I absolutely agree with Nick Kristoff’s column arguing that provision of high quality early childhood education should be a major national priority. But I’m not thrilled with this framing:
Most of the proposed remedies involve changes in taxes and regulations, and they would help. But the single step that would do the most to reduce inequality has nothing to do with finance at all. It’s an expansion of early childhood education.
One of the major lessons of the health care debate ought to be that everything involves changes in taxes. There are a lot of little kids in America, and the kind of good early childhood programs that provide the largest benefits are expensive. It’s all well and good to say that “the question isn’t whether we can afford early childhood education, but whether we can afford not to provide it” but the actual question is what offsetting budget changes will make it possible to implement an early childhood education program.
You see time and again that there’s no form of new public sector undertaking that Republicans are willing to agree to if it’s financed by higher taxes on rich people and even Democrats aren’t willing to contemplate higher taxes on middle class people. So either you need to identify some offsetting program cuts that you think you can build a consensus around, or else everyone is in this same boat where they’re hostage to the endless DC tax policy standoff. The Wu-Tang Clan had this right:
It’s not that this is a conceptually insurmountable problem, but it is the political problem so there’s no sense in writing around it.