I feel like Uncle Sam, the media and I have recently taken our relationship to a much more intimate level. Debate surrounds federal funding for abortion, the American Association for the Advancement of Science released findings that claim human papillomavirus from oral sex causes more cases of mouth cancer than tobacco, and breast milk pumps were just added to a list of tax-deductible medical devices.
All three of those issues are relevant and worthy of discussion, but it was actually Michelle Obama that drew my attention to the last item. A couple days before the Internal Revenue Service announced that the cost of breast pumps could be deducted as a medical expense on income tax returns, Obama emphasized breast-feeding as a top priority of her "Let's Move" campaign to combat childhood obesity.
Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., noticed the coinciding events and used the opportunity to imply that the IRS was influenced by politics and that the big, bad, "nanny state" is one step closer to stealing our babies and slurping our breast milk … yum.
There are a couple of issues here. First of all, CNN brought in a "lactation specialist" to discuss the issue. I always thought that the process was pretty straightforward – apparently not.
Second, I usually consider myself opposed to the idea of "big government" and the process of taking a painful amount of money out of my measly paycheck to pay for Social Security and welfare systems of questionable effectiveness and stability. If there's going to be a line, though, draw it at baby food. I will never have a problem with tax breaks for feeding babies. Adding breast pumps to the list makes even more sense considering that the opportunity to breast-feed could mean the difference between a mother working and providing for her family versus getting laid off because she has to stay home to feed her hungry little bundle of joy and expenses.
I know it's Bachmann's duty as a conservative politician to automatically act alarmed and irritated whenever something like this happens, but I really do not believe that her complaints have foundation. The expense of this adjustment isn't going to be extreme, especially when compared to the cost of a few thousand missiles or even a couple months' worth of monetary aid pumped into some undemocratic country. At this point, just add it to our tab.
I admire Obama for many reasons, but her breast-feeding logic has me a bit confused. There is very little scientific evidence to solidly connect breast-feeding and childhood obesity prevention in the first place. Americans can only tolerate so much information at once, so why highlight that? The difference between breast milk and formula is not going to be the difference between a healthy child and an obese one, nor is it going to be the difference between making the national ends meet and spending more time in the economic doldrums. Both ladies need to refocus and, if ever in doubt, spend as much time as possible with their own kids.