Tuesday morning, Betsy DeVos was confirmed by the Senate, in a 50-50 tie that was broken by Vice President Mike Pence.
Please note that, for the first time in history, a Vice President had to break a Senate tie for a cabinet confirmation.
If the past two decades of voting for federal public offices in the United States tell us anything, it’s that a small margin separates one side from the other - on average, 3 percent.
Delving deeper into that Senate vote, the 3 percent differential in the voting population nearly disappears into an even split between our State representatives.
Why? Well, the argument of what’s a right against what is a privilege.
The fight is nothing new, with true debate occurring during the drafting of the Constitution as to what people have a right to, and what is considered a privilege.
With growing debt, and a national deficit, the battle has been magnified and brought to the forefront. Both sides - Republican and Democrat - have begun to fight vigorously for what is two sides of the same coin.
Healthcare, education, free speech, gun ownership, home ownership, etc. are all under the microscope as to whether or not they should be available to all Americans, or a privilege (read: whether or not a person can afford them).
Most of the trouble in these markets started with government involvement, at least from the federal level.
Take housing, for instance - during Bill Clinton’s administration, the President passed legislation through to get Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac involved in the mortgage loan business.
What happened next? Over the next 12 years the mortgage loan market formed a bubble, until it burst thanks to sub-prime lending to individuals and families who should have never owned a home backed by - you guessed it - the federal government.
More recently, for those with a short memory, healthcare reform missed the mark and instead came in the final package of ‘insurance reform’ - Obamacare or the ACA.
What eventually happened? Hospitals increased their prices and regulations hampered insurance providers, causing insurance premiums to go up, and the bubble began to slowly let out air as insurance through the ACA became unaffordable.
Education, at least at the higher levels, saw much of the same with regard to student loans. After the feds began backing student loans, prices for higher educations began to go up.
Notice the trend?
As the federal government gets more-and-more involved in decision-making - usually as a ‘middle-man’ - the private sector prices start to go up.
Now, the recently confirmed Mrs. DeVos will have her eyes on doing the same thing for K-12 education because, as she stated during her confirmation hearing, ‘Nothing is truly free.’
Yes, based on the economic system in place in America, nothing is ‘truly free,’ but is that not why we pay taxes? To have federal government support on projects, services, and, indeed, disasters that are outside of State and local governments ability to handle?
Flipping that coin, can the government be trusted with efficient management of most anything they put together?
The Catch 22 here has no simple answer. If the Federal government is to play middle-man in certain markets, there has to be a price ceiling - else the private sector price curve will simply go up under the guise of ‘regulatory compensation.’
For K-12 education, the water becomes murkier, as systems for public schools are in place. Locations like Livingston Parish have flourished under this system, weathering education reform and budget cuts yet still developing an amazing education.
Not all systems are created equal, however - East Baton Rouge can vouch for that.
DeVos is pushing for more vouchers to get kids into charter and private schools, something that Livingston has managed to avoid.
It’s time for someone at the federal level to draw a line in the sand and state ‘this is a right and this is a privilege’ and act accordingly.
It would also be best if it wasn’t someone with monetary interests in one way or another, instead someone who has the best interest in those effected by those potential changes.
Until the federal government decides which things - not outlined in the Constitution - are inherent rights versus which are privileges, the Washington D.C. tug-of-war will continue. Markets can exist with government involvement, so long as those private entities don’t become over-dependent on government cash to run their businesses.
The next battle consists of state oversight against federal oversight, and which is best? Maybe a little of both? It depends on what is deemed a right, and what is a privilege.