Clinton Care: Feds Replace the Family

Katherine Dowling is a family physician

Mothers are obsolete. Comrade Hillary, though she is old-fashioned enough to play the "stand by your man" game when it suits her agenda, gives us a hint of her disdain for the uniqueness of the maternal vocation in the very title of her bestseller, "It Takes a Village." In the book, Hillary Rodham Clinton stresses that women "exercising their hard-won rights to enter the work force" have more need than ever look to the government to take care of their children while they seek self-realization and pin money. "On one income," notes the first lady, "many families cannot enjoy what is considered to be an American standard of living."

Enter the federal government. In order to form a more perfect infant psyche, provide for material luxuries and secure the blessings of uniformity for ourselves and our posterity, the Clintons do (hope to) ordain and establish a child care system for all those families who need two incomes to pay the exorbitant taxes consumed by a cradle-to-grave government. President Clinton's child care initiative in the 1999 budget will include more than $20 billion, or about $80 from every person in this country, to provide child care for working families over the next five years.

If you buy into the first lady's notion that standardized day care is the best place to raise children, then you must also accept the premise that the average mother is somehow inferior to a federally regulated facility where trained "child care providers . . . promote early learning and healthy child development." That the breast milk a mom provides her infant can be replaced by formula. That a 21-year-old child care trainee will be as excited about a baby's first steps as that child's parents would be.

Common sense tells us that this is just not the case. Those who have studied child development have never given credence to a social change as vast as the Clintons' plan for American families. For that is precisely what this initiative is: a plan to make nonparental child care a more attractive option than the financial sacrifice demanded of families who opt to have a parent at home with the children. Families in which both parents work will find that the feds have reduced their tax burden through tax credits. Not so the families who sacrifice to provide a stay-at-home parent for their youngsters.

Clinton even cloaks his negativism toward personal parenting with a statement that seems on face value to be an affirmation of child-rearing: "No raise or promotion," he says, "will ever top the joy of hugging a child after work." May I suggest that the joy of hugging that child all through the day may even exceed the joy of a brief embrace as one runs past her offspring to shove dinner in to the oven?

Standardized child care could give the state great input into a child's development. Certainly the Nazis and Soviets were well aware of the state's interest in breaking the family's ideological hold on child-rearing. While no one is suggesting such diabolical motives on the part of our first family, federally funded child care on the massive scale being suggested will inevitably bring with it a modicum of federal control. Many families, for philosophical and even religious reasons, would not be terribly excited by the idea of having their little ones exposed to politically correct concepts at such a tender age. In fact, were one to conceive of a plan to slowly dissolve the latticework of the family, it would be hard to come up with anything more effective than the promotion of duel parental employment, using the lures of feminine self-actualization and lowered taxes. The family's responsibilities to its members, both the young and the elderly, would be slowly assumed by government under the guise of assisting working parents in their duties. And thus the family, society's basic unit of social service, would gradually lose its raison d'etre.

Well, there's another solution. How about validating the importance of personalized parenting? We could make special arrangements for its continued existence, perhaps by allowing parents freer reentry into the work force through tax deductions for retraining when their kids no longer need them around as much. We could even increase the personal income tax exemption to a sum a bit more reflective of the actual cost of raising a child. Single parents, who admittedly have more of a burden to bear, could be assisted to form child care co-ops.

However we arrange it, the sacred duty of parenting one's child can never truly be usurped by the state. And there is hope. As Margaret Mead once said, "No matter how many communes anybody invents, the family always creeps back."

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