Republican politicians lately have shredded one cherished principle of their party after another. In the Trump era, the party that once prided itself on fiscal responsibility, personal morality, law and order at home and strength abroad turned its back on each of those imperatives. And now to that list of lost beliefs must be added support for the family. How else to explain the GOP's volcanic response to President Joe Biden's family-friendly legislative agenda?
For as much as American culture venerates the family, the U.S. is actually hard on parents and their kids, policy-wise. Most wealthy nations are far more generous than America is on issues like paid family leave, affordable child care access and public education.
Biden's American Families Plan would change that. It would extend and increase the pandemic child tax credit, to $3,600 per child under 6 and $3,000 for other kids up to age 17. It would create a national paid family and medical leave program to cover partial wage replacement for 12 weeks. It would establish universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds, which (for families that want it) would provide early learning for the kids while freeing up working parents. It would provide direct child care support to low- and middle-income families, capping at 7% of income what those families would have to pay for day care. It would provide two years of free community college.
Biden would pay for the $1.8 trillion plan by reversing the 2017 Republican tax cuts on top incomes, taxing capital gains for households making more than $1 million, and increasing IRS enforcement on wealthy taxpayers. Given the free ride the 1% have had lately, those are more than reasonable tradeoffs to help regular families still recovering from the pandemic year.
While some Republicans have balked at the price tag (despite the higher cost of their own deficit-funded 2017 tax cuts for the rich), their most vehement opposition has been to the very concept of making American policy as family-friendly as it is in other nations. Incredibly, they frame government help for struggling families as a loss of freedom.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., calls it "a lot of lefty social engineering." Tell that to the working mother whose wages go mostly to day care. Some are lying outright, like Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who claimed, ridiculously, that the plan is a preschool "mandate" for young kids and will force older ones into "two years of college whether you like it or not."
In fact, nothing about Biden's plan is compulsory. Parents can take it or leave it. Given their burdens, most will no doubt take it. They should remember which party is striving to treat the family as the priority everyone claims it to be — and which party would prefer to continue throwing parents and their kids to the economic wolves.
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