Ron Johnson’s Solution to the Childcare Crisis: Have Moms on Government Assistance Take Care of Everyone’s Kids

Something you may have picked up during the decade-plus he was in office is that senator Ron Johnson is a dangerous moron. Early in his career, he claimed in an interview that members of ISIS could deliberately infect themselves with Ebola and then come to the United States to spread it. The following year, he introduced legislation “mandating the federal government to prepare to protect critical infrastructure against threats from electromagnetic pulse … and geomagnetic disturbances,” a favorite conspiracy theory of the far right. On climate change, he said the scientific consensus is bullshit’, that experts who attribute the crisis to man-made causes are ‘crazy’, that excess carbon dioxide is good for the environment, and that Greenland got its name because it was originally green . He is a leading purveyor of misinformation about the 2020 election and COVID-19, claiming, in the case of the former, that the deadly uprising was largely a “peaceful protest.” On the latter, he pushed ivermectin – a horse dewormer – as a treatment, falsely insisted the vaccines were dangerous, and said mouthwash could kill the virus. So when Johnson opened his mouth this week to discuss an idea he seems to have been kicking around about public assistance and child care, it wasn’t exactly surprising that the words that came out were those of a big idiot.

In a telephone town hall with constituents on Tuesday, the Wisconsin legislature proposed that mothers receive public assistance at day care centers where their children attend. “When you have mothers on different types of public assistance, to me, an elegant solution would be, why don’t we have them to help staff childcare for other mothers?” Johnson said, modestly viewing his idea as an “imaginative solution” to the current staffing shortages at childcare facilities. (It’s not clear whether Johnson wants to make it a requirement to receive aid, but since Republicans are famously anti-“handouts” and the party of “get a job,” it wouldn’t be out of character if he did didn’t. ) The senator was apparently responding to the child care subsidy included in President Joe Biden‘s Build Back Better proposal, which Democrats support because it might actually help people. Johnson attacked the subsidy (and parents who aren’t millionaires like him) in January, saying in a TV interview that he was against making childcare more affordable because “people decide to have families and become parents ; it is something they should consider when making that choice. I have never really felt that it is society’s responsibility to take care of other people’s children.” (By the way, Johnson opposes abortion rights and last year tried to make performing the procedure after 20 weeks a criminal offense.)

But apparently the senator thought about it some more and decided that the subsidies might be fine with him if the women receiving them went to work. There are just a few problems with his proposal, one of which is that it is illegal in the state of Wisconsin, according to the Associated Press:

Wisconsin law prohibits state subsidy payments from going to a certified child care provider where an employee’s child receives care. The law limiting eligible recipients of child care subsidies was enacted after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2009 discovered daycare providers collecting subsidies while watching each other’s children.

There’s also the matter of Johnson’s “imaginative solution” being wildly sexist, as he seems to believe childcare is strictly the domain of mothers. Plus, as a senator from the state of Wisconsin Kelda Royce pointed out on Twitter Johnson seems to think you can just put any random woman in the job. “This is absolute rubbish,” she wrote. “Early childhood education is incredibly demanding, important, high-skill work. Everyone’s children deserve the care of well-paid, trained professionals – including parents with assistance.”

In response to the proposal, Sarah Godlewski, who is running for the Senate, said: “We have a full-blown child care crisis and a record number of moms being kicked out of the workforce. There are common sense solutions to these problems, but Ron Johnson’s ‘imaginative’ idea would punish mothers and drag us back to the 1950s. I have news for this guy: We’re not going back.” Spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Philip Shulman took a similar approach, noting, “Ron Johnson couldn’t care less about Wisconsin parents and children. Instead of offering sensible solutions that will lower costs, he’s pushing a self-serving agenda that hurts Wisconsin families. “

A spokesman for Johnson’s office said Vanity Fair, in part: “All we see from Democrats and the Biden administration is the government repeatedly taking away options for hardworking families and mortgaging the future of our children. Their big government proposals eliminate childcare choices for parents; it is pushing out faith-based providers, small family child care homes and kinship care…Senator Johnson simply suggested looking for a better, less expensive solution.”

If you want to receive the Levin Report in your inbox daily, click here to subscribe.

More great stories from Vanity Fair

— Can Ukrainian Freedom Fighters Rise Against the Russian Army?
– Grimes on music, Mars and her secret new baby with Elon Musk
– Trump blows a gasket over his joke of a social media network
– How the Atlanta Spa Shooting Tells a Story of America
— Inside the Succession Drama by Scholastic
– Trump now looks for ways to launch more Russian war, then “sits back and watches”
— The psychology behind Putin’s war
– From the archives: How a once-faceless Putin took control of the world’s largest country
— Not a subscriber? Join Vanity Fair to now receive full access to and the complete online archive.

Related Posts