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Obama Dips a Toe in the Educational Choice Pool
After Congress voted to let the Washington D.C. voucher program expire, stripping 1,700 low-income children of the opportunity to attend private schools, President Obama said he will keep the program afloat in subsequent legislation.
“It wouldn’t make sense to disrupt the education of those that are in that system,” said Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary. “And I think we’ll work with Congress to ensure that a disruption like that doesn’t take place.”
Andrew J. Coulson, director of Cato’s Center for Educational Freedom, commented on Obama’s decision to continue to extend school choice benefits to underprivileged children in the nation’s capital:
This is a crucial milestone. There is finally a major national Democratic leader who is beginning to catch up to his state-level peers. Democrats all around the country have been supporting and signing small education tax credit programs because they realize that these programs are win-win: good for their constituents and good for their long-term political futures.
In an op-ed that ran the day Gibbs made the announcement, Coulson explained why those who oppose school choice will find themselves on the wrong side of history.
In 2006, Susan Aud and Leon Michos published a report on the fiscal impact of the D.C. voucher program, which documented the success of the District’s school choice pilot, the first federally funded voucher program in the United States.
Obama Signs Earmark-Heavy $410 Billion Omnibus Bill
After signing a bill that had nearly $8 billion in earmarks, President Obama declared that from then on, his administration would work toward earmark reform.
Sounds a bit like St. Augustine’s famous prayer, “Lord, make me chaste but not just yet,” said Daniel Griswold, director of Cato’s Center for Trade Policy Studies:
Recall that as a candidate, Obama said he and Democratic leaders in Congress would change the “business as usual” practice of stuffing spending bills with pet projects. Those earmarks, submitted by individual members to fund obscure projects in their own districts and states, typically become law without any debate or transparency.
Saying he would sign the “imperfect bill,” President Obama offered guidelines to curb earmarks … in the future. “The future demands that we operate in a different way than we have in the past,” he said. “So let there be no doubt: this piece of legislation must mark an end to the old way of doing business and the beginning of a new era of responsibility and accountability.”
Lord, make us fiscally responsible, but not just yet.
Meanwhile, Republican leaders are condemning the president’s expansion of the federal government. But do they have any standing to judge? Senior Fellow Michael D. Tanner said no:
The Bush administration’s brand of big-government conservatism was, at the very least, the greatest expansion of government from Lyndon Johnson to, well, Barack Obama.
For Cato’s policy recommendations on earmarked spending, see the “Corporate Welfare and Earmark Reform” chapter in the 2009 Cato Handbook for Policymakers.
Violence Spills into the U.S. from Mexico’s Drug War
With daily reports of increased violence coming from Mexico, Cato Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies Ted Galen Carpenter said the brutality is an indicator of power and arrogance, not desperation, and asserts that gun restrictions in the U.S. will not subdue violence:
The notion that the violence in Mexico would subside if the United States had more restrictive laws on firearms is devoid of logic and evidence. Mexican drug gangs would have little trouble obtaining all the guns they desire from black market sources in Mexico and elsewhere…
… Even assuming that the Mexican government’s estimate that 97 percent of the weapons used by the cartels come from stores and gun shows in the United States-and Mexican officials are not exactly objective sources for such statistics-the traffickers rely on those outlets simply because they are easier and more convenient, not because there are no other options.
Carpenter spoke at a Cato policy forum last month, and explained why the war on drugs sparks such intense levels of violence.
In a Policy Analysis published in early February, Carpenter warned of the need to change our policy on the Mexican drug conflict, so as to prevent the violence from spreading across the border.