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    Thursday, September 28, 2023

    Child care subsidies

    At the end of this month, states are expected to run through the last of $24 billion in additional federal funding for child care, implemented as part of the overall pandemic relief efforts. We’ll all be worse off for it. Rarely has a single policy choice managed to advance so many worthwhile goals at once, nor does its expiration threaten so many.

    Child care keeps the economy running. We don’t need fancy statistical modeling to explain that the economy (and our continued survival as a species) depends on people continuing to have children, and already there are alarm bells ringing from a long-term decline in U.S. births. It also, of course, depends on moms and dads being able to enter and remain in the workforce.

    Yet the unavailability and extremely high cost of available child care means people either don’t have children — bad for them and bad for the economy — or have them and then drop out of the workforce to take care of them — bad for them and bad for the economy.

    While there’s a lot of hand-wringing about young people’s supposed disinterest in having kids, research has established the obvious, that people don’t necessarily want fewer kids than they have in the past few decades, but the logistical and financial challenges seem increasingly insurmountable. A huge part of that is child care, the costs of which have risen almost double the inflation rate over the past year.

    So here we have a funding stream that creates new jobs, preserves existing jobs, keeps women in particular in the workforce, grows the economy, incentivizes people to start families as birth rates decline and generally produces excellent returns, and our decision is to get rid of it right as surprisingly strong post-pandemic economy begins to cool. Why? There really are no rational economic reasons to do so, and so we must once again look to politics.

    Some GOP members of Congress certainly don’t see the pushing of women out of the workforce as a downside, and others are simply committed to cutting anything that looks like a social program, regardless of merit. Yet the party that so claims the mantle of pro-family, they should be made to explain such an anti-family position.

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