January 2007 Editorial Winner

Stay-at-home tax credit will be tough to manage
By David Gerard, Muskogee Phoenix

As well-intentioned as a tax credit for stay-at-home moms may be, it's not such a good idea.
State House leaders are proposing a child care tax credit, which would cost the state about $20 million annually in revenue, to support stay-at-home mothers.
The logic goes like this: Married couples who take their children to a day care are eligible for a tax credit for that care, so it's not fair for the mother who decides to stay at home to rear her children not to receive a tax credit.
We would assume that House leaders will offer the tax credit for a stay-at-home dad. That would only be fair.
We would suppose, too, that the tax credit would count toward the stay-at-home grandma or grandpa when those grandparents have custody of a grandchild. That would only be fair.
And then how about the unmarried couple who lives together and has a child and the unmarried man or woman stays at home with the child. Not many of couples like that may be around, but they exist, and they should receive the tax credit. That would only be fair.
And will the legislators have only a partial tax credit for the stay-at-home mothers who work part time or those who take their children to mother's day out a couple times a week?
To be fair, those issues and questions are why this stay-at-home tax credit proposal is fraught with complications and inequalities.
We're afraid the proposal is not a fair proposal, but away that legislators are trying to protect or encourage the preservation of traditional families - or earn favor with that particular group.
We believe in the traditional family, but this is not the way to salvage it.
The fact is if a couple is dedicated to the mother staying at home with the children, it will take sacrifice. A tax credit amounting to a couple thousand dollars won't begin to offset the loss of a job that provides many thousands of dollars to the family budget.
If legislators want to do something to encourage parents to stay home with their children, then they ought to do something about our economics.
Indicators in America point out a current trend of the wealthy getting wealthier, the poor getting poorer, and the in-between numbering fewer, along with a diminishing of their buying power.
The Tulsa-based Community Action Project reported this past week that from 2001 to 2005, the median wage in Oklahoma, when adjusted for inflation, declined by nearly 1 percent. The median household income also declined 4.5 percent over the same period.
If we want one parent to stay at home with the children, then men and women have to be dedicated to the idea or we have to make it economically feasible. A meager stay-at-home tax credit won't do it, and it's not as fair as it may seem.