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The MAGA Transformation of Elise Stefanik

“‘I Am Ultra-MAGA’: Invention of Elise Stefanik” (front page, Jan. 1) traces the evolution of an emerging congressional leader driven by a restless political ambition and a quest for power and influence.

Ms. Stefanik herself defends her shift from a moderate brand of Republicanism to a full-throated embrace of MAGA doctrine as simply reflecting the views among her constituents.

But surely we must demand more of our leaders than that they be mere conduits for expressing what they perceive to be the will of those they represent. True leadership does indeed involve taking into account the views of various constituents in shaping one’s words and actions, but ultimately grounding them in a set of principles that makes morality — the desire to do that which is right, fair and just — the force that most animates our exercise of leadership.

In his recent book about Abraham Lincoln, “And There Was Light,” Jon Meacham writes that “politics divorced from conscience is fatal to the American experiment in liberty under law.”

Representative Stefanik, along with anyone who aspires to a position of leadership, would do well to heed those words.

Elise Stefanik’s Gumby-like transformation from moderate Republican to ultra-MAGA Trumpster is emblematic of today’s G.O.P., which has now given us George Santos. Malleability and dissembling have replaced honesty and conviction.

Groucho Marx famously said, “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them … well, I have others.”

Re “Don’t Expand the Child Tax Credit,” by Scott Winship (Opinion guest essay, Dec. 21):

Dr. Winship writes that while a short-term bump in the child tax credit has been shown to reduce child poverty, the long-term consequences are likely to be a disincentive for parents to work. This trope has been a conservative talking point going back to the Reagan administration.

The glaring omission in Mr. Winship’s analysis is the cost and unavailability of reliable, quality day care for low-income and single parents.

The Times recently published a hand-wringing article about the cost of day care, which can reach heights beyond that of college tuition. A Nov. 17 article in Fortune magazine bemoaned the frequency with which parents miss work for lack of child care, especially during winter flu and cold seasons.

When are conservatives going to see the elephant in the room? The problem is the cost and availability of child care, not parents’ inherent unwillingness to work if they receive a benefit in the form of a child tax credit from the government.

If the money from the tax credit enables a working-class parent to quit or reduce the hours of a undervalued, low-paying job and stay home to nurture and raise their children, to avoid the stress and anxiety of dealing with unreliable child care and transportation, what’s so wrong with that? Let them enjoy the same options more financially secure parents enjoy.

As Scott Winship explains in his essay, the expanded Child Tax Credit dramatically reduced child poverty in 2021. The monthly payments also reduced food insecurity and lessened parent financial stress.

But I disagree with Mr. Winship on one key point — the expanded Child Tax Credit wouldn’t dramatically change parents’ work behavior. Findings from the 2021 University of Chicago study he mentions have been rebutted by the libertarian-leaning Niskanen Center and other researchers. Evidence from the similar tax benefits in Canada also found no negative employment effects among parents.

If anything, a permanently expanded Child Tax Credit would, in the long run, support employment outcomes for parents and children. Providing additional cash to families improves outcomes in school, health and even future earnings.

In fact, the tax credit helped some parents work more hours. The payments allow parents to afford the transportation and child care needed to work.

The expanded Child Tax Credit supports children, families and our economies — in both the short and long term.

The writer is a senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy.

Re “Hasidic Schools Seize on Special Ed Windfall” (front page, Dec. 29):
A few months ago, The Times published an article about how the Hasidim in New York City were failing to provide basic instruction in the state’s elementary and high school curriculums.

We now learn that they are labeling so many of their children disabled in a bid to obtain state and federal special education funds to augment their inferior schools and unjustly enrich their community. This fraudulent conduct takes scarce resources from the truly needy disabled children in other schools.

As a retired special education attorney, I was appalled that the school administration in New York has apparently shirked its responsibility to students and to the taxpayers by allowing this fraud to continue. At a minimum, it should have trained staff, if not a practicing attorney, at each hearing, forcing the students and parents to prove the disability and to prove what services are necessary.

It should also be conducting annual evaluations to determine the student’s progress and if special education and related services continue to be necessary. The burden of proof in these cases lies with the student and the parent.
The flood of cases will quickly wane when the parents realize that they will be on the hook for attorneys’ fees for both sides if they pursue untenable claims of disability. This can happen only if the public school administration does its job.

Re “Chief Justice Roberts Addresses Threats to Judges’ Safety in His Year-End Report” (news article, Jan. 1):
Chief Justice John Roberts is right to address threats to judges’ safety in his year-end report. I only wish he recognized the threat to women’s safety posed by the court’s Dobbs decision and the threat to the safety of us all posed by the court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen.


Re “The Disappearing Act of a Magical Baby Toy” (Sunday Business, Dec. 25):
Whatever happened to picking up your crying baby so she can smell and feel the parent’s warm body and hear the parent’s soothing voice? Sure, clicking a switch on an electronic toy will stop a baby from crying, but that is not being a responsible parent.


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