My mother has never liked Mother's Day. She says it's a phony holiday designed to boost profits for Hallmark Cards. I say, who cares as long as everybody's happy? After all, I tell her, Hallmark isn't Blackwater or Halliburton. And besides, not all profits are evil.
That doesn't mollify her. In fact, I think she's beginning to suspect I'm a capitalist roader at heart. In any case, she continues to issue ominous threats toward anyone who might ever send her another Mother's Day card.
But that's my Mom. She's not feeling so well right now, but she was still able to reiterate those combative sentiments to me today. (I believe the phrase "drawn and quartered" was employed.) She's an extremely kind person in most respects, but this holiday brings out the aggressive side of her nature.
Granted, most mothers aren't as adamantly opposed to this day as mine. But if you're not the card-giving type -- or if you are, but are also looking for more socially conscious commemorations of motherhood -- here are seven fine activist ways to honor the mothers of America.
1. Tell our leaders to stop talking about budget cuts.
I don't know about you, but my mother and father always told me: If you do something stupid and bad things happen, don't do it again. It aggravates many of America's mothers when this advice isn't followed.
And yet, astonishingly, our leaders in Washington are still arguing over who can cut the deficit more efficiently, even as we've watched this kind of austerity economics devastate the economies of Europe. And they keep doing it even as deficits are falling.
Mother wouldn't like that. So write them and tell them you want them to stop.
2. Demand that Congress repeal the sequester.
The sequester is a remarkably stupid policy, even by today's degraded standards. It has already cost the country a lot of lost jobs, and has shrunk the economy at a time when government should be investing in its growth. As Dave Johnson notes, sometimes it's even costing the government money to enact these "cuts."
Overall the sequester will almost certainly increase deficits, rather than decrease them, a phenomenon we've already seen in Europe.
Congress needs to repeal this numbskull grab-bag of destructive cuts and invest in growth instead. The President needs to stop using "I've got a smarter austerity plan" argument and start arguing forcefully for jobs and growth. If he refuses, other Democrats need to step up to the plate as the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a handful of others have done.
Mothers are working Americans, and the sequester is costing them jobs. Mothers and fathers need Head Start and other vital programs which are being cut by the sequester.
You can go here to drop a Mom-centric message to Congress: Repeal the nitwit sequester once and for all.
3. Demand more education funding, rather than less.
Mothers and fathers also care about their children's education, and funds for education are being slashed. We need to hire more teachers, stop trying to siphon education money off to private corporations, provide our schools with adequate supplies, and rebuild the ones that are in bad shape.
At the higher-education level, it's time to start making education affordable again. It's the ticket to economic advancement, and the way to regain some of our lost social mobility. Cheaper student loans -- really cheaper loans, like those Elizabeth Warren are proposing -- are an urgently-needed first step.
Then we need to make sure that doesn't fund a sudden inflation in college tuition, which are already sky-high, and set about making education affordable. That includes revitalizing our public colleges and universities, while slashing their tuition. (Yes, the rich will have to chip in. Mother knows best.)
4. Insist that Congress create jobs -- for the young, for our crumbling infrastructure, for the future.
Those crumbling schools need workers to rebuild them. So do our crumbling roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.
The men and women hired for those jobs will spend money on things they need, and that will create more jobs in the future. Mothers, like fathers, are sending their children as emissaries into an unknown future. This will make that future a better one.
It will also help alleviate the devastating youth unemployment rate in this country.
5. Tell Congress not to pass the president's destructive Social Security cut. (It's also a tax hike.)
The most cynical con in this country is the idea that cutting Social Security cost-of-living adjustments -- through the president's proposed "chained CPI" -- is being done to protect "the younger generations" from "greedy geezers."
This cynical provision hurts younger people more than it will hurt the already-retired. Besides, older people aren't "greedy" just because they expect to the benefits they've paid for throughout their working lives.
And that's no way to talk to your mother.
6. Support the fast food and retail workers' strike.
Low-wage workers went on strike last week in New York, and the walkout is spreading like wildfire: first to New York, then Chicago, then to St. Louis, and now to Detroit. Terrance Heath has a good write-up on working conditions in Detroit.
The D15 campaign of Detroit fast food and retail workers lists some of the corporations being struck, including McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Dollar Tree, Little Caesar's, Domino's, and Long John Silver's.
Most low-wage workers are employing by larger corporations, including some of the largest in the country. Those corporations have been enjoying record profits and have paid their executives record bonuses, while at the same time underpaying their workers and resisting any attempt to raise the minimum wage.
The working mothers of America are too often the victims of these predatory practices. Some of them are on those picket lines. They could use your support.
7. Contact Congress and demand they raise the minimum wage.
The minimum wage has failed to keep pace with inflation, depriving generations of Americans of a decent life. If it had kept pace with inflation, it would be more than $16 per hour by now.
More than seven million children have parents who work minimum wages. As we explained in "Real Faces of the Minimum Wage," most minimum wage workers -- nearly four out of five -- are adults. And, much as it bedevils the conservatives who race-bait the issue while professing concern for minorities, most of them are white. (We're looking at you, Wall Street Journal.)
You can go here to sign a petition demanding an up-or-down vote on the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.
Postscript: Mother's Work Day
Julia Ward Howe, who wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic, was the one who first popularized the idea of Mother's Day. She got the idea from Anna Jarvis, an Appalachian housewife who organized "Mother's Work Days" to provide sanitary conditions for troops on both sides of the Civil War. Jarvis went on to promote worker health and safety issues, as well as reconciliation between Northern and Southern soldiers.
There's a different kind of Civil War being waged today. It's a Class War, and the wealthy are waging it on the rest of us. As we've said before, the class war is a war on women. It's time to take action against this economic assault on all women, including the Mothers of America. What better day to rededicate ourselves to that struggle than Mother's Day?
When it comes time to ask your friends and neighbors to join in the struggle, or to let your elected officials know how you feel, you know what to say: Tell 'em Mother sent you.