“Like many progressives, I like the Biden administration’s plan to invest in infrastructure, but really love its plans to invest more in people. There’s a good case for doing more to improve physical assets like roads, water supplies and broadband networks. There’s an overwhelming case for doing more to help families with children.
To Republican politicians, however, the opposite is true. G.O.P. opposition to President Biden’s infrastructure plans has felt low-energy, mainly involving word games about the meaning of “infrastructure” and tired repetition of old slogans about big government and job-killing tax hikes. Attacks on the family plan have, though, been truly venomous; Republicans seem really upset about proposals to spend more on child care and education.
Which is not to say that the arguments they’ve been making are honest.
How do we know that we should be spending more on families? There is, it turns out, a lot of evidence that there are big returns to helping children and their parents — stronger evidence, if truth be told, than there is for high returns to improved physical infrastructure.
For example, researchers have looked into the long-term effects of the food stamp program, which was rolled out gradually across the country in the 1960s and 1970s. Children who had early access to food stamps, the Washington Center for Equitable Growth concluded, “grew up to be better educated and have healthier, longer and more productive lives.” Researchers have found similar effects for children whose families received access to the earned-income tax credit and Medicaid.