The Endangered American Family

How America Has Broken the Social Contracts for Our Children

Trump Administration Republicans are intent on cutting
social contracts for middle-class and lower income Americans, by undermining
funding, creating negative campaigns about publicly funded programs, and voiding
enforcement of current regulations. This article examines these primary
expenses for families; healthcare, childcare, housing, and education in the
United States, as compared to other industrialized countries.
The cost of U.S. healthcare is higher than anywhere else,
yet the benefits and access to care are at the bottom of industrialized
countries. As discussed in my 2013, book and many articles over the past
decade, this is primarily due to a system which has little cost controls and reimburses
healthcare providers on the basis of volume. The Trump Administration has
removed the tax penalty for nonexempt families who do not obtain health
insurance, which will undermine participation in the ACA insurance exchange
programs. Further, the current administration has threatened to remove the tax
credits which enable middleclass and lower middleclass Americans to obtain
insurance. According to the Kaiser Foundation, the average cost for health insurance
for a family is now $18,301 for private plans through employers. (Kaiser Foundation State Health Facts, 2018) Republican plans to
lower the cost of health insurance include; reinstating pre-existing conditions
for people with health issues, excluding maternity coverage, and absurdly low
maximum benefit levels.
The ability to afford childcare is fundamental to economic
mobility. Countries which do not produce enough children have challenges
filling jobs, supporting social programs for current beneficiaries of social
programs, like Social Security, and maintaining public services. Excluding Monaco,
which is primarily a retirement haven for the wealthy, as well as a small
French protectorate off the coast of Newfoundland, and Andorra the adorable tax haven situated in the Pyrenees, Japan still leads the pack for the lowest
birth rate. For this criterion, the U.S. is in the middle of the pack, ranking
158 out of 226 nations. (CIA Factbook-2017, 2017) Of the industrialized countries, here are top
child producers:

The most expensive childcare is in the U.K.,
which includes England, Scotland, and Wales. The U.S. has the next most expensive childcare, consuming over 25% of family household incomes. (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2016) Currently, the U.S.
has no mandatory paid maternity or family medical leave policy. The Family
Medical Leave Act, enacted in 1993, required employers with 50 or more
employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for an employee or family
member engaged in the care of a family member. Employees are entitled to this
leave every 12 months. Though 66% of women work during pregnancy, there has
been no change in this mandate.

Scandinavian countries provide families with subsidized high-quality
childcare, free preschool, and a monthly stipend per child. Parents receive
anywhere from 12 to 20 weeks of paid maternity leave. These generous social
policies mean that most women are able to work and support themselves while
having children, at living wage jobs, including single mothers. Even the UK now
provides 15 hours of free childcare for all children (as of 2017). Virtually all European
nations provide some type of childcare for working families and in Western
Europe this is typically 15 to 30 hours per week. (Janta, 2010)
In the United States there are many variables to housing
costs, depending on a rural or urban location and the availability of
employment, which can support housing costs. This is why housing
indexes tend to measure housing costs in major metropolitan areas and not the sparsely
populated ones. Though housing costs for home buyers tend to be more affordable
here than in other nations, for renters, costs are out of control in many
regions of the country. That said, housing is a key issue for families so here
is a metric illustrating how the U.S. compares to other developed nations with
the most expensive listed first. This chart includes data from 2017 for 2018
cost of living values. (Numbeo.com, 2018)
Multiple of Income   Housing Affordability Ratio
However, when viewing housing
affordability and rent, a 2015 Harvard study of 11 countries revealed the U.S.
was the second most expensive for renters, after Spain. U.S. renters spend 34% of
disposable income on housing and low-income households are much more likely to
spend 50% of household income on rent (28% of U.S. renters spend >50%). The
study found that the degree of income inequality, which is by far greater in
the U.S. than these nations and the availability of housing allowances
determined the level of affordable rentals. This exhibit shows the housing subsidies
provided by European countries compared to the U.S. (Micheal
Carliner, 2016)
Percentage of the nation Receiving
Housing Allowance
Value of Annual Housing
Allowance in USD
*These values were drawn from
other sources for the 2015 year, due to the way the Harvard article expressed
the data. (Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development, 2016)
Though obtaining a university
education is not a goal for all residents, it is considered a measure of upward
mobility, not only for the individual but for generations of family members.
Since the U.S. has continued to under fund public universities, universities have relied
more on user’s fees, tuition increases, and private endowments to pay for
higher education. Follow this link to a Forbes article citing the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which shows U.S. tuition costs compared to the world, based on 2017
data. (Organization for Economic Development, 2018)
Education policy changes under
consideration in the Trump Administration include: eliminating PELL grants for
low-income students, cutting back on federally subsidized student loans,
eliminating loan forgiveness for those who go into public service roles like
nursing or education, and turning loan programs over to for-profit entities,
which will raise the costs for students. None of these changes would impact
children of the wealthy, whom have already been gifted the biggest tax break under
the Trump budget, since Ronald Reagan, only working-class people trying to
better themselves.
Anyone with a pulse would conclude
the U.S. is not a very easy place to raise children, with the highest rate of
mass shootings in the world (the only places that come close are war zones),
laws that allow employers to discriminate against working parents, and a
nominal social safety net. Not only are these factors impacting highly
skilled workers, where out migration has increased since George W. Bush, but
the continued efforts by the Republicans to cut social safety-net funding
jeopardizes future generations. The U.S. government doesn’t effectively track
residents who move to other countries, but maybe it should learn why natives are fleeing the country. The number of Americans who have left
the country is anywhere from two to nine million and those legions include
retirees, professionals working elsewhere, and those who don’t want to raise
their families in the U.S. If Trump wants to make America great again, why
doesn’t he look at the adverse policies making it extremely expensive to raise
children, who are after all, future tax payers. The proposed federal budget further
increases the federal deficit to give tax breaks to the super rich further
undermining the nation’s ability to meet Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid obligations.
Let’s be clear, these are the only working class social programs for Americans
and Trump, Ryan, and Mulvaney would like to get rid of them through program and
funding cuts.

References

Agency, U. S. (2017). CIA Factbook-2017. In C. I.
Agency, The World FactBook 2017. Retrieved March 27, 2018, from
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2054rank.html

Janta, B. (2010). Caring for Children in
Europe-How Childcare, Parental Leave, and Flexible Working Arrangements
Interact in Europe.
Rand Corporation.org. Rand Corporation-Europe.
Retrieved March 28, 2018, from
https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR500/RR554/RAND_RR554.pdf

Kaiser Foundation State Health Facts. (2018, March
28). Kaiser Foundation State Health Facts. Retrieved from Henry J.
Kaiser Family Foundation.org:
https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/family-coverage/?currentTimeframe=0&selectedRows=%7B%22states%22:%7B%22washington%22:%7B%7D%7D%7D&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D

Micheal Carliner, E. M. (2016, September 1). Rental
Housing-An International Comparison. Harvard University Joint Center For
Housing Studies
. Retrieved March 28, 2018, from
http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/research/publications/rental-housing-international-comparison

Numbeo.com. (2018, March 27). Property Prices
Index 2018
. Retrieved from Numbeo.com:
 https://www.numbeo.com/property-investment/rankings.jsp

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development. (2016). Affordable Housing Database-Key Characteristics of
Housing Allowances.
Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD). Retrieved March 28, 2018, from https://www.oecd.org/els/family/PH3-2-Key-characteristics-of-housing-allowances.pdf

Organization for Economic Development. (2016,
December 22). These Are The Countries Where The Parents Spend The Most On
Childcare. World Economic Forum. Retrieved March 27, 2018, from
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/12/childcare-cost-oecd/

Organization for Economic Development. (2018, March
27). Education At A Glance. Retrieved from Organization for Economic
Development: https://blogs-images.forbes.com/niallmccarthy/files/2017/09/20170912_Tuition_Fees.jpg

 

 

 

 

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