The concept of the government “solving” all the problems of the world has crept into our society over time. With every new program, every new entitlement, the public has gradually become accustomed to the government solving the ills of the world. And what of fact that the government seemed to make all of these problems worse? Well, that’s neglected. After all, the government is taking care of it-I don’t have to worry about it, right?
Starting with the “progressive” movement in the late 19th century and accelerating greatly since the great depression, the government has vastly increased it’s meddling in human affairs. Ignoring the Constitutional limits on its power, the government has expanded its powers and influence to impact everyone’s life, many times, with negative results. This begs the question; does it really work?
While going over every government intervention would require writing a book, it might be prudent to to take an in-depth look at one: public education.
Since 1970, per pupil cost of public education, according to investors.com…
Far from being an engine of wealth creation, the education system is bleeding the economy to death. The U.S. spends 2.3 times as much per pupil in real, inflation-adjusted dollars as it spent in 1970, but the return on this ballooning investment has been less than nothing.
And what is that return? First, let’s take a look at some results of public education over time. Here is the graduation rates in the Us, by state, in 1990.
Next, here are the same figures for 2006
So, all this extra money, and graduation rates continue to drop?
Next, let’s take a look at how much different states spend on education.
Utah spent the least per student ($5,257), followed by Arizona ($6,261), Idaho ($6,283), Mississippi ($6,575) and Oklahoma ($6,613). All 10 of the states with the lowest spending per student were in the West or South.
So, what are the results of this huge disparity?
Recent studies reinforce the disconnect between spending and achievement. For example, the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) “Report Card on American Education, a State-by-State Analysis 1976– 2000” concluded that “it is clear after studying the data and results that the policies of the past have failed to meet the educational needs of our country’s children. If we continue to spend more money on the existing educational system in an attempt to buy our way to better student achievement, we will condemn another generation of students to mediocrity.” The ALEC study showed no correlation between conventional measures of educational inputs (such as expenditures per pupil and teacher salaries) and educational outputs (such as scores on standardized tests). Simply stated, increased funding does not translate into improved achievement.
An analysis of per-pupil expenditures on a state-by-state basis is illuminating. For example, in the 1998–99 school year, Utah spent $3,807 per pupil whereas Maryland spent $7,059. There is little evidence to suggest that equalizing resources between the two states would equalize achievement. In the 1998 NAEP, 31 percent of eighth graders in both Utah and Maryland scored at proficient or better in reading, despite the large discrepancy in per-pupil expenditures. Also, based on several standardized tests, the ALEC report rated Iowa (ranked 32d in per-pupil expenditures) as having the top-performing public elementary and secondary schools in the nation, followed by Minnesota (14th in spending) and Wisconsin (9th). At the bottom of the achievement ratings were Mississippi (50th in spending), the District of Columbia (5th), and Louisiana (39th).
Expenditures per student have increased over time, and the distribution of the expenditures has been according to popular emphasis: The level of teacher education has increased, teacher experience has increased, and student-teacher ratios have fallen. But the desired outcome—student achievement—has remained flat.
So two of the sacred cows of education do not stand up to scrutiny. Namely, class size and expenditures. Both are mantras of the left, yet neither have any statistical relevance to graduation rate. In simple terms, they have NO IMPACT AT ALL! This however, does not dissuade the left from raising them as issues at any time educational funding is discussed.
This is just one example. There are so many more. For example, the government has run social (in)security into the ground. It’s a ponzi scheme anyway-one that makes Mr. Madoff look like a rank amateur.
They created the fraud and waste infested Medicare and Medicaid programs. They’ve had 40 years to stop the (now, hundreds of) billions of dollars in yearly fraud and waste, with no meaningful results.
They can’t pay out on cash for clunkers. Even as late as this past weekend, the government has only paid approximately 7% of the dealerships. Many have now dropped out of the program. After all, why accept a program when the program doesn’t deliver?
They were negligent over obvious warnings and caused our current recession with the CRA and by ignoring all of the warning signs that Fannie and Freddie were about to implode. Instead, at the time, they attacked those releasing the warnings. They now deny their involvement, and instead blame the administration that released multiple warnings over the course of several years. Ironically, the very warnings they ignored.
Even the Post Office is failing! Not a good track record, yet the American people continue to accept these programs, and many ask for more. Based on their record, they’re going to do a great job with health care, right?
As previously stated, as all of these programs are enacted, the people become comfortable with the concept of the government addressing social problems and issues, no matter how badly government performs. But, there is a second, perhaps more damaging aspect to this; that government assistance creates dependency that allows for influence. To illustrate this, let’s go back to the education example. The public school districts obtain most of their funding either locally, or at the state level (note that this varies greatly by state). However, the federal assistance they receive, as well as the federal funds the states receive, if removed, would cause a “crisis” in the schools. They have become dependent on these funds to provide the services that they have established. Any threat to that funding therefore creates a reaction from the benefiting organization.
It is helpful to remember that the first priority of any bureaucracy is self-maitenence. The stated purpose or task of a bureaucracy is secondary, and is only done to the extent that the primary goal is met. When the primary goal is threatened, there is an immediate reaction. Even surviving at a diminished scale is not acceptable. Protests will be organized, politicians will be lobbied, children & seniors will be exploited, and rent-a-mob will be paid, all in order to maintain the status quo (and influence/power!), even if that status quo is dysfunctional, or even destructive.
In this situation, government is in the position to issue mandates to states, communities, and organizations in order to receive government funding. Government can use its checkbook as a means to push their agenda on the recipient organization. If the government is leftist, the mandates will be to the left-if the government is to the right, the converse holds true. Since the recipient organization is now dependent on the government money to maintain itself and it’s power, it has little choice but to go along with the scheme of the day.
Many organizations, in turn, lobby the government to help craft these mandates, or simply support them with some well-timed contributions and/or PR campaigns. They then have the opportunity to use their influence over government to push their agenda. When so many politicians and organizations are left leaning, is it a surprise that they manipulate us into following some leftist scheme that create more problems, or exacerbates existing ones? The lobbying organizations use their influence over the government to manipulate the government into exerting influence over still others to push an agenda.
To illustrate, let’s again go to the educational arena. With the government having an increased role in society, other groups benefit from the intervention, prompting them to lobby, donate, and otherwise influence the government’s activities. For example, increased spending and decreased student to teacher ratios benefit the NEA. The NEA supports and lobbies for the increased spending and benefits from all of the additional teachers that are hired as a result. More teachers lead to more union dues, which lead to more money with which to influence the government, which leads to more teacher and union dues…you get the point. In the end, powerful groups gain more power by influencing the government’s actions, as well as assuring their own funding stream. Since many of these organizations, and particularly the NEA are leftist, the mandates that the government decrees are increasingly socialist in nature. Here is evidence of the political nature of the NEA. It is a long video, so the part of interest is at 16:00.
The results for public education are seen every day. Violence, pregnancy, poor test scores, and increasing drop out rates have all continued, or even increased, with the advent of increased funding. It actually appears that the social engineering aspect of education is the goal. With the teacher acting as facilitator, the children are guided, mislead, and manipulated to a pre-determined ideological mindset. Again this is all set from Washington, with the left and the lobbyists manipulating each other, and, in the end, you and I.
Additionally, government and its supporters seek to eliminate all functional or ideological competition. Taking the lead of most totalitarian regimes in the last century, they seek to eliminate threats to their eminence and power. Other ideas are poisonous to their plans, so they are banned. For example, home-schooled children do not meet their leftist ideological goals, and perform at a higher academic level. Rather than take what works from this system, the left seeks to ban it. Again, if high scores and knowledge were a concern, they might study the matter. However, the goal is indoctrination, so home schooling must be ridiculed, restricted, and then banned. They have not let this goal drop from their list of priorities, and they are using their influence with the state and federal governments in a schemes to gradually restrict, then ban, home schooling. They can use their influence to write government legislation or regulations to their liking, while the other entities are subjected to the whims of the leftist government, as well as their well-fed supporters. After all, government assistance comes with strings attached!
So, where does this leave us? Caught in the middle of lobbyists, government, interest groups, thugs, goons, and mobs. Each group uses it’s influence over government to enrich and empower itself. in turn government uses it’s “endless” checkbook to fund schools ( and other entities), and makes demands in exchange for the funding. In the end, we all lose.
The solution to this mess is simple; return the federal government to its Constitutional role. When the government does little, as it should, there is no motivation to influence it. If the government has no influence over education, why would the NEA pay off some congressmen or senators? If the federal government stayed out of health care, why would the insurance companies, big pharma, the unions, and any of a number of leftist groups attempt to influence it? If the government didn’t try to control and thereby ruin our energy supply, why would big oil try to influence it? In the end, it is the size of government that creates the problem. A large and powerful central government invites corruption and creates dependency-cutting it down to size solves both problems. Power does corrupt, and the more power the government attaches to itself, the more corrupt it becomes. It matters little if the administration is Democratic or Republican, the size of government, and it’s accompanying corruption, makes victims of us all.
Note: Originally posted on 8-24-09.