Why Sen. Mitt Romney met with President Biden to discuss federal aid for families
Romney explained his Family Security Act during a Deseret News and Institute for Family Studies webinar Wednesday
Sen. Mitt Romney met with President Joe Biden to discuss his family plan, Romney said during a Deseret News and Institute for Family Studies webinar on Wednesday.
As the U.S. birth and marriage rates hover at all-time lows, Romney’s Family Security Act would provide incentivization and an effective safety net for both parents and families. Introduced in February, the Romney plan would award monthly cash payments to parents, according to the number of children and irrespective of work or marriage status.
Meanwhile, Biden’s American Families Plan offers an alternate approach to federal aid for families. But pundits and scholars, both progressive and conservative, have noted the efficacies in Romney’s approach — including the New York Times editorial board, which encouraged Biden to “borrow a few pages” from Romney’s plan.
“When the Times writes that, they must’ve read it,” Romney said, with a laugh, during a Deseret News webinar on Wednesday.
The event, titled “Cash or Child Care: What Do American Parents Want?” was moderated by Brad Wilcox, a senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and a sociologist at the University of Virginia. Participants included Romney, Deseret News contributor and BYU Wheatley Institute fellow Jenet Erickson, and Princeton Theological Seminary professor Margarita Mooney Suarez. It can be viewed at deseret.com.
When asked on the progress of his proposal and whether he’d communicated with the White House, Romney said he’s met with Biden and Steve Ricchetti, the president’s economic adviser. But conversations have since stagnated. “There’s not much negotiation on that right now because we’re really occupied by the infrastructure proposal the president’s put out,” Romney said.
Despite reports of it going nowhere (https://t.co/rzlFIjUsBQ) during a @DeseretNews interview @MittRomney explains that he’s actually met with the President himself and his advisers about his family plan. pic.twitter.com/ymsmaI1lbK— Bethany S. Mandel (@bethanyshondark) May 26, 2021
Other Republican senators have proposed changes to the child tax credit, including a joint proposal from Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Marco Rubio, R-Texas. Romney expects to meet with Lee, Rubio, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, and others with proposals, and decide on the best and most effective plan. The senators will then negotiate with the White House.
Romney’s Family Security Act provides monthly cash payments directly to families — $350 per month for each child under 6, and $250 per month for children ages 6 to 17, capping at five children per household. There is no work or income requirement for eligibility, allotting parents flexibility in how to care for their children.
When asked what he thinks is the cause of the nation’s declining marriage and childbirth rates, Romney said there isn’t one individual reason. Several factors come into account, including the cost of raising children, pressures on families, the sexual revolution and a decline in belief in God and an afterlife.
“But there are two things we can’t forget,” Romney added. “(The government) encourages people to be out of the home working, and to not get married. That combination obviously figures into the decisions people make.”
Those incentives are neutralized through proposals like Romney’s, which offer parents the freedoms to make their own decisions as to how to care for children. Allowing parents to choose is a more effective approach than universal child care for some ethnic groups, a new report from the Institute for Family Studies shows.
While some parents prefer full-time child care, others want to care for their own children at home or under the care of a family member. Other parents want a mix. And Hispanics in the U.S., are far less likely than other ethnic groups to put their children in full-time child care — only 14% prefer that for their children, and 30% of Hispanic parents actually use paid child care.
“In Hispanic culture, the idea of the family is that the household is one single economic and social unit,” explained Mooney Suarez. “And as a part of that, certain members of the family make sacrifices for the well-being of others.”
Instead of sending hundreds of millions of dollars to child care centers, the Romney plan would instead give families the financial resources to decide for themselves how to care for the children — be it in a paid daycare center, or at home.
“(Parents) know better what’s right for their child than the government in Washington,” Romney said.
Erickson noted that not all daycare programs are intrinsically bad for children. But rapidly expanding programs for all children, where some will spend upwards of 30 hours a week in paid care, is associated with increased risks. Erickson pointed to studies of child care in Quebec, which launched a massive, child care program two decades ago. Many of the children from two-parent households who participated had decreased health and life satisfaction, and even showed increased crime rates later in life, Erickson said.
“Funneling our nation’s children into massively expanded, publicly funded daycare is very different than enabling families to have the financial resources to make their own choices,” Erickson explained.
In a Senate committee hearing last week, Romney opposed what he called a “significant bias” on the part of Democrats toward children being out of the home and parents in the workforce. Romney told the Senate he didn’t realize he was disadvantaged by being raised by a stay-at-home mom.
When Wilcox asked Romney about this, Romney emphasized the importance of accounting for each individual circumstance. “In my opinion, there’s nothing more important that a family does — a husband and wife, or a single parent — than raising a child,” he explained. “That’s the single most important that individual can do for our society. An additional 40-hour work week is not as important to the United States of America, or to our globe, as raising a good child that will follow the law, be involved in their community and respect others.”
Mooney Suarez agreed, noting that children who are actively involved in the home — through chores or taking care of other children — report higher levels of satisfaction.
“Young people want to have a role,” she said. “They belong to a family, and they want to know that in that family, they’re contributing something to the larger good of that unit.”
Providing more assistance to families is something that will benefit the nation as a whole, Romney emphasized. Maintaining the nation’s birthrate from the 1980s until now would have increased today’s population by over 5 million. Making up for population shortfalls begins with providing more assistance to parents and families — like Romney’s Family Security Act.
“I think it’s critical — not just to help families, but to help the country,” Romney concluded.