A New York Times op/ed proclaims that universal daycare should become the next progressive issue obsession, but author Katha Pollitt (who says she'd put this "ahead of free public college") ignores many of the concerns that would come with this idea.
While it sounds nice on the surface, giving the government control over childcare would likely result in increased regulations, licensing, credentialing and home inspection mandates, and could displace the wide variety of private childcare options (including faith-based or home-based daycare) available today. For those who want relatives or friends to provide childcare, it could become harder, as the value of these services – in a world with universal government care – would be relatively less. And more caregivers might also face costly licensing requirements that they simply couldn't afford.
In fact, there are already onerous regulations in place that cause the cost of childcare to be higher. Things like maximum group sizes or child-staff ratios don't necessarily affect the quality of care but do increase the cost of care. Changing these regulations – not a government takeover of daycare – is the way to make childcare more affordable and accessible for families.
Additionally, there are a few others things that could be done to help alleviate cost — like expanding the child tax credit (as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act did) and reforming Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) offered by some employers. Rather than raise taxes to pay for universal government care (which would be a bureaucratic and regulatory nightmare), the federal government should instead help families by lowering taxes so they can keep more of the money they earn.
There are currently government subsidies and grants available to low-income families to help with childcare costs and other needs, but these should be designed with maximum flexibility and choice, so that families can choose what’s best for them.
It's unfortunate that childcare is so costly today, but moving the responsibility of that payment to taxpayers and organization of it to an unreliable and inefficient federal government would be worse. To ensure America's children get the best care, we ought to give parents as many options as possible. Childcare is a very personal issue that doesn’t lend itself to a one-size-fits-all government program.