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Just in Case the GOP Loses the House in 2014…


The most interesting piece of agenda-setting in the SOTU:

The most important proposal in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address may be one that gets the least attention and, quite possibly, has the least chance of becoming law in the near future: his proposal to create a universal pre-kindergarten program.

The idea is pretty simple. American children are guaranteed an education when they turn five and enter kindergarten. Before that, they may or may not have access to what we now call “pre-school,” which typically depends on the resources (and sometimes the resourcefulness) of their parents.

More affluent families tend to get their kids into decent day cares and nursery schools; less affluent families do not. But poor kids are the ones who need good care the most.

And it works. Should we ever get a Congress that cares about governing again it should be a major priority.

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  • c u n d gulag

    President Obama could get that program passed by Republicans in a nano-second, if he let the program be run by private Christian firms who would teach the lil’ chillen’s the Bible, startin’ at Adam and Eve (NOT Steve!), and finishing with Jesus and how he wrote the “Sermon on the Mounting Debt” and the US Constitution (to give ’em a head start on High School)!

    And all of that begatting will be covered by Cabbage Patch Kids and stuffed storks.

  • Beeg

    I didn’t watch the SOTU, but my impression from Twitter was that he called for access to pre-K, not universal pre-K – two very different things.

    • JKTHs

      He specifically said “So tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America.”

      Pretty unspecific, but sounds more like access

    • Alan Tomlinson

      “Getting an impression from Twitter” = too fucking lazy to give a shit but happy to offer an opinion because I think I know more than others.


      Alan Tomlinson

      P.S. Yes, I think that offering an opinion should be based upon some sort of knowledge.

      • expatchad

        Obviously you are not a GOPer

      • Anonymous

        Forgive me, my dear Alan Tomlinson. I should have written “based on what Matt Yglesias wrote,” which obviously still means I’m sub-mental, but whatever. My comment was more of a question, even if not posed as such – don’t you think? And, as JKTH helpfully posted, it does appear that Obama’s policy is vague on the issue. Which is fine! For now, I guess, especially since the odds of it coming to pass are quite low (hence the point of this post).

        That, it goes without saying but I’d better say it, is a serious shame.

        So: thanks for dislodging my head from my ass with your foot. Keep it up!

        • Beeg

          Woops, forgot to log in. Don’t tell Alan!

  • Cody

    Well, no matter what he was actually proposing, Universal Pre-K would be great for struggling families. Childcare is expensive. Being in a toxic childhood environment is also an issue.

    And of course, most affluent people put their kids in pre-k because the younger a kid is the bigger difference you can make (it seems to my untrained eyes).

    • arguingwithsignposts

      Also, most middle class people put their kids in daycare because it’s the only way mom can go back to work and keep the bills paid these days.

      • Yup. Daycare for pre-K kids is a huge expense for two-income families, the kind of thing that can eat up 10% or more of after tax income. Obama couched it in the language of equal opportunity, but the appeal runs up through the middle and even upper-middle classes as well.

        • brewmn

          Trust me, I have twins, and can vouch for the fact that having more than one kid in childcare/preschool can eat up way more than 10% of your after-tax income. For my wife and me, it’s closer to 30%, and we’re not talking Montessori either.

          • Law Spider

            That has been our experience with twins as well — $1700/month (for a good but not prestigious preschool) is, for us, more than 25% of our after-tax income.

    • DrDick

      Equally important, early childhood educational stimulation provided by these programs has been shown to dramatically enhance later academic performance among children from disadvantaged backgrounds, who would otherwise not get much such stimulation.

  • LeeEsq

    The Democratic Party passed universal per-K legislation
    during the Nixon administration. Nixon vetoed it because the
    Evangelicals didn’t like it. Thanks Nixon.

    • Yeah, one too-clever-by-half meme I could really do without is the “Nixon was the last liberal president” horseshit.

      • JKTHs

        Yes, when people talk about what he “passed” into law, remind them that there’s this thing called Congress which does the law-passing.

      • LeeEsq

        Nixon was really only concerned with foreign policy and worked out a sort of quid-pro-pro with the Democratic controlled Congress. He’d more or less govern as they want on domestic issues and Congress would let him do what he issues on foreign policy.

        The stupidest thing about Watergate was how unnecessary it was. If Nixon was slightly less paranoid, most Americans would consider him an above average two term President. Thanks to Watergate, most Americans perceive him like liberals do for once.

      • David Hunt

        Well if you define “liberal” as “being too concerned with continuing the war in Vietnam and not going to prison to care about domestic policy” I suppose those people might have a point…

        Nope. Not even then.

      • Murc

        I could really do without is the “Nixon was the last liberal president” horseshit.

        Er… why?

        It seems to me that “the country was once so liberal it could force even a conservative fuckhead like Nixon to affirmatively endorse, campaign on, implement, and/or acquiesce to liberal policies” is a valuable thing to know and to keep in mind.

        • Cody

          Seems the impression most people get from this is that “Nixon was a liberal!” not “his Congress made him pass liberal policies!”.

          Much like with Obama, the general public seems to assume the President is responsible for everything that happens in the US.

      • Here, here. Nixon hated the environmental legislation that got passed, but signed it anyway; he proposed the FAP, and then promptly dropped it and proceeded to relentlessly attack McGovern for proposing the same thing.

        Nixon’s Keynesianism lasted precisely as long at it took to get him re-elected and no further.

        He was not a progressive, full stop.

  • jon

    Efforts to help children thrive bring the greatest increases to GDP, employment, crime reduction, public health and many other important national objectives, than any other type of government spending. It’s a very profitable investment in our future.

    • JKTHs

      That’s why it will never pass Congress.

  • josephus

    I couldn’t agree with this post more. Should be an absolute top priority. Kudos for shining the spotlight on this nugget, Scott. I imagine (and this is the feverish imagination of an economist… stop laughing), that the influence of Alan Krueger on the CEA had something to do with this issue’s elevation.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Obama cited red states Oklahoma and Georgia as leaders in this (which we are). Then, afterwards, David Brooks noted that Oklahoma’s pre-k program shows that Republicans are willing to do this. Nonsense. When universal access to free pre-k became law in Oklahoma, early last decade, the legislature was in Democatic hands and both the State Superintendent of Education and the Governor were Democrats.

  • JKTHs

    But…but…but…but…THE DEFICIT! We can’t possibly do anything that costs money until we get the government down to 1950s size.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      At least the President and the Republicans claim to agree on this!

      • JKTHs

        That’s just discretionary spending. I’m talking the whole thing.

        • Murc

          I think once you adjust for inflation, population, etc. the government may actually have been bigger and done more in the 50s than it does now.

          • sibusisodan

            Krugman shows some data which says not here.

  • mpowell

    Unfortunately it would be pretty much miraculous if the GOP lost the House. Democratic presidential midterms with a 6-8 point gerrymandering edge for the GOP… equals virtually no chance at all. 2010 was a disaster with lengthy repercussions. I think you could argue that the biggest benefit of electing Obama is to prevent an opportunity for Republican SC appointments (in case Scalia wants to retire or someone dies) and to set the stage for another Dem in 2016 as opposed to Romney II (and you can be sure the fed would have goosed the economy for Romney in 2016).

  • Ian

    Slightly OT, but it seems that LGM’s position on the bully pulpit is gaining some media acceptance.

  • Xenos

    As an immigrant to a European country that has a three-kinderten program starting at age three, I have found that my youngest child, who is now completing that process, speaks the local language perfectly and is completely integrated with the local culture. It has been a huge struggle for the older kids, even the one who started first grade when we moved here.

    You want to make sure immigrants to the US speak perfect English and integrate fully? Easy – every child in a similar program, full time, from age three. And you have to pay the kindergarten teachers the same as elementary school teachers. Not cheap, but easy, and guaranteed to work.

    • Xenos

      sorry, that is three-year kindergarten…

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