Discussions relating to the challenges state and municipal governments face often include the cost of education. While most Americans agree that the educational process needs repairs, proposed actions are debated.
Those on the Left often express the belief that the educational system can be improved by throwing more money at it. For example, President Obama suggested including billions more for “public school modernization” in his latest jobs plan. This is in the time-honored Progressive tradition that proffers that any societal ill can be cured by government spending. If only it was so easy!
The main school of thought is that America’s education problems are more systemic that include a breakdown of family and a corrupt philosophy within unions that rewards teachers for years of service, rather than performance. This Blog adheres to this view.
Hall of Fame quarterback, Fran Tarkenton, retired from the NFL (National Football League) in 1978 after 17 terrific years. He has since been an entrepreneur and adviser on small business education. Tarkenton published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal some weeks ago titled What if the NFL Played by Teachers’ Rules? that looks into the problems of public education. To make a point, he interposes the method of compensation and promotion for teachers and NFL players saying: “Imagine the National Football League in an alternate reality. Each player’s salary is based on how long he’s been in the league. It’s about tenure, not talent. The same scale is used for every player, no matter whether he’s an All-Pro quarterback or the last man on the roster. … “. The result of such lunacy is easy to understand. Under such a system the NFL would at best offer a mediocre product that few would be willing to purchase and the league would ultimately disappear.
For those like President Obama who claim that more money can address the problem of education, Tarkenton offers the following statistics in rebuttal:
- Inflation-adjusted spending per student in the Unites States has tripled since 1970.
- America spends more per student than any other Western country except Switzerland.
- Spending on buildings and equipment for schools has doubled since 1989, even after being adjusted for inflation.
Tarkenton correctly concludes that one problem with America’s educational system is the method by which its employees are compensated. Teachers are not rewarded on results or efforts, but merely for years on the job, have little incentive to excel. Worse, poor teachers who have no fear of being terminated for performance continue to teach to the determent of students.
America’s corruptive compensation practices are not only found in public education and the problem is broader than the way unions demand compensation for members. For example, there is rightfully much angst being expressed by the Occupy Wall Street movement relating to Wall Street’s compensation for some of the same executives that helped create the Country’s ongoing financial mess.
The federal government played a role in creating Wall Street’s outrageous compensation packages. First, starting in the late 1990’s, it and the Federal Reserve bailed out Wall Street with historically low interest rates every time the economy slowed down. This led to bubbles and a belief on Wall Street that there was little risk in their increasing risky behavior. Had the government let the recessions occur, i.e. required market corrections, during this ten-year period, Wall Street banks would have had poor profit years that would not only have tempered compensation packages, but more importantly tempered their willingness to make what were outrageously risky investments.
The government’s response to the 2008 financial meltdown was even more outrageous, bailing out the very people who caused the crisis. However, instead of making these capitalist pay the ultimate price for their gross failures, the destruction of their companies, the government bailed them out. That allowed the same executives to retain their jobs with outrageous compensation packages at the expense of the American taxpayer. This grotesque crony capitalism started under the Bush Administration and continues under Obama.
Examples of compensation inequities in America are many. These inequities have intensified in recent years not because of greed or capitalism, but because of peoples’ ability to act on that greed. This increasing ability to act on greed has been enhanced by unnatural market manipulations that range from union demands for government workers, to governmental bailouts of huge banks and companies. Unless these unnatural market manipulations are addressed (stopped) the problem of the inequities will continue. Unfortunately those that govern will instead likely create still more interventions to repair their earlier interventions, which will only exasperate the problems. This madness will continue until a transformational leader emerges with the guts to break the ties between power groups and those that govern.