Budgeting for the future

Lost in all this flap about the debt ceiling, revenue, spending, and such is an important discussion about who’s going to be doing things 30, 40, or 50 years from now. How well prepared will those people be who are going to be responsible in the future for the economy, environment, government, and so forth? Those are investments that really matter for all of us.

In a column opposite the New York (NY, US) Times editorials 17 July 2011, Nicholas D. Kristof discussed some of these issues. He remembered his own school days fondly, likening his “beloved old high school in Yamhill, Ore. — a plain brick building” to a rocket ship that allowed him and his classmate to rise to positions as columnists or lawyers, and raised questions about the current rounds of financial constraints that are crushing education around the USA. He rightly encouraged citizens to reconsider priorities.

Still, we nation-build in Afghanistan and scrimp at home. How is it that we can afford to double our military budget since 9/11, can afford the carried-interest tax loophole for billionaires, can afford billions of dollars in givebacks to oil and gas companies, yet can’t afford to invest in our kids’ futures?

Without an educated populace, we have very little on which to depend for the future. Education does a lot. An educated populace not only earns more and creates more, it makes smarter decisions about child bearing and rearing, purchasing, and on and on.

The importance of education was a foundational notion for people who conceived of democracy. In a letter to George Wythe of 13 August 1786, Thomas Jefferson wrote that he considered “by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people” and recommended that Mr. Wythe “Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against these evils [tyranny, oppression, etc.] and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.”

I hope the politicians don’t toss the wheat with the chaff.

Read Mr. Kristoff’s “Our Broken Escalator.” Read more of Mr. Jefferson’s quotations about the importance of education for a democracy.

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