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Nicholas Kristof on Zealots, Security, and Education

July 24, 2011

When I read Nicholas Kristof‘s OPED in the New York Times this morning I found myself strong agreement with him.

In the article Kristof explains how Republicans are threatening our national security via the debt ceiling negotiations and how if another country threatened our credit rating there would be national outrage.  I agree with him on that point and would just like to point out that if it were the Democrats who were holding our government hostage in order to negotiate a political position there would be tremendous whining, crying, screaming from the acolytes of Fox News saying that the Democrats are Un-Patriotic, they hate this country, they would love to see us default, etc…

Republicans get away with this nonsense because the beltway press allows them to and frankly, because they have more “balls.”  But, the section of the article that I want to call attention to is the part on education, posted below.  When you sit back and think of the injustice of cutting reading programs to needy kids (which costs this country a pittance) and keeping a tax system in place that rewards Wall Street hedge fund managers it really shows you just how bought and paid for our Congress is:

While one danger to national security comes from the risk of default, another comes from overzealous budget cuts — especially in education, at the local, state and national levels. When we cut to the education bone, we’re not preserving our future but undermining it.

It should be a national disgrace that the United States government has eliminated spending for major literacy programs in the last few months, with scarcely a murmur of dissent.

Consider Reading Is Fundamental, a 45-year-old nonprofit program that has cost the federal government only $25 million annually. It’s a public-private partnership with 400,000 volunteers, and it puts books in the hands of low-income children. The program helped four million American children improve their reading skills last year. Now it has lost all federal support.

“They have made a real difference for millions of kids,” Kyle Zimmer, founder of First Book, another literacy program that I’ve admired, said of Reading Is Fundamental. “It is a tremendous loss that their federal support has been cut. We are going to pay for these cuts in education for generations.”

Education programs like these aren’t quick fixes, and the relation between spending and outcomes is uncertain and complex. Nurturing reading skills is a slog rather than a sprint — but without universal literacy we have no hope of spreading opportunity, fighting crime or chipping away at poverty.

“The attack on literacy programs reflects a broader assault on education programs,” said Rosa DeLauro, a Democratic member of Congress from Connecticut. She notes that Republicans want to cut everything from early childhood programs to Pell grants for college students. Republican proposals have singled out some 43 education programs for elimination, but it’s not seen as equally essential to end tax loopholes on hedge fund managers.

So let’s remember not only the national security risks posed by Iran and Al Qaeda. Let’s also focus on the risks, however unintentional, from domestic zealots.

I will say it again: VOTING MATTERS!  We have entire regions of this country who are “low-information” voters who don’t realize that they are voting against their own economic and future interests when they cast a vote for the (R) in the race.  I am not sure how to overcome this in the deep, religious, South, but running a good populist candidate can’t hurt.

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