Posts Tagged ‘parent support’

COVID Relief Provides One Year of Assistance to ALL Families… Will the Pro-Family GOP Support it Going Forward?

March 8, 2021 Comments off

The stunning bottom line of the COVID relief package and the $1400 checks everyone will receive as a result have garnered the most headlines… but the most important element of the bill is the de facto Universal Basic Income (UBI) of $300/month/child that is baked into the legislation. As this NYTimes article by Jason DeParle notes, this is a sea change in policy direction. He writes:

Obscured by other parts of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which won Senate approval on Saturday, the child benefit has the makings of a policy revolution. Though framed in technocratic terms as an expansion of an existing tax credit, it is essentially a guaranteed income for families with children, akin to children’s allowances that are common in other rich countries.

The plan establishes the benefit for a single year. But if it becomes permanent, as Democrats intend, it will greatly enlarge the safety net for the poor and the middle class at a time when the volatile modern economy often leaves families moving between those groups. More than 93 percent of children — 69 million — would receive benefits under the plan, at a one-year cost of more than $100 billion.

The GOP, the party that likes to bill itself as pro-family, could not get behind an alternative plan presented by Mitt Romney that would have funded the “children’s allowance” by cutting some other programs that might arguably be duplicative, presumably because Mr. Romney is now a persona non-grata among the Trump loyalists in the GOP or maybe because ANY expansion of benefits for (gasp) CHILDREN would be seen as profligate. And here’s another counter argument:

Welfare critics warn the country is retreating from success. Child poverty reached a new low before the pandemic, and opponents say a child allowance could reverse that trend by reducing incentives to work. About 10 million children are poor by a government definition that varies with family size and local cost of living. (A typical family of four with income below about $28,000 is considered poor.)

If “work” for the poor was the same as work for the middle and upper classes this argument MIGHT have some merit… but while “work” for the middle and affluent classes consists of a predictable work week with predictable wages, decent working conditions, and some benefits provided beyond salary, “work” for those on the margins is often multiple part-time assignments with no benefits, just-in-time scheduling that can change from day to day and sometimes during the shift.

Moreover, the cultural conservatives who would like to see mothers relived from work altogether while their children are ver young persist in refusing to mandate reasonable parental leave policies because of the harm it will do the bottom line of businesses. As Mr. DeParle notes, their duplicity is increasingly evident and is helping the progressive wing of the Democratic party accomplish one of its longstanding goals, to restore the safety net that the neoliberal wing of their party shredded.

The COVID relief package seems destined to pass without a single GOP vote… now the real fight begins as H.R. 1 wends its way through the legislature.

Paul Krugman’s Op Ed Title “The Plot to Help America’s Children” Nails the GOP’s Mentality and Hypocrisy

February 17, 2021 Comments off

To his credit, Paul Krugman’s article, “The Plot to Help America’s Children“, sticks to the economic argument for increasing the amount of aid provided to parents and increasing the pool of parents who qualify for the aid. He writes:

Indeed, there’s an overwhelming economic and social case for providing such aid, in addition to the moral case.

Yet most conservatives seem to be opposed, even though they’re having a notably hard time explaining why. And the fact that they’re against helping children despite their lack of good arguments tells you a lot about why they really oppose aid to those in need.

The balance of the article presents the “overwhelming economic and social case” for providing the aid while undercutting the major argument against it, which is that it creates a class of welfare dependents.  The positive benefits of offering increased aid are, I believe, self evident. The argument against creating welfare dependents is more nuanced:

Yet conservatives and even some centrists have long argued that compassion can be counterproductive — that attempts to help the less well-off can create perverse incentives that undermine self-reliance and trap people in poverty. So it’s important to understand why these arguments don’t apply to the proposed child credit — why this policy, far from creating a trap, would offer an escape route.

The usual argument against anti-poverty programs is that any form of aid that is tied to income reduces incentives for self-improvement, because households that manage to earn more money end up losing some of that aid. For example, Medicaid is available only to families with low enough income, so taking a job that pushes one’s income above that threshold leads to a loss of health benefits.

When House Republicans released a report on the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, they essentially argued that these perverse incentives are the main reason we haven’t made more progress in reducing poverty, that anti-poverty programs “penalize families for getting ahead.”

There are good reasons to be skeptical about such arguments in general: Relatively few people actually face the extreme disincentives to work that conservatives like to emphasize. In any case, however, these arguments don’t apply at all to child tax credits, which wouldn’t be withdrawn as families’ incomes rose, even if they made it well into the middle class and beyond. To be a bit sarcastic, should we be worried about reducing children’s incentive to choose more affluent parents?

Furthermore, there’s extensive evidence that the real source of the “poverty trap” isn’t lack of incentives, it’s lack of the resources needed for adequate nutrition, health care, housing and more. As a result, helping poor children doesn’t just improve their lives in the short run, it helps them escape poverty.

His disdain for the GOP’s position on taxes and helping those in need is embodied in the title. A party that increasingly embraces wild conspiracy theories likely views this “giveaway” to the poor as a way for the Democrats to win over voters and, therefore, abandons a moral prerogative to help the needy for fear that it might undercut their ability to win elections. This kind of program should have bi-partisan support and, as Mr. Krugman points out, it DOES have the support of at least one member of the GOP: Mitt Romney. But as he notes, Trumpists in the party view Mr. Romney with disdain. He, after all, really believes that families need more help and he wants to offer it to them as directly as possible. Shame on him for having a creative idea to help people! The last time he had such an idea it turned into Obamacare!

Popular Science Big Ideas to Change Overlook One VERY Big One: Stop Doing Tests Used to Determine “Ahead” and “Behind”

February 7, 2021 Comments off

Sabrina Imbler’s Popular Science article titled “4 Big Ideas on Fixing American Schools” opened with two promising paragraphs but ended with a thud. Here are the opening paragraphs:

In the American education system, the kids are not all right. Recent tests show that high schoolers haven’t improved in math or reading for the past 20 years, and middle schoolers have gone backward in their comprehension skills. All this comes after years of expensive education programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, which prioritized standardized test scores, not individual growth, to mark progress and groom students for college.

Expert educators contend that schools need to infuse more flexibility, creativity, and community into their practices in order for a diverse student body to succeed. We asked them to lay out the steps for this radical classroom transformation.

The Four Big Ideas came down to this:

  • Play to students’ strengths instead of flagging their deficiencies
  • Equip families to provide more effective support at home
  • ‘Have students spend more time outdoors, which could mean more urban Greenspace
  • Connect traumatized children with caring adult mentors, a role teachers should be expected to play

But the most obvious step American education needs to take is to STOP DOING WHAT IS NOT WORKING! If “years of expensive education programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, which prioritized standardized test scores, not individual growth” has not yielded the desired results, why keep doing it? Why waste more precious resources on something that works against the flexibility, creativity, and community needed to achieve success with diverse student bodies?

If we want to change the way we educate children, to make it more personalized, to engage parents, to get children outside, and to connect with children as human beings instead of automatons that spew information that is easy to measure but immaterial in our day-to-day life, why on earth do we keep testing them and using the results to determine who is “ahead” and who is “behind”?

Einstein’s now trite and overused phrase comes to mind: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”… and continuing a regimen of standardized testing and expecting different results is clearly insane.