Willy Sutton famously said when asked why he robbed banks, “That’s where the money is!”
Let’s do a thought experiment (somewhat less elegant than those of Einstein). How do people get rich in America? There are basically two ways it seems. One is that some object or service is found and competently manifest that people in general either need or can be convinced to need. The other is to see were the money is and find a way to become a part of its movement.
The computer revolution is an example of collecting little bits of money from millions of people as a model for wealth; there are many such examples. As long as there are small amounts of disposable private wealth in the hands of the population of a country, the creation of new goods and services and the production of them (a complex, commitment requiring activity) will be a road to wealth (and people will do it no matter how much they are taxed so long as rates are clear and not greatly changing).
The other method is to find ways to manipulate large collections of money and the laws controlling them. Banks contain lots of money, thus Mr. Sutton’s interest. Investment houses contain lots of money, governments create large collections of money, government driven high ticket items spawn highly specialized “private” industries like defense where, rather than making a $2 hamburger and selling a billion of them, 2 ships are make that cost a billion each.
A certain type of acquisitive mind is drawn to this method. The model is to find a large pile of money. Look at the way it moves around, at the rules for the inputs and outputs and find a way to get a piece of it when it moves. Thus the Bernie Maddoffs of the world, the John Paulsons and eventually the Willy Suttons. Included in this group today – though not so much in the past – is the CEO class that takes millions, even billions, from the companies that they head.
There are three great huge piles of money that these ‘acquisitors’ have had, until recently, only minor luck at breaking into: the National budget in general, Social Security and education expenditures. Prisons had become a profit center along with defense. Insurance had worked its way into healthcare and even Medicare and Medicaid could be gamed in the millions. The savings and loan thefts of the 1980s set the stage for the recent opening up of the treasury to the investment bankers, ultimately leaving only Social Security and education as the largest weakly protected piles of money not drilled and mined.
NCLP has opened education’s veins for the beginning of a bleeding; testing companies are making millions. Private charter schools are trying to follow the same model as private prisons: big promises of better outcomes for less money while really delivering greater distance from responsibility and the protection of the National Chamber of Commerce.
How much money is there in education? 60 to 70 million school children at $10,000 per child per year equals 600 to 700 billion a year plus bond issues and other sources, most of which the “that’s where the money is” boys and girls have not yet figured out how to get a piece of. But they are no slackers.
The first step is to demonize the education system, and to weaken it. It is not like the money will not be spent, but if it is going to be spent differently, then an opportunity is created. Crack the walls, shake the windows and look for ways in. Think of Zombie movies; they just keep coming. Kill off the first ones and still there is an endless supply once they have gotten the scent.
So as you listen to the arguments about education realize that it is a nearly 1000 billion dollar pile of dollars that has been targeted by the acquisitive class. A difficult target for sure, but one of the few really big piles of money left that they have not gotten a mine drilled into, at least, one of any size.
Every bit of damage that they can do or support being done cracks the walls and increases the chances of a way in. They will not stop unless enough of us see the game that is being played.
Education is a difficult and demanding business even when everyone is pulling together, but when the ‘kill government’ crowd gets the taste of blood and sees the opportunity to get a piece of a 1000 billion dollars a year of forced expenditures, we might just lose this one given the present tenor of the country.