Hillary Clinton announces support for an ambitious pre-school initiative. Politically, I think this is a great issue for her to take a leading role on since, though it might be a problem in the general election, anything that enhances her “woman” branding can’t but help with a primary where Edwards and Obama can gain the support of all the young men and bloggers they like and still lose. It’s also a good plan on the merits.
I do, however, think that the release of a quite specific plan in a context that involves neither health care nor John Edwards marks a good opportunity to revisit the debate over policy proposals. It strikes me as very plausible that Hillary Clinton will win the nomination. It also strikes me as very plausible that having won the nomination, Clinton will win the general election and become President of the United States. It does not, however, strike me as remotely plausible that this sequence of events will lead in 2009 to the establishment of a $10 billion per year universal pre-K program. And that’s even though such a program probably wouldn’t engender a huge amount of interest-group opposition. The objective budgetary circumstances simply aren’t amenable to passing that kind of new spending commitment. I think it’s great for her to propose a big financial commitment, because that increases the chances of getting a modest financial commitment. That, however, works well because this particular proposal is scalable; you could do a cheaper, more narrowly targeted program if that’s all you had the votes for.