Government “help” often has the unintended consequence of hurting those who were supposed to benefit. Just look at what increasing government subsidies of healthcare and higher education have done. Who hasn’t felt the pain of rising insurance costs? Who hasn’t heard of the explosion in student debt?
This is why parents should be concerned about the tsunami of new government “assistance” promises in President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan. It would usher unprecedented costs and government intrusions into their lives.
Many parents, working hard to provide their families a better life, are looking for healthy, safe places where their children can learn and be nourished while they are on the job. The Biden plan purports to help with this.
Unfortunately, the American Families Plan would increase Washington’s control of preschool, child care, community college, and four-year colleges by providing strings-attached subsidies to government-approved programs. This approach stifles innovation, limits the choices available to families, and unfairly shifts the cost burden to those who do not use the programs.
We’ve seen this time and again. First comes the money, then come the regulations. Meanwhile, the so-called government benefit makes it easier for providers to charge higher prices, so they do.
The “benefit” transfers from the individual to providers. Before long, rising costs have forced people to depend on subsidies to pay the higher price. Meanwhile, regulations get stricter, and then, everyone is stuck in the iron cage.
Regarding family leave, an analysis of the FAMILY Act (a bill that inspired Biden’s plan) by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the act would create a massive, restrictive, underfunded federal entitlement program. The CBO estimated that only 42% of workers needing leave would use the government program, yet the price tag would quickly shoot up to 240% of revenue from the new payroll tax that’s supposed to pay for it.
Parents who homeschool might think they can escape the regulatory strings that will be attached to these programs. Not so. They are taxpayers. And the higher costs will affect them most because they are least likely to take the subsidies.
Meanwhile, towns and states that receive lots of money for pre-K will begin to mandate that children go to school earlier. This will force families who opt not to homeschool to sacrifice precious time with their children in the early years. And those educating their pre-K children at home will, again, be paying taxes to subsidize families who don’t.
The availability of government subsidies makes it far more likely that parents at the edge of a decision will choose long-term childcare over spending these months and years at home with their children. And driving large numbers of children into the childcare market is not a wise policy.
As J.D. Vance and Jenet Erickson have noted, a long-term study of heavily subsidized childcare in Quebec showed it was “a disaster for Quebec’s children.” Children enrolled in these programs evidenced significant and persistent increases in anxiety, aggression, and hyperactivity well into young adulthood. There were other ill effects as well.
Let’s be honest. Nothing is free. Larger Pell Grants (“free” money for college) and “free” community college may sound great. In reality, billions of dollars will be pulled from all taxpayers to pay for it. And tuition will keep rising, the regulations will get stricter, and families will find it more difficult to decide to invest in a college education for their children.
In other words, in the early years, the American Families Plan is a bad idea because it is bad for families. In the later years, it is just a bad investment for everyone.
And there’s a larger issue: control. Education, much less babysitting and other childcare services, are not enumerated powers of the federal government. The American Families Plan would dramatically expand the reach of government in these areas and strengthen the influence of government decision-making in family matters. Far better to shrink the role of the federal government and empower parents to choose the childcare and education options that best suit their families’ needs.
The American Families Plan is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, promising “free” assistance that will result in more debt for our children and grandchildren to pay. The wolf promises to ease our burdens but, in reality, stands ready to take charge of the decisions that families and communities know how to handle best.
This piece originally appeared in Washington Examiner