Regular readers know I can at times find it difficult to hold back from pointing out the stupidity and hypocrisy of the right wing in this country. As I grow older, I find some proposals put forth by the left wing equally worthy of scorn. So … EQUAL TIME.
Out of nowhere this year, every Democrat seems to be talking about offering a free public university education to all who want it. While I can see some value to that, I fundamentally believe in the idea that some things require buy in by those who participate. And a college education is one of those things. I’m really not sure why it should be free. In California, four years of tuition and books at a state college comes to about $30,000. Four years at a state university is somewhere in the neighborhood of $45,000 – 50,000. In exchange for paying those costs, a college graduate earns on average $17,000 more per year coming out of college than a high school graduate does coming out of high school. And that disparity only continues to grow over a lifetime of employment. So, for a relatively small investment spread out over four years, a college graduate can earn hundreds of thousands, if not millions, more than somebody who doesn’t go to college. Shouldn’t that graduate buy in and own a piece of that benefit? And guess what, I really don’t care that some countries in Europe provide this benefit to their citizens.
But that’s not what this post is about. I really wanted to talk about this. Apparently, we are supposed to be concerned about equal gender accessibility and the way to open this discussion is legislation that proposes to make tampons untaxed in California. Because, you know, women are the only ones who need tampons and some women can’t afford them and it can be very difficult to go to work or school or to the store when the monthly visitor is there and you can’t afford to keep it under control. And because of that we should make tampons tax free. No, actually, we should cover them with insurance or just make them free to everybody. Or something like that. Because this is a problem that denies women equal access.
Here’s the deal, I get it on some level. I’m extremely grateful that I don’t have to deal with menstruation every month and the difficulties that accompany it. In the too much personal information category, my wife is currently going through “the change” that older women go through and it has been extremely difficult for her and it has gone on now for several years. So, I get it. I also get that some women may not be able to afford tampons or may have to pick between putting food on the table and taking care of their personal hygiene needs. I totally get that and the richest country in the world should have a way to prevent that. But not taxing tampons, or making them free, for all purchasers is like using a nuclear bomb to kill a flea.
What’s particularly galling about the linked op-ed are the nonsensical arguments made to support this. For instance,
What about our flex-pay standards? Currently, under Internal Revenue Service rules, you can use pre-tax dollars to receive reimbursement for condoms and pregnancy tests but not tampons. Which gender do you think drafted those rules?
So, basically, the IRS has determined you can use your pre-tax health savings account to cover the costs of condoms and pregnancy tests, but not tampons. And the big hint at the end is that the author thinks this is clearly the result of our male-dominated world. Let me see if I’ve got this correct. Condoms are something only men care about? Really? I thought condoms were kind of a non-gender specific thing because they protect BOTH SEXES from unwanted sexually transmitted diseases and protect BOTH SEXES from unwanted pregnancy. And pregnancy tests? That’s a male issue also, put in to protect male interests? Seriously? I’m just kind of gobsmacked by this paragraph and its complete lack of any reality-based thinking and conclusions.
But there’s more. At its root is the demand that women be treated differently because they are women and I will continue to fight this idea. Tampons are a necessity of life for women during several decades of their lives. If we need to start a conversation about what that means, then let’s talk about why we all have to pay for electricity, gas, internet service, and so many other necessities that we all must pay for. Hell, shouldn’t food be free?
As I pondered this post and tried to come up with an analogy, I went for my morning run — a place where I always seem to figure things out. I’m lactose intolerant and have a relatively mild form of irritable bowel syndrome. The result of this is that I can spend a whole hell of a lot of time in bathrooms and it can deny me access to the benefits our great country provides us. If I eat the wrong combination of things for lunch during the workday and there are meetings after lunch, I could be in serious trouble between trying to attend the meeting fully focused and dealing with what may very well be an explosive need. If you know what I mean.
Years ago when I was first diagnosed with IBS, our family went on what became my favorite family vacation. We went to Oregon and among other stops, stayed at Gold Beach for a couple of days. In planning the trip, we discussed a mail boat tour — several hours on a small boat that runs up a river the way mail boats used to back in the good old days. With no bathrooms available. Because of what was going on in my digestive system at the time there was no way I was going on a boat for that length of time without a bathroom. So, I hung back while my wife and older son went on the trip.
This is a problem that impacts me every single day of my life, not just three or five or seven days every month. It impacts my decisions about going for runs, bicycle rides, long car trips, scheduling meetings, anything that involves potential conflicts with the unknowable and unexpected. If you know what I mean
In an attempt to keep things under control, I take lactaid pills whenever I eat dairy and I have a Citrucel cocktail every morning. I guarantee I spend more money on lactaid pills and Citrucel each month than women spend on tampons. But these things don’t always work — in fact, the reality is that my digestive issues continue to impact me on a daily basis and will for the rest of my life. I won’t go through “the change” and be removed of this curse. And it would never, ever occur to me that I should get those items tax-free or completely free or even covered by insurance. They are just a fact of my life, a part of who I am, an expense of living the life I live. And we all, as human beings, have things like that in our lives that become a part of what is our existence — somethings are based on our gender or our race or some other immutable characteristic and others are based on other factors. Why must there be special treatment for any of these things?
I would love to see our wealthy nation find a better way to provide necessities to those who cannot afford them, but I think that conversation needs to be cast in terms of all people and all necessities with a comprehensive solution that DOESN’T FOCUS ON OUR DIFFERENCES AND DEMAND SPECIAL TREATMENT BASED ON THOSE DIFFERENCES. Particularly when the arguments made in support of special treatment are so blatantly idiotic and stupid and disrespectful of other people and their own needs.