In 1971, Congress approved legislation that would have established a network of nationally funded, locally administered, child care centers that were to provide comprehensive quality education, nutrition, and medical services.
Sponsors viewed the measure as a first step toward universal child care, which would have avoided being cast as a poor person’s program but rather, a service to all Americans made affordable on a sliding scale basis.
If the bill had become law it would have reduced reliance on the welfare system by making it easier for single parents to work and raise children simultaneously with help from a multi-billion dollar national day care service.
President Richard Nixon vetoed the proposal, lumping together the struggle for equal rights between sexes with social equality in general.
Conflating patriarchal society with capitalism in a time of fierce anti-communist fears amid a global competition for power led Nixon to reject a common sense advancement for society that was increasing women’s participation in the workforce by adapting to serve the needs of its people. Remember, this was just a few years after such right wing politicians as Ronald Reagan warned that if the United States enacted Medicare, we would no longer be free.
Today, Americans have moved past the fears that once accompanied poor comprehension of socialism and the benefits of working as a community.
Medicare is now recognized as an indispensable health insurance program for older people instead of the threat to personal liberty Reagan once described.
In fact, Medicare has been so incredibly successful that many Americans want the program expanded to cover everyone! Lisa McCormick strongly supports that idea.
That is why we should revisit the idea of comprehensive child care centers that will unleash the economic prowess of working parents, improve the financial standing of our families and provide the next generation with a head start on learning and healthy development.
While Americans remain proud of the nation’s heritage rooted in rugged individualism, more people recognize an equal measure of interdependence that makes us stronger together than we could ever be on our own. As Abraham Lincoln put it, “The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves—in their separate, and individual capacities.”
The notion of freedom is weak without the economic means to enjoy our liberty, so Americans must remember that we are all in this together. We have an obligation to one another just as we owe a duty to our country. One’s patriotism cannot be stronger than his or her sense of fraternity. So we are obligated to insure that the equality promised in our founding documents takes on a life through the instruments of justice at our disposal.
It has also been said we do not inherit the Earth from our parents, but instead we borrow it from our children. There is not greater obligation than our society’s protection and support for future generations as they begin their lives and develop into the citizens and leaders they will be.
As early childhood education has vast potential for improving their quality of life, and spending on learning is an investment in both national defense and future prosperity, we can make no more wise choice than to create a system for the protection, care and development of our young.
To that end, America must establish universal child care building upon the comprehensive quality education, nutrition, and medical services envisioned almost 50 years ago.