Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Christie and the Schools

Ask a hundred people how they think a school should be run, and you’re likely to get a hundred different answers. Some parents want more counselors, some want a greater nursing staff, some want particular sports, some want co-curricular activities, some want salary cuts. Everyone assigns a different priority to all these things. Whatever gets cut, no matter how much, people are going to complain.

Parents pay taxes; they want what’s best for their kids; and (so far as I know) they’re more or less forced to send their kids to their local school. They want to milk it, and I don’t blame them. As long as they’re only paying a fraction of the cost involved in putting their kids through school, it’s understandable. I’m sure every parent would like to see her child’s school stuffed with well-educated and well-paid staff, and activities of every kind. Don’t we all?

Well, maybe not all of us. A taxpaying non-parent’s priorities are probably more like “getting my taxes lowered” than “paying for other people’s kids’ government schooling.” I know I’d rather keep the 40% of my property tax than fork it over to the government to be disposed of politically in the school system. Maybe it’s harsh, but it’s true. Public-educated kids are caught in a political crossfire between government, taxpayers, and unions. Everyone has a stake in getting what they want (everyone wants lower taxes; politicians want reelection; unions want power) and we all have to use political means to get it. It’s an unending political tug of war, and the primary casualties are the very people the system is supposed to work for: parents, students, and teachers.

The other week, I attended a board of education meeting. The board announced budget cuts and cutbacks on nursing staff and counseling staff. Many parents were angry over these things, and called for administrative cuts. There was a lot of yelling, finger-pointing, a few speeches, and little good news. It was like a highlight reel of everything that’s wrong with public education.

Since parents believe their children are entitled to an education the government believes it is its job to provide it (two very flawed premises, by the way), any mention of privatizing/deregulating education isn’t even on the table. But the governor wants to address a budget deficit. Wonderful. Since market solutions are unimaginable to most people, the popular alternatives are to [continue to] tax the rich or to cut funding to schools. For anyone who wants less government, the answer is obvious.

I don’t have any faith in the education bureaucracy being able to redistribute their remaining funding in a way that pleases everybody (as I said, everyone involved has her own idea of how it should be), so there will definitely be many losers after it’s all said and done, and the schools will suffer for it. All the more reason to remove the government from education completely. As a parent, do you really want your kid’s education to be so vulnerable to political waves like this? Should every public teacher in the state have to quake in her boots every time some politician sneezes?

No, but that’s the way it is. The problem here is not that Chris Christie is cutting school funding, it’s that some politician has the power to cut the funds to begin with. Put any special interest group in place of parents and the NJEA, and that group would vilify the governor and decry the cuts just as much (or to whatever extent its political power permitted). Wouldn’t you?

Even though I’m tacitly in Christie’s corner on this one, I recognize that that’s only because his position (so far) leans in the direction of less government, and that’s all I’m interested in. That's an important point. See, though I don’t think I should even have to be bothered with any of it, I still feel I have a stake in the outcome. Politics has a way of doing just that- taking people who ordinarily wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) give a damn and roping them in, forcing them to fight for the least offensive political exploitation of their money, time, and labor; things that shouldn’t be anyone else's to begin with. In fact, the more I hear about this battle, the more I think that neither Chris Christie nor the NJEA are any worse than the other. Maybe the budget cuts are neither good nor bad. Maybe they’re just political maneuvers like anything else, no matter how they’re portrayed to the public by the two warring sides.

The point is that this whole seemingly unsolvable mess is a natural and predictable consequence of the government’s presence in the field. Private school teachers (and parents, and students), on the other hand, are totally insulated from all this political warring. They look upon this and shake their heads, wondering why anyone would want to put up with that kind of garbage.

Then, they turn around and quietly return to work. The rest of the education establishment should be so lucky.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Quick Look at the Latest News

Today, the President signed an executive order to abolish the DEA and end the federal Drug War. Asset forfeiture laws have been repealed, and all persons imprisoned on account of nonviolent drug offenses have received a presidential pardon. The states are up to their eyeballs in paperwork because of this, but that’s okay.

Hillary Clinton rolled out a new foreign policy, ceasing all military and economic aid to governments around the world. United States troops are now in the process of packing it all up and heading home. Dubbed No Soldier Left Behind, its purpose is to see to it that never again will an American soldier die on foreign soil fighting wars for the UN or toppling governments around the world. They will have to work their own problems out without the assistance of Washington or the American taxpayer. Resources previously spent on national offense will now be spent on national defense. We’ll finally have that missile defense shield.

Now that the American government has stopped taking sides in foreign conflicts, the Terrorist Threat color has reduced been downgraded to green, and there is talk about disregarding it altogether. The world took notice that if liberty somehow caused terrorism, there would have been many other more easily accessible countries available to attack. It has been admitted that terror and intervention, not freedom, is what caused the War on Terror. Finally, we struck at the root of the problem, and we won.

Congress has proposed a budget of less than a trillion dollars, with massive cuts in all federal agencies. Work has started on a plan to free everyone from Social Security and Medicare- with the War on Terror coming to a halt, an enormous reduction in the size of the federal government, and the wholesale liquidation of government assets across the country, the national debt is now somewhat under control and people will be free to save for their own retirements and pay their own medical bills. There’s now hope on the horizon that the babies of today will not owe as much of their lifetime’s labor to the government as previously thought. Federal taxes of all sorts no longer impose a crushing burden on everybody, and the repeal of the 16th amendment is also in sight.

The FDA has been abolished and the Healthcare bill has been repealed. Health insurance is no longer tied to the tax code, and federal regulations no longer apply to its price or availability. Insurance will finally be insurance again, rather than a program to pay every nickel and dime of everyone’s medical needs. The states have agreed to do away with mandated coverage, community rating laws and licensing laws. Almost all drugs are available OTC. Prices have fallen through the floor, as Americans now enjoy medical access unheard of in generations.

With the department of Education now defunct, state governments have voted for a plan to release the cost of education from the taxpayer and put it in the hands of the customer. Teachers will no longer need to unionize since being an educator will no longer be a government job. Your kids will get the education you want them to get, rather than what the state legislature says they should get. The demand for this newly tailored education from business will be enormous, as it will be flexible enough to adapt to what they want. As such, the cost will be controlled (not only by a decrease in regulation, but because federal taxes will soon fall), and the market will make sure only the best teachers will remain in the field in a way that no union or government ever could.

Best of all, Congress has assembled a commission to end the Federal Reserve’s monopoly control over the money supply. Tomorrow, the United States will begin the transition away from fiat paper currency backed by nothing to a commodity system to be determined by the market. No longer will people have to live with the reality that the government can simply confiscate their savings through inflation any time it wishes, for whatever purpose, and then laying the burden of debt on the nation’s young.

Soon the dollar, taxpayers, and businesses will be liberated from big government; trade barriers with the United States will be torn down; American-imposed embargoes and economic sanctions will be lifted, and the economy is about to bounce back with a vengeance.

These are just a few of the more important changes scheduled to take place either today or in the near future. In short, the United States is about to be a free country again.

April fools!