President Obama’s goal of passing a health care reform bill by the end of the year looks more likely every day. Since the House passed their version last week, it is now the Senate’s turn to work their magic by passing their own health care reform bill. The Senate released their version Wednesday, all 2,074 pages of it. The going might be a bit tougher in the Senate as they have more at stake than the House.
With all that in mind, an article in Esquire, “The 'Socialist' American Reform That Worked Long Before Health Care”, seemed timely. After all, the premise was that the past struggle for universal public education in the United States is analogous to the current struggle for universal health care.
The author, John H. Richardson, reasoned that since we pay so much for public education and it works so well for us, we should also pay for public health care:
This got me thinking about an even bigger socialist program, an endeavor that costs freedom-loving Americans not the trillion dollars that health-care reform is expected to cost over a decade, but a trillion dollars a year.
The author does not think his point through to the obvious end -- the increased cost and continued failures of public education portend the inevitable fate of a nationalized health care system better than any other argument:
Public education costs us more and more every year. The federal government is spending a trillion dollars a year. The trillion dollar price tag does not include the costs the cities and states pay, which is much more than the 8% the federal government kicks in. And, it is not the cities, states, and federal government paying for public education, it is tax payers who shoulder the ever-increasing burden.
Public health care is only supposed to cost $848 billion over 10 years, what happens after the 10 years are up? Will it constantly require more money and more legislation to fix, as has been the case with public education?
Public education’s quality and results are spotty at best. The high school dropout rate is 21% for blacks and it is 12% in among whites. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed that "the reading score of 12th-graders was 6 points lower in 2005 than in 1992" and those results vary considerably state by state.
There are also the countless legislative fixes that have done nothing but increase the bureaucracy related to public education. Some of the more recognizable federal legislation aimed at fixing various problems within the public education system have been the National Defense Education Act (NDEA), the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, and the No Child Left Behind Act. Each state has attempted to reform public education through various reforms, incentives, and reorganizations through the years.
The dropout rate, the NAEP scores, and the many attempts at reform are just some of the indicators that point to a public school system which is growing more and more inefficient and ineffective as the years go on as more money is poured in.
The author inadvertently illustrated another point when he wrote that in the 1950s there was "a fad for books like Why Can't Johnny Read?" What the author did not realize was that Why Can’t Johnny Read? was a book about how the public education system was failing at the main task it had been given -- to teach students how to read.