Monday, February 14, 2011

Investing in Education?

I am a big Obama supporter - check my donations on the Huffington Post - but I am a little leery of some of this double-talk these days.  It is the same double-talk the Republicans spout!

The President has proposed a new budget.  It calls for deficit reduction, but not elimination.  It calls for a spending freeze on a lot of programs (including heating subsidies for the poor - a true spending "freeze" if you'll pardon the pun).  But it leaves as a sacred cow, the Pentagon budget, lest the President be called "soft on defense" or "soft on defense contractors". 

Let's face it, there are dozens of gold-plated projects that could be scrapped that have nothing to do with the war in Afghanistan.  Again, bombers that have never seen service and never will should be cut back.  Stealth technology has been proven ineffective (which is why the stealth "fighter" was retired).  Less man-in-a-missile and more drones.

But again, that would give the folks at Fox News the chance to chant "soft on defense!  soft on defense!" and try to unseat him in 2012.  Eisenhower had it right - the military-industrial complex has taken over.

And by the way, I'm a registered defense contractor.  Maybe in 20 years you will be, too.  Maybe we all will be.

If we are to cut our budget, we have to cut everything across the board - with no scared cows - defense, welfare, Social Security, Medicaid, whatever.  Knock 10% off each, pay down the deficit.  Otherwise, we are just rearranging the deck chairs.

What galls me is that the President wants to "invest for the future" by spending more on education.  "Invest" is politik-speak for "SPEND" and the odious Glenn Beck will point that out in short order.

As Americans, we've invested quite enough in education already.  Perhaps its time we called it a day and just gave up.  As I noted in my High School, a Government-Run Industry, the idea that teachers are underpaid or that public schools are underfunded is utter bunk.

Many teachers in many parts of the country are making well into the six figures in terms of salary.  School administrators can pull in a quarter-million or more.  And in terms of retirement benefits and health care, the teacher's union has done a good job of taking care of their own - at the expense of property taxes, which are skyrocketing in many places in the country.

And in many cases, the more spend on schooling, the less effective the schooling is.  The District of Columbia spends more per capita on education than any other area of the country - and has the lowest test scores.  And we should throw more money at this?  In Central New York, we suffer from staggering tax rates, have very highly paid teachers (and even more retired teachers) and have low test scores and no jobs at graduation.

So why the "investment in education" spiel?  Well, like the defense contractors, the teachers union is a big and powerful lobby, and the President knows which side his bread is buttered on, if he wants to get re-elected in 2012.

And maybe this is smart politics.  Maybe not.  And of course, while Republicans might talk a good game about balancing the budget, they would inevitably kow-tow to the same special interest groups - the Defense Industry and the Teacher's Union.  After all, these two organizations became quite powerful under Republican administrations.

So expect a lot of heat and little light in the coming discussions on the budget.  Republicans will make much ado about "investment" as a code-word for "spending" - but will offer little in the way of alternatives to cutting the budget, other than trivial programs that make political hay - Planned Parenthood, National Endowment for the Arts, etc.

Same old, same old.  The key is not to get Baited in these debates - baited into believing that either side really has your best interests at heart, and isn't just tossing bones to politically powerful interest groups.