Thursday, March 01, 2007

Don't Worry, Be Happy

“Smiles! Smiles, everyone!”* The 2007 legislative spending orgy has come to a conclusion. Although there’s some grousing about funding of some social programs and ethics reform went down the toilet, the vast majority of those involved in the legislative process seem to be happier and fatter than ever. (See D-News, SLTRIB articles)

The legislature did cut loose with a tax cut of about 14% of the unprecedented surplus. That cut comes by way of a reduction in food sales tax and a new flat(ter) income tax system, both of which start on Jan. 1, 2008.

I’ve already addressed the magnitude of the second year of the education cash throwing competition. I’m glad that teachers will be getting raises. But I’m not so glad that exuberant educrats are walking around saying, “KA-CHING!” I wonder how many more money mismanagement scandals will pop up as the bureaucracy receives its new cash infusions.

Lawmakers also focused a lot of cash on transportation for the second year in a row. This falls squarely into the realm of government responsibility. While the projects being funded are needed and will likely produce many salutary effects, I am concerned that gouging and mismanagement seem to go hand in hand with enormous expenditures. Here’s hoping that, unlike school districts, transportation has systems in place to minimize and prevent these kinds of problems.

I have already discussed my disposition with regard to the soccer stadium. And I had my little tirade over joining the swarm of states that are pushing their presidential primary election ever earlier.

It’s difficult to list every destination for cash flows approved by lawmakers. Right now tired legislators, lobbyists, and bureaucrats are simply giddy with the intoxication of managing so much spending without the rancor that proliferated last year. But don’t worry. It’s all good. That is, unless you happen to be of the opinion that limited government best preserves individual rights.


* (For the record, I always thought Ricado Montalban was much better as Khan than as Mr. Roarke).

5 comments:

Craig Johnson said...

Scott,

Interesting post. I have some criticisms of your positions I'd like to share, for what it's worth.

>>But I’m not so glad that exuberant educrats are walking around saying, “KA-CHING!” I wonder how many more money mismanagement scandals will pop up as the bureaucracy receives its new cash infusions.

Some points:
- The term "educrat" is obnoxious, misleading, and flat out rude. Your use of terms such as this cheapens your message.

- Regarding money mismanagement, that is unfair to judge our schools based on a small handful of isolated cases. Also, consider that these losers are being prosecuted.

- I take issue with your pattern of repeated attacks and misrepresentations of public education. You really should take the opportunity to sit down with some of the good folks at the state and district offices and broaden your scope. Ask to see a copy of their budgets; review the costs and challenges associated with operating schools, handling growth, and meeting strict accountability mandates.

The contrast of your post with the fact that the House and Senate approved the increases to public ed unanimously indicates that you may be a bit out of touch on this issue.

Question 1: From what I gather would you be in favor of ending public education (e.g., signing the sepschools.org pledge)?

Question 2: Would you perhaps be interested in supporting the Constitution party or running for office as a Constitution party candidate? We had a candidate the last two election cycles here in Draper (Michael Richards is his name - nice guy) whose views seem to square much with yours. Just a thought.

Sincerely,

Craig Johnson
Draper

Reach Upward said...

Craig, I appreciate your criticisms. I have sat down with the education folks. I have seen as much of the budgets as they are willing to share. A close relative of mine used to hold our state's highest education office. His main argument against my concerns about the explosive expansion of middle management and non-essential programs was that we were below average on these scores. In other words, the concern was not whether it provided educational value, but whether we were keeping up with the Jonses.

I admitted in this post that I'm out of sync with the mainstream. But you must understand that I think the mainstream is somewhat off course. As we go hog wild throwing cash at education, surely we have a right to request some accountability in return.

I am not in favor of ending public education. I do not see it as beyond salvation. It provides incredibly valuable services. However, I think we misuse it and fail to manage it as effectively as we should. And some of the fault for that drives to the national level.

I think the CP performs a useful function, although, others will disagree with me on that. The CP is rigorous in highlighting the importance of hewing to a high constitutional standard. I have voted for CP candidates. But I have not joined the CP. I have my reasons, but I will keep those private for now.

Democracy Lover said...

It seems to me we need to rethink a lot of our underlying assumptions about public education. You are correct that 'throwing money' at the current system is not likely to be productive, nor are steps like charter schools, public funding for private education, and the like - all of which will make the public system worse.

Ultimately we must have a public education system that prepares our young people to become productive citizens in the 21st century. We need to instill a love of learning, and the basic knowledge necessary to compete effectively for the jobs of tomorrow. The public education system also represents our best hope of providing every child the opportunity to succeed. That said, we need to think outside the box and challenge the assumptions that shape our current system.

I'm not advocating any of these necessarily, but I think everything needs to be on the table. Is property tax the best way to fund school systems? Is our system of local school boards actually effective and efficient or would we be better served by some other type of oversight? Are our schools too large to be effective? Is the education credential required by the state really worthwhile? Are we spending too much on sports?

We are stuck with educators who are either eager defenders of the status quo or who do not see a way out of it, and middle-income taxpayers who are paying ever larger tax bills for failing schools. The answer is not to give in to one or the other, but to figure out what's wrong, how to solve it and how to pay for the solution.

Reach Upward said...

DL, thank you for you cogent thoughts on this matter. You pose important questions that we do indeed need to address as we consider how to properly structure a system that successfully trains our youth for the world in which they will be living.

I do not have the answers to these questions. But I believe that it is possible for a community of open minded people that are focused on the proper goal to develop useful answers.

Reach Upward said...

I feel so small. After reading this D-News editorial, and looking at this post, I realize that in my haste to make a few snide remarks about the legislative session (something that could easily be done in any year), I have failed to recognize the sacrifices made by our elected officials.

I obviously feel that some of what was passed will ultimately reduce liberty, but most of these folks are trying to do their best to do the job to which they were elected. They make lots of sacrifices to make our representative democracy work. They are the ones that are in the ring. I'm just sitting on the sideline analyzing what happened in the ring.

I have a right to my opinion. But I will be the first to admit that I doubt I could have performed better than our legislators did.