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Most Americans Want Family-Friendly Policies—Paul Ryan Doesn't

Tamara Draut

Representative Paul Ryan, the increasingly-likely newest Speaker of the House, has a couple of stipulations before he accepts the job.

Along with some strategic tweaks, including making it harder to overthrow a sitting speaker, he’s also demanding a better work-life balance so he can spend weekends with his family.

It’s an admirable sentiment: all Americans should be able to spend time with their loved ones while working to provide for them.

However, coming from Representative Ryan, it also happens to be hypocritical. His track record as a legislator reveals how he has consistently worked against policies that would give American families the support they desperately need.

Take, for example, childcare. Today, most parents are working, yet our nation has failed to provide affordable and high-quality child care, leaving millions of parents in a lurch where they need to work but can’t afford childcare. The result is neither good for parents’ pocketbooks nor for children’s well-being.

And Representative Ryan doesn’t seem to think that’s a problem.

Representative Ryan has put forth budgets to slash the meager childcare subsidies that currently exist. His 2014 budget would have cut $16 billion of federal funding of childcare subsidies for low-income families, making our investment in families even more threadbare than it already is: only one in six children eligible for child care subsidies, receives assistance and 21 state programs had waiting lists or frozen intake for child care assistance because of lack of funds in 2015. Needless to say, in an economy where the monthly cost of childcare exceeds rent and even in-state college tuition, we need the exact opposite.

The advocacy group Make It Work outlines what a real federal commitment to childcare would look like. It ensures that childcare for middle- and low-income families with children aged 12 or younger costs no more than 10 percent of pay, an umbrella that would provide for 26 million children across the country. It would also provide for the caregivers of children—a workforce that is unprotected and underpaid today—by ensuring a living wage of $15 per hour for child care providers and Social Security credits for caregivers who take time out of the workforce to care for their family members.

There’s no doubt that this proposal comes with a price tag: Make It Work estimates it would total $168 billion per year when fully phased in. This may seem like a lot of money, but it’s nothing compared to the opportunities we give up by keeping our childcare system in a state of disrepair, especially in the face of overwhelming evidence that the quality of care early in life has a huge effect on a child’s future wellbeing. Moreover, a whopping  76 percent of voters—including 59 percent of Republicans—support strong federal investment in early childhood education, even if it increased the deficit in the short term.

Representative Ryan seems to think that this is a straightforward matter when it relates to his family. Clearly, Americans agree.

Representative Ryan also seems to think that it’s okay to make demands for his family while denying American families the same right.

There, we may have to agree to disagree.