By Parker Blackman, Founder, Parker Strategies
There are two consistent story lines in American media and public life today. One is the story of economic struggles and insecurity of working Americans who are working harder than ever and still unable to keep their heads above water. Increasingly, that story focuses on the challenges of work and family - not earning enough in wages to support a family, not being able to afford childcare, education or elder care, or feeling isolated as family caregivers in a world where your responsibilities are invisible.
The other story line is about who is to blame. Some point to a broken democracy. The most dangerous among them is rooted in racism, xenophobia, and blaming the “other,” whoever that may be. It’s not a new story; in many ways it’s our default. “Othering” takes on new power in times of economic insecurity and when major changes in our demography and economy are underway. The implications range from devastating to deadly.
In this context, the thing we need most are solutions that speak to our universal needs across race, class and generation, and truly address the economic hardships facing working families in America. We need big, bold ideas that actually change the game for people. Because these ideas create the spaciousness and possibility to imagine that we could together, as a country, make life better for all of us.
One such idea is a new concept called universal family care. It is built on the premise that almost two decades into the new millennium, we still have a system of caregiving that was built for the Leave It To Beaver era of the 1950s when the economy, the workforce, and our families looked radically different. One breadwinner and one stay-at-home parent headed the typical American household. In the years since, a number of social and economic forces have dramatically changed that set-up: women in the paid workforce, globalization, and the digital revolution among them. Meanwhile, the traditional tent poles of a middle-class life – a home, an education for the kids, and retirement savings – are getting harder to come by. It simply isn’t working anymore. It’s time to create a system of care that reflects the financial and cultural realities of today’s Modern Family.
The time, work and costs associated with caring for families are too much for working families in the 21st century to bear alone. A thoughtfully designed universal family care program can address this underlying challenge by streamlining a continuum of support that nearly every family, over time, will need: childcare, long-term care and paid family medical leave.
Funders should attend this session if they care about and want to think together about the following issues:
- A bold idea with the potential to create millions of living wage jobs for women and immigrants.
- An opportunity to address economic insecurity when major changes in our demography and economy are underway.
- Re-imagining care in America: from paid leave and child care to long term care, what would it look like if we redesigned the entire infrastructure to reflect the needs of today’s poor and working class American families?
About Parker Blackman
Parker is the Founder at Parker Strategies. He is a progressive social change executive with more than 25 years of experience in organizing, advocacy, communications and philanthropy. He’s an organizational and programmatic growth expert and communications strategist with proven track record of scaling start up efforts and managing organizational change and growth.