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:
- Educate the bad habits out of poor kids.
- 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).