Fun with the Family Fun Pack
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Another interesting policy proposal from Matt Bruenig inspires some comments here.

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The proposal’s framework has more potential than might be evident. In particular, with regard to problems with the availability of child care services, since school districts (which are everywhere) would administer the program, they could provide facilities too. There is money in the program for capital expenditures. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to include churches in the system as well (which could be done with school districts as intermediaries). The program also supports child care in the home.

I appreciate the interest in the child care of high quality. I’ve needed some dodgy caregivers in my time. We ought to be careful not to raise standards to the point where the supply of care is unduly restricted, especially in low-income locations.

Many school systems are run by local governments, not school districts. I presume they would be part of what grant wonks call the ‘geography’ of the program. This geography (the array of school districts plus local governments) is severely underserved in the Federal grants-in-aid system. Not incidentally, it reflects deep racial disparities. Instituting a new pipeline of funds into it could end up with a broader scope than the Family Fun Pack. School districts and local govts could expand their provision of other social services, the subject of decades-long austerity.

The lack of attention to reproductive rights is well-taken. Of course, family planning is intrinsic to family well-being. There is no reason to classify it separately under health care. I wouldn’t say the choice is a sin or indicative of any buried, malignant bias, but it is an oversight.

Accusations of “natalism” are a bum rap. The proposal significantly increases the EITC for childless singles and couples. Of course, the bulk of the money is for children. The notion that the program fails to serve childless families is equivalent to saying the problem with a car is that it isn’t a bus. This program is no more natalist than dependent exemptions in the individual income tax. I doubt that anybody thinks policies to arrest climate change are only of interest to environmentalists.

Reducing the decision to have (or care for) children to a consumption decision or a matter of individual taste is just weird. People are going to have kids, and kids need care. (The program is neutral with respect to birthing children or adopting them.) There is something to be said about limits to support for children, in terms of numbers. Last time I looked, most families with children in poverty averaged fewer than three children.

One angle that cuts against the cultural conservative rap, evidently inspired by the fact that Matt’s wife Liz makes people giddy, is the program makes no allowance for home schooling.

In general, this proposal opens a fertile field for debate. It should be considered along with Liz Warren’s new child care proposal.

 

 

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