universal childcare, federal support for childcare, working families

Supporting Children Rather than Demonizing Mothers

Ideas and Issues
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April 26, 2021

New Orleans

I got my education in the racial and income bridges within families, mothers, and children early as an organizer for the National Welfare Rights Organization. Women of all races, but mainly the Black and brown members of the groups we organized in Springfield, Massachusetts during the late 1960s would regularly point out the difference to anyone who would listen. If they had been white and with more in their purse, they would have gotten alimony when divorced with young children, but in the same boat or left in the lurch by a husband now gone, they only had the welfare. If white with young children, then they would have been expected to stay at home until the children were older and in school at the least. If Black and brown, they were expected to go to work and leave the kids somewhere or anywhere for all that society and the state seemed to care.

Fast forward more than fifty years, the universal childcare benefit that President Biden is implementing is focused more on supporting the children than forcing single mothers to work. Cash grants per child, regardless of the number of parents in the home or any other family characteristic could reduce child poverty by half, according to some experts. Interestingly, the usual kneejerk “welfare Cadillac” singing racialized opposition seems split for a change with conservatives humming different tunes according to reports. The issue is of course still work and which women are gang pressed by desperation to fill the gap between the right to welfare and the employer labor pool. As reported,

The question of work could be the largest obstacle to reimagining federal support for families. It adds to a growing tension on the right between promoting work and promoting traditional families: While some Republican policymakers, including Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, support a near-universal child credit, others, like Senators Marco Rubio and Mike Lee, believe it should have a work requirement.

The right also gets caught increasingly by its arguments around abortion and the right to life. There is a contradiction on the right between using state power to force women to bear children and then being unwilling to support welfare for families needing the income to raise those children or day care for women and families seeking work to support their families. With minimal wages, vast unemployment, and the strictures of the pandemic, the right is being hoisted on its own petard, unable to have their argument both ways, dividing the opposition to common sense, pragmatic proposals like federal child support.

Like it or not, we are also benefited by the renewed understanding and vibrant discussion about how racism, the history of slavery, and the long shadow of the repression after Reconstruction after the Civil War has exposed the backstories behind these onerous policies. Manufacturing these stereotypes which are little more than rationales or lies in the skin of reasons, has suddenly become harder and harder for opponents of truly child and family-supporting programs.

We need to lock this down while we have a chance.