Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Why don't caregivers get Social Security?

I'm reading Riane Eisler's "The Real Wealth of Nations"; the idea of "Creating a Caring Economics" caught my eye when I saw it in the new books section of the Jones Library.

So far, I'm underwhelmed. She seems to cite all the same doom-and-gloom statistics I've seen other liberal-leaning people cite, like:

+ US lags in child mortality. But that's probably because of the way child mortality is measured (stillborn and premature babies are counted in the US stats, I've seen claims that other countries do not count those in their child mortality stats), not because our pediatricians suck.

+ Wages for working-class people have been going down. True, but total compensation (wages+benefits) have been going up. Health care costs are skyrocketing, mainly because the market for health care is screwed up (most people don't pay directly for their health care, so most people overconsume health care).

... and so forth.

She does ask a very good question, though: if you spend your whole life homeschooling your kids or (maybe) taking care of a sick/elderly relative, why isn't all that hard work valued when it comes to Social Security? You don't get any Social Security benefits unless you've had a traditional job with a paycheck.

Why doesn't our social safety net value the work caregivers do?

I haven't yet read how she thinks we could fix this problem. People who homeschool their kids save the rest of us a bunch of money; giving them Social Security credits makes sense to me. Ditto for people who take care of old/sick relatives who would otherwise cost the Medicare/Medicaid programs lots of money.

Maybe we should give tax credits to encourage these kinds of caregiving. A $5,000 per year tax credit, along with Social Security benefits, for homeschooling your kids would probably encourage lots more homeschooling, with corresponding savings in public school budgets.

1 comment:

Gavin Andresen said...

I finished reading it. My conclusion: there's no "there" there.

The Big Idea in the book seems to be to create an economics that is based on "partnerism," to replace the "economics of dominance."

How? As far as I can tell, by implementing a bunch of government policies. How that's different from what we have now (a system with people in Washington DC deciding The Way Things Aught To Be, and using the Rule of Law to Get Their Way) isn't clear to me.

To my politically skeptical point of view, it just sounds like the lefty agenda wrapped up in slightly different words.