Why There Was No Basement Tornado Shelter in That Oklahoma City School

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In one of my earlier books I cited former New York City Mayor Ed Koch explaining why the city’s “infrastructure” (sewer and water lines, bridges and roads, etc.) always seemed to be long overdue for maintenance and rebuilding:  “It’s hard to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new sewer line,” said the mayor.

Government turns everything it touches into crap, and economics provides numerous explanations why.  In this case, Mayor Koch hit the nail on the head:  Politicians like himself will always spend taxpayers’ money in a way that enhaces THEIR popularity and maximizes THEIR chances for re-election.  There are orders of magnitude more votes to be had in handing out welfare benefits or lavish public employee pensions than in replacing leaky water lines.  Public employees are well organized politically; the average taxpaying citizens are not.

As for Oklahoma City, news reports are that there was not an underground basement in that public school where nine children died during the tornado.  An explanation is that when it comes to spending money on “schools,” broadly defined, there are many, many more votes and campaign contributions to be had by spending the money on increased public school teacher and administrator salaries and pensions than on school building basements.  Teachers’ unions are famously well organized politically; average taxpayers are not.  Putting a basement in a new school building will not motivate government school teachers to spend thousands of hours campaigning and driving voters to the polls in school buses.  Promises of pay and pension increases will.

So go ahead.  Keep sending your children to government schools.

7:22 am on May 22, 2013
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