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Lack of Affordable Daycare is a Symptom of Government Failure

Lack of Affordable Daycare is a Symptom of Government Failure

Wayne Hoffman
October 12, 2023
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October 12, 2023

A recent article from the lefty Idaho Capital Sun was all about the troubles states are having with their childcare systems despite having propped up daycare with tons of cash during the COVID mess — the mess being the government’s creation of the virus and the worldwide decisions of government entities to shut down the economies of the world — of 2020-22. 

I’ll spare you having to read what passes for journalism these days, especially in the Capital Sun. The summary is that the government pumped a bunch of money into daycares — I’m talking billions of dollars — and wouldn’t you know, there’s still a shortage of childcare. So the story contemplates whether states are doing enough not only to “help” with childcare supply but also whether government is doing enough to keep costs down for parents who want to unload their wee ones onto total strangers for the purpose of earning taxable income for the government. 

If that sounds like a cynical view of the situation, it’s because it’s warranted. In the not-so-distant past, it was perfectly normal, and doable, for a household to have a single breadwinner. Today, adjusting for inflation, the median household income in America is just about the same as the household of yesteryear, the primary difference being that it takes two breadwinners to make roughly the same money, again, adjusted for inflation.  

This problem is, in large part, due to the government’s devaluation of the currency (if you held onto a dollar from the 1950s, you would have the equivalent buying power of about 8 cents today) and the fact that half of everyone's income goes to all manner of local, state, and national governments in the form of all manner of taxes. These taxes pay for a variety of programs, public schools and medical welfare being the biggest of these. 

Image showing the diminishing purchasing power of the dollar as a line graph from 1913-2020

As the economist Thomas Sowell says, and I repeat many times, “There are no solutions, only tradeoffs.” Could it be that a society that is comfortable offloading children to strangers at daycares and government schools has traded for a society with a higher-than-normal propensity toward mental health problems? Could it be that moms and dads both returning home from work have too little time and too little energy to worry about preparing home-cooked, nutritious meals for their kids, contributing to an excess of the precursors to childhood obesity and all the problems that go with it? Could such a lack of time and energy also create familial disconnects that exacerbate all of the above problems?

Yet the government’s answer to this is usually to create new programs to prop up the old ones. Since the 1960s, Idaho has expanded both the medical welfare system and the government school system, cementing Idaho’s confiscatory tax rates, paid by families that have to have two jobs to keep their heads above water, and also cementing the need for, you guessed it, government-subsidized daycares and government schools (the latter of which serves a lot of the function of the former) and a greater need for mental health services. 

But not to worry — last legislative session, lawmakers passed and Gov. Brad Little signed a bill to increase the deduction taxpayers can get for sending their kids to daycare. Parents that don’t use daycare and have stay-at-home moms or dads or grandparents take care of their kids? They get nothing. 

The government incentives work so the government can afford government programs demanded by a society injured by government taxes and monetary policies. The tax revenue you generate pays for the programs made necessary as a result of government policies. It’s a vicious, unending cycle, with noticeable, real-world consequences for the stability of American families undermined by these policies. Circling back around to the article in the Capital Sun, the lack of an affordable supply of daycares is not a “market” failure. It’s a problem caused by and perpetuated by government. 

Politicians should recognize that if they peel back the layers of every problem — broken families, a poorly educated, unhappy populace, or the lack of plentiful or affordable daycare — they’d find one common catalyst: themselves. 

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