Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Freedom Alliance

The first of three op eds by David Brooks that touch on education:

I've also been in touch with people at Teach for America. The line in the federal budget that helps pay for their work qualifies as an earmark, so they face an $18 million cut and the loss of 400 teachers.

It seems that as long as there is a budget crisis, I'll never be lonely. But I have to say, many of these great people are suffering under a misimpression. They assume that if they can only persuade enough people that their programs are producing tremendous results then they will be spared from the budget ax.

They are wrong about that. The coming budget cuts have nothing to do with merit. They have to do with the inexorable logic of mathematics…

..The greatest pressure comes from entitlements. Spending on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on the debt has now risen to 47 percent of the budget. In nine years, entitlements are estimated to consume 64 percent of the budget, according to the invaluable folks at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. By 2030, they are projected consume 70 percent of the budget.

When you throw in other politically untouchable programs, like Veterans Affairs, you arrive at a situation in which a vast majority of the budget is off limits to politicians who are trying to control debt. All cuts must, therefore, be made in the tiny sliver of the budget where the most valuable programs reside and where the most important investments in our future are made.

…The implication is this: If people who care about this or that domestic program fight alone, hoping that their own program will be spared, then they will all perish alone. If they have any chance of continuing their work, they will have to band together and fight their common enemy, the inexorable growth of entitlement spending.

The foreign aid people, the scientific research people, the education people, the antipoverty people and many others have to form a humane alliance. They have to go on offense. They have to embrace plans to slow the growth of Medicare, to reform Social Security and to reform the tax code to foster growth and produce more revenue.

Specifically, they have to get behind an effort now being hatched by a group of courageous senators: Saxby Chambliss, Mark Warner, Tom Coburn, Dick Durbin, Mike Crapo and Kent Conrad. These public heroes have been leading an effort to write up the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission report as legislation to serve as the beginning for a serious effort to get our house in order. They've been meeting with 20 to 40 of their colleagues to push this along. It's not always the most famous senators that are involved in this effort. It's the midranking and junior ones who are willing to risk political ire to save the republic.

They need a popular movement mobilized behind them. They need an activist alliance so that party leaders and the White House can see a politically viable way forward.

It's not only about debt; it's about freedom. It's about whether we get to make budget choices or whether we have our lives dictated by the inexorable growth of programs beyond our control.


February 10, 2011

The Freedom Alliance



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