Jeb Bush Has To Provide Government Reform Details

Congratulations to Jeb Bush for promising as president to take on the Washington bureaucracy. But, as they say, the devil is in the details.

He has credibility. As Florida governor, Bush cut the state bureaucracy by 11 percent over his eight years. If he becomes president, he now proposes to freeze federal employment and then reduce it by 10 percent over the four year presidential term through attrition.

Bush qualifies this with a “three-out, one in” proviso allowing one new employee for every three slots cut.

This sounds good in today’s rapid news cycle, but the details reveal important qualifications. He relies primarily on retirements to meet his goal. What happens if they are not sufficient?

Attrition alone also allows the better employees to leave, creating imbalances.

Yes, most of the reduction should be by attrition; but some must be fired to target program functions that need to be cut or eliminated. During Ronald Reagan’s presidency when he reduced non-defense civilian employment by 100,000, 90 percent of separations were by attrition; but the other ten percent were aimed at bad programs to show he was serious about the whole effort.

Bush did say that program reform is critical and promised tax, regulatory and entitlement reforms — but will only detail them sometime in the future. He did specifically propose a line item veto, a balanced budget amendment, procurement reform, and baseline budgeting — all of which would be positive but have been languishing for years.

His proposal not to pay Congressmen who do not vote is simply silly and impossible to become law. And his plans to limit lobbying sound as good as they did from Barack Obama until someone reminds folks of the Constitutional right to petition the government.

The heart of his proposal is to reform the civil service, which he correctly recognizes is dysfunctional. But he misrepresents the source of the problem, saying that much of today’s bureaucracy “is a relic from the 1970s and the Carter administration,” which “didn’t have the taxpayers’ interest foremost in mind.”

Actually, Jimmy Carter’s one real accomplishment as president was the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 which was implemented by the Ronald Reagan administration in 1981, and actually rationalized the performance appraisal system and introduced pay-for-performance for senior executives and managers.

Unfortunately, it was President George H.W. Bush who presided over the elimination of merit pay for managers and the downgrading of performance management. In the wake of 9/11, President George W. Bush attempted to reintroduce performance management at the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security; but these were stalled by the unions and their friends in Congress and were finally abandoned.

Gov. Bush promises to do better. He recognizes the feds are paid more than the private sector, they have much richer benefits, and the bad ones are rarely disciplined or removed.

He proposes “no more doling out raises across the board,” to reintroduce merit pay and financial rewards for good performance, and to remove nonproductive employees in “weeks rather than years.”

What is missing but essential is a focus on contractors who make up the great majority of those who do national government work but are not formal employees. As the public has lost confidence in bureaucratic expertise, it has proved impossible to increase the size even under Democratic presidents and Congresses.

As political scientist John J. Dilulio, Jr. shows in his book “Bring Back the Bureaucrats,” to run the present government even marginally well it would be necessary to add a million or more bureaucrats.

The federal government has increased its programs exponentially on the domestic side since Reagan, but it has roughly the same number of employees. How can that be?

The answer is private or lower-level government contractors do the work, about 8 to 1 for every national government employee.

In Florida, Bush did cut some 13,000 state jobs but mostly converted them into government contractors and increased the total overall. He cut taxes by $20 billion, but his budget authority increased from $49 to $71 billion–an incredible two-thirds growth. Debt increased from $15 to $23 billion and the debt service from $928 million to $1.7 billion per year.

State government actually increased dramatically during the Bush years.

It is refreshing to hear government management reform given such emphasis. It has not been front and center in a presidential election since President Jimmy Carter. But Carter used it as an alternative to reducing governmental functions. Hopefully, Gov. Bush will not

As an excellent new study by the CATO Institute’s Chris Edwards, “Why the Government Fails,” documents, the real problem is over-centralization; and the only real solution is to cut programs and send functions back to state, local and private institutions.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

A Libertarian View Of Francis’ Laudato Si

Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si (“Be Praised”) has been acclaimed by the international media as a call to action on global warming, to combat its threat to world survival. It has been praised in New York Times editorials and by Progressive Catholic intellectuals like E.J. Dionne on the Left while garnering scathing or dismissive responses from libertarian, free-market types on the Right.

The papal document, however, is not fundamentally about climate change (who questions that weather changes?) or even global warming. (The Pope merely follows the scientific “consensus” and even qualifies it as a trend that “would appear” to “indicate” that “the greater part” of greenhouse gases’ warming is “due to human activity.”)

The encyclical is actually about our “fragile world” and how modern technology linked to “limitless” freedom, “business interests,” and consumerism will destroy it, especially its effects on the poor since consumerism’s “worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.” He is less worried about heat than trash:

We all know that it is not possible to sustain the present level of consumption in developed countries and wealthier sectors of society, where the habit of wasting and discarding has reached unprecedented levels. The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not solved the problem of poverty.

To confront the danger to our fragile planet, fundamental changes are necessary in the world’s production, consumption, and lifestyles. Francis is extremely critical of what has been done so far, finding it “remarkable how weak international political responses have been.”

A fragile planet with limited resources means a zero-sum situation in which the richer deprive the poor majority of necessities. Even where serious commitments have been made by the West to reduce carbon emissions, the richer nations are unwilling to confront the underlying problem of consumerism among their populations.

Western leaders’ “ecological sensitivity” has “not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption.” Even if there were the will to extend Western prosperity to the world, there would be insufficient resources to produce the goods necessary. The Western “minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption.” The increasing use of air conditioning is singled out as an example of the “harmful habits of consumption” that are expanding ever more to exhaust world resources. Stimulating demand for such appliances is “self-destructive.”

The Pope is kind of a modern version of the English priest and academic Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), who predicted that natural population growth would always in the long run outpace material production in a static world, finally leading to world poverty—although a “great law of necessity” would decrease population naturally to provide for some prosperity for the rest. Malthus’ modern proponents, such as Margaret Sanger, thought nature needed the assistance of abortion and birth control. Since the Pope condemns these as immoral, the only other logical and moral solution for him is to welcome lower average world wealth but to minimize the effects on the poor by redistributing wealth to them from the richer nations. The funds used on such luxuries as air conditioning should be reallocated to feed and house the poorest.

This encyclical, therefore, is much more radical than the statements of even the most extreme of the green movements worldwide. The Pope is more honest. There is no free lunch. Western “opinion makers, communications media, and centers of power are far removed from the poor” and live “isolated lives” unwilling to take the necessary action. If the Greens are right in their analysis of the climate crisis and infanticide is not an option, the richer in the West—those who can afford air conditioning—will have to sacrifice their modern standard of living and “leave behind the modern myth of unlimited material progress.”

Who Are the Poor?

Francis does not mention it, but 80 percent of the official poor in the United States tell the government that they have air conditioning. Sorry E.J., even the U.S. poor are too rich; their and your air conditioning simply must go.

Even those, like your writer, who are without home air conditioning (to the utter incomprehension of neighbors during the steaming Washington, D.C. summer) cannot take much comfort. The Pope also criticizes “privatization of certain spaces that restrict peoples’ access to places of particular beauty.” (I live on the Chesapeake Bay and my property blocks access to it.)

Frustrated by present efforts, the Pope quotes Pope Benedict XVI on the need for “a true world political authority” that would go well beyond his predecessor’s limited conception to “manage the global economy; revive economies hit by the crisis, prevent deterioration of the present and subsequent imbalances; to achieve integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to ensure environmental protection and pursuant to the regulations for migratory flows.”

In short, what is envisioned here is “one world with a common plan.”

How to implement it? “Enforceable international agreements are urgently needed, since local authorities are not always capable of effective intervention,” writes Francis. Even if there is “sustainable development,” it must be offset by “containing growth by setting some reasonable limits and even retracing our steps before it is too late.”

But he qualifies this by allowing that “there are no uniform recipes, because each country or region has its own problems and limitations. It is also true that political realism may call for transitional measures and technologies, so long as these are accompanied by the gradual framing and acceptance of binding commitments.”

As for international relations en route to “one world with a common plan,” states “must be respectful of each other’s sovereignty, but must also lay down mutually agreed means of averting regional disasters which would eventually affect everyone.” Decisions must be made “based on a comparison of the risks and benefits foreseen for the various possible alternatives.” Moreover, there must be “greater attention to local cultures when studying environmental problems,” to encourage “a dialogue between scientific-technical language and the language of the people.”

The poorer countries do not escape “the plan.” They should continue to put a priority on “development and poverty eradication,” but at the same time, “they need to acknowledge the scandalous level of consumption in some privileged sectors of their population and to combat corruption more effectively.” He even warns poor countries that “want their chance to grow along the same path of industrialization” as the West did to “rethink that path” toward achieving ever greater riches. These countries “also need less-polluting forms of energy production, but for this they need to count on the help of wealthy countries” For even if the libertarian optimists are correct that technology can adapt to the changing environment, the poorer countries that have historically emitted the least carbon dioxide lack the means to adapt.

The Moral Ecosystem

The problem is finally a moral one. “Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational. This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit.”

How do we combat the lie? “There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm. Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued.”

Simple welfare payments to the poor are not enough. Employment is a “necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfilment. Helping the poor financially must always be a provisional solution in the face of pressing needs. The broader objective should always be to allow them a dignified life through work.” But the need for work leads Francis to make a rare concession to business that “it is imperative to promote an economy which favours productive diversity and business creativity.” Yet, “to ensure economic freedom from which all can effectively benefit, restraints occasionally have to be imposed on those possessing greater resources and financial power.”

For underlying it all is respect for the human person as such, “endowed with basic and inalienable rights.” The whole welfare of society is based on those inalienable individual rights and “builds on them” through a “variety of intermediate groups, applying the principle of subsidiarity,” through the family, locality, region and up to the state and beyond.

It starts with individual morality. “Only by cultivating sound virtues will people be able to make a selfless ecological commitment. . . . There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle.” What is needed is a literal “conversion” that “calls for a number of attitudes which together foster a spirit of generous care, full of tenderness.” Primarily “it entails gratitude and gratuitousness, a recognition that the world is God’s loving gift, and that we are called quietly to imitate His generosity in self-sacrifice and good works.”

As a Pope, Francis must insist on the world population’s meeting high moral standards, to be “selfless”—even to be “perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” He is realistic enough to say his encyclical is moral teaching, that “the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion” on specific solutions and respects those with “divergent views,” although all must be guided by the “facts.”

Markets and Myths

Views of the facts range between the libertarian “myth of progress that ecological problems will solve themselves” with technology and the “other extreme” on the Left that the “presence of human beings on the planet should be reduced.”  “Viable future scenarios will have to be generated between these extremes” in a “synthesis between faith and reason.” Although he calls for a compromise between the two, presumably the solution will not be the mathematical one of moving from the Left to reduce the population only by half of what the Left may desire.

Francis understands the libertarian ideal as a market manipulated by business interests, with seemingly no conception that businessmen are actually controlled by popular market demand and constantly manipulate government to assist them in subverting market control. He quotes Pope St. John Paul II that the earth is given to the whole human race without excluding or favoring any. He notes John Paul’s concession to private property but finds a “social mortgage” on it that “serves God’s purposes which are not to favor the few.”

Of course, this theme goes back as far as St. Thomas and completely ignores that both saints justified property because it could benefit all if properly regulated under law. Markets are not “limitless” freedom. As even the libertarian icon and Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek specifically argued in his The Constitution of Liberty (1960), there is no such thing as pure laissez faire; the market rests on traditional law, custom, and proper governmental administration of justice.

Markets are not indifferent to the environment, either. A report on climate change by the International Energy Agency issued at the same time as the encyclical noted that without a mandatory regime, the world economy grew by 3 percent last year without increasing manmade carbon dioxide emissions. Market-consistent actions such as shifting from coal to natural gas and increasing carbon efficiencies are working. The reduction of subsidies for fossil fuels could save a half trillion dollars more. The moral justification of the Christian libertarian for the market is that it helps most people in the most moral and productive manner. The reason not to overregulate is so that growth and technology can force wealth down the economic scale.

So-called trickle down is often derided, but in fact it is the only way wealth has gotten to the poor. As Robert Sirico notes, the International Labor Office estimates the number of people on earth earning only $1.25 a day or less fell by more than half from 811 million in 1991 to 375 million in 2013. It was not the redistribution of wealth that did this, it was the market.

Environmental control by government is subject to abuse, too—what John Paul II criticized as “bureaucratic ways of thinking” rather than “concern for serving their clients.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was recently criticized by its inspector general for a “culture of complacency” that led the agency to delay taking action against serious employee misconduct that might have affected the management of chemical risks. Eight employees charged with misconduct were even paid for 21,000 hours of leave, totaling $1 million. A senior National Weather Service official created his own post-retirement job and came back to the NWS to perform the same work as before, at an increased salary.

Anyone who understands the enormous benefits of markets and the extreme limits on regulators’ knowledge in trying to guide them would commit a terrible sin by denying markets to the poorer nations of the world. Indeed, more free trade is essential. No one opposes “regulating occasionally,” as Francis puts it. Imagine, however, if the world had listened to Malthus and rather than limit population had merely restrained economic growth. Almost everyone would be poor today, with those at the bottom earning less than half of today’s average of $2,000 per person, much less than those in the poorest countries earning less than half of todays $300 per year. Nor is it a coincidence that the richer nations are better environmental stewards with much less raw discharge of pollution.

Man’s Dominion

Francis properly looks to Genesis 1:28 for the basic Judeo-Christian moral guidance on this matter, which he summarizes as: God gave man the mandate “to have dominion” over the earth but limited it through Biblical obligations to care for the earth. He doesn’t offer the Bible in support of the planet’s extreme fragility, of course—that point isn’t in there. He naturally quotes liberally from Francis of Assisi but, again, nothing very conclusive about how fragile or resilient the planet actually is.

In the section on Jesus’ ideas about nature, he says that “Jesus lived in full harmony” with the environment but the evidence is the observation of witnesses, who ask: “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:27). This seems to demonstrate His dramatically controlling the environment, not living in harmony with it.

In trying to resolve the “dominion” question, the Pope concedes: “We Christians have at times wrongfully interpreted the Scriptures” but “nowadays” we must “forcefully” reject “absolute dominion.” He urges reading the words about dominion in context with other Biblical passages  but does not even quote the previous sentence. It is: “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” For the actual word dominion, many substitute the phrase “be masters of,” others use “rule over.” Yes, Christians have interpreted “subdue,” “masters” and “rule over” in their normal understanding as being required in a hostile and resilient world to fulfill their Creator’s charge, while also finding there is an obligation to “till and keep it” as good stewards.

As the man who would become Pope Benedict XVI put it years ago in his In the Beginning lectures:

What we had previously celebrated — namely, that through faith in creation the world has been demythologized and made reasonable; that sun, moon, and stars are no longer strange and powerful divinities but merely lights; that animals and plants have lost their mystic qualities: all this has become an accusation against Christianity. Christianity is said to have transformed all the powers of the universe, which were once our brothers and sisters, into utilitarian objects for human beings, and in so doing it has led them to misuse plants and animals and in fact all the world’s powers for the sake of an ideology of progress that thinks only of itself and cares only for itself. What can be said in reply to this? The Creator’s directive to humankind means that it is supposed to look after the world as God’s creation, and to do so in accordance with the rhythm and the logic of creation. The sense of the directive is described in the next chapter of Genesis with the words “to till it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15).

Of course, Pope Francis is not a scientist and simply relies on the consensus. What he is concerned about is morality. However correct libertarians are in appreciating capitalism for its role in lifting the poor, there is no doubt that we can and do become complacent, comfortable, and even a bit ideological in ignoring the downsides. Our best theorists, like Joseph Schumpeter,  recognize the market’s success is based upon its “creative destruction” that discards the old to unleash a higher prosperity. But that means that some are hurt in the process of free creation. Hayek spoke to this in finding tradition and custom to be essential to capitalist development, and these set a value on neighborliness, what Hayek called “conventional morals.”

Here the Pope can help us:

We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it. We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty. It is time to acknowledge that light hearted superficiality has done us no good.

Schumpeter especially makes it clear that a particular moral order was responsible for capitalism’s creation and is necessary to preserve it. Indeed, he offers the intriguing idea that capitalism is not in Marx’s sense a separate stage of history but is merely the final stage of feudalism. Without its “protecting” values, the whole order of freedom cannot be sustained and the walls of civilization will crumble, in Schumpeter’s view.

Certainly Francis’ understanding of capitalist “freedom to consume” has little to do with what Schumpeter or Hayek understood about liberty. To the extent Francis’ definition of capitalism is accurate, is it not the very type of capitalism that Schumpeter warned against? Indeed, is not capitalism as Francis describes it—“saving the banks at any cost, making the public pay the price”—not precisely what real free market advocates criticize as crony capitalism?

To the extent that today’s capitalism is cronyism, Francis’ comments have some validity.

Outside of the empirical speculations that he offers, speculations that take him beyond his expertise, he is right to say that the problems of global hunger will be not be “resolved simply by market growth.” In fact, the father of modern capitalism, Adam Smith emphasized the necessity of charity and local welfare.

The fact that data show that market conservatives in the United States follow his injunction by contributing more to charity than those on the Left of the political spectrum presents one reply. Or take the fact that libertarians rely upon technology to solve whatever ill effects may arise from climate change. Francis is correct that poor nations will have less access to that technology.

Might there be some obligation to share technology with those who cannot afford to pay the costs? There must be some non-state, non-coercive means to meet this challenge.

Francis’ perception of all earthly problems through the “fragile world” lens shows that his assumptions fall under the great political scientist Aaron Wildavsky’s left/egalitarian cultural presuppositions about human existence. We would be wrong to call this Marxism, strictly speaking. The left/egalitarian instinct says that if the world is fragile, it needs some strong external force like the state to protect it. That instinct leads to accepting the consensus “facts” on global warming, and the expert administrative state that is supposedly going to stave off the disaster.

Yet this assumption of fragility, and of the state’s ability to guard it, are based on faith—not the religious kind but the cultural and scientific kind. Malthus, after all, predicted limits that have been greatly exceeded. The scientific “facts” of the environment are in dispute, as the encyclical’s numerous qualifications in that regard testify. And Francis concedes that the Church cannot provide specific solutions. These all depend on science, not morality.

In 1616, Pope Paul V forced the scientist Galileo to recant his heliocentric view of the universe based upon the consensus of astronomical science of the day. Ptolemaic science had led to the discovery of whole new worlds; its accuracy was not supposed to be questioned, for it had provided reliable navigation (and did so right up until the invention of the Global Positioning System). Galileo’s works were not removed from Paul’s prohibited list until 1741, by Pope Benedict XIV. By 1939, Pope Pius XII was praising Galileo for being among the “most audacious heroes of research . . . not afraid of the stumbling blocks and the risks on the way, nor fearful of the funereal monuments.”

I published a book in 1978 entitled Does Freedom Work?, arguing that the market was the best friend of the impoverished and was distressed to end it with a necessary critique of Pope Paul VI’s Populorum Progresso. That encyclical, much like Laudato Si, criticized the market and urged instead a more powerfully controlling, central welfare state. I argued that, while Paul VI’s morality in defense of the poor and the infirm was impeccable, he was misguided about the empirical facts of markets and politics. A decade later, Pope John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus accurately detailed the benefits and limits of the market and freedom, critiquing the welfare state’s regulatory excesses while, of course, reaffirming the need for compassion for the poor.

In his magnum opus Truth and Tolerance, the later Pope Benedict XVI put freedom at the same moral heights as truth, although as in Hayek, it was ordered liberty. Francis’ experience was of Argentine crony capitalism. His predecessors’ more searing experience was of the fundamental evils of communism and Nazism, and they grasped the benefits of freedom and markets as alternatives (although always under law and beneficence, to use Smith’s term). In his In the Beginning comments, Benedict as Joseph Ratzinger specifically criticized intellectual sources of the environmental movement such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Claude Levi-Strauss, and B.F. Skinner for their hostility to human nature and its freedom:

Reaction and resentment against technology, which is already noticeable in Rousseau, has long since become a resentment against humans, who are seen as the disease of nature. This being that emerges out of nature’s exact objectivity and straightforwardness is responsible for disturbing the beautiful balance of nature. Humans are diseased by their mind and its consequence, freedom. Mind and freedom are the sickness of nature. Human beings, the world, should be delivered from them if there is to be redemption. To restore the balance, humans must be healed of being human. In ethnology, this is the thrust of Levi-Strauss’s thinking; in psychology, of Skinner’s.

Christianity teaches the reverse: that human mind and freedom are the epitome of nature, although always tempted to exploit it. Only human beings can have even partial dominion over nature, for good or evil, in the freedom their Creator granted them. Obviously, Popes, by their own Church doctrine, are not infallible on empirical or scientific matters. The pronouncements of Paul V and Paul VI were superseded by new insights. Both, in fact, were corrected by the minds of different Benedicts, and libertarians can expect that Francis’ “facts” will in time meet the same fate.

The libertarian prayer should be for a Benedict XVII to complete the understanding. Concretely, moral libertarians should set their contrasting goal as unleashing a freer international market under rational limits to produce such an increased wealth of nations that it would bring air conditioning to the world’s poor by the end of the 21st century.

This article originally appeared at LibraryLawSite.org.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Is There Any Hope Left For American Schools?

With the House passing a bill to limit the federal role in K-to-12 schooling and a unanimous Senate committee doing the same, it might look as if there is finally some progress in fixing the broken over-centralized national educational system.

The bill is the brainchild of education committee chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, who claims it would “ban the federal government from mandating any sort of education standards, Common Core or otherwise.” If it becomes law, “it would lessen federal control in the education system and help calm heated debates about Common Core standards. Rather than the Feds making the decisions, the bill would allow states to create their own accountability systems and determine how much standardized tests should account for student and faculty evaluations.”

Alexander predicts he has the votes to pass the whole Senate based upon the overwhelming support of his committee, ranging from Elizabeth Warren to Rand Paul. Sen. Patty Murray is the co-sponsor. Of course, that means things have been compromised quite a bit; but it is headway made against federal control. The fact that the progressive Center for American Progress fears that the bill will weaken national standards and allow states to change one-size-fits-all “maintenance of effort” funding standards suggests things are going in the right direction.

Of course, in federal education policy, nothing is that simple. Obama officials are resisting, and so are some conservative representatives who want to allow states to opt-out of federal education controls entirely without any financial penalty. House Education Committee Chairman John Kline says he supports the concept of the conservative amendment and allowed a vote on it, but it failed. The bill passed the House without a single Democrat—who objected to the loss of federal control—and was opposed by two dozen Republicans, who said the bill did not go far enough in limiting control. Kline hopes a conference with the Senate might eliminate the test mandates and work out the other details.

The House bill would make some major changes. While, like the Senate version, it would still require states to hold annual standardized tests in reading and math from third to eighth grades and once again in high school, and publish data on results, it would allow students to opt out of tests without loss of federal funds. It would largely allow states to spend federal money as they pleased and would not require them to meet federal benchmarks for success. States would still be required to intervene in local schools that need improvement, but the type and number of interventions would be up to the states. A new provision called “portability” would allow federal funds to “follow the child” if he or she transferred to a school not covered by current law.

Alexander’s response, in a The Hill newspaper interview, to conservatives who think the bill does not go far enough was, “If you leave No Child Left Behind like it is, you are leaving in place a national school board and a Common Core mandate. From a Republicans or conservative point of view, I would think you would want to move away from that.”

It will be a tough call for conservatives who have been at the forefront of the twin activities that have led to Congressional willingness to consider reform: the movements to limit the national education standards regime called Common Core, and the one in the states promoting charter schools, often at the urging of governors, now overwhelmingly Republican. While touted as originating in the states, Common Core sputtered until President Obama used his Race To The Top legislation to promise to moderate some No Child Left Behind Act burdens and to acquire new financial grants if states adopted Common Core standards. In 2010, Obama ordered that all federal education grants be conditioned on adopting the standards. Even with this pressure, bipartisan majorities in Congress and in many states have now soured on Common Core.

The other grassroots reform of offering charter alternatives to traditional public schooling has become almost mainstream. Today, a majority of students in the overwhelmingly Democratic District of Columbia have escaped failing public schools to enroll in charters. Even Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has supported raising the limit on the number of charter schools, which has been the main teacher association strategy to stifle the idea. Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Democratic majority in the New York lower legislative body, and the teachers unions are the last holdouts against reform even in the Empire state. Even President Obama concedes American education is failing. There is a growing understanding that bureaucratization, union self-interest, and method-over-substance do not work.

One of the pioneers of entrepreneurial education and advocates for lifting governmental restrictions on innovation argues the movement must now go further. Bob Luddy, chairman and founder of a $300 million commercial kitchen ventilation company, CaptiveAire, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, created one of the state’s early charter schools, Franklin Academy, in 1998. He started with a handful of students in a single location. Franklin now has 1,650 students at five locations in two K-2 schools, two 3-8 schools, and a $9 million high school. With a 1,500 student waiting list, Franklin has perhaps the largest demand for admission in the country. After making his own charter school a success, Luddy was instrumental in increasing North Carolina’s numerical limit on charters to make similar opportunities available for other parents and their children.

Although less regulated than traditional public schooling, charters are subject to pressure from well-funded education lobbyists interested in limiting charter competition to their union-dominated public school clients. Unfortunately, they have been more successful than not. Frustrated by such charter restrictions, Luddy concluded that true reform must free itself from state bureaucratization. With the knowledge garnered by previously founding a religious private high school called St. Thomas More Academy with 180 students, he launched a classical curriculum private school he called Thales Academy, named for the Greek philosopher. Today Thales Academy boasts 1,700 students and 150 faculty in three K-5 locations and two 6-12 locations in the greater Raleigh area, with an average growth rate of 15 percent per year.

Luddy’s educational philosophy parallels that of his business: keep overhead low and deliver quality to customers. Administrators are few and sports are de-emphasized. As Luddy told the American Spectator, “A lot of people say you shouldn’t talk of education as a business, but the reality is, it is a business.” The weakest elements he sees in current education are rules that limit innovation, weak curricula, and high costs. Private education is the answer to the first, rigorous classical education to the second, and business acumen to the third. Luddy provided all three.

Thales’ test scores are higher than even charter schools. Where the average building cost for a new public school nears $100 million, Thales delivered it for $10 million. Student tuition is $5,300 per year for kindergarten through fifth grade and $6,000 for sixth through 12th grades at Thales, compared to $11,000 for the average local private school and $9,000 (in per pupil cost) for public schooling. Now Luddy wants to take his idea national. “My idea was that parents should have hundreds of choices, whereas currently if they go to the public school system, they have one maybe two. They have precious few choices. Once you open up competition, the choices will be abundant.”

It is a long road from Alexander’s first steps away from centralized administration, content-less curriculum and vanilla character training, and expensive and politicized teacher-oriented rather than student-focused education today to Luddy’s ideal of thousands of private schools offering choice by actually educating America’s youth. But, at last, there is some sense of hope.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

How To Fight The Bureaucratic State

Is there anything more clear in the Constitution than the fact that “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States”? Nevertheless, there are currently about 23,000 pages of federal laws passed by Congress and almost 80,000 pages of regulations by executive bureaucracies.

Until recently, no one seemed to care. But in 2010, House Republicans appealed to the rising Tea Party movement by pledging to “require congressional approval of any new federal regulation that has an annual cost to our economy of $100 million or more.” In 2011, Rep. Geoff Davis introduced just such a bill; the “Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny” (REINS) Act passed the House with the support of all 237 Republicans, and four Democrats. But President Barack Obama pledged to veto it, and a similar bill sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul died in the Democratic Senate.

Congress, of course, has always been able to override bureaucratic rules even without REINS. However, as the Heritage Foundation’s James Gattuso has noted, the process is cumbersome. To try and address this, Congress adopted “expedited resolutions of disapproval” in 1996, to encourage up-or-down votes to reverse counterproductive bureaucratic regulations. Since that time, however, Congressional reluctance to override the president and the politicians’ fears of taking responsibility for controversial regulatory acts has resulted in only one such disapproval passing Congress, allowing all other rules to go into effect. REINS is aimed at forcing legislative responsibility by requiring every rule with a large economic impact to obtain specific approval from each house, without which the regulation would never go into effect.

With newfound Republican control of the Senate following the 2014 elections, there has been a renewed interest in passing such a bill. Of course, President Obama would still veto it; and Democrats will make it very difficult to corral the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate. With this solution stymied, top regulatory expert Wayne Crews proposes creating a bipartisan commission to identify regulations that must be voted upon by Congress to remain in effect. Even that has met substantial opposition, including from some frightened Republicans.

Substantive objections to requiring Congressional approval are few and weak. The best that the progressive Center for Effective Government could do was to warn that this would allow Congress to “second-guess agency expertise and science on food safety, worker safety, air pollution, water contamination, and a host of other issues.” But even disregarding the fact that bureaucratic expertise in these areas is often more in the promise than in performance, is not voting on such issues precisely what the Founders expected Congress to do?

As Crews notes, the number of federal regulations has been exploding. “While an utterly imperfect gauge, the number of pages in the Federal Register is probably the most frequently cited measure of regulation’s scope, which unintentionally highlights the abysmal condition of regulatory oversight and measurement. At the end of 2014, the page count stood at 78,978, the fifth highest level in the Register’s history.” He estimates the real cost (mostly hidden in “guidance’ and sotto-voice threats) could be higher than the formal debt of $18 trillion.

In an important Frazer Institute essay published in What America’s Decline in Economic Freedom Means for Entrepreneurship and Prosperity, Crews notes the baleful results:

An astounding 92 million Americans are not working, positioning labor-force participation at a 36 year low, with nearly 12 million having dropped out during the Obama administration. Data point to high debt per capita, and to the highest part-time and temporary-job creation rates in contrast to full-time career positions. A popular blog laments the “slow death of American entrepreneurship.” Headlines tell painful tales, like that of January 2015 in Investor’s Business Daily reporting on businesses dying faster than they’re being created, a circumstance the Washington Post had noted in 2014. Likewise, a Brookings study on small business formation noted declining rates, as did a Wall Street Journal report on reduced business ownership rates among the young. One recruiter described to the Wall Street Journal how regulations undermine employment, while others point to an inverse correlation between regulation and innovation.

The World Economic Forum’s “burden of government regulation” places the U.S. the 87th most onerous of 144 nations globally on complying with administrative regulations on business.

Indeed, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has recently questioned the entire logic and wisdom of regulatory delegation. First, in Perez v. Mortgage Bankers, he asked whether the Court’s precedent in Seminole Rock, requiring judicial deference to executive interpretation of regulations, improperly “represents a transfer of judicial power to the Executive Branch.” He says that decision “precludes judges from independently determining” the meaning of laws and unfairly favors the executive against the legislative branch in interpreting the law.

In Department of Transportation v. Association of American Railroads, Thomas even demanded judicial review of the Court’s whole existing standard, which delegates rulemaking to the executive as long as there is an “intelligible principle” in the law to guide the executive. Thomas argues, to the contrary, that that principle has become “boundless” today, undermining the original constitutional understanding of legislative power.

Pretty much everyone knows the regulatory system is broken and probably unconstitutionally so; but nothing ever changes. The executive loves to boss folks around, Congress is afraid to act, and the courts are so isolated they actually think the regulators know what they are doing.

Just in time to prevent despair, however, the nation’s most inventive social scientist, Charles Murray, has written another ground-breaking book, mischievously titled By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission. Murray concludes that the government is incapable of changing its ingrained irresponsibility, so he suggests that reform should be initiated by the people themselves.

Murray starts with the fact that there are so many federal regulations on so many daily behaviors that it is impossible for the regulators to enforce them. The traffic police can issue tickets on rural roads, but they cannot enforce reasonably-over-the-speed-limit driving on crowded highways. It is the same with regulators. They can only effectively police when few disregard the rules. They can then come down good and hard on them. Most settle without a trial, knowing that bureaucratic courts are rigged against them.

Murray would create a Madison Fund named for the father of the Constitution to provide legal assistance to the public, which is encouraged to simply ignore the screwiest regulations. If Americans refused to obey irrational regulations and were backed by an insurance-like fund that would provide legal support to, and publicity for, those unreasonably harassed, regulators themselves would soon learn not to enforce indefensible rules.

Murray believes it would only take a few wealthy contributors to get the Fund established, and that trade associations might get into the business too. Congress might even find enough courage to act constitutionally, if enough people get involved. There are many devils in the details, but sign me up anyway.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

The Enduring Spoils System

At the very pinnacle of the progressive agenda to make government competent stands civil service administration — the process that produces the scientific experts required to staff the government and deliver its promised welfare state benefits effectively and efficiently to the people.

Not everyone was convinced it would work, the old Democratic city machines being especially suspicious of the whole undertaking. Its most eloquent, if dialectally differently abled, critic was the legendary Plunkitt of Tammany Hall as William L. Riordon portrayed him in his immortal treatise of the same name.

Reflecting on the need to staff New York City government with good men in the early days of the 20th century, Democratic Party leader George Washington Plunkitt ruminated: “There are 10,000 good offices, but we can’t get at more than a few hundred of them. How are we goin’ to provide for the thousands of men who worked for the Tammany ticket? It can’t be done.

“I know more than one young man in past years who worked for the ticket and was just overflowin’ with patriotism, but when he was knocked out by the civil service humbug he got to hate his country and became an Anarchist.

“I have good reason for sayin’ that most of the Anarchists in this city today are men who ran up against civil service examinations. Isn’t it enough to make a man sour on his country when he wants to serve it and won’t be allowed unless he answers a lot of fool questions about the number of cubic inches of water in the Atlantic and the quality of sand in the Sahara Desert?”

Good boss Plunkitt need not have been concerned. By the middle of the century, the spoils system was back in operation, although not the one that had supported his poor Irish constituents. For the past 34 years, the United States Civil Service has mothballed its merit-based civil service examinations and reintroduced spoils.

I was actually present when merit was abandoned, as head of the civil service agencies transition team for Ronald Reagan in 1980. As the Jimmy Carter presidency was winding down that year, the Department of Justice and U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) lawyers colluded in a “consent decree” with their private civil rights activist buddy lawyers to end civil service IQ examinations because minorities did not score as highly on them, claiming discrimination simply because of the results alone.

I was unable to convince our lawyers to contest the decree, so the court ordered an end to IQ exams for a decade. But the ban has been extended to this very day.

Obviously, one cannot run an institution, even a government isolated from market discipline, without some assessment of applicants. So merit exams were replaced with various “tests” based on resumes, self-assessments, and recommendations. The current test is called USAJobs and is a self-assessment of one’s own skills and qualifications.

Obviously, no one fails when assessing oneself, although the suspicion is that honest applicants are penalized for more accurate evaluations. But clever insiders discover the key words that enhance their odds of being hired.

Obviously, such exams hardly narrow the search for good employees. Agencies that are serious about finding qualified scientists, engineers, security agents, etc., are overwhelmed by applicants; and they cannot tell who will actually be qualified to do the work. There are enough breeches of White House security and FBI forensic incompetence already.

What do the bureaucrats do? They select people they know. If one cannot use a merit test, what else could one do? In fact, the overwhelming number of mid-to-upper level vacancies in the federal government is filled by what are called “name requests.” It is a spoils system, but of bureaucratic acquaintances rather than political pals. Nepotism is still illegal in Washington, but how about accepting some friend’s relatives if she will do the same for you? Who could tell?

The reason for this civil service history lesson is that after all these years, OPM is planning to introduce a merit examination that it calls USAHire. It has been quietly testing it since 2012 in a few agencies for a dozen job descriptions. The tests actually have multiple choice questions with only one correct answer. Some questions actually require essay replies — questions that change regularly to depress cheating.

OPM deserves high praise for this audacity. Unfortunately, it will not last. The federal unions have now been informed, and the old dynamics will inevitably return. Test results will soon reveal that some minority or another will not pass the exams at levels as high as others. Discrimination will be charged. And the government will relent and go back to its old bureaucratic buddy spoils system.

As Plunkitt fully understood, politics changes; but human nature does not.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth