It's elementary: When Democrats find themselves in political trouble, they reach for your wallets. After squandering billions on an ineffectual stimulus, failed green energy boondoggles and the disastrous Unaffordable Care Act, the Obama White House wants to dump $75 billion more into "free" preschool for all. That'll solve everything.
Government-funded universal pre-K is a moldy oldie of the progressive left, recycled perennially by Democratic presidential speechwriters in need of State of the Union address padding. But this time, the Fed Ed crowd is redoubling its efforts with support from big-business statists and academic shills.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, once a bitter campaign target of the White House, is now Team Obama's biggest cheerleader on expanding preschool funding. And Austan Goolsbee, a former top Obama economic adviser and University of Chicago prof, took to the pages of The Wall Street Journal this week to crusade for more public "investments" in early childhood education. At "$10,000 per child," Goolsbee argued, universal pre-K is a "bargain."
Why anyone would take the financial advice of Austan Goolsbee is beyond me. I'll remind you that this is the same Austan Goolsbee who vigorously championed extending credit to the uncreditworthy. In a 2007 op-ed for The New York Times, he derided prescient critics who called subprime mortgages "irresponsible." Goolsbee instead preferred to describe the doomed financial instruments as "innovations in the mortgage market" to expand the pool of homebuyers. We don't need economics Ph.D.'s to see how that worked out.
Goolsbee, like his Fed Ed allies on both the left and right, cites the well-worn Perry Preschool Project in Michigan to support Obama's top-down push for subsidizing preschool for all. But that pilot program, run at a cost of $19,000 per child, took place more than a half-century ago. A more comprehensive and updated review of the literature by the Brookings Institution's Russ Whitehurst released last month found that the vaunted academic benefits of full-time pre-K are, in fact, negligible.