Economist, Mark Your Words

The current (May 7th) edition of The Economist observes that Arne Duncan’s results as secretary of education will determine “whether it is worth continuing with moderate education reforms — for if these reforms cannot succeed with $100 billion and a golden boy at the helm, they never will.”

It would be nice if they remember those words four or eight years from now. It would be even nicer if they realized that it is unnecessary to reserve judgment for that long. In Cato’s 2009 Handbook on Policy, I point out that the federal government has spent $1.85 trillion on education since the mid 1960s, with precious little to show for it. Duncan’s $100 billion is pocket change by comparison.

The Economist is also mistaken, as I was in March, in thinking that Duncan or Obama might save the D.C. voucher program. They have done no such thing. They merely seek to kill it by attrition rather than abolishing it outright. The program’s best bet now is for the District of Columbia to take it over.