COMMENTARY | The mother of all political battles may be looming…and have nothing to do with the NSA scandal, Syria and Iran, taxes, or even Obamacare. Rather, it may be over the rapidly increasing cost of child-rearing and the inevitable call for government-sponsored daycare and childcare assistance, bringing into play issues of social class, race, government intrusion on the free market, and political manipulation. The whole shebang begins with a new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that the cost of raising an American child to age 18 is now over $241,000 and is rising faster than both general inflation and wage increases, reports CNN.
The news report indicates that many middle-class families are being priced out of day care and childcare services, making too much money for government assistance but not making enough money to handle rising day care tuition. And, of course, the cost of education and health care are also soaring. More and more couples are choosing to have fewer children…which is where the mother of all political battles begins.
A declining U.S. birthrate among middle-class citizens will spell political quagmire for both major parties. As the number of middle-class teenagers drops, who will pay to attend colleges and universities? Who will become our new skilled and educated entry-level workers? What will happen as the middle-class pipeline to college and the workplace slows to a trickle? Obviously, many politicians will want to ensure that the American middle class remains strong and vibrant. Doing so will require government intervention in the free market.
Since the government cannot force private sector employers to pay more it must subsidize those things upon which middle class families must pay too much: Day care, education, health care, and transportation. Proposals to subsidize these things will be criticized as socialism, launching a slew of enraged political battles. But the situation will grow trickier as issues of social class and race get stirred into the mix: Many of the families choosing to have fewer children are likely white, upper middle class, Republican-voting families…perhaps forcing a drastic turnaround of many GOP legislators. Eager to make sure that their voters don’t dwindle, Republicans may accept this “socialist” government-subsidized day care [and other programs] with open arms. However, this will instigate calls of hypocrisy and rants from some.
Republicans who do an about-face on issues of “socialized” day care and childcare will likely be criticized as racist for voting against similar programs previously, back before white, middle-class voters demanded them. This will inevitably launch additional political tirades over race and social class and race societal tensions. And where will funds for subsidizing middle class childcare come from? Critics will be incensed if any proposed sources would draw funds from programs utilized by lower-income citizens. “You’re taking money away from the poor to subsidize the middle class for your own political gain!” they would fume.
Who would have thought the U.S. Department of Agriculture could spark such ardor?