When the banks and brokerage houses almost imploded the economy through their chicanery, selling clueless investors mortgage-backed securities which the banks subsequently bet would be worthless, a rallying cry went up. "The banks are too big to fail!" And they were. So instead of the government breaking them up and regulating them as they should have done, the feds instead bailed them out to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. Taxpayer dollars. OUR dollars.
Of course, the banks and hedge funds have recovered now. They're back to minting money by doing the same old things they have always done. Mayor Bloomberg thinks this is a good thing, because as far as he's concerned, we should be thanking the bankers for having the grace to pay taxes like the rest of us. Many of us ungrateful citizens have neglected our civic duty to genuflect before the bilionaire class, mostly because many of us are unemployed, underemployed, or facing the threat of layoffs. It's hard get down on our knees when we're down on our luck. The attitude of gratitude takes a back seat when our homes are being repossessed and our furniture is being put out on the street.
I will admit that Obama did what he had to do to keep the country's economy afloat. The banks were too big to fail. But now we face a calamity of a different sort, much of which was precipitated by the bankers and their crushing effect on the economy.
We are facing a new crisis in education. As many as 300,000 teachers may be laid off nationwide. If that happens, class sizes will explode. Programs will be cut. Neighborhoods will be harmed. Teachers will leave the profession for good. The public education system as we know it will begin a prolonged downhill spiral from which it may never recover. An entire generation of young people will be cheated of a proper education because of a lack of funding.
All except the children of the wealthiest people, of course. Their kids are privately educated.
This could largely be avoided if President Obama and the congress got their acts together and pushed for the education stimulus bill that is currently languishing in the senate. The total cost of this bill would be about 23 billion dollars, or about thirty times less than the bank rescue cost us. It would prevent 300,000 teachers from joining the ranks of the unemployed.
Passing the education stimulus bill seems a no-brainer. It saves jobs, preserves schools, and costs a fraction of what it cost to save the banks. So what's holding it up? My guess it that education just doesn't seem too big to fail--at least not to the bureaucrats. What does it matter if a bunch of teachers lose their jobs? A lot of folks have lost theirs. And bigger class sizes? Well, those teachers who get to keep their jobs should just be happy that they're employed. If kids fail because their schools can't support them, well, that's just too bad. To the congress and the Obama administration, no school is too big to fail.
I'd argue, however, that each school, and the education system as a whole, is too important to fail. What good will financially sound banks be to a generation that can't compete in the global economy? It seems to me that supporting already wealthy bankers while allowing our children to go begging is precisely the wrong approach.
While it's fair to blame the politicians, we must also take some of the blame upon ourselves. We've allowed Washington and Wall Street to frame the debate. We argue whether senior teachers or newbies should be laid off, when we should be arguing that teachers are a resource every bit as important--in fact more important--than hedge funds to the future of our economy. Not one teacher should be laid off while bankers feast at the public trough.
Education is too important to fail. What shall it profit a nation to preserve the banks while losing its future?