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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: child care

Big Media Failure: Voters Have Little Idea What’s In ‘Build Back Better’

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Leaning into the doomsday narrative that President Joe Biden's agenda and presidency is slipping away as Democrats work to pass both a huge infrastructure bill and even bigger social spending bill, dubbed Build Back Better, the Beltway press continues to do a great job ignoring the contents of the historic effort.
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Biden Says Plan Will Let US Be 'The Nation We Know We Can Be'

Washington (AFP) - President Joe Biden said Thursday he is confident Congress will pass a mammoth middle class spending plan that can "change the trajectory" of the United States.

In a speech at the White House, Biden said rebuilding the US economy in the wake of Covid-19 shutdowns is "an opportunity to be the nation we know we can be."

Making the case for some $3.5 trillion in spending on social services, like education, child care and climate crisis issues, Biden said "we're at an inflection point in this country -- one of those moments where the decisions we make can change the trajectory of our country for years or decades to come."

Biden also argued for a series of tax increases aimed at corporations and the very wealthy, saying that loopholes allow America's richest entities and individuals to end up paying almost no income tax.

"It's long overdue. I'm not out to punish anyone. I'm a capitalist… All I'm asking is you pay your fair share," he said. "It's about the super wealthy finally beginning to pay what they owe."

The Democrat is banking on this message of fairness to get him across the finish line in Congress, where his party holds a razor thin majority over a Republican opposition showing no desire to compromise.

The $3.5 trillion social spending package would come on top of an approximately $1 trillion infrastructure plan for things like roads and bridges.

Republicans have agreed to support that smaller bill -- an extremely rare case of bipartisanship that Biden also hopes to use as proof of his claims to have tried to unite the country.

Hammered at home and abroad over the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan, where he ended America's lost 20-year war against the Taliban, Biden is keen to pivot to domestic issues and secure Democrats a major victory ahead of next year's congressional elections.

A big domestic win would also help resuscitate his presidency, which after a strong start looks bogged down by the Afghanistan fallout, a complicated economic recovery after Covid shutdowns, and a resurgence of the pandemic thanks to the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

With an average approval rating of 46 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight, Biden is one of the most unpopular presidents at this point in the first term in modern history -- even if he is way ahead of where Donald Trump was at the same mark with 38.8 percent approval.

Hard Bargaining

Biden says his "Build Back Better" plan will tilt the economy in favor of ordinary Americans after years of growing wealth gaps and a fraying of basic social services like education.

It's a message with broad appeal, but Democrats are squabbling over how far to push it, with many content with the $3.5 trillion price tag, leftist leaders wanting even more, and some moderates insisting on less than half.

With Democrats unable to afford losing a single vote in the 50-50 Senate and little more than that in the almost equally tight House of Representatives, Biden's entire agenda hangs in the balance.

The key Senate votes are Democratic moderates Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have cold feet about the higher price.

Under pressure from his party to become more personally involved, Biden met privately with both Sinema and Manchin at the White House on Wednesday.

The administration on Thursday also touted a letter of support signed by 15 Nobel economics prize winners who say his social spending plan will promote "success in the 21st century."

However, Republicans are playing hardball.

They not only refuse to countenance the multi-trillion-dollar package but sense a chance to deal the Biden presidency a severe blow ahead of next year's polls, when they hope to take control of Congress.

In addition to trying to block the big spending package -- while agreeing to the smaller, hugely popular infrastructure bill -- Republicans are threatening to cause havoc by blocking approval of an increase to the national debt.

For years this has been largely a technicality and Republicans agreed to relax borrowing restrictions repeatedly when Trump was president.

Refusing to vote for it in the coming weeks will force the Democrats to scramble to find ways to avoid a funding crisis that could trigger a US default and plunge the economy into turmoil.

Can America Follow Alabama’s Progressive Example?

Here are two terms that you don't expect to see together: "the state of Alabama" and "progressive leader." (OK, I'm a Texan and so have no standing to point at the rank regressiveness of any other state government ... but still, Alabama?) And yet — even with its well-earned reputation as a bastion of Jim Crow vote theft, plutocratic anti-worker policies and right-wing nutballism — the Camellia State has flowered as a model of strong progressive action in one area of critical public importance: quality child care.

It's a cliche to say, "our children are our future," but it's also true. Then why do we invest so little in our littlest ones, our future? Both in providing safe places for children of working parents and for boosting the education of pre-kindergarten tykes, America's child care system is a national disgrace. Moreover, the abject failure of state and national officials to meet this basic social need is spreading inequality, rolling back opportunities for women and severely restricting economic recovery.

How impressive is it, then, that Alabama officials (often vying to win that coveted 50th spot as America's worst state for meeting people's needs) have recently been setting the national standard for effective pre-K programs? Beginning 20 years ago with a small budget and eight classrooms, Alabama's investment in 4-year-olds now operates statewide in about 1,300 neighborhood and rural facilities. It prepares some 21,000 children each year to be "kindergarten-ready" — able to succeed from day one of entry into the K-12 educational years. A major factor in its success is a two-generation approach, not only educating the kiddos, but also providing support materials and coaching so that parents engage as their children's "first teachers."

Producing demonstrable results year after year, the state's public investment in children and families gets bipartisan support and funding from the Alabama Legislature. The program is voluntary, free and available to all, with special attention devoted to enlisting often-overlooked families in rural, poor and racial minority communities. "We evaluate everything through an equity lens," says Dr. Barbara Cooper, Alabama's secretary of early childhood education. "Everything" includes teachers. Rather than treating them as low-paid babysitters as so many programs do, Alabama is paying (and respecting) them as the professionals they are and investing substantial state money into their career development. "We are laser-focused on retaining the highest-quality educators and providers for our youngest learners," Cooper proudly says.

Alabama! If one of our poorest states can rise to meet this basic human need, what's wrong with the richest country in the history of the world? Nearly every other nation with an advanced economy (and some not-so-advanced) treats child care as a fundamental public good essential to nurturing children, families and the economy. But our US of A relegates millions of working parents and 21 million kids under 5 to the tender mercies of a for-profit market, with providers ranging from impossibly expensive to the helter-skelter messes of unlicensed Kiddie Korrals. The right-wing super-nationalists who mindlessly salute the U.S. as "exceptional" fail to note what is actually exceptional about our "child care system": It is such a shambles that it can't even be called a system, much less caring.

For the past decade, independent journalist and economic analyst Bryce Covert (brycecovert.com) has documented the worsening social crisis caused by this abject failure of leadership. Her recent report paints a dire picture of huge and obvious need:

— Two thirds of our pre-K kids have both parents in the workforce, meaning care outside the home is essential.

— 85 percent of the parents of these young ones say that finding quality, affordable child care in their area is a problem somewhere between serious and impossible.

— Nationwide, the annual cost for a four year-old's day care averages about $13,000. In 28 states and D.C., an infant's care center costs more than an 18-year old's public college tuition.

Despite millions of working families finding this essential service unaffordable or even unavailable, political leaders have ignored their plight. What meager federal spending there is hasn't even kept up with inflation. At its lowest level in a dozen years, child care aid now reaches only 15 percent of qualified kids. (Note that some callous governors, including ours in Texas, divert chunks of federal child care subsidies to their own political priorities, such as border walls and corporate welfare.)

In 2017, even before COVID-19 abruptly shut down thousands of care centers, 40% of America's children lived in "child care deserts" — zip codes with zero programs or so few that two-thirds or more of the area's children are unable to get in. We need to do better for our children; they are the future, after all.

To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Poll: Voters Strongly Support Biden’s Families Plan

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

President Joe Biden has barely begun to roll out his American Families Plan, and it's already proving to be pretty popular, according to fresh polling from Politico/Morning Consult.

At base level, 58 percent say they either strongly or somewhat support the $1.8 trillion investment to improve the nation's child care, education, and paid leave programs. That support includes 86 percent of Democrats, 54 percent of independents, and 25 percent of Republicans.

But some of the individual components of the plan are more popular than the proposal as a whole.

  • Ensuring low- to middle-income families pay no more than seven percent of income on child care: 64 percent support, 22 percent oppose
  • Free preschool for all 3 to 4 year olds: 63 percent support, 26 percent oppose
  • Two free years of community college: 59 percent support, 31 percent oppose
  • $15/hour minimum wage for child care workers: 59 percent support, 31 percent oppose
  • Extending expanded child care tax credit: 57 percent support, 26 percent oppose
  • Two years of subsidized tuition at HBCUs: 56 percent support, 31 percent oppose

At least 10-18 percent of respondents were undecided on every one of those initiatives, so there's presumably room to grow support for them as the White House puts more time and energy into selling the package.

The two most popular items—a seven percent of income cap on child care expenses and universal preschool—also garnered solid GOP support, with 45 percent of Republicans backing the income cap and 42 percent supporting universal preschool. The popularity of individual initiatives may prove important if Democrats decide to fold certain pieces of Biden's jobs and families proposals into one package.

That's a solid start on an initiative that President Biden has only begun to explain to the public. It's also generally in keeping with the popularity of Biden's other trillion-dollar initiatives addressing the pandemic and jobs/infrastructure, though Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package typically polled in the 40s/50s with Republican voters.