Tag: budget crisis

Washington State Considers Privatizing the System

Washington state legislators will reportedly have to cut billions from the budget when they reconvene next session, and governor Christine Gregoire has commissioned a privatization study to see if taking the big step makes economic sense. Washington’s public schools spend about $13 billion annually (around $13,000/pupil – see Table 8 here), so increasing the system’s efficiency has the potential to solve the state’s budget crisis….

…which is why many Washington taxpayers will be disappointed to learn that the governor’s privatization study is only for the ferry system, not the schools. Since ferry-travelers pick up about two thirds of the system’s operating costs, its total burden on taxpayers is 26 times smaller than that of the public schools. Even if ferry operations could magically be made entirely free, it wouldn’t solve WA’s budget problems.

Of course there’s a widespread belief that schools have to be run by the state to build social harmony and preserve the republic, but these beliefs, though deeply held, have no basis in reality. The civic-mindedness of independent school students/graduates is typically equal to or greater than that of public school students/graduates, and having a single official system of state schools actually creates social conflict over the curriculum – conflict that increased parental choice would lessen.

So not only would liberating Washington education from the shackles of monopoly help to control costs, it would better realize the ideals that a public education system is meant to advance.

Gov. Gregoire?

German Masochists

A handful of guilt-ridden wealthy Germans are asking to pay more tax according to a BBC report. They could just give their money to the state, of course, but they want to impose their self-loathing policies on all successful Germans. The amusing part of the story is that these dilettantes were puzzled that so few people showed up to their protest. Maybe next time they could do some real redistribution and announce that they will be tossing real banknotes in the air:

A group of rich Germans has launched a petition calling for the government to make wealthy people pay higher taxes. The group say they have more money than they need, and the extra revenue could fund economic and social programmes…

Simply donating money to deal with the problems is not enough, they want a change in the whole approach.

…The man behind the petition, Dieter Lehmkuhl, told Berlin’s Tagesspiegel that there were 2.2 million people in Germany with a fortune of more than 500,000 euros. If they all paid the tax for two years, Germany could raise 100bn euros to fund ecological programmes, education and social projects, said the retired doctor and heir to a brewery. Signatory Peter Vollmer told AFP news agency he was supporting the proposal because he had inherited “a lot of money I do not need”. He said the tax would be “a viable and socially acceptable way out of the flagrant budget crisis”. The group held a demonstration in Berlin on Wednesday to draw attention to their plans, throwing fake banknotes into the air. Mr Vollmer said it was “really strange that so few people came”.

But not all tormented rich people live in Germany. A few months ago, I had a chance to debate an American version of this strange subspecies.