Cartoon: Maternity Leave: The Enemy of Freedom! And Lions!


Another collaboration with Kevin Moore! You can see more cartoons by Kevin and I here.


If you like these cartoons, why not support them on Patreon? It’s because of lots of patrons pledging $1 or $2 that I get paid – and then I can pay Kevin in turn. And I think Kevin supports my patreon, too? And come to think of it, I support his. It’s like a virtuous cycle of small amounts of money moving around in circles.


We’ve been seeing more Kevin around here lately because I love Kevin’s style; it’s expressive, grotesque and a little old-school in a way that reminds me of the better “Mad Magazine” artists.

Normally, on these collaborations, I do the lettering and draw the word balloons. Kevin chose to do all that himself, this time. I don’t think most readers will notice – good lettering should mostly go unnoticed – but to my eye the lettering looks hugely different on this one.


This cartoon is about maternity leave, which should be the easiest, least controversial issue in the world – of course people should have maternity leave.  We need maternity leave just to make the world a bit fairer to people having children.

But it’s also really good for everyone. Because all of us, even childless folk like me, need there to be children so there can be a next generation to grow up and support my Patreon.

(And also keeping society running generally. I suppose that matters too.)

But this cartoon is also about the sky-is-falling overreactions we always see for anything that regulates business or benefits workers, no matter how sensible. Soccer players have learned to play the refs by faking agonizing injuries if a player from the other team so much as gently bumps them. Corporations have learned a similar strategy. Absolutely everything is, in the rhetoric of corporations and their apologists, an existential threat to business.

(Geez, if capitalistic businesses are that frail and tenuous, maybe we need a more robust alternative?)


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels. All four are set in a mall; we can see a hot dog place, and in the background is a mall kiosk with a sign that says “Kitsch Empire.” There are three characters: A male executive in a suit and necktie, and two pregnant workers, both dressed in food court uniforms (but different uniforms, so presumably they work for different food outlets). One of the workers has a nametag, and the other has a ridiculous tall chef’s hat striped in the same tacky colors as the sign for the hot dog place.

PANEL 1

The executive has his back to the workers, but is turning back to bark at them.

NECKTIE: Maternity leave? Why do you people hate liberty?

SILLY HAT: What?

PANEL 2

Necktie now has a hurt expression on his face. Nametag replies with a skeptical expression.

NECKTIE: When you force a corporation to give maternity leave, you take away its freedom!

NAMETAG: But what about our freedom to…

PANEL 3

A close up of Necktie, who is now wailing like an infant, crying and balling his fists.

NECKTIE (yelling): Would you clip the soaring eagle’s wings? Would you gag the might lion’s roar?

PANEL 4

Necktie, still sobbing, has dropped to his knees and is hugging Nametag around her legs. Nametag pulls back, taken aback. Silly hat holds up a hand to whisper a comment to Nametag.

NECKTIE: SOB! Just let business be free! Waaaaah!

SILLY HAT: And they call us needy.


This cartoon on Patreon.

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14 Responses to Cartoon: Maternity Leave: The Enemy of Freedom! And Lions!

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    Maternity leave isn’t the end of the world but it is fair to note that it does come with costs and those costs have to be borne by someone. Whether or not it’s good social policy is one thing, but nothing is free; it’s just an issue of who’s going to pay and how much. People who advocate for social changes rarely every run the numbers, give realistic estimates of the cost and make proposals on who will cover them much past the sloganeering stage.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    People who advocate for social changes rarely every run the numbers, give realistic estimates of the cost and make proposals on who will cover them much past the sloganeering stage.

    This is true of most advocates – not just for social change, but for any policy change, including whatever policy changes you favor. This is because doing the specific math for this stuff is a specialized skill that the large majority of people don’t have.

    But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been done at all. Paid maternity leave, for example, is a highly researched area, and both costs and benefits have been studied, including research in states that have already enacted paid maternity leave policies.

    For example, here is a non-exhaustive list of research into paid maternity leave. Here is the Urban Institute’s summary of what we currently know about paid maternity leave’s effects. Here’s the CBO’s estimate of how many new employees would be needed and what they would cost.

  3. 3
    Eva says:

    RonF, I find your remarks disingenuous.

    Where were you when taxes for the upper most tax payers were slashed during the 2017 – 2020 administration? I don’t recall you asking who would pay the price for the shortage in taxes once those cuts were enacted.

    It’s true, though, the people who lobbied for those tax cuts were advocates for social change, in that they were advocating for the rich to amass even more wealth off the backs of everyone else, especially people earning the least. These same people are rarely honest about the numbers, do not give realistic estimates of the cost and make proposals knowing full well who will cover them (not rich people!), and spend the most money (to lobbyists) on the sloganeering stage, to get their way.

  4. 4
    JaneDoh says:

    Where I live, parental leave (fathers and adoptive parents are entitled to leave too!) is paid for through employment insurance. Anyone who pays in (ie pays payroll taxes for unemployment insurance) is entitled to partial salary payments from the government, which means self-employed folks aren’t left out.

    Each child “generates” a year of parental leave that can be split between the parents (there are some rules about this). The payment schedule depends on how much leave is taken. Some employers top up the government payments to full salary as a perk to attract talent (the way parental leave is in the US right now!). Short-term jobs covering parental leaves are a thing here – for people starting out in a field it can be a way to get experience that is relatively low risk for the hiring company. I have confidence that companies in the US will be able navigate the problems of workers taking leave the way companies in every other country in the world (except Papua New Guinea and Suriname) have.

  5. 5
    RonF says:

    “Where were you when taxes for the upper most tax payers were slashed during the 2017 – 2020 administration?”

    Asking the same questions. Just not here. After all, you all here would oppose those changes anyway.

    The concept that wealthy people got disproportionately favored by the Trump tax cuts because their marginal income tax rate was reduced (from 39.6% to 37%, not exactly “slashed”) doesn’t take into account the sum total of the tax changes. First, people in every other tax bracket also got their marginal rates cut; the next bracket down by 1 point, the rest by 3 to 4 points. Additionally, the amount of income those rates were applicable to was lowered for the lower tax brackets because the standard deduction was doubled. That automatically lowered taxes for the 5/6 of all taxpayers who either always took the standard deduction or switched from itemizing to the standard deduction because it would lower their taxes (I was in the latter category). Finally, the amount of local and State taxes taxpayers could deduct went from all of it down to $10,000. Wealthy people are a lot more likely to be paying a lot more than $10K in State and local taxes (including property taxes, don’t forget) than people in the lower brackets. So that lower marginal rate for wealthy people was applied to a higher taxable income than before.

    For example – Speaker Pelosi lists as a home a property at 11 Zinfandel Lane in St. Helena, CA. According to Zwillow she paid just over $48,000 in property taxes on that. Apparently that’s one of 9 properties she owns or has an interest in, and God alone knows what her husband owns. It doesn’t take much stretch of the imagination to figure that losing the deductibility of local property taxes plus the couple’s California State income tax and whatever income taxes they pay in other States and D.C. has cost them $100,000’s at the least. So the Trump tax bill was not the unmitigated benefit for the wealthy at the expense of the poor that people seem to think it was. No wonder she wants that full deduction restored!

    Here’s a question for everyone here: did the Trump tax cuts reduce your Federal income tax? I’m not talking about a change in what was withheld from your paycheck or what you had to either pay in or get back as a refund when you filed, I’m asking about the total amount of taxes you ended up paying.

  6. 6
    RonF says:

    O.K. I needed to make some revisions to the above but ran out of editing time.

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    Do you want to post a new comment with edited content? I could delete the old comment. But obviously not until you either post the new version, or at least let me know that you’ve safely copied the text so it’s okay for me to delete.

    (Offer rescinded once someone had replied to the current form of the comment. –Amp)

  8. 8
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    Here’s a question for everyone here: did the Trump tax cuts reduce your Federal income tax?

    It did not. And it didn’t have that effect for most of our employees. That’s because the biggest thing those tax changes did was to really cut back withholding. As a result, most of our employees – who weren’t in a position to understand what that meant – ended up owing a lot when it came time to file their returns. It’s amazing how many right wing guys went from crowing over how much more they had in their paychecks to being super angry about how they got taken when they had to come up with a grand or two to pay what they owed. That lost Dollar Store Mussolini a few meaningless Oregon and Washington votes, for sure.

    For me, I found that even if I reduced my federal exemptions to 0, not enough would be withheld and I’d end up owing more than ever before.

  9. 9
    Ampersand says:

    The concept that wealthy people got disproportionately favored by the Trump tax cuts because their marginal income tax rate was reduced (from 39.6% to 37%, not exactly “slashed”) doesn’t take into account the sum total of the tax changes.

    People in the top tax bracket didn’t just benefit by that cut; because of the way income taxes are calculated, they benefited from ALL the tax bracket cuts – most of which were larger than 2.6%. (As you pointed out.)

    Also, Republicans are screaming about the horrible gouging that will happen in Biden’s proposal to raise the top bracket back to 39.6% is implemented. So although you don’t agree, clearly some Republicans believe that the difference between 39.6% and 37% is substantial.

    First, people in every other tax bracket also got their marginal rates cut…

    Except people in the lowest tax bracket, who didn’t get their rate cut at all.

    Finally, let’s not forget what happened to business taxes. From Policy Genius:

    IRS data on the 2018 tax season released in May 2019 shows that savings for taxpayers were uneven. For example, the average refund was $90 higher, nationally, in 2018 than 2017. But the taxpayers who saw the largest refund increases had an adjusted gross income (AGI) of at least $200,000. Tax returns showing an AGI of less than $100,000 paid less income tax overall, but returns with an AGI just above $100,000 (many middle-class families) owed more tax, on average. Note that this AGI is per tax return, not per taxpayer: A married couple where each spouse has a salary of $65,000 could very well have an AGI of just above $100,000 if they file jointly.

    On the whole, low-income families appear to have received the least savings, while high-income families saved the most. Middle-class families saw mixed results. The biggest winners from Trump’s tax cuts were probably businesses. Between 2017 and 2018, corporations paid 22.4% less income tax. The total value of refunds issued by the IRS to businesses also increased by 33.8% nationally.

    You’re also ignoring the cuts to capital gains taxes, and the doubling of the estate tax exemption (increasing it by over $5 million), both of which are changes which will mostly (and in the case of the estate tax change, exclusively) benefit the well-off.

    Here’s a question for everyone here: did the Trump tax cuts reduce your Federal income tax?

    It’s hard for me to say. I paid a lot more in taxes, but that was primarily because my income had gone up.

    (Edited to fix a wrong link.)

  10. 10
    Eva says:

    The tax cuts did not reduce my federal income tax. I am in a low tax bracket. I paid more in income tax after the cuts than I had the previous year, and my income was effectively the same as the previous year.

  11. 11
    RonF says:

    As a result, most of our employees – who weren’t in a position to understand what that meant – ended up owing a lot when it came time to file their returns.

    But that doesn’t answer my question. Yes, many people had either lower refunds or actually had to pay money out on April 15th; as you say, the law also changed the withholding tables. But the question I asked was, did they pay less in taxes? I was affected the same way. But when I actually compared my tax returns from one year to the next I found I had in total paid less in Federal income tax.

    For me, I found that even if I reduced my federal exemptions to 0, not enough would be withheld and I’d end up owing more than ever before.

    As an aside, you can designate an amount to be withheld over and above that. However, once again this doesn’t answer my question. Did the amount of money you paid the Federal government in taxes go down? That is not the same question as “Did your refund check shrink?” or “Did the size of the check you wrote on April 15th go up?” Let’s face it – everyone’s marginal tax rates went down (except for the very bottom tax bracket at 10%) and the standard deduction went up. If the bulk of your income comes from wages, which describes most Americans, your taxes went down unless your pay increased substantially.

  12. 12
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    As an aside, you can designate an amount to be withheld over and above that. However, once again this doesn’t answer my question. Did the amount of money you paid the Federal government in taxes go down?

    Of course I can do that. No, the amount I paid did not go down.

    But here’s the thing, RonF – none of those guys who had to scramble to find a couple of thousand to pay their taxes in April cared whether they paid less in taxes, overall, or not. They cared that they were thousands short at tax time. Having a couple of extra bucks each paycheck over the prior year didn’t make up for this tremendous shortfall. They cared about how they were going to pay rent and not be hit by enormous penalties and interest for not being able to pay their taxes. Any of them who paid less in federal taxes didn’t care and didn’t notice when April rolled around. They felt betrayed because they weren’t told this was going to happen, they thought (not unreasonably) that all the extra money in each paycheck was theirs to keep permanently.

  13. 13
    RonF says:

    Amp:

    Also, Republicans are screaming about the horrible gouging that will happen in Biden’s proposal to raise the top bracket back to 39.6% is implemented.

    Some Republicans likely are. I rather imagine that a great many others are not; doubtless those who are unaffected, who make up the vast majority of people voting Republican. Be careful not use the word “Republicans” as though it’s one unified body who are in complete agreement about everything. It’s no more accurate to do that than it would be to use “gays”, “blacks”, “Hispanics”, “Democrats” or “feminists” in the same fashion.

    Except people in the lowest tax bracket, who didn’t get their rate cut at all.

    One of the edits I missed putting in.

    The references to refunds in the beginning of your last section of quotes is again misleading. Refunds != taxes.

    Tax returns showing an AGI of less than $100,000 paid less income tax overall, but returns with an AGI just above $100,000 (many middle-class families) owed more tax, on average.

    Now we’re talking about total taxes. In 2019 the percentage of households making less than $100,000 (the vast majority of households not headed by a single breadwinner would be filing a joint return) ~66%. And because of the standard deduction someone who earns somewhat over $100,000 has an AGI of less than $100,000, so I should think the percentage of households with an AGI of less than $100,000 is more than 66%.

    The point about AGI also causes me to consider that the change in the deductibility of State and local taxes was a double whammy for the rich. First, that meant while their marginal tax rate went down the amount of income they paid taxes on went up by the amount of State/local taxes they could no longer deduct. Secondly, most States use your Federal AGI for calculating your State income taxes, so THEY probably went up.
    And they STILL had to pay those State and local taxes. So their total income tax burden (Federal State) didn’t necessarily go down as much as you would think.

    You’re also ignoring the cuts to capital gains taxes, and the doubling of the estate tax exemption (increasing it by over $5 million), both of which are changes which will mostly (and in the case of the estate tax change, exclusively) benefit the well-off.

    Yeah, that also missed the edit. I really need to start writing in Word or Notepad and then edit it before I post. It’s true that those benefit the well off. OTOH, a small businessman (or businesswoman) could leave behind a business that would have capital value of more than $5 million. I don’t think it’s good policy to force a family that owns a couple of bars or a grocery store to have to sell it off to pay the taxes. But in any case note that it was not my position that the Trump tax cuts did not benefit the well off. My point was to rebut the common claim on the left that goes along the lines of that they enabled “the rich to amass even more wealth off the backs of everyone else,” For one thing, the money that the rich didn’t pay in Federal taxes didn’t come from the backs of everyone else, it simply didn’t go from the rich to the Federal government. What I’m saying is that just about everyone benefited from the Trump tax cuts; they did not just benefit the wealthy.

    Here’s another question I ask a lot and don’t get an answer much; define “rich” or “wealthy”. What do you consider the boundary for that? When you are talking about “rich”, what income level do you mean? $100,000/year? $250,000/year? $500,000? $1,000,000? Or more? Who should have their taxes increased and who (if anyone) should have them decreased?

  14. 14
    Corso says:

    Jane @ 4

    Where I live, parental leave (fathers and adoptive parents are entitled to leave too!) is paid for through employment insurance. Anyone who pays in (ie pays payroll taxes for unemployment insurance) is entitled to partial salary payments from the government, which means self-employed folks aren’t left out.

    This is my experience too, and probably something I share cause with the American left on, even if for slightly different reasons.

    Tying any benefit directly to employment adds a cost to employment, and we can disagree on the extent that effects wages and employment specifically, but I feel safe in assuming that if you increase the cost of employment, employers will try to offset that in some way.

    Women already have barriers to entry in the workplace related to pregnancy, even without the gendered expense of maternity leave. I’ve heard horror stories at HR conferences about women who were asked invasive questions about family planning during interviews because employers were (ostensibly) concerned with business interruption. Directly tying maternity leave expenses to employment gives a defensible (if debatable) reason to discriminate against women: There’s a risk that you’ll have to pay maternity to women that does not occur with men because generally men cannot become pregnant.

    It is orders of magnitude better for maternity benefits to come from the government, and it’s a testament to how broken America’s system is that even progressives talk about it as a workplace benefit.

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