"The extent of the economic damage has forced politicians from both parties to alter their views of child care," Covert writes. "Within the last five years, some Republicans, who have typically hewed to traditional ideas about families and households, have adopted more modern ideas about how to help parents find care for their children... There is a growing willingness to address the problem, though, which leaves Democrats with an opening to put forward something better. But in September, when the party unveiled the child care plank of its 'Better Deal' agenda, it consisted of a punishing maze of technical details."
Lawmakers could, instead, create a system that'd make high-quality child care available to and affordable for all American families, for the entire working day, Covert suggests, admitting that it sounds fanciful.
Other countries already do so. He refers to France, where parents can send their babies to both publicly and privately run nurseries, called crèches, when their children turn three months old, according to Expatica. The centers, which are open most of the workday and require at least half of their providers to have degrees in early education, charge based on parental income. Then once children turn three, they’re guaranteed a spot in the country’s universal preschool program until they turn six, and more than 95 percent of kids are enrolled. To pull this off, France spent about 27 billion euros (about $33 billion USD) in 2013—about 1.3 percent of its GDP. Meanwhile, the United States spends less on child care and early childhood education than all other developed countries except Turkey, Latvia and Croatia, Covert explains.
But it wasn't always this way, and the country doesn't need to necessarily mirror France. In fact, an America model already exists, Covert says. As women went to work in factories during World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt built a nationwide network of public child care centers, open 12 hours a day, year-round, for about $10 a day in today’s dollars, regardless of income, in every state but New Mexico. And, for each additional $100 a state spent on centers, children who were enrolled later saw a 1.8 percentage point increase in earnings and a 0.7 percent increase in their employment rate. Alas, President Truman closed them when the war ended, despite the wealth of research that suggested it was working and the positive feedback from mothers who were able to work longer hours and earn more money.
"There are many proposals for how to provide that care, but a universal program would be the most effective and durable," Covert recommends. "A targeted, technocratic program, of the sort proposed in the Better Deal, is in danger of falling prey to stereotypes about failed Big Government — digging up documents to prove that you’re eligible, going to appointments to argue you should stay enrolled, repeating the whole process annually or even monthly. Such bureaucracy discourages people from signing up in the first place and breeds resentment from those just above the cutoff. A child care program for everyone isn’t just a smart investment in parents, children and our economy, it’s the smartest way to deliver it."