No, We Don’t Have to Pick Just One Policy to Help Kids and Families!

The New York Times‘The summary section is often interesting and tries to quantify things that sometimes seem to oppose this approach. On Wednesday it quoted Axios‘s reporting that West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin demanded that the Democrats curtail their ambitious but essential “family policy” proposals in their reconciliation law from four to one, and interviewed experts to see which they would choose.

I have no independent confirmation that Manchin wants this, unless it sounds kind of like him. First let me say, go away, Joe Manchin. Go somewhere you cannot harm American families. And if Axios is wrong: I apologize in advance.

However, I couldn’t help but play the game of the experts. A long time ago I wrote a lot about family policy. I wanted to see which of the proposals – universal pre-kindergarten, paid family vacation, subsidized childcare, and expanding the Covid-inspired child poverty-reducing tax credit – would get the most support. Or we are thrown off the island to put it in the language of reality television, the world we have been politically living in for at least six years.

Let me start by sharing those Times Warning of the author against this “game”. All the experts she consulted said:

It was a decision they didn’t want to make – advocates of more generous family policies say they all work together. “People need resources to coordinate family and work across their lifespan,” says Joanna Pepin, a sociologist at the University of Buffalo. “Choosing just one policy is like putting out and stopping a fire in the room of a house on fire.”

As a matter of fact. But they were still forced to pick. And no surprise to those of us who paid attention to this debate, most – nine out of 18 – opted for universal pre-kindergarten. “When my staff and I studied various outcomes – employment, wages, poverty – in a number of wealthy countries, the policy with the greatest impact was universal early childhood education,” said Joya Misra, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

I would Dr. Never question Misra. I’ll just bet she’ll agree with me: we need “all of the above,” and most “rich” countries with universal pre-K have other family support.

After that – I won’t keep you waiting – the runners-up, one after the other, were the extended child discounts, subsidized child care and paid family leave.

I admit, I was kind of surprised by the high child tax break score, but I have spent my entire adult life grappling with arguments about how poor people are unwise to spend money, so my vision is skewed. the Times reported that 3 million fewer children were living in poverty thanks to the tax credit in July. That sounds important. Is Congress ready to plunge these 3 million children back into poverty by abandoning the program?

Subsidized childcare came next. A main argument against the proposal is that the subsidies benefit many families who do not “need” them. I am entirely in favor of universal programs, but certainly shorten it a little if necessary.

However, getting rid of paid family vacations is kind of a deal breaker for me. Wealthy families already have it, usually for a mother, sometimes for a father. As someone who had it – paid for by my wonderful then husband – it still strikes me as extremely necessary, and I don’t see how Democrats can get it off their list of politics. I was on MSNBC with former Republican adviser Tara Setmeyer, who denounced these proposals as an attempt by the Democrats to create a “nanny state” and I thought, we already have a nanny state. The rich have nannies; the rest of us summarize what we can do for our children. These four programs are the least a wealthy society can do for parents and children – and therefore other wealthy nations, even some less wealthy than us, offer them.

Hey, I know I’m not helping the congressional negotiators find a compromise. I am not trying. I just notice what a terrible situation this is – which was caused entirely by so-called Democrats. “The Hunger Games,” wrote a friend in an email. How did we get here?

I am not responsible for negotiations. I’m only here to say, do anything. Put on what you (mostly) walked on. Think about what you would want for your own children and grandchildren, especially if they weren’t protected by the wealth of most of you.


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