Propaganda and the sudden urgency of pre-school education
Two weeks before the election, apparently spooked by his weak debate performances, President Obama felt compelled to finally release a second term agenda. His campaign quickly printed 3.5 million copies of the Orwellian and simplistically titled, “The New Economic Patriotism: A Plan for Jobs & Middle-Class Security”. The plan included a section on education, famously called for hiring 100,000 (not 79,000, not 100,001) new math and science teachers, and (of course) more spending on college. One item that didn’t even receive a mention? “High quality pre-school”.
Yet at this past Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, suddenly the previously ignored issue of Pre-K education required two full paragraphs worth of attention in a nationally broadcast speech.
As Hillary might say, “What difference does it make?” The One has spoken, we must follow his lead. And that’s just what David Brooks does:
Today millions of American children grow up in homes where they don’t learn the skills they need to succeed in life… Enter President Obama. This week he announced the most ambitious early childhood education expansion in decades.
Analyzing David Brooks’ writing is not something I particularly enjoy, but he’s a frustrating case. The NY Times house conservative, he was a clever and thoughtful writer capable of persuading those on both sides of the aisle. Yet ever since he fell in love with Obama’s pant crease, he’s used that power for administration propaganda.
On this latest issue of federal pre-school expansion, he begins by feigning skepticism:
But, on this subject, it’s best to be hardheaded. So I spent Wednesday and Thursday talking with experts and administration officials, trying to be skeptical. Does the president’s plan merely expand the failing federal effort or does it focus on quality and reform? Is the president trying to organize a bloated centralized program or is he trying to be a catalyst for local experimentation?
Let me guess… the answer is going to end up being “quality and reform” and “local experimentation”, right? What a clown. “I was totally trying so hard to be skeptical but then they told me exactly what I wanted to hear, and I was like, SWEET!”
And what softball questions he asks, “Are you going to expand failure and be bloated or are you going do it in a smart way?”
“I’m just about building quality,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told me.
Aw heck, who wouldn’t be convinced by that?!
I can only imagine the reaction at the White House:
Staffer A: “David Brooks is on the line, he wants to know if Obama’s pre-school plan is gonna fail miserably like Head Start or be awesome. What should I say?”
Staffer B: “Wait, he took that speech seriously? Umm… tell him ‘awesome’. Actually, ‘smartly awesome’. He goes ga-ga whenever you describe a policy as ‘smart’.”
Should the early childhood teachers be unionized or certified? Obama officials say they want to leave those sorts of questions up to state experimentation.
Yeah, and stimulus funds will be spent efficiently on shovel-ready projects with serious oversight, and Obamacare’s implementers will totally respect religious liberty.
Surprisingly, we haven’t yet hit the most mind-numbing part, which is this:
So far the news is very good. Obama is trying to significantly increase the number of kids with access to early education. The White House will come up with a dedicated revenue stream that will fund early education projects without adding to the deficit.
We’re gonna expand access without affecting the deficit, huh? Somehow, I feel like I’ve heard that before, and it hasn’t exactly panned out. And what in the holy heck does that last sentence even mean? Are “dedicated revenue streams” some special type of money that magically doesn’t affect budgets?
The lack of basic logic is striking. Any new spending makes it more difficult to close the deficit, no matter how you pretend you’ve “paid for it” with taxes, because you’ve taken more money away from paying for the spending that’s already authorized, which is already way over what we take in. No matter how “dedicated” to mathematical impossibilities, we’ll eventually run out of other people’s money.
WARNING: David Brooks is about to keep it real, everybody:
This is rude to say, but here’s what this is about: Millions of parents don’t have the means, the skill or, in some cases, the interest in building their children’s future.
Naturally that means we should just have the government raise every child in the country. No way that will end badly, or potentially make the problem worse.
President Obama has taken on a big challenge in a realistic and ambitious way. If Republicans really believe in opportunity and local control, they will get on board.
Four months ago, this wasn’t on Obama’s policy radar. Not a word in his campaign booklet on it. Yet Republicans must now follow Obama’s lead on another massive government program, and if they’re skeptical at all it simply means they’re against opportunity and federalism?