The need for these programs, which was particularly evident during the pandemic, may make some wonder what took so long. One answer is that the New Deal taught Americans what to expect and what not to expect from government. Another answer is that social conservatives have long fought to preserve a particular version of family life – one that has never been more common in reality than in the popular imagination.
During World War II, the government needed women to work outside the home, so it created a national child care program. When the war ended, some working women fought for continued help, but the federal government ended the program under pressure from conservative groups like the powerful National Catholic Welfare Conference. Mike Konczal writes in his 2019 book, “Freedom From the Market,” that when the city of Cleveland agreed to continue funding child care, a local judge banned the plan, ruling that it was ” expenditure of public funds for one for private purposes. “
Over the following decades, the government gradually began to support women deemed unable to stay at home, but many Americans continued to resist a larger federal grant that would allow women to decide for themselves whether they wanted to. stay at home with children. In 1971, Congress voted to fund a national child care system. President Richard Nixon, at the urging of advisers including Pat Buchanan, vetoed the legislation as a threat to “the family in its rightful position as the keystone of our civilization.”
Other peer countries have demonstrated the benefits of the policies the United States is currently considering. The participation of women in the labor force has increased in the rest of the developed world in recent decades, even as it has declined in the United States; research highlights the impact of flexible work rules, paid holidays and subsidies for family care.
Over the past decade, a growing number of states are demonstrating that what works everywhere else works in the United States, too. Connecticut became the first state to require employers to provide paid sick leave in 2011. Thirteen other states and Washington, DC, followed. Nine states and the District of Columbia offer paid family leave. A similar number of states offer preschool to all children, while others have expanded funding.
Mr. Biden, like Franklin Roosevelt before him, has presented the present moment as a test of America’s tightly knit commitments to capitalism and democratic government. As in the 1930s, the democratic foundations of the nation must be strengthened for capitalism to prosper. This time around, we need a set of rules for both men and women to participate.
In the late 19th century, British workers campaigning for a 40-hour workweek circulated a three-panel illustration of a loom worker asleep and reading a newspaper in a rowboat. The slogan read: “8 hours for work, 8 hours for rest, 8 hours for what we want.”