Turning Child Care Into a New Cold War

Jun 05, 2021 · 453 comments
Michel (Chicago)
Good luck getting the Republicans to see the light. Everything they stand for, such as their anti-vaccination campaigns and support for assault weapons, just makes life harder.
Alberto Abrizzi (Bay Area)
Day care is nice. But education is fundamental. And it’s the one area the dems and GOPs alike (probably more dems) are failing children and our higher “equity” ambitions. In America, there never will be equity in outcomes. But darn it, there should be equities in starts. Liberal policies and ideals keep education, especially for poorer, ethnically diverse communities locked in mediocrity, or worse. Unions put their contracts first, and charter schools which mostly serve diverse communities are targeted as anti-education! In this country, the kid going to public school in Brooklyn or Bridgeport should have the same state-of-the-art school experience as kids in Scarsdale or New Canaan. Period. This way, when Al Sharpton hollers systemic racism and “you black kids don’t stand a chance” the kids won’t believe him. And, we’re spending trillions on what? Spend it on education before anything else.
Robert Black (Somewhere In Florida)
Where are the Christians in all this? Oh? Stop the slaughter of embryos but let them die a slow death after they are born. Ages 0 - 5 are some of the most important years in a child’s life. Women suffer the most when kids are young. They bare most of the burden for their children’s welfare. If they don’t work, their lives are miserable because of lack of finances. If they work, their kids lives will be miserable. Solution? Public schools for ages 2 - 6, with meals and health care included. What? NO? It is socialism. Blacks will get MOST of the benefits? Yes, it is socialism. All will benefit. Same as SS and Medicare. It case the older republicans missed that.
Guido Malsh (Cincinnati)
When hypocrisy, bigotry and willful ignorance become the pillars of American family policy, God Bless America for the disastrous results.
Minnesotan (Minnesota)
What a shame to be ranked behind Bulgaria. No, no, you are are not condescending. No prejudice or anything. That’s reserved for Republicans. This Bulgarian American will be the first to tell you that “the old country” has many, many problems, including problems with child care. But it is a universe from what I lived through here as a young parent. :)
Winston Smith 2021 (NYC)
Nice idea, but Manchin and Sinema don’t like it, so....no. Sorry America.
Jim Polichak (Long Island)
In the famous words of Prime Minister Rufus T. Firefly of Fredonia, "Whatever it is; I'm against it!"
Tom (Des Moines, IA)
ReTrumplicans won't "come to their senses", Nick, until it ditches its Reaganism--that "gummint is the problem". Gov't indeed doesn't have to mandate pre-K, but it can do alot to advance the social goal of preparing our children better for institutional schooling. Neither can we ignore the challenges to gov't advancement of this goal. The key phrase (that Nick uses) is "high quality" when you're talking about pre-K. This former aspirant to pre-K work--kept out of the profession mostly by others' politics, but giving it up when I decided I wasn't a "high quality" teacher--understands more than most that what "high quality" means isn't really appreciated. Nor is there a glut of high quality teachers of that age group.
chairmanj (left coast)
Republican's love family, but it is the MAGAfamily -- no MAGAwoman leaves the home to compete in the labor force with her MAGAman, or to abandon her children to day care Communists. And, if a MAGAman gets a little tipsy, or abusive, it's no-one's business but the family's.
That's What She Said (The West)
Helping but Washington in the middle of your life? Tim Scott? Really? Making sure children get a chance in life with early education but mangling my options on how and when and where I vote is diminished meddling? Joke
Sajid Khan (Ridgefield Park NJ)
Republicans are pro-family only where it comes to supporting their own group's families. There is a belief amongst Republicans that families who are financially struggling the most are all Democrats. So supporting Biden's pro-family plan means strengthening Biden's base. Republicans want to help the top 1% as they feel these are all their own kind. Helping the poorer sections means diverting funds from their own group. They do not realize that the vast majority of their own voters are in just as much financial trouble. America is a tribal society, and now two new tribes are emerging. A Republican and a Democrat tribe. Each has an agenda to push forward their own benefits. Biden has broken this mold and is trying to help all Americans. We need to address this tribal situation in America. It all adversely affects our emotional health, messing up everything from health, education, relationships, happiness, prosperity, social standards, etc. It all starts with raising individual and group trophy self-images. And gets reinforced by the injustice and prejudice that tribes face at the hands of other tribes. There is an obvious clue in the Bible on how to raise our children. https://www.einnews.com/pr_news/129471443/how-we-figured-out-wisdom-from-the-story-of-adam-and-eve We need an Emotional health czar that will lead the establishment of emotional health hospitals, departments, and a whole new emotional health industry. VP harris will be a perfect choice. Please write on it.
Carolyn Egeli (Braintree Vt)
Vote for progressives. Rid the Congress and Senate of corporate, so called centrist, Democrats and religious right wing nut Republicans. The DNC made a big mistake not supporting the progressives last go around. They deliberately withheld funds from Democrats running as progressives and gave money to the ones running that were bringing in big bucks from corporations. Defang the filibuster. Then maybe..the people will get what they need and all benefits won't flow to the big boys only. That would include ordinary things like child care and a public health system to the public, and no more tax dodging by the big corporations, parking their money and their businesses outside the country.
Jo Williams (Keizer)
Sounding sexist. Social engineering. Good grief, I’ve been hearing these pathetic arguments for…..about 50 years now. Earth to these dinosaurs- this is not ….1600. Not 1774. Not even 1890. This is, 2021. Say it with me; ‘that was then, this is now’. And really, it wasn’t even then, then. Pioneer women picking up the musket, Old World women following the battlefields…..women running Inns, taverns, …. Women’s place is in the home. Barefoot and pregnant. Raise the kids and shut up. Where, where are the women of Idaho, of South Carolina….to put up with this, …..insult? I don’t know when these hypocrites run out of scapegoats…..socialists ( oh right, radical socialists), immigrants, mask-wearing, culture-canceling, history-outing….deep state provocateurs- but it’s tiresome to the point of sick comedy. And as I’ve lately argued, maybe when millions of women have had enough and actually do just, stay home- not for a day, not for a few hours at a demonstration, but…until we are heard- on child care, abortion rights, gun control- maybe when it doesn’t take hackers to shut this economy down, but just we…poor, suffering…dependent …women- maybe we’ll be, not seen, but heard. Loud and clear.
J P (Grand Rapids)
Thoughts and prayers.
Mon Ray (FL)
As Margaret Thatcher aptly noted, socialism is great until you run out of other people’s money to spend. Do the math: A thousand billionaires have a combined wealth of $1 trillion; and all the freebies will cost trillions of dollars per year after year after year as per Joe Biden’s and AOC’s plans. And long before the billionaires are bled dry or have fled to other countries the tax burden will fall on the rest of us. Ask not for whom the local, state and federal tax collectors are coming, they are coming for all of us who earn money to pay for all these freebies. Billions for child care is just the camel’s nose in the tent.
Jim (Phoenix)
Save our children. Fight the drug cartels who are poisoning and killing them by the tens of thousands. 20 lbs of fentanyl seized yesterday transiting Arizona, enough for a million pills. But only the tip of the iceberg.
Hola, Lupe! (Astral Plane)
Republicans will twist themselves into a pretzel to find communism and socialism in the least likely places. It’s almost like they are a party without ideas or values, just slogans. Oh, wait…
Marian (Pine Brook, NJ)
People should wait to have children until they can afford it. The governments involvement with food stamps, housing vouchers, pre K programs, make it less likely the parents will take responsibility. On one hand we can’t let innocent children suffer, but on the other hand the parents should have some kind of punishment for acting thoughtlessly. After children are out of the house, maybe we should give them less housing choice, less welfare check etc. All antisocial actions should have consequences.
Dee Frank (NoCal)
Then I hope you’re advocating for raising wages - substantially!- because most people who can’t “afford” children are working and probably never will on your terms. Inequality is the problem - not the desire to have children. By the way - Im someone who chose not to have children.
Hannah (Maine)
@Marian How about punishments for those on Medicaid or Medicare who smoke or drink or don’t exercise or are overweight? It’s better to offer rewards than dole out punishments.
Tom (Toronto)
In Canada - the expansion of child care was just a way to subsidize Teachers Unions who are facing declining student populations. The priority is the Teachers Unions - just look at the COVID closures on public education - where union power was much more important that the students. and with many politicians sending their kids to private schools.
Ampleforth (Airstrip One)
America is actually a pretty good place to be a two-parent family. The data are clear that the best way to rise out of poverty are to finish high school, not have a child until you are married, and get married after high school. Break any of those three guidelines, and things get way tougher, whether there is free childcare or not. Moral hazard still apples.
Mor (California)
As a working mother, I am, of course, in favor of subsidized day care but with two important caveats. First, it should only be offered to women who work. Second, it should be paired with strict supervision and powerful social services, able to penalize dysfunctional families by removing their children and perhaps also by fining and/or jailing bad parents. It is horrifying that so many drug addicts and mentally ill carelessly produce unwanted and unnecessary offspring. Showering dysfunctional families with money will only deepen their dysfunction.
Teresa (Australia)
@Mor But it can help the children providing respite from a constant harmful situation. It will also help identify more children needing assistance and possibly removal. Not necessarily to be fostered by strangers, but to find other family members who could look after them better. What future will those children have without outside help? How much will they cost society when they grow up?
JMK (Tokyo)
Mor, we should provide health and reproductive education to all and make sure contraception is available to all who desire it. We should treat drug and alcohol abuse problems as health issues and end the war on drugs.
Pottree (Joshua Tree)
We should. But what would Father Coughlin think?
Rev Wayne (Dorf PA)
Please tell me what some states and nations are doing for the education and protection of their children. Tell me about the benefits Biden’s proposals could have on our nation. BUT, I don’t want to hear you or Manchin or any other Democrat talk about working with Republicans. Mitch McConnell has made it very clear he plans to oppose any and everything the Biden administration proposes. There is no negotiating with those who have already spent 10 years (6 Obama + no progressive/social legislation during Trump’s 4 yrs.) - a decade - denying any need to improve our nation or protect our planet. These hard hearted Republicans neither deserve the attention of the press nor the Democratic Party. Democrats have an opportunity to improve this nation through child programs, voter protection, environment and infrastructure and … if an archaic senate reliance of the filibuster can be eliminated.
Reverend Carol Hartman (Vancouver, WA)
The High Scope Foundation of Ypsilanti, MI has done extensive research and long term projects on early childhood education. Worth investigating.
Linda Fernberg (New York)
Some here have lamented that there's no mention of the "stay at home Mom". I thought most families in this country had 2 parents working in order to make ends meet. I know my husband and I both had to work to pay the mortgage and the bills. And we spent tens of thousands of dollars for the childcare we needed. My kids are fine (27 and 21) and don't ever speak about the time they were in pre-school and pre-k. So long as a child is loved by their parents, and the child knows that I don't think day care is a problem. My kids were cared for by someone else from about 10 weeks old. My oldest is a teacher; graduated Magna cum Laude from a state university and just completed a Masters in Ed, Summa cum Laude. My youngest will graduate in 2022 from a very good private university and has an excellent internship this summer. When children know they're loved by their parents, they will thrive, even if they attend child care in their early years. Republicans want our families to be like those in the 1950's. Dad makes the money, mom cooks and cleans and kids don't get arrested or pregnant. You can only find that on TV these days. The reality is life is messy and can't be controlled like Republicans want to. Day care is only part of the issue. R's want to tell me how to live my life. No thanks. Oh, I went to Day Care myself. I barely remember it and I turned out ok. We need good reliable day care so people who want to work can, and people who need to work are able to do so.
Lawrence Siden (Ann Arbor)
If Republicans were for "family values", they never would have voted for Trump who openly bragged about wanting to have sex with his daughter. I think Republicans want to maintain a permanent underclass that will provide and endless pool of labor for low paid service sector jobs and a steady stream of mostly black and brown skinned bodies to fill prisons. They are pro welfare as long as the taxpayer funded largess flows to the Rick and well connected.
wts (CO)
I suspect most Republican opponents of daycare understand its value...they are not unintelligent. Their strident opposition and lies (in some cases) are simply a result of putting party ahead of the national interest. Biden and the Dems are pro childcare and pro family, so they must demonize it rather than cooperate and let the Dems get even shared credit for improving the lives of regular Americans.
dave (california)
In Idaho, a Republican state representative, Charlie Shepherd, explained that he was against a day care measure because “that makes it easier or more convenient for mothers to come out of the home and let others raise their child.” He later apologized because his remarks “sounded” sexist." These ignoramuses all have one thing (at least) in common: They prefer the cost of day care to be so high (as it is now) that mothers are reduced to total dependence on some man who can barely afford to provide for his family as it is AND to marginilize the roles of women in our culture. Forget the fact that prove kids in childcare are more stimulated and better prepared for early childhood education. Well we already know how the red state conservatives feel about quality education -That's how they keep their tribe stuck in the mud from gen to gen to gen....
Vicki (Boca Raton, Fl)
The Dems need to focus far less on race issues and far more on economic issues. There are far more - by number - of poor white people in the US than poor Black/Hispanic people. One of the reasons the Dems have lost so many white voters is that they feel ignored. The Republicans have been masterful in pitting the poor white folks against all the minority and people of color poor people.... I am not saying there isn't structural racism in the US -- but let's raise all boats....and stop focusing on some of them.
Jill O (Michigan)
Of course, the GOP and its members are against something a wholesome as universal child care. They prefer to PREY on others and exploit them. For shame.
bpedit (California)
"...the G.O.P. is right to hail the importance of family." Doubtful. This seems just another false-front vote getter for the corporately obsessed GOP, up there with "our prayers are with you", "sanctity of life", etc., etc.
The Constant Gardener (Alexandria, VA)
American women should stop having children. The top 20% can still afford them, but everyone else should stop. You might have to go abroad to get a vasectomy or a tubal ligation, but it will be the best money you ever spent. I figure it will take about a decade to bring the crony capitalism practiced by America to its knees. Then, and only then, will we get the changes we need in this country. Read the article by Daniel Aske published in the Times on June 6, 2000: "On the Contrary: Americans Aren't in the Market for Freedom."
Billy Joe Bob (West of Erie)
The GOP offers NOTHING that would benefit my children or my grand-children or the generations to will follow. NOTHING. Hint: NONE of my grand-parents would EVER have voted for a Democrat. And I will spin in my grave if any of my progeny ever supports this so-called Republican agenda. I was raised to embrace Abraham Lincoln's values, and Joseph Biden's values align with Honest Abe's far more closely than all except Sen. Lisa Murkowski or Sen. Mitt Romney. That rogue John McCain suffered incredible brutality for FIVE YEARS to defend our nation's values. F-I-V-E Y-E-A-R-S !!! And for that, the Grand Old Party has sundered itself in obeisance to the Golden Calf, Mr. Wuss, "The Donald," who never met a fight he would not dodge. NEVER, NEVER in my lifetime.
Josh (Seattle)
This is yet another issue that shows the GOP for exactly what they are: a party for proto-fascists and plutocrats, not one that works on behalf of the American people. Unfortunately, their base is so easily manipulated - a product itself of poor education - they succeed in maintaining their stranglehold on power.
P Greider (Los Angeles)
Okay, so Americans don't want to admit any immigrants and they don't want to make it easy for people in this country to have children. So where does that leave us? Do they even think about the future at all?
Robert (Out West)
1. I confess to having been a little bamboozled by J.D. Vance, at first. Then I looked him up; guy grew up in a town about the size of the one I live in now, was a PR flack for the Marines in Iraq (now THERE’S a job you can believe in), got a tony education, was a corporate lawyer and then hooked up with Peter Thiel. Literally less country than I am, and has been around Appalachia less. So no surprise to hear the typical ohony phamily jazz from him. 2. You’d think people would look at countries that have good pre-school and day care literally everywhere, and notice that their kids are healthier and happier than ours. 3. It occurs to me that the TV fantasies these guys are running on never seem to have infants, toddlers and young kids in them. And Harriet looks suspiciously well-groomed at every hour of the day.
Wayne Warner (Grand Junction Colorado)
Get rid of child tax credits and use monies to fund pre k for 2-4 year olds that are open from 7:30am to 5:30 pm 52 weeks a year
Nova2nova (PA)
The government destroys everything it touches, as evidence by the current condition of our public schools. Yes, families need childcare…they should be financially supported so they may send their child to any preschool they like. In government preschools early childhood educators will likely lose all control, and have to force children into developmentally inappropriate practices- like constant worksheets and sitting still all day. Let the parents choose, let the educators educate.
Elizabeth (New York)
@Nova2nova I absolutely agree. We don’t micromanage how TANF or SNAP is spent, why dictate to parents how these funds must be used?
ann (Seattle)
I would like the government to provide all children with free, high-quality pre-school, but that does not mean I agree with everything that is in Biden’s infra-structure bill. I do not even know every major area that the bill includes. Except for Biden’s small inner team, no one seems to know. But the bill is said to contain money for everything from what has traditionally been considered infra-structure to what has traditionally been seen as social services, such as elder care and day care. Some say infra-structure should include elder and day care because mothers need these to be able to work, but the bill is proposing that a monthly child allowance be paid to parents even if the parents are not working or attending school. The bill covers too many areas, and it apparently allocates a lot of money to each one. It would be more democratic, if the bill were divided into many bills, each covering a different area. Biden could fully explain the need for each bill, take questions, encourage discussion, and then ask Congress to pass a version of it. We want to know everything that Biden is proposing. We want to be able to tell our representatives what we think about each major item. We do not want everything rolled into one humungous bill that almost no one understands. (The bill apparently covers free pre-school only for the poor. It provides a sliding scale for up to 7% of a household’s income for those making up to 150% of their state’s average income.)
ann (Seattle)
@ann With the incredibly large number of poor families with young children coming through our southern border every day, the allocation for pre-school may not be high enough.
Hannah (Maine)
@ann If you’d ever met a stay at home parent you’d know they do a whole lot of work.
M Martínez (Miami)
Children will be in charge of everything in just a few years from now. The world is changing at a rapid pace. FDR paved the way for the creation of computers, the Internet, satellites and many issues that were unknown in the 1930s. We support 100% this column, but at the same time we can't believe that you had to write it. Sounds like defending the existence of oxygen. Maybe in the future somebody will have to write about the right to eat, or drink water. Yes, the world is upside down.
Terri (California)
Well written, and I totally agree with the need for supporting pre-K. I work as a volunteer since I'm retired with pre-K and Kindergarten age students. The joy on their face when they learn to recognize their first name for the first time is amazing. Wealthy kids arrive at pre-K already knowing how to recognize and spell their first name, but kids at the poverty level do not.
Larkin Warren (NH)
As a former single mom of one boy, as a former recipient of 3 federal programs that kept me and my kid housed (Section 8 ), fed (food stamps) and healthy (Medicaid)—all of which allowed me to finish college, get OFF assistance, get good jobs, build a career, and be able to pay the taxes that my income required—I do not understand the decades-long resistance to this. Surely not all Republican families have nannies, or high wages to support a family, or access to grandparents or aunties/uncles to babysit. Surely not all Republicans are two-parent/two-income families. Surely, in 2021, we are not suggesting that a woman's place is SOLELY in the home, or that a single parent just has to wing it with an unreliable patchwork of care. Good for those who want to stay home for the good of their kids/families and can afford to do so—I would have liked that option, and cheered for family members who did it. But for many years, I did NOT have it, and there are millions of Americans who do not either, precisely because of the limited supply of both money and GOOD childcare. Approx 20 corporations offer on-site care; why not more? The stats say that kids in semi-school environments from toddler years do well. Why can we not put this last part of the puzzle together to help families stay healthy, intact and safe?
Pete (Florham Park)
Mr. Kristof's failure is to recognize that the common good and politics are often rivals, that rational thought is almost irrelevant. First, the Republicans will never vote for any program proposed by Democrats, because instituting such a program could win the Democrats votes. Second, the GOP is the "party of NO." They know what they are against: abortion, gun controls, taxes, and the social safety net. Sadly, they are incapable of coming up with any legislation in favor of anything; they clearly prefer the status quo. I firmly believe that if they could turn the clock back to around 1910, the era of the robber barons, no government programs, and no anti-trust legislation, they would. So while I agree with Mr. Kristof on the value of child care, as long as the Republicans can rely on the filibuster to block all Democratic programs, the legislation will not pass.
Pottree (Joshua Tree)
Also, prior to the great evil of income tax.
Greg (USA)
Republicans have been preaching about "tax and spend liberals" for so long, and painted themselves into such a tight corner that it wasn't a forgone conclusion that they would have allowed Covid vaccine costs to be paid for with federal dollars. Their politicians know that their average voter doesn't weigh each issue with great nuance, so it's more expedient to reflexively oppose any spending other than military and law enforcement than to try to explain why they supported anything that could be seen as a zero sum proposition.
Carrie in Colorado (Denver)
As a stay at home mom, I truly do not understand all the people who say that it’s always best for kids to be home with their moms. I couldn’t disagree more. I adore my children and work very hard for them to have fun and enriching activities in their lives. This was manageable (barely) pre-pandemic. Just over a year into intense isolation, I’m exhausted. I’m fresh out of ideas or energy on doing anything creative or educational. I know my kids would thrive more if they could go to preschool. The learning, activities,many socialization they would get would do much more for them than a mom who is holding on by a string. It’s not all black and white. I adore my kids and, in many ways, have cherished all our time together. But I also know I would be a much better mom if I had a safety net of childcare whether it be from time-to-time or so I could afford to actually work.
Kathie (Bellevue, Wa)
@Carrie in Colorado Carrie, I was sad to see your words "so I could actually work." You've been working your tail off, you're just not getting paid.
Hannah (Maine)
@Carrie in Colorado I’m also a stay at home mom but I don’t agree that taxpayers should be footing the bill for me me to have a break from parenting. If you’re out of ideas for fun and educational things to do join a group. There are tons out there and many are free.
SR (in NYC)
Friends, to the degree I have an opinion on it, universal preschool and day care sound like good ideas. But I think we need to have some honest discussion about what universal day care might look like, and shy away from anything brought to us by the same American dullards who have brought public school to us. Too many of our public schools have brought too many youngsters to "teach to the test" teaching and rote learning. Let's look at what quality day care looks like in the countries and institutions that have some experience with it, and that produce high-quality high-school graduates, and commit ourselves to emulating their approach. There's no point in doing this if we can't do it right.
Norm Weaver (Buffalo NY)
From the article: "Democrats sometimes are too reluctant to acknowledge the toll of dysfunctional families". That is the biggest problem of all here. Our "anything goes" non-judgemental culture has created a staggering number of single-parent families with latchkey kids. No one disagrees that single-parent families are mostly terrible for raising kids. Personally I call them "family fragments". But - on the Democratic side - the inclination is to financially support these families then to accuse Republicans of not caring about these kids. Wrong. Republicans care about these kids but don't want to make it easy to form single-parent families. I couldn't agree more. If you are one of the two people who created a child, you are one of the two people responsible for that child. No excuses, no "well, buts". The government should support properly constituted families - i.e. two-parent - and discourage anything less. Enough of the "Baby Mamas" and the drifting fathers. If you aren't properly supporting and raising your child the child should go directly to someone who will.
Mary Sweeney (Trumansburg NY)
Providing accurate sex education and affordable, easily accessible, reliable birth control would help, but Republicans don't like these steps either. Nor do they want to provide a living wage. And please recognize that two-parent families can and do fall apart, sometimes for reasons that are no one's fault--sickness, death, the loss of a job due to forces beyond one's control (like a pandemic), etc. Life is unpredictable and often cruel; sometimes decades of hard work can disappear in an instant due to bad luck alone. There are a lot of things we cannot control, which makes it all the more important for us to help out where we can.
Owen (Oxnard, CA)
So if you're a child of a working mother and your father is absent for whatever reason, both of you should be penalized by having your aid withheld? What exactly are you saying?
Hannah (Maine)
@Norm Weaver Thank you for saying this. It’s always been sad to me that most of the friends my kids have made come from broken or single parent homes. They seem to enjoy hanging out at our house because our traditional family has become a novelty.
Phil Forve (McMinnville)
Joe Biden inherited a real mess. In some ways that’s both good news and bad news. The good news is the fact that it’s obvious to most people that there’s a lot of cleaning up to do, and we need to make some systemic changes to get on the right path forward or we are likely to lose not just our place in the world, but are democratic republic. The bad news is it’s one hell of a big job and there are vested interests that are pushing back against it for their own profit and self interest. Some of it comes from the profiteers at Fox news and other right wing media that make money by spreading fear and labeling opponents rather than addressing plain facts with solutions. Some of it is corporate America that has tremendous lobbying power in DC. There are so many things that need to be addressed, and we need to do so in very little time. He also has a senator from West Virginia who is really a Republican that calls himself a Democrat blocking the way. It’s hard to be an optimist, as much as I want to be and as much as I pray for Joe Biden to be successful, I have my serious doubts.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
To continue my last comment: 3. Saying extended families should care for kids instead of kids going to daycare assumes all or most families have that option. That there is family close by who is willing and able to provide full time care from infancy through age 5 or 6, when kindergarten starts. It also generally means grandparents, almost always grandmothers, have to take on that burden, at the expense of their health, finances, or just at the expense of enjoying retirement after raising their own kids. I know a number of ladies who made their family planning decisions based on the assumptions that their moms would eagerly quit their jobs in their 50s, long before retirement age, to become full time nannies for two, three, four children, unpaid, for the next decade, losing out on contributing to their own Social Security accounts. I never see males, grandfathers, being asked to make that same sacrifice. Universal childcare and pre-K is a women's rights issue.
Frances Grimble (San Francisco)
@Blossom The grandmothers can always say no, and some do.
Daniel Skillings (Minnesota)
Since Jimmy Carter the only times this country moved forward economically, technologically, socially, educationally and health wise is during democratic led administrations. If Biden can’t move his agenda forward the country will be stuck again for 4 to 6 years.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
I haven't read through all the comments yet, so I'm not sure if this was mentioned. Every time an article like this is published, there are always comments from people, more often then not, men, saying "Why can't women raise their own kids?" and "Extended family should help out instead of babies and toddlers going to daycare". These comments ignore several fundamental realities about American life today. 1. Being married when one's children are born is not a guarantee that the children will grow up in a two parent home through age 18. Divorces happen. Spouses leave. Or need to be left. Spouses can die. 2. Our main social safety nets for old age or disability in this country, Social Security Retirement and Social Security Disability Insurance have benefit levels that are poverty level low unless a person is able to work full time, from age 18, for decades. If a parent (which is almost always the mother) takes time off from work to raise children, her future SS benefits will be greatly reduced. If that parent becomes disabled before retirement age, and not has not worked in the past ten years, she will only he eligible for SSI, which is capped at $800 a month for life. Yes, there are Social Security spousal benefits, but they are complicated, limited in scope, and require a marriage that has lasted at least ten years.
Robert (Seattle)
Important distinctions: Dysfunctional families cause harm to children. Poverty is a significant, direct cause of such dysfunction. In most cases, the poor cannot and should not be blamed for their own poverty. The growing divide between the very rich and the rest of us is a systemic problem of unprecedented size and severity. Moreover, Black, Latino and Native Americans, among others, make up a disproportionate share of the poor, and their poverty is a direct consequence of both explicit and systemic racism. In light of: "So Republicans are correct that healthy families make a healthy nation. Democrats sometimes are too reluctant to acknowledge the toll of dysfunctional families, for fear of blaming the poor for their poverty, but it’s difficult to have a serious conversation about improving opportunity and equity in the United States without acknowledging the complicated problems in many homes."
Mary Sweeney (Trumansburg NY)
The Republican Party does not want Biden to succeed at anything. Making Biden look bad is far, far more important to them than the children of this nation. Their biggest fear is that the American people will see an improvement in their lives during the Biden Administration. Their positions on family issues aren't even consistent: If they wanted more mothers to be able to stay home with young children they would be in favor of raising the minimum wage and providing health care for all--positions that would make it easier to raise a family on one salary. Instead they are obstructing all plans to improve family life in this country. Prove you actually care about children, Manchin and Sinema: kill the filibuster.
it would be far better for people to get significant child care credits for children ( more for younger ones). Why people think institutionalized care is better than mothers for poor children is questionable. For mothers who need to work, the credit would be enabling so that they could afford good PreK.
Mary Sweeney (Trumansburg NY)
Why do so many people assume all mothers are good mothers or that all two-parent households are stable? My brother and I were lucky: our (single, working) mom was wonderful. But for some years I lived in the same neighborhood as a two-parent family in which the parents "had" to get married at a young age. They ended up with a couple of kids and they spent a lot of time with their kids. They also cursed at the kids routinely and loudly, called them awful names, yelled at them for trivial things while ignoring some truly dangerous things the kids were doing, and on at least one occasion loudly blamed the kids for ruining their lives. Believe me, their kids would have been better off spending as much time as possible in high-quality pre-schools and/or daycare centers.
moksha (ny)
Investing in children is the most significant investment a country can make for the future, but the American mindset appears to be a short-term gain at the cost of everything else. The Republican politicians are mostly opportunists; they care more about keeping their job than anything else. The real problem is Republican voters who easily fall prey to grifter politicians. Unless voters can see through the deception, the grift will continue.
Gazeeb (San Francisco)
The child daycare issue serves to magnify what America in total has transitioned into. An elitist society. One that has failed to recognize the distinct societal changes that have taken place over the last 60 some years impacting the daily life of Americans. The nuclear middle class family that reflected the American way of life, father out at work, mother overseer of the domestic front home with children, is a template that no longer universally applies. Over time working outside the home no longer became an option for women but was necessitated by financial need. The two income family is now the standard. Pre-school and elementary school after school childcare is a must have. And it’s a quality of life issue that must be addressed so that it encompasses a wide range of parental incomes. For this is an issue no longer restricted to those in the class that hire the Nanny affording the parent more leisure time but significantly applicable to those working for minimum wage.
Gary (Los Angeles)
"Biden’s effort to slash child poverty and create systems for day care and pre-K could be historic. It’s the most important policy issue of 2021." I beg to disagree. Climate change clearly if the most important policy issue of 2021. If we lose the Earth, nothing else matters. Try to keep your focus, Nicholas.
Young.Jedi (La,In, Ks, Id.,Ca.)
You could replace "child care" with Medicare and have reactionaries screaming the exact same warnings of "socialism", even communism like the young politician Ronald Reagan did when LBJ brought Medicare to our country. Why are so many Americans voting against themself, their own family. Is it the propaganda of the ethically destitute Murdochs, Kochs, Mercers, Herrings, etc.? America is the last first world nation with no government child care, health care, and other safety net structures in place. It's like we tend to live in the nightmarish Pottersville shown in the Jimmy Stewart movie "It's a Wonderful Life". Only the "ole man Potters" like Murdoch, Kochs, Mercer, Herring, republican politicians really enjoy the fruits of our country.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
My kids are 23 and 18. I've worked full time since they were tiny babies, save for a few medical leaves and layoffs, and while I was in my last semester of college. My daughter started full time daycare at three months old. It would have been six weeks, but I was laid off while on maternity leave and had to find a new job. My son started full time daycare at six weeks. I took him out after a month, when my husband and I decided we could manage for a few months, if I quit my job while I finished up my last semester of college. I graduated with my bachelor's degree at 29. I went back to work full time when he was six months old, and he went back to full time daycare. When I reflect back on raising my kids, I can absolutely say that the hardest part was finding childcare, finding GOOD childcare, and paying for childcare. My husband and I paid for many many years of full time childcare, pre-K, after-school care, summer camps, and care during school breaks, all on a very modest middle class income. We paid for Catholic schools too, through 9th grade for our daughter, and 4th for our son, as we lived in a city with some of the worst public schools in our state, and moving wasn't an option for us at the time. I did briefly get subsidized county child care assistance for a couple years. That helped enormously, although the help was too brief. I cannot see how either of my kids will ever be able to have kids themselves, given the cost of childcare now, even if they marry.
Cathy (Hopewell Junction N.Y.)
Whenever I read about unpaid work, it revolves around house work and child care. It's true, that is a fearsome amount of unpaid work. But in our household, repairs, lawn care, car care, bill paying, taxes, investment management (if you have a 401K rather than a pension, you have investments), and a myriad other bunch of chores added to cooking, cleaning and taking care of kids. All of it is unpaid, and generally we split it equally. Yes, I knew the kids' shoe sizes, and pediatrician, but rarely talked to the plumber but could freely ignore scheduling car maintenance, and could avoid getting allergy attacks doing the lawn. Our real fundamental problem is not the simple one that women take on more unpaid work - my husband works as many hours at home as I do - but that childcare, in the early years is another FULL TIME job. Someone has to be on it, and holding two 8-5 full time jobs simultaneously, is pretty hard. We either solve the problem and allow women to take time off for raising children, without sacrificing their ability for future work and reducing their social security benefits, or we add options that allow for them to get solid, reliable daycare. Frame the issue correctly. People split their unpaid work however they wish. They just can't figure out how to have two people do three full time jobs.
Denise McCarthy (Centreville, VA)
Nick, agree with you here 100 percent. Can paternal attachment be just as effective or does it have to be maternal? Maybe a better word is “parental” attachment. One of my grandchildren is being cared for pretty equally by both mom and dad. Grand daughter will cry when either of them leave the house and will go to either parent for soothing. It does seem more intense with mom though. My s-i-l is the main child caregiver for the couple’s 2nd child. My grandson is attached to both parents, but does go to Dad more often, and he clearly identifies w/Dad.
Alberto Abrizzi (Bay Area)
Day care is nice. But democrats and republicans tolerate too large a deficit in our education system. Instead of beating the drum on equity of outcomes, fill the tangible gap in equity of education. This means quality of schools across the nation and in every neighborhood. No kid, because their school is decrepit and lacks state-of-the-art tools should get the message that they don’t matter. When the school one town over is new and wonderful, and liberal leaders basically tell young black kids that they have no chance to overcome systemic racism, diversity becomes adversity. And this is a blue state/city problem. Why isn’t Biden spending a trillion on this?
L’Americaine (Louisiana Transplant To Pacific NW)
Because then the meritocrats who now hoard everything good for themselves and their own children, might have to fairly compete with everyone having equal educational resources, us Poors, would definitely give them a run for their money.
Outer Borough (Rye, NY)
Progress is hard when supposed Democrats like Manchin stand in the path of progress. A state with income at $43k per household; coal #1 resource and 1.8mm people. Absurd.
Lady in Green (Washington)
There is no bottom to the depths of the absolute idiocy of post modern conservatism. Just what are the trying to conserve? The wages17th century. Has it ever downed on them their very policies are harming American families. The race to the bottom of cheap labor, cutting benefits, and morphing to the gig economy is increasing inequality. If they want women to stay home and keep having babies then raise wages.
Nate Loman (Ohio)
It is interesting how some of the responses here speak of personal responsibility, and I suppose on some level that is true. However, in a country that seems to not want to acknowledge that people have sex and support organizations to help people make good decisions what are the alternatives? I mean, you cant want to be pro life, against Planned Parent et al, pro family, AND anti tax. Also, in most every way schools want to avoid the subject of sex and do not have solid sex ed programs, so just how are people supposed to make good decisions? So, lets defund PP, call for abstinence education and then not want your tax money to be used to support others children. Research also supports all this early intervention as an investment, not a misuse of tax money. America is a stupid country and we cherry pick our morality like no other on the planet, much of that “morality” comes from Christianity which is also a fairytale.
Jay Bee (Red Bank, NJ)
If this were a truly Christian nation, we would have had universal daycare, a minimum wage tied to the cost of living and affordable healthcare for everyone decades ago.
Deirdre LaMotte (Maryland)
Gosh, I really hate that Nick needs to write “please Republicans...”. At this point, really? They will never agree to anything proposed by Biden. He is a Democrat and any “Democrat” is the “enemy”. When will columnist and politicians realize that the GOP is an aggressive enemy of all we should hold dear? Please treat this as a battle or war for our democracy. Anything less is a joke.
Tired of Complacency (Missouri)
Listening to Republicans preach about family values is like Gacy preaching about his love of teenage boys or Speck preaching about his love of nurses. Nothing but words.
KTS (San Francisco)
Unfortunately Republicans see anything that might help a woman work, instead of staying at home with the kids, as subversive and against their White Christian male dominance.
@KTS Except for work requirements for the poor. The poor who stay home (particularly now when schools and daycares may still be closed) are considered "lazy" and bad examples for their children.
Norma Gauster (ngauster)
Everyone talks about the effect of the pandemic on women and the nation’s economic need to for them return to the workplace, virtually or otherwise. I havenot heard a single comment on the effect that a mother’s absence in the early years of a child’s life has on their optimum emotional development. Many pre-schoolers are benefitting from the pandemic because mother is home all their waking hours for the first time since being left left at 6 months or less, many of them being put on bottle feeding at that time. And we are not talking about children in poorer circumstances who fare even worse. I wonder if there is any connection to the problems pre-teens and teens have in this country—drug abuse, school drop-outs, even suicide. In my opinion, mothers should be paid to care for their young children for the critically important three years of a child’s life. Mothers who absolutely must work should be provided with child care by professionally trained caregivers, not rag-tag workers paid minimum wage.
Dr B (San Diego)
@Norma Gauster Thank you for this truth. It clearly would be better for children to pay their mother so she could stay home and care for them. But that would take away the opportunity for progressives to indoctrinate them from an early age and thus is not supported by MSM.
Kevin Skiles (Salem, Oregon)
Yes, God forbid that a child be taught that being home with their mother because society values their future is a terrible idea.
Denise McCarthy (Centreville, VA)
Your response brings a smile here. I think a six-month paid parental leave would be a good thing for the United States. However, I have known parents who work while child is in elementary school, and manage to work at home or not work at all during the middle and high school years. An adult needs to be in the room if economically feasible during those crucial transition years. Nothing takes the place of direct supervision.
Concord63 (Oregon)
Solutions based government interventions that work. Connected the dots between early childhood education makes sense. It seems very doable and valued added. Very interesting insights Nick.
Innisfree (US)
We have the funds to send every child to universal pre-K. We do. But we'll need to reduce the over-bloated budgets of the military industrial complex. As Dwight Eisenhower said: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone." In my opinion, the United States has wasted money and lives in the over-militarization of our nation during my lifetime of fifty years. At the expense of quality education and healthcare and quality of life for the majority of our citizens. Times to change. Time to spend energy and resources and time on children and working families and our elderly and everyone else who has paid the cost of our nation continuously spending on war.
Frances Grimble (San Francisco)
@Innisfree *Except* there are a huge number of other social programs that need funds. Including but by no means limited to Social Security, Medicare, and health care in general.
L’Americaine (Louisiana Transplant To Pacific NW)
Quality comment. I appreciate all you’ve said and wish it was said more often and with equal conviction.
gregolio (Michigan)
@Innisfree My hypothesis is that the Western European countries more readily turned towards healthcare for all and five week paid vacation because they saw the war in their front yards. Even today when you walk past a plaque reminding you the Nazis murdered 12 jewish children against that very wall - it's hard to feel indifferent to the plight of our fellow humans. In short many parts of Europe are reminded of the possibility of political evil every single day. Pity we don't grasp how easily things can tip.
Bothwell (Bay of Bothnia)
Thank you, Mr. Kristof. I clicked on the the first link, "one recent study". I'm not surprised to see that the United States is only one-tenth the proper environment to "raising a family" --- 132.40, gaining an "F" --- than Iceland which has a rating of 1,093.07 and an "A+". Lately there have been many articles on "Why Janie Won't Be A Breeder", using many countries to pose the question: The USA, Japan, China, Italy, South Korea, as if it is a Great Mystery. It is no mystery. The numbers here don't lie. I printed out this study and your column. Should I be asked by the young what I think about having children in this country, I will simply hand over the whole package to them. Republicans have platitudes. Other countries have policies and plans. Thank you.
Alexis (NYC)
Call it the Oklahoma Plan, that should shake the republicans up. It is so damn expensive to raise kids here. This of all proposals should be desirable. But if it were up to today’s republicans, K-12 public education might be in doubt.
Tautologie (Washington State)
The root of this problem is the same as most of our other problems. We spend most of our tax dollars on war. There isn't money left for nice things. Our government makes no better spending decisions than a junkie, wasting all the money on useless highs and then complaining that there's nothing left for food or rent. Look at the military spending of countries that have nice social programs. You'll notice what precisely none of them have: a military budget the size of the next nine top spending countries assembled together. Who has that? We do. Demand drastic cuts to military spending. I am not willing to pay more of my income to the government to pay for social spending when they already collect plenty of money and choose to waste it. Neither should you. Insist on changes to our military commitments and budget.
Auntie Mame (NYC)
Childcare as practiced in the US currently is frankly a travesty. This from someone who has worked in Headstart, Pre-K and Kg. By Kg, the children are older and many ready to learn to read and endure the school day.. The others -- in Pre K both breakfast and lunch are served about two and a half hours apart because it's easier for the cafeteria workers! There is limited access to playground-- too cold, too hot, the older kids might hurt them. AND in the case of parents with substance abuse -- maybe it's time to treat the parents!? (or it it's really so terrible, remove the children from their custory. Furthermore, there are huge differences in the quality of teachers-- everywhere. It's not nec. a matter of pay. The NYC schools pay very well. It's a matter of lots of other things including an odd sort of politics, budgetary concerns- as pay depends on eduation level and Lord knows whatelse. If not six months or a year, make three months mandatory maternity leave. Woman having to reappear at work two weeks after delivering is inhumane. Maybe it's time to have things like affordable housing and utilities-- and where are the jobs? Maybe less is more and that means fewer people being born.
Samantha (Long Island)
The Republican version of family values is patriarchal, the little woman at home changing diapers, cooking and cleaning. Childcare threatens a woman’s subservient position to the patriarch.
angelmangual (usa)
I find it interesting that Mr. Kristof invokes Bulgaria and Chile, presumably as exemplars of "backwards" nations who still manage to do better at child than the US. I do not claim to know anything about the quality of life in those nations, but I imagine it is not so much worse than here, if it is worse at all, to be held up as examples of "losers" we should be ashamed of being behind
Small Town (Illinois)
« It’s odd that Republicans perceive early childhood programs as a Democratic plot. » Not at all. It’s like this. If Democrats are for it, it’s a socialist plot. We’re not living in rational times. We’re in the middle of tribal warfare.
FloridaNative (Tallahassee)
I'd be hard pressed to believe that today's GOP is "pro-family" given the party's almost infinite list of "anti-family" positions. Against child care; against health care; generally against education; against low income nutrition programs; lock step in favor of tax cuts; etc. The closest they come to a vaguely arguably pro-family position is anti-abortion which is better labeled pro-birth and the heck with anything after birth.
Pottree (Joshua Tree)
So, what are Republican in favor of? Traditional American values, a code that means they honor the traditions of 18th and 19th Century America, where most people were family farmers, citizens were white and male, and “everyone” went to a Protestant church. Nobody else really counted. Some were rich and some were, if not poor in the larger sense, able to subsist through hard work of the whole family (kids, too!) on small holdings, with only a glancing interaction with the money economy. In that world so honored by Republicans, who represent largely rural places, that’s the way things are supposed to be... and, if they’re not, we’ll just pretend they are and that we live in a world of Currier and Ives prints and Normal Rockwell Christmas cards. There, education was mostly a luxury to be indulged only when chores were finished, and as the kids grew bigger and stronger, their physical strength as free labor on the farm was more important than their minds, since their future would be just like their past anyway. As long as they could read the Christian Bible, they were plenty educated. Pa and Ma worked darn hard - but most typically for themselves and at home, so childcare was a non-issue, too. Now, that model is of course obsolete. There are still rich and poor, but few who till the soil; they work for somebody else for pay. But the Republican POV hasn’t really moved since before the Civil War. As ever, the Republican ideal is a return to the mythic and superior past.
Paul Bonner (Huntsville, AL)
There is a reason why the conspiracy laden legacy of too many Americans has gone hand in hand with the war against public education. Just think how boring we would be if everyone lived in a community of educated people.
Sage (California)
BRAVO! We desperately need Universal childcare. Sadly, with the filibuster alive and 'well', it won't happen. Biden's far-reaching policies are very important but most won't see the light of day, and that fact sickens me and feeds my cynicism.
Mark Nuckols (Riga)
Denying children decent care and educational opportunities is senseless, cruel, and quintessentially American.
Pro-life = 40,000 gun deaths per year (to help support the gun industry). Pro-family = $0.00 to support family friendly programs (to save money for more tax cuts for the rich and coprporations). Pro-worker = $ trillions in corporate giveaways (because corporations are 'people' in need along with the super rich).
CH (Indianapolis, Indiana)
Indiana still has a lottery program for state-funded pre-K, with nowhere near enough spaces available to meet demand. The question arises, if this is a public good, why should it be available to only a lucky few, rather than to all children? I suspect that some of the antipathy to universal pre-K is, like antipathy to so many quality of life amenities that our government refuses to provide, motivated at least in part by racism. Opponents harbor a notion that it will mainly benefit Black and brown children, and why should white people spend their hard-earned tax money for this? Republicans' go-to excuse for any government program they dislike is "Socialism!" leading to "Communism!". It's becoming tiresome.
Ski bum (Colorado)
I’ve always been at odds with this country and confused as heck when I see the obsessive way republicans attack women’s rights and abortion on the one hand, arguing the sanctity of life at any stage, and then see how ardent they are not to approve any progressive legislation that supports families, children, education, healthcare and gun controls. It’s as if the Republican Party is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in microcosm. Do they even know what they want to be when they grow up? If they grow up?
Stephen (Ca.)
When they grow up, they will just become even angrier. Especially when they figure out who has been playing with their fears and emotions while emptying their pockets. No, I’m not talking about religion, but it’s basically the same scam.
Angela Koreth (India)
Maybe Mr.Kristof in his next article, could connect the dots? 1. The birthrate has fallen. Perhaps for working families with minimum wage partners, where both have to work, children are too expensive? Raise minimum wages? Republicans: That'll create inflation/ ruin small businesses. 2. Workers, perhaps in minimum wage jobs, aren't rushing back to work, because of Covid risks. Republicans: They've learned idle ways because of the Covid supplementary support of $300. Cut the support, before its termination date in September. Some Red states plan on this. Whip the drones back to work! Isn't this the Marxist 'Class War'? 3. Perhaps they have untended kids at home, since schools are closed?Provide for Child Care? Republicans: Women are meant to be home, caring for the babies they didn't have. Is this a sexist and a slave economy?
TrueNorth (Wellington, ON)
"...United States was the second worst out of 35 industrialized countries as a place for families" It's incredible that the most technically advance nation is so socially backward and not only with family support but guns and racial issues.
Steve (Portland, ME)
How ironic that the Party denouncing universal pre-k as a Soviet program is the same one that worships a demagog and relies on false and misleading information from a "fair and balanced" news outlet at Fox News.
Allen Knutson (Ithaca, NY)
Your colleague Goldberg said it plainest: "it’s been politically radioactive for the federal government to support Black women who want to stay home with their kids, and white women who want to work." And yet we had it. We had it in the bag, passed by a large bipartisan majority. And Nixon vetoed it. Maybe the biggest misstep in American public policy since the introduction of leaded gasoline.
L (Ohio)
PreK and daycare aren’t the same. It’s very clear 4 year olds are capable of learning letters and numbers and want/need to play with other kids, and a few hrs of preK per day is great for that. It’s NOT the case that 0-3 kids “need” daycare vs an attentive parent/nanny. If babies and toddlers are being babysat by the TV bc their parents can’t afford quality childcare, that’s a problem with the parents’ companies’ wages. There are many many people who would love to stay home with their babies and toddlers but can’t because companies don’t pay enough to live on one person’s wage, like they used to. So I say, yes to universal preK, but no to universal daycare. Fix the other societal problems that are causing us to “need” cheap daycare.
Edward Brennan (Centennial Colorado)
Maybe if we stopped just thinking about kids as a problem for someone else to take care of. Maybe if we stopped demanding that both parents worked full time we wouldn't have to leave kids with people being paid worthless wages... Maybe if it we valued more than office work. Maybe if we paid people enough to live, and with enough time to raise a family. The only responsible thing for most people to do is not have kids. So that is what they are doing. This is the world Mr Kristof's generation created. Day care should suplement a family's abilities to raise their children, not replace it. That is the problem with Mr Kristof's well meaning communist creches. His doesn't solve the problems of America, just moves them around. His morals, at least this time are in the right place, but his solutions are actually the same ones Clintonians have been pushing for the last 30 years.
Ruth Baldwin and John McHugh (Hendersonville, NC)
If the ideal of many Republicans is a family model with a single breadwinner and a stay at home child care partner, why can't they get behind a minimum living wage such that a single worker can support a family? Such a wage would have to vary widely by location, based on living costs, and might encourage a massive migration of jobs from high to low cost of living areas but this might have other beneficial side effects.
Pottree (Joshua Tree)
You’re looking for a consistency that doesn’t pay off politically. For Republicans, every issue is stand-alone, because every issue has donors and supporters attached to it too valuable to be overlooked. It’s ok to take positions that are in opposition to each other as long as the money keeps flowing and you don’t get primaried. Moral (aka, immoral): politically speaking, Republicans are professionals and Democrats are amateurs. Republicans are best at protecting their own interests, Democrats are best at protecting yours.
JK (Chicago)
Excellent article. The social and economic benefits of supporting our children are proven and beyond dispute. I would only add that if we do not support our children both economically and educationally, we will not be able to maintain our position as the world's leading intellectual and economic power -- if we haven't lost it already.
RC (Washington Heights)
I only wish Republicans were opposed for the reasons Mr. Kristof talks about today. But there's nothing ideological about their opposition. They are opposed because a Democrat is in the White House, period. McConnell told everyone in no uncertain terms his mission is to block whatever the Democrats propose. In his own words, "One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration." You can't persuade someone with that mindset. He's run the same playbook for years. Anything that can be construed as "win" for Democrats, regardless how important the issue is to America, is anathema. Obviously he's willing to go to any length to realize his political ambitions, from blocking gun reform to ignoring American workers and families.
Pottree (Joshua Tree)
But nobody tries a reverse psychology play on McConnell. Why not? Biden should come out firmly in opposition to federal subsidies for childcare and early childhood education, perhaps even suggesting criminal penalties for taking care of kids. He should harp on his anti-brat agenda at least weekly. Compare childcare to Venezuela somehow. Then, the ball will be in McConnell’s court. And he can only oppose Biden. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly.
H Silk (Murfreesboro,TN)
I have to wonder if Marsha Blackburn and her kind could even define the word communism. I currently live in TN and it's really sad that every time this state has a politician quoted or otherwise makes it into the news, it's an embarrassment to thinking people. Anyway, as we all know, what the republicans want is a return to those (mostly nonexistent) good old days of the 1950's/early 60's.
Kevin Skiles (Salem, Oregon)
Simple solution. Raise wages to levels that recreate the ratio of money to lifestyle that we enjoyed in the 50's and 60's.
Pedigrees (SW Ohio)
@Kevin Skiles If we wanted to live like Americans did in the 1950's we'd have strong unions. Millionaires and investors would be paying taxes at the same rates people who actually earn their incomes do. Both of these things are anathema to Republicans though.
Frances Grimble (San Francisco)
@Pedigrees If we want to live like the 1950s we would not have middle-class women competing for jobs. Except I *want* middle-class women competing for jobs. But when you have twice as many workers, most of them make less money. And we also have offshoring and robotics. The 1950s aren't coming back.
Jim Propes (Oxford, MS)
"This new study is part of an enormous body of research showing that the greatest leverage we have to help people may be early in life, as brains are developing." I don't remember the person who said this - I think it was a Jesuit priest, 2-3 centuries ago: "Give me a child until he is six, and i will give you the man." I'm sure my quote is inaccurate, but it underscores the validity of the reference to what studies have learned. There's an element of self-evident truth here, sort of like people knowing the effects of gravity long before Newton explained it. But of course, Newton was a scientist. If Republicans had been around then, they would have ignored gravitational theory, and continued to sing 'la-la-la-la' as loudly as possible. The party of NO. I tell ya, ya can't make this stuff up.
David (Cincinnati)
I want a Rolls-Royce, will the government help pay? Taxpayers already foot the bill be education, school-lunches, extra-curricular activities, child services, tax benefits, etc. etc. What more do parents want? They made the decision to have children, no one asked me, but everyone is expected to pay for them. And the 'children are our future doesn't fly' when we can easily import educated working adults at very little or no cost.
Pedigrees (SW Ohio)
@David No one ever asked me if I was willing to spend trillions in Afghanistan and Iraq. No one ever asked me if I was willing to pay higher taxes so the rich could pay lower taxes. But I'm expected to pay for these things. Everyone has to pay for things they don't like. That's how it works. I'm childfree but I can see the utility in universal childcare. I cannot see any utility in the ever expanding military budget. We're not "spreading democracy" anymore and cannot even claim to be given that we don't have it at home and will soon need international organizations to monitor our elections and ensure we can vote.
Deena Press (Camano Island Wa)
Has anyone considered lowering the age when children enter the public school system and lowering the age when young adults are allowed to graduate from high school?
Alex Lawrence (Peters Township PA)
This is an excellent piece by Mr. Kristof and right on point as to the just for politics sake divide in our country. It does not take a mountain of research to show this is a positive step. But Mr, Kristof, the question is whether stay at home parents as well as those who choose not to take advantage of this for some reason should be paying the cost? I know Bill Maher is your worthy nemesis, but he questioned in a very compelling way on Friday his hesitancy about Free college tuition for the some of the same reasons. By the way, good to see you back writing about domestic policy as I believe you carry more weight on the subject than problems in the Middle East.
Anne (Brush Prairie, WA)
I'm thinking if public education was proposed now republicans would vote it down because they would say it should be up to the parents to educate their children how to read, do math, history, art, etc.
Pedigrees (SW Ohio)
@Anne We also would not have libraries, interstate highways, or electricity in rural areas.
Aaron (Orange County, CA)
Our government can't even take care of millions of bed-ridden old people, how are they going to come up with a national program that will properly care for millions of active babies and children during the day? And what defines "high quality" day care? 62% of all High School graduates in this country are unable to locate "Canada" on a world map. If nationalized day care is going to make early education a priority, I hope they start with lessons in Geography.
MGL (Baltimore, MD)
It never occurred to me that stay at home mothers were the ones who opposed day care because others got a benefit they didn't want. In the 1950's I couldn't afford "Nursery School" and regretted it. I wished I could. The benefits of early exposure to age appropriate activities and socialization are obvious and well proven. Too many young children live in homes where many of the basics are not even recognized; their early development is ignored. Why do Republicans refuse to allow government to help our people meet their basic needs? America is way behind other countries that don't confuse social responsibility with socialism. Why do Republicans stir up animosity instead of cooperation? We do need two political parties, but both must be rational for Democracy to work.
Kate (Portland)
Quality day care is needed, but also mandates that allow BOTH mothers AND fathers to have family leave. Most people in the US need or want to work, and want to raise families. This is a reality employers must face. Women had to protest and fight for the right to attend universities and hold jobs outside the home..why haven't men protested at, say, Facebook and Google and other workplaces for their rights to actually parent their own children?? If everyone took a little parental leave during their childrens' early years (say, mom from ages 0-2 and dad from ages 2-4), then *everyone* would take the career "hit", and it would no longer be such a stigma that women alonne have to bear and that leads to discrimination against women in the workplace who are "only going to leave to have children, so why hire them?" Why should a workplace care about employees children?? you may be asking. Well, they would benefit with less employee turnover and absenteeism. We would all benefit from stronger families and more secure children. Subsidized childcare is great, but what about subsidized families that allow fathers and mothers to actually parent their own children?
Dandelion (Toronto)
Back in the 1960s, the future was going to bring employer-funded childcare available at many workplaces. Yes, young children were going to be in childcare, right where their parents worked. Instead...in 2021, the Republican Party still thinks women should just stay home and raise the kids.
Steve (Minneapolis)
The Far Left wants Democrats to govern like they were given a mandate. They weren't. Its a 50/50 tie in the Senate, which is about where the American people are on this. Govern like you have a mandate, and you'll get killed in the midterms. That's reality. Democrats think they can get re-elected by passing out enough free money. That's not it. They're still paying for the Great Society legislation, still paying for Obamacare. Both cost them dearly after they were passed. As an independent voter who leans left on social issues, but right fiscally, I can't figure it out why they don't understand this. Move the football 3 yards at a time. Doable and much safer.
JMK (Tokyo)
Steve, we’re still paying for Iraq and Afghanistan. Still paying for an egregiously bloated “defense” budget. Still paying agricultural subsidies to people who don’t need them so that non-nutritious food that harms our health can be cheaper at the store. Still paying fossil-fuel subsidies and paying to clean up messes made by businesses who’ve taken the money and ran. Still not taxing “religious” organizations that are obviously for-profit enterprises. We shouldn’t be paying what we’re paying for healthcare. We should have a universal coverage system; it would cost less in the not-so-long run, and would make Americans more free.
Steve (Minneapolis)
@JMK The US is unique in the world. We accept more immigrants than anyone by a wide margin. Truly a melting pot. Once you move here and become a citizen, you are an American. (I couldn't move to Japan and become Japanese, or France and become French). However, the other side of the deal is that, when you move here, its understood you must work to support yourself. Throwing yourself or your offspring on the state is not desirable. That goes for everyone, immigrant or not. People around the globe know the deal and still come in large numbers anyway. That is our strength, not our weakness.
Mel X (Portland)
I appreciate that the article emphasizes the importance of nurturing BEFORE the age of five! I have three adopted siblings who were adopted at different ages, and there are definitely more struggles with the one adopted at the oldest age (4) - it’s been terrible to witness her suffering and the suffering of her kids. (She has bonding issues and ended up abandoning her own kids.) Of course daycares can be improved, but they have adults who are getting regular needed breaks and children aren’t getting abused. That would do so much for a child who is getting neglected at home. I hope daycare teachers get trained and paid MORE ASAP. It’s disgusting that our country values early education so little.
Pottree (Joshua Tree)
It’s not that we value social benefits so little as much as that we value bombs so much. There are some things America has never gotten over. Two at the very top of the list are the Civil War (still being fought, according to many) and the Wild West (ditto).
When I think about present day bipartisanship, I think about being forced to work with a dressed up version of the people who stormed the Capital on Jan 6. When McConnel voiced his objective to run Biden's agenda into the ground, he already had a well established track record with the Obama administration. When they show us who they are and tell us what they plan to do, believe them. I wish the US could be audited by a 3rd party, starting with the Pentagon. Where does all that money go? For a country as wealthy as the US that then fails to provide the basics for it's own citizens such as pre-school and affordable health care, and then doubles down to saddle it's own young taxpayers with crushing student debt when they are just starting out, "exceptional" is an understatement. The upcoming mid-terms should be a referendem on the post embrio GOP War on Children that starts in the delivery room.
What Is This (Gotham)
The “wealthiest country” pablum is a worn out false comparison. If you aren’t closely related to achieving that wealth, you don’t get to share in it. Walmart shareholders and Sam Waltons heirs benefit from the genius that he was. The person unloading trucks at the back of the store is too far removed to have any claim. Likewise, why should I expect to benefit from Jeff Bezos’ wealth? If my employer doesn’t owe me a paycheck how does the taxpayer owe me anything?
JMK (Tokyo)
What Is This: Ask what you can do for your country, of course, but ask what it can do for you, should do for you, does do for you. If it’s not doing anything positive, what good is it doing you to be American? Why does a society tax its members? Ever hear of enlightened self-interest? Spending money to make money? Spending money to save money?
What Is This (Gotham)
@JMK Being an American doesn't have to do you any good but that doesn't absolve me of the obligation to serve when I was 18.
Jonathan Katz (St. Louis)
How do you decide if child care and pre-K are "high quality"? How do you measure their "quality"? If you have answered those questions, how do you make them "high quality"? Unfortunately, we don't know how to answer those questions, certainly not in any measurable way. Do the care-givers care about children? Do they read to them (no televisions)? Do they talk to them? Are they responsible adults who can handle difficulties, everything from children homesick or fighting to medical emergencies? All valid criteria, but how do we measure them? It becomes a slogan, not a program to improve reality.
JMK (Tokyo)
Jonathan Katz, I would suggest that we look at what other countries do, and copy what works. We should do this not only for pre-K and early years childcare, but for lots of things. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
Teresa (Australia)
@Jonathan Katz High quality comes from training childcare workers on how to stimulate a child's natural curiosity and desire to learn. Children are thought respect for people and animals and nature by reading them appropriate stories, as well as letters and numbers. It is not based on just watching children play in the sandpit. My 5 years old neighbor left me speechless when I showed him a poster of planets and started telling me all about black holes. Has been in daycare 3 days a week since he was 2 and has now started preschool. Teachers will find life easier and the class progress faster if children already have some basic knowledge when they start school. Properly trained teachers provide high-quality care. Parents will be able to notice if their child is progressing.
Suave (California)
The GOP and Democrats in some instances are not going to have their wealthy donors pay for programs that would help their citizens. Over the past 40 years powerful forces (mainly the ultra wealthy and Wall Street) have lobbied heavily to suppress the 99 percent with stagnant wages, less funding for the IRS to go after them, lack of financial regulation for banks and lenders, access to affordable child care services, less funding for education programs and teachers, lack of mental health services, access to abortion services, lack of consumer protection programs, access and regulation to affordable healthcare, environmental protection enforcement (climate change is the biggest threat to our world), lack of drug enforcement for prescription painkillers, lack of gun regulation….I could go on all day. The take away is the discussion about quality and affordable child care, which was a huge problem before the pandemic, is a good start but until we elect representatives who actually want to help the 99 percent we will continue to suffer economically and socially.
ExPatMX (Ajijic, Jalisco Mexico)
"In Idaho, a Republican state representative, Charlie Shepherd, explained that he was against a day care measure because “that makes it easier or more convenient for mothers to come out of the home and let others raise their child.” He later apologized because his remarks “sounded” sexist." SOUNDED sexist? They WERE sexist.
The Littlest Who (Whoville)
It’s just crazy. Even the most sensible of proposals— the education and care of children—- and the republicans manage to subvert. Reporting today in the times about DCC report critical of Democratic messaging—- you think? As my son put it: Every time Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, et al, open their mouths we should be hearing the achievements and goals of the Biden administration. Children! Infrastructure! Health Care! Jobs! Over and over… Positive and affirming. Loud and proud. The point would be to make the progressive plans… the sensible proposals— to seem like “a given”, and that by opposing them, republicans begin to look stupid. And gosh you hate to say it, but how about splashy rallies, and something like daily affirmations being sent out. I know, it’s appalling to borrow from the Trump playbook. But you have to ask, what if those kind of methods that Trump (it pains me to see his name) used were actually used for the good? Instead we allow the voices of the opposition to become loud, and democrats are forced into the defensive. And seems like after election season that we don’t hear much—- While it’s great the Democratic Party is the party that buckles down to do the work— but we aren’t quite getting any message that any of the grand stuff is getting done. We Elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to do this good stuff. Darn it, we we want it done!
What Is This (Gotham)
I don’t need the government to look out for me. This is certainly true if to find so they confiscate income and wealth in my name. My parents couldn’t afford college so I didn’t belong there. Our property taxes where I grew up were 1/10th those of my cousins just eighteen mikes east of us so I couldn’t expect the similar schools, teachers, programs, electives, clubs, sports or opportunities. My employer doesn’t provide paid time off or health insurance so I don’t have them. That’s how capitalism is SUPPOSED to work.
One Voice (Earth)
@What Is This - I can't tell if you are being sarcastic or not. Assuming you aren't, then you make a very strong case against capitalism as an organizational principle for a society. Cruelty, inequality, and deprivation shouldn't be aspirations for our nation.
What Is This (Gotham)
@One Voice Capitalism isn't for the weak and those of us who aren't up to fully compete, myself included, don't get to hobble those who are.
I have more kids then you Nick. Why is the emphasis on pre-K versus programs that would help prior to that age? Isn’t the brain developed 80% by the age of 3? https://www.firstthingsfirst.org/early-childhood-matters/brain-development/ Why do you think there are so much returns in that one year between K and Pre-K?
Michael Livingston’s (Cheltenham PA)
The Democratic Strategy is fascinating: demand unprecedented and radical change and—when people object—accuse them of fomenting a “culture war.” The Republicans are just doing their job.
Scott Cole (Talent, Oregon)
The Republican strategy is simple: Don’t change anything. They accomplish this by pandering to two groups: wealthy whites who are doing just fine (“Change? But everything is fine the way it is!”), and everyone else who can be scared into opposing it (“Change? But that’s COMMUNISM!”).
James Mignola (NJ)
I am afraid that republicans no longer have any senses to come to. All they have is a hollow and heartless ideology and a bottomless hunger for power no matter what the cost.
Bruce Northwood (Salem, Oregon)
For al;l their talk of the right to life, at the moment of birth the Republicans and their supporters lose all interest. in that life.
Elhadji Amadou Johnson (Brooklyn)
The “Family Values “ cohort doesn’t believe in family to begin with. “Family Values” is nothing but marketing foil for the Conservatives.
Eric Carey (Arlington, VA)
Affordable childcare- No! Affordable health insurance- No! Affordable higher education- No! Affordable medical care- No! Affordable drug pricing- No! Infrastructure jobs- No! Clean energy jobs- No! Eldercare- No! Mass transit- No! Unemployment insurance- No! Pandemic relief- No! Trillions for millionaires and billionaires- Yes!
What Is This (Gotham)
Those trillions in tax cuts let them keep their money. The rest is funded by confiscating other people’s money. That’s the essential difference.
JMK (Tokyo)
What Is This: I wish I could have kept all the money I’ve paid in taxes (which as you would say was confiscated) that went to the military (make-work jobs program and pork barrel corporate welfare bonanza), fossil fuel subsidies, agricultural subsidies, etc.
What Is This (Gotham)
@JMK Agreed. We never should have ended the draft. Those E-4s who the DoD entices to re-enlist with pay & benefits equivalent to $50k could be kept single for just a $25 stipend.
Janis (Democrat, Wisconsin)
Republicans always say they are "Pro-life" in actuality they are "Pro-birth" and "abandon mothers" with no support to raise or nurture a child. Democrats are "Pro-Family" from cradle to grave to help all generations.
Alberto Abrizzi (Bay Area)
Don’t confuse pro-family with government empowerment. Conservative are pro-family (perhaps more pro-family based on its positions) but rely more on family than government. Voters have BLM’s attack on the nuclear family on their minds. How about spending a trillion on education so all kids have a shot at a healthy, productive life?
Quinn (Massachusetts)
The USA could learn much from European countries regarding family and child issues.
Tomb (Ohio)
What ever happened to the 3 months school and one month off idea?
Paul (Canada)
I stayed home and put my career on hold to raise my two children. I often thought that a "universal housecleaning program" is something I could definitely get enthusiastic about.
Peter Gadzinski (Omaha)
I couldn't agree more and have been indulging in a personal jeremiad about this for years now. We talk big talk about the importance of the family but fail to follow through. While swooning over the rights of the unborn, we ignore the plight of the already born. Some such as Oklahoma (!) have apparently realized that you either pay now or pay later.
sdw (Cleveland)
In a nation with something resembling a normal political climate, quality day care for children would be embraced by everyone. Today's Republican Party, however, has become so detached from reality that daycare and the importance of family have become calls to battle. It is a very sad time in our history.
JAB (Bayport.NY)
The Republican Party is and has been the party of Big Business. It uses cultural issues especially in the South to confuse the voters. It opposes an increase in the minimum wage, a national health plan, environmental regulations. It opposed the adoption of Social Security and Medicare. It also is the party of denying climate change caused by fossil fuel. Is it surprising that it opposes pre school education? Trump ran as a populist but delivered nothing. The only major legislation was Ryan and McConnell's tax law which benefited the rich and the corporations.
Sullmeister (Cincinnati, Ohio)
I think the research on the value of high-quality pre-K is convincing. And the research on the value of universal child care is not. Given Mr Kristof's own concerns about adequate funding of K-12 education, are we really sure we want to leave pre-K provision to the same educational systems that provide K-12?
Djt (Norcal)
Low wages drive the need for more than one income. Lack of safety net for caregivers means both parents need an active work history in case of divorce or other mishap. GOP could reduce need for childcare by addressing both of these. Fat chance.
What Is This (Gotham)
Or, perhaps those with low wages who cannot afford childcare shouldn’t have them. Wouldn’t that not only be the responsible thing to do but would eliminate the issue? My job doesn’t pay enough to afford a family and the demands on my time do not allow for a hobby or social life much less a family. No jobs else should have to provide me with one.
Djt (Norcal)
@What Is This Yes, when a person gets a job, they are guaranteed to always make that wage or higher, that they will have no medical problems, that no natural disaster will befall them, that they will weather all financial crises unaffected, that their birth control will always work, and that abortions will be available. Weird that the GOP is driving the need for child care. Right?
What Is This (Gotham)
@Djt No, things happen. But they aren't your employer's or your neighbors' problem.
Brenda Bacon (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
There are 2 things that I don't understand about Americans. First is the phobia about anything resembling socialism ("it'll lead to socialism or worse! Communism!" ). How did that arise? And why is it still such a huge fear? The second is how so many, presumably intelligent and educated, people can ignore all of the research around issues that affect the population? Chris Wildman cited the research around early childhood education - that is well-known. How can so many people ignore facts?
Dr B (San Diego)
@Brenda Bacon 1. Because in all instances socialism (where the government owns and controls all products and services) has impoverished the people and falsely indoctrinated their population. 2. Because the conclusions of any social study are not objective but based on the pre-existing political bias of the authors.
claudia (mesa az)
@Brenda Bacon The very wealthy have spent decades cutting taxes and taking money from public schools. There is a huge lack of critical thinking, and the media has instilled the culture of fear of the other. So you will have a guy with no teeth saying he would rather suffer than have "those people" get to see a dentist (socialism to them). Reaganism and the "welfare queen" , along with Citizen's United, have done the damage.
@Brenda Bacon In regards to the socialism thing - I agree especially in light of how much the government was involved in so many aspects of our lives. COVID is prime example. Talk radio might have role in this. Early childhood education may have a lot of well known research. Real life experience might not jive with the research and so be careful there.
Me (Miami)
Your children are not the governments responsibility, if you don’t have the means to care for them, you shouldn’t have them, it really is just that simple. We waited seven years after our original timeframe to have a child because we wanted financial stability, that comes before the emotional decision to have one, Americans just don’t think. it’s not the governments fault.  it’s also not the governments fault that you don’t have a helicopter, can’t afford a home etc. etc.
Dr. Zucker-Conde (Medford, Ma.)
@Me Really? No safety net at all? No healthcare? No use of public education, no public or private childcare? You don't have to use childcare, just like you don't have to drive on the freeway, but aren't you glad it's there for those they do?
Kevin Skiles (Salem, Oregon)
Just think. Some people in other countries don't have to wait seven years to have children, and they're doing just fine.
Norma Gauster (ngauster)
@Me. You say Americans don’t think. You are so right. Why else would so many believe QAnon garbage? Why should those, like Pence and many Republicans in Congress, tell us not to believe what our eyes and ears informed us on the storming of the Capitol? It was a love fest between the police and the stormers, say some in Congress. The five that died were colateral casualties. There was fraud cry many, without presenting a shred of evidence. They failed to find bamboo in Arizona! But keep on looking! Are you being a bit judgmental? Not everyone has your maturity in dealing with the urges Ma Nature endowed us with. She isjust interested in survival of the species, not the nitty-gritty that follows. We live in a society. Therefore, we have to consider the situation of others. Why should I pay high insurance rates if you or yours are reckless? I have never had a ticket in the more than 40 yrs of driving? Because we gain some, we lose some in a society.
Asante (Eugene, OR)
Children? They don’t count in America, especially if you are a Republican. Children? They don’t vote. They don’t have jobs. They don’t run large organizations. They don’t have large sums of money. They don’t have thousands of lobbyists who advocate for them. They cannot afford to buy the politician’s interest, concern or support. So why do anything for children?
Pedigrees (SW Ohio)
@Asante Well, to be fair, those of us who have jobs don't count in the minds of Republicans either. Unless those "jobs" pay millions annually.
Gail (Fl)
There is a huge difference between Pre-K and day care. Pre-K is created for the benefit of the child. Day care is for the benefit of adults & corporations. Start with universal Pre-K and expanding parental leave programs.
David (Florida)
While I think universal childcare is desirable for a number of reasons, it should not be a way of letting negligent parents off the hook for not supporting their children. E.g. the father that won’t pay child support so mother can’t afford childcare, or mother who prefers being crazy and incapable of caring for children because she thinks the psychiatric medication she is supposed to take makes her fat ( which it might, but also makes her not crazy), etc. This should be done to help the parents who do try, not be a way to pawn responsibility off on others. Also it should obviously then not be necessary to provide monetary support to a single mother for watching her own children as opposed to getting a job. Hopefully if this does happen we will not be met with the normal issue of us being told things such as....Now the parents can’t find jobs or don’t want to do those they are qualified for, or we can’t hire Americans to watch the children because they want too much money so we need to import labor like with nurses or home care workers, or now we have too many college graduates (20 years later) and not enough jobs for them and are just devaluing a college education even farther ( though I imagine in 20 years it will either have to gain significant value or no one will pay the ridiculous price tag), etc.
NB (Maine)
This article is terrific! Though it misses one truth. Decades ago when I had my children, I was lucky enough to be able to stay at home because one income could support a family. It may still be true for 1% of the American population. But for most of us, it takes two incomes to afford housing, medical care, transportation, food and just a little bit of fun. So withholding affordable daycare is just another way for Republicans to eliminate a functioning middle class.
Tintern (Washington, DC)
Based on the comments I'm reading, Mr. Kristof is indeed correct that child care is the new cold war. Charlie Shepherd, the Idaho representative who said that day care “makes it easier or more convenient for mothers to come out of the home and let others raise their child” is what animates much of the animus in my opinion. Conservatives love to control women - their time and their bodies. Conservatives don't want women to be able to shape their futures. Conservatives won't acknowledge that if we want women to be able to support themselves in old age they need to have participated in the economy. Yet, these very same conservatives will expect women to take care of them when they are aging/dying. Don't fall for it women. Vote on this issue and other issues that are of critical importance to women!
TLMischler (Muskegon, MI)
Republicans hated FDR's New Deal. They hated LBJ's Great Society programs. They've rallied for over a decade against the ACA. And you know what Democrats did? They passed all those programs anyway - and we have been far better off as a result. So as much as I adore bipartisanship, with major issues like these it's a lost cause. Sometimes I think if Republicans had their way they'd privatize everything from schools to aircraft carriers. No matter how much evidence they are shown, they remain adamant that we can't do that because "it'll lead to socialism or worse! Communism!" And besides, it's "just plain wrong!" And it's not just the Republicans in Congress. Millions of Americans have been convinced that it's "wrong" for the government to provide day care, no matter how many positive outcomes they are shown. Getting them to change their minds and vote for people who support these programs is the real challenge here. The Democrats have less than one year to pass major, meaningful legislation like this before they risk losing the House and perhaps the Senate as well, and we end up with another stalemate between the president & Congress. It is time to "go all FDR" on the Republicans and get these major policies passed and working for the American people. Like they did with Social Security, Medicare, public schools, etc., they'll love the programs once they're in place. But first Democrats have to use their majority to get it done. Republicans won't be on board.
Nicholas Kristof (New York)
@TLMischler I take your point, but in any case the only road to passage goes through outreach to Republicans, and that's why Biden is engaged in this. It's not that he's naive about bipartisanship. It's that he doesn't have the votes. He can't overcome a filibuster, and Democrats won't eliminate the filibuster. So the only hope for legislation like this is to try to persuade Republicans -- and then, presuming that fails, win senators like Manchin over for passage through reconciliation or, perhaps, eventually, to limit the filibuster.
Lefthalfbach (Philadelphia)
@TLMischler In the 60s- the 60s- Republicans were still running against Social Security as being Socialistic. And in 2005, Bush Junior wanted to privatize it.
Sajwert (NH)
@Nicholas Kristof Biden can outreach until the sun falls from the sky, and the GOP congress will find excuses and ways to not accept his offer. Democrats need to get done as quickly as possible what must be done before the 2022 elections just in case the GOP wins both houses. Republicans are the party of "no" to every Democrat effort to better serve America. What is worse, many of those GOP voters would benefit and will accept the help the Democrats offer while still railing against it.
RHR (Europe)
'This is sad because the G.O.P. is right to hail the importance of family.' Lets not kid ourselves, the Republican party have been 'hailing the importance of family' for as long as I can remember and yet in all those years they have done very little and in many cases, as Mr. Kristof so comprehensively points out, Republican politicians have been actively opposing measures that would greatly alleviate the burden on working parents. All the various reasons given for doing this are as obviously false as they are laughable. We need universal day care through out the country and we need it now. We are already decades behind all other Western industrialized nations, even Bulgaria for goodness sake!
GTM (Austin TX)
The GOP stance is directly related to stopping every possible improvement in US citizen's lives if they are a result of policies enacted by a Democrat. Should the citizens at large benefit, they may come to realize which political party is working in their best interests as opposed to the uber-wealthy donor class's interest.
Pedigrees (SW Ohio)
@GTM Let's be fair. They don't want any improvement in US citizens' lives no matter who enacts the policies. Wouldn't be business friendly, you know. Cheap labor is the goal and keeping citizens poor and desperate is the plan.
MattNg (NY, NY)
Someone should compile a book of all the dire, fatal, existential threats Republicans have been citing since the early 1900s whenever there's any type of introduced laws that actually help people and our society. Remarkably, none of them seem to have come true! But why let reality get in the way of things?
Rena (Midwest)
Do the Republicans realize that one of the reasons day care is needed in the U.S. is the wage stagnation over the past 45+ years? GOP policies and legislation have helped to funnel wealth to those who are already wealthy via tax policy and legislation and have also helped to keep wages down for the ordinary worker by disadvantaging strong unions via right-to-work legislation. The differences between GOP rhetoric and action expose the overriding hypocrisy of the Party.
Barbara (Leland nc)
So in a world where the candidates for mayor of New York were not able to "guess" the cost of buying a home in Brooklyn, you expect politicians to understand the cost of child care? Hah. Seriously though, the Republicans want to force the child to be born by ridding women of their choices (birth control or termination). Why? In their world (which is mired in the 50s) women stay at home maybe? Who else will do their plebeian work? Where I lived in Maine, it cost 25,000 a year per child in day care. You can't have it both ways Politicians. You need to shut up about socialism and speak to practical ways to ensure women and men can work and get good cost effective child care. Or else open up the borders so there are sufficient workers to do the jobs the parents leave to take care of kids.
Orion Clemens (CS)
Mr. Kristof, your excellent reasoning is all for naught. No Trumpist (there are no more Republicans) will consider the facts you've presented, and the vast majority of Democrats already agree with you. But why would Trumpists pick this hill to die on? That's easy. A disproportionate number of people of color are poor. They are among the groups who need help with childcare the most. And recall the Trump voter interviewed in this very paper a few years back, noting her frustration with Trump early on in his tenure. She said, "He's not hurting the people he's supposed to be hurting." Those of us who are people of color or ethnic minorities understand exactly what Trumpists mean here. No number of facts will ever convince them to discard their racism, their bigotry, their xenophobia. And why not? Because bigotry and white nationalism are much more important to them than the welfare of all of us as a nation. In fact, Trumpist leaders in state houses and in Congress are cementing their permanent leadership in this country both statewide and nationally, although by every measure they are the minority of our citizens. Hatred and white power. Having leaders who tell them that they are the only "real Americans" and that the rest of us should accept the scraps of second-class citizenship. This is all that motivates Trump voters. This is all they've ever wanted. And Trumpists will gladly see their own children starve to keep their leaders in power.
Asante (Eugene, OR)
Excellent summary of the stark naked contradiction necessary to maintain white, male supremacy in a society that has never been majority white and make. Never. It has been unjust exploitation and ruthless oppression that has protected this unearned advantage. It is changing and the most threatened character in America is the one who has benefited from injustice. And many people still wonder why white males are so afraid of everyone else.
Tobi (Oregon)
Didn't the pandemic just teach us that schools are as much about daycare allowing women to hold jobs as they are about academics?
Liber (NY)
@Nicholas Kristofferson: A grand column.The Republican Party professed family unity,let us see their commitment.
JC (Midwest)
Three words...universal basic income.
James Ricciardi (Panama, Panama)
You sound so understanding about children who are raised with serious deficiencies at home. Then you state that we have to talk about problems in all kinds of families, implying that these problems are more prevalent in certain types of homes. Well, let me suggest that you read The Body Keeps The Score. After reading it I believe you will be surprised to learn that almost 25% of all children raised in the US have suffered physical or sexual abuse at the hands of their parents or other care givers. This is truly an equal opportunity problem which is so prevalent society cannot admit.
Gambel's Quail (Out West)
Day care and pre-K are only part of the problem with the disintegrating U.S. education system. Science and math have entered the realm of politics in America, our teachers are paid and compensated so poorly it's a disgrace, and large swaths of the country see no real value in education beyond the basics.
swbv (CT)
Marsha Blackburn, really! I think if you have grown up privileged, you never lose that perspective. And, to be fair, protecting the privileged from the ravages of income taxes has been the go-to marching song for the GOP since Reagan.
Philip Brown (Australia)
Educated, intelligent people tend to be activist. To the Republicans, an activist workforce is the precursor to Armageddon. Poorly educated people are also easier to manipulate, as a means of retaining power.
Frances Grimble (San Francisco)
So, why not deal with the parents directly, and cure their substance abuse issues, their domestic violence tendencies, and their lack of jobs that pay a living wage? Those don't just affect their children.
There is something truely sinister about a society that requires 2 adult wage earners to properly provide for a family but doesn't give a stuff about what happens to their children when the parents are on the job earning those wages. Also printed in this morning's paper was the heartbreaking story about an 8 year old in Ohio who committed suicide by hanging himself from his bunk bed after being bullied in his own primary school by other students surrounded by 31 security cameras. The staff clearly knew what was going on. Bullying is still an issue in American schools, seriously? There must be some kind of pact between America's privatised corporate incarceration industry and the need for this bully-fed pipeline. More guns in circulation than people, the stark unspoken truth that the majority of gun owners ARE bullies, and the derth of affordable mental health services are a combustible trifecta in a dumpster that gets lit too frequently and routinely explodes on these front pages. Still nothing happens. A good place to start would be to make mental health services free. This society is sick. Day care? Primary school is not safe while the parents are working. This is no place to raise children.
Kas (Columbus, OH)
Amen to all of this. The blinders people have on about the issue of subsidized daycare/preK is insane. It's like no one ever thinks about how many, many gov't programs/perks are only enjoyed by a few. Farm subsidies, libraries, national parks - that's just what came to mind. There are tons more. So why is it so bad to provide a perk "only" (and I say "only" in quotation marks because it's a huge percentage of people) people with kids can enjoy?
EB (Seattle)
The data on the clear benefits of universal pre-K are irrelevant to the Republicans. Their opposition is driven by a right wing Christian belief that a woman's place is in the home, taking care of her multiple children. I suspect that most of the congressional Republicans mentioned in the article have nannies to help take care of their kids, or sent their kids to exclusive pre-Ks. They are catering to their Evangelical Christian base by adopting foolish positions like this. The rest of us pay the price for their kowtowing.
Martin (Hagar. Reno, NV)
Thanks EB. Our supposed representatives are sending their kids to the finest schools from Pre-K through graduate school. Have them try to spend a year in the shoes of my daughter and her husband. They are trying to make a living in an expensive city working for maybe $15 per hour with two children. They can’t even think of having a pre-K education for those kids without some help but the Evangelical deep thinkers believe mom should stay home and dad can work. If they tried that for a month they’d be evicted from the over priced one bedroom apartment they share. When our Federal Representatives go back home to visit “their people” these young adults are forgotten about they go back to DC with stories of how much their tax cuts are helping their constituencies.
Jerry's Dad (New Haven, CT)
Mr. Kristof, you're preaching to the previously converted on the subject of Mr. Biden's American Families Plan. Now if only our Congressional GOP officials spent as much time working with him on perfecting this plan. Instead, they're filibustering (or just plain criticizing) everything constructive he and the Ds come up with. Once again, though, it's all about that "divide and conquer" strategy the Rs seem to wallow in. The reference to the old Soviet Union, and "lefty social engineering", may just stir up enough of the older GOP base, you see. They'll fret about the young whippersnappers getting all the gravy again, and voila!, more votes are drummed up for Mr. Hawley (and his ilk). But you already knew that, Mr. Kristof. Remember to the GOP, providing for working families, and thereby helping them, is just not in their DNA. So of course they're going to prattle on about the AFP. There's enough intelligent folks out there, though, who can think through the chatter. That's the reason why President Biden's agenda is still polling so well these days. It's because the AFP is something that is really needed for American families. People get that. It'll help the kids AND their parents. The GOP doesn't like that because the money will come from a revised tax code. The ultra-rich will help to fund it. So let's not fret about the GOP not supporting the AFP. Instead, let's just push the Democrats to move on it without them. That's the better use of our time.
FNP (PDX, Oregon)
The Republican Party is the party of oppression, shaming, blaming and stigmatization of anyone who steps out of their gender, class or race role. They are driven by greed, power and the desire to suppress. They care nothing about the well being of the individual, culture, country or democracy. They have more in common with Mother Russia than they do with the average American. So expecting them to support progressive and humane practices/polices is a waste of time. Let’s just do it and leave them in the dark ages where they are thriving.
Jim (Seattle, WA)
The only goal anymore of Republicans in Congress is to do as much damage as possible to things that matters to liberals. There are enough people that are happy with this single focus on owning the libs to keep Democrats from governing. Hate to say this, but this country is going down the drain. Joe Biden is only temporary relief, but as of 2022 it’s over. Government shutdowns, denial of judge appointments, …
Republicans are pro life only before the child comes into this world and needs to be fed, cloth and taken care of. Once the baby is born, their pro life policy and religious beliefs disappears into thin air. They could care less if children are hungry or lack proper care.
Kj (Seattle)
Republicans don't care about kids. They certainly don't care about women. They care about power and control and will do anything to maintain both. As a working mom, I love my kid and needs to work. As a child therapist, I see the enormous pressure families are under and how it impacts kids. For republicans, this is just a wedge issue in the culture wars. They don't care. I doubt they ever did. It is time to end this abusive marriage American has with the Republican party. But some Americans have broken pickers and just keep going back to their abusers.
Matt Mullen (Minneapolis)
Right wing media has convinced about 43% of the country that Democrats are evil and want to destroy the country and control every aspect of your lives. (I hear this constantly on talk radio, which I feel oddly compelled to monitor.) And as a result Senators of red states have no choice but to play along. And I'm sure they hate doing it. Nearly everything that ails this country starts with right wing media.
Times Warner sold the exclusive rights to broadcast CNN in Australia to Rupert Murdoch's Foxtel Cable News Network. Murdoch is not content to just destroy America, he's on a world wide mission to make billions pandering to right wing ignorance and Times Warner is enabling him. Before the end of April 2021, any Australian Cable provider could contract to broadcast CNN. Australians who refuse to support Murdoch are now shut out of CNN. We never imagined that CNN would be in a exclusive relationship with Fox News. If you subscribe to Foxtel, you're paying for Fox News whether you want it or not. That is how Fox News survives. The NYT Australia bureau needs to cover this.
gregolio (Michigan)
When I see Congress's stalemate, I find it mesmerizing young voters firmly believe "problems can be solved through dialogue" and corporations must "be held accountable". It's just so distant from these angry far-right, ethno Boomer men who push: 1/turbo-capitalism. Their parents helped end a global war against fascism. Capitalism and our economy went global. A small group of us got VERY VERY rich. A large group of us grew poorer. Then American on American hate started going up. The good news: as a government legislatively committed to stopping racism and violence, we now know what kind of leaders will make those thing get worse or better. 2/widespread divorce. We stand witness to these multi-married men walking out on democracy the way they walked out on their wive sand mistresses. Jesus had some salty things to say about that. I imagine power can do that to you. The take away: there's a reason younger generations have far fewer abortions, fewer serial one-offs and are less impulsive to marry.
Socrates (Downtown Verona, NJ)
Early childhood programs tend to produce smarter adults. Republicans prefer less educated adults. The Republicans would run out customers if America’s citizens were too bright.
Council (Kansas)
The Republicans need a group of poor people who they can exploit so businesses can pay poorly and keep their employees in line. Anything that tries to change that fact is wrong in their eyes. It is simply a matter of greed.
Don (Chicago)
It's polite to throw a bone to Republican politicians, Nick, but it's a waste of time. They're too busy with their War on America. But otherwise, you're spot-on.
witm1991 (Chicago)
Perhaps if the words “Left” and “Conservative” could disappear from everything in connection with what is good for children and their parents, the Radical Republicans might just become human beings. It has been difficult to recognize Republicans as humans as they struggle to deny health care, pre-school, and free community college to anyone who cannot “afford” it. It was obvious that Trump did not care if the persons he was sworn to protect died of Covid; now his followers are in step to keep the country from recovering.
gregolio (Michigan)
Ironically my brown in laws enjoy both free childcare and in home elder care unlike my white siblings and their families. Grandma and grandpa are right nearby to help raise the kids. In turn the family puts the needs of said elders at the top of the priority list. "Free" childcare in part thanks to INS policies that often favor white immigrants.
Bicoastaleer on the Wabash (West Lafayette, IN)
As a former "Vatican Two" Roman Catholic who attended R.C. grammar school, an R.C. university for an undergraduate degree, and taught in a Catholic high school, I am done! I'm disgusted with the hypocrisy of the self-described "pro-life" Christian Catholics and Protestant Evangelicals riding their anti-abortion one horse pony. While abortion was a reality in Jesus's time during the Roman Empire, the procedure in many forms was available for centuries. Yet Jesus's narratives never make mention of them. But Jesus's stated directives in the Beatitudes are forgotten/unobserved by the "American Christian Cult of Anti-Abortion" while wring their hands (with little other actions) about the multitude of fellow citizens who are hungry, too-easily imprisoned, homeless, or just different (like Jesus was from his fellow citizens). As the character Frederick stated in the movie, "Hannah and Her Sisters", 'If Jesus came back and saw what was going on in his name, he'd throw up!'
Fred (Colo Mtns)
This kind of opposition and rhetoric isn't surprising anymore is it?
Nicholas Halfinger (2021, January)
It’s time we stopped trying to use facts and logic to change Republican minds, and recognize that the Republican Party is an authoritarian cult. The cruelty is the point.
Jim S. (Cleveland)
Is affordable day care, with regulations either by government or insurance companies, practical in small town and rural, i.e. Red, America? It's easy to imagine day care good day care operations where there are lots of children, but in places where young people are leaving and schools and hospitals closing for lack of business, setting up a day care center for a handful of kids makes little sense.
Paul Overby (Wolford, ND)
If conservative Oklahoma can provide a quality early childhood education program, then other states can, too. There is no need for continued federal expansion into education when states and localities are fully capable of providing for these needs for their citizens. States that do should eventually be the "winners" in competition to attract young families and liveable communities.
Reader (United States)
@Paul Overby Must our states compete? Why should someone have to move to another state to get decent services? Why should a child born in Oklahoma have better services than one born in Mississippi? Are we a united states or a divided states of America?
Paul Overby (Wolford, ND)
@Reader States are supposed to be the functional unit of government in this country, with the federal government doing things that states cannot do, i.e. provide for the national defense. Pre-K doesn't rise to the level of "constitutional rights." Education is supposed to be the domain of the states and local government.
Francois Wilhelm (Wenham Ma)
An important article. One remark however: a study quoted by Mr Kristof indicates that there is more success in attending college (18% more) for kids who attended kindergarten. This result could be also related to the background family these kids come from: possibly being originated in a more wealthy or cultured family could be the most important factor to have more chance to attend college than having attended kindergarten. Food for thought...
MED (Columbus, OH)
@Francois Wilhelm: The study involved children picked in a lottery system. It's possible that all the kids picked had better support systems at home, but it's unlikely. The point was that randomly chosen children, if provided pre-K, were more likely to attend college.
@Francois Wilhelm The program involved children who were chosen by lottery( at random) to attend preschool and they were compared to children whose parents applied for the program but were not accepted. This is essentially a randomized trial with a “treatment group” (pre-K) and a “no treatment group.” Any difference is most likely attributable to the intervention. This is the point of the article.
Erik (Westchester)
@Francois Wilhelm Journalists should be required to take Statistics 101. Currently its only purpose is to push their agenda.
F451 (Kissimmee, FL)
High quality, how is that achieved in a government run system? Is there any specific plan on how to create this system? How is staffing determined? Who's in charge? Who's responsible? As usual what we get is a 'vision' and a "we'll figure it out", just give us the money. Show me how it will work, this is called a business plan and education should be a priority business in this country. I should say that I am for universal child care, early childhood education and summer programs.
alyosha (wv)
It is a paradox that this program, excellent in all respects, is urgently needed at a time when public policy should be discouraging the birth of children. To engage the warming crisis, we need to turn the population growth rate negative, the more so the better. That means that instead of subsidiizing the production of children, we should penalize it. Instead of incentives to do it, we need incentives not to do it. A significant tax on births is an obvious method. It is important however, to divide the issue of family policy into two parts: (1) the discouraging of births; (b) encouraging the development of the children who actually are born. A useful symbol of such a program in action would be a stiff tax on births, with the proceeds used for childcare.
Diogenes (Naples Florida)
The only variable that counts in primary education is the parents. Children with two parents who care about their schooling do well. Children with one parent who cares about their schooling may do well, but all to often does not. Children without a parent who cares about their schooling do terribly. Nothing else makes a difference. "Head Start" spent billions of dollars; the only result was a rich life style for the head of Head Start, Marion Edelman. Wash., DC public schools spend more per student than any other school district in the country, with terrible results. Every educator knows this because every educator sees this. Day care may be helpful to working mothers, but only involved parents change the quality of their children's schooling.
Caesius (LINY)
@Diogenes And while that can be empirically correct, it can also be shown...to NOT be the whole story. That there is plenty of data that shows mentors (teachers, coaches, older students, religious and social workers, etc) can and do have huge impacts on students success. Its a fact. And its inescapable. Its a cliche, but it does take a village, or at least a close to the student community. Simply tossing out, "its ultimately the parents job" provides nothing serious, to a very serious discussion. Its like saying, "its the street sweepers job, so lets toss our trash here." You provide nothing important to the conversation, hinting at the usual right wing POV, that nothing new and/or different should be tried to impact student success rates. "Nope, make the parents get involved!" Schools have a responsibility. Teachers and everyone in those institutions have a role to play. Even the kindly custodian can impact a students chances for success. Local tax payers contributing to the school funding, have a responsibility. Many parents never succeeded at school, and as such see no worth. Many cant find the minutes, between multiple jobs, or long commutes to be involved. And at home (something we cant measure) could be serious about their child's education, but the stresses there overwhelm them both! My middle class, white parents, only made sure I did my homework/projects and kept up. After that, no involvement. Zilch! But I've done very well. We should always be trying.
Deanna (NY)
@Diogenes There is research that supports exactly what you are saying. Instead, people like to blame the school systems and “bad” teachers. It’s easier and politically safer to do that. I’d also like to add that “involved” parents also need to be good parents: loving, dependable, helpful, and firm (set boundaries).
RHR (Europe)
@Diogenes The failure of the two examples that you give does not really reflect on the viability of universal day care in general which is successfully implemented in many different forms in countries all over the world.
Duffy (Rockville Maryland)
"Democrats sometimes are too reluctant to acknowledge the toll of dysfunctional families, for fear of blaming the poor for their poverty," What? This is news to me. It would seem that it is only Democratic politicians who propose solutions that might help dysfunctional families; i.e. domestic abuse shelters, social workers, more funding for mental health, drug addiction programs, and of course competent reliable day care. Which party seeks to relieve some of the stress that may cause families to be dysfunctional or exacerbate that dysfunction. Are some families poor because they are dysfunctional or does poverty create dysfunctional families? He cites no evidence to back up his odd and gratuitous claim. More both sides-ism. This statement seems to be a continuation of Mr. Kristof's belief that east coast elites don't care about all the kids he rode the school bus with. I am sorry about them. Maybe they would have benefited from affordable health care and medication, and free community college.
David (Florida)
@Duffy Perhaps the statement refers more to things such as the alleged developed generational dependency on social support services like welfare etc. And the lack of acknowledgment that these issues are at least partially encouraged or sustained by Democratic Party policies.
Leon (Florida)
The GOP is not about families or children or the well being of the citizens, is about control. Control the womb and control the women. It's a very simple strategy. Fewer children means a reduced work force in a society that is aging. Maybe once the Koch Family and others like them realize that fewer children eventually leads to fewer customers, less people buying houses and cars and asking for loans that they will tell their lobbyists to instruct their Congresspeople, Senators and Governors to make a 180 in their policies. But not before.
David (Florida)
@Leon Fewer children and a reduced work force also means higher wages for those working and more people paying taxes (up to a certain point), also means more discretionary spending on things like new cars, houses, etc. Also no need to worry about reducing the already oversupplied work force as long as we keep just letting more illegal immigrants work by not enforcing the federal ID checks on workers and companies hiring illegal immigrants. And for those stating that “then no one will do those jobs done by illegal workers”, you are often the same people saying we ( and rightly so) need to raise the minimum wage because no one wants to work 40 hrs a week to not even be able to pay rent, Americans will do the work happily when it pays enough and the only thing preventing it from paying enough is excess untaxed labor (e.g. illegal immigrant workers). So we should actually concentrate on eliminating illegal workers if anything.
Kevin Skiles (Salem, Oregon)
Won't happen as long as major employers face meaningllesd fines and consequences.
Janet (Key West)
If we are to learn anything from the 1619 Project, look to the issue of racism when their is an unmet public need. Just as the Project spoke to the racial issue in the on going lack of universal healthcare, I suggest examining the impact of racism preventing good, available, childcare. Remember when the Civil rights Act in the 1960’s made discrimination in public places, illegal, public swimming pools were filled in and grass planted. The pool in Montgomery, Alabama is a classic example. So an analogous situation exists with childcare just as the 1619 Project delineated with healthcare. If people of color get the same services as whites, there will be no service at all.
LQ (Amherst, MA)
Thank you, Mr. Kristof, for framing quality, affordable childcare as a top priority for all US residents of any age or family structure and, thus, diminishing the false dichotomy between so-called working mothers and stay at home mothers. The past year and a half has graphically proven who "works" when schools are closed and childcare is unavailable: mothers/women. Conservatives perpetuate rather than value the role of mothers by promoting the binary of stay-at-home v. working mothers. If they--primarily GOP white men-- really intended to make their ideological case for the value of stay at home mothers, they would pick up--literally--that burden of domestic work above and beyond childcare that mothers do in the home. But they don't. Within the parameters of this debate and policy, as it is typically framed, there are ONLY working mothers. Some have the financial, psychic, experiential ability to fulfill their multi-tasking work better than others, granted, but the burden largely falls on the unpaid--whether earning an income in addition or not--work of mothers. And what mother, juggling unpaid work in the home and/or also juggling paid work, would NOT benefit from the availability, if only for a few hours a week, of safe, affordable and well-supervised childcare? Until the work of mothers is recognized beyond lip service by so many men across the political spectrum, this radical disparity can at least be addressed by sharing that burden across the population.
LQ (Amherst, MA)
Thank you, Mr. Kristof, for framing quality, affordable childcare as a top priority for all US residents of any age or family structure and, thus, diminishing the false dichotomy between so-called working mothers and stay at home mothers. The past year and a half has graphically proven who "works" when schools are closed and childcare is unavailable: mothers/women. Conservatives perpetuate rather than value the role of mothers by promoting the binary of stay-at-home v. working mothers. If they--primarily GOP white men-- really intended to make their ideological case for the value of stay at home mothers, they would pick up--literally--that burden of domestic work above and beyond childcare that mothers do in the home. But they don't. Within the parameters of this debate and policy, as it is typically framed, there are ONLY working mothers. Some have the financial, psychic, experiential ability to fulfill their multi-tasking work better than others, granted, but the burden largely falls on the unpaid--whether earning an income in addition or not--work of mothers. And what mother, juggling unpaid work in the home and/or also juggling paid work, would NOT benefit from the availability, if only for a few hours a week, of safe, affordable and well-supervised childcare? Until the work of mothers is recognized beyond lip service by so many men across the political spectrum, this radical disparity can at least be addressed by sharing that burden across the population.
Josh (New York)
I think all the recent talk about public child care and pre-K is great and long overdue. What disappoints me, though, is that there's still a similar and almost completely overlooked problem for school age kids, which is the huge gap in the year: summer vacation. In particular, it's a problem because of how much longer school vacation is than the vacation most parents' jobs offer. I've read of some studies indicating that a lot of the income-based achievement gap develops over summer break, where families who can afford it provide enriching activities over the summer while others cannot. I wish some kind of publicly funded summer enrichment activities could become part of this movement.
ARL (New York)
@Josh Public summer enrichment is offered in most urban areas, for free, to low income via their parks&rec program. Usually in walking distance at a local park, plus free meals from the federal meal program. Weekly bus trip included as well as public pool time. In rural areas, the at-risk are in summer school - incudes transportation and meals. Your basic problem is that a large portion of at-risk students 'go home' for the summer - funding enrichment programs in other countries just isn't going to happen.
mosenblum (Illinois)
"Families desperately need help. In other countries, they get it. In the United States, they get empty homilies about the importance of family". America's children and their caretakers are being abandoned by the "Party of of Family Values", nothing especially new for Republican lawmakers. After Ronald Reagan had stated that "ketchup is a vegetable" when the issue of school lunches was being debated on the floor of congress, I knew that the jig was up and that the Republican Party could no longer pretend that it cared about the welfare of the nation's children and their families. When the richest country on the planet cannot be counted on to provide basic life-sustaining services for its citizens, instead, demeaning programs of this kind as socialistic giveaways (Medicare and Social Security exempt, of course!) the United States will go down in history as having been the cruelest of all modern-day developed nations. We can do better than that.
AKS (Illinois)
@mosenblum Social Security and Medicare are not exempt from the Republican charge of "socialistic giveaways." They are prime and perennial targets of Republican lawmakers, and have been since their establishment.
ARL (New York)
@AKS how would you feel if you were working poor? Your salary loses 1.45% to Medicare, and 6.2% to social security. You won't live long enough to use either. Your children need an education. You need food. The elderly gave themselves plenty of property tax exemptions so your portion of the tax went up to cover that (tax on average 6% of your income in NY). The school consequently only offers the minimum courses needed for graduation so your older high schoolers get to pick between a half day of study hall or work at min wage -- no vo-tech, no AP. Would you vote to give the elderly, who have enough assets to fund cruises and second homes, even more of your income that they currently get off the top of your paycheck?
Jess (New York)
This issue has been infuriating to me for at least 24 years since I was pregnant with my first child. The advantages my child would have were clear to me as she would be born to two gradate school educated parents and adequate attention, nutrition, enrichment programs etc would all be assured. And yet, even with all the privilege, I found working full-time challenging and would have loved high quality public pre-k, as well as after-school and summer options. Although, I had the luxury of being home, my second child could not wait to stay at pre-k when dropping off her older sister and started a morning program at 2 yrs. She is about to graduate with distinction from a prestigious university. Yes she worked hard, but the head-start from the prenatal vitamins, to pre-k etc were so obvious. It is unconscionable not to provide these advantages to children and enable parents to work without the constant stress of figuring out how to keep their children safe, healthy and learning. Mr. Kristof is surely right on the irrational use of resources. Another inefficiency that needs to be addressed is that girls and women are excelling in education and earning the majority of higher ed degrees: Wouldn't it make sense to enable that enormous investment of resources to be optimally deployed? It seems to me the childcare crisis leads to a tremendous waste of brain power. The great irony is that this disaster is brought to us by the fierce protectors of the eggs...
Jenny (CT)
@Jess - You letter suggests that you and your parenting partner had lots of planning, thought, ability, and resources to have the children you wish and to raise them as you think right. Perhaps it would be even more constructive to judge the rest of this nation's parenting with an eye on the more typical. If you ask the columnist to address "the irrational use of resources" - well, what does that mean? Our nation budgets according to the lobbyists who do not necessarily represent the parents and children among us. And what do you think the women with the "majority of higher ed degrees do"? What problems are you defining and what solutions do you propose? I ask this as someone working in early education and a frequent unpaid caretaker and as someone who votes and is seeking political leadership on this issue.
8theist (Vermont)
My wife and I thoughtfully chose not to have children. The environmental impact of having kids is enormous. So to promote programs that encourage that is short sided and anti environment. As a liberal, I am against my tax dollars funding day care programs. If you can’t afford to raise kid(s), don’t have them. It is not the governments job and my tax dollars, to subsidize your life style and poor decision making. We all can’t have everything we want in life and having kids should be no different.
Kevin Greene (Spokane, WA)
@8theist Your thoughtful, well-crafted and succinct comment is very refreshing to this happily childfree person. Thank you for writing it :)
Clare Cy (Upstate, NY)
I’m wondering who is going to be providing medical care for you and repairing your plumbing in your later years when most of the parents of your generation make either the “smart choice” not to have children, or you get your wish not to have to fund the development and education of those children who were a “bad choice” to have. It never ceases to amaze me that some child free individuals think that somehow the people they will need to supply the goods and services they will require when they and their peers retire will just somehow magically appear, with no effort or with no investment on their part in daycare, education, healthcare, etc. As far as not having kids if you can’t afford them, most people in current difficult financial straits had their kids when they could afford them, and subsequently lost their job. What would you recommend in those situations—perhaps parents sending their kids back? Oh, that’s right, children aren’t cars that can be repossessed when you can no longer make the monthly payment, are they?
ASPruyn (California - Somewhere left of center)
@8thiest - If life followed a predetermined pattern, your suggestions might work, but it doesn’t. Many people who had a child in good times face unexpected life difficulties, e.g., a stay-at-home mom whose sufficiently earning husband suddenly dies. All of a sudden, this stay-at-home mom needs childcare, in order for herself and child to survive, as she goes about looking for work and, hopefully, finds it. Or a woman who was abused by her husband and left with her children. Without good childcare, we are condemning the children in these situations to a poor life. My ex and I had one child, but, we waited until we were both in our thirties to have her and both of us were employed (me in programming and she as a teacher). We could afford to place our daughter into a high quality daycare, and then in an outstanding Montessori school when she turned three. We both could afford good life insurance and to save for the future, and send her to college. But, not all are that lucky. One last, little thing, if enough people in the U.S. went your route, we would all be in worse shape when we retire, as the money for Medicare and Social Security will not be there in our retirement. A society that does not support its members is a failed society.
V N Rajan (Chennai)
After weighing all the factors, pro and con, impacting the institution of marriage and having children, in the United States of America, one of the richest countries in the world, I, for one, have come to the following unpalatable conclusions: (1) Anyone who has to work to make a living but cannot afford a babysitter or paid childcare should not beget any progeny at all. (2) By further extension, anyone who cannot later afford to pay for college tuition for their deserving kids do not deserve to have a family at all. By having children who later are condemned to limit their education to the high school level thanks mainly to the financial inadequacy of their parents ultimately, with rare exceptions, end up only as fodder for minimum wage jobs like in fast food restaurants and e-commerce fulfillment centers. In any case, children are not of much help when parents attain the senior citizen status. They are destined to spend their "golden" years invariably in old age/nursing/assisted living homes, living among strangers and looked after by strangers. Hence, people falling in this financial category would do well to avoid having a family and save enough to live comfortably in their old age, especially while living in a country which largely believes in the the motto "Each one for oneself and let the devil take the hind most!
Jenny (CT)
@V N Rajan - I hope you support your pro-choice candidates because almost half of pregnancies are unplanned. Birth control and sex education in the US are largely insufficient.
Deanna (NY)
@V N Rajan Well, the costs of college are outrageous. Most people I know have had to take out loans to attend. Are you suggesting all of those people should not have been born?! Only the wealthy should survive? And, by the way, we need people to work those minimum wage jobs you seem to despise. We need cleaners and servers and sanitation workers and clerks and cooks, etc.
America has chosen safety over well-being. We are willing to spend $2,700,000,000 per year for security features like surveillance cameras and door locks in schools and millions for SROs but "can't afford" to provide adequate counselors, mental health services, and nurses for schools? We're willing to publicize the fights to secure "Swiss army knives" (aka AK-47s) for every citizen but unwilling to highlight the ongoing fights for the provision of services for every child in our country. When politicians are as responsive to the advocates for the well-being of children as they are to the NRA we'll begin making progress in areas like child care.
Judgeboyajian10 (Fishkill)
What I have noticed about today’s so called Republicans is they have in the past taken advantage of the very government financial programs and support opportunities that they now want to cut. Now that they’ve struck gold in Congress where even insider trading is legal and where they go in poor and come out fabulously wealthy they want to slam the door shut behind them keeping everyone else down in order to maintain their grip on power.
Viejo Soul (Long Island NY)
Mr. Kristof is absolutely right in calling out Republicans for their hypocrisy, it's what they do best. "Pro-family" has simply evolved into a campaign slogan or talking point for politicians to use when making the rounds. It used to have substance, it no longer does. As a pre-K instructor myself, who works daily with at-risk children below the poverty line... I can't begin to tell you what a difference it makes in the lives of these kids and their families. I have years of anecdotal experience that proves this case. There is no greater satisfaction that I get than when a former 3 yr old student of mine comes back to visit me and speaks of her various accomplishments and future dreams. Or when I receive a text from a parent thanking me for being so dedicated to their child's well-being (especially challenging this past year during the pandemic). Sadly, because our country hasn't placed a high enough value on this topic, the compensation for those working in the field of pre-K education doesn't come close to that of public school educators, but that's a subject for another time.
FNA (Providence, RI)
Mr. Kristof, please read the posts from Stephanie Wood and Dolores Deluxe. Please realize that old people matter just as much as children. Please advocate for elder care, too.
ChristineMcM (Massachusetts)
"We Americans like to think “We’re No. 1,” but one recent study found that the United States was the second worst out of 35 industrialized countries as a place for families. " The entire concept of American exceptionalism was turned on its head over the past 6 years. Data don't lie. Republican politicians would rather talk a good game on family issues than actualy play one. Sure, they love to "meddle" in female health, invading the privacy of medical decisions women should keep between themselves and their doctors, but when it comes to supporting their families, the GOP is AWOL. Why do they spend so much money defending the unborn only to abandon them when they become an expense? Thank you for all the data correlating school performance to early childhood interventions. Child care and early educational interventions are investments, not overhead.
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
If you think child care is bad, try elder care. In my town, there was one option for elder day care, which would have cost most of my income. They refused to take my mother. So I looked at another town. They kept her for 30 minutes, then dropped her at my office after she wept (imagine a PreK or day care dumping a crying child). I had to hire someone from an agency to come to the house; this cost more than my salary. The PreK across the street, which we subsidized with our taxes, was a fraction of the cost; the price was based on income, and it was cheaper for a millionaire to send their kid to the local PreK than it was for me to get care for my mother. I could have left my job and lost my healthcare, but I realized that one health emergency could cost a lot more than my total salary. And a nursing home / assisted living facility that would have drugged her up would have cost two or three times more than what I was earning. Thank goodness my mother had some savings, which a nursing home would have quickly depleted, so I hired a caregiver during the day while I worked, and then my second job was caring for my mother nights, weekends and holidays. And violent, crazy old people with dementia are much more difficult to manage than children, not to mention the fact that you will be caring for old people when you are getting old, too. Good luck.
Dolores Deluxe (balto md)
@Stephanie Wood Yes you are doing the right thing. Myself & my husband were able to keep my mom for her last years.-By working in shifts for as long as possible. But alzheimers prevents any regular schedules & we did manage to hire a nurse for the am hours as she had us up most of the night.Thankfully we were both freelance & my husband took no jobs during that time. When she died- we had no money left -she had no money left.But she never sat in her own mess or was ignored by her under paid staff at a "nursing home".
ARL (New York)
@Stephanie Wood If your mother isn't willing to pay for her own care with her own money, and you aren't willing to pay for her care, whose care are you willing to pay for? You mention that your taxes pay for PreK, but not that everyone pays into preK in proportion to their above the table salary and their housing cost. The free rides go to people who qualify for rent stabilized or sliding scale living and medical arrangements, people who work under the table, people who couch surf and people who violate housing laws (one family per bedroom, etc). Similar situation for elder expenses - almost everyone around you is paying in to Medicare and Social Security. What do you think older people should do with their savings and Social Security if not spend on their needs?
KAN (Newton, MA)
You're the one who needs to come to your senses if you think the Republicans will ever support pre-K or any other program for any children of any age. As you say, the initiatives would do for children and families what Social Security and Medicare did for the elderly. What do you think the GOP would do with those programs if it could? It certainly has tried hard to end them, and even free Medicaid expansion isn't accepted in many Republican states. Anything that shows that government can play a beneficial role must be opposed. It's not really about the first step to Communism. That's just a talking point. It's about rich people's money. It's all theirs, every penny of it, and they need it all. If people believed government could do good, inevitably rich people would pay a pittance more in taxes. No amount of benefit for the elderly, for families, or for children EVER justifies that for the GOP.
Pontifikate (San Francisco)
As someone who spent some time as a public-school teacher, I can tell you that Republicans pay lip service to children and the importance of education. Child care is one of the items in the infrastructure bill that Biden is fighting for because for working mothers and fathers, it IS infrastructure. Without an extended family nearby many working parents need child care to work. Universal quality childcare is important to our country's well being, but you wouldn't know it from anything Republicans have done. Talk is cheap.
Eitan (Israel)
Republicans may be the biggest hypocrites, but the problem is much bigger than that. Living in Israel for forty years, and having raised our family here, the difference became clear. The breakdown of unions and the exportation of manufacturing jobs, which had brought the US working class so many benefits and strengthened communities, was very destructive. The alternative - publicly funded day care, paid maternity/paternity leave and universal health care would have been essential to sustaining family and community, but over and over US voters reject them as too expensive. The breakdown of family is apparent throughout the lifecycle. Young adults chase the job market all over the US and leave their parents behind. Older adults eventually end up lonely in nursing homes, or if they are a bit luckier, in retirement "communities". Children grow up without the link to generations and outside the care of an extended family. You can raise a good family in America, but it takes a strong will to be different, and it helps to have a lot of money.
PinkFlyer (sacramento CA)
Understand that we as working parents are suffering. There is no possible way that we could economically make do with one parent working in our state of California. I would have loved to stay home when my children were babies, it is not an option. Those who think this way are not understanding the reality of life for us middle class parents. It has only become harder during the pandemic. Working from home WHILE providing support to your kids who are home? America does not support us working parents. SOCIALIZE CHILD CARE NOW, WE NEED HELP.
Elizabeth (New York)
@PinkFlyer Good news is that there are plenty of lower cost of living states that will welcome you. I’m not sure I agree with taxes going to subsidize the cost of living for parents who choose to live where everything is expensive. As a military family we’ve had to move a lot. It’s not fun but it’s not a big deal. In other parts of the country either the cost of living is low enough that you only need one income or the cost of child care will be affordable. We’re a military family and we’ve lived where a week of childcare only costs $100 for good quality. Nice houses in that same area could be had for less than $200k.
Laurie (California)
@Elizabeth The original poster lives in a lower cost area of California, but you obviously missed the point Elizabeth. It is impossible to own a home and support a family on one income. This isn't 1950 any more. Wages haven't kept pace with inflation and wealth has flowed to the 10%. The middle class has has shrunk over the past 30 years, and moving to States without infrastrure or the economy to support other than minimum wage jobs isn't a responsible suggestion.
Elizabeth (New York)
@Laurie Impossible? Um, my very middle class family is doing it right now. We even have a large family. I’ve always been a stay at home mom. It’s not easy and we have to be frugal with some things but it’s far, far from impossible.
Paul W (Uk)
Voting against ones self interest seems to be a theme. Presumably many voters who would benefit from universal child care, affordable healthcare, etc, also worry about having their guns taken away.
Elizabeth (New York)
I’m a mother of young children. Rather than taxpayer funded daycare and preschool I would like to see that money go directly to parents so they can choose what they believe is best for their child. As a stay at home mom it’s disheartening to think that ‘support for families’ will only come in the form of low or no cost care for my children. This leaves me either left out of the help equation all together or forces me to leave my disabled toddler with someone else while I spend my days sitting in an office or standing behind a cash register instead of cuddling her, reading books to her, and doing her physical therapy exercises with her. Even if I were to prefer to work outside the home the cost of her care, never mind the cost of care for my other children as well, would far exceed any taxes I would pay on my earnings and would almost certainly well exceeding the earnings themselves due to the need for my daughter to have a one to one aide.
Elizabeth (New York)
@Laurie Out of curiosity do you support restrictions on food stamp use that only allow for healthy foods, as determined by the government, to be purchased or do you support allowing citizens to choose how to spend the food dollars they receive as they see fit? The two are very similar. Some parents use their food stamps to buy junk food for their kids. Others use it to buy fresh produce and whole grains. If money was given to parents that could cover childcare or whatever the parents thought their child needs the same thing would happen but I believe in giving people the freedom to choose what they believe is best for their family rather than some government official deciding for them how their children will be raised.
Laurie (California)
@Elizabeth I'd like to think that parents can make responsible choices in daycare, and many do. Parents also avoid getting Covid vaccinations, so could you really trust that they wouldn't misuse the money if they can't be bothered to immunze themselves if only to protect their kids? Public education and public Pre-school would be taxpayer funded and the public has an vested interest to ensure the money is spent as the public envisions. That's why its public and not private.
adam s. (CA)
I have a phd. Did some a few hours a week of pre k. Today, my kids go to a private full time pre school. The kids are grade levels ahead of me when i was at their age. Universal pre-k is a right.
Adam (Vancouver)
Kristof doesn't seem to fully understand that there is no contradiction in their position. Republicans of this type are so regressive that they believe that women should stay home to take care of especially young children; hence, there is no need for such support. This stance is shared by groups such as many evangelical women.
KHL (Pfafftown, NC)
@Adam Their worldview is the narrowest of paths that not only ignores the plurality that is America, but leaves families balancing on a knife’s edge where one misstep means starving destitution or jail. Those who, by no fault of their own, fall off the path are left with nothing but to pray. There is little hope In the grinding poverty promised by Republicans, but plenty of victim blaming.
Sheila Wright (Denver)
We spent billions in Afghanistan to improve education (includIng education of females) and to improve government. But all the time the Taliban was not on board. Now we are leaving Afghanistan and the Taliban seems poised to undo all the gains we helped to make. Chaos seems to be the future there. So now we are going to invest billions in early childhood education in the US, but all the time the Republicans are not on board. They prefer to plunge us into chaos?
Tamza (No Cal)
Please get it right: we DID NOT spend billions IN Afghanistan. We spent billions IN THE USA on weapons and ‘contractors/ mercenaries’. What we ‘spent’ IN Afghanistan was paying the warlords [incl Karzai’s brother] money to assure safe passage. Mafia-like. A school built IN Afghanistan, with local funding might cost about $20k; with US funding perhaps $250/300k.
BostonGail (Boston)
Your last paragraph, Nicholas, says it all. It's not that the Republicans should come to their senses... it isn't at all about logic or sense. Republicans are oppositional. Full stop. If the Dems suggest it, even if it is pro-family, they will oppose it.
Science Friction (Boston)
Like Eisenhower's interstate highway system, universal pre-K is one of the most powerful and energizing things we could do. The interstate highways are so amazing because they are all designed to the same safety and efficiency standards, federal standards. Universal pre-K could also be built to a well designed, scientific standard, a federal standard. There is no reason a Little Rock child should receive a different pre-K than a Boston child. If you fear the state, then you are in the wrong country because here, the people are the government.
Lawyermom (Washington DC)
In a two-parent family in which one parent is a high wage earner and the other can provide full time child care, that may be the best for the children. But that makes too many assumptions about family structure and income. I do think that any offer of childcare should include subsidizing parents who choose to stay home instead of using a childcare facility.
Elizabeth (New York)
@Lawyermom As a stay at home mom I agree. When I read about this proposal I can’t help but think about how it makes it seem that my only value would be as a person who works at a job outside the home, that my work raising my children is someone not valuable when the work of someone employed at a childcare facility is.
Thomas Zaslavsky (Binghamton, N.Y.)
@Lawyermom We fund public education because it is good for the people and good for the country, not because every individual directly benefits. Biden has also proposed a child subsidy. Wouldn't that help? That should be made permanent.
Elizabeth (New York)
@Thomas Zaslavsky Public education does benefit everyone. An uneducated population is more likely to turn to crime to survive so education helps keep everyone safe. It also means there are people to do necessary jobs like nursing and teaching. Without public education the pool of workers for these jobs would only be from backgrounds where there was money for private education.
hen3ry (Westchester, NY)
There's one thing and one thing only that the GOP cares about nowadays: bowing and scraping to their richest supporters and donors. If THEY think it will affect their pocketbooks those donors tell the GOP members and the GOP members reverse their opinions in nanosecond. If the GOP thinks it will help "those" people (and those people include middle class Americans who do not donate to their campaigns) it's communism, socialism, feminism and every other ism they hate. What drives the GOP today is keeping the money where it belongs: in the pockets and investments of the richest members and corporations of the country. Children, the elderly, the handicapped, the chronically ill, and the rest of us don't count. I was latchkey kid. But unlike today's society where every one is ready to condemn parents for leaving their children alone there was help of a sort around. Our neighbors to whom I could go if anything bad occurred. Nowadays that doesn't exist because both parents have to work to ensure a reasonably decent standard of living. It's not greed to want to live in a nice neighborhood or where the schools are above average. It's not greed to want the best for your children. It is greed when you are sitting on a pile of money and use it to push for your economic class to receive tax breaks it doesn't need.
MaryKayKlassen (Mountain Lake, Minnesota)
Humans are sexual animals. However, bearing children just because of our nature, raising them into mature, emotionally well adjusted adults used to be the domain of the female, as they were the ones pregnant, nursing, nurturing until they went off to school. This was the norm for most married women, whose husbands didn't use condoms, and birth control wasn't available until the sixties, as females had a lot of children throughout human existence. The fact that children do the best, when they bond, learn from those who have both the skills, and the human interest to give them individual attention. Even a female who had one child right after the other, didn't have more than 5 children under the age of 5 to cope with. Those who work in daycare, and or early childhood programs usually between 10-15 pre school children, of the same age in a class, which makes for an atmosphere that isn't conducive to concentrated learning, as being individuals makes these young children want to be spontaneous, constantly, rather than structured, which is the way it should be. The best care for any child is to have the attention, discipline, of one constant care giver, whether the parent, or one other person. The last 3 decades, the academic interest, the ability to thrive has been falling across all races, genders, across the country from small towns to large ones, as divorce, and single female parents has become the norm. Maybe, females having fewer, or no children is the answer.
hen3ry (Westchester, NY)
@MaryKayKlassen, other countries manage this trick. This has nothing to do with our being sexual animals and everything to do with our national myths and our unwillingness to spend money to provide high quality daycare for all children regardless of family income. The problems is that both parents have to work now and that means there is no community care or responsibility for children. However, you are dreaming of the 1950s and 1960s when most white middle class families consisted of two parents, one of which went off to work while the other stayed home. We don't live that way any longer. Both parents have to work to provide for the family. Minimum wage jobs don't pay enough to cover the costs of supporting one person let alone a family. We have to stop expecting women to be caretakers of elderly parents, young children, and all manner of things if we're going to structure our economy and society so that they have to work. Furthermore, women lose out on social security and other things if they don't work and that hurts them in their old age. The best thing for this country would be a real social safety net for all rather than some of the population. Maybe we need to elect politicians who are not millionaires.
Frances Grimble (San Francisco)
@hen3ry There's really no reason why parents who *are* able to afford daycare should be subsidized. It should be means tested. The safety net will still be there for a family whose income decreases later on.
SandraH. (California)
@Frances Grimble, I disagree. I think universal pre-school should be an extension of public schooling, and as such available to all. I think the danger of making it need-based is that anything that smacks of welfare will be vulnerable to cuts down the road. The country had the same argument when Social Security was passed, and wisely chose to make it universal.
Alan Backman (New York)
Sure, I get the point about Pre-K helping poor kids have better lives. But this isn't Dems first time saying "This isn't spending. It's an investment." The poor get medical care through Medicaid (and now Obamacare) worth about $5k per person covered. Most get EITC capping out at about $3k. There's food stamps worth about $5k. Now Biden wants to add CTC worth about $3k per kid. And now Kristoff argues for free day care or pre-K. Where does it end ? I'm not saying the poor are living the life of luxury. But I am saying that this redistribution is easily worth over $25 k for a single mother with two kids - and that's BEFORE a housing subsidy called Section 8 that Biden wants to turn into an entitlement. When is it a parent's responsibility to earn enough money to take of their kids ? Even in Germany, this kind of welfare is cut off after two kids. And at least in Europe, the poor pay a VAT just like everyone else. In the US, the poor usually pay no income tax and what little payroll tax they pay is often offset with tax credits like the EITC. Enough is enough !
Elizabeth (New York)
@Alan Backman I agree that parents should support their own children but at the same time taking away supports hurts the kids. Imagine a two child cap on food stamps for a family with five kids. It wouldn’t be two well fed kids and parents who pick up extra hours to feed the other three. It would be the money for two stretched to feed five. It would be ramen noodles and generic cookies and cheap cereal - anything to fill bellies.
SandraH. (California)
@Alan Backman, the reason universal preschool is literally an investment is that it increases the earning potential for children who participate. As Kristoff says, taxpayers will pay more for these children in later years if we don't invest in them early. Preschool increases high school graduation rates and students who go on to college, while decreasing incarceration and public assistance rates. This really is a matter of enlightened self-interest for all of us.
Elizabeth (New York)
@SandraH Do you have a citation for that? Most school districts don’t want to pay for pre k because they’ve found differences even out after a few years anyway.
Kerm (Wheatfields)
The contradiction here being is do you a parent want to care for your child or do you want to go to work and have someone else care for your child? So the question now becomes how do you as a parent afford this? Go to work to pay for the care?...go to work because you want to work and not care for your child?...go to work to make ends meet food clothing shelter health care ect. what if you are single and only one income. What if you have more than one child? Twins or more? And why do both parents have to work in order to make ends meet, particularly in child care programs and raising families. The other side is for the job markets of the future...teaching children at such an age in order to fulfill future employment needs, particularly STEM programs, and education in general, just the bare essentials. Monies have always played to much in the education of all, and for all. Yet we want it continued this way, and continue it this way. Last question is who will this legislation help the most, all groups, the child, the parent , the business, the wealthy or those who already have the opportunity financially. Usually government programs like this end up helping those who need it the least. Am for helping child care and education, for all is so important, yet how we are doing it and teaching it, also raises other questions and who receives the benefit. This isn't communism you are correct. But this raises many more questions you are not asking and others are not answering.
Global Charm (British Columbia)
Columns like this were being written fifty years ago. I suspect that comments like this were also being made. There are forces of progress and reaction in any society, but what we’re seeing in now is more than simple reaction or simple social conservatism. It will take a new analysis and a new politics to defeat it.
Gerri Perreault (Cedar falls iowa)
@Global Charm my view too
Just wrote a $3200 check for first month of preschool for my 3 yr old twins. Four days a week from 9-4. Not a fancy school and most priced the same. Hard to think an average working class family can afford, much less work full time x 2 around that schedule. We waited until almost 40 years old to have kids to save. Younger people are choosing not to have kids for many reasons, money being first. If the government wants families to have kids, it can’t expect this to continue.
Frances Grimble (San Francisco)
@TM In an era of galloping climate change (which the Biden government claims to want to combat), and an increasing number of jobs being offshored or automated, why *would* the government actively want people to have more kids?
Economic benefit - The same reason China just raised their child limit to 3 from 2. Climate is most important as a species, but without an increase in birthrate the US stands to lose ground as a superpower.
@TM I don’t think the Chinese is the best model to use for economic policy in the US. The Chinese also think they had the coronavirus under control and very low cases.
Catherine Myers (Durham, NC)
Offering families support for only one choice, child care, is discriminatory. Many parents of infants and young children prefer to provide care themselves - and government policies must support this choice equitably. Parents can't be divided into two categories - working or at-home. Some families in which parents are employed prefer to care for their children by tag-teaming (working different hours); families are diverse and their preferences for the care of their children are diverse. Other countries - Finland is one - give a stipend to parents who prefer to provide care for their babies. Democrats seem blind to issues of choice and equity when it comes to families. Those with ideological and economic interests in keeping parents (especially mothers) in the paid workforce spend millions to influence public opinion and lobby lawmakers. The pro-family position would be to embrace principles of inclusion and ensure choice and equity for all families.
LL (Florida)
@Catherine Myers Discrimination? We offer families "support for only one choice," public school. Does that discriminate against parents who elect homeschooling or private school? Rather than "discrimination," it is the provision of a public benefit that certain individuals may chose not to utilize. If you've ever purchased a book instead of checking it out from your local public library, you get the idea. The comment about "ideological" interests keeping "mothers" "in the paid workforce" reads poorly. A marked majority of all female politicians at all levels, from town council to the US Senate; C-suite executives; physicians; dentists; bankers; and professors are mothers. If they were not working, nearly all political and financial power would (again) be in the hands of men. I think we all know how that particular ideology worked out. It wasn't until the 1970s that women won the right to apply for credit cards separate from their husbands. (The 1974 Equal Credit Opportunity Act, for reference). Chose to stay home or work. But let's be honest about the insidious nature of policies (or lack thereof) that push women into "choosing" to stay home. It's not much of a choice when the deck is stacked against you. It's not much of a choice when the cost of childcare is prohibitive. Pro-family also means pro-mother: enable moms to earn a living and save for retirement so they do not end up childlike themselves, wholly dependent on others (or the government) for everything.
Catherine Myers (Durham, NC)
@LL It's not much of a choice for a mother when policies support child care but won't support the same 'work' - caring for a child, when the mother wants to do it and needs some financial support in order to do so. Or do you think caregiving is only work when we pay someone to do it? Or do you think there is no value in 'staying home'? About mothers in the paid workforce: did you know that an increasing number of families have an at-home father? In fact our Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Mulhern, had 3 young kids when she was elected Governor of Michigan, and her husband became an at-home father. Many women in politics and business spent some time out of the workforce with their infants and young children. We need to make it easier for women - and men - to take the time they want with their children, and return to the paid workforce when they want to, instead of telling them there is one correct choice. Caregiving IS work (and more than work) - it was defined as non-work by men who established the GDP. Look for Marilyn Waring's talk on the GDP on YouTube. And see the website of the Global Women's Strike - Care Income Now! open letter to governments. Stand up for essential caregiving work! We must establish principles of inclusion in family policymaking - see Family and Home Network's Campaign for Inclusive Family Policies.
LL (Florida)
@Catherine Myers Despite the provocative (and silly) questions in your post, I went to your website as you suggested. Seems like you have an axe to grind about preschool based on your personal experience involving toy trucks. To each their own. I am all for whatever we can do to support parents. It is hard work regardless of employment status! But it's a logical fallacy to claim that childcare and preschool subsidies discriminate against families with a non-working parent. One thing we agree on: "We need to make it easier for women - and men - to take the time they want with their children, and return to the paid workforce when they want to." I would add to that: we need to create a work culture that is healthier, so that jobs are not so all-consuming. This is part of the reason why it's hard to go "back" after leaving: employers think you're not all-in. A return to an actual 9-5 with regular vacations would also be great for working parents.
Elizabeth (NC)
I don't think being childless is a bad thing; it was certainly my choice. I have heard a lot of demands but I have never once heard anyone say "we both worked, lived modestly, and banked one income for several years so when we had children, we could afford for one of us to stay home and provide our own childcare."
KRunner (At Home)
If only student loan debt wasn’t an issue...
Daniela Das (MA)
@Elizabeth I hear this from families all the time, part of why the age of first time mothers is increasing.
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
Watch out: you might not have children, but you probably have parents. Elder care costs a lot more than child care, and it's 24/7 if your parent has Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia. No matter how much you save, kiss it goodbye, then the government might come after what's left when they die.
JC (Midwest)
As with many social issues, this argument leads more and more towards the necessity of universal basic income. $1000 a month to everyone, kids included. Those with kids can use it to pay for daycare or for a parent to stay home. Those without kids still get $1000 to do with what they please. But make it truly universal, to everyone (no wasting admin costs on means testing) and UBI will become hugely popular and as unthinkable to get rid of as Medicare is now.
RG (upstate NY)
Clearly too many children are being born to adults who have no business having children, substance abusers, people who are in no way prepared to raise children effectively. It makes more sense to prevent the birth of children in bad circumstances than trying to mitigate the damage of these environments. An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.
T (Colorado)
@RG Many religious Republicans oppose the “ounce of prevention” of comprehensive sex education and easily available contraception. They want to dictate their dogma as the only choice for those not in the top 20%.
HarlemHobbit (NYC)
@RG Um, so that's why Republicans want to shut down ALL services offered by Planned Parenthood?
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
That's always been true, and I'd rather support birth control than more children with my taxes, but why punish the kids for the stupidity of parents or the instability of the economy? Once they are born, I'd like to give kids a fair chance. And offer free sterilization as well as free day care to parents.
M Ryan (Osaka Japan)
The author seems to be making a pedagogical argument, that pre-K education gives good results down the road, e.g. lower incarceration rates, better SATs. But most people seem to want subsidized pre-K so Mom has a place to put her child while she works. Because she has to work. That only one parent working is not enough anymore—isn’t this itself a problem? It wasn’t always like that.
Frances Grimble (San Francisco)
@M Ryan Working-class women have always worked. For the middle classes,in the 1950s and 1960s, in the US many families were able to live on the husband's income precisely *because* most middle-class women did not work. And when they did, their career choices were very limited. Therefore, they were not competing with men for those good-paying jobs. Now they are.
curious (Niagara Falls)
@M Ryan: Actually, it was. That wonderful period of American history in the late 40's, 50's and early sixties when it was actually possible for a single wage-earner to support a family was the exception rather than the rule. Through most of recorded history women have been required to spend their days working in either the factories or the fields. Daycare, such as it was, generally amounted to the kids working there beside them. After all, none of the women or children working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory -- or any of the other sweatshops of the time -- were there just because they wanted a little extra spending money.
Frances Grimble (San Francisco)
@curious And part of the post-World War 2 US prosperity was because World War 2 was not waged on American soil (except for Pearl Harbor). Many other countries had been bombed out.
cynical skeptic (greater NY)
Once upon a time the Middle Class could afford to raise a family on one salary. That option is no longer available to most and incurs a financial on those that do so. Poor families worked multiple jobs and wealthy families paid help to raise their children. Personally, I think a parent (mother or father) shod be the primary caregiver for their children but that is a rarity these these days. Affordable, trained daycare providers should be available for those who cannot - or do not - wish to do so but the US does not provide such a service. The basic question is "Why?" Republicans tout 'family values' but do all they can to fight against them.
Rebecca (Washington, DC)
The comments here are another indicator of one of the most critical problems: Americans have very little understanding of the discipline of early childhood education, or how far it has come in the last 50 years. That's not the worst news in the world, because a lot of centrist/independent Americans show themselves to be reasonable people when presented with facts. I'd suggest Mr. Kristof spend a future column explaining the difference in the current offer of day care (or family care) and the proposed Pre-K/"high quality child care." The communication about this issue from the White House so far has been very D base-rallying but that probably won't get this through.
Frances Grimble (San Francisco)
@Rebecca I thought, from many articles I have read, that parents' and economists' primary goal is just putting the kids somewhere so the parents can work.
Marlowe (Ohio)
@Frances Grimble I thought that would be the one thing that would appeal to Republicans. The wealthiest countries in the world (other than oil-rich autocracies) have a large percentage of women in the workforce. Then, again, Republican men can't tolerate the competition for money and power that comes from women.
left coast finch (L.A.)
@Marlowe And evangelical men can’t tolerate the loss of absolute control over women.
Reasoned analysis (San Francisco)
As is so often the case, the root problem is that the U.S. is such a heavily Christian country, which is always going to mean that public policy is going to shade toward cruelty and indifference. Until Americans develop a different moral culture that cares about other people, this isnt going to change soon
JK (Just Observing)
Incredible perspective considering the historical role of Christianity in the establishment of hospitals and schools and services for poverty throughout the world.
Apollo (MI)
@JK Churches are fine with those things when they are in charge, it's when things are "public" they lose interest. If the proposed preK were going to be run by the Church "conservatives" would be all over it as the best thing since Cheeto Jesus.
Frances Grimble (San Francisco)
I really don't see why free childcare should be provided to parents who are able to pay for childcare. For low-income parents who can't pay, sure, provide programs. Otherwise, it's just people with no young children increasing the incomes of middle- and upper-class parents.
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
At our local PreK, what you paid was based on your income.
ZAW (Near the Gulf of Mexico in Texas)
Forty years of knuckling under to corporate lobbyists and and lowering taxes in order to win votes has made the Republican Party profoundly hypocritical and dishonest. They successfully conned religious Americans into thinking they are “Pro life;” that they care about families and children. But At the end of the day, Republicans only care about children and families so far as they can claim to do so without spending any money on them. . Because corporate tax cuts are more important to them. . In all fairness the Democrats have it wrong, too. They should be finding ways to do more with what money we have left in the Federal Government; not proposing huge pie in the sky expenditures and certainly not going back on their promises - as your colleague Paul Krugman recently suggested they might - not to raise taxes on the middle class. But at leas they are open to the idea of universal PreK, Medicare for All, and other increasingly popular proposals that would be truly Pro Life and Pro Family.
gregolio (Michigan)
@ZAW I believe the increasingly rapid rate of change happening in the world means that it's a good time to invest in technology as a national. therefore the return on investment will be faster.
M Ryan (Osaka Japan)
One thought I had was: In the Boston example kids that went to the pre-K program were less likely to later be in prison and had better grades and so forth. As opposed to what? Staying at home with their mothers and being read to and interacting with their mothers and other family?
Ash (Brooklyn)
Probably not. A lot of moms can’t afford not to work, so rely on patchwork and often low quality care from relatives and neighbors. It often involves a lot of television.
Positively (4th Street)
@M Ryan: We neglect our children at our own peril. At everyone's peril.
gregolio (Michigan)
@M Ryan You're supposing the family can get by with only one income.
Betsy Todd (Hastings-on-Hudson, NY)
Democrats - and all of the rest of us who value child care, health care, a living wage, etc. - need to be a lot more activist in pointing out what Republicans refuse to support. There is so much lying going on that much of the public has no idea what these legislative fights are about.
Laurie (California)
@Betsy Todd The new Pro-family Republican argument will be "delay, deny and destroy"
Spock (Vulcan)
"So, please, Republicans, come to your senses: Helping children isn’t the first step to Communism." That ship has sailed, Nick. The Republicans abandoned being sensible long ago. They are anti-education, anti-intellectual. But, in reality, they are anti-anything Democratic. If the Democrats proposed a huge tax cut for business, the Republicans would be against it. They are all about blocking Democratic-controlled government so the misery in the country continues & they can blame the Democrats, & then regain power first in Congress, then in the White House. If Republicans didn't care enough about children to enact sensible gun regulation after Sandy Hook, they certainly don't care enough about them to enact pre-K childcare. Republican lawmakers claim to care about unborn children in trying to criminalize abortion, but they are just using that issue to manipulate religious people who are pro-life to vote for them. The GOP lawmakers don't actually care about abortion. It's all about greed & lust for power for the Republican lawmakers & the super-wealthy donors who finance their campaigns. Not that all Democrats are angels. I know 2 Democratic senators who won't do what is necessary to pass legislation that would benefit those Americans who need help the most. So they, too, are corrupt. But the Democratic party, as a whole, wants to help average Americans on multiple fronts. How sad that they can't get it done for a variety of reasons. How sad that we choose not to be #1.
gregolio (Michigan)
@Spock I couldn't agree more. How we assemble is at the moment no longer based on state lines or even political parties. People with certain ideologies have mastered ways to get people digitally to at least feel like they are exercising their voice and right to assemble. I yearn to come together with like minded people in massive town halls.Let's show Republicans we can put on the same kind of CPAC show they can but instead we get emotional -like them- about democracy, privacy, consent, etc.
somsai (colorado)
If it includes straight out $$$ to those parents (moms) who prefer to stay home and take care of their own kids, ok. I think it's a mistake to assume all women want to work when their kids are toddlers, some women don't. Also most jobs are not careers, they are simply keeping a roof over one's head. Bringing up kids is maybe more important than slinging burgers or stocking shelves or fetching items at Amazon.
Chris (Georgia)
@somsai Who is assuming that all women want to work? Are they also assuming all men want to work? Are men to be paid to stay home and look after toddlers? Most jobs are not careers? Even if that's true, people still benefit by keeping a roof over their heads, and maybe even eating food occasionally. Yes/no?
barbara (santa cruz ca)
@somsai but the woman who stays home gets no retirement benefit nor sick or vacation pay and if she depends on a spouse for support and is dumped she ends up old and poor and in her 40s and up trying to re enter the job market with out of date skills. so that is a huge risk. ok if she takes care of a movie stars kids, not so hot if they belong to a postal worker or mall cashier.
The Poet McTeagle (California)
I've often wondered why a public daycare system and public elementary schools were not two facets of the same public facility--a separate daycare area of the school for children younger than school age, regular facilities for students, and an after-school daycare for those students who need supervision until parents get off work.
Gussie Fink-Nottle (Tennessee)
I suspect Americans would be easier to persuade if childcare, especially for age 2+, were play-based rather than academic. As it is, I think Americans are right to be skeptical. When I hear "high quality childcare" and "universal preschool" I may envision something like a German forest kindergarten, but the reality is that in most places kids will be doing worksheets as soon as they can hold a crayon. They will be stuck inside most of the day with God-knows-who running the show for $8/hr. This is a go big or go home project, and we all know we're not going to go big.
Pamela Moore (Massachusetts)
@Gussie Fink-Nottle Wrong! My daughter entered paid childcare at age 2 1/2, because I wanted her to learn to get along and play with others, and she's an only child. At that age, she LOVED it, and had a great time. Yes, it was play-based. No, she wasn't doing worksheets. However, nothing like a little peer-pressure for potty training! I still remember one day I was picking her up, and she was out in the dirt, playing, happy as a clam, and having a good time. No, she didn't want to go home (yet). It was straight into the bathtub with her!
gregolio (Michigan)
@Gussie Fink-Nottle its the life-juice of all us primates: the power is in the getting together as a group! the research is really clear that even a minimally structured setting for a kid at a young age has multiple positive impacts on social indicators.
Kerry (New Mexico)
@Pamela Moore I also was a mom to an only child and I too put her in paid childcare (at 3 yrs. old) to learn to share and get along with other children. It was play-based and she didn't do worksheets. They played, explored, WERE READ TOO, and had lots of fun. All children need access to the early education my child had. It's a no-brainer.
RME (Seattle)
There is voluminous data about the benefits of education, and in particular early childhood education, for children. And it's also worth noting that most violent felons are people that didn't complete high school. Moreover, people who are against abortion should rationally support families, including single mothers, with unplanned pregnancies. Part of that support would rationally include daycare and early education. But this isn't a rational country. We might take a lesson from our mother country, the United Kingdom, which quite probably won't be the United Kingdom soon, as to what happens when politics becomes entirely divorced from facts. We probably won't.
Emil (Pittsburgh, PA)
Most Americans live in a dysfunctional community, not a dysfunctional family, and childcare, or the lack thereof, is an integral part. As for Republicans, they continue to live in a sentimental bubble—paternal with a father who works and a homemaker mother. It's amazing how long those blurry visions persist fifty or more years since the end of the industrial era. There is little argument on the necessity of Pre-K childcare, but how does that fit into the community? Are these newly funded facilities local or across town separated by freeways? Does early childcare work in lockstep with the local school districts and healthcare institutions, or are they as segregated and unequal? How do you ensure uniformity, quality, wholesomeness in a high crime or drug infested community? When you say "we" do you mean the federal government, municipal and state officials, or simply community operators savvy enough to apply for funding? Yes, we need universal childcare in America, but like everything else universal, it ends up truncated, unfair, and costing too much. A good place to start, Mr. Kristof, is the little community you call your hometown in Oregon. According to your columns, it has more than its share of social dysfunction. Use it as a model, define how President Biden's childcare plan would work in just one place.
gregolio (Michigan)
@Emil "ends up truncated, unfair and costing too much". That's the past. Perhaps we'll repeat it. I'm pretty sure if we all put our heads together we have the resources to imagine a solution to both make child care universal and with a more streamlined system.
LPalmer (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)
As wages for regular working people stalled out over the past 5 decades the "traditional" family with Dad working and Mom at home taking care of the kids became a Republican myth. That family model now applies to less than 1/4 of kids in the US. Mothers are working more to make ends meet and a significant percentage of our children grow up in one parent families. Holding on to the Republican myth of the "traditional" family when the statistics show that such families are a rarity is classic head in the sand behavior. While Republicans may think they look good with their heads covered with sand the reality is that of course our single parent families and many of our two parent families need government help to afford decent quality child care and pre-school for 3 and 4 year old children. And anyone who thinks pre-school for three and four year old children has no value needs to spend just one day in a kindergarten classroom where some children previously attended pre-school and others did not. The differences in children's readiness to learn will speak for itself.
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
Someone published a list of GOP politicians who abandoned and/or cheated on or divorced their wives. What happened to that list? It's funny that the people who preach morality to the rest of us have no morals and don't care about other people, not even their own families, so they certainly aren't going to care about anyone else's family.
Andrew (Philadelphia)
"You might think that the “pro-family” Republican Party would be eager to translate platitudes into practical help. But you’d be wrong." Members of the GOP says and tweet lots of things. Who in their right mind thinks the GOP has any credibility, when it comes to anything related to families. They've proven time and time again that they want to make things more difficult for families. A recent example is eliminating extended unemployment benefits. The GOP only believes in lower taxes for corporations and the rich, smaller fed gov't, less regulation (financial and environmental), and deficits (but only when Dems are in power). I can't think of one GOP-led legislative example which did something helpful for families.
Melanin Momma (Brooklyn)
I remember the dilemma of finding childcare for my children, I had a job at a magazine our hours from 10am until 6pm. it was virtually impossible to find a sitter for my son's with those hours. I was lucky enough to find wonderful older woman in the Fort Greene Projects she nurtured and loved my son's for a mere $60.00 per week and became Grandma. When school started school there was the after school issue, what programs were affordable would they accept payment plans? I won't even talk about Summer Camp in NYC with it's exorbitant cost, no financial aide including the YWCA completely out of my range. My children are grown now, but I was lucky to work at an incredible magazine where our Editor in Chief(SKU) was a mom and let staffers bring our kid's to work, a rarity in the world of woman's magazine publishing. It is a shame that 27 year's later these same problems exist in America, shame on this country for allowing this travesty to continue.
barbara (santa cruz ca)
@Melanin Momma how did the woman live on 240 a month? my jobs now lacks regular hours. a new hire quit because he could not get childcare without a schedule and he never knew from 1 day to the next his hours. and sometimes he would be at work stay 2 extra hours required. night shifts, switch shifts. find childcare then.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@barbara I take it that the older lady was retired and babysat to supplement her Social Security. Otherwise yes, the paradox is that child care workers earn too little while the costs to parents are often too high.
karen (bay area)
The problem is the GOP makes value judgments about childcare without any expertise. The state rep who said “day care interferes with normal families” sums up their collective ignorance. Namely, there is no single version of a “normal “ family. My husband and I raised one son, now 25. We both worked consistently, and thus our son was always enrolled in childcare, including after school care. We three were equally devoted to a great family life. A main component was having fun! Whether that was playing tag, running laps, going to the beach, meeting up with other families, renting a Saturday night movie, or working in the yard or on art projects. All along the way I took criticism from most of the non-working moms, with their preening superiority. But, our son was a terrific child and perhaps more importantly is a really great grown up. As a society we should focus on good outcomes for all children; which includes world class public schools and universally available childcare. Value judgments on varieties of family life have no place in the discussion.
Kathy Lollock (Santa Rosa, CA)
Thank you, Nicholas, for this valuable piece of writing. I have forwarded it to my daughter who received her master's in child development with an emphasis on early childhood, from infancy to 3 years of age. She could have made more money with her degrees, but she chose to work in a Bay Area inner-city day care. She loves it; having no children of her own, she loves her "kids." But let us return to a GOP which diligently works to have the government, specifically the Supreme Court, take away a woman's right to her individuality, her identity, her personhood. Yet, how dare that same government intervene with its care for our children once they are born. And, I will not hesitate to say this as a born and raised Catholic: it is all about Republican politicians keeping those extreme Right Christians who are against abortion as supporters. This so-called Party cares not one whit about children or their parents. And I have to wonder if our churches, including mine, care. I have my doubts.
Country Girl (Rural Pennsylvania)
Children are the adults of the future and if we don't educate them properly and thoroughly, they will be unable to meet the challenges of life. Why is it so difficult for Republicans to understand that? I'm sick and tired of hearing that progressive ideas about early childhood education are somehow a form of Communism. The "Red Threat" is thinking straight out of the mid-20th century. Of course Republicans are dreaming of taking our nation back to those times. The old white men who rule the party were at their prime 40-50 years ago and their thinking has never caught up with the 21st century. It's abhorrent that those are the people with power. They care not one whit about anyone who isn't like them and have no business governing. We need to vote all of them out of office. It goes without saying that investing in our children's education is smart and necessary. I believe that, at the very least, kindergarten should be mandatory and pre-K will prepare children for their formal education, so it should be a priority. So should universal child care (as should universal health care.) We will never catch up with other nations unless we do as they do. Ranking so far below other countries is an embarrassment. So much for being number one.
Conservativevoice (Maine)
@Country Girl The Govt already financially subsidizes privately run daycares and nursery schools for low income families. The current system allows the parent(s) to choose where to send their children and we need more school choices as the teachers unions have proven to be so powerful that parents, the CDC and Biden couldn't convince them to open back up fully. So yes excellent childhood education and childcare is vital but it's vital that Govt limit it's role to helping to subsidize a parents choice when financially needed but not limited to pre-K, kindergarten etc. (though I support those)
Conservativevoice (Maine)
@Country Girl The Govt already financially subsidizes privately run daycares and nursery schools for low income families. The current system allows the parent(s) to choose where to send their children and we need more school choices as the teachers unions have proven to be so powerful that parents, the CDC and Biden couldn't convince them to open back up fully. So yes excellent childhood education and childcare is vital but it's vital that Govt limit it's role to helping to subsidize a parents choice when financially needed but not limited to pre-K, kindergarten etc. (though I support those)
Tobi (Oregon)
@Conservativevoice There are not enough schools or subsidies available for most folks to choose anything at all.
NY citizen (NYC)
It's the same mentality that is behind "pro-life" opposition to abortion and non-abstinence birth control. It's not about caring for children, it's about controlling women so that they remain in the traditional role of stay-at-home wife and mom. Except when they did welfare reform in the 1990s and if you were a poor single mother you were expected to go out and work because the government shouldn't have to pay for you and your kids.
Last century thinkers are ill equiped to run a 21st Century country. Last century most countries worked out that universal Day Care and Pre-School underpin a modern economy.
TB (New York)
@BBB Sorry, but you fell into your own trap, applying 20th century solutions to 21st century problems. The 21st century economy will look nothing like the 20th, so many of the solutions "worked out" by "most countries" in the 20th century are not only outdated, but dangerous. The dawning second phase of the Digital Revolution will profoundly change the dynamics of the labor market, and provides an opportunity for societies to reimagine the role of "work" and "family" in the 21st century, instead of perpetuating the relentlessly accelerating treadmill of the "modern economy" that would require things like putting toddlers in day care.
Maureen (Lots Of Places)
Yes, Mr.Kristof, yes! We must invest in children: early, often, and well. This benefits children, their families, but also all of society. It is time for anti-choice, pro-family folks to put their money where their mouths are, and into supports for children, all children.
JK (Just Observing)
Andrew Yang’s proposed 1k monthly UBI could be used for child care expenses, or allow a family member the option of caring for the children. Likewise, it could provide families the opportunities to care for elderly or disabled family members. UBI acknowledge the difficulties of young childless folks trying to pay off student loans. It has much to recommend it. Funded by VAT tax I believe. Of course, families, communities, and countries need to give their best to their young. Sometimes the best is family care. Nonsense for engaged, caring parent to be enticed to leave their child with others in order to work at McDonalds. I have had professional responsibilities in early learning situations. I am not sure that all the research points to great benefits. (Balance, Mr. Kristof?) Homes can also be good places for children. Americans need help. UBI.
Frances Grimble (San Francisco)
@JK As I understand it, Yang's proposal for UBI eliminates other social programs, rendering the people who most need support less well off than with the current prpgrams.
A voice in the desert (Tucson, AZ)
As "pro-family" politicians, Republicans cater to "values voters" rather than to voters concerned with such issues as education, health, and happiness. They probably agree with Rick Perry that the Department of Education should be abolished along with the EPA.
gregolio (Michigan)
@A voice in the desert "Value voters" are de facto committed to superstitious thinking. They see cause and effect between prayer and the end of a drought for instance. Hence I imagine they are far easier to brainwash.
Srose (Manlius, New York)
Republicans might protest that child care supporters are employing "cancel culture" to their Ronald Reagan idolatry: "government isn't the solution, it's the problem." Or "cancel culture" to their insistence on "smaller government." Or canceling the freedom to make as much money as you want to become filthy rich due to higher taxes on the wealthy. Can we just get to our senses and realize that the other side is involved in a daily death struggle, that they perceive government and programs to help children and the poor as their death knell, and will only stand in the way of everything to promote their anti-Democratic stance? Remember, they found a way to grant Trump the $2 trillion tax cuts for the corporation and wealthy... there was money for that somehow.
SMB (New York State)
The term latchkey kids as defined here needs an update. You need to be well aware of those who choose large families, rely on their older children to care for the younger children. I know quite a few families with this philosophy, guided by their fundamentalist religion, who find this guided by god. Unfortunately, these are people winning elections at the local level. They keep their children out of schools (to keep them away from the others) and use significant resources. And guess what, they advocate against Planned Parenthood. They do not, however, take those children into their family. When they don’t control he gene pool, they abandon all their principles. They are now moving to Congress. Oh, I forgot to add that we pay substantial dollars for Congress to go home rather than have them move with them as was the case in the past. God forbid, they would have to associate outside their clan. Don’t believe their argument that they need to be with their constituents. This is the digital age.
gregolio (Michigan)
@SMB Such a breath of fresh air. Thank you. So what do you suggest we in the opposition do? Clearly things are changing quickly.
Laura (Portland)
@SMB those older kids taking care of younger ones are almost exclusively girls. And when they’re around 16, they are forced into marrying men in their 50s and 60s. I’ve run into this repeatedly with my high school students, gils trying to get away from these disgusting pedo men.
Seethegrey (Montana)
I'd bet those pre-IDEA WWII stats reflect the achievements of generally calm, complacent children, with parents self-selecting out when their child/children were disabled, high energy and/or not yet diagnosed with a drug-able condition. Universal pre-K will import all the conflicts and tensions not yet solved in public school. A child getting kicked out of successive private pre-schools for 'burning out' even high-quality carers with early childhood education credentials, is no great shakes for the child. So the high maintenance children sift to underpaid, overworked 'public' programs that have to take anyone and private programs select the ones that make them shine. How is that an improvement?
SandraH. (California)
@Seethegrey, my experience with public education has been pretty good. Why would public preschool be any different?
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
My experience in public school was a lot of chaos and violence and disorder, and weird educational experiments like ITA. Thank goodness my brother and sister taught me to read at home.
Lee Tugas (Granville, NY)
When all else is said, the Republican Party is still the party of the rich, and the rich do not like to spend money on the rest of us.
gregolio (Michigan)
@Lee Tugas It's also predominantly lead by male boomers - the dominant newly-wealthy class for decades - many of whom have been married multiple times. I"m surprised to acknowledge that I feel happy seeing young people take marriage very seriously. Across social classes I see young people committed to making consent the center of intimate relationships. That right there is what is too frightening for them.
gregolio (Michigan)
@Lee Tugas PS - what brought us democracy was ideas that germinated in the minds of men of the upper classes who knew their classics and saw that the ancien régime system could no longer work even if they were to lose social status. That's not the upper class we got. Alas.
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
We got the nouveau riche, who assume that "if I did it, anyone can!"
Barbara (Coastal SC)
Shame on those who denounce childcare aid, especially Senator Tim Scott of SC. I was a single parent and I well remember how difficult it was to manage to travel from the town I worked in to the town I lived in and pick up my sons on time every day. I had to make special arrangements with my workplace to leave early. I was charged $1 per child per minute if I was late. I couldn't afford that. I could barely afford childcare. It seems that Republicans have no compassion and no desire to help family despite claiming to hold "family values."
Elizabeth (Athens, Ga.)
One problem is that the Congress is made up largely of middle and upper middle class people. The majority of the Republicans, if looks can tell, are aging white men. Many come from wealthy families. I expect few had to clean their own house, wash dishes, grocery shop or cook or do the laundry. We live in a time where the middle and lower classes need two incomes to make ends meet. I think the lack of empathy and understanding that prevents some MOCs from believing government funded pre-school is important. Many people lauded the Kennedy’s and Bushes for their large and wonderful families and how much they accomplished. I wonder if either of those families had to worry about day care, buying needed clothing for the children, doing the washing and all the rest. Did they ever worry about paying the rent? Ditto so many of our Congress Members who make many decisions about how we live. If they had to deal with these daily necessities, and some do, would they make different decisions about helping those less fortunate? Many years ago I watched the movie “The Grapes old Wrath” with a young, very privileged young woman. After the movie she said, “what a ridiculous movie. No one ever lived that way.” I’m still appalled. In my life I knew many people who lived poor. Unfortunately, her comment could have been made by many Americans even today and I suspect some are even in Congress.
Positively (4th Street)
@Elizabeth: As a liberal east coast elite-type, I never honestly ever heard much about the Bushes except a passing reference to Prescott Bush. But, as a kid, I was steeped in Everett Dirksen bombast. Then there was George HW. Navy pilot. That's all I needed to know.
Jim (Pennsylvania)
@Elizabeth I would go further and state that the majority of Congress is decidedly upper class. Upper-middle class is uncommon, and middle class is almost nonexistent. So, these folks are quite removed from the everyday experiences of "commoners." One incident that really drove this home was when a musician friend was playing background music at some swanky social event, and overheard someone saying "I don't understand the poor. Why don't they just invest their money?"
June (Charleston)
@Elizabeth The members of Congress are voted into office by our citizens. I wonder why people keep voting into office those who have zero understanding of and care nothing for our citizens, unless they are corporations and the wealthy. I blame our citizens. We get the government we vote for.
Chris Wildman (The 49th State)
As a primary educator, I could tell within the first few days of school those children had attended preschool and those who had not been given that opportunity. Those whose first experience in a school setting was in a kindergarten class, or worse yet, first grade (since kindergarten isn't mandatory in my state) were unsure of the rules of an organized classroom, unable to keep up with children who, through their preschool experiences, could identify and sound out the letters of the alphabet, count to 20 (or higher), were all too often discouraged even then, discouragement that sadly often lasted throughout their elementary years. Documented research proves that children learn more in the their first five years than at any other time in their lives. Their young brains are developing connections, the critical architecture of the mind, making those years particularly important for the development of the child's brain. A child's experiences and relationships determine brain growth, making early childhood a critical time that lays the groundwork for future learning. In fact, ninety percent of a child's brain is fully developed by the age of five. Kids deprived the benefit of ECE pay the price for years. Conservatives, who seem to have difficulty looking forward and accepting scientific realities, naturally disregard this information - to the peril of our children.
Elizabeth (New York)
@Chris Wildman This is sad to read. I’m a stay at home mom. My kids didn’t attend school until kindergarten. They knew their letters and colors and things from learning we did at home before that but they didn’t know about standing in a line or raising their hand to ask permission to use the bathroom. A couple had teachers who were wonderful and worked with them, they learned quickly. One had a teacher like you who was annoyed that our five year old had never been in an institutional program and didn’t know what ‘circle time’ meant and had to be shown where to keep her pencil and crayon box. In your eyes my child ‘couldn’t keep up’ because they didn’t understand what the fundraising packet you handed them was. In my eyes my child received the gift of unconditional love and family time where days were spent making and eating meals together and going on little adventures to the grocery store or the beach instead of being stuck in a room being forced fed their ABC’s while still in diapers. Studies show that those kids who are nurtured at home with a parent or other loving caregiver do better long term than kids who are forced into a school routine beginning in infancy.
Muirnov (Washington, DC)
@Chris Wildman Thank you for your astute and informative comment. I mostly did well in school but once in college took a class that I was not prepared for and I was massively behind the other students. The negative emotions that I felt constantly being corrected, found wanting, and shown up by the other kids was very eye-opening. It gave me a little sense of what it must have been like to be perceived as or perceive yourself as not being smart. It affected my mood, my social interactions with the other kids, and my study habits. And by that time I was 21 years old. Imagine how under-prepared kids feel as small children, where their first integration into school makes them feel like the dumb kid. And at a younger age the surges of anger and frustration and cortisol that I experienced actually affect their developing minds quite significantly. The Republican attitude that in a free and capitalistic society anyone can overcome any obstacle or disadvantage is just not credible. Oh, and the intellectual architecture that spreads that idea is largely funded by people who inherited hundreds of millions of dollars from their parents. Think about that for a bit.
Chris Wildman (The 49th State)
@Elizabeth I wasn't annoyed with any child in my care. Sometimes, by their behavior (which was very often an expression of their own frustration) certain children demanded more care and time. My challenge was to help them achieve all that they were capable of, and I was always hopeful for their success. My comment addressed the need for quality ECE; I didn't address kids whose parents nurtured them at home. Most often, these children are model students. They are fortunate to have had parents or grandparents at home, and through their experiences, their growth continued throughout their school years. They were easy to spot as well - they were self-confident learners and their parents were partners in learning. Not all children have the opportunities that your children have. Too many children in our society have parents who are either unable or unwilling to spend the time helping their young children develop the skills necessary to succeed. Too often they present with signs of abuse - neglect, or physical/emotional that must be addressed. I believe that if they had been given the gift of a safe environment in which to learn in their early years, the sky would be their limit - as it must be for YOUR children. I don't understand the comment about "fundraising packets", nor do I agree that preschools "force" children to learn - good preschools introduce concepts and allow individual exploration - rote learning in ECE is not encouraged.
J (Here And There)
@Kristin. Democrats also have proposals that will help people, childless or otherwise, with the high costs of health care and education. Bringing the US into the ranks of advanced countries with affordable daycare and early childhood education is a win-win for everyone, if you read the whole article. Pre-school and good daycare give kids a better start and thereby lower societal costs later. Plus, someday you will be old - today’s kids are tomorrow’s doctors, health care aides, physical therapists, etc.
Shane (Isle of Skye)
Learning how to Socialise and learning your ABC's and how to Count and meet Daily Expectations is the key to success in the World. Free Day Care is the first step along that path.
Elizabeth (New York)
@Shane Yes, those are all important but the advantage of learning those things at age 2 versus age 5 evaporates before age 10. Do we really need to spend billions on taxpayer funded institutional programs to teach toddlers how to count? They can learn it at home or learn it in kindergarten like the well adjusted, functional, working adults of today did.
SheWhoWatches (Tsawwassen)
@Shane I am not at all opposed to early childhood education given that so many children are growing up in the circumstances Mr Kristof describes, but my children learned their ABC's, numbers, and much more from ME. We really need to ask ourselves why parents are no longer their children's first teachers.
Kristin (Houston, TX)
The problem I have with Biden's proposals is that they benefit families with children, ignoring the fact that people without kids shoulder a disproportionate tax burden and still live with huge bills themselves. Childless adults still have rent, student loans, car payments, and medical bills. Yet most of these policies only benefit kids and their parents. Raising the minimum wage benefits all of us. Why can't we do that?
Elizabeth (Athens, Ga.)
@Kristin There’s room for both raising the minimum wage and helping with child care. When I lived in Canada for a short time I couldn’t understand the baby bonus given to any baby born in Canada. I was working and had no children but I knew families where both parents worked. Good Child care is expensive. Raising children while working is a hard job. It’s fine with me if some of my tax dollars go to help young families have a better life. If you really are concerned about where your tax dollars go, there are plenty of other wasteful items that could be cut. Trump’s pension for one.
Liz (South Bend, IN)
@Kristin Let's both raise the minimum wage and provide universal childcare. We are all interconnected, investing in the people in our communities and country make for a better life for all of us. We already bear the cost of not providing a better start for all children in our country and I believe that directing money towards a living wage and universal childcare means that we will be able to start saving money by having a healthier, better educated, more financially stable citizenry which makes it more enjoyable for all of us to live in this country.
jodivon (Hansville)
@Kristin That is literally the job of a society! Your community did so for you growing up, perhaps we could think of it as paying our society back for getting us each to adulthood with the skills to navigate life. The happiest, most successful countries willingly treat *all* kids as having intrinsic value and worthy of doing what is best for all of them. Unless we determine that kids are priority, lack of affordable daycare simply gets more expensive alongside any wage gains. Now add in to this that most states don't even fully fund kindergarten!?! The priority of ensuring all kids get these opportunities evaporate as basic costs always rise faster than wages. Pay it forward!
Lorraine (Long Island)
When I worked in a private pre-k in the 80's the pay was terrible, there were no benefits, and the parents treated us like garbage a lot of the time. We were expected to do all kinds of housekeeping duties in addition to caring for the kids. I was studying for my associates degree and there were people who were directed to early childhood education because "anybody can work with kids". I loved the kids but after becoming a parent I wouldn't have left my kid there. There needs to be a lot of improvement in pay, training, etc.
gregolio (Michigan)
Republican dishonesty about how much they want to "protect families" is not unlike their conviction that "liberty" or personal freedom is paramount in a healthy America. Why then can't I type whatever swear word I want on my phon without it being replaced by a more genteel version? Why do I need to be warned certain songs on my playlist are "explicit" if we believe in freedom of expression? (could we have a similar label for each time a Trumpist lies?) Why would they want to keep two humans from meeting on Craigslist for reasons of personal pleasure? Why would our society praise legends like Arthur and the Round Table or stories in which people succeed by their efforts when these leaders are cynically fighting for totalitarianism and sending certain profits abroad to avoid paying taxes. Why would they call themselves "christian conservatives" when clearly they are far-right demagogues who pick and choose which parts of Christianity they like?
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
My first question to the GOP is, if you want to protect kids, why don't you ban assault rifles?
M Ford (USA)
The Republicans aren't against day care, families or schooling for kids. They often purchase these services themselves. The issue is over capitalism versus socialism/communism, who has to pay for it. Russia has a great system with no income taxes, universal healthcare, free schooling and free healthcare. Communism would seem to be the liberal utopian dream. The Russian government owns all of the oil and major businesses, keeping the profits and spending them to provide services to the people. Its like a 100% tax on corporate profits. The drawback is that is gives more control of the country to the government, taking it from the people which makes it more authoritarian and less respectful of human rights. We could continue to switch to more communism in our country. But, it isn't a buffet. It is a package. The reduction in civil rights, increased control of the economy by the government and reduction of alternatives come with the package. The Republicans don't have the same problems that the Democrats do. The Republicans do not need, do not want and are against the government paying for their child care expenses. They enjoy the democratic freedoms that capitalism provides. There are no communist democracies in the world.
Mary (Philadelphia)
@M Ford You're against public school? That's pretty much being against "families [and] schooling for kids." I think a public option makes sense- no one is taking away private education.
barbara (santa cruz ca)
@M Ford funny how the republicans hate gov intrusion into private lives except for a willingness to control womens reproductive choices, adults voluntary sexual choices, what people choose to read, watch or listen to. they support the intrusion of the christian religion in public schools and on public property.
gregolio (Michigan)
@M Ford this all feels terribly slippery slope sir. the opposite happened in all of the Western European countries. As they implemented more socialistic programs the communist party dissipated. When people are fed and educated and respected by the greater society they don't need to become extremists.
gkm (Canada)
I once rented a room from a woman with a drug problem. She was addicted to Valium/Clonazepam, and her child was unable to stay still or be quiet for any length of time. Unfortunately, I didn't really understand the problem until after I moved out. While I was there, the kid's daycare center told his mother that they could no longer handle him, so she quit her job.. ostensibly to look after him.. but she spent most of the time sleeping; except when she was off her drug, in which case she could be quite nasty. Not really understanding the situation, and being unable to handle either of them.. I left. I really wonder how her child turned out.. must have been hard for her kid to deal with drug addiction when you're 3 years old.. mostly alone.
gregolio (Michigan)
@gkm Due respect drug addiction is but a symptom. Untreated mental illness is the cause.
Sandy (BC, Canada)
@gkm A very sad story for both mother & child. But I don't see what this anecdote offers to the larger discussion.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@Sandy What it offers is that there's an erroneous assumption that all mothers are competent and loving, and therefore kids always do best at home with their mothers vs in childcare.
Sailing1942 (Minnesota)
Perhaps more companies could be encouraged/incentivized to provide on site day care. In a better , not perfect, world we could provide medical and nutrition and day care through our schools year around--funded as our current school meals programs. I would much prefer that to giving tax breaks for having children as we do currently.
Pamela Moore (Massachusetts)
@Sailing1942 Actually, I have a bunch of relatives in Austria (a social democratic country). My nephew's sons go to a pre-k at his place of employment (government subsidized as of the age of 3 and up). My niece has her daughter in the "Krapelstube" at her place of employment.
Michelle (Chicago)
Providing access to affordable childcare is only part of the solution. There also needs to be incentives for people to become early childhood educators. Quality early childhood education depends on having a workforce of qualified educators, which means that college level training programs need to be affordable for prospective teachers. And child care centers and Pre-K programs need to offer decent salaries and benefits. The average pay for early childhood educators in the U.S. is less than $15 an hour, and even in public schools, PreK teachers are paid less than their elementary school colleagues. Expanding access to childcare is meaningless unless our country makes the committment to pay early childhood educators what they deserve.
C (New York, N.Y.)
@Michelle If a school spends $7,300 per pupil and a class has 25 students, that's $182,500 per class. Where is the money going? Teachers aren't being paid enough because money is wasted on administrators and non teaching staff and the like. Yes I know school bus drivers must be paid too, but please admit it's not all about lack of money vs how the money is spent. In New York City, it's worse, spending is $24,000 per student vs the $15,000 for Illinois including benefits. In NYC, as many non teaching staff are employed as teachers, so not too difficult to see the problem. It's not that the money isn't available and being spent. It's more how it's being spent. "Illinois spends $15,337 per pupil, the data showed. Salaries and wages account for $7,372 per pupil and worker benefits make up $5,548 per student." https://patch.com/illinois/across-il/how-illinois-education-spending-ranks-nationwide
Elizabeth (New York)
@C $15,000 is tuition at a private school. I would be thrilled if I could use this money for a school of my choice rather than being forced to have it and my child go to a public school or pay out of pocket for private. I like the Canadian model. Each child has their funding which follows them wherever they go to school. If it’s a public school it covers the entire cost. If it’s a private school the funding covers a large portion and the parents pay the difference. It makes private school affordable for most families which gets kids into environments where they thrive and takes the pressure off public schools so they can keep class sizes small.
Darby (PVD)
@Michelle yes! So well said and such an important point. We need to pay these teachers so much more.
Judith MacLaury (Lawrenceville, NJ)
Republicans are basically a party of the rich. Their only about cutting taxes on the rich. If the rich paid the same percentage of their income that the middle class did, there'd be enough money for a decent healthcare system, pre-K and childcare.
Sandy (BC, Canada)
@Judith MacLaury Agreed. But then why do these middle class and poorer voters keep electing them??
Carl Cox (Riverdale, Ga.)
@Judith MacLaury is right. The republican party is the party of the rich. The republican party and conservative democrats believe that the mega rich and mega corporations should pay little or NO TAXES. Whatever benefits the mega rich and mega corporations is good for America because the republicans and conservative democrats get BIGGER BRIBES. As for those who criticize the American taxpayers funding child care for households where the mother works outside the home to help support the family because of non-living wage jobs in America, the people of California pay more in federal income tax than the people of Kentucky and yet Kentucky gets tax money from the citizens of California. The people of Kentucky, along with Mitch McConnell, have no problem with that. The republican doesn't believe in funding for education (pre-k thru 12th., technical schools, and college) because they can't control what is taught in school and fear a well educated public that might realize how corrupt they are and vote them out of office in favor of politicians who believe in the "COMMON GOOD" for all Americans, not just the mega rich. The American Citizens who support the republicans, also hate and fear educated Americans. These citizens of America hate science and the idea that it will show that global warming is real, not the will of GOD. Citizens of America wake-up. The lacking of funding for pre-k is just one step towards the republican goal of America being a banana republic.
John Boot (Paris, France)
I live in Europe and am trying to get my head round the argument that pre-K is Bad Thing. Presumably this ideology dates back to the pre-Soviet 50s & 60s when government assistance in all its forms was considered a pinko Commie threat. And presumably the kids who didn't benefit from pre-K back then are the same people saying it's a bad idea: unsuccessful, lesser educated, bitter, disgruntled folk who feel they have missed out on something and don't want anyone else to enjoy it. Or middle class folk who dislike the idea that today's kids might become smarter than they are. Anyhow, if the US is 34th out of 35 in the international standings of social well-being, clearly the 33 countries above it haven't understood the importance of resisting socialism... I fear the GOP's blinkered ideology will cause the disintegration of their once-great country. Like the band on the deck of the Titanic playing stirring patriotic music as the ship slowly sank beneath the waves...
ARL (New York)
@John Boot PreK is bad when it does not fit the developmental needs of a child. Personally I removed my child when the staff decided they didn't need to follow the healthy food policy that the preschool had had in place for years. Staff insisted that the children eat junk food as a snack -- these foods have the common allergens that cause children to go into anaphylactic shock or develop hives. The medication for hives alone at that time was as expensive as the preschool. Didn't hurt my child's progress for K-12, as his culture includes cooperating with teacher.
Gussie Fink-Nottle (Tennessee)
@John Boot Keep in mind that most of us who now have kids were ourselves placed in the hastily cobbled-together preschools of the 80s and 90s. It was "Lord of the Flies" but with TV. It is reasonable to assume that many of the new facilities and programs that will pop up to accommodate universal pre-K will be similar. I think people are also skeptical because they fear it will become mandatory like kindergarten did. Our public schools already stink. I do support universal pre-K because something is better than nothing. But I'm not kidding myself that it will solve many problems.
Bruce Belknap (Monschau, Germany)
@John Boot Thanks for your comment, and also the replies here are interesting. Nevertheless, as an American also living in Europe, without knowing previously how low the US has ranked in social well-being, it has always been extremely obvious to me that Germany is much more family friendly than anything I have seen in the US. Actually, observing the lack of support to families in America, the violent gun culture, and the need, in so many of American families to have both parents in a low-wage workhouse situation, I would say the US really hates families and children (unless, of course, they are the children of the 1%). The right-wing politicians mentioned in the article know, as all skillful propagandists from the beginning of time have demonstrated, that if you repeat some lies or nonsense enough times ("socialism") many people will put their critical thinking on hold, and will start believing what they say. To the majority of the people of America: your tax dollars are either going to be spent on improving your lives, or they will end up in the pockets of the over-privileged.
Usok (Houston)
Money cannot be used to solve every problems including childcare. I remember Hillary Clinton once said that "it takes a village to raise a kid" something like that. It is really very hard to raise kids. It takes money, but more so it takes time of the parents to be with them. And the parents need to be patient, resourceful, and energetic. It is also really hard in today's environment especially parents cannot yell at them, slap their hands, and push kids around. There is no authority in today's parents. I am not sure government should put more money into kids daycares or pre-schools. I think we should put more money into educating our parents to be today's parents.
Rachel Hayes (Boston, MA)
@Usok So if parents could go back to the good old days of slapping & pushing their kids around, and yelling at them, we'd be in a much better place? Yikes! No, - todays parents are stressed, their coping skills are not always optimal, and many households must have both parents working to survive economically. Most of the time, women are the sacrificial lynch pins, suffering career-wise and monetarily, when they step off the job track to take care of children, and then later, their elderly parents. Let's open up universal day care, let's have creative re-invention of work hours, so that both parents can lead productive lives, including career advancement. And yes, I agree with your last point, more time, energy and money should be spent on parenting skills. It doesn't come naturally to everyone, especially if there wasn't good modeling in their birth family. It's a tough job, and, like the marines, it does involve training and skill sets.
ARL (New York)
@Usok I agree. Birth to three is the area that urgently needs funded. Two years of full time preschool won't catch up neglected children. The brain connections and the human attachment need to be formed before preschool. Stable housing, substance abuse rehab, teaching parents/grandparents/boyfriends to interact rather than neglect.....
Margaret Garside (Medford, OrR)
@Rachel Hayes Usok is also overlooking the fact that most mothers need to work these--at JOBS, not highly-paid careers. Conservatives are blind and deaf to this reality.
Samuel Lee (Vancouver)
Thinking of this as an investment is just the kind of way to get skeptics on board. Government making sound long term decisions is unambiguously good. Bravo for the draft act and bravo to Nick for putting this out there.
Shaun Narine (Fredericton, Canada)
I admire Nick Kristof's courage and common sense, but I wonder about his entirely unrealistic optimism. Of course the Republicans won't "come to their senses." That is a given. Their conservatism requires them to do all they can to ensure that government fails. As the years have passed, they have become more and more fanatical in their devotion to this creed. This is one of the reasons that the US failed so dismally in dealing with the pandemic and continues to fail (sorry, but 50% vaccination is not nearly enough). The Republicans are incapable of governing in a world that requires good government. Not to oversimplify, but this is also why the US is on the verge of becoming a failed state.
JasonM (Park Slope)
@Shaun Narine it's astonishing that Kristof doesn't even name or acknowledge the fundamental problem with "universal day care," and the reason for the implacable GOP opposition -- that it profoundly discriminates against stay-at-home parents. A universal child credit -- that could be used *either* by stay-at-home parents *or* for day care fees -- has wide GOP support and could easily pass. It's unfortunate that Kristof's inflexible dogmatism blinds him to this simple fact.
Shaun Narine (Fredericton, Canada)
@JasonM This is a recipe for failure. And the idea that stay-at-home parents are being discriminated against because they don't need to use universal daycare is absurd. Am I being discriminated against because I don't have children but my taxes pay for schools and daycare? I don't think so. Assisting those who need helo - in this case, support for daycare - benefits the entire society. Simply handing out child credits is not enough to make and sustain a quality childcare service. Only a government mandate or a very well-regulated service can do that. But what I am puzzled by is this idea that absolutely everyone must be treated exaclty the same, regardless of needs, or else it is "discrimination." That makes no sense to me.
Nicholas Kristof (New York)
@Shaun Narine Thanks for your comment. Let me clarify that I'm not so much optimistic that Republicans will change votes as pragmatic that this is the only way to win passage. Democrats don't now have the votes to pass by reconciliation or the votes to eliminate the filibuster. They can get the votes from those like Manchin only if they have exhausted every effort to work with Republicans, and that's what Biden is doing. It's not a naive optimism about where Republicans will end up but a canny recognition of how to win the last Democratic votes.
Dirk Durstein (Wilmington, Delaware)
More than fifty years ago I worked as a high school volunteer in Project Head Start, helping low income kids of pre-school age keep up with their wealthier counterparts who - at that time - were normally nurtured at home. When my own boys were pre-school age, their mother and I both worked full-time (out of the home, as we would say), and the kids all went to (private) day care, and then an urban Montessori school. My point in recounting this is that Head Start and day care and Montessori each provided the stability and education and nurturing that kids need to succeed and compete. Today, for the most part, money determines the degree of support preschool kids receive, and those from the poorest and most troubled families are most at risk. Nick, you are correct, that universal day care would level the playing field - not by bringing down kids like mine; but by raising up those who are at risk and left behind. As you point out, that ultimately benefits all of us, and saves lives and money. Too often the far right seems to be fighting a cultural war that makes no sense (as you point out), and is detached from the reality of young underprivileged at-risk kids. The rhetoric is so overheated and delusional, it is easy to mock. The Republicans even coin new terms, like "woke" and "cancel culture", to perpetuate their false narratives. Rather than engage in this theatre, better to direct the funds and efforts to the kids in need.
C (New York, N.Y.)
@Dirk Durstein Hah, I am a huge supporter of government paid universally available high quality healthcare. The value of this extension of our current public education is much greater than other proposals like increased and refundable tax credits. Why? 1) The Biden tax credit increase of $1,600 per child under 6, an increase of Trump's doubled credit of $2,000 (yes no one ever concedes Trump did anything good, though Marco Rubio was the prime force), and making it fully refundable, still is less than what it costs for good childcare, per year, or even school term. 2) As indicated and also commons sense, catching children earlier before they start kindergarten already disadvantaged, is a key to better outcomes. 3) Free childcare can free up a parent, especially a low income or often no income single parent to be able to work. Unfortunately, not enough attention is being paid to this aspect of allowing a parent to work. This column avoids it even while mentioning WWII purpose and latchkey children. Even though this would help garner support for the program, it's avoided because no one wants to admit in their wokeness and political correctness that a major cause of poverty is the inability of single parents to hold a job because of parental responsibilities and lack of childcare. The result is that no one pushes for school hours to be extended to 5:00 (and eliminating homework), or the mindless reason for 2 month vacations (when studies show low income children fall behind)
Elizabeth (New York)
@C As a parent I wouldn’t want the school day to be mandated to run for nine hours. Sure, offer after school care and homework help for families that want it but don’t take away those fun afternoon family time hours that many kids and parents enjoy. We also enjoy our family time over the summer. It’s time to unwind and relax together. Throw in some reading and math and the kids don’t slide back in their learning. We’re a military family and those summer breaks are the only times we have enough days off school to take the kids to visit the family we don’t get to live near. I have no problem with schools staying open for parents who need a safe and supportive place for their kids to go so they can work but not all families want year round schooling. To be honest, we would likely take our kids out of school and homeschool if the schools went to classes year round without breaks longer than a couple weeks. They have their entire adult lives to work year round, let them be kids and enjoy summer.
Just Thinkin’ (Texas)
@Elizabeth Nobody is mandating 9-hour school days. This day-care suggestion is just providing an opportunity for those who need it. With flex work schedules, and more working from home, good available day-care can provide a mix of in-home and out-of home support for children.
Sharon Warren (Southwest)
Excellent article and hope Republicans come to their senses.
Diotema1 (Southwest)
Children are a miracle -- what a strange way to keep the species going -- and zoning in on women's reproduction is a death strategy. Birth control: such an elementary notion. Women's health care: imagine - it only helps 50% of us (directly). Actually born, uncontroversial "persons" -- our sacred duty. No child is responsible for their parents' decisions; they are simply our children. They belong to us, to all, to the only hope for what makes us One.
Frances Grimble (San Francisco)
@Diotema1 The rest of society is not responsible for your decision to have children.
Di (California)
Here's a thought: If you want it to be a more attractive choice for one parent to stay home full time or most of the time when kids are little, and maybe have the "spouse job" when they're older, you might want to consider creating more breadwinner jobs. You might want to consider the just-in-time random short shift schedules that make it challenging for parents to go to school meetings, adult ed classes, medical and dental appointments for themselves and the kids, provide for transportation, etc.
Anthony (Texas)
@Di You may want to consider unions.
@Di Why all this concern on the part of Republicans about one parent being able to stay home. They are talking out of both sides of their mouths, as they also claim that "lazy" people are milking the unemployment system right now - not acknowledging that schools and daycares being closed is a part of it. They also are putting in work requirements for Medicaid/SNAP. I guess it's just rich parents who should be allowed to stay home and are praised for it.
See also