go to college are unbelievable - but I can help.

My kids save every penny they get from allowance, gifts, birthdays, etc. It is in an account for them and they know it is for college. I hope they work in HS like I did and I want them to learn the lesson of "earning" money, but I will help them.

Posted by: cmac | November 10, 2006 3:43 PM

To RaiseYourOwnKids on the question of college savings. When you talk about saddling a recent child graduate with 100k of debit do you realize you're just increasing the necessity of that person having to work outside the home? 100k of debt is enough to burden anyone.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 3:43 PM

To RaiseYourOwnKids on the question of college savings. When you talk about saddling a recent child graduate with 100k of debit do you realize you're just increasing the necessity of that person having to work outside the home? 100k of debt is enough to burden anyone.

Posted by: workingdad | November 10, 2006 3:44 PM

RaiseYourOwnKids -- I've got you figured out!

It's really Dr. Laura!

Posted by: lucky husband | November 10, 2006 3:46 PM

Nah, jr wouldn't have 100k college debt.
The govt's going to step in and help. Make sure the help goes to the six-figure club first, otherwise they will whine and complain. What's Harvard cost these days - $30k/yr? Don't worry about the middle class, they go to state schools and Jr colleges, they can get Pell grants and daddy can work the night shift.

Posted by: Koko | November 10, 2006 3:49 PM

back from potty break. aaaahhh......
what did i miss?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 3:52 PM

People that pay the most taxes get the least govt benefit.
People that pay the least taxes get the
most govt benefit.

That's usually how it works.

Posted by: To workingdad | November 10, 2006 3:59 PM

Seems everbody loves to complain about the perceived government handouts. But if I'm paying so much in taxes, why shouldn't I expect something in return, regardless of my income level? If you want to drastically reduce taxes, in order to collect just enough to pay for national defense, the poor and things such as those, fine, but until then I have every right to receive some benefit from the government I'm helping to support.

Posted by: workingdad | November 10, 2006 4:00 PM

"I believe in a very limited federal gov't - like our founding fathers. It exists to protect us from foreign enemies and protect the "rights" established in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Believe it or not - there is no "right" to protection from private industry, for education or against wildfires. There is also no "right" to a driver's license, marriage or health care."

If you are right that there is no right to education how do you expect to raise an educated electorate? And if you say it is a local responsibility - maybe we should talk about childcare also being a local responsibility?

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | November 10, 2006 4:00 PM

To workingdad:

Are you implying that the system is how it should be, or the system is broken. And for the record, I'm not advocating that wealthy get more breaks than others, but they shouldn't be penalized either.

Posted by: workingdad | November 10, 2006 4:03 PM

It doesn't make a 22 year old more responsible to have $100K, or even $40K in debt. It makes life all about money, money, and getting more money in order to lessen the debt-load.

I agree that parents don't owe their kids the free college education of their choice, and have the right to impose limitations on whatever money parents choose to contribute. But teaching financial responsibility means saving towards college expenses -- if you are able to do so -- making sure your kids save towards college expenses, making sure your kids know you are saving as well (and maybe foregoing the snazzy vacation and over-done Christmas expenditures) and teaching your kids what it takes to accomplish long-term financial goals.

then when they graduate, they can begin saving for a downpayment on a home or a used car instead of taking on a car loan or subprime mortgage, and instead of paying off an education loan for the next 30 years.

I'm with workingdad 100% as well. That magnitude of debt likely means that a parent will be unable to take time off when he or she has kids, or using your reasoning, will be unable to responsibly opt to have children because he or she can't afford to stay home and raise 'em.


Posted by: to RaiseYourOwnKids | November 10, 2006 4:05 PM

OK. Has anyone else considered the possibility that daycare expenses would increase if more tax breaks were available? After all, supply and demand is still at play. If parents get bigger tax-breaks then many of those parents could afford higher daycare tuition because of the money they are saving in taxes. People post on here all the time about waiting lists for daycare services. I think the costs will stay high and possibly go higher in high-demand areas.

Posted by: justwondering | November 10, 2006 4:19 PM

actually, my calculations in financial aid for college show it doesn't make sense to save money for college...saving for my/our retirement is much better. Junior/us can get loans (cheap even) for college, but we can't get loans for retirement. Colleges take first dollar from college savings accounts before figuring out aid.

And saddling jr. with 110K loans will quickly get him to consider state schools over overpriced 'elite' schools (with a nod to a prior Leslie column).

Posted by: dotted | November 10, 2006 4:21 PM

Geeze, I thought this could actually turn into a useful debate about the quality and cost of daycare.

To all you "happily" married, single, married with no kids, "perfect" marriage couples - please refrain from any more large generalizations about divorced and single parents - I can only hope you find yourself so fortunate over the next 20-40 years of your life.

I refrained from reading this blog for a few months just because I couldn't stand the generalizations made about divorce and single parenting- imagine my surprise to walk right back into it today.

Posted by: Single Mom SS | November 10, 2006 4:28 PM

On the audio tape made available on militant Web sites, the al-Qaida in Iraq leader also welcomed the Republican electoral defeat that led to the departure of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. He added that the group's fighters would not rest until they had blown up the White House.

"The American people have put their feet on the right path by ... realizing their president's betrayal in supporting Israel," the terror leader said. "So they voted for something reasonable in the last elections."

Posted by: APNews | November 10, 2006 4:32 PM

You are already getting a large tax credit for each of your children.
------------

bwahahahaha

That is a very small tax credit. If $3000 x 0.35 or whatever your bracket is large to you then I'm very sorry, but you need to go back to school to get a better job.

I'm Bethesdan, and I approved this snotty reply

Posted by: Bethesdan | November 10, 2006 4:35 PM

I paid $750 per month for an infant and a 4-year-old for fulltime daycare 9-10 hours per day. This was 1993. Our combined income was $42K. We lived in an apartment because we couldn't afford a mortgage and young children at the same time, even with both of us working. Housing prices may be outrageous now, but interest rates were outrageous then.

I will admit that I was envious of others: those who could afford to live the way we were on one income and have one parent stay home, those who could afford to live "better" with both parents working (own home, better cars and vacations, etc), and those who could afford to live "better" than we were on one income.

Even though I was envious, we just told ourselves that these were our circumstances and that we would just have to make the best of what we have in OUR lives. We appreciated everything that was a help (no FSA then, but child care credit of $960 per year total for both kids).

But I really hope that we didn't moan and complain and whine as much as many of the posters here.

There are so many more families in America who have it so much harder than we did/do.

The kids get older and the daycare expenses decrease.

My wish list would include more regular 40-hour work weeks. i think that some of the problem in finding daycare is the fact that parents are working longer and later and have schedules that don't really fit into daycare schedules. many daycares have rules limiting the number of hours that a child can be in their care. these rules are there for a reason.

Job flexibility has been discussed in other blogs, but most people seemed to look at flexibility as having the ability to telecommute. i would prefer that there be more parttime opportunities and more shift work. Many families would like to have mom and dad working different shifts to avoid daycare completely.

Posted by: metoo | November 10, 2006 4:37 PM

Missicat, regarding your comment about elderly care, you have a point. A tax break for that is not a bad idea, because long-term care is extremely expensive. And even if the elderly person's kids make six figures (or the elderly themselves), a nursing home can eat up much if not most of that in a year. However, detractors would point at Medicaid, long-term care insurance and assets (like the elderly person's home, if he/she has one).

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | November 10, 2006 4:37 PM

"You are already getting a large tax credit for each of your children.
------------

bwahahahaha

That is a very small tax credit. If $3000 x 0.35 or whatever your bracket is large to you then I'm very sorry, but you need to go back to school to get a better job."

I was speaking of the child tax CREDIT, which is $1000 per child. You are speaking of the dependent exemption, which is a a tax DEDUCTION, which I also mentioned in my list of tax benefits for those with children.

Perhaps you should go back to school and learn how to complete a 1040.

Posted by: to Bethesdan | November 10, 2006 4:43 PM

RaiseYourOwnKids, I'm from a small town and you sound like one of the richest men in that town: he refused to help his (very bright) kids pay for college. They got some minor scholarships, but at the schools they were going to, aid was all need-based, and because Daddy was a millionaire, they didn't qualify for anything except loans. Those very bright kids now owe hundreds of thousands of dollars between them, for undergrad and grad degrees (without which the undergrad engineering degrees are just pretty paper). They're also bitter as heck after watching their high school friends' parents, who weren't as rich as their father, help their own kids pay for school. I really wouldn't want to be Daddy Millionaire when it comes time to make elder-care decisions...

Posted by: UpstateNewYorker | November 10, 2006 4:48 PM

If I had a choice between one of my parents staying home to watch me from ages 0-5 which I can barely remember or pay for my college education leaving me debt free as I started out my life - I would gladly choose the latter!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 4:56 PM

UpstateNewYorker:
One goesn't need a graduate degree to be successful in the job market as an engineer. While I do have graduate degrees in engineering, they were obtained 5 years after working in the real world. Those 'rich' kids in your hometown could have gotten real jobs after their B.S. degree and paid off their undergraduate degrees very quickly. They made choices and they have to pay them off now. Indeed, if they had worked after their B.S., their companies would have supported them in graduate school...but nooooo, they didn't do that.

Posted by: dotted | November 10, 2006 5:00 PM

Yeah, but you might not be able to attend college if they didn't stay at home to watch you from 0-5.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 5:01 PM

Yeah, but you might be able to attend college if they didn't stay at home to watch you from 0-5.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 5:01 PM

Michelle Singletary had a great column on November 5 about how delusional some parents have become about college costs and their kids' chances of obtaining scholarship money.

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 10, 2006 5:01 PM

It's so interesting that there are still a lot of women haters out there---you know, the ones who believe that women should stay at home and not work. This is the 21st century and, newsflash, many women are intelligent, educated, and ambitious. Many do not want to be the wasteproducts that some of you SAHM are (not all, just the holier than thou judgemental ones). SAHM do not contribute to the economy as WOHM do--you only spend your husband's money. And you better pray that your husband doesn't find someone better and divorce you because you'll be up you-know-what-creek. No skills and now your standard of living is in the toilet.

Further--many of us work not necessarily for the money (most do, but there are other reasons to work), but to be contributors to our field, to society, to be a great example of a productive person to our children. As some other posters have already said, switch genders and it sounds ridiculous.

I can't think of anything more stressful that looking for good childcare. It is because most people are good parents that we agonize over the decision and many of us pay a significant portion of our salaries to ensure that our kids get the best care. And some of you can believe that we are "letting strangers raise our children", but I contend that most children's lives are enriched by their interactions with other caring people.

I believe that people who choose not to work and then judge those who do are not entirely happy with their lives so feel the need to disparage others.

Posted by: do not like judgmental people | November 10, 2006 5:01 PM

Please! Don't delude yourself. My mom worked my entire childhood and I have a mster's degree because she raised me right!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 5:05 PM

"They made choices and they have to pay them off now. Indeed, if they had worked after their B.S., their companies would have supported them in graduate school...but nooooo, they didn't do that."

Dotted, I don't know where you're getting this from. Perhaps your statement's true in your experience, but I worked for thirteen years at the best job/s my b.a. undergraduate degree would qualify me for and I never had the opportunity to work for an employer that offered graduate school assistance. I've had only a couple of friends (primarily, accountants) for whom grad. assistance was an available opportunity. It took me 15 years to pay off my undergraduate debt. Stop the snarkiness and assumptions about everyone else's options.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 5:08 PM

"Please! Don't delude yourself. My mom worked my entire childhood and I have a mster's degree because she raised me right!"

But are you a good person?

Not trying to be snarky here, but having an education doesn't automatically mean that you were raised "right".

FWIW, I am WOHM, so I am not knocking working mothers, just mocking the idea that education rather than character is what you used to show the worth of a person.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 5:13 PM

The comment was "Yeah, but you might be able to attend college if they didn't stay at home to watch you from 0-5." So replying about how educated the person was is relevant.


Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 5:18 PM

While not all educated people have good character or integrity, there is something good to be said of someone's character who wants too better themselves or who wants to instill in their children that education is a good thing to pursue.

And wanting to be a good person of good character might include wanting to be a productive member of society--and that inclination is in most people who seek jobs and careers. There is something good to be said of people who seek to look outside themselves and their families to be productive members of their communities. I wish the SAHM crowd would stop attacking people who want to work. It's getting pretty tiresome.

Posted by: To anon 5:13 | November 10, 2006 5:20 PM

Here's an idea- figure out what kids cost before you start having them, before whining that the governement isn't doing enough to support your CHOICE to have a child, and then further your CHOICE to pay to have someone else raise them.

How much is the government doing to support those who have made the CHOICE not to have children?

Posted by: yep | November 10, 2006 5:20 PM

Not sure why all the Wharton women bashing...If these high income working moms (and future moms) are concerned about the cost of childcare, it is an indication that something is seriously out of whack with childcare supply and demand in this country. More incentives for quality, affordable childcare will help parents at all different income levels. Make the richest pay the top level; have a sliding scale so less wealthy families pay less. A fairly easy problem to solve, but you need to see past the finger pointing and us-vs-them bashing.

Posted by: Leslie | November 10, 2006 5:20 PM

Obviously the childcare issue is a problem for everyone and if it is ameliorated for everyone, then children and families win.
Besides, this is America and there is nothing evil about earning a nice living--as long as you don't steal it (e.g. Enron).

Posted by: I agree with Leslie | November 10, 2006 5:23 PM

divorced mom of 1:

You wrote:

"If you are right that there is no right to education how do you expect to raise an educated electorate? And if you say it is a local responsibility - maybe we should talk about childcare also being a local responsibility?"

An educated electorate would be great, but rather than get into a discussion over the dismal failures of our education system in this country, I will say that the primary educators of our children are us - the parents. Education begins at home. I have read countless tales of children who lived in the most impoverished circumstances, but they had parents that expected great things from them. Have you read Tiki Barber's account of growing up with a single mother who expected nothing but the best from him? Or Mayor Anthony Williams's mother who adopted him after care workers told him her he was retarded and would never amount to anything? How about Colin Powell's immigrant parents that didn't have 2 nickels to rub together but guided their son through tough neighborhoods, bad schools and crime?

Do you think the federal government raised and educated these children into success? I give the credit to some wonderful parents that taught them the value of learning - which starts in the home.

Posted by: cmac | November 10, 2006 5:24 PM

I agree CMAC, that education begins at home, but we don't expect every parent to provide full education for their child. We have determined that as a society we will provide a k-12 education. Should it start earlier (pre-school) or end later (college) can be debated. Yes there are wonderful kids whose parents have homeschooled them, but we don't insist that you must. The point I have been trying to make is that we look to the government (local or federal) for many things and we shouldn't say that this must be static because that is the way things are.
An additional point to all the people who don't want your taxes raised whenever a benefit is discussed - how about we talk about maybe cutting somewhere else - after all we are arguing about priorties I am sure no-one (whatever your political stripe) thinks the current budget for their city, state or the federal government is perfect. Would you be willing to see some of these benefits if there was something else cut?

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | November 10, 2006 5:39 PM

The company I worked for sent me to get my graduate degree. The company my husband worked for (a different company) sent him to get his graduate degree. Our oldest is getting his PhD on a research assistantship. A good friend of ours earned her graduate degree...sent by her company (yet a different company) As an engineering professor, student are paid to go to school: by either their company or by the school itself. The only students paying their own way are international students. It is the way engineering schools have operated since at least the early 80s. That is something non-engineers may not realize.

Posted by: dotted | November 10, 2006 5:40 PM

and I wasn't being snarky. The original comment to which I was replying was about engineering students...something I know quite a lot about. Engineers unite!

Posted by: dotted | November 10, 2006 5:42 PM

The Government encourages SAHMs in that Social Security will provide a benefit for a SAHM that never worked after she reaches a certain age. The Government also discourages working mothers in that the tax "benefits" for childcare do not cover child care costs. (Also true for SAHDs if the situations are reversed.) Why do married individuals whose spouses watch their children not have to claim they "pay" that spouse? In effect, the SAH spouse is acting as a child care provider and the salary of the working parent is, in effect, higher than that of a working parent who has to pay for child care expenses.

Think of this example, a WOHD and a widower. They both make $50K/yr. The WOHD's wife watches their two children during the day. The widower has to pay $12,000/yr in child care for his two children. Is this fair? The cost of childcare - the reasonable, average cost in the area - should be taken into account for tax purposes when calculating income. Otherwise this country should rethink subsidizing the retirement income (Social Security) of the WOHD's wife later in life and make that individual contribute the amount he would be otherwise contributing to childcare into an IRA account for his spouse. Does that sound fair?

Posted by: Anon parent | November 10, 2006 5:52 PM

A couple in my neighborhood used to be anti-childcare. One worked one shift and the other worked another shift so they didn't have to use childcare. That's before their marriage started falling apart and they separated twice. Now they realize that they need balance as a family, including couple time, children time, and alone time. It's noble for the SAH parents to think that only parents who are at home are "raising children," but I agree with the previous posters who stated that those parents probably disagree that the public school teachers raise their children once the children enter public school. It's easier for some people to see themselves as better than others, but some of us should remember the topic of a few days ago, "we're all in this together."

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 5:59 PM

divorced mother of 1 :

I see your point, but education is still not a "right." I see the benefit of a good, solid education system in this country - however that is not what we have. First - the state pays about 90% of educating your child. So whether we are talking about state or federal money it is not being spent properly - which leads back to my point that money going to the federal/state/local govt is not necessarily spent well.

We look to the gov't for far too much. If the amount of money we spend on education was an indicator of how well educated our children were - then we'd be leading the world. Do you know where American kids rank in the world? Look it up and you will be stunned. Kids in one room school houses is Outer Mongolia are beating our kids in test scores. Money mean nothing.

I am not predicting a change anytime soon - the education burueacracy is here to stay. Just make sure you teach your kids at home - don't count on the feds or the locals to provide too much.

Posted by: cmac | November 10, 2006 6:01 PM

I used to live in DC and yes it's very expensive there. I now live, as a single parent (not by choice), in Arizona. Part of the reason for the move is that it's just more affordable here (plus I got fed up after having no electricity for 5 days after Tropical Storm Irene.)

I stayed at home with my child for the first 1.5 years. Then his dad left us. When I first applied for mortgages 2 years later in AZ, my "spotty work history" was a huge problem. Apparently the government-subsidized mortgage industry does not consider parenting a legitimate form of work because there's no income attached to it. So, our right-wing, condemn-the-working-mothers government supports an industry that discriminates against SAHs. I hope the Democrats fix this one.

About child care costs: the good news, folks, is that they really drop after the kids start kindergarten. Instead of using my entire support check and more for preschool and after-school care, I now use a lot less for after-school care, freeing up money to help pay my mortgate (even when employed without children, a home was way out of my reach in DC).

I used to use a flex account but the paperwork and hassles weren't worth the pretty minimal tax breaks. My time is so stretched that I will pay "extra" to not have to deal with Aetna, which handles flex accounts where I work.

Posted by: RAM | November 10, 2006 6:38 PM

"Please! Don't delude yourself. My mom worked my entire childhood and I have a mster's degree because she raised me right!"


And because she did, it applies to everyone? My mom stayed home until I was 10, then went to work. I was the youngest. I have a B.A., my sister has a masters and my brother? Well, he had a hard time during his teen years and it took him a while to sort himself out. He flunked out of two different colleges. Maybe his parents didn't 'raise' him right! Now, however, he has turned himself around, has a job that pays the bills and the doctor, owns a house and is just fine. Maybe they DID!

My husband was a latch-key kid when the term was just being coined.His parents split when he was young, she got little to no support from his father, and she was admitted to a program that paid his daycare while she received training for a job. She worked full-time since he was five and her second child was 1. Guess what? They are FINE.

FYI--the correct term is 'reared', not 'raised'.

Posted by: jane | November 10, 2006 7:46 PM

"Think of this example, a WOHD and a widower. They both make $50K/yr. The WOHD's wife watches their two children during the day. The widower has to pay $12,000/yr in child care for his two children. Is this fair? "

No, of course it's not fair. It's not fair that the widower's wife died. But, at the risk of sounding insensitive, life is not fair. It's not fair that single mom A's husband beat her and she left him so she's now the sole provider for her 3 children. It's not fair that single mom B got pregnant in high school by her boyfriend who promised to be there for her but then took off for college the second he had the chance. It's not fair that single dad C has to pay child support to his children who are being raised (excuse me, reared) by their drug addicted mother.

People who make CHOICES to have children and continue to have two incomes to support a lavish lifestyle and then use people who have been victimized as examples of why they need to have big tax breaks are, frankly, disgusting.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 7:57 PM

UpStateNewYorker:

Well, if I sound like a callous rich old man, it's pretty funny, since I'm a female(and most certainly not rich.)

Perhaps those kids you speak of are bitter because they expected Dad to pay for their education? Parents should not be made to feel guilty for this, and therefore stretch out the budget even further, work even harder, etc.

Perhaps if parents drew the line when it comes to that, they'd have more in the budget for daycare?

Also, I find it interesting that no one really answered if there's a tax benefit for doing this. Then I could see the rationalization, but again, only to a certain point.

Posted by: RaiseYourOwnKids | November 10, 2006 8:00 PM

"Here's an idea- figure out what kids cost before you start having them, before whining that the governement isn't doing enough to support your CHOICE to have a child, and then further your CHOICE to pay to have someone else raise them.

How much is the government doing to support those who have made the CHOICE not to have children?"

The point I was trying to drive home all day...

Posted by: RaiseYourOwnKids | November 10, 2006 8:02 PM

To KoKo--I agree with you that we should be able to say where our tax money goes! My husband and I make over 100K a year and pay a lot of taxes! I would really like to quit financing the war in Iraq, the building of more roads--take the bus!--paying the medical bills of the lame schlubs who 'hurt' themselves on the job and can't work anymore, that liberal WIC program, and all those other 'do-gooder' programs out there! This is America--we are INDEPENDENT. We are entrepreneurial. We can all stand on our own 2 feet. If you can't, too bad for you, bub. What? You say you can't pay cash outright for your car, house, education? Too bad. Slash those gov't funded home and school loans.

O.K.--I don't really mean all of that (except for the war). I actually don't mind paying taxes because I use a lot of the services and goods I get because of them. I also feel that a rich society such as ours should use at least some of our largesse to help the less fortunate (old, sick, injured, kids, etc.) I agree with the poster who said that 100K is getting by in the d.c. area. Who are all of these women who want to live in these McMansions and work full time but also get a big fat tax break on childcare? I look around and see the real estate! Most of it is not all that--cape cods, split levels, colonials that have at most 2 bathrooms! But I confess, I live in a mcmansion, even though I never used the tax break for childcare (we did, however, use the earned income credit. That means we had less than 2700 in investment income and less than 37,263 dollars in annual income, filing jointly. Luckily, our income has increased) In my neighborhood it is a mix. There a few sahms with little kids, some working moms, lots of people with older kids and lots of empty nesters. (Why would you buy a 5000 s.f. house WITH STAIRS when you and your husband are DINKS?). We used to live in an older, smaller house. I stayed home and did some unconventional things to earn a buck and be able to stay home with my kids. They got to be school age and we looked around and felt that the neighborhood was not adequate for us anymore. No kids, no sidewalks (although they have them NOW! After I MOVE!). We spent over a year looking for the right place--school, 'hood, house, location--had to be near public transportation. It was a bit of a stretch, but we went for the mcmansion. It was a better deal than what was on the market. I would have been perfectly happy with a smaller house, and was, for my entire life up to this point. I would still be happy (probably happier--while 4 toilets are nice, two worked just fine for us for most of my life, and now I am cleaning 4. Karma!) Funny thing is, unless you own the land and hire the builder, you don't get to chose what kind of house you want! I love cape cods with big porches, but they just don't seem to be building those anymore. But I live in MD. I hear out in South Riding that those women stay home, live in big houses, have 4 kids each! What are they contributing to society? Not earning any money, which would be taxed. No, they are having more kids than most people, living on one income and taking the deductible for FIVE dependents come tax time! They are a scourge on our society!

Sorry so long. My kids are at sleepovers and my husband is watching sports. I think I will join him!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 8:14 PM

"The USA is the only first world country that puts 100% of the responsibility of child care on parents" The USA is also the only developed nation (me more PC!) that has a replacement level fertility rate. Maybe cause people are paying so many taxes in Europe they can't afford to have kids (or a house or a car for that matter.) In some European countries, it's practically impossible to live on your own until you're in your 30s.

Posted by: Rockville Dad | November 10, 2006 8:17 PM

Uh, we are more than replacing ourselves? It's only because of the very large number of immigrants (legal and not legal) who procreate more than the rest of us. And I am highly doubtful that the tax rate is the reason many European countries have a less than replacement fertility rate.

Taxes are not evil. It is what keeps our society going. It would be a disaster if we couldn't keep those things that we need for security, for transportation, for education, etc. Who would pay for the roads you ride on? The schools your kid attends? For the research that funds the cures that we have come to expect. We are amongst the least taxed countries. Stop whining.

Posted by: fertility and taxes | November 10, 2006 8:32 PM

FYI--the correct term is 'reared', not 'raised'.

FYI--take your old grammar rules and shove them up your arse or is it ass?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 11:29 PM

FYI--commas and periods go inside the parenthesis.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 10, 2006 11:30 PM

fertility and taxes : Do you know the term "bridge to nowhere?" This last campaign highlighted how poorly our tax dollars were handled - by both parties.

I will not stop whining when it comes to taxes and the way they are spent.

Posted by: cmac | November 11, 2006 8:20 AM

The tax system should be about raising money for the govt services NOT about encouraging and discouraging certain behaviors. Check out www.fairtax.org

And all this 'rich' envy. Wow. I certainly aspire to be one of those who has more money than the rest of you someday. And I don't think that just because people work hard they should be taxed because of it. They should pay fairly - but now they are not (the top 5% of earners now pay something obscene like 40% of taxes). Just my two cents...

Posted by: atlmom | November 11, 2006 9:20 AM

So let's get this straight. These women are complaining that the government isn't doing enought to support them wanting to have it all?

Posted by: whiningwomen | November 11, 2006 4:32 PM

whining women : Leslie is complaining that the government isn't doing enough to help women "have it all" and a lot of upper income women agree. Below is the beginning of the article, tell me if you think her views (and those of her fellow panelists) are those of middle class or working class women:

"Last Friday, I moderated a panel discussion about work/family issues at the Wharton Women in Business conference in Philadelphia. The alumnae on the panel, mostly very successful Wall Street moms,...."

Posted by: cmac | November 12, 2006 9:00 AM

If highly educated, economically stable women are having such a hard time juggling work and family, what makes anyone think working class women are having an EASIER time?

Upper middle class women are just the tip of the iceberg. They have the freedom and access to the media that allows their voices to be heard.

But don't take working women's relative silence as an indication that they are not struggling. Their battles are far, far more dire and we are foolish to ignore their struggles to raise kids and be reliable, productive employees with so little help from our society and government.

Posted by: Leslie | November 13, 2006 8:06 AM

Glad is dead-on with his comments about "Nanny Taxes". They are very easy to do, I have been doing the weekly "paycheck" for our nanny since the beginning of 2004. Get to the IRS web site ASAP and do a little learning. Consider it part of the time investment in finding child care - it's your responsibility to pay the caregiver properly.

Posted by: halfofworkingcouple | November 13, 2006 2:23 PM

poor people - please stop with the jealous comments on those with more money.

Posted by: dc | November 13, 2006 3:29 PM

All other industrialized societies place a premium on caring for their most vulnerable citizens -- children and the elderly. Some say that this is a measure of how civilized a country is. The USA does not do right by these citizens. European families do take advantage of their governments' subsidies to stay at home more with their children when they're small and to give their elderly quality eldercare facilities and caregiver staff. The truth that these societies recognize, which Americans do not seem to grasp, is that whether or not you have children, their well-being and proper upbringing WILL affect you at some point. To invest in all of these individual children and families is to invest in America's collective future. It's not about "me" in this instance but about "us," because the work that individual American families are doing to raise future American citizens is about YOU and ME -- like it or not. In order to ensure a healthy future for our country, children must be raised well, and the cost of living -- not just padding ourselves with luxuries, but making ends meet -- has gotten so high in many parts of the US that it is getting increasingly difficult to find a healthy balance (for working people) between raising children (or caring for the elderly) and working. Most people can neither afford to stay home full time nor afford the childcare if they have to work. Children and sometimes the elderly are shortchanged in this scenario, having to rely on less-than-adequate situations that are also expensive and poorly regulated. The government MUST regulate and monitor services for these most vulnerable citizens, as they cannot do it for themselves. Most industrialized countries realize that children are literally their futures -- they will be your doctors, engineers, teachers, plumbers, government leaders, criminals, etc. of tomorrow -- to not raise them well is to gamble with your own future and wellbeing. And most of us will be elderly one day and need to rely upon others for quality care and to make decisions for us. To answer Leslie's original question about the cost of daycare, I have never been able to find it any cheaper than she's listed. It is astronomically expensive, not always high quality, poorly regulated and monitored, and it drains dry the wallets of middle class workers. My husband and I make a middle-class to upper-middle class income for our urban area, and after paying for childcare, which we only use part-time, we can hardly afford to take a simple family vacation (not Disney or some other expensive venue) or any other frills. And by the way, we pay MORE taxes than many single and married without children people -- as we fall into the Alternative Minimum Tax bracket (AMT), which means that we get NO childcare credits or any other credits for that matter in our taxes. Most families fall into this bracket, so the government is effectively denying families the ability to make deductions for childcare or dependents, and it is made even worse by the fact that there is the marriage penalty in filing taxes. Our government not only does not do enough for families or marriage, it actually gives disincentives through it's little known AMT program. We are literally paying society to raise the next generation.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 11:17 AM

All other industrialized societies place a premium on caring for their most vulnerable citizens -- children and the elderly. Some say that this is a measure of how civilized a country is. The USA does not do right by these citizens. European families do take advantage of their governments' subsidies to stay at home more with their children when they're small and to give their elderly quality eldercare facilities and caregiver staff. The truth that these societies recognize, which Americans do not seem to grasp, is that whether or not you have children, their well-being and proper upbringing WILL affect you at some point. To invest in all of these individual children and families is to invest in America's collective future. It's not about "me" in this instance but about "us," because the work that individual American families are doing to raise future American citizens is about YOU and ME -- like it or not. In order to ensure a healthy future for our country, children must be raised well, and the cost of living -- not just padding ourselves with luxuries, but making ends meet -- has gotten so high in many parts of the US that it is getting increasingly difficult to find a healthy balance (for working people) between raising children (or caring for the elderly) and working. Most people can neither afford to stay home full time nor afford the childcare if they have to work. Children and sometimes the elderly are shortchanged in this scenario, having to rely on less-than-adequate situations that are also expensive and poorly regulated. The government MUST regulate and monitor services for these most vulnerable citizens, as they cannot do it for themselves. Most industrialized countries realize that children are literally their futures -- they will be your doctors, engineers, teachers, plumbers, government leaders, criminals, etc. of tomorrow -- to not raise them well is to gamble with your own future and wellbeing. And most of us will be elderly one day and need to rely upon others for quality care and to make decisions for us. To answer Leslie's original question about the cost of daycare, I have never been able to find it any cheaper than she's listed. It is astronomically expensive, not always high quality, poorly regulated and monitored, and it drains dry the wallets of middle class workers. My husband and I make a middle-class to upper-middle class income for our urban area, and after paying for childcare, which we only use part-time, we can hardly afford to take a simple family vacation (not Disney or some other expensive venue) or any other frills. And by the way, we pay MORE taxes than many single and married without children people -- as we fall into the Alternative Minimum Tax bracket (AMT), which means that we get NO childcare credits or any other credits for that matter in our taxes. Most families fall into this bracket, so the government is effectively denying families the ability to make deductions for childcare or dependents, and it is made even worse by the fact that there is the marriage penalty in filing taxes. Our government not only does not do enough for families or marriage, it actually gives disincentives through it's little known AMT program. We are literally paying society to raise the next generation.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 11:18 AM

All other industrialized societies place a premium on caring for their most vulnerable citizens -- children and the elderly. Some say that this is a measure of how civilized a country is. The USA does not do right by these citizens. European families do take advantage of their governments' subsidies to stay at home more with their children when they're small and to give their elderly quality eldercare facilities and caregiver staff. The truth that these societies recognize, which Americans do not seem to grasp, is that whether or not you have children, their well-being and proper upbringing WILL affect you at some point. To invest in all of these individual children and families is to invest in America's collective future. It's not about "me" in this instance but about "us," because the work that individual American families are doing to raise future American citizens is about YOU and ME -- like it or not. In order to ensure a healthy future for our country, children must be raised well, and the cost of living -- not just padding ourselves with luxuries, but making ends meet -- has gotten so high in many parts of the US that it is getting increasingly difficult to find a healthy balance (for working people) between raising children (or caring for the elderly) and working. Most people can neither afford to stay home full time nor afford the childcare if they have to work. Children and sometimes the elderly are shortchanged in this scenario, having to rely on less-than-adequate situations that are also expensive and poorly regulated. The government MUST regulate and monitor services for these most vulnerable citizens, as they cannot do it for themselves. Most industrialized countries realize that children are literally their futures -- they will be your doctors, engineers, teachers, plumbers, government leaders, criminals, etc. of tomorrow -- to not raise them well is to gamble with your own future and wellbeing. And most of us will be elderly one day and need to rely upon others for quality care and to make decisions for us. To answer Leslie's original question about the cost of daycare, I have never been able to find it any cheaper than she's listed. It is astronomically expensive, not always high quality, poorly regulated and monitored, and it drains dry the wallets of middle class workers. My husband and I make a middle-class to upper-middle class income for our urban area, and after paying for childcare, which we only use part-time, we can hardly afford to take a simple family vacation (not Disney or some other expensive venue) or any other frills. And by the way, we pay MORE taxes than many single and married without children people -- as we fall into the Alternative Minimum Tax bracket (AMT), which means that we get NO childcare credits or any other credits for that matter in our taxes. Most families fall into this bracket, so the government is effectively denying families the ability to make deductions for childcare or dependents, and it is made even worse by the fact that there is the marriage penalty in filing taxes. Our government not only does not do enough for families or marriage, it actually gives disincentives through it's little known AMT program. We are literally paying society to raise the next generation.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 11:18 AM

We had our daughter in daycare for the first year of her life when I was still working. I was truly shocked at how expensive it was. That $5000 doesn't go very far. I suppose it's true, you can "shop around" a bit, but not too much in DC - as far as daycare centers, they are all expensive if you can even get a spot (fortunately we did) and maybe an in-home provider would be less, again, if you could find one that you felt comfortable with.

At the time, we were a "comfortable" two-income family, meaning together we earned (as a govt. employee and public television employee) enough to own two cars, a small house, and feel like we didn't have to stick to a strict budget (although thankfully we don't have expensive tastes). Our daycare bills were $240/week - ouch. We often joked that the only "private school" our daughter would be attending was her daycare.

We moved overseas when she was one, and now I stay home with her, but even here our babysitter costs 10 euros/hour (that's about $13/hour). Thankfully I don't need her full-time.

I'm not proposing a socialist state, but it really is unbelievable how different the European system is regarding maternity leave and child care. I know for us, the $5k didn't get us halfway through the year. I don't think the government should be completely responsible for child care, although the middle class could use a bit more help than what it's getting.

Posted by: Vienna mom | November 15, 2006 11:44 AM

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