“Government is the great fiction through which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else,” wrote the celebrated French legislator, economist, and political theorist Frederic Bastiat 165 years ago. With recent reports out of the Census Bureau indicating nearly half of all Americans are receiving some form of direct government subsidy – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment benefits, housing assistance, veterans’ benefits, etc. – can there be any doubt he was right?
The total federal government spending in 2013 totaled $3,454,253,000,000—over $3.4 trillion—encompassing defense, highway and transportation costs, public education, immigration services, and government worker salaries, to name a few.
Timothy Noah of MSNBC recently informed us, “In theory, raising the minimum wage ought to increase unemployment, but in practice, economists (including a few at the not-exactly-left-leaning Goldman Sachs) have lately struggled to find any real-world evidence of that happening. Job creation is actually faster in the states that have raised the minimum wage.”
In elementary school, many of my teachers would place a long banner across the top of the chalkboard, reading “Knowledge Is Power.” The phrase is meant to teach students the importance of education and the empowerment it can bring. For today’s workers, this idiom remains relevant and significant.
Matt Damon made headlines a few years ago when he went on an expletive-laced screed about teachers’ poor (not his word, but close) salaries. It’s personal to him because Damon’s mother is an early childhood education professor.
Let’s agree with Damon that good teachers should earn a lot. The job can be very demanding, and it is crucial to society. So what would it take to pay teachers a great salary — say, something around $90,000 a year or more? That’s actually possible, without raising taxes or adding to the great American debt mountain. Here are three major barriers to that.