Does it, as the old African saying goes, take a village to raise a child? According to Ron Johnson, the Republican Senator from Wisconsin, the answer is “no.”

“I’ve never really felt it was society’s responsibility to take care of other people’s children,” Johnson said while trying to lay his hands on some of the $403,733 that Kwik Trip’s executives and employees coughed up in the last election cycle – most went to the RNC. Johnson added that it was not just his philosophy that rich people’s tax dollars should not help children in poverty get decent nutrition or housing. He thinks if we use those tax dollars to help out struggling families it would actually be bad for America.

The senator, who is worth over $39 million, argued that the trillions the government spends every year should more rightly go to things the government is already funding, presumably including defense contractors and oil industry subsidies. But not a penny to families.

“If you’re proposing the government incur even more deficit spending to provide for child care for parents? I don’t see how that’s a solution at all,” Johnson lectured a reporter for a La Crosse TV station. “That’s just going to exacerbate the problem.”

The “problem” Johnson is referring to is the brutal reality that one-in-five American children live in poverty. Of the 35 most wealthy and developed countries in the world, the only one with a worse child poverty rate than the U.S. is Romania.

Thirteen million American children live in “food insecure” homes, a clinical-sounding term that means that children in those homes often go to bed hungry. For millions of kids, school lunch programs are their main source of good nutrition — a situation that created a real crisis when our schools closed for COVID.

Fifty years ago when Johnson grew up, before Reagan’s neoliberalism, in two-parent families dad went to work and mom stayed home with the kids. Today three out of five American children need childcare because both parents have to work to maintain the same standard of living families had with a single unionized wage-earner before Reaganism.

Between 1985 and 2011 childcare costs rose 70 percent: childcare consumes fully half of the income of poor working families, and about a third of the family income of low-income working Americans. Childcare in America — which is heavily subsidized by government in every other “wealthy” developed country in the world — now costs about the same as going to a state college.

Other countries around the world invest in their children.

Australia pays half the cost of childcare; in Belgium childcare costs families a flat €1 (a bit more than a dollar) a day. In Ireland it is around €180 a month for two children, but the government gives families a €290 a month “children’s allowance” to cover childcare, food and other necessities. Depending on where you live in Canada, childcare costs run from CAN$7 to CAN$20 a day. Families pay less than 4 percent of their household income for childcare in Korea, Austria, Greece and Hungary.

But in the United States, where the average family cost of childcare is $9,589, what are families to do? If Ron Johnson and the GOP continue to have their way, it is: “Screw you – you’re on your own.”

Johnson’s also pitching the very rich-white-person idea that all pregnancies are a “choice” that parents make: apparently the multimillionaire senator is unaware that 45 percent of all children in the United States are the result of unintended pregnancies.

Given that he also opposes the right of women to get an abortion if they have an unintended pregnancy, perhaps he simply believes women should only have sex when they want a baby? Is it possible that his worldview is that primitive and chauvinistic?

The most galling and disgusting part of Johnson’s politics — shared by pretty much every Republican politician in the United States — is his belief that “governments are instituted among men” not to provide for “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” but to subsidize billionaires so they can shoot themselves into outer space on the taxpayer’s dime.

Today’s children will raise the next generation of children and will, themselves, need the simple components of the normal infrastructure maintained by pretty much every other developed country in the world to do it successfully. To interrupt the cycles of poverty and trauma that are damaging so many children today, they must grow up in an America where healthcare, education, housing, public transportation and good jobs are available to everybody.

Republicans like Johnson, of course, oppose We the People collectively doing any of these things for Americans who weren’t born rich. Such normal parts of live in every other developed country in the world should be privileges here in America, Republican say, not rights of citizenship.

Children are the future of our country, and to cripple a fifth of our kids with poverty while forcing their families into terrible choices between childcare or food is grotesque.

America can do better than Republicans like Ron Johnson. Hopefully this fall Wisconsin’s voters will agree.

Trym Nіlsеn

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