When was the last time you thought to yourself, "We should really make more of an effort to put our nation deeper and deeper in debt"?
For decades America has continued to spend far more than it takes in and there isn't any doubt that we must cut spending, balance the budget, and pay down our national debt. While this process will be tedious and painful, we shouldn't shy away from reforming or even eliminating the numerous agencies within our bloated bureaucracy that fail to function at even the most basic levels.
Take, for example, the Department of Education. When this department was founded the government spent about $6,702 per pupil - today we are spending more than $11,000. Since 1980, the Department of Education has spent hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars while doing little to improve educational outcomes. Test scores across the board have either remained flat or declined over the past 30 years and, according to the most recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States ranks 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science, and a below-average 25th for mathematics.
When compared to countries like China, our education system is vastly inferior. In the very same OECD report referenced above, Shanghai and Hong Kong ranked first and second (respectively) in all three skill categories. These aptitude scores indicate not only an intellectual superiority, but also an increased capacity for financial and military dominance on the world stage. If America continues to promote educational standards far below the international average, we will find ourselves beholden to China for far more than $1.1 trillion.
Unfortunately for our children, the Department of Education deserves an "F" for these unacceptable results.
Similarly, the Department of Energy has failed to live up to its purpose of "ensuring America's security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges." What's being done about the challenge families across this country face every day when they go to fill up their gas tanks?
Instead of promoting deliberate and successful programs to lower the price of gas, increase energy production, and advance the development of alternative energy sources, the Department of Energy has used billions of tax-payer dollars to fund the ludicrous projects of President Obama's campaign supporters - projects that have either gone bankrupt or continue to face financial problems. One of the more notable failures came after the solar energy firm Solyndra filed for bankruptcy and laid off almost all of its employees just one year after receiving a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy.
Despite the embarrassing and inexplicable failures from both of these departments, we continue to reward them with more and more hardworking taxpayer dollars. The buck stops here.
The federal government cannot afford to continue to fund agencies like the Department of Education and the Department of Energy any more than it can afford to continue meddling in issues that are best handled at the state level or in the free market. When we return to promoting the effective and efficient programs deemed successful at the most local levels and shift control back to the hands of those most knowledgeable officials, we will end this perpetual cycle of government waste.
We must embrace again our roots of small government and remember the principles of federalism on which this nation was built.
Republican Tom Marino is the representive to Congress from the 10th District of Pennsylvania.