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More School Reforms Are Not the Solution to America’s Economic Problem: Fixing the Screwed Up Political Economy Is May 17, 2007

Posted by Daniel Downs in children, education, family, free market, freedom, Income, justice, liberals, living wage, National Compact, news, political economy, politics, welfare, work.

Senator Ted Kennedy and Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings recently published an article The Politico. In “National epidemic, economic necessity,” they claim a national epidemic exists causing large disparities in our economy. The national epidemic they refer is the large number of high school dropouts. Large disparity of incomes between high school graduates and dropouts is reason for great concern. They seem to suggest that this disparity is reflected in the large income disparity reported by our nation’s economists. Their solution to bridging the gap between rich and poor is to solve the school dropout epidemic.

Kennedy and Spelling say, “We must attack the problem at its source.” Is the source really more federal funding to reform urban schools in order to end poverty? Is No Child Left Behind (NCLB) reform going to end poverty? Can eliminating high school drop out of schools going to end poverty in America? Yes and no. Yes, it will make schools more effective and efficient. Yes, it will help kids achieve academically. Yes, it will help prepare kids for a service economy. Yes, some kids will make much more than would have without the reform. No, public schools still will not be able to serve all its constituents equally. No, a problem society refuses to deal with will still be perpetuated by public schools. No, it will not solve our nation’s economic problems.

So again, is the source of the problem mentioned by Kennedy and Spelling school dropouts, a learning gap, not enough parental involvement, ineffective teachers, underpaid teachers, not enough money for schools to serve disadvantaged kids? The answer is a resounding No. The problem with school dropouts and education is not merely education, but the political economy.

Money is a problem. Many parents do not have enough of it. They do not have enough because our quasi-capitalist, quasi-socialist economy is screwed up. It isn’t an equitable system. The free market is not free. Free markets are regulated by government. They are manipulated to the advantage of large corporations to the disadvantage of small producers with the political support of government. Prices are fixed not merely by demand and supply, but by also corporate profit margins. The current price gouging of the oil and gas companies is a case in point. Fair market wages is no more ‘fair’ than the rest of the so-called free market. Capitalism may be the best economic system but only when it is regulated by our nation’s original principles of freedom.
The reform needed is one that will fix our screwed up ‘political economy’.

NCLB requires more parental participation in their kids’ education. Yet, many low- and middle income parents have a very difficult time doing so. Why? Because many parents are hard at work trying make ends meet, they do not have enough time to be involved in their kids’ education. Since the rise of industrialization and the rise of the ‘new liberals,’ our economic system as it has developed has enslaved millions of Americans. Millions of fathers and mothers have to work in order to pay the bills and supply their kids’ needs. They have no real options. This problem is the result of a political economy organized mostly to benefit corporate profits than the good of all citizens. A good example of this is welfare. Welfare did not empower business to create new jobs to enable poor citizens to regain their independence. Welfare made ‘new liberal’ government more powerful by making millions of citizens dependents. Another example is minimum wage. Minimum wage law has never been a solution for poverty. Minimum wage is merely a welfare wage that benefits members of socialist unions while hardly benefiting the poor unskilled worker. Still another example is income tax law. Not too long ago, tax laws favored non-families. Why because it served the ‘new liberal’ social agenda, which required a supportive political economy.

If our political economy was guided by those original principles upon which our Constitution was developed, full-time janitors, secretaries, retail clerks, service workers would all earn a wage enabling them and their families to live economically independent, otherwise known as a living wage–not to be confused with the current living wage movement. The popular living wage movement, however great a movement, it is still a welfare program. Not until America returns to original principles will the economic problem be resolved.

If we solve the economic problem, much of the issues in education will be resolved. Until it is, taxpayers should refuse to give or allow any more money to be thrown at education. Since 1983, we have been throwing money at education reforms with no apparent result. In the early 1970s, we began throwing money at education to deal with security problems. Recent history, e.g. Columbine massacre, has proven it was wasted money.

The primary problem is our political economy and the many terrible cultural consequences. Forcing politicians and business to reform the economy based on those relevant moral and natural law principles will not only benefit the poor and every one else, but it will correct the economic problems of education.

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