The Corner

Failure Is Very Much an Option

Lost in the furor over the budget is any discussion of the fact that, after a certain baseline point, redistributive payouts might be making things worse for those on the receiving end.

Black middle-class flight from northern big cities, failing public schools like nearby Fresno City College, where yesterday it was announced that 70 percent of students (the majority of them on some sort of federal and state loan support) fail to receive a two-year AA degree — these are just a few indications that increasing reliance on government subsidies does not eliminate, and may well perpetuate, such ills as illiteracy, poverty, and hunger.

Here in California, the CSU system — the largest university system in the world — cannot explain why 46 percent of entering freshmen in 2001 needed remediation in math and English, still less why that number has soared to nearly 60 percent after a decade of record spending on campus budgets. Only about half of students graduate within six years, even fewer within five.

In a surreal interview with Neil Cavuto yesterday, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D., Texas) insisted that all sorts of federal entitlements were “investments” that, in a time of record deficits, could be paid for by going after the wealthy. The argument comes full circle when we remember that Johnson was revealed to have steered Black Caucus Foundation scholarships to her own grandsons and other relatives and friends.

At some point, this historic debate must address the real pathological origins of federal debt: Congressmen, senators, and administration officials of both parties have steered public monies to chosen constituents and causes, without any worry whether the money helps or harms, because by doing so they can build a political base and, in many cases, gain personal profit while in office and real riches when out of office.

Right now, Democrats are arguing that record-level social spending programs are absolutely necessary; that when they fail to achieve promised results, it’s because of too little money; and that anyone who questions these premises is a cruel megaphones for the wealthy who wants to throw the ill out on the street. This is the familiar circular logic of big government: When massive infusions of cash fail to produce results, the reason is insufficient funding — not that it creates complacency and dependency in lieu of self-reliance and personal responsibility.

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