Back in the early 1900’s there was a woman doctor named Sara Josephine Baker. She wrote a book called “Fighting for Life”, which was about public health, although public health in the absence of modern medicine and antibiotics was kind of iffy at best, particularly with the waves of European immigrants – Irish, Italians, Poles – that were jamming themselves into inner-city New York. She was hired in 1902 by the NYC Department of Health, and in 1908, she was put in charge of the health Department’s new Bureau of Child Hygiene.
She promptly changed the mission from treatment to prevention. Contrary to what some people seem to believe, poor mothers love their children as much as any other mother, and these poor mothers were willing to try anything to save their infants from an early demise. In her first year, Dr. Baker sent nurses to visit new mothers within a day of delivery, encouraging breast-feeding, fresh air, and cleanliness, and also to discourage such practices as letting babies drink beer, for example.
The first summer after Dr. Baker instituted her new program, 1200 fewer children died in that district compared to the year before. Anti-choicers, pay special attention to that statistic – 1200. Fewer. Children. Died.
(The point here is, anti-choicers, that you must care for children after they are born in order to consider your job well done. Otherwise – all you accomplish are a bunch of super- late-term abortions.)
The home-visit program was expanded city-wide. In 1910 a network of “milk stations” was established. At these stations, nurses and doctors began offering regular baby exams and safe formula for older children and infants of women who could not breast-feed.
Result: in just three years, the infant death rate in NYC fell by 40%.
So, in the late 1910’s, Baker and others wrote a legislative bill to create a nationwide network of home visit programs, along with maternal and child health clinics modeled on the ragingly successful New York model.
Enter the Republicans. The American Medical Association was then backed by wealthy Repubs, who then, as now, hated spending money on social welfare. They claimed the program was tantamount to “Bolshevism”.
Ring a bell, anyone? Bolshevism, communism, socialism, really doesn’t matter what the words actually mean, so long as Republicans can find a way to spook people with them. Here’s what an A.M.A. doctor said to explain their position to a Congressional committee:
“We oppose this bill because, if you are going to save the lives of all these women and children, what inducement will there be for young men to study medicine?”
Senator Sheppard was the chairman of this committee. “Perhaps I didn’t understand you correctly,” he said. “You surely don’t mean that you want women and children to die unnecessarily or live in constant danger of sickness so there will be something for young doctors to do?”
“Why not?” said the fine young A.M.A. shill. “That’s the will of God, isn’t it?”
Oh, so Republican. Who cares who suffers, if we get what we want, while clothing it in the garb of Almighty God? And, as so often happened then, and happens now, Republican money and misdirection killed the bill.
Fast forward to Richard Nixon’s day, early 70’s. Poverty was getting worse. A group of Washington officials and their allies from the civil rights movement drafted the Comprehensive Child Care and Development Act, which would have created a nation-wide system of high-quality day-care, pre-school, and home-visit programs envisioned by Baker and allies 50 years back. It passed both houses of Congress with strong bipartisan support.
Guess what happened? Right-wing Republicans, using language highly similar to that which was used to crush Baker’s national proposal, pressured Nixon to veto it. Pat Buchanan, then a Nixon advisor, encouraged conservative journalists to write commentaries with headlines like “Child Development Act – To Sovietize Our Youth.”
Of course, Nixon vetoes it and this is why – straight from Wikipedia:
“Nixon’s veto and his accompanying rationale reveal several staple thought processes of Cold War politics in the United States. He said that the bill would implement a “communal approach to child-rearing,” tying it to broad-based fears of Communism. He also said it had “family-weakening implications.” The idea that America was distinguished by strong traditional families was often used (by Nixon and other American leaders) to contrast it with the USSR and to resist feminist demands for greater equality for women. … The bill (also) incited some political backlash from anti-welfare and anti-feminist activists who opposed the idea of women in the workforce and who were leery of allowing children to be partially raised outside of the home.”
There you go. Nixon’s veto was shit-stained from the beginning, the Child Development Act smeared by Republicans who were then, as now, riding their anti-Communist, Joe McCarthy, keep-women-in-the-kitchen-barefoot-and-pregnant high horse. Result: now we have millions of American kids being raised outside the home by other street kids or by themselves, because their parents work two jobs each for minimum wages that still aren’t enough, because Republican fear-mongering consigned a great idea to the garbage can of history. Thanks, Republicans! We were just that far from a better nation for all!
REPUBLICANS AS A PARTY HAVE NEVER BEEN REASONABLE. THEY HAVE ALWAYS BEEN COMPLETELY DEDICATED TO THE CAUSES OF THE RICH AND POWERFUL. They have been using the same rationale, with virtually the same language, to deny American citizens the privilege of healthy children that the rich enjoy from being – rich. This crock of Republicans-have- family-values baloney has been spread around for over a hundred years now! Wise up, America!
And you want to know the irony of all this? There is ONE segment of American society that enjoys all the advantages and privileges of what Josephine Baker envisioned all those hoary decades ago.
THE MILITARY. That should warm the Repub cockles, for sure. Maybe it can explain why military kids score higher on tests in math and reading than public-school kids. Maybe it also explains the lower black/white achievement gap in military families.
Since the military child-care program was created in 1989, the government repeatedly denies requests to fund an in-depth evaluation. You know why? Because if Americans knew about it, they’d insist on these programs for THEIR kids too. And Republicans certainly don’t want THAT for the general run of Americans. It only occurs in the military because the Repubs SUPPORT the military, always, unquestioningly, and with lots and lots of money. If they only knew – or thought about it.
I am tired of having these freaking Teabaggers telling me what to fear all the time, like Bolshevism and Commies. I KNOW what I’m scared of – the place the Right wants to drag us down to. THAT’S scarier than anything a horror movie could throw at you.