Fiorina decries opportunity gap, offers limited federal help

Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina told Iowans recently that there is a “huge disparity” between kids’ life chances based on their family incomes. The candidate declared that a core conservative value for her is that “we have to give every child the maximum” chance to succeed.

Addressing questions from Every Child Matters staffers at a candidate meet-and-greet in Carroll, Iowa, Fiorina decried the existence of an opportunity gap holding back lower-income kids. “We can’t have a disparity between children in low-income neighborhoods and families,” she said, “and children in high-income neighborhoods and families.”

At the same time, regarding efforts to improve working families’ access to quality child care and early learning, Fiorina insisted, “my answer is not another federal government program… not another federal government mandate.” Fiorina allowed that she might support delivering more money to states and communities for early learning or other educational purposes to keep accountability for decision making closer to those most affected.

Asked whether she supported paid sick and family medical leave, Fiorina quickly affirmed, “Of course.” The former Hewlett-Packard CEO described the need for the best employees to “balance all the many requirements of their lives” in order to “come to work to be more productive.”

“What I don’t support,” she said, “is the federal government mandating how every single company should do it.” Fiorina pointed to what she called “well-meaning government mandates” in France, Sweden and Chile that led to fewer jobs, particularly for women. “It doesn’t help people,” she said.

Finally, in response to an audience question about Obamacare, Fiorina said she would repeal it, calling it an “abysmal failure” and a “recipe for crony capitalism.”

Referring to herself as a cancer survivor and to the loss of a daughter to “the demons of addiction,” Fiorina said she supports assuring coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions, as well as investing more on mental health and addiction. She also advocated that health care service providers should be required to publish prices and outcomes, and that states should be responsible for managing high-risk pools.

“We’ve never tried the free market,” Fiorina said, “where any insurance company can compete for your business, and every insurance company has to compete for your business, and you’re in charge of the health insurance premium you want and a cost you can afford.”

Every Child Matters will continue to raise issues affecting children throughout both major parties’ presidential candidate selection process in Iowa and New Hampshire. We work with partners nationally and in both states to raise the profile of our kids-in-working-families agenda. Children’s advocacy organizations around the country must look to and work with those engaged on the emerging “Parent Agenda” of policy issues at the local, state and federal levels so our political system feels the full force of support for our combined efforts.