In April, President Joe Biden unveiled his American Families Plan, which is ostensibly designed to provide economic, educational, and other benefits to the public. Democrats are hoping to take advantage of their control of both chambers of the legislative branch and the White House to push through a nearly $2 trillion measure that would vastly expand the welfare system.
Biden’s New Welfare Proposal
The president’s plan includes a plethora of measures that would increase the government’s involvement in the lives of Americans. Some of these include subsidizing two years of preschool and two years of “free” community college.
The proposal would also provide childcare to American parents. Low and middle-income families would pay no more than 7% of their income to keep their kids in daycare.
Biden’s plan would also provide a government-paid family leave program for families when they have or adopt children. If passed, the measure would cover 12 weeks out of work.
Additionally, the plan would permanently extend COVID-related unemployment insurance benefits. Currently, these payments, which are a federal bonus paid on top of state benefits, are set to expire in September.
The Democrats’ proposal has met with criticism primarily from Republicans. Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, who also served as South Carolina’s governor, penned a piece for National Review in which she pointed out the numerous flaws in the legislation. She noted that the plan contained no provisions that would help out-of-work Americans obtain employment.
“Instead of ‘Welfare-to-Work,’ today’s Democrats are all welfare, no work. This approach will only hold back the people they claim to be helping and won’t help people thrive long-term,” Haley wrote.
She also noted: “A key feature of the $1.8 trillion far-left wish list is expanding welfare — without asking people to work or even prepare to work. Despite Joe Biden’s claims, the message of the Democrats is clear: Don’t worry about jobs, we’re sending out checks.”
Haley pointed out that “the Biden plan’s federal bonus would continue to make unemployment insurance pay more than work, making it nearly impossible for employers struggling to reopen to compete for employees.”
The former ambassador went on to argue that Biden’s plan “guts the welfare reforms that have worked so well for the past 25 years” and noted that these reforms resulted in a significant decrease in the number of Americans on welfare and a boost to those going back to work.
Is Paid Family Leave Necessary?
The Heritage Foundation’s Kay C. James criticized the paid family leave provision in Biden’s plan, arguing that it was an unnecessary and restrictive policy that would do more harm than good. She wrote:
“What the plan would actually do is create a one-size-fits-all government program that would be more restrictive and less generous than existing employer-provided programs. Instead of simple, flexible, employer-provided programs, employees would be at the mercy of a federal bureaucracy with rigid eligibility requirements and waiting periods before they could access benefits.”
Along with being yet another big government program, James contended that the provision is unnecessary. “After the 2017 tax cuts and regulatory reductions, more money was left in the coffers of private sector employers, and many used those dollars to provide family leave to employees,” she wrote. “In fact, the percentage of companies offering paid leave has more than doubled, to 55% offering maternity leave and 45% providing paternity leave. As more employers offer such competitive benefits, others are sure to follow suit.”
An overarching federal paid family leave sounds beneficial in that it ostensibly encourages a focus on family- but will it actually accomplish anything other than granting the state more power over the lives of everyday Americans?
What About the Children?
Biden’s plan also fulfills the Democrats’ endeavor to provide federally subsidized childcare for working parents. It would give free preschool and cheaper daycare for working-class and low-income families. Under this proposal, parents would only have to pay up to 7% of their earnings for daycare services.
However, while this particular provision sounds like it might help less affluent American families, it might just incentivize something that most Americans do not desire. The Federalist’s Grayson Quay noted that this part of Biden’s proposal would not do anything for families that wish to have one parent stay home with the children while the other works.
“By subsidizing the cost of daycare (capped at 7 percent of earnings) but not the lost income resulting from one parent staying home, Biden is signaling to poor and working-class families he doesn’t care about their preferences,” he wrote. “He wants them at work and their kids in public preschools where kids can be crammed full of critical race theory and radical gender ideology and get a head start on despising their parents and everything they stand for.”
Quay added: “Private daycares and preschools will probably qualify for subsidies, but even so, 7 percent of household income — over $5,000 for a couple making $75,000 a year — is far more expensive than free.”
The author noted that Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) presented what might be a viable alternative called the “Parent Tax Credit.” This plan would give $1,000 per month to married parents and $500 to single parents. This could help these parents cover preschool or daycare or seek other solutions.
According to Pew Research, most Americans believe children “are better off with a parent at home.” Hawley’s plan seems to be more in line with what most citizens prefer.
A Better Solution?
The American Families Plan might seem like a step in the right direction for some, but others are concerned it grants the federal government more power than is appropriate. At this point, the proposal might have a hard time in the Senate, especially if some Democrats balk at some of the provisions it contains.
However, it might be an opportune time to take a look at the nation’s overall welfare system as it appears that some elements might require a serious overhaul. It’s a conversation that our nation’s leaders should have. But it seems unlikely that the Biden administration would be willing to engage in the discussion as their objective is to expand the federal government as much as possible before 2022. But this does not mean that the GOP could not revive the debate if they manage to retake at least one chamber of Congress in the upcoming midterm elections.
Read more from Jeff Charles.