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Why Does the Hillbilly Elegy Guy Keep Reminding Us How Terrible He Is?

JD Vance speaks onstage during Day 2 of TechCrunch Disrupt SF

During last night’s joint address to Congress, Joe Biden unveiled his American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, both of which are designed to make it “easier for American families to break into the middle class, and easier to stay in the middle class.”

Much of these plans are centered on education. His proposal for free universal pre-school, as well as two free years of community college, would do so much to shrink the countries’ gaps in equity and accessibility.

Universal pre-school and free or affordable child care, along with access to family and medical leave, would also make it incalculably easier for women to enter and remain in the workforce—which is even more necessary than ever at a time when two million women have dropped out of the workforce thanks to the pandemic.

These seem like things no one should oppose. Or, for those Republicans we know are going to oppose them anyway, we can expect them to complain about the cost–even though as Biden’s plan lays out, it’s likely to “be fully paid for over 15 years, and will reduce deficits over the long term.” But we still know that accusations of overspending are to be expected.

What I wasn’t expecting were claims that free childcare is tantamount to “class warfare.”

Yet that’s what we got from J.D. Vance, the man best known for writing the memoir Hillbilly Elegy and second-best known for being absolutely insufferable at every turn. Every time I forget just how awful he is, he goes and posts something like this:

First of all, what the hell is a “normal” person, James? Based on the context of the rest of the thread (which is just pure garbage from start to finish), he seems to mean lower-income and middle-class people, but he also conflates “affluence” with “college-educated” based on the study he uses as “evidence.”

That study, by the way, is also total garbage. It was conducted by the conservative think tank American Compass and it claims to find that Americans believe the “ideal arrangement for raising young children” in a two-parent household is for one parent to work full time and the other to be a full-time at-home caregiver.

Except the question they asked participants wasn’t about the “ideal” arrangement.

Here’s what they actually asked: “Which arrangement for paid work and childcare do you think is best for your own family while you have children under the age of 5?” or, alternatively, “If you were to have children in the near future, which arrangement for paid work and childcare do you think would be best for your family while your children were under the age of 5?”

“What is best for your family” and “what is your ideal arrangement” are two very different questions! While for many, the answer would be the same, there are also a ton of people for whom a two-working-parent household isn’t realistic, even if it’s ideal, simply because childcare can be prohibitively expensive.

Why fight against leveling that playing field, then? Does Vance realize that “universal” does not mean “mandatory”?

As if his argument couldn’t get any worse, the childcare plan he actually supports comes from–wait for it–Josh Hawley.

Hawley’s plan isn’t actually about childcare; it’s a tax cut for employed parents. And if tax cuts are the way Vance thinks tax cuts for parents are the way to go, then he should be thrilled. Because guess what–Biden’s plan also includes those as well.

(image: Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

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