Image: Associated Press

On Wednesday night, Kirsten Gillibrand got into it with Joe Biden, whose decades-long record is basically a menu of terrible shit that is very worth getting into it over. The topic was Biden’s lone opposition to expanding a childcare tax credit while in the Senate in 1981, and a companion op-ed he wrote that argued day care centers and nursing homes were somehow emblematic of people’s “desire to avoid individual responsibility.”

As HuffPost reported last Friday, while a senator, Biden made both a financial and a moral argument against expanding the childcare tax credit to all two-parent families, regardless of their income. He argued wealthier families—in today’s terms, couples whose combined annual incomes are $88,000 or more, which is hardly rich by any means—should not receive a tax credit. He justified his stance by arguing that giving comparatively more well-off couples an incentive to, in his words, “forget their responsibility to take care of a child all day from the time the child is an infant until the time he or she gets in school” is “undesirable and wrong.” (Biden now, for what it’s worth, supports an $8,000 per year tax credit for any family needing childcare, but unlike Elizabeth Warren, has yet to release a detailed childcare plan, and his tax credit is paltry when compared to Warren’s plan.)

But in 1981, at the time of the vote, Biden further expanded on his position in an op-ed he wrote for The Daily Times, the local newspaper in Salisbury, Maryland. In it, he linked the use of day care, as well as nursing homes, to what he called “the cancer of materialism.” It’s worth quoting his op-ed at length. Here’s Biden implying that people who would make use of the tax credit do so in order to get, among other things, a swimming pool:

If a couple enjoying such an income chooses to supplement it so they can go out and buy a larger home, a patio, a swimming pool or three weeks at the beach, that’s fine. They should do it on their own. I do not believe that the federal government should be a party to a system which encourages children in day-care centers in order to acquire material possessions that go far beyond any family basic necessities.

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He added, sounding like quite the Republican: “The day-care centers and nursing home blossoming across the American landscape are monuments to our growing unwillingness to accept personal responsibility for those to whom we owe the most.”

Gillibrand, during Wednesday night’s debate, seized on his op-ed and his former opposition to expanding the childcare tax credit.

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She said:

I want to address the vice president directly. When the Senate was debating middle-class affordability for child care, he wrote an op-ed. He voted against it, the only vote. But, when he—he wrote an op-ed, was that he believed that women working outside the home would create the “deterioration’ of family.” He also said that women who were working outside the home were avoiding ‘responsibility.”

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While Biden had not singled out women as the ones who should stay at home and take care of the kids (he himself, after all, was a single dad at the time), it was true in 1981, as it is true today, that the majority of stay-at-home parents are women. In response to Gillibrand, Biden defended his record and pointed out that both of his wives were working mothers. “From the very beginning, my deceased wife worked when we had children,” Biden said. “My present wife has worked all the way through raising our children.” I guess his own family where both he and his wife worked wasn’t contributing to the deterioration of the family, it’s just other families.

What he didn’t address, however, were his beliefs that at least one parent should stay at home and raise their kids and that sending kids to day care (and parents and grandparents to a nursing home) is some sort of moral failing.

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I’m not a parent, but as someone whose mom and younger brother spent months taking care of my dad at home, giving up their lives to do so in the process, before we decided it was the right decision to have him live in a nursing home before he died, all I can say is, fuck you Joe Biden!

Here’s the full op-ed: