By Rachel Alexander
Shallow Differences between Republicans and Democrats
The evidence has been piling up indicating that many of our government-funded institutions have been an abysmal failure. For example, the $5 trillion spent on means-tested welfare programs has failed to lower the poverty rate. The poverty rate is actually higher today than it was when the War on Poverty began under the Johnson administration, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis.
Similarly, the increasingly frequently-occurring incidents of targeted audits by the IRS, combined with the excessive tax rates, and the unfairness of how this taxation with its tax breaks is distributed, overwhelmingly require a reconsideration of why this institution is allowed to continue its existence. The IRS costs taxpayers $7 billion a year to run, and last year spent $4 billion on new computers which did not work. Each year, more than $100 billion in taxes owed are not collected. A few years ago, the IRS could not account for 67 percent of the money it had spent. Yet only one Republican congressman has called for its abolition; the rest of the Republicans are happy with spearheading yet more deductions for their favorite interest groups, while not allowing deductions for others, e.g. gay marriages. They are missing the obvious alternative solution to an income tax, which is to simply use the excises and tariffs authorized by the Constitution ("sin taxes," e.g. tobacco and alcohol, and taxes on foreign imports) to provide for necessary government functions.
Another area that has failed in its purpose is public education. Our children rank at the bottom of international tests in seven developed nations. These tests were performed in the 1960s and are currently being assessed again, with what appears to be similar results according to source Barbara Lerner. The public schools are not improving, even with more and more money being thrown at them. Studies have shown that the schools that receive the most funds from the government do not produce the highest test scores. Furthermore, cultural conservatives are increasingly disagreeing with social progressives over the material that is taught. Yet the public schools are not responsive to these pressures. For example, since condoms have been available in the public school system, it has cost the taxpayers $3 billion, and the rate of teen-age pregnancy has risen by 87 percent.
Clearly, the public schools have failed our children, and it is time to allow the private schools, which consistently produce academically superior students, to replace the stagnant public school system. In such a system, the parents could choose the school that is most appropriate for their children, or force a school out of business if it does not respond to their children's needs. Again, Republicans are scarcely different from their liberal counterparts, opting for a "school voucher" system that would incorporate yet more tax breaks and involve the IRS. Since the private schools would be using "government funds," the government would still retain some control over the schools. A real solution would be to replace the public schools with a range of private schools which parents could choose from.
Republicans, like Democrats, are in favor of restricted immigration. Republicans would restrict immigration because they fear that more immigrants would increase the welfare and entitlement rolls. Democrats disagree with this reasoning since they believe it discriminates against the immigrants. However, looking at history, immigrants founded and built this country. Over the span of a couple generations, various ethnic groups have demonstrated their ability to increase their economic status in society. Instead of preventing immigration, the focus should be on eliminating the problem which is the failure of welfare programs and entitlements and their huge cost to society.
Finally, the Republicans quarrel with Democrats over how much to increase Social Security taxes each year. At the current rate, Social Security will run out of funds by the year 2010, unless payroll taxes are increased from the current 11.2 percent to nearly 20 percent, according to Reason magazine. Since this bankrupt program clearly has outlived its usefulness, it would be wise to allow individuals to invest their own money and privatize Social Security, as the Chilean government has successfully done. That way not only our grandparents, but also our children and ourselves can prepare for our retirement.
Since the Republicans and the Democrats are the two main political parties in our system of representative government and receive almost exclusive coverage from the media, most people believe they comprise the entire spectrum of public policy, all the way from left to right. However, there are alternatives to their petty tinkering, alternatives which would allow people to keep the money they earn and make their own choices for their families and their neighborhoods.
Rachel Alexander is a second-year law student.