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3 Big Issues Parents Need to Focus on During the Democratic Debates

The simple fact is that parents today are working harder for less and have fewer and fewer support systems to help them. The idea, then, is to vote to bring those back.

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Democratic contenders are preparing to square off in the first debate of the season tonight and tomorrow. While eyes will especially be on leading candidates — in particular Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar at tonight’s debate; and Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg at Thursday evening’s — the sheer number of contenders means it will be difficult for everyone to make an impression and thus try to get their talking points out. It might be a mess. It might not. It will certainly be a historic event. American parents, however, need to cut through the noise and focus on one area in particular: policies that will make the cost of raising a family more manageable. The simple fact is that parents today are working harder for less and have fewer and fewer support systems to help them. The idea, then, is to vote to bring those back. Here are three areas to which parents need to pay particular attention.  

Child Care

Per a recent brief from the Center for American Progress, many American families are financially crippled by the expense of child care  — a necessary one that allows both parents to stay in the work force while giving their children a safe place to grow and develop.

 “Under the current policies,” the report states, “most parents must cover the full cost of child care on their own, an expense that few can afford. Even low-income families—whose children likely qualify for child care assistance—are often forced to pay for child care, since fewer than 1 in 6 subsidy-eligible children receives assistance.”

So, some talking points that parents need to listen out for are candidate proposals for offsetting these costs? Of particular note should be Universal Child Care and paid family leave, the latter of which is essential for development and would help offset the cost of childcare for the length of time mothers and fathers get off work. Some candidates have laid out plans, but deeper discussions on the big stage are necessary to get an actual idea of how proposals will work.

Health Care

According to a recent story in the Los Angeles Times, one in six Americans who get insurance through their jobs say they’ve had to make “’difficult sacrifice’ to pay for healthcare in the last year, including cutting back on food, moving in with friends or family, or taking extra jobs.” Additionally, the article states that one in five Americans say healthcare costs “have eaten up all or most of their savings.” 

Bryan Shirley, a lawyer in Minnesota interviewed for in the Los Angeles Times story said that “he would question whether he needed to take his children to the doctor because he worried about paying the deductible.” He told them: “It’s the worst feeling as a parent.”

Healthcare policy will be a large topic in the Democratic Primary debates. We’ll certainly here from Bernie Sanders and others about Sanders’ Medicare For All bill, which would transfer the U.S. to single-payer health care system in which one overarching government plan would give all Americans insurance. Other Democratic candidates will directly oppose such universal health care in favor of our current system. Still others will offer other proposals that will skim from both ideas.

What really needs to be brought up are specifics. Health care policy is a huge topic and it’s easy to speak in broad terms. So far, there has been a lack of specifics about how such programs will be implemented and afforded. Tonight, there will undoubtedly be big picture talk about universal coverage or other plans, but the nitty gritty details are going to be what sets candidates apart — and what parents need to listen to. Expect a lot of clashes.  

Loan Forgiveness and Higher Education

Student loan debt continues to shape the modern family. The total student loan debt in America is now $1.4 trillion, making student loans the second largest debt in America under home mortgage loans. The conversation regarding the cost of higher education is inherently tied to the issue of loans and both are big concerns parents need to consider.

 When it comes to student loans, some candidates are proposing a sliding scale debt forgiveness based on the income of borrowers (Elizabeth Warren) while others are offering complete debt forgiveness regardless of income (Bernie Sanders).  In terms of higher education in general, there’s talk of everything from free community college to free four-year tuition for lower income families.

While Warren and Sanders have been the most prominent voices for these two issues, it will be interesting to see what conversations take place and what statements are offered. Also questions of how will these plans be enacted will loom large.