President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid have decided, despite the clear opposition of the American people, that the government can more efficiently and effectively run what has up to now been the greatest health care system in the world.
How can we expect this to work out? Reviewing the government’s performance in other endeavors provides useful and ultimately frightening guidance.
Let’s start by looking at our nation’s public schools. Efficiency is virtually non-existent. Productivity has been negative. Effectiveness has not improved, and has possibly worsened.
Almost two years ago, the Heritage Foundation published a tremendous study looking at education spending and test results during the past few decades. From 1970 to 2004, real spending per student more than doubled, while reading scores mostly stayed flat.
If the District of Columbia is any indication, Heritage’s graph understates how out of whack cost incurred versus value delivered has become. In a Washington Post op-ed also from 2008, the Cato Institute’s Andrew J. Coulson compiled spending from “all sources of funding for education from kindergarten through 12th grade, excluding spending on charter schools and higher education.” That included the operating budget, capital spending, federal funding, and city contributions.
He found that instead of spending an advertised $8,322 per student, the District was really incurring almost triple that amount, or about $24,600. That figure was and is more than likely far higher than all but the very priciest of private schools, one of which happens to be where Barack and Michelle Obama are sending their two daughters.
I don’t know how many other school districts are similarly understating their true costs, but even if the answer is “nobody else,” the nationwide per-student average is now over $11,000.
Ever-higher education spending and heavier federal involvement in it have not led to better educational quality. Yet the system’s defenders won’t let up. Despite 35-plus years of evidence that the only “positive” things that have occurred are salaries and benefits that are excessive in comparison to the private sector and bloated administrative overhead. Leading liberal columnist David Broder still thinks that spending more money we don’t have to prop up failing public schools “is a worthwhile federal investment.” Someone ought to ask Mr. Broder when enough is enough. I’m afraid his answer would be: “Never.”