- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 20, 2003

Students have no right to an education

In regard to the Commentary column, “Fortuitous choice for vouchers” (Saturday): D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and I differ on many issues, but on vouchers, I agree with her completely. Mayor Anthony Williams’ belief that vouchers for private or religious schools will make a real difference is laudable, but misguided.

Vouchers generally fail for two reasons. First, the students are in a very different environment, away from their friends. Second, the work is far more demanding and the discipline more rigid.

On the surface, at least, private schools and public schools differ in only two big ways: standards of work and discipline requirements. There is certainly no real difference in the qualification and dedication of the educators. The private schools have the advantage of being able to toss the lazy and troublesome students back to the public school system. The public system has yet to have the backbone to rid itself of those who would drag down the dedicated and promising students. Raise the standards and enforce discipline and your public school system will improve.

There is some idiotic notion that every student has a “right” to an education. That is balderdash of the highest order. Education is a privilege far greater than getting your driver’s license. A privilege is earned and maintained by the performance of the person to whom the privilege is granted. It is not bestowed just because some special-interest group wishes it so.

In class a student has one basic right … the “right” to remain silent.



Special interests are slowing the economy

Your editorial (“The job-loss recovery,” Sept. 7) does an excellent job of pointing out the facts while making no mention of the causes of the problem. The various theories on what is wrong with the economy and what needs to be done all seem to avoid dealing with these causes. There are many, but top among them are:

1. General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

2. North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

3. Federal Reserve policy.

4. Lack of Securities and Exchange Commission rules and enforcement.

5. Preferential treatment by the federal government to those industries that donate most heavily to re-election campaigns.

The results are clear:

Jobs and capital investment are leaving the United States for countries where labor and materials are cheap. Thank GATT and NAFTA and various legislation preferential to certain industries. This is not really a free-trade policy, but it is destructive to our economy, which depends heavily upon consumer spending for both gross national product and job growth. When wages leave the country, so does the consumption of goods, which has a compound negative effect upon job growth.

The Fed continues to encourage borrowing over savings in its on-going attempt to prop up the still-overvalued stock market by making borrowing dollars cheap. For publicly traded big corporations, one ancillary result is that there is virtually no dividend yield on stocks anymore. Interest rates and dividends on stock compete for investors’ dollars. By keeping interest rates low, not only is there nowhere to obtain an interest return on savings, but the dividends necessary to encourage investment in stocks are also reduced. For those who do not know, the average stock dividend was around 7 percent for many years and price earnings were an average of 15 times earnings.

Much of the recent economic improvement has been due to people spending their refinancing and tax-cut proceeds. This is not sustainable growth. Companies know this and as a result are not hiring.

Big corporations like all of this cheap equity and leverage money, but they, unfortunately, are investing it outside of the United States. The increased profits they are reaping are in many cases being illegally concentrated in a very small number of pockets, as we have seen in the Enron types of debacles.

Another result of all of these policies is that we have actual deflation in some sectors of our economy where goods are produced outside the United States in sweatshops and low-wage countries. At the same time, we have rampant inflation in sectors such as health care, insurance, utilities and state and local taxes. Of course, health care and insurance just happen to be excluded from the Fed’s measure of inflation, even though health care alone must be well over 20 percent of our economy by now. (It was 17 percent when Hillary Rodham Clinton tried to socialize it, and it goes up about 20 percent per year.) This alone would account for an overall inflation rate of about 4 percent if it were considered, but it is ignored. Unfortunately, many individuals and small businesses cannot ignore the reality of this inflation and are now priced out of the market for insurance of all kinds, including health-care insurance. Fewer dollars to spend in the small-business sector also means fewer jobs in that sector, which, by the way, creates the most jobs each year. Also, under-reporting of inflation helps to justify low interest rates.

One of the results of preferential legislation is noncompetition in many of the insurance businesses, and in particular, health-care insurance, where laws prevent consumers from forming buying groups to obtain leverage in the market. Another is a relative lack of competition in fields such as medicine, due to restrictions on the number of doctors and health-care professionals being turned out by our universities.

Our government should be subsidizing those young people who have the brains and work ethic to enter these fields, instead of assisting the professional associations in limiting the doctors we graduate. In today’s system, many, in fact, are granted entry to medical school based upon parental donations to the schools, race quotas and “connections” rather than scholarship. Poor utilization of our most valuable resource, our young people, costs us more than just jobs and keeps health-care costs high.

All of these problems could be fixed, but first we need to admit what is actually happening. We must persuade our legislators to attack these problems and stop caving in to the special-interest groups that benefit from these disastrous policies. Or, perhaps, we need new legislators on both sides of the aisle in Washington.


Buffalo, Wyo.

Grasso is a disgrace

It is always sad when the lengthy career of a once-respected individual ends in shame and disgrace, but in the case of former New York Stock Exchange President Richard Grasso (“NYSE chairman resigns amid pay furor,” Business, Thursday), the shame and disgrace are richly deserved.

It is often said about individuals in public life who are unresponsive to public opinion that they have a “tin ear.” Mr. Grasso apparently has a “tin head.” After having garnered tens of millions of dollars in salary over his 36 years with the exchange, he saw nothing improper in accepting a staggering, by any measure, $139.5 million pay package, an amount of money that most Americans cannot begin to imagine.

As a firm believer in capitalism and in an individual’s ability to succeed, I have always felt that esteemed officials, as Mr. Grasso used to be, were entitled to handsome compensation and comfortable retirement for the talent they brought to their profession. Only the most extreme left-winger would have objected if Mr. Grasso had exited his position with $2 million or $3 million, enough to enable him and his family to live like a king for the rest of his life, not like the emperor he apparently feels he is.


Upper Saint Clair, Pa.

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