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Look Who Likes Lizzie’s Child Care Plan!

Liz Warren just got a great endorsement for her childcare plan! And when I say great I mean awful. It’s Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber! Rich Weinstein (@phillyrich1) keeps track of him after finding that gem of a video about Obamacare in 2014. It’s like a game of Whack-a-Mole and Rich caught him again. For those of you who don’t remember the video Rich unearthed previously, the quote about the passage of Obamacare went something like this:

“In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in—you made explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed, okay. Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass…Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.”

Fast forward to 2019 and Democrat proposals in the primary. In an interview on Boston’s WGBH, the local NPR, Gruber was asked specifically about Warren’s child care proposal. While it appears he had nothing to do with authoring it (thank goodness) he apparently approves of the approach. He actually called it “the Affordable Care Act for child care”.

Now that’s some great marketing. His assessment is based on the fact that it’s a “sliding scale”. A sliding scale where taxpayers will get to invest about $700 billion dollars according to the MIT economist.

Oddly, he and some colleagues did an assessment of a universal childcare program in Quebec. Comparing the children in that program to children in other Canadian provinces twice, once in 2005 and again in 2015, they found the following:

  • In 2015, they confirmed earlier findings showing reduced contemporaneous non-cognitive development following the implementation of the program in Quebec.
  • There was little impact on cognitive test scores.
  • The non-cognitive deficits persisted through the children’s school years.
  • Cohorts with increased child care access subsequently had worse health.
  • Those with access to the program also demonstrated lower life satisfaction and higher crime rates later in life.

Props to the NPR hosts. They actually questioned him about this. Frankly, I found his mental gymnastics bizarre. First he said the Quebec program wasn’t prepared for the influx of $5 per day child care for everyone. That meant even high income earners had access to reduced costs, wheras previously only low income families recived the subsidies.

Somehow he blames the universal nature of the access to the bad outcomes. The fact that more economically advantaged families had access led to poorer health and increased rates of criminal behavior? That pretty much runs counter to every other study on behavioral outcomes for children and family income ever done.

The study further evaluated studies of universal child care programs in other countries and in specific areas of the U.S. Results were mixed at best. The team summarized:

  • high-quality interventions for low-income populations deliver both short and long-run benefits.
  • broader child care expansions do not appear to provide short-term benefits, with mixed evidence on long-term effects.
  • the negative impacts on child outcomes are larger the younger the age the child enters the system
  • the impacts vary by the sex of the child and tend to be worse for boys

So Gruber pins his approval of Warren’s idea on the fact that it benefits low-income families to a greater extent. He said her income based approach is very progressive. In other words, it’s another massive redistribution program. It’s almost like when healthy people were forced to buy insurance they didn’t need or want. Then their lack of utilization would subsidize those who used medical services a lot.

Now higher income families will still pay for their own childcare and subsidize the childcare for others through tax dollars. And as we all know, government subsidies and regulations never increase the price of a service. Just look at college tuition.

Then of course there is the typical babble about how the right wants to force women to have children and then doesn’t want to help raise them. Blah..blah..giggle..giggle. It’s never about the fact that we want more state and local solutions that don’t waste as many bureaucratic dollars as bloated federal programs. Less regulation so that co-ops and other unique arrangements can be tried.

Or maybe a better idea is to help the 56% of women who would prefer to stay home with their children. Maybe incentivize employers to allow remote work when possible. How about allowing earners who are the sole support in two-parent families to claim the standard deduction for Head of Household. One of Gruber’s talking points is making it possible for women who want to enter the workforce to do so. Maybe we should be letting those who want to stay home do so more comfortably.

And of course it wouldn’t be a gruber interview if there wasn’t a cringeworthy quote. Here’s one for the ages:

“Let’s be clear. Work by itself is not a virtue. People should do what fits their talents and tastes and what makes them the most happy and productive doing. For some people that’s work. For some people that’s not. What we want to do is give people the option.”

Could this be like the “unable or unwilling to work” clause in those silly FAQ’s? Not really sure. But Lizzie sure has one heck of a great endorsment here.

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