LZ Granderson: U.S. policy essentially discourages having children. Now our economy is paying the price

The largest health care strike in U.S. history was called off last week when Kaiser Permanente and unions representing 75,000 workers finally reached a temporary agreement. This follows a planned three-day work stoppage by unions that has given their employers a preview of what will happen if the standoff continues. Kaiser clearly didn’t want to see more.

This is good news for American workers, who have been quick to feel the pinch from record high inflation but have been slow to reap the benefits of the record profits that come with it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since last August, we have seen 42 work stoppages of at least 1,000 employees nationwide. There’s a theme here, as the workers have been squeezed for so long as if the corporate brain believes The Hunger Games is an instruction book.

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It’s not just that wages are rising slowly, and it’s not just that increases in housing and food prices have outstripped inflation. Look at the barriers we have created to ensure adequate child care.

As of late last month, states were facing the loss of $39 billion in federal funding for child care, a financial disaster that threatens the solvency of 70,000 programs, jobs for more than 200,000 workers and the care of more than 3 million children. .

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) said there was a crisis in child care even before the pandemic. Last month, she and other Senate Democrats introduced a bill to try to soften the blow of losing this aid. This is an urgent economic priority at every level: Child care is what allows parents to work, businesses to hire workers, and it’s an investment in our children’s futures. The child care industry holds every sector of our economy.

Kaiser Permanente workers protest during a three-day health care strike on October 4 in Irvine, California.

Ryan Sun, Associated Press

Before the pandemic, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that the amount of money families spent on child care was about 40% more than what was considered affordable. Combine that with the fact that this year’s average salary increased at the same pace as last year’s. And the reality is that the purchasing power gap caused by record inflation is forecast to last until the end of 2024.

What exactly are working parents supposed to do?

While many white-collar industries offer child care options, the fastest-growing job sector is leisure and hospitality, which is not exactly a leader in the field. In Germany, municipalities are required by law to provide childcare. In America, they are less accommodating. Kind of like don’t have kids unless you can afford that attitude.

The problem is that we no longer have enough people who can raise children without help.

September marked the 33rd consecutive month that the US economy added jobs. Labor market participation rates have increased and there are more than 9 million job opportunities across the country. This is all great news unless you need childcare. Then you have to find out whether any jobs available to you pay more than you spend on child care, assuming you’re not among the 50% of Americans who live in areas called child care, areas in America before. -K more bodies than available quantity.

Murray said it’s a never-ending financial and logistical burden for the entire family.

Choose Medicaid, welfare, Social Security conservatives have historically talked about entitlements and the safety net as if those on benefits are lazy and not part of the workforce. The reality of how inaccurate that assessment is will soon confront them because of the link between labor and child care.

These people would rather cut government programs than fund social services, but there’s a worrying problem: If future workers can’t afford to work, then exactly How will austerity policy solve the problem?

When we talk about the work ethic of the greatest generation, we often leave out the part about the federal government stepping in and subsidizing child care. Without that assistance, most of the 6 million women who kept this country afloat during World War II would not have been able to enter the workforce.

By contrast, today, 68% of Oklahomans live in child care deserts. The state also estimates a shortage of 40,000 workers. Do you think it’s a coincidence?

The growth of the gig economy, combined with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, has created a path for more Americans to escape toxic work environments and become their own boss. theirs. The Great Resignation and a wave of labor strikes further highlighted the change in the relationship between labor and capital. However seismic those changes are, the biggest earthquake is yet to come. Paid family leave and affordable child care are no longer just items on liberals’ wish lists.

Like the rest of the industrialized world, the United States is slowly coming to grips with the reality that if you want people to work, the idea has to work for their children, too.

LZ Granderson is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

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