I am going to argue for a shift in social policy.  I know the immediate reaction to it from many (if not most or all) of my readers will be “J.Kb, are you crazy?  Did you hit your head and become a socialist?”  No I haven’t gone crazy, or become a socialist.  But I want you to bear with me for a moment, and let me argue my point.

I have become in favor of publicly funded daycare, as part of the public school system.

This came about as the result of some conversations I had recently with my tax guy and my son’s daycare.

Let me explain why:

In principle, I am not against the government spending money.  It needs to.  What concerns me is how much money the government spends and on what it spends the money.  One of the things I believe in is that the government should not be in the business of direct wealth transfers.  The government shouldn’t take money from Citizen A and give it to Citizen B, because A has more then B.

I am in favor of spending (in reasonable, sustainable amounts) on institutions that benefit the country and citizenry as a whole.

The military to defend us.

Law Enforcement to protect us.

An impartial judicial system (courts, prosecutors, public defenders) to maintain justice and order.  This is critical for a strong economy, where legal protection is vital in maintaining business contracts.  Without courts to enforce civil law, our economy would crumble.

Infrastructure that is used for the transportation of goods and services that support a thriving economy.  The Federal Interstate Highway System is perhaps the greatest economic endeavor of any government since the fall of the Roman Empire.

I will add to this list, public education.  It is a benefit to the nation that its citizenry is educated.  It benefits all of us when our population is literate and can finish school with the skills necessary to work and contribute to the economy (We can debate the effectiveness of this later, I’m talking about principles).  This is one of the things that separates 1st world from 3rd world countries, mass education.

Given this, I think that public daycare would be a public benefit.  The children of the poor and working classes are at a disadvantage to the children of the middle class.  We can talk about many reasons why, but one of the biggest is that middle class kids are better prepared for school.  Middle class parents read to their kids.  Poor parents don’t.  Part of that is just a matter of time (hours put in at work), and part of that is cultural.  This is also seen over summer vacation, where poor kids don’t get intellectually stimulated and fall behind while middle class kids go to camp.

Publicly funded daycare would provide an education floor for poor kids before they started school and during the summer, giving them the benefits of a more middle class upbringing.

Yes, I am absolutely advocating educating the generationally poor out of their generational poverty.

I’m already paying for publicly funded daycare, so are you.  Both at the state and federal level.  This is the exact type of direct wealth transfer that I am against.  Going to a publicly funded system would come with ending the daycare subsidy.  This transitions the money the government spends on daycare from a direct wealth transfer to a public benefit available to anybody who wants to use us.

Yes, I know, public daycare will cost more than the subsidy, so how is this better?  Well, this is where conservative pragmatism comes in.  By providing public daycare, we can reduce other direct wealth transfers a well.  Daycare is expensive, even with the subsidies.  There is the common argument that for many parents, daycare isn’t worth the cost.  They just don’t make enough money to justify daycare.  I can tell you from personal experience, this one is true.  We moved for my job.  My wife didn’t work for a while because if she went out and got a retail job, she would’t make enough to cover the cost of daycare.  It wasn’t until professional job came along that it became financially worth it.

By removing the cost of daycare entirely from someone’s budget, now a minimum wage (or better) job is a money making venture.  For poor families and single mothers, this means more income.  More income means less other benefits.

Let me be brutally honest: “Now that your daycare is publicly funded, like public school, you have no reason not to get a job, so go find work because we’re gonna reduce your welfare.”

Given the rate of welfare abuse (including daycare subsidies*) and the inefficiency of government wealth transfer programs, the additional cost to the public for daycare should be offset by the reduction in other benefit programs.

*Growing up in Florida, with my family owning a small business that employed a lot of part time workers, I witnessed first hand how grandma could get approved as a daycare and collect the daycare subsidy for watching her own grand kids.

More people working is also a benefit to the public as more people are involved in the production side of the economy and become tax payers.

Now I know one of the arguments against this is just how bad the public school system is.  Yes, I am aware of that.  But part of this program is that I support a voucher system – which I also believe in for public school reform.  Pick your daycare (licensed ones only, no more grandma), and the credit follows you.

So there you have it.  I want to make daycare a public benefit.  The two reasons are:

  1. Educate the bad habits out of poor kids.
  2. Gives me an excuse to cut welfare/direct wealth transfers.

Let me put it to you like this: I have Netflix.  Some people can’t afford Netflix.  I’d rather pay a little more to add to the DVD collection at my local public library (which I can borrow from as well) than to pay for other people’s Netflix.  Public benefit vs. direct wealth transfer.

Hopefully my justifications are enough to allow me to keep my conservative credentials (especially No. 2).



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By J. Kb

20 thoughts on “I know it sounds crazy”
  1. Actually your suggestions make sense as long as the stipulations you enumerated as well as other common sense regulations are enacted to prevent abuse of the program. Your approach seems to embrace the concept of a hand up and not a hand out.

    1. In large numbers, yes that’s true. Education, until the late 1800’s was a luxury for only the nobility and upper classes. In Europe, most education was carried out by the Church – which was effectively a branch of the government – and available only to upper class children, many who were going to go into the priesthood. The labor class, didn’t go to school. Skilled laborers apprenticed their children to guilds to learn a trade, but there was no general education. Most of the labor force (peasants) were uneducated. A lucky few were able to attend religious school on Sundays, but for the most part were illiterate. This was the same for the United States (and the Colonies before that) until after the Civil War.

      The much idealized one room schoolhouse was a government school, funded by the county, state, or territory.

      Remember that most children worked from the time they could handle basic tasks (about 5 years old) to help feed the family. Children as young as 9 worked up to 16 hours per day in spinning mills and mines in the UK until the 1850’s when the first child labor laws were passed.

      Public education came about, largely as a result of the industrial revolution and social reforms. Child labor became obsolete as mechanization reduced the need for children to work and unskilled labor became less valuable. Societies needed something to do with all the working class kids that didn’t go to work and put them in school.

      If you want to see what life was like in Europe or America before about 1880, look at a 3rd world country. Children working either on subsistence farms or in sweat shops to help poor families survive. Only the children of upper class families go to school.

  2. After making daycare free, they will make it mandatory. And your children will belong to the state. I’m not convinced this is the cure for society’s ills.

    1. That’s how I would implement it. Provide publicly funded day care, then cut welfare. You would squeeze people into using it.

  3. Overall, I agree with your premise. An educated citizenry is critical to a government such as ours as well as helping keep us competitive in the world market. There has been a program, Head Start, that has tried this (a hand up) for perhaps 50 years (2-3 generations of students). I have been unable to determine if there has been any measureable benefit from the program. Perhaps you have some information on the subject. One thing Head Start does not do is keep the kids long enough to really count as daycare so the parents could work a full time job.

    1. No, Head Start does not work. That’s according to the Department of Education’s own studies that show by the time children reach third grade, there is no real difference between children who attended Head Start and those that did not. As I understand, that’s not just one study, but several.

      I don’t know if that invalidates the entire principle of the idea, but it makes me more wary of it. I’m willing to listen to almost anything that will help really break the entitlement driven poverty cycle that the liberals have stuck us with. I’m just not sure that public day care is one of those things.

      1. The reason why Head Start does not work by 3rd grade is because the rest of the education system cannot keep up with the kids from Head Start, the system is geared to produce the lowest common denominator. These kids get bored, put out the minimum amount of effort to keep the teachers happy, and end up backsliding into the normal population because the system cannot be engineered to continue to push them harder because little Johnny that didn’t do advanced education programs would be offended (or his parents would, which is just as caustic).

  4. I don’t think you’ve become a socialist, but are you sure you haven’t bumped your head on something lately?

  5. might as well drop all the regulations that applies to child care first, and see if that helps, since the state won’t bother to enforce its regulations against itself, once it takes over day care.

  6. I just want to know where you got the idea that the government can do it properly.

    One of the biggest problems we have in our country is that our educational system is absolutely crap. For every teacher who’s buying supplies out of their own pocket for kids that don’t have them, there’s three or four “overhead” people. I don’t see any evidence that they’re doing a good job of preparing young kids for the world when they get out of school. Examples are everywhere.

    Do you ever read Divemedic at Confessions of A Street Pharmacist? He retired from live as a paramedic and is now a high school science teacher. He posts about his experiences from time to time. It’s eye opening.

    I’d rather see the “government” give vouchers to parents and let them hire the best privately run place they can find.

    1. I think you should know me better than that by now. I trust the government about as far as I could shot put a politician. Trust me, I know the government can’t solve most problems.

      My wife was a teacher and my mother-in-law is a teacher, so I am very familiar with the problems with the public school system.

      I am a supporter of vouchers. I said that. Looking at school performance and cost, I’ve argued in the past that high school seniors and select juniors should be given vouchers to attend remedial college classes instead of going to public school. It is actually cheaper in places like NYC to do a year of remedial school at a CUNY college, with a meal plan, if you don’t live in the dorms, than it is to do a year in a NYC public school.

      My proposal here is to try to fix some problems that the government created, namely government dependency and wealth transfers.

      I hate that every month that I pay my utility bills there is a surcharge to pay for gas/water/power for poor people who don’t pay, because it is illegal to turn off utilities for poor people who don’t pay. I remember in South Dakota, that surcharge was huge, because there were people who knew if they never paid their gas bill, the gas company couldn’t shut off their gas and freeze them out in the winter.

      I pay the same surcharge for daycare, not to mention the overall tax burden on tax payers for welfare, including subsidized daycare. The government created these problems.

      Here’s the thing, you can’t end the daycare subsidy. It will just make working moms on some handouts have to stop working and receive even more handouts. If you provide free daycare to just poor people, than you are increasing the burden on taxpayers. My idea of making daycare a public benefit, with vouchers, and then cutting back on other handouts is, should be effective in encouraging work and reducing direct wealth transfers.

      I’m only using government to fix a problem it created in the first place.

  7. “A lucky few were able to attend religious school on Sundays, but for the most part were illiterate. This was the same for the United States (and the Colonies before that) until after the Civil War.” – J.K.B.


    ““The exercise is bound to be tentative, as it uses a biased sample and an ambiguous measure”—but he made the case that, among white New England men, about 60 percent of the population was literate between 1650 and 1670, a figure that rose to 85 percent between 1758 and 1762, and to 90 percent between 1787 and 1795. In cities such as Boston, the rate had come close to 100 percent by century’s end.”

    How did they even have 60% without public pre-jail/school? Even if these stats are largely skewed, they demonstrate it wasn’t so much a lucky few as a significant percentage of literacy.

    You’d be better off donating time and money to a few hand-picked individual single mothers who you trust to make something with your generosity than to involve .gov at any level.

    My 2 cents.

    1. “How did they even have 60% without public pre-jail/school?”

      They were Protestant Separatists. Reading the Bible for themselves was, fundamental.

  8. An interesting idea, well-argued.

    But let me tell you what peeves me.

    I am childless by choice. I have not had, and never will have, a child who will consume public money as a student, a health care recipient, or as a juvenile delinquent, nor consume public funds in any one of a myriad of ways growing children (and their parents) rely on government.

    And who gets the tax break? Not me, the person who has no children to consume public dollars, but rather the parents, who receive tax breaks based on the number of children they have! If anything, parents’ tax breaks should diminish with the more children they have. Nobody should have children they can’t afford to raise by themselves without tax breaks. People who don’t have children to attach to the public teat should be rewarded for keeping the burden on public systems as low as it is (or rather, for not contributing to the growth of the burden), instead of being forced to subsidize choices (to have children) made by others. If everybody really benefits from government spending on public education (for instance), the least that can be done is that the burden could fall evenly upon all, and parents should pay as much as non-parents.

  9. I’m with SiG on this: Government absolutely, positively FUBARs everything it touches. There is nothing – absolutely nothing – government does efficiently or well. It does much sufficiently well enough that it is not unreasonable to allow government to continue doing it assuming the citizens can exercise adequate control over government activity. For example, it is highly inefficient for 10,000 citizens to each carry their trash to a landfill; it is less inefficient for designated government employees to perform the collection and transport function. You will notice that, left to their own devices, government has created hugely inefficient and wasteful “recycling” programs that have become combined with trash collection, and resulted in very substantai waste of taxpayer funds.

    The problem is citizens, busy with their own lives, have abrogated that direct control function critical to success of the entire enterprise. A certain amount of inefficiency is crucial to maintaining an adequate level of citizen management: If I have to contract with a private firm for trash collection I will choose the most efficient (read: lowest cost and least intrusive). Trash collection companies which operate efficiently will prosper, those which do not will fail. The same cannot be said of any task or function government performs.

    I think SiG very substantially understates the disaster which “public” education has become. There is no question a well educated citizenry is critically important to the success of a democratically-operated Republic, but the last 60 years have proved that government should not be entrusted with that responsibility.

    The same is true of a plethora of societal functions government has undertaken for itself.

  10. Jkb is your intented argument to keep daycares private but .gov simply cuts a check?

    I think that is the ideal situation there. It will be similar to subsidies but pay 100% cost per child and allows pricing differences by region/demand.

    Everything can be audited at tax time and we can find out if a daycare is gaming the system and claiming more enrollment or something else sketchy or are engaging in unreasonable pricing. It would have a similar effect as the insurance industry both positive and negative but at least excess the .gov refuses to pay are not dropped directly on the individual like insurance. It might help reign in the cost but it could go either way like insurance.

    And we don’t make it mandatory like health care and force people onto it. We just simply pay the cost direct to the daycare for the kids that way if mom or dad wants to stay home with their child until they reach whatever age they can.

    I think this would naturally increase business and grow the daycare industry but a problem is do we shoot for uniformity via mandate or allow the differing licensing schemes and systems to continue on a per state basis? I think we keep it per state to elinate .gov involvement as much as possible.

    I think it’s a great idea and it might help but the biggest problem I see is the same problem we see claimed from all inner city welfare dependent people for all sorts of things now. No access, access to only crappy daycares in the city, lack of use of services because it takes effort in one way or another, continuation of poverty due to lack of work or not working for one reason or another. Making daycare paid for won’t automatically address these types of issues for all the same reasons handouts don’t magically fix them. As a prospective business owner, If I want to open a daycare am I gonna open it in the shit section of Bridgeport or Hartford where the parents are poor and can’t pay or ownt pay, there is crime, violence, and danger to myself and the children, and I have to deal with shitty people all day or am I gonna open it in L itchfield county where lots of people work long hours and make a lot of money and may be shitty for other reasons but at least they can pay and I don’t have to worry as much about a drive by or getting mugged just opening up for the morning. Plain and simple the ghetto has problems that transcend simply having money that need to be addressed before we can expect any reasonable amount of success. I think free daycare can be one way to help it but it’s gonna go no where by itself.

    1. Looks like it ate my edit…

      Anyways I said jkb I realize you mention voucher programs but I’m skeptical of their effectiveness.

      I also think it is worth considering the cost to people who don’t currently use a service or haven’t used it in the past as another poster above points out. The standard response is its part of the social contract but I think that is a poor excuse and doesn’t really address the underlying issue of fairness and being forced paying for something you don’t want. I personally have yet to come to a conclusion on this issue one way or the other.

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