Perhaps you have seen Austin Powers, in which case you likely recall Dr. Evil’s demand for "one billion dollars" from the nations of the world.
Perhaps you have seen the news, where another demand for one billion dollars has been made. President Bush, taking an apparent break from his efforts to turn Iraq into the 51st state and combat "cosmic injustice," is reportedly "seeking" one billion dollars for that worthiest of causes — the eternally under-funded public schools.
"Seeking," my eye.
Mr. Bush knows where his billion dollars of sugar-daddy cash will come from: compulsory taxation.
In his weekly radio address, the president put it this way: "Too many students and lower income families fall behind early, resulting in a terrible gap in test scores between these students and their more fortunate peers."
The obvious political solution (i.e., obvious to the political class), then, is to impoverish everyone else by increasing spending on tax-funded schools.
Query whether factors other than family income and educational spending might be responsible for educational failure. In that regard, consider the federal government’s hometown, Washington, DC. The city with the worst public schools in the nation (Washington, DC) spends the most on education per pupil.
The Democrats, of course, are yet more despicable than the crusading Bush. One noted paragon of American freedom, Ted Kennedy, predictably branded the billion dollars of additional federal spending as "pocket change."
Mr. Kennedy has apparently not considered how many peoples’ pockets are picked to provide the federal government with one billion dollars.
What is at work in the phony "debate" over how much more money to throw down the black hole of the public schools is the nature of contemporary American democracy, namely, base pandering for political gain. This base pandering is to be distinguished from the pursuit of any genuine notion of the common good.
As Plato put it in the Gorgias, American politicians are gluttons: men who regale the American people by giving them what they desire, in the way that fools feed only junk food to children who prefer junk food to nutrition.
The masses clamor for "more money for schools" — never thinking where such money is to come from — and so the enlightened despots in Washington shall shower the masses with cash. Free cash!
The result? Government at every level is bloated, and American society, in places, is rotten to the core.
As Socrates put it, our politicians:
have glutted the state with harbours and dockyards and walls and tribute and rubbish of that sort, regardless of the requirements of moderation and righteousness…
No one but the educational establishment will benefit from giving more money to the public schools. Rather than give up one billion dollars, the American public should demand a different course of action, namely, that the government get out of a business in which it has no business: education.
Mr. Dieteman [send him mail] is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.
© 2003 David Dieteman