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May 9 2016

A Mother's Day Thought: Let's Close the Diaper Gap

Patrice J. Lee

Yesterday was  Mother’s Day and in his message for the day, President Obama asked private businesses to join with nonprofits to help alleviate the diaper problem for low-income families.

Diapers aren’t cheap and, according to the White House, providing them is a hardship for one out of three American families. President Obama is tackling diaper affordability by enlisting private philanthropy.  This is much better way to deal with a problem than direct government action.

And providing clean diapers is a worthy cause. Dirty diapers don’t just smell bad, but if babies and toddler are forced to wear soiled diapers, this can lead to health problems with urinary tracts or staph infections. However when moms and dads are forced to choose between food, rent, utilities, or diapers,  diapers may come in last.  

And not-surprisingly, with low-income families with babies spend a lot more of their income on diapers in part because they may not be able to get to big box stores to buy in bulk at cheaper prices and federal assistance isn’t used for diapers. This creates a so-called "diaper gap" or "diaper divide."

The president seems to lament that Congress hasn't acted to provide diaper assistance. In the absence of congressionally-mandated diaper assistance, he says, "We’re getting creative and using every tool we have to help solve this problem."

We approve of getting creative over congressional mandates that force taxpayers to pick up the tab. The president urges retailers and nonprofits to help out and notes that as a result of such efforts, Covenant House, a homeless shelter for young people, will be able to double the number of diapers they purchase with their limited funds. This highlights an excellent way to help those in need.

President Obama neglects to take credit for the feeble economy that is not helping American families and the rising costs of living due to higher taxes and his regulations.  But providing diapers for low-income families through nonprofits and business donations is nevertheless a cause worth highlighting, and we are glad the president did so yesterday.

More than  700 nonprofits have jumped on board with Obama's Community Diapers Program, which will allow them to purchase diapers for as much as 25 percent less than current prices. Through the partnership, Jet.com helps non-profits buy and get diapers quickly with two-day shipping, but promises it won’t make profit. In addition, First Quality, the makers of Cuties brand diapers, provides the diapers. They designed diapers packages without frills and less coloring to save some pennies. Here, technology meets manufacturing and philanthropy.

Public-private partnerships have been around for a while as has private philanthropy. American philanthropy is impressive and leads innovative ways to tackle social problems every day. We are the most generous nation giving over $300 billion away each year to the causes we care about. Private philanthropy is bolstered even more when paired with private business to deliver free-market solutions that work.

However, we can’t neglect that so many families are struggling to buy diapers and pay their bills because of flat wage growth, job creation that leaves people working part-time rather than full-time or in lower paying jobs, and the tight hold regulations place on businesses which eats up money for salary increases. Americans are seeing their paychecks shrink, so offering diaper help is only a band-aid on a wound made worse by the Obama Administration. Making hiring people more expensive through excessive regulation does nothing to improve the day-to-day lives of American families. So while making diapers more affordable is commendable, scaling back regulations would go farther for families.

IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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