Biden’s universal childcare plan leaves out stay-at-home parents

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s plan for child care — and it has some major flaws.

The problem, according to experts cited by The Washington Examiner, is that it would actually put stay-at-home parents at a disadvantage. But, first, let’s look at the plan itself.

The proposal

Biden’s child care plan is part of a larger package that he is calling the “21st Century Caregiving and Education Workforce.”

Under the proposal — which a New York Times op-ed described as “quietly radical” — $775 billion would be invested in America’s caregiving economy over the next ten years. That money would be used to provide a free universal preschool program, in-home elder care, and long-term care for the disabled.

As Republicans, we, of course, are always asking: “Where is this money coming from?” The proposal puts forth several ideas, including reducing tax breaks for real estate investors with incomes over $400,000 and by increasing tax compliance for high-income earners. We think that these are terrible ideas, but that is not the focus here.

Here, we are focusing on another bad idea — the proposal to create free preschools for young children.

Why is this a bad idea?

The Examiner cited Katherine Stevens, a scholar of early-childhood programs at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who pointed out a number of problems with Biden’s proposal. One, argued Stevens, is the faulty assumption that parents want to send their young children away to be cared for by strangers.

“Why spend $10-15,000 to pay a stranger to take care of our children, when parents could get that $10-15,000 to raise their children themselves?” Stevens said, arguing that instead of Biden’s plan it would be better to simply give parents financial assistance to care for their children themselves. “Why are we privileging paying strangers rather than making it easier to raise kids ourselves?”

Not only is it easier, but, according to Stevens and a Gallup poll from 2019, it is preferred. This poll found that roughly 40% of all women in America would prefer to stay at home and take care of their family rather than work outside the home.

Stevens, in addition, pointed to studies that found that negative effects have been shown to result from putting kids into such a universal preschool program.

Why now?

Biden, with this plan, is trying to address both a short-term and long-term problem. The short-term one is that many parents have to work and their children need watching, a need that has been made more difficult to fulfill by the coronavirus-related school and daycare closures. The long-term problem is the affordability of good child care.

These are problems that we do need to address. But Biden’s plan, clearly, is not the answer.

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