Hillbilly Effigy: JD Vance Burns Strawman To Prove Universal Childcare 'Lifestyle' Bad For America

Hillbilly Effigy: JD Vance Burns Strawman To Prove Universal Childcare 'Lifestyle' Bad For America

"Universal day care is class war against normal people" is a take. How the hell is helping Americans pull themselves up by their bootstraps and boost the country's economic productivity bad for the working class?

It's not, of course. And it's essential to raising women's workforce participation rate, which has taken a beating during the pandemic. That's why most developed economies subsidize childcare. But President Joe Biden supports it, and it's extremely popular, so the GOP finds itself in the unenviable position of having to argue that universal childcare is AKSHULLY an attack on the very working parents it's designed to help.

But JD Vance, the iconoclast who spun riches out of "just so" stories about poor white people and hopes to be Ohio's next senator, is game for the challenge. So this morning he booted up his Twitterphone to explain how daycare is bad and working is just a lifestyle choice. Yes, really.

"The establishment critique of universal daycare is that it spends too much money," he opened. "The better critique is that it's terrible for children, and that a healthy society should make it easier for parents to care for kids. Spend money on parents, not corporate daycare."


You'll note that there's no citation for the daycare is "terrible for children" critique, because it's total bullshit. As a parent who had three kids in less than four years, I can tell you from personal experience that good quality daycare is essential to young children's social, emotional, and academic development. (Also it saved my life.)

You know all that stuff about "grit," or however they're currently describing the ability to make yourself do unpleasant tasks for hours on end? It's that ineffable quality that's essential to academic and professional success, or so we're told.

You know how kids learn to do that? They go someplace where they have to sit on the bloody carpet at 9 a.m. every day and sing the "Good Morning" song! Yes, even on days when they just don't feel like it. Sure, pre-school's not the only setting where kids can learn to share their toys and function as a member of a community. But since most "normal" people don't live in multi-generational communes — even over on Klickitat Street, Ramona Quimby had to go get babysat after school by Howie's grandma — daycare and pre-K are probably the best bet for most of America.

But don't take my word for it. Just ask the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, which published a peer reviewed study finding that kids who attended a daycare in accredited centers exhibited lower levels of emotional problems and anti-social behavior.

Or you could go with JD Vance, who got this slide from the American Compass Home Building Survey saying that Americans without a college degree would prefer to have one parent stay home with the kids, at least part time.

It is worth noting that the prospect of spending their entire paychecks on childcare might impact respondents' "preferences," and with that worry gone, that poll results might change rather a lot. But getting into Vance's own words, paid employment is a "lifestyle" now? Really? Then why are Republican states racing to add work requirements for Medicaid? And what exactly are people supposed to do with their young children when they're luxuriating at their jobs all day long? Because the average full-time salary for a worker without a four-year college degree was about $40,000 — which isn't going to keep a family of four clothed, housed, and fed in most parts of America. And that includes everyone from Mark Zuckerberg to dental hygienists with associates degrees; people with just a high school diploma (or less) fare even worse.

But still, Vance and his buddies persist in pretending that childcare is just a gift to selfish elites, with their two-income lifestyles and disdain for their own children.

"It turns out that normal Americans care more about their families than their jobs, and want a family policy that doesn't shunt their kids into crap daycare so they can enjoy more 'freedom' in the paid labor force," he snorts.

I'd note that Vance and his wife both work outside the home. But I will not infer from this that they "care more" about their jobs than their families. Nor would I fault his wife — and let's cut the shit here, it's always the wife — for deciding not to torch the career she's worked so hard to achieve by leaving the workforce for five or six years to take care of the couple's children. Because I'm not a disingenuous asshole LARPing as Joe Sixpack.

It's a truly amazing position for a guy running to represent a party which has spent two generations trying to gut wage protections that might have ensured that families had a real choice about whether both parents should work. Decent childcare (i.e., not in some unlicensed provider's basement) costs about $1,000/month, and a whole lot more than that in major metropolitan areas. And still there are years-long wait lists to get into it!

Not because parents don't want to stay home with their kids, but because generations of gutting wage protections and the social safety net have made it all but impossible to pay rent and put your kids through college on one income.

"Lot of ideas out there for how to directly help parents instead of giving them only one option. This is a good one," Vance says, linking to Sen. Josh Hawley's proposed $1,000/month tax credit for married parents of children under 13. Single parents can take $500, because it's, umm, cheaper for them to raise kids, we guess?

And you know what? We're all in favor of a bolsa famiíia-style child allowance. Albeit not one with Hawley's "fuck you" to single moms and requirement that claimants earn $7,540 (i.e. 20 hours a week at minimum wage) to get it, and certainly not as a substitute for universal childcare. Because unlike this nonsensical dialectic Vance and Hawley would like to conjure up, the existence of pre-school does not take anything away from stay-at-home parents. When I was home with my babies, I didn't resent "Head Start" programs for helping other people's kids. Because, again, I'm not an asshole.

Perhaps realizing he'd gone too far, Vance retreated into cute tweets about his kids. "My toddler is obsessed with mallards. Which means I'm obsessed with mallards," he gushed.

That's nice. But if he were really a good father, he'd be home all day cutting the crusts off of peanut butter sandwiches and drawing pictures of mallards in between rousing choruses of the alphabet song, right?

Haha, just kidding. JD Vance is a man — no one on earth expects him to do something silly like that.

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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