…and to make it that way, Joseph Stiglitz writes in the New York Times, we must have a government that equalizes opportunity.
Opportunity. We must equalize it.
Except, as Inigo Montoya (from The Princess Bride) says:
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
What Stiglitz proposes is equalizing OUTCOMES, a threadbare liberal policy. He writes:
Young people from families of modest means face a Catch-22: without a college education, they are condemned to a life of poor prospects; with a college education, they may be condemned to a lifetime of living at the brink. And increasingly even a college degree isn’t enough; one needs either a graduate degree or a series of (often unpaid) internships. Those at the top have the connections and social capital to get those opportunities. Those in the middle and bottom don’t. The point is that no one makes it on his or her own. And those at the top get more help from their families than do those lower down on the ladder. Government should help to level the playing field.
Americans are coming to realize that their cherished narrative of social and economic mobility is a myth. Grand deceptions of this magnitude are hard to maintain for long — and the country has already been through a couple of decades of self-deception.
Without substantial policy changes, our self-image, and the image we project to the world, will diminish — and so will our economic standing and stability. Inequality of outcomes and inequality of opportunity reinforce each other — and contribute to economic weakness, as Alan B. Krueger, a Princeton economist and the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, has emphasized. We have an economic, and not only moral, interest in saving the American dream.
Policies that promote equality of opportunity must target the youngest Americans. First, we have to make sure that mothers are not exposed to environmental hazards and get adequate prenatal health care. Then, we have to reverse the damaging cutbacks to preschool education, a theme Mr. Obama emphasized on Tuesday. We have to make sure that all children have adequate nutrition and health care — not only do we have to provide the resources, but if necessary, we have to incentivize parents, by coaching or training them or even rewarding them for being good caregivers. The right says that money isn’t the solution. They’ve chased reforms like charter schools and private-school vouchers, but most of these efforts have shown ambiguous results at best. Giving more money to poor schools would help. So would summer and extracurricular programs that enrich low-income students’ skills.
Finally, it is unconscionable that a rich country like the United States has made access to higher education so difficult for those at the bottom and middle. There are many alternative ways of providing universal access to higher education, from Australia’s income-contingent loan program to the near-free system of universities in Europe. A more educated population yields greater innovation, a robust economy and higher incomes — which mean a higher tax base. Those benefits are, of course, why we’ve long been committed to free public education through 12th grade. But while a 12th-grade education might have sufficed a century ago, it doesn’t today. Yet we haven’t adjusted our system to contemporary realities.
The steps I’ve outlined are not just affordable but imperative. Even more important, though, is that we cannot afford to let our country drift farther from ideals that the vast majority of Americans share. We will never fully succeed in achieving Mr. Obama’s vision of a poor girl’s having exactly the same opportunities as a wealthy girl. But we could do much, much better, and must not rest until we do.
Let’s check for “progressive” ideological points, shall we?
- We must provide a “clean” enviorment – probably without “climate change” but not weed, liberals love weed. Republicans hate clean water and air and want the poor to live in abandoned coal mines.
- Free health care – even though we know that Obamacare isn’t free
- More pre-school education even though a recent HHS study showed that pre-school programs like Head Start are two things – expensive and ineffective…but the earlier the government can start indoctrination, the better – right?
- The government must train people how to take care of their children – so that parenting can be done the government’s way…and to that end, the government will pay people to do it the way they want done.
- We hate vouchers because they actually do work, so let’s just throw money at poor, under-performing schools instead of fixing them or giving parents a choice.
- Let’s make college free.
Remember, as Stiglitz says:
The point is that no one makes it on his or her own.
To which, I respectfully reply: