Free childcare equals class warfare, say Republicans
Joe Biden wants to spend big money on small children. On Wednesday the president announced an ambitious $1.8tn plan to boost family assistance programs, childhood education and student aid. If passed, the American Families Plan would overhaul the current (dire) childcare system and inject billions into universal preschool, paid family leave and subsidized childcare. It would be paid for by raising taxes on the wealthy.
Sounds great, right? Who wouldn’t support investing in children? The party of “family values”, of course! The party that loves advocating for embryos but doesn’t seem quite so keen on helping kids. Predictably Republicans are up in arms about the idea that the US, which one recent survey ranked as the second-worst place in the world to raise children, might become a little more family-friendly. As soon as Biden had finished speaking, out came the usual talking points about how Biden was pushing a dangerous socialist agenda and trying to indoctrinate American children. “You know who else liked universal day care?” the Republican senator Marsha Blackburn tweeted, linking to a 1974 article about day care in the Soviet Union.
Think that’s an unhinged response? I think it may have been surpassed by JD Vance’s incomprehensible contribution to the debate. On Thursday, the Hillbilly Elegy author and vocal Republican tweeted that “‘Universal day care’ is class war against normal people.” His line of reasoning, if you can call it that, was that: “normal Americans care more about their families than their jobs, and want a family policy that doesn’t shunt their kids into crap daycare so they can enjoy more ‘freedom’ in the paid labor force”.
Perhaps Republicans should just cut to the chase and say that they don’t support any policy that makes it easier for women to leave their houses. When you think women are just walking wombs then it’s expedient for childcare costs to be so staggeringly high that they push women out of the workforce. Earlier this year, Idaho lawmakers turned down a $6m federal grant to support early childhood care and education. Let me repeat that, they turned down millions of dollars earmarked for children. Why? Well as the Republican state representative. Charlie Shepherd explained, that money would hurt “the family unit”.
“[A]ny bill that makes it easier or more convenient for mothers to come out of the home and let others raise their child, I don’t think that’s a good direction for us to be going,” Shepherd said. Really saying the quiet part out loud there!
Richard Nixon made pretty much the same argument in 1971, which was the last time the US was on the verge of creating a universal childcare system. Nixon vetoed the largely bipartisan effort, saying it would have “family-weakening implications”. By which, of course, he meant it would make it easier for women to work.
You know what is really “family-weakening”? Making the costs of having and raising kids so ridiculously high that it’s getting harder and harder for anyone to afford a family. According to the Census Bureau, childcare expenditures rose more than 40% from 1990 to 2011; childcare has only become more expensive since then. The same geniuses who don’t want to expand access to childcare regularly wring their hands over declining birth rates in America. Why aren’t people having kids, they ask? It’s the economy, stupid.
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