I think my head will explode if I have to listen to any more whining or protests about cuts to education budgets. From California to Washington, D.C., and right here in Georgia, students, teachers and various union members are showing up at capitols and at county board meetings, whipped into a fury over the thought that any cuts might be made to the precious education system. Well, here is a news flash. We’re all hurting here. Everybody has to make sacrifices, and everyone will have to make do with a little less. Unemployment in Georgia is almost 10.5%, and no one in the private sector has the luxury of raising prices to keep from laying off workers. Why should the education system, or any government department for that matter, be immune from tightening their belts like the rest of us.
Like every other government agency and department, education spending has been rising for years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2006 (latest statistics available) we spent an average of $9138 per student on education nationally, with Georgia spending $8565 per student. And what exactly have we gotten for such an impressive financial outlay “for the children”? Georgia consistently ranks in the bottom 10% in academic achievement of American students, and America ranks in the lower middle of the pack of industrialized countries. The PISA test (Program for International Student Assessment) ranked American students near the bottom in math (23 of 30 countries ranked ahead, two tied) and science (where American students were 11-points below the average). So maybe I would have sympathy for protecting education budgets if we were producing the top students in the world, but we are not. We are getting our tails kicked by countries like South Korea and Poland (which, according to the 2008 OECD study, spend about half of what we do per student).
During an appearance last week on The Late Show, President Barack Obama told David Letterman that he wasn’t worried about the national debt in the short-term, but rather that the long-term challenges it presents are more concerning. In reality, both present and long-term budget issues are concerns.
As I explained last week, in just the next 25 years, our budget is going to grow to near nearly 36% of our economy and our debt will double in size to 200%, both far greater than in size than they are today. Much of that growth will come from entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, which will consume 16.6% of gross domestic product by 2037.
While this is a certainly a great challenge for Congress, reforming entitlement programs is a must before they do damage to our future prosperity. Unfortunately, David Axelrod, who is the top adviser to President Obama’s campaign, has ruled out such as prospect:
During a discussion about the entitlement program on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Axelrod said entitlements must be dealt with “in a balanced way” but that the president wasn’t ready to have a discussion about specifics 43 days before the election between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney.
“I’ll tell you what, when you get elected to the United States Senate and sit at that table, we’ll have that discussion,” Axelrod told Mark Halperin when the Game Change author pushed Axelrod to be more specific.
Writing for The Atlantic, Barry Greenfield makes the case for library rental fees:
In the early 20th century, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated $50 million to build 1,700 libraries in the United States. There are now more than 9,000 public libraries, not including branches. Around 85 percent of library funding comes from federal, state, and local taxes. The majority (90 percent or more) of that comes from local property taxes.
At a time where the tax burden can often be onerous, doesn’t it make sense to ask library users to pay a nominal fee for a book rental? When municipal budgets are tightened, almost universally the library is left to hang by a thread. Amazingly, when library usage is at an all-time high, I read about library closings every week across this country.
But I never hear any politician or citizen’s group recommending a rental fee to support the library.
Why do libraries get the short end of the stick? For a multitude of reasons, but primarily due to changes in how people have been gathering since technologies like radio and TV came on the scene. Prior to their introduction, libraries were a community gathering place. That’s no longer the case, and in today’s computer-based home environment, the majority of taxpayers in a municipality do not use the public library.
The majority of taxpayers don’t use the public library anymore? So we can get rid of it now, right?
Does that mean we shouldn’t offer the service to the community? Of course not. Instead, the municipal government should give baseline funding to the library, with the remaining funding coming from operational revenue.
The United States Postal Service is in trouble. Like private enterprise, the postal service has taken a hit in this economy, and that is for an entity that’s been taking a hit for years due to the rise of email and so much of business being handled via the internet rather than by stamp. However, the postal service isn’t a private enterprise. It’s a government entity.
Since 2007 the USPS has been unable to cover its annual budget, 80 percent of which goes to salaries and benefits. In contrast, 43 percent of FedEx’s budget and 61 percent of United Parcel Service’s pay go to employee-related expenses. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the postal service’s two primary rivals are more nimble. According to SJ Consulting Group, the USPS has more than a 15 percent share of the American express and ground-shipping market. FedEx has 32 percent, UPS 53 percent.
The USPS has stayed afloat by borrowing $12 billion from the U.S. Treasury. This year it will reach its statutory debt limit. After that, insolvency looms.
On Mar. 2, Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe warned Congress that his agency would default on $5.5 billion of health-care costs set aside for its future retirees scheduled for payment on Sept. 30 unless the government comes to the rescue. “At the end of the year, we are out of cash,” Donahoe said. He noted that the unusual requirement was enacted five years ago by Congress before mail started to disappear.
Now…just imagine what the hell will happen with the government trying to grab control of more and more? That just can’t be good.
As we get close to the mid-term election with heavy losses expected, though not guaranteed, for Democrats, they are pulling out some familiar political rhetoric by touching the third-rail of American politics…Social Security:
With many Democrats running scared from their party’s handling of the economy and health care reform, they’ve returned to an old reliable campaign theme in the homestretch: attacking their opponents for threatening Social Security and Medicare.
“I will not allow these programs to be jeopardized or destroyed,” said Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.) when he was endorsed by the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans. In his retiree-heavy Boca Raton- and Palm Beach-area district, Klein has attacked well-funded challenger Allen West for Republican leaders’ “outrageous insult” of a plan to slash benefits and raise the retirement age.
In the contest for the seat of retiring Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wis.), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has accused GOP contender Sean Duffy of being “out of touch” after he told a Fox News interviewer, “I want to talk about all of the options” for overhauling Social Security.