Diaper legislation generates rash of criticism

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Proposed federal legislation that would make it easier for child-care providers to use federal funds to provide diapers to low-income families has drawn criticism that the nation is becoming, uh, a nanny state.

The chief sponsor of the Diaper Investment and Aid to Promote Economic Recovery, or DIAPER, Act has portrayed it as a jobs measure -- as just about every bill introduced in Congress seems to be portrayed these days -- saying it would help parents get their children into daycare so the parents can work.


‘For families struggling to pay for rent, to have enough gas to get to work, or even to put food on the table, spending an average of $4 a day -- or over $100 a month -- on diapers is beyond their means,’ Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said in a letter to House colleagues seeking their support for the bill.

‘But without a sufficient supply of diapers, children cannot attend day care. In fact, over one in five mothers have had to skip an obligation and stay home with their child because of lack of diapers. And losing out on day care makes it even harder for parents to put in a full day’s work. And so they fall further behind.’

Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, ridiculed the legislation as leaving ‘no doubt that the U.S. is moving ever closer to becoming a ‘nanny state.’' He called it ‘another example of the mission creep within federal programs that gives taxpayers a bad rash.’

The conservative group Judicial Watch’s blog called the bill ‘a case of public assistance gone mad.’ Conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh also has ridiculed the legislation.

The bill’s supporters say the cost of diapers can come out of the roughly $2 billion in federal child-care development block grant funds provided to states this year.

‘This bill will relieve some of the stress on families facing hardship in this economy. And it will help children lead healthier lives,’ DeLauro wrote. As the top Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees health spending, she’s well-positioned to advance her bill.

The measure, with 14 co-sponsors, has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. A similar measure has been introduced in the Senate.


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-- Richard Simon in Washington.

Photo illustration: Babies need diapers. A new bill would help some child-care providers provide them to low-income families. Credit: Danny Johnston / Associated Press