“Other countries have social safety nets. The U.S. has women.” — sociologist Jessica Calarco
Many Republicans went full-tilt culture war when Joe Biden introduced his sweeping $1.8 trillion American Families Plan for national paid family leave, universal pre-kindergarten, free community college and subsidized child care. Senator Josh Hawley called it “lefty social engineering.” J.D. Vance, author, venture capitalist and Trump whisperer, denounced “ruling class elites” who “want strangers to raise their kids, but middle-class Americans, whatever their station in life, they want more time with their children.”
A majority of Americans support the Biden plan. When they hear that it will be paid for by taxing the rich, it is even more popular.
For decades, the Republicans have claimed to be the party of “family values.” That frequently has meant that they favor a nuclear family with a strict daddy in charge and oppose abortion and LGBTQ rights.
Now Democrats have become a different kind of “family values” party. It’s about time. If Biden succeeds, Jordan Weissmann says we will become a developed world “normal country” for mothers and fathers. He explains in Slate:
“We are … the only wealthy country that doesn’t ensure paid leave for new moms. Child care? It’s already heavily subsidized in places like Japan, France, Korea, Germany, Australia and the Nordics, but here the cost often rivals college tuition. We trail most of our peers in pre-K enrollment, likely because — according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development — they often spend a lot more public money on it. While the idea of just giving money to poor families, in the form of a child allowance, may seem novel here, countries like Canada started doing it a while ago. In fact, if you add up our total expenditures on cash benefits, tax breaks, and services for families as a share of the economy, we’re third to last among countries tracked by OECD, just ahead of Mexico and Turkey.”
Meanwhile, Republicans and big business worry about lazy workers ruining everything. When the Labor Department released its disappointing April jobs report, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce quickly jumped up and proclaimed that there is a “labor shortage” and the $300 supplemental unemployment benefit in Biden’s American Jobs Plan is keeping people from going back to work. Republican-led states are now cutting off the extra $300.
Heather Long, Washington Post economics correspondent, said there isn’t a shortage of workers but “a great reassessment of work” going on. She explained:
“At the most basic level, people are still hesitant to return to work until they are fully vaccinated and their children are back in school and day care full time. For example, all the job gains in April went to men. The number of women employed or looking for work fell by 64,000, a reminder that child-care issues are still in play.”
Long said that growing evidence in surveys and anecdotes indicate that many people want to do something different with their lives than they did before the pandemic.
People who work in jobs dealing with the public are concerned about their health. They have to deal with obnoxious customers who don’t want to wear masks. Bars and restaurants are COVID-19 hotspots. A recent study from the University of California San Francisco found that morbidity rates for food and agricultural workers are much worse than those of medical professionals and other occupations which are considered to be on the “front lines” of the pandemic.
You may or may not want to die for your country, but do you want to die for Ronald McDonald or the Burger King?
Many Americans have died unnecessarily during this pandemic for a variety of reasons. There would definitely have been less death and sickness if we had a single-payer health care system.
Sen. Bernie Sanders offered proposals for the American Families Plan to slash prescription drug prices and to lower Medicare’s eligibility age and broaden its coverage to include dental, vision and hearing aids. Unfortunately, Biden excluded the highly popular ideas from his plan.
However, Sanders hasn’t given up. He said, “We must take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry, lower drug prices, and use the savings to expand Medicare.”
While the Republican Party has become an authoritarian cult of personality, the Democrats are having debates and policy fights but passing significant progressive legislation. Biden has been a pleasant surprise.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.