Don't Call it "Stimulus"

Investing in What Doesn't Work

President Barack Obama, in discussing the $800 + billion economic stimulus package now working its way through Congress, promised that "we will invest in what works." Well, if that's true, every piece of education spending-- totaling a whopping $150 billion-- in the mammoth stimulus bill should fall by the wayside.

But isn't education one of the best public investments we could possibly make? After all, doesn't spending on education give our students the skills and knowledge they need not just to spur economic recovery, but long-term growth?


Between 1973 and 2004 mathematics scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress rose just one percent for 17-year-olds. And math achievement was the good news. Between 1971 and 2004, their reading scores were completely flat.

So spending more on elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schooling is a waste. How about pre-kindergarten education? Isn't getting to kids as early as possible is the key to success?

Not so. Head Start, the federal government's flagship early-education program, has received billions of inflation-adjusted dollars every year since 1966, including almost $7 billion last year alone. But there is little evidence that Head Start produces lasting benefits either to society or the children it's meant to help. Indeed, the government's own comprehensive review of the research concluded that while Head Start kids get some initial boosts, "in the long run, cognitive and socio-emotional test scores of Head Start students do not remain superior to those of disadvantaged children who did not attend Head Start."

Don’t Call It “Stimulus”

Everyone—including Obama, back when he was running for President—is against deficit spending. Relabel it “stimulus” and everyone is for it. The label neatly evades the question of whether having the government borrow money and spend it is actually a way of getting out of a recession—a claim for which evidence is distinctly thin. It is stimulus, so obviously it must stimulate.

So what should we call it? President Obama’s spending proposal? The deficit-spending package? I think we’d have trouble getting the media to call it the Big Boondoggle. Maybe the government bailout, following the Wall Street bailout and the auto bailout?

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1 comment:

Camilla said...

Yep, I agree with you 100%