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Outflankened Again

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Joe Biden has proposed what would be one of the most important expansions of the welfare state in American history. I’m sure that the response from the Republican Party, which is totally a worker’s party now, will have be positive. And socialists like America’s Most Populist Senator Josh Hawley must be thrilled!

It’s not just the price tag.

Days after President Biden rolled out his American Families Plan — a sprawling $1.8 trillion proposal to expand federal investment in child care, higher education, employee leave and more — Republicans have, alongside their deep fiscal misgivings, launched a broad social critique of the plan.

Key GOP voices are accusing Biden of engaging in a stealth attempt to reshape American life, trying to reframe their opposition to the plan away from dollars and cents toward the culture-war terrain on which they have recently been much more politically successful.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday responded to Biden’s pitch, made in a joint address to Congress, by declaring that the new administration “wants to jack up taxes in order to nudge families toward the kinds of jobs Democrats want them to have, in the kinds of industries Democrats want to exist, with the kinds of cars Democrats want them to drive, using the kinds of child-care arrangements that Democrats want them to pursue.”

That echoed a message sketched out immediately after Biden’s speech by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who gave the nationally televised GOP response and accused Democrats of wanting “to put Washington even more in the middle of your life, from the cradle to college,” and other Republicans followed suit.

“I think there’s a lot of lefty social engineering paid for by mortgaging the future of my children and my grandchildren,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). “It’s doubling down on the same old solutions on the left and just throwing more money at it.”

Needless to say, the charges of “social engineering” are pure projection. Nobody is required to use paid leave or subsidized child care, but it’s an essential benefit for parents who also want or need to work. It’s Hawley who thinks that state policy should favor certain family types over others, while also excluding many of the people who most need it from help entirely.

Affordable child care is empowerment, not social engineering — it allows parents (with a disproportionate amount of the work still falling on women) a real choice. That’s exactly what cultural reactionaries like Hawley don’t want — they want state policy used to encourage women to stay home. And of course as the “mortgaging the future” language indicates when the rubber hits the road these bullshit-populists wouldn’t even favor generous tax credits either. When it comes to his actual votes Hawley is exactly as “populist” as Paul Ryan.

…the New Republican Populism, explained:

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