By Nathan Barton
What is the problem? No, it is not just the idea that the answer to all government-recognized ills is to “throw money at it.” That is a symptom of the disease. Three recent stories in Freedom Net Daily let us see this:
The Independent Institute writes about $13 billion being spent each year for supplies for “public education.” Vicki Alger writes in part: “One fed up grandparent and former public school superintendent successfully sued an Idaho district for charging fees for regular classes and requiring parents and guardians to purchase specific brands of school supplies — basics the district is supposed to be providing. Yet what most teachers and parents don’t realize is just how much funding public school districts already get for supplies. For perspective, American public elementary and secondary education spending now totals more than $625 billion, according to the U.S Department of Education. (By the way, that’s nearly $130 billion more than the entire Department of Defense budget.) Of that amount, public schools spend nearly $43 billion on supplies. Once we remove all the supplies spending associated with administration, overhead and maintenance, transportation, food service, instructional staff, student support, and ‘other’ support services, we’re left with over $13 billion in supplies spending associated exclusively with instruction. (For state-level supplies spending, see the article.) This amount works out to around $267 for each of the roughly 50 million elementary and secondary school students.”
(Notice that she doesn’t add higher-level (college/university) education costs to this.)
Heartland Institute (another quasi-libertarian organization) asks, “If teachers’ unions are so great, why aren’t our schools?” There, Teresa Mull in part says, “America’s academic achievement, or lack thereof, is dismal. Our kids aren’t learning, and teachers[‘] unions are mostly to blame. They waste countless time, money, and resources and attract and maintain the lousiest, most corrupt, and sometimes dangerous employees.” Tom Knapp correctly points out, “No, unions are not “mostly to blame” for poor education. Government involvement is almost ENTIRELY to blame for that.” But government DOES work THRU unions, which would not exist (in the way they do) if not for government and its education mess.
Neither of these stories or reports go to the root of the problem. Or rather, roots. Because we want “easy fixes” and because we are often blinded by what has been traditionally done.
First let us consider the very concept of “free education.” NOTHING in life is free: someone pays for everything, even if it is “free” to the recipient. But even the person receiving the “free” gift (whether it is education or something else) pays for it. In the case of “free public education” it is time, liberty, and the incredible web of lies fed to the children that those children pay, just as their parents and everyone else in their communities (and across the Fifty States) pay in property and income and other taxes. It is “free money” to the unions and the bureaucrats (even the retired school administrator in the second article).
But that ignores the fact that ANY money spent on government-run, tax-funded “education” is wasted. Not just the waste from fraud or collusion or corruption. ALL of it is wasted. Which leads us to the second root.
The second source of trouble is of course (as Tom points out) government. Unions, like many other things, are just tools of government. Government uses them to control education and therefore the people who are government’s prey. No amount of accountability for billions of dollars of school supplies, or limits on the powers of union, will provide a decent education for children because government does not want a decent education. It wants to indoctrinate and make the vast majority of students into good subjects, worker-cogs. (Of course, we can make a good argument that unions are little more than governments or branches of government themselves; usually mandated and with power over not just their members but much else.) Once upon a time, government controlled the masses because there was no education – the lower classes, even the “middle class” were kept ignorant and prevented in many ways from obtaining the knowledge and skills needed to be free. But now, government does not deny education – it controls it. And it considers using stolen money to control that education to be well-spent. And putting up with unions, or even letting unions be part of the control.
Which brings me to the third article in FND, by Walter E. Williams. Appearing in Town Hall, Dr. Williams tells us “We’re all to blame.” He writes in part: “The largest threat to our prosperity is government spending that far exceeds the authority enumerated in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Federal spending in 2017 will top $4 trillion. Social Security, at $1 trillion, will take up most of it. Medicare ($582 billion) and Medicaid ($404 billion) are the next-largest expenditures. Other federal social spending includes food stamps, unemployment compensation, child nutrition, child tax credits, supplemental security income and student loans, all of which total roughly $550 billion. Social spending by Congress consumes about two-thirds of the federal budget. Where do you think Congress gets the resources for such spending? It’s not the tooth fairy or Santa Claus. The only way Congress can give one American a dollar is to use threats, intimidation and coercion to confiscate that dollar from another American.”
Mama’s Note: Not to mention the 21+trillion dollar “debt” which can never be paid. A business has to operate in the black for a while to actually pay off their loans. The non-voluntary government simply increases the amount they “borrow,” and we all pay the interest on it.
Although he doesn’t explicitly address education in this extract, it is clear from the other articles that “education” is a big spender of stolen (tax) money. Regardless of how that money is collected, it is stolen.
So “Education” is both the excuse for, and the reason for hundreds of billions in government taxation and spending. It is, of course, “social spending” but so huge that it can be treated as a third leg (together with “Defense” spending and “social spending).
Of course, both Social and military spending are also excuses and reasons. These, like education, are controlling people and therefore society. In particular, military spending cites external (and increasingly internal) threats for its necessity (just like “for the children” and “for the poor” are excuses). So they justify massive government AND give that massive government the power it needs to rule and ruin our lives. (Someone points out that the military spending -as both Alger and Williams discussed – is third fiddle to social and educational spending. However, if you add (as is appropriate) policing and incarceration spending and other regulatory enforcement to the military budget, you find it is indeed a third leg.
The point: it is not enough to cut spending, or to cut taxes. But neither is it enough to cut (reduce) government. Rather, we must eliminate all of it. And eliminate ALL three legs of the statist stool – social, educational, and use of force – we must take these away from government and place them back into private, individual, hands.