Because of the prevailing mood of the times, I have decided to chuck my usual ode to Mother's Day.
After all, the lip service to caretaking has been replaced this year with a lot of lip about taking care of yourself. Even in Washington, where motherhood was once as American as apple pie, they are giving out smaller wedges.
We have shifted funds from mothering to militarizing, from welfare to weapons, from social programs to self-defense.
So we have no time for a warm and wiggily treatise on mothers and children. Nowadays we must be hard-nosed, bite the bullet and make the tough decisions that the future generations will applaud.
In this spirit then, I have a Mother's Day Proposal. On Sunday, I suggest that mothers all over the country turn their little children over to the military. Not physically, but financially.
In one fell swoop, merely by redefining them as Future Defenders of America, we will have ensured the health, education and welfare of ourselves and our tiny tots.
Will the military accept this idea? With its recruitment problems, you betcha.
I propose this admittedly radical plan because the military budget is going up, up, up while the programs for mothers and their little civilians are going down, down, down. The Pentagon will get 25 percent more under Reagan, while special social services will get 25 percent less.
According to the budget, we will soon be spending $185.5 billion for defense. The military wouldn't even notice if we stashed the cost of a few kids.
Consider for example the families on welfare, largely mothers and children. The proposed cuts in AFDC come to roughly $636 million. This sounds like a lot. But in Pentagon terms it's peanuts. For $614 million the Pentagon can get one SSN688 nuclear attack submarine.
As for the $1.2 billion savings in the nutrition programs, that just about equals the U.S. share of buying and operating 18 AWACS planes for NATO. eThe entire $900 million being cut from school lunches would buy one guided missils frigate, one fleet oiler, one E3A plane and a partridge in a pear tree. Have you ever tried to eat a fleet oiler in 20 minutes between classes?
While we are on the subject of feeding hungry kids, the food-stamp savings of $1.8 billion are slightly less than the cost of a proposed nuclear power aircraft carrier. Food stamps won't, however, do what the aircraft carrier allegedly does: glow in the dark.
Frankly, I think that using the military to mother would work. Nobody begrudges the military anything. Do people get outraged at the idea of paying a welfare kid to go to freshair camp? But nobody even notices when the military has a $2 million utility bill for air conditioning in Hawaii.
One general has more influence on the budget than a thousand social workers, and five million mothers. As James Fallows writes in an Atlantic piece on high-cost weaponry, the Pentagon "is in business to spend money."
Well, let them spend it on the Future Defenders of America.
I think my proposal is really patriotic. Here we have a military in the high-tech computer biz and soldiers reading at a sixth-grade level. If we keep firing teachers and building weapons, we'll have a bunch of semiliterates operating multi-billion-dollar nuclear missile systems. We would all rest much more secure if the military took over education. As for health, the Pentagon would obviously have a reason to pay for prenatal care -- also scheduled for slashing -- and for preventive medicine for teeny tots.
I'm not exactly sure how this premature enlistment would work. There are so many possibilities. The Pentagon could, for example, pay mothers under the $6.2 billion recruitment and training budget to care for the Future Defenders of America. Or it could add subsistence costs to the $39.8 billion for active-duty military personnel. At the same time, it could turn the mothball fleet, the old planes and deserted nuclear silos into daycare centers. The old soldiers who never die could become day-care workers.
Now, I know there are many mothers who will have qualms about my plan, qualms about letting the military finance the children. In return, it may want a little something, like help in a war.
But the generals have always grabbed them after we've grown them. Maybe if they have an honest-to-bottom-line investment in the kiddies they'll even want to keep them alive.
And what more could you want for Mother's Day?