From Eduardo Porter’s New York Times article, “Pro-Baby, but Stingy With Money to Support Them“:
…There is an odd inconsistency in conservatives’ stance on procreation: many also support some of the harshest cuts in memory to government benefit programs for families and children.
First Focus, an advocacy group for child-friendly policies, will release on Wednesday its latest “Children’s Budget,” which shows how federal spending on children has declined more than 15 percent in real terms from its high in 2010, when the fiscal stimulus law raised spending on programs like Head Start and K-12 education.
Some school districts have been forced to fire teachers, cut services and even shorten the school week. Head Start has cut its rolls. Families have lost housing support. And the 2014 budget passed by Republicans in the House cuts investments in children further — sharply reducing money for the Departments of Education, Labor and Health and Human Services.
No doubt readers could add a lot more to this litany of Republican neglect of children, including their long-standing opposition to adequate appropriations for improving child health care and nutrition. Despite all of the pious “family friendly” rhetoric trumpeted by Republicans, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that child health and welfare are far lower priorities for Republicans than tax breaks to fatten the assets of the already-wealthy. Noting declining birth and fertility rates which have kicked in since the recession, Porter continues,
But though American families may have adapted better than others to women’s march into the labor force, the United States lags far behind in providing the government support that makes it easier for many couples to start a family.
There is widespread evidence that government assistance to families increases fertility. France’s generous child subsidies, for instance, have been credited with lifting that nation’s fertility rate above 2, from about 1.75 in the mid-1990s. A study in Quebec found that increasing benefits to new parents by 1,000 Canadian dollars increased the probability of having a child by 16.9 percent. One study in Sweden traced its higher fertility compared to other Scandinavian countries to government programs like paid leave and subsidized day care, which made it easier for mothers to work.
“Pro-life” Republicans go on and on about about the inhumanity of abortion. But when it comes to making sure impoverished children have a good chance to lead a healthy life, their concern rapidly evaporates. As Porter concludes, “If conservatives truly believe that the United States needs more babies, they might temper their hostility to programs that help families afford them.”