Strong Leadership, but to Where?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Dick Morris (via RealClear Politics) writes in glowing terms of the strong leadership provided by Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California. But apart from his proposal to do away with the institutional gerrymandering of congressional districts, two other proposals make the Governator seem less and less like a fiscal conservative. Let's take a look at these.

While President Bush speaks of the advent of [hydrogen-powered automobiles] in the indefinite future, Gov. Schwarzenegger is bringing them to the here and now by converting gas stations along California's interstate highways to provide hydrogen fuel as well as gasoline.

With financing projected to come one-third each from federal, state and private sources, California will offer hydrogen fuel every few miles in urban areas and at least every 20 miles along the highway system by 2010. Eventually, he and the leaders of Washington, Oregon, Baja California and British Columbia will work together to create a "hydrogen highway" that will run from B.C. (British Columbia) to B.C. (Baja California).

The Schwarzenegger plan calls for state-subsidized production of hydrogen and for tax incentives for those who purchase hydrogen cars. [italics mine]

Morris speaks of this in terms of reducing our dependence on foreign oil. But what difference does it make (assuming this worked and had the desired effect) if we replace the threat to our freedom posed by terrorism with that posed by even heavier government involvement in the energy sector of our economy than we have already? So he favors heavier government interference in that part of the economy. What about education?

... Schwarzenegger is striking at the root of the problem with public education by seeking to smash teacher tenure and pay and promote teachers based on merit, just like other employees in America. The privileged classroom enclave where incompetence is not punished and excellence is not rewarded will be ended in California.

Certainly, the idea of merit-based promotion in education is an idea whose time has come. But what is the track record of our public schools when it comes to "promotion by merit"? Students nominally have to "pass" twelve grades to get through high school already, and standardized testing is already being used to determine whether their "skills" are good enough to pass. Hmmm. Well, the standardized tests came about because too many seniors graduated without having marketable skills. And the standardized tests are pretty dumbed-down now. And so we're going to entrust the determination of teacher merit to this same socialized education bureaucracy? (Whose teachers are all unionized anyway.) Ummmm, Right. The "root of the problem" is public education. I'd appreciate a first step towards privatization like a voucher initiative more than this, and my satisfaction would depend on whether that was the idea behind vouchers. Morris says, "promote teachers based on merit, just like other employees in America." This will happen only when teachers work for private companies that have to get results or die -- just like private sector employees in America.

Schwarzenegger is a native of Austria and our constitution bars the foreign-born from the highest office of the land. Thus nothing short of a constitutional amendment will be required for him to become president. I'd call that a lucky accident of birth -- for the rest of us.

-- CAV

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