Bernie Sanders’ childcare proposal is exactly what you’d expect. According to his website, Sanders would: “Guarantee every child in America free full-day, full-week, high-quality child care from infancy through age three, regardless of income.”  

Sanders would spare no expense.

Sanders would spare no expense. He promises that all childcare workers would receive a “living wage” and includes a long list of regulations, from educational requirements for all daycare workers and preschool teachers (who would be required to have bachelor’s degrees) to teacher-per-pupil ratios that would make the program much more expensive, though not necessarily better for children.

The most jaw-dropping aspect of Sanders’ proposal is the extent of the daycare service parents could expect: “at least 10 hours a day.” The website suggests this will be great for kids:

“It should come as no surprise to learn that when children have early care and education, they perform better throughout school, are less likely to interact with the criminal justice system, and report higher earnings later in life and increased overall happiness. The benefits of high-quality care and early childhood education for children’s wellbeing is well-established.”

Really? Proponents of government daycare typically point to research on small programs serving very disadvantaged communities to show that daycare has positive results. But, as Steven Rhoads and I detail in this National Affairs article, the research of daycare used by the general population suggests the opposite. Encouraging more families to use daycare results in worse outcomes for children in terms of education, health, welfare, and even criminality, especially when the youngest children are put in daycare full-time. 

People evaluating Sanders’ claims don’t even have to dig into the research. Common sense works well enough. Does anyone really think that putting an infant into a daycare center for up to 50 hours a week, to be cared for by even a well-qualified stranger, is really better than being cared for by a loving parent? It’s also notable that the Sanders’ proposal doesn’t limit benefits to working parents. He talks about child care being necessary to help lower-income families while they work, but the childcare entitlement would cover everyone. This suggests that his plan really isn’t about helping over-burdened parents, but is better understood as a part of Sanders’ socialist refashioning of American life, and meant to loosen the ties of parents and children, so that government has a big role in care and daily life from cradle to grave.