What good has the Department of Education ever accomplished? So why not eliminate it?Tax cuts are nice, spending cuts are better, reductions in government workforces and privatization of government services are better still, but in order to accomplish true and lasting victories in the battle against big government, major government areas and functions simply have to go. I cannot think of a better place to start than the Department of Education. Eliminating it would not be as politically costly as, say, taking on AARP plus everyone with a grandparent by going after MediCare and Social Security. But it is also not something that is rather obscure to most people, such as the Department of Energy. So, eliminating the federal department of education would serve as a major victory in the fight to not only reduce government, but more importantly to change notions of the role that government should play in the minds of an American public that by and large seems to be convinced that “I need my services, it is the other guy down the street that is ripping off the taxpayers!” mentality.
First off, what is the Department of Education’s function? I would bet that the average citizen does not know. They know what Health and Human Services does. They know what Defense does. They know what State does, as well as Justice. They know what Transportation does. They may even know what Energy does. But does anyone know what the Department of Education does? Could the reason for this be that this department actually does nothing, in the sense that it has no defined mission whatsoever?
I can say that whatever the Department of Education’s job is, it is a massive failure at it. Can you name a category where national educational performance hasn’t REGRESSED since this department was formed? So what is the argument for retaining it? That were it not for this Department, things would be even worse? The only useful function that I can think of that is performed by this department is administering federal student grant and loan programs for colleges. Why can’t that go back to Health and Human Services (which was formerly Health, Education, and Welfare)?
On the other hand, I can think of one thing that the Department of Education is excellent at: providing safe and well compensated employment for Marxist radicals and an excellent and highly respected conduit for disseminating their views to children, parents, and the teacher’s unions! And keep in mind: this is with the somewhat restraining influences of the Republican presidents, federal courts, and Congresses that we have had the past 28 years. Were a fully Democratic takeover of government to occur, you can only imagine the sorts of federal mandates that the Department of Education would start rapidly issuing.
Some conservatives bought into the George W. Bush notion that the Department of Education could be used to bring about school choice, thinking that a federal opportunity scholarship program would either eliminate the need for or at least greatly aid a 50 state battle for choice in every state. First of all, that is not a federalist argument. If the people of New York or Massachusetts don’t want vouchers, we don’t want the federal government trying to buy and bribe them into changing their minds. Instead, let people from Boston or NYC who desire vouchers move to states where they are available, or better yet let private charities, religious institutions, and individuals step up to meet the school choice needs of parents in recalcitrant areas. Second, school choice is not nearly enough to justify or offset the harm to our society that allowing the Department of Education to continue to exist. (Again, imagine what a President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and majority leader Reid would use the Department of Education to promote, and what it would use it to ATTACK.)
I also wish to remind conservatives that eliminating the Department of Education was on Reagan’s wish list as well as part of the Contract With America. If you ask me, getting rid of this department is more important now than ever because if conservatives do not start changing the way Americans view the role of government in their lives by shutting down large government agencies now, then how and when will this goal be accomplished?
So, I say the Department of Education should be the first government agency or function that McCain should mark for elimination, and doing so should be second on his domestic agenda after energy. (It should be even higher than reducing taxes, because why keep cutting taxes if we are never going to cut spending, and how are we ever going to make sustainable spending cuts if government retains its size, scope, role, and potential to grow even larger?) I would be curious to hear your thoughts.