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Liberals Should Decide Whether Being a Homemaker Is Demeaning or Worthy of Huge New Government Benefits


May 29, 2024

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker struck a nerve. In a commencement address at Benedictine College in Kansas, he ventured to female graduates that some “careers in the world” are less fulfilling than many believe. He also suggested that being a homemaker is “one of the most important titles,” praising his wife Isabelle for “living her vocation as a wife and as a mother.” Many liberals seemed horrified—and apparently unaware that liberal lawmakers have long promoted homemaking over paid employment.

In response to Butker’s remarks, circulated an online petition that suggested his comments “reinforce harmful stereotypes that threaten social progress,” and called for him to be fired. Maria Shriver submitted that “it’s demeaning to women to imply that their choices outside of wife and motherhood pale in comparison to that of a homemaker.” Jason Page of MSNBC assailed “the ignorance of a kicker telling women to stay at home and pop out babies in a subservient manner while worshipping their husbands.” Even nuns affiliated with Benedictine College weighed in, saying “one of our concerns was the assertion that being a homemaker is the highest calling for a woman.”

Critics generally ignored Butker’s qualification that homemaker is “one of” the most important titles, and overlook how what Butker advocates is similar to the work/life balance for which many younger workers strive. His views also echo the widely-repeated warning that no one at the end of life wishes they had spent more time at the office. Meanwhile, few critics seem aware that liberal lawmakers have long proposed expanding federal benefits for unpaid homemakers, which would result in more parents choosing homemaking over paid employment.

Take the “Worker Relief and Credit Reform Act (WRCR),” introduced by veteran liberal Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI). That bill would expand and transform the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a major federal program long designed to reward paid work over welfare receipt among low-income parents. Under Moore’s bill, federal EITC payments would flow for the first time to adults who don’t engage in paid employment, including unpaid homemakers. In Rep. Moore’s view, her legislation means “society will finally start recompensing workers who make career sacrifices to provide unpaid care to a loved one.”

The common term for government benefits for someone not in paid work is “welfare check.” Yet Rep. Moore argues her legislation promotes “an equitable, modern economy” in which unpaid caregivers would automatically receive an enlarged “maximum credit” previously reserved for only paid workers. An estimate of the 2019 version of Moore’s proposal finds it would cost a staggering $250 billion per year—or more than double the cost of Democrats’ massive 2021 child tax credit (CTC) expansion. Those increased payments would be on top of dozens of current government programs offering tens of thousands of dollars in benefits to low-income parents.

Rep. Moore’s argument is hardly new, as liberals have long advocated providing expanded government benefits to unpaid homemakers. For example, in the 1980s self-styled “welfare warriors” in Wisconsin declared that “caring for a family is work” and merited new national benefit checks with “no strings attached, and no work or income requirements.” The nation rejected that view in 1996 when President Bill Clinton signed a bipartisan welfare reform law that applied new work requirements to welfare checks. But the welfare warriors finally got their way with Democrats’ 2021 CTC expansion, which temporarily paid even nonworking parents up to $3,600 per child, effectively overriding work-based welfare reforms.

The temporary 2021 expansion has expired, but President Biden and liberal policymakers continue their calls to revive it, which would restore large payments to millions of parents who now work part time or not at all. Experts project that, in the long run, 1.5 million working parents would abandon the labor force altogether in response.

As any parent will tell you, raising a family requires a lot of work. Since the 1990s, the American safety net has promoted paid work by able-bodied parents—including single parents—over unpaid homemaking and welfare receipt. It’s no small irony that Harrison Butker’s critics now call unpaid homemaking by married college graduates demeaning even as liberal lawmakers seek to promote more of it by unraveling the current work-based safety net. Rep. Gwen Moore may suggest that providing vastly expanded welfare checks to low-income homemakers, leaving many outside of the paid workforce, is the mark of a “modern economy.” But working parents and other taxpayers forced to foot the massive tab will likely have other, and decidedly more negative, terms for that attempt to turn back the clock