Saturday, December 5, 2009

Whining about the Bo-Tax

Excuse me while I vent.

This is Judith Warner in the NY Times:
The health care reform bill currently being debated in the Senate contains a provision known as the Bo-Tax — so called because it would levy a 5 percent tax on cosmetic surgery procedures. The idea is to tax those who indulge in medically unnecessary procedures in order to pay for medical necessities for everyone else.

This sounded like a refreshingly good idea to me, until I read that Terry O’Neill, the president of the National Organization for Women, is against it.

“Now they are going to put a tax on middle-aged women in a society that devalues them for being middle-aged?” she complained to The Times. . . .

Yes, standing up for the rights of middle-aged women to have access to cosmetic enhancement is part of the work of contemporary feminism, O’Neill told me this week. It’s the sorry consequence of a number of sorrier truths: The economy is terrible. Middle-aged women, many of whom reduced their working hours, limiting their earning power and ambition, when they had kids or, later, found themselves having to care for their parents, are in a particularly vulnerable spot these days, as they’re increasingly called upon to supplement or take over the lion’s share of family money-making. And any number of studies have shown that people with better (read: younger) looks have a better chance of getting a good job. Particularly women.

“I am 57 years old. I really sympathize with women who are out of the job market, wondering, will anyone even take me seriously?” O’Neill explained. “The women’s movement is not overly concerned with the more superficial aspect of clothing or beauty or fashion trends. The more important question is whether we are participating fully in the lives of our communities. And middle-aged women really aren’t. I know a lot of women whose earning power stalled out or kicked down as they entered into their 50s, unlike their male counterparts’, whose really went up.”
It has never been more clear to me that NOW represents only a certain segment of women, upper middle class baby boomers. I mean, really. How relevant is a tax on cosmetic surgery to the lives of women who really need help? Or even middle class women temporarily out of a job?

This is just another pity party to join the thousands going on in America. Oh, poor me, I’m not young and sexy any more and life is hard. Nobody takes me seriously. I have so many burdens. I worry. Oh, how I worry!

Too bad. All sorts of people get discriminated against in America: blacks, immigrants, fat people, short people, ugly people, people with lower class accents. We are supposed to take a stand against this by opposing a minor tax measure that will help us extend health insurance to millions of poor Americans? Get real.

The only interesting part of Warner’s essay concerns the weird anxiety millions of American women feel about losing everything and ending up on the street. “Bag lady syndrome,” this is called, and one survey found that nearly half of American women in their 50s feel it to some degree. It might be interesting to get into why this is so, but what on earth does it have to do with a tax on cosmetic surgery? We should subsidize face lifts because they assuage the financial anxiety of women who can afford face lifts? Hey, if you’re worried about the future, skip the face lift and the spa treatments and put the money in the bank instead.

Everybody worries. In our world, everybody over 30 worries about getting old. If we’re going to take this seriously, let me point out that real health reform is one of the best things we can do to keep people from actually ending up on the street. But I refuse to take this seriously. To quote the Buddha, life is suffering. And to quote Nietzsche, that is no reason to despair, because we are all of us mules with the strength to bear great burdens. Toughen up, people.

No comments: