Nationalizing Public Education Comes After Health Care

After Congress passes a national health care plan, nationalizing public education will be next.

John Naisbitt, author of Megatrends (1988), said something to the effect that Ronald Reagan wasn't leading the (conservative) parade; he was riding the horse that was leading the parade.

Barack Obama is leading the progressive parade, and his wagon is hitched to a team of horses that includes a compliant Democrat Congress, well-funded liberal think tanks, a shill media, and the collective mindset of a progressive movement active since the early 20th Century.

The Great Depression chaos gave FDR the opportunity to dramatically alter the nation's socio-political landscape.  Likewise, the implosion of the credit market in 2008 gave the Obama administration the chaos needed to cram down its progressive initiatives with breathtaking speed.

The Republicans have neither the votes nor the collective will to turn back the tide of Obama-style change that represents a mix of socialist and fascist economic policies not new to the planet, but new in their current intensity in America. The Democrats are playing hardball; the Republicans are lobbing mush pounders.

Though not yet in great numbers, some who voted for Obama are now being heard to say that they didn't vote for what's happening. Those confessions illustrate their failure to do due diligence on the candidate of their choice. His intentions were clearly laid out in his campaign documents and in many of his non-primetime speeches.

When the nation was watching, he was all about hope and change, based on a delivery style that hid content vagaries. When more focused interest groups were addressed, his language foretold the sort of change he intended. Consequently, little of what's happened comes as any surprise to those who kept up with the full array of his messages. But few voters had time for that. And the old liberal media had no interest.

So we come to the point where the financial markets, the auto industry and eventually the health care industry will function under the aegis of the federal government. It's clear from his campaign rhetoric what will come next -- America's public education system. 

Candidate Obama's language about reforming public education was more emphatic and detailed than his discussion of health care. And, making a case for nationalizing public education will attract broader support than the three previous venues (banking, autos, and health care).

President Obama will proclaim public education K-12 as too crucial to the future of the nation to be left in the hands of volunteer citizen committees, also known as School Boards and Independent School Districts. And, the distribution of school financing is, Obama will say, too dependent on the varying affluence levels among the states, and within their divergent communities. All of America's youth are entitled to an equal opportunity to receive a world class education. Anything less is unfair. Equal opportunity demands equal funding. It doesn't take a crystal ball to see this coming.

The pragmatic case for uniform public education will cite economy-of-scale advantages whereby the federal government will eliminate multiple duplications of effort in a currently over-staffed management equation where every school district constructs its own buildings, buys its own materials, hires its own staff, and manages its own curriculum to its own state's standards. Why not centralize all those processes and save time, effort and money? will be the argument. Works for Wal-Mart.

Large metropolitan school districts that are almost all dismal failures will gladly turn over their responsibility to the federal government. Most teachers and administrators will welcome the opportunity to become GS workers and enjoy the benefits of greater and more equitable pay, plus relocation opportunities without compensation penalties. Many will welcome the end of the politico-educational fiefdoms called school districts.

Compared to the complexity of redesigning the American health care system, rationalizing the nationalizing of public education K-12 will be a snap.  Most citizens will see no inherent danger in bringing central planning to public education. After all, central equals public, public equals central. So the argument will go.

Obama will claim that taxpayers will pay less for nationalized education since the increase in their federal taxes will be less than what they're now paying in local school taxes, which will go away. Lower taxes - that'll sell. 

What groups will oppose this?  Besides home schoolers, that is. They'll be required to meet the same certification standards as national teachers, and jump through bureaucratic hoops that'll eventually dissuade many from being their child's teacher as well as their parent.    

Here's one look behind the curtain pertaining to the political philosophy that'll drive the effort to nationalize public education.

John E. Roemer, Professor of Political Science/Economics, Yale University, wrote the following in an article entitled "Socialism vs. Social Democracy as Income-Equalizing Institutions." 

"One must not confuse socialism with democracy. Democracy, as I see it, is a set of political institutions (competitive parties, contested elections, etc.), while socialism, defined here, is a property of an allocation.  Thorough-going democracy may well reduce inequality, both through the redistribution of income, and through the educational investments in the population that it engenders. It is much less clear what the relationship between democracy and socialism is. My own view is that democracy tends to eliminate inequality of opportunity - this statement must be qualified - but there is little reason to believe it will eliminate (Marxian) exploitation - and, perhaps, even for those who consider themselves socialists, this should not much matter...

Granted that the socialist allocation, given the distribution of skills in the United States today, would bring with it a relatively high degree of income inequality, but under socialism, that distribution of skills would change. If socialism brings the culture and politics that its advocates claim, the skill distribution would become more equal, and so, if one views the problem dynamically, then socialism over time would probably be more income-egalitarian than capitalism with a 31 percent tax rate.  Indeed, the high skewness of the distribution of skills in the US is in large part due to inequality of educational opportunity. I sympathize with this response; however, it is only an acceptable one if we broaden the definition of socialism to include a mechanism for the development of human capital in the population (presumably, some kind of equal-opportunity educational system)...

My rhetorical point is that socialism (distribution of output in proportion to the value of labor performed) is not enough. Equalizing opportunities for the realization of skills from natural talents - however that be further articulated - must be of central importance to inequality-averse socialists today...

To press the point even further: equality of opportunity may not be enough. Imagine that the distribution of innate talents is such that an equal-opportunity educational system would still engender a great deal of income inequality. Many would still advocate redistributive taxation, justifiable under the Rawlsian [John Rawls] construal that the distribution of talents is morally arbitrary. 

(Eastern Economic Journal, 2008, 34, pp. 24-25)

And there it is.  Federal control over "some kind of equal opportunity educational system" might lead to more equal development of innate skills, but it would need to be supplemented by a redistributive tax system that spreads the wealth to accompany an equalization of skills. A twofer, as it were.

Unless the nation pushes back against the trend, local communities will lose control over their neighborhood schools and a Beltway School Czar will be in our future.