Two Americas: The World that Works, the World that Doesn’t

Using Fed-Ex shipping and ATM machines as examples, Newt Gingrich contrasts “the world that works” with the “world that fails.” This 3:20 minute clip is worth watching. Don’t get sidetracked on his specific example — the federal government’s inability to track down illegal immigrants — of the world that fails. This video is not about illegal immigration. Gingrich is making the larger point that, for all its massive power and resources, government just can’t do many things well.

What are some of the other things that we shouldn’t trust government with? I’d start with education. Government needs to ensure that every American gets an education. But why does government have to be in the business of running schools? Government ensures that people get food to eat by providing food stamps, a form of voucher — not running the grocery stores. Why not use vouchers to ensure that people have sufficient buying power to educate their children?

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20 responses to “Two Americas: The World that Works, the World that Doesn’t”

  1. E M Risse Avatar

    Jim Bacon:

    As long as

    every Dooryard has day care,

    every Cluster has at least one Preschool thru 2nd,

    every Neighborhood has atleast one 3rd thru 8th and

    every Village at least one 9th thru 14th, and

    every Community a 12 thru 16th GO FOR IT!!

    There is a real advantage to having all the children from a Cluster and from a Neighborhood go to the same school, especially if there is diversity at those scales.

    Opening the whole field to winner-take-all competition, no mater who runs them, will continue to leave out the “deer hunting with Jesus” folks who are in the most need of help.

    It will also allow those
    at the top of the economic food chanin to cherry pick. Not good if the goal is Democracy and a market economy.


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Which government do you want out of education – Federal, State, or Local?

    I agree that we need the Feds out ASAP and I would agree that we should minimize the role that the State plays. Education is a local issue. Always has been, always will be.

    The Feds role (the courts) should be to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and equally in EVERY type of school and that each child has a fair shot at an education. No one should be denied an education because of race, sex, economic status, etc.

    If you can afford to buy a better education than the one that the govn’t can provide, fine. You have the right to buy it and pay for it.

    But If you (a school) are going to accept public tax $$$ then you will have to play by the rules set by the courts (see above).

    However, I don’t see any feasible way that you are going to get the local Govn’t out of education. We have entirely too much already invested in the infrastructure for that to happen. My local county with a population of around 100,000 people has a proposed school budget of $150+ million – absurd. I would bet that 90% of that money is not spent in the classroom.

    I am all for getting the Govn’t out as much as possible and reducing the bureaucracy but to think we are going to shut the schools down and “let the market” figure it out is a pipe dream.

    Public education is a part of our culture just like apple pie and boardwalks. We need to find ways to get more bang for our buck and end the “we need more $$$” mentality.

    Oh, one place I’d start is by keeping schools open all year. Again, we have too much invested in the system to have them closed as much as they are.

  3. Jim:

    Good speech by Newt. However, I think your attempt to generalize his comments are a bit off. He was speaking about illegal immigration on the video clip. Extrapolating to government in general is a leap. Lots of functions within government work very well. Start a fight with the US Air Force at your own peril. Every other air force in the world world stands in mortal fear of the USAF. The Federal Reserve is a very effective central bank. People may not like its policies but it carries out its responsibilities quickly and effectively. Even the US Postal Service has Track and Confirm capabilities like Fed Ex and UPS:

  4. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Groveton, what you say is all true, but I’m a regular reader of Newt’s newsletter, and “the World that Works” vs. “the World that Fails” is a regular theme for him. He’s very much into reinventing government. He’s not a fan of illegal immigration, to be sure, but I’d be willing to wager that the context of these remarks was along the reinventing government line.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    “However, I don’t see any feasible way that you are going to get the local Govn’t out of education. We have entirely too much already invested in the infrastructure for that to happen.”

    I think it is called an auction.

    “Public education is a part of our culture just like apple pie and boardwalks.”

    How did that happen? It wasn’t always that way.


  6. Jim:

    You certainly have the context with Mr. Gingrich that I lack. However, if he is complaining about evrything in government (vs. illegal immigration), I think he’s hurting his own generally good argument. Some things in the Federal Government are broken and some are not. Saying that everything is broken is no more credible than saying that everything is great.

    Maybe the only way to get people to listen is to be a bit extreme. However, I hope he privately has a plan beyond the “Chicken Little” tone of the clip.

    Speaking of former politicos, I am reading Alan Greenspan’s book, The Age of Turbulence. I am about 1/3 the way through the book. It’s really, really good. If you like history, politics and economics – it’s a winner. As a teaser – here’s something I learned:

    Which US President pushed through the biggest tax cut in US history (relative to size of GNP / GDP at the time?

    John Kennedy.

    In fact, no other president has ever come close.

    Note: Kennedy pushed the bill and lobbied Congress. Technically, it was passed a few months after he was assassinated but it was his doing.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    “How did that happen? It wasn’t always that way.”

    Yeah, your right. On the same note, Abraham Lincoln was a self-educated lawyer and we all know those days are over.

    Times changed and our education system changed with them. Times are changing again and we need to adapt.

    Question: What other country in the world has a privatized (user pays)education system that does all of the things we need it to do here:

    1) Educate every child, not just the wealthy.

    2) Does not discriminate based on race, sex, ethnicity.

    3)Has as much invested in infrastructure like the U.S.

  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: government, Local role in education.

    I’ll only add that when a kid’s parents move – if the two schools involved are not using a standardized curricula, there can and are big problems.

    First the kid can have lots of problems if he’s running into material that his original school had not yet got to.

    second, schools have to devote extra and costly resources to that kid to help him make up the deficits.

    My wife who teaches tells me that there are some shocking differences between schools – in Virginia and Nationwide that now is getting detected because of standardized testing.

    Education is NOT local unless you want to believe that people don’t change jobs.

    We ARE a mobile society and unique local curriculums are a diservice to kids and divert scarce resources from other vital needs.

    We need to stop thinking of education as something like post offices – ever community has one and more like strategic investments for the economy our kids will inherit – which it is.

  9. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Anonymous 7:09, you said that an education system must educate every child, not just the children of the wealthy. I totally agree.

    Would you say that our existing school system meets that standard?

    The existing system may provide an education of sorts for every child, but the quality of that education is not equal.

    What could be more empowering to the parents of poor children than to give them vouchers that increase their educational buying power to the point where they have a *choice* of where to send their children to school?

  10. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Groveton, I knew JFK passed a big tax cut — the WSJ frequently alludes to it — but didn’t know it was the biggest in U.S. history. … If JFK got involved in politics today, it’s hard to imagine that the modern-day Democratic Party would want to have anything to do with him.

    The Greenspan books sounds interesting. Once I get through my current phase of directed reading — I’m really into learning more about AI, genetic engineering, robotics and nano-technology, the technologies that will radically reshape our near future — I hope to get to it.

  11. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “equivalent” quality educations

    Our suburban schools, their curricula and programs – are dictated by those parents who are interested in their kids getting the “right” kinds of courses that will look good on their college entrance applications.

    And ironically, many do not want rigorous curriculums if it means their kids won’t get “A”s.

    So – the advocacy against NCLB and standardized testing is NOT coming from the parents of kids who are economically disadvantaged.

    Every school that has AP and College-Prep curricula but not Pre-K or head-start and their SOL scores that show the test score divides between subsidized lunch and black kids scores and the college-bound kids .. makes a powerful statement about their priorities.

    And so.. the reality of these test scores and the NCLB sanctions engenders a “NCLB and SOLS “dumb down” our curricula” – which is code-speak for.. money is being diverted to at-risk kids away from AP and College-Prep.

    I don’t think it needs to be a class war – unless that is what you make it but I’d point out that the guys on the short end of the stick – black kids and kids on subsidized lunches are not the ones who make the decisions about where resources are spent – and are not.

    It is, in fact, the School Boards – WITH Pressure from the parents who want their kids to get AP and other special programs.

    There ARE parents who will do the right thing – will pay to send their kids to get the extra academic material – after school and/or private schools.

    The Education Community is totally against vouchers as are a lot of other folks and I’m not crazy about them but if a school continues to show a “divide” on the test scores and basically pays lip service to the resources necessary to help the at-risk kids, then I’m in favor of vouchers with one major caveat and that caveat is that any private school that does not produce results on a school-wide and an individual kid basis – gets de-certified as a voucher school.

    I don’t blame public school teachers for what I believe is a scandal. They can only do what they are told by the Administration and the administration in many areas is cowed by the well-off parents to skew the resources in a very wrong way.

    This is not something that folks should cluck their tongues at – this is something that is fundamentally wrong with the way we do business folks and in many areas fully 70% of your taxes go to education.

    This is money that does NOT go for roads or other needed infrastructure and so at the very least, we should demand that this money be spent effectively for it’s intended purpose and treated like a slush-fund for those who financially don’t need it and morally don’t deserve it.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    “What could be more empowering to the parents of poor children than to give them vouchers….”

    The problem I have with vouchers is the politics of who gets the voucher….and we all know what I mean.

    How would you determine who gets a voucher? What abut the kid who doesn’t get a voucher? You know somebody is going to get sued because they didn’t one.

    Also, what if you are in a school that is not “failing”….should you be able to get a voucher to go to another school?

    Where do you draw the line about who gets to use a voucher and who doesn’t and for what reasons?

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry –

    You are exactly right!

    The well-off kids in a community essentially have a private school within a public school…..FOR FREE!

  14. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Anonymous 9:17. What’s difficult about this? Say you’re a family of four — mother, father, two children — living in the city of Richmond. You get a voucher for each kid. Right now, the City of Richmond spends on average about $13,000 per student.

    Let’s say the average voucher is $12,000. You can adjust for a number of things. Smaller vouchers for kindergarten, larger vouchers for resource-intensive grades like high school. Larger vouchers for disabled kids, slightly lower ones for normal kids. Whatever the school board decides is reasonable.

    That still leaves $1,000 per kid (we’re just throwing around rough numbers here) for the City Schools to support a cadre of administrators to certify schools (and/or programs, like home schooling, or distance learning, or computer-based learning) where the vouchers can be spent.

  15. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    worried about “politics” with regard to vouchers?

    This is super simple.

    If the kid does not test out at the SOL/NCLB benchmark – and he is on reduced or free lunch – he gets the voucher.

    end of politics.

    it’s like I said – we’ve got folks who are well off who have co-opted our schools and own & operate them for their kids benefit – and any resources to go to at-risk kids is diverting resources from their kids “enhanced” education programs.

    We’re never going to get to what NCLB and SOL goals are – as long as we view schools as amenities.

  16. E M Risse Avatar

    A lot of good comments but they all play fast and lose with size, location and the level of parent involvement in the schools at all levels.


  17. Jim Patrick Avatar
    Jim Patrick

    Anon 7:09PM says, “Times changed and our education system changed with them.”

    That isn’t true. Times have changed, and the public educational system is still in the industrial-age, assembly-line mode. Public education started in the post-reconstruction era, and remains stuck in that time. Attendance is worth more than achievement, and the process prized higher than the outcome.

    The current American educational system
    1) Fails to educate from 20% to 50% of the children, primarily the poor and ‘underclass’.
    2) Strongly discriminates outcomes by race AND sex.

    3) InfrastructureYou keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it meansInigo Montoya. Roads and bridges are infrastructure, VDOT and its employees are not.

    Look at this budget chart, similar to other Virginia counties. The vast educational budget is salaries, services and recurring cost. The educational infrastructure is all contained within —one part of— the dark green ‘Debt’ portion.

    Teachers are not infrastructure; neither is the parasitic host of administrators that plague the educational system today. If America’s government-run education made shirts —and many of its systems may as well— they’d have been shipped offshore twenty years ago. Free enterprise educational systems consistently outproduce public systems, many at 20:1 rates and better.

  18. Anonymous Avatar

    When I refer to infrastructure I am referring to the buildings, school buses and everything in-between.

    You can split hairs all you want.

    Over the past 10 years my locality has spent over $100 million on buildings alone. If you throw in the county I would bet the total is over $200 million and we have a combined population around 100,000 (city & county). However, there is a city school system and a county school system so they are in fact 2 separate school systems.

    Let me be clear – I am not against vouchers.

    NO ONE has answered the original question I asked, what do you do with kids who don’t get a voucher when there is a mass exodus from public schools once they are offered?

    Again, if you are only going to offer a voucher to “poor” kids are you not discriminating against the middle class and wealthy kids?

    Jim Patrick –

    You left out an important part of what I wrote….I also said Times are changing again and we need to adapt.

    Your other comments about too many administrators are spot on – I agree 100%.

    Larry Gross, read this, you’ll love it!!

  19. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    gee a url just for me! 🙂

    I’m not opposed to programs for the gifted but I am opposed to them if they are done instead of programs that will meet the goals of NCLB.

    I would actually favor programs that cost but are means tested for kids in not good economic circumstances.

    What I object to – is leaving behind kids who have good IQs but poor circumstances NOT of their own making.

    We are abandoning kids because of their parents sins.

    Worse, we are throwing away perfectly productive human capital for no good reason other than pure ignorance.

    We are, in effect, perpetuating a divided class system… and it’s wrong fiscally and morally.

    We are told that education is worthwhile because it is an “investment” even for people who don’t have kids.

    and what we have is a huge subsidized amenity for the well-to-do in many cases.

    I don’t intend to tar the whole system but as long as I see kids of color and kids on subsidized lunches scoring differently on the tests and being treated differently in terms of needed services then I feel that the original premise of our public education system is being thrown overboard – and to our detriment as a country.

    and THAT is truly ignorant in my view.

  20. Anonymous Avatar

    “Teachers are not infrastructure; neither is the parasitic host of administrators that plague the educational system today. If America’s government-run education made shirts —and many of its systems may as well— they’d have been shipped offshore twenty years ago. Free enterprise educational systems consistently outproduce public systems, many at 20:1 rates and better.”

    Thank You, Patrick. That is mmore or less what I was getting at when I asked how it happened.

    My father was a teacher, and he would be the first to say the same thing.

    The public scholl system is ripe for privatization and vouchers. It is a much better idea than privatizing the highways.

    Free enterprise could produce more educational experiences for more people, and ones that actually fit the persons and abilities, that just are not available today. And for less money.

    Underwater welding, anyone?


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