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Hey, GOP: Want More SAHM's? Return to Liberal Economic Policies!

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President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Wiki Commons by By James Anthony Wills [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One thing you've got to say about Rick Santorum - even if you disagree with him vehemently. He has a way of speaking the truth about the conservative/Religious Right philosophy in a way that no other Republican politician does. Here is a quote from his speech at the recent CPAC 2014 conference:

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"... We also need folks who are going to work 9 to 5 and go home and coach Little League. We also need them to work at the library and volunteer and to be the parent in the neighborhood when maybe another parent isn't around. We need people like that; that's the backbone of America - these folks who don't value just money but they value family and community and children."

Santorum admits what few Republicans will: that while they love to talk as if the country is divided into "makers" and "takers," what they really want is that good old "free stuff" that used to flow more easily from unpaid caregivers (i.e., "housewives") and other community volunteers during the 1950's and 1960's.

One way of thinking about the bizarre way that Republicans have - in Rachel Maddow's words - pursued "jobs jobs jobs by which they mean abortion, abortion, abortion" is that caregiving activities, which during the post-war years were a taken-for-granted resource to the economy, were in abundance. More families (especially white, middle-class ones) had what many today call the "luxury" of having one parent stay home and take care of children. And by the way, if they had that luxury, they might have also had the luxury of having as many children as they wanted. And perhaps they might have felt less need for birth control.

The news has been filled of late with symbols, studies, analyses and other examples of a refrain that the left has been trying to shout from the hilltops: "inequality!" and "unfairness!"

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First, there was the incredible irony of Cliven Bundy - the welfare cowboy who's been mooching off public land for decades, while complaining that "the Negro" has nothing to do but sit on the porch collecting "government subsidy." The fact that it took blatantly racist and incoherent ranting to turn the right against tis obvious example of hypocrisy speaks to their bankruptcy of ideas. (Luckily, violence was averted by the wisdom of the Bureau of Land Management.) But for liberals, this was the perfect symbol of the double standard when it comes to right wing notions of "makers" and "takers."

Then there was the recent meeting between Paul Ryan and the Congressional Black Caucus. Like the Bundy case, we also saw here, a mix of racial stereotypes and unfair economic policies. Of course, the CBC reacted to Ryan's decrying the "cultural" problem in the "inner cities" of men "not even thinking" about working for pay. I would add to the CBC's complaint of a racial dog whistle, one of a gender dog whistle. After all, Ryan only spoke of men. Presumably that's to get "inner city" women at home, financially dependent on those men, rather than on government programs for the poor. The GOP's prescription, of course, is to drastically reduce government programs to poor families, and oppose an increase in the minimum wage.

Like many faith-based theories, Ryan's are based on circular arguments: "Tax breaks didn't work? Then we must need more!"

More tales of inequality come from the viral book by Thomas Piketty, which warns of the growing inequality we've amassed; only the criticisms of Piketty have been more liberal-leaning in pointing out that government policies had more to do with the difference between post-WWII U.S. and today. For example, an excellent article in The American Prospect points to:

"...the Fed's pegging interest rates on Treasury bonds at a maximum of 2.5 percent, marginal tax rates set as high as 94 percent, and an intensification of the anti-speculative financial regulation of the New Deal ..."

as being responsible for much of the post-WWII growth. Another excellent article here on opednews also points to Piketty's glossing over how policy influences inequality.

Finally, a recent study finds that the U.S. is slipping towards oligarchy, with ordinary people rendered almost powerless compared to the rich and powerful.

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Yet, with all these pieces of data - anecdotal as well as academic - there is little hope that liberals can get through to the conservatives who see issues of poverty and economics through a lens of Christian moralizing and the control of women's reproductive lives.

I propose that we liberals step up the chutzpah meter. After all, in response to draconian cuts in social programs and women's civil liberties, we ask so little - bringing the minimum wage in line with inflation!

I think we liberals need to respond head-on to the moralizing, gender-based and race-based claims of the GOP. After all, the feminist-liberal response to fights over pay equity for women, are often two-fold: 1) women have the right to work outside the home just as much as men do; 2) most women don't have a choice whether to work to support their families. But seldom do you hear the question: do mothers - or fathers - want to stay home and raise their children? We hear they should, we hear they don't have a choice, but who asks what parents really want? If we dealt with the right this way, then the obvious answer would be that if you want the stay-at-home moms of the 50's and 60's you should fight for liberal policiesi: high income tax rates, tight financial sector regulations, and strong unions. No more free stuff for the likes of Rick Santorum and Paul Ryan. This is what I believe Rachel Maddow means when she describes herself as an "Eisenhower liberal."


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Amy Fried is the author of "Escaping Dick Cheney's Stomach." She received her Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior, and has been an advocate for church-state separation and other civil liberties issues. She writes on women's issues, media, veganism (more...)

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