I've got no objection in principle to government subsidies for day care. We routinely hear that this is something to which we do not devote enough resources. On that point, the story about Latasha Jackson in yesterday's Journal Sentinel is instructive. Unless the fraud that she engaged in was rampant, running day care centers on state dollars must be very lucrative. When the subject is oil companies and health insurers, a 10% margin is often seen as "obscene" and somehow "windfall."
To run a Jaguar convertible and live in a 7600 square foot house, she had to be doing a lot better than that on annual revenues that had only recently reached $800,000. Unless you are independently wealthy, you can't afford a house like that without an income well into six figures.
Now maybe she did it by fraud, but it would seem that the fraud would have to be a lot more than marginal. She'd have to be saving tons of money by blatantly violating standards of care or raking in money by billing for lots of kids that she didn't care for. If that's so, it shouldn't have been so hard to catch her.
If its not true, then day care reimbursements must be quite lucrative. I would be surprised if that were so, but the story does raise the question.
Almost more surprising was the throwaway fact that Jackson's boyfriend earned $88,000 driving a van for another day care center. $88,000 for driving a van! Certainly that must be a mistake.
I understand that some conservatives will argue that this is "what you get" from government programs. I won't go that far. There is fraud in the private sector as well.
But the Jackson story ought to make us pause when we hear the idea that the public provision of goods and services is "purer" and undertaken only with the public interest in mind. Certainly the state wanted to provide day care for low income persons. But it also wanted to respond to political pressures and to do so in a way that wouldn't run afoul of the political etiquette that governs almost anything that touches the city of Milwaukee. Regulators are not "customers" interested in getting the best care for the lowest dollar, but bureaucrats who enforce prefabricated rules and only those rules that are within their purview.
Of course, Jackson was a private provider but she seemed to be entirely dependent - and satiated - by state funds that deprived her real customers - the parents of the children she served - with any incentive to shop around for a cheaper provider.