Education, the economy and how the U.S. became France

Wow. There’s a lot to opine about these days. I finally talked to my financial adviser at Merrill Lynch yesterday. As usual, I had to call him. His phone apparently doesn’t make outgoing calls during stock market downturns — to say nothing of Wall Street meltdowns. But he was in a cheery mood. Apparently the Merrill Lynch deal with Bank of America is going to save his portfolio and retirement savings.

Well, we should all be so lucky. But probably not.

Yet I was thinking while running this morning that we have almost overnight entered a new era in this country. We’ve abandoned the ruse of a small-government, free-market economy. We’re providing welfare to the captains of industry on Wall Street. We’re heading down the road to bail out the automobile industry. And maybe someday we’ll get around to doing the right thing and providing everyone with this country health care and access to a quality education. We’re, ah, becoming France.

Actually, I have to give credit for this idea to Bill Saporito. Before I left for my run I read his article on Time.com, “How We Became the United States of France.” He writes:

This is the state of our great republic: We’ve nationalized the financial system, taking control from Wall Street bankers we no longer trust. We’re about to quasi-nationalize the Detroit auto companies via massive loans because they’re a source of American pride, and too many jobs — and votes — are at stake. Our Social Security system is going broke as we head for a future in which too many retirees will be supported by too few workers. How long before we have national health care? Put it all together, and the America that emerges is a cartoonish version of the country most despised by red-meat red-state patriots: France. Only with worse food.

Admit it, mes amis, the rugged individualism and cutthroat capitalism that made America the land of unlimited opportunity has been shrink-wrapped by half a dozen short sellers in Greenwich, Conn., and FedExed to Washington, D.C., to be spoon-fed back to life by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. We’re now no different from any of those Western European semi-socialist welfare states that we love to deride. Italy? Sure, it’s had four governments since last Thursday, but none of them would have allowed this to go on; the Italians know how to rig an economy.

You just know the Frogs have only increased their disdain for us, if that is indeed possible. And why shouldn’t they? The average American is working two and a half jobs, gets two weeks off and has all the employment security of a one-armed trapeze artist. The Bush Administration has preached the “ownership society” to America: own your house, own your retirement account; you don’t need the government in your way. So Americans mortgaged themselves to the hilt to buy overpriced houses they can no longer afford and signed up for 401(k) programs that put money — where, exactly? In the stock market! Where rich Republicans fleeced them.

Ouch. Freedom fries anyone?

Well, when I was at Kent State last week attending the media ethics workshop, one of the panelists, a reporter with The Plain Dealer, said that he believed people were tiring of reading blogs where the writer was only commenting on news stories. He said people were interested in new information.

So in that spirit, here’s something that was new to me at least. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, released a study that looked at education and academic success. One of the points is that American taxpayers spend about $553 billion a year on public K-12 education.

Let’s see. Public education: $553 billion. Wall Street bailout: $1 trillion — maybe more.

Hmm. Wonder what the high school dropout rate is like in France?

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2 responses to “Education, the economy and how the U.S. became France

  1. Always hilariously informative, Rob — thanks for this! 🙂

  2. We have to keep our sense of humor. It’s all we’ll have left after this debacle.

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