As I laid out here and the Progress Report documented here, the right wing has been undertaking a war on women, both at the national and state level. House Republicans, for instance, want to cut funding for a variety of programs affecting women’s health and reproductive rights, while Republican legislatures across the country are trying to legislatively restrict choice.
In yet another example, the Frederick County, Maryland, Board of County Commissioners voted to end the county’s contribution to its Head Start program, cutting overall funding for the program by more than 50 percent. Two of the Republican officials justified their decision to cut Head Start — which provides early childhood education to the children of low-income parents — by saying that women should really be married and home with their kids, thus rendering the program unnecessary:
COMMISSIONER C. PAUL SMITH (R): I think its very significant that we did make this marriage week announcement today, because that is the best long-term way to help our children, as marriage is strengthened in our community. As many of you know, I had a lot of kids, and my wife stayed home, at significant sacrifice, during those early years, because she knew she had to be with those kids at that critical age. I know everybody isn’t able to survive doing that, but clearly, as we can strengthen marriage we can decrease the children that we have to reach.
COMMISSIONER KIRBY DELAUTER (R): My wife, college educated, could go out and get a very good job. She gave that up for 18 years so she could stay home with our kids, we had to give up a lot to do that. I agree again with Commissioner Smith, you know, the marriage thing is very important. I mean, education of your kids starts at home, okay? I never relied on anyone else to guarantee the education of my kids.
Many women in the county were outraged by the commissioners’ statements. “It’s shocking in this day and age when life is difficult and challenging for so many families,” said Sue Oehmig, executive director of Hope Alive, a shelter that serves homeless women and children. “I would like them to say that to the hundreds of single women that call us every year asking for help. I’m embarrassed for Frederick County. We’ve just been set back 20 years.” “The reality is that people are struggling to make ends meet with two incomes,” added former City of Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty (D) “What does family and marriage have to do with the economy or creating jobs, which is what they ran on?”
Indeed, these two Republican officials ignore that many low-income households simply can’t afford to get by on one income alone, making it necessary for both parents to work; neither can single parents afford to take off from work for years. Many of these parents also can’t afford private pre-school, leaving their children to play catch-up for years once public education begins in first grade or kindergarten, depending on state.
These facts aside, the two commissioners are simply clinging to an antiquated vision of the American home and workforce. As CAP Senior Economist Heather Boushey found, “nearly 4 in 10 mothers (39.3 percent) are primary breadwinners, bringing home the majority of the family’s earnings, and nearly two-thirds (62.8 percent) are breadwinners or co-breadwinners, bringing home at least a quarter of the family’s earnings.” In fact, “only one in five families with children (20.7 percent) are the traditional male breadwinner, female homemaker, compared to 44.7 percent in 1975.”
And of course, there are the wider benefits of investing in Head Start, as a longterm study in California found that society receives nearly $9 in benefits for every $1 invested in Head Start children. But these two Republican officials feel its appropriate to cut the program in order to foist their chosen family structure onto society at-large.