Struggle and sacrifice, Republican style

“Making people struggle a little bit is not necessarily the worst thing.”

That’s what Republican Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said as the Senate Finance Committee, with the Bush administration’s blessing, voted down an amendment that would have added $11.25 billion in child care money over five years to the bill renewing welfare reform.

So Senator Santorum thinks it’s OK that low-wage, single working mothers can’t afford child care because, you know, struggle is good.

As The Washington Post’s E. J. Dionne put it, “You should be inspired by those words the next time you see a mother working behind the counter at an ice cream place or a Burger King with her kids in tow. Just tell her having the kids around is good for family values. Struggle will build character. The kids can always do their homework in the corner.”

OK, if struggle is so good, let’s look at another way to spread it around. How about reducing the tax cut for the highest-earning one percent of Americans in order to fund the President’s request for an additional $87 billion in spending on Iraq and Afghanistan? Maybe these folks could build character by struggling to get by with less expensive Jaguars, fewer designer clothes, less frequent plastic surgery, or whatever the hell they spend their money on. After all President Bush told us recently that we all have to make sacrifices.

But Vice President Dick Cheney says no way. We have to draw the line on character-building sacrifice somewhere, and it might as well be with the people who can most afford to sacrifice.

Lest you think everyone in Washington is living in the Twilight Zone, here are the refreshingly sane words of Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, herself the mother of 7-year-old twins:

“It’s almost as if it’s an objective to make people struggle. There’s plenty of hardship to go around. We don’t need to create it for them. It’s so obvious when you’re out there with these single moms that they want to give 150 percent to get off welfare and provide for their families and achieve self-sufficiency and pride. But they just can’t do it without help, and especially without child care.”