What Does The GOP Think About Out-of-Control Childcare Costs?

Perhaps Republicans have a secret plan to fight inflation

Yours Mine and Ours

Childcare is back in the spotlight as a national issue thanks to a resurfaced op-ed written by the new GOP nominee for Vice President, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, in which he mocks women for thinking they “can have it all” and warns that children will emerge from daycare emotionally stunted. (1990s cranky-letter-writing Mike Pence seems to have been a real catch, by the way. If you haven’t, treat yourself to his overheated reaction to seeing Mulan, which left him feeling “victimized” and needing to defend his deeply held position that women fighting in the military is a “bad idea.”)

These days the more prevalent concern is that the children will be fine post-daycare but their parents will be penniless, because even though daycare workers are badly paid — a UNC report calls their compensation “dramatically low” — somehow costs are through the roof. Through all the damn roofs, in fact, and still rising. Here’s the Washington Post on the scope of the problem:

Women financially support 40 percent of all households in the United States, the Pew Research Center recently found, compared with 11 percent in 1960. Out-of-pocket spending on child care has nearly doubled over the last 30 years, according to the Census Bureau. The average cost of infant care now exceeds the price of public college tuition in 31 states.

And a Bloomberg investigation notes that “people are shelling out a lot more cash on their kids than on anything else.”

I have seen no adequate explanation for why care costs so much even though caregivers get so little. When you ask, people mostly shrug and say, “Regulation.” Childcare in Massachusetts, a state with more regulation, will set parents back more than $10,000 more a year on average than childcare in Mississippi, a much more laissez faire state. Some studies dispute that thinking, though, and some experts go back to “wages,” even though salaries for workers are so notoriously bad. Wages! No, regulation. Regulation! No, wages. Rent? No, wages. And round and round we go.

Eventually even journalists will shrug a la Geoffrey Rush in Shakespeare in Love and admit they have no clue and never will.

While we’re on the subject, wanna guess how much FT care costs for my two kids? One’s almost four, one’s four months. Go ahead, it’ll be fun. Guess how much it sets us back per month. I’ll come up with some sort of prize for the person who gets closest without going over, “Price is Right”-style.

Anyway, some people on the GOP side are getting nervous that more and more working women are abandoning the party, perhaps because it doesn’t seem to have any solutions to offer — indeed, because it doesn’t even seem to acknowledge the problem.

The trend that worries conservative thinker Sabrina Schaeffer is this: Three elections ago, nearly half of all working mothers chose George W. Bush. In 2008, the share dropped to 40 percent for Sen. John McCain. By 2012, only about a third backed Mitt Romney.

But even more alarming to Schaeffer is that few, if any, of the current presidential candidates have made the needs of female breadwinners a centerpiece of their campaigns.

“For years now, Democrats have been saying: We are focused on women in the workplace,” said Schaeffer, executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum, a nonprofit organization that promotes conservative policies. “For whatever reason, Republicans keep ignoring these issues. It’s the absolute worst thing they can do. They need to understand, engage and offer better solutions. They can’t be afraid.”

As it happens, though, some on the right do have ideas, even those ideas haven’t been well-publicized:

An economist at the American Enterprise Institute has recommended allowing pregnant workers to claim part of their tax refund early to fund their maternity leave. A Heritage Foundation economist has proposed loosening labor regulations so parents can easily swap overtime pay for compensation days. Others are advocating for over-the-counter birth control.

Those ideas are a bit like what you’d get if you got to the bottom of the barrel and you kept digging.

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) wants to reward companies with a 25-cent tax credit for every dollar spent on its employees’ family or medical leave.

OK, that’s something we could work with! It’s a start, anyway. Can we expect the Trump campaign to sign on — to that, or to any other policy proposal? It’s unclear.

Trump, for his part, plans to address childcare soon, providing an alternative to Hillary Clinton’s plan, which would cap family spending on the service at 10 percent of household income. Details have yet to be released, but aides say Ivanka Trump, his oldest daughter, is leading the charge. She’s a mother of three and executive vice president of development and acquisition at the Trump Organization.

Oh Ivanka! If I can count on anyone over there, I know it’s you. Please don’t let me down.

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