Breastfeeding has recently been the subject of political debate, thanks in part to the IRS’s recent announcement that lactation supplies (mainly breast pumps and supplies) can be bought using those tax-free medical flexible spending accounts (which I’ve never done because it involves too much thinking and planning ahead). Alongside this announcement came Michelle Obama’s claim that, as a part of her anti-childhood obesity campaign, she also wants to encourage women to breastfeed, since “kids who are breast-fed longer have a lower tendency to be obese.”
Isn’t it great to FINALLY see someone in politics (although one could argue that being the first lady doesn’t make you a politician, but I digress) saying, hey, our kids are fat. That’s not good. And by the way, breastfeeding is a good thing, people. It’s free and healthier and good for moms, good for babies, good for the planet, and it doesn’t make your kids fat.
But alas, this is American politics, and of course we can’t just hear a good thing and say it’s a good thing. No, not when there’s bipartisan standards to uphold.
In response, Michelle Bachmann charged the first lady with trying to impose a “nanny state” on mothers. And Sarah Palin laughed at the claim, mockingly saying that it was in response to rising milk prices (not sure what COW’S MILK has to do with HUMAN MILK, but then again, this is coming from the woman who wrote crib notes on her hand before an interview). And, not to be left out, Rush Limbaugh chimed in claiming that Michelle Obama wants us all to eat tree bark and berries while she gets to pig out on ribs while on vacation, and suggested that she’s not as healthy as her campaign is.
I don’t mean to bash the conservative right…that’s a post for another day. But what makes me really mad about this is that Bachmann and Palin and others is that they can’t just let a Democrat do a good thing. Supposedly, these are the same people who are pro-life and focused on the family. If so, then why are they picking on breastfeeding and wanting kids to be healthy? I feel like they’re really reaching on this one.
It’s not as though Obama wants to hand out free breastpumps to all women (what the true definition of a nanny state would bring). Instead, the government is simply stating that you can take the money that you have worked hard for, set it aside, and we won’t charge you taxes when you purchase a $200 breastpump. Or you can itemize your expenses on your taxes and deduct the cost of breastpump supplies. THAT’S IT. There’s no tax credit at all.
Of course, politicians like Bachmann twist this around and make claims that aren’t true. On a radio interview, she said, “To think that government has to go out and buy my breast pump. . . . You want to talk about nanny state, I think we just got a new definition.” Which is not what’s happening at all. She’s lying. No government is standing at Babies R Us, loading up carts of breastpumps to hand out at playgroups. But then, you get a lot of people who hear that snippet and run with it, rather than investigating the truth for themselves.
If a Republican does something that I agree with, then I support them and give them credit. Just because I lean to the left doesn’t mean that I give credit where credit is due. And Mrs. Obama (and the IRS) deserves credit from all women.
Oh, and the argument that says that this is discriminating against stay-at-home moms, who don’t have to pump? First, I know a lot of stay-at-home moms that do pump on a regular basis. Second, if you stay-at-home and nurse and don’t have to pump at all, then you already get a break. It’s called FREE MILK. And third, for those moms who can’t nurse or pump and have to buy formula, perhaps we should allow a tax break or FSA allowance for them. Because we’re talking about the health of our babies. Isn’t this something that we can all agree upon?
Read more about the controversy here.