The Mises Institute monthly, free with membership

Sort archived Free Market articles by: Title | Author | Article Date | Subject

June 1998
Volume 16, Number 6

by Thomas J. DiLorenzo

Having failed to nationalize health care at the beginning of its first term, the Clinton administration seeks to nationalize children in its second. With little opposition from Republicans, the administration has proposed spending tens of billions of dollars on subsidized day care, mostly through federal grants to state day-care bureaucracies.

We have virtually no details on how this system of nationalized day care will work, but some insight can be found in a proposed California law, the "California Children and Families First Initiative," that is strongly supported by the administration and will serve as a "model" for all other states.

The initiative effort is being led by Hollywood comedian Rob Reiner (who played the role of "Meathead" on All in the Family), who has become a high-profile "unofficial" spokesman for the administration on child-care policy. His state-level political vehicle for promoting the initiative, which will be on the November ballot, is the nonprofit organization, "California Children and Families First."

The proposed law would create a gigantic state bureaucracy of day-care "experts" who would work to "optimize early childhood development from the prenatal stage to five years of age." It would be a nationwide extension of the so-called "Beethoven Project," a ten-year federal program begun in 1988 that provided "extensive counseling" and "intensive social services" by government bureaucrats to 4,400 young mothers for the first five years of their childrens' lives.

The program costs almost $16,000 per family, and was expected to demonstrate that such programs should be universally adopted. But when the federal government hired the consulting firm Abt Associates to evaluate the program, it concluded that it "did not produce any important positive effects on participating families." It was another gigantic waste of taxpayers' money. Nevertheless, the government still wants to make the program mandatory and universal, starting with California.

Higher taxes on cigarettes are proposed as a means of funding the California program, but it is unlikely that this source of revenue could ever be adequate for Mr. Reiner's ambitious plans: other excise taxes, most likely on beer, wine, liquor, and "junk" food would soon be advocated, and additional federal funds would be sought.

The idea is for the state--with appropriate "guidance" (and money) from the federal government--to essentially monopolize all day care by creating a program "for the purposes of promoting, supporting, and improving the early development of children" through the setting of "appropriate standards" for all day-care providers. An "integrated, comprehensive and collaborative system" of services would supposedly be designed by the state and imposed on all private providers.

Many private day-care providers would intentionally be driven out of existence, given the proposed law's stated objective of eliminating "duplicative administrative systems," i.e., competition. And politically unapproved day-care providers who have different ideas and will not be subsidized will be put at a competitive disadvantage and perhaps be driven out of business--just as thousands of private schools were driven from the market by the government school monopoly over the past century.

This regulatory control would be exercized by a "California Children and Families First Commission," which sounds a lot like Mr. Reiner's own organization, composed of political appointees. A California Children and Families First Trust Fund, separate from the state budget, would be created. The idea is apparently to (undemocratically) isolate the program's funding from legislative influence.

If the revenues were left in the general fund and the legislature became dissatisfied with the Commission's performance, it could decide to reduce its funding and reallocate the monies for other purposes. Plus, all professional and staff employees of the new state commission "shall be exempt from civil service." This would allow them to engage in lobbying at taxpayers' expense, which is illegal under the state "Hatch Act" for regular government employees.

Other parts of the state commission's budget would be allocated to tax-funded propagandizing in favor of the program's expansion through a "Mass Media Communications Account" (6 percent) and the rest would go for training of child-care providers, nebulously defined "public education," research, and "administrative functions." In short, the California Children and Families First Initiative is a bureaucratic nightmare waiting to happen. The obvious objective is for the state to begin snatching children from their parents at birth in order to isolate them from the cultural and educational influences of their own parents so that they can be educated by "qualified child-care experts."

This already occurs on a massive scale in government schools throughout America. But child-care socialists are unhappy that they cannot begin brainwashing the nation's children until they reach the age of five or six. The program can only lead to a further destruction of the American family by providing tax-funded incentives for parents not to behave responsibly toward their own children.


Thomas DiLorenzo teaches economics at Loyola College.

For a copy of the "California Children and Families First Initiative of 1998," contact Rosemary Calderon, Initiative Coordinator, Department of Justice, State of California, 1300 I St., Sacramento, CA 95814.


Close Window