John Stossel on Utah, Vouchers, and Education Tax Credits

John Stossel has some sober thoughts today on school choice in the aftermath of the Utah voucher law’s defeat. He considers the dangers that vouchers might pose to private schools because government funding typically brings government control, and asks:

If vouchers contain this potential danger, what can be done to help get kids out of dismal government schools? A better alternative is a tax credit for any parent who pays for private schooling or anyone else who helps put child through non-government schools.

All of us who work for educational freedom need to be wary of the risks of regulatory encroachment, and should be on the lookout for policies that can deliver parental choice while minimizing those risks.

Education tax credits not only provide an extra layer of protection from government control, they provide an additional level of freedom by allowing taxpayers to direct their own dollars to the kind of education they support – relying on private rather than government funding

Sensible Foreign Policies — and One that Just Doesn’t Make Sense

Over at the Partnership for a Secure America, I highlight three recent articles – by Justine Rosenthal, Barry Posen and Richard Betts, respectively – that advance the sensible proposition that the best way to restore balance to our foreign policy is to change the ends, not the means.

Specifically, all three articles make a compelling case for a new direction that is less dependent upon America acting as the world’s policeman; would expect and demand more of America’s allies; and would place fewer demands on our nation’s military.

This new strategy would enable us to reduce overall defense spending to pre-9/11 levels, a position supported by more than 4 in 10 Americans. As a Gallup Poll found earlier this year, “The percentage of Americans saying the government is spending too much on defense has increased by 11 points over the past year and is now at its highest level since 1990.” By contrast, only 20 percent believe that we should be spending more on the military.

The most direct and concise of the three, Rosenthal’s lead essay in The National Interest, makes a number of specific recommendations for what a new strategy would look like.

Of her several proposals, I would take strong issue with only one: Rosenthal calls for a concentrated national effort aimed at “creating alternate sources of energy.” I don’t see how this advances U.S. security, in general. We have very little to fear from the so-called oil weapon, as Eugene Gholz and Daryl Press argued earlier this year.

But even if one were to concede the dubious point that energy independence would make us safer, there are a number of other ways to achieve said independence that do not require a massive new Manhattan Project.

Rosenthal says, that “He who breaks the hydrocarbon monopoly rules the 21st century” – but technology is transferable. What is broken by one is available to all – for a price. Which explains why there are thousands of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists pursuing alternative energies. The UN Environment Program found that $70.9 billion was invested in renewables in 2006, a 43 percent increase over the previous year, and trends from the first quarter of 2007 showed still further growth.

That these investors would love to have taxpayer money to subsidize their efforts shouldn’t surprise anyone; that we would be gullible enough to do so is another matter entirely.

It may seem trite to point out that the market still functions with respect to the allocation of all other natural resources, from gold, to copper, to tin, but the “oil markets are different” mentality persists. Perhaps what we really need is a Manhattan Project to teach Americans the basics of economics, beginning with the laws of supply and demand?

News Flash: Neocons Hate Ron Paul

So Ron Paul’s record fundraising haul has rattled the cubicles on 17th Street, forcing the Weekly Standard to run a hit piece on him, offering the limp zinger that he’s the “don’t tase me, bro” candidate, named for the fellow who got zapped at a John Kerry event earlier this year*.

It’s not surprising that the neocons hate Ron Paul, for his policy views, of course, but it also seems likely that they’re envious. As Cato’s president Ed Crane and chairman Bill Niskanen pointed out over four years ago

The neoconservative agenda is a particular threat to liberty perhaps greater than the ideologically spent ideas of left-liberalism. Always a movement of bright intellectual leaders, neoconservatism has mostly been a movement with a head but no body. One rarely runs into a neocon on the street.

That’s what makes it so obvious that the Standard’s lament that

Paul supporters organized the event on their own with minimal coordination with the campaign.

is an apt reflection of their envy that an unlikely fellow like Paul has had such a genuinely grassroots groundswell of support, and has been pushed forward by his supporters rather than attempting to cajole them into line. It’s equally funny that an ostensibly conservative magazine criticizes his views not just on foreign policy, but grouses that

He hates the Iraq war. He hates the rest of our foreign policy. He pretty much thinks we shouldn’t have a foreign policy. He hates our bloated and meddlesome federal government. (What’s that they say about stuck clocks?) He hates abortion. He hates the Treasury and floating currency.

That sounds fairly conservative to me. But it’s funny to see the Standard squirm at the realization that the ideas of peace and freedom are rousing the electorate.

*[Update: A reader advises that the tasing incident took place at a John Kerry speaking engagement earlier this year, not in 2004. I regret the error.]

How to Increase Living Kidney Donation with Realistic Incentives

Compared with dialysis, a kidney transplant significantly prolongs life and improves quality of life, but kidneys are scarce in large part because federal law prohibits the buying and selling of organs. In “A Gift of Life Deserves Compensation: How to Increase Living Kidney Donation with Realistic Incentives,” author Arthur J. Matas examines the issue and concludes, “Whether concerns were well founded or not, the [National Organ Transplant Act of 1984] was clearly overbroad in its prohibition of the sale of organs. It’s time to loosen those restrictions in order to save lives.”

Media Bias around the Nation

Here’s the Salem, Oregon, Statesman-Journal’s lead on an election story today:

Oregon’s working poor will have to wait a while longer to get health-care coverage for their children.

Voters easily defeated Measure 50, a plan to raise tobacco taxes to provide universal health care for children after a record-shattering negative ad campaign financed by cigarette companies.

Gee, ya think this journalist supports the tax?

You have to read down to paragraph 11 to find out that it was a massive 85-cent-per-pack increase.

And you’d have to switch to the Oregonian to find a comment from an anti-tax organizer:

Opponents downplayed the amount of money they spent to defeat the measure, saying voters didn’t like sticking a tax in the constitution and weren’t convinced bureaucrats needed the money.

“The primary reason is there’s not an appetite out there for more taxes,” said Russ Walker, Oregon director of the anti-tax group FreedomWorks.

Utah Vote Won’t Slow the March of Educational Freedom

With 90% of precincts reporting, the Utah voucher referendum has been defeated by a 3 to 2 margin. It’s a sad thing that most Utah families won’t be enjoying any new educational choices in the near future, but the defeat of the voucher referendum will not slow the march of educational freedom. School choice programs have proliferated in the last decade, growing in both size and number, and they have done so despite earlier referendum setbacks in the more populous states of Michigan and California.

The reason educational freedom will continue to spread is that the pressures that drive its growth are continuing to build. Our district-based, 19th century school system is simply not living up to the ideals of public education or the expectations of the American people. Our schools are supposed to promote social cohesion; they foment culture wars instead. They are supposed to impart knowledge and skills, but we trail the industrialized world in academic performance by the end of high school. And given our limited resources, we want our schools to make every dollar count, but public schooling has undergone a staggering decline in cost-effectiveness over the past several generations. Our high-school seniors score no higher than those of three or four decades ago, but we spend twice as much per pupil in real dollars.

As these problems continue to build, Americans will continue to look for alternatives, and the more carefully they look, the more they will be drawn to educational freedom.

“The Goal Is Not Getting Out”

That was the comment of J.D. Crouch, former Deputy National Security Adviser to President Bush, at a recent forum on Iraq at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Click here for Crouch’s longer comment, describing why “I’m not sure that leaving, in fact, completely, is where we will ultimately want to be.” A refreshing moment of candor.