Say 'No' to the American Families Plan, 'Yes' to American Families | Opinion

President Joe Biden unveiled the American Families Plan last week. The proposal is a massive subsidy for state-run child care—in the form of dramatic expansions of government spending on child care and universal "quality" pre-K—to the tune of $575 billion, to which we should say, "No."

"No," to the nakedly statist ambitions of the Biden administration, which has openly admitted that it seeks to come between mothers and their children and to have the state shape our children at an ever younger age. As none other than Susan Rice, head of the Domestic Policy Council, told David Brooks for a recent New York Times op-ed, "we want parents to be in the workforce, especially mothers." Brooks added that "the administration wants kids in classroom settings, to extend the public school system down two years" to three- and four-year-olds.

"No," to a law which suborns the American family to the needs of the labor market by remaking middle- and working-class families in the image of elite families, which are generally structured around professional life. Biden's plan would privilege the model of two parents in the workforce and the kids in daycare, raised by strangers, when poll after poll show that most Americans' preferred option is to get the resources and freedom to raise their own children.

"No," to squandering this crucial political moment. American parents really do need help, right now, to pay the bills in a way that will help them draw near to their loved ones. Instead of giving them cash directly to strengthen family life and spend it on the form of child care they deem best fit, we are nudging them to place their progeny into the hands of strangers or of the state, where children can learn to be devotees of the latest ideological fad and be pulled farther away from the concrete activity of parental love. The American people are asking for bread and the Biden administration is giving them a stone.

As a recent survey by American Compass, administered by YouGov, shows, one's class significantly shapes one's aspirations for work and family. The survey also revealed that poor, working, middle- and upper-class Americans think very differently about those aspirations. A majority of parents without a college degree prefers to have one parent work full-time and another provide child care in the home. A popular option among all classes, the survey found, is to have one parent work full-time and one parent work part-time, sharing child care duties with an outside provider on a part-time basis. But only in the upper class do a plurality of families prefer that both parents work full-time and the family use paid child care to raise the kids—a preference which the Biden plan would incentivize, instead of just giving parents the money and freedom to work and care for their families in a way they judge most prudent.

Biden speech
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the COVID-19 response and the vaccination program during an event at the State Dining Room of the White House May 4, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden set a new goal to have 70% of adult Americans with at least one shot and at least 160 Americans fully vaccinated by July 4th, 2021. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The American Compass Survey mirrors the findings of a 2018 survey by the Institute for Family Studies. Of more than 2,000 Americans, ages 18 to 50 with children under 18, 32 percent said that both mom and dad should divide paid work, housework and child care any way they see fit. Twenty-nine percent said that the best arrangement for families with young children is that dad works and mom stays home; 14 percent said mom works part-time, and only 22 percent said mom and dad both work. These findings are not broken down by class, but they confirm that most Americans prefer an option other than both parents working full-time (the favored lifestyle of elites).

Why, then, is the Biden administration pushing this model on the American people? Remember Rice: they think work is more important than parenting (a value system shared by some significant figures on the right), and that our kids should be raised by others in their earliest days. We should say, "No," to their plans to strip away one of the basic functions of our families, to lovingly raise children—something that they are uniquely built to do.

Still, though, the Biden administration is surely right about one key thing: American families really do need help, and they need it right now. It's no secret that families are struggling to afford essential goods, and this situation incentivizes parents to enter into the workforce. This in turn makes child care, which is also expensive, a necessity. In 2020, the Economic Policy Institute reported that American parents were paying a whopping $42 billion on child care and early education, an average of $6,000 annually per American family. The need to cover this additional expense further locks the two-earner household into place. In short, a second parent has to enter the workforce to help cover expenses, which leads to more expenses, and greater need for the second parent to stay in the workforce. It's a lose-lose cycle, unless you're an elite family that can benefit from this system.

It's not enough, then, to say, "No," "No," "No." Elected officials must say "Yes" to directly helping families with cash, at a sum big enough to give them the flexibility to order their family and work life as they desire. Senator Josh Hawley's (R.-Mo.) Parent Tax Credit, for example—which would give a fully refundable $6,000 tax credit to single parents with a child under the age of 13, and $12,000 to married parents—would go a long way to giving families the resources they need.

As we weigh our policy response, let's say "No" to a hostile takeover of American families, and "Yes" to helping them live out their American dreams.

Michael Toscano is executive director of the Institute for Family Studies.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.