by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) has a new plan to tax, spend, and regulate our way to affordable child care. It’s a bad deal for parents, children, and taxpayers.
Under the plan, the federal government would ensure that families making less than twice the poverty line had access, at no charge to them, to care for any children below school age. The “providers would be held to high national standards.” For people making above the limit, fees would be capped at 7 percent of income. Nobody would be stuck relying on Aunt Bee, as Warren was when her own children were young.
Whether there will be enough high-quality providers is unclear. The simultaneous tightening of regulatory standards and subsidization of customers, which is to say restriction of supply and boosting of demand, should send prices skyward. Warren anticipates $1 trillion in spending over a decade. But the expense is the least of the defects of this proposal.
Warren’s idea discriminates in favor of one type of arrangement for child care: commercial day care. Families where one parent stays home with young children — the arrangement that a majority of Americans, and a slightly larger majority of parents, prefer — would get nothing from the proposal, except, possibly, higher taxes. Ditto for families that prefer to rely on Aunt Bee. To the extent these families think day care is bad for children, they have some evidence on their side.