Want Women’s Vote, How About More Childcare and Eldercare

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Little Rock    You can stick a fork in it now. It’s done or, as they say, all over but the shouting. Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State, U.S. Senator from New York, and First Lady at the end of the 90s will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. Think about it: that’s a huge first right there, but don’t take a breath, the Vandals and the Visigoths are still gathering at the city wall, so there’s a huge battle still waiting.

Many have argued in the last several cycles that the key to winning is women. Here’s the most recent case from inside the Clinton campaign, as quoted in the New York Times:

“Realistically, the most important part in all of this are white working-class women,” said Geoff Garin, a pollster and strategist on Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 campaign who is now advising Priorities [a super PAC], citing Mrs. Clinton’s emphasis on issues like equal pay for women and an increase in the minimum wage.

I’m going to make this argument again. And, probably again and again and again. It’s time for Clinton to go big. And, if we want working-class women, black, brown or white, equal pay is fine and some bumps of the minimum wage are good, but that’s not going big, that’s just “me, too” on the dogpile. I’m not foolish enough to say what working-class women want, but from talking to them every day, I can tell you what I hear most often that they need: safe and affordable childcare and eldercare and a whole lot more of it.

I’m not saying that working women would pass up a raise or that their blood doesn’t boil when they find some dude making more and doing the same job, but what crushes their world and upends their whole lives is the inadequacy of care for the young and old. No matter how much mansplaining is trumpeting, how many more loads of wash and dishes are done along with school pickups and whatever, when push comes to shove more child and elder care still falls on women.

Inadequate and unaffordable childcare pushes women out of work and into precarious situations fraught with tension and stress. A real federal program that matched childcare vouchers with working mothers would create citizen wealth and family security. No near term increase in wages would equal the weekly savings most working class women would gain from subsidized childcare.

When it comes to adequate and affordable eldercare it’s a different and harder problem, because nothing exists in the formal economy. Home health aides have been godsends, but the reimbursement is inadequate and time-stamped, even while relatives are living longer and longer. No one believes that assisted-living is the real solution except for the well-to-do or those who can finagle Medicare and other resources. Nursing homes are last resorts. All of which invariably pushes the burdens to families, and dollars to donuts that means it is falling disproportionately on working women. Once again forcing many of them out of the workplace or into tenuous employment.

We need to do better for our children and our elderly and stop looking the other way and assuming we all live on farms still or in some kind of multi-generational Indian family in Delhi when life begins until death dost part. Want to breakthrough with women, let’s raise up some new issues that wedge differently, and talk about programs and subsidies that don’t just make it easier to make it another day, but change the whole character and expectations of working class quality of life.