Tuesday, March 13, 2018

How Much Government, Really?

So I had the news on in the background while working yesterday, and I was a bit startled -- OK, not so much "startled" as "curious" to see Betsy DeVos being interviewed in regard to the whole school-shooting and gun-control topic.

Now Betsy DeVos, as you know, is the secretary, the person in charge, at the Department of Education.  I assume, since she was actually on the air and discussing the issue, that her department is going to have some non-trivial association with whatever solution Congress is going to come up with, to address the terrible situation with school shootings.

But my reaction was different.

You see, any time I see the Department of Education (or Energy, for that matter, or several other Federal entities) quoted as having done anything, or its leadership quoted as having said anything, I apply a filter. 

I don't believe, you see, that there is a need for a Federal Department of Education, since the Constitution was pretty specific about the role of the Federal government vis-a-vis the States, and the Tenth Amendment assigns that role -- because it is not specifically given to the Federal government -- to the States as a "power not delegated."

I particularly feel that way about education, because education in the 1780s, when the Constitution was drafted, is fundamentally the same as education today.  Children go to school, and they are taught what is determined, at the appropriate level of government, what they need to know.

The Founders felt that the specific decision of what is to be taught rests with the local authorities, not the Federal ones, presumably so it can be best influenced by parents.  That is why education was not made a Federal responsibility and was, by the Tenth Amendment, barred from being a Federal one.  Whatever has changed over the years in terms of what classes' content is, the Constitution still applies, to me, for that very reason -- more so even than Energy, which was not an issue in 1789 in remotely the same way.

Feeling that way, I saw Mrs. DeVos and immediately thought, "That's not her job as Secretary, it is a law-enforcement issue and should be under the purview of the Department of Justice.  Justice yes, Education no.  Now, since we have such a department, I get that she is not exactly uninvolved, and would expect to have to provide input, but I think any initiatives need to rest solely within Justice.

We have a Special Counsel investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, an investigation which is certainly, at this point, wasting taxpayer money by its existence, having found exactly no such collusion.  Yet we also have committees in the House (which finally, mercifully dismissed the whole thing just last night), and in the Senate doing exactly the same thing, and I believe that Justice is doing stuff in that area as well.

Now I have a friend, Al Graham, who was a fraternity brother in the Phi Delt house at MIT, a couple years older than I.  He was an All-American swimmer as an undergrad, and one of my favorite guys in the house, a reason I pledged there.  A group of us, back then, were watching the 1972 Olympics together, when the exploits of Mark Spitz, the multi-gold medal swimmer came up.

Al had a very understated sense of humor when he chose, and this time he drily suggested that seven gold medals meant that there was too much going on.  "There should be one medal for 'swimming'", he insisted, "and one medal for 'running', and one for 'jumping'".  It seemed far too complex, he insisted, to have so many competitions for what seemed to be the same actual sport in his eyes.

I don't know what Al would think today, but his words came back to me when I thought about how taxpayers were paying for too many different entities to do the same thing, when only one of them -- the best-qualified and most constitutionally-suitable -- should be doing so.  There should be one committee to investigate X, I'm sure he would say, and another to investigate Y, and one Cabinet department to do Z.  If we are talking about crime, it is the Justice Department ... period.

Maybe Al should have been president.  Or maybe the fellow running things from the White House today, who appears very open to that kind of efficiency with tax dollars, well, maybe he could start turning even more of that kind of thinking into refining duplicative efforts.

Or maybe Congress just needs to read this column a bit more.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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