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Caregiving as Infrastructure

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One of the funny things about this infrastructure bill is that Republicans are outraged by the very things Democrats are proposing. There’s no real shenanigans to lie about what’s in the bill. Using federal money to increase care infrastructure or green infrastructure is simply outrageous to Republican politicians, while other, less evil people believe these things are an outright good. The $400 billion to fund care is just a huge achievement if it happens.

“This plan is historic, transformative,” says Ai-jen Poo, the cofounder and executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, who for years has been working to convince policy-makers that improving the circumstance of caregivers for the elderly and people with disabilities must be seen as a critical infrastructure investment.

Biden’s proposal embraces this idea of “care infrastructure,” and adopts the language of advocates, as it seeks to “solidify the infrastructure of our care economy by creating jobs and raising wages and benefits for essential home care workers.” With a call on Congress to “put $400 billion toward expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities,” Biden is advancing an agenda that his team says “will help hundreds of thousands of Americans finally obtain the long-term services and support they need, while creating new jobs and offering caregiving workers a long-overdue raise, stronger benefits, and an opportunity to organize or join a union and collectively bargain.”

After generations of policy neglect, by both Democratic and Republican administrations, caregivers are finally getting a measure of the recognition and the support they deserve. This represents remarkable progress, says Poo, who told The Nation, “Investing in home and community-based services and the care workforce will help make these jobs good jobs for the first time, and secure services for people who rely on them. The fact that one of the groups of workers excluded from the original New Deal labor laws is at the forefront of this new New Deal moment says so much. It’s incredibly hopeful.”

We are in a fascinating political moment. At the same time the Republican Party has gone full fascist, the Democratic Party has responded by making long-desired political priorities on the left utterly mainstream positions within the party. This has seemingly surprised activists as much as any outside observers. It’s a testament to all the work they’ve done and all the protests over inequality in the last decade.

Of course, whether any of it happens or not is up to our Personal Lord and Savior, the Diva from West Virginia.

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