By Nora Kenney
Thanks to the resolve of Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema—which has come not without personal cost—Democrats need to shave as much as two trillion dollars off of a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that would create what the Wall Street Journal editorial board has called a “cradle-to-grave welfare state.”
In the unlikely scenario that Democrat lawmakers are actually contemplating policy items for the chopping block and not just scheming to hide the true cost of the bill, as it seems increasingly likely they’ll try to do, they should consider giving universal pre-K the axe. It’s bad for children, it’s bad for markets, and it’s bad for women, too.
Let’s start with the economic concerns, the likes of which the most convincing Soviet agitprop would be insufficient to conceal. The current Build Back Better bill proposes to pay $450 billion for childcare and universal pre-K for three- and four-year-olds, introducing suffocating regulations into the childcare industry in the process. As a result, the quality of childcare offerings would significantly decline across the board.
Ryan Bourne of the Cato Institute, writing for The Commons at American Compass, understands this well. Looking at the effects of similar policies in the U.K., he writes that “when governments step in to cover the cost of childcare or preschool, they have to cap what they are willing to pay at a maximum subsidy rate, lest providers just ramp up their prices or consumers use the blank check to load up on limousine care.” As a result, such subsidies end up functioning as highly regulated price controls, which ultimately raise market prices for those paying out-of-pocket. The upshot is a vicious system of rising demand for more and more government subsidies to ensure consistent quality.
Additionally, the highly subsidized, highly regulated environment—one that would incentivize lead preschool teachers to have bachelor’s degrees—pushes smaller, family-run, mom-and-pop daycares out of business.
“A more classic case of the state crowding out family and civil society through regulation and then subsidy is difficult to find,” Bourne writes, describing the childcare landscape within such a framework. “Not only has the government weakened the personal responsibility of raising children, but each new policy undertaken in the name of the state bettering outcomes has brought problems that yet further interventions have been proposed to fix.”
The significance of a Cato libertarian writing for Oren Cass’s blog is not lost on Bourne. He points out that no matter where one stands in the proverbial French-Ahmari War, universal pre-K is a battlefront in which both ends of the conservative spectrum “should unite to yell ‘Stop!’ before the train to a full public takeover really gets going.” He’s right. Conservatives of all stripes and motivations should resist a government framework determined to exert control over how children are raised, rather than foster a pluralistic childcare market with a variety of strong options to fit a diverse array of parents’ needs.
But, of course, it’s not just about the market.
Via:: American Conservative
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