Alan Zendell, April 28, 2021
The Trump administration shamelessly used children as political pawns in its war against all forms of immigration. The scenes of kids incarcerated at the border and separated from their parents were among the most cringe worthy in an administration that used shock and awe as an everyday propaganda tool. And it didn’t stop there. With public school systems around the country desperate for funds, and many unable to provide badly needed nutrition for kids in poverty in the form of school lunches, the basics of education, and a safe learning environment, Trump’s Secretary of Education made things worse.
With millions of children from underfunded public school systems in urban ghettos and rural America entering high school barely able to read and lacking even the most basic math skills, Betsy Devos used her office to advance the cause of charter and private schools while starving public school systems’ budgets. This, despite fifteen years of promoting charter schools in Michigan, an effort which left that state ‘near the bottom for fourth- and eighth-grade math and fourth-grade reading on … the “Nation’s Report Card.”’
In the post-Trump era, with the death of Rush Limbaugh and the falling star of whacko Alex Jones leaving a vacuum in the world of opportunistic charlatans, Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson has markedly upped his game of spreading lies and confusion. This week he brought American children into his political orbit, demanding that his followers call police or child services whenever they see a child wearing a medical mask. Carlson claims putting masks on our children to protect them and those they interact with from COVID is child abuse. (No, he’s not a moron. He’s just a cynical, immoral shill for right wing political causes.)
The fate of children living in poverty or in working class families that cannot afford private schools has been declining for decades. It’s part of the culture war started in the Reagan years that masqueraded as concerns over government growing and devouring tax dollars. The reality was that Republicans never objected when billions (even trillions) of tax dollars enriched the wealthiest Americans through loopholes and rate cuts. But every attempt to uplift children in need was met concerns about increasing the deficit. The problem, of course, is that investing in the futures of children in poverty largely uses tax dollars to help minorities.
Enter Joe and Jill Biden, whose commitment to our nation’s children is beyond question. President Biden will present his American Families Plan to a joint session of Congress tonight. It’s a bold move that would invest almost two trillion dollars over several years. Its programs will be funded by increasing the tax rate on everyone earning over a million dollars a year, and IRS seriously attacking tax fraud among the wealthiest filers.
The proposed legislation won’t be passed into law in its present form, but it’s a great starting point for negotiation. As summarized in today’s Washington Post, more than half of the proposed $1.9 trillion price tag would go toward “dramatically expanding access to education and safety-net programs for families.”
$200 billion would be invested in pre-K education for all three and four-year-olds, with states chipping in 50% of the cost. $109 billion would fund community college educations for all high school graduates who want one, with states paying 25%. The president also wants to subsidize “tuition for students from families earning less than $125,000 enrolled at historically Black institutions, tribal colleges and other minority-serving institutions for two years.” Imagine how that will play with the far right.
But Biden doesn’t stop there. He wants “225 billion in child-care funding; $225 billion for paid family and medical leave; and $200 billion to extend enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies” largely aimed at families at children, and a four-year extension of the robust child tax credit that was part of the two COVID stimulus programs. That all adds up to more than one trillion dollars invested in strengthening the financial status of American families.
The American Families Plan is anathema to the Trump wing of the Republican Party, but it will likely poll very well among voters from both parties. Like the Biden stimulus plan and the proposed jobs and infrastructure act, the AFP is expected to earn the approval of at least two of every three Americans. The truth is, that without the long-term agenda of wealthy white racists fighting against a transfer of wealth to people of color and those in poverty, the is no moral or logical reason to oppose it. Once again, it’s up to the voters to make their voices heard in Congress. If you care about the next generation, you have no choice but to speak up.