Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg repeatedly claimed in an interview Wednesday that the ongoing US labor shortage was due to a lack of affordable child care options despite objections from MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski.
“There are a lot of things contributing to this,” said Buttigieg, who came under fire from conservatives for going on paternity leave in the midst of the global supply chain crisis earlier this year. “One of them is child care, of course, which is why the president’s Build Back Better vision is going to be good for the labor market.”
A skeptical Brzezinski noted: “Before COVID, before Biden, there was a problem with child care and people still went to work.”
“We are in a very different place right now,” she added, “and I need to understand the explanation for that.”
“Yes, the child care issue is not new, but it is a greater crunch than ever, even compared to a year or two ago, which is why it’s so important for us to support child care,” answered Buttigieg, who went on to claim that President Biden’s $1.75 trillion social spending bill, known as the Build Back Better Act, would “ease these labor market pressures.”
“I still don’t understand the problem that’s happening right now,” Brzezinski said. “If you’re telling me that Build Back Better will bring people back to work because of much-needed, and long-needed, issues like child care and pre-K, that still doesn’t explain why people aren’t coming to work today.”
“Well, again, I would not ignore the issue of child care,” Buttigieg added before suggesting that the labor shortage was part of a “bigger, deeper reckoning” for employers.
“We went for a long time where I think a lot of people just assumed that working for poverty wages was the only way out,” he said. “Now, we’re seeing better wages, even in jobs like fast food that were not known for generosity in pay or benefits. I do think that will have an effect. I don’t think it will have an effect overnight.”
Under the current plan, middle-class families would pay no more than 7 percent of their income on child care. Two parents earning $100,000 per year and with one toddler could expect more than $5,000 in child care savings per year.
The plan also expands access to free pre-school for more than 6 million children per year. The Biden administration said the expansion would be the largest expansion of universal and free education since public high school was established 100 years ago.
Republicans have objected to the plan, saying it does not give parents enough options.
The Biden administration received more bad economic news Wednesday when the Labor Department announced that its Consumer Price Index, which measures a basket of goods and services as well as energy and food costs, jumped 6.2 percent in October from a year earlier. That represents the highest inflation rate since November 1990.