Voucher programs are touted by fiscal conservatives as panaceas for the costs of public education and universal health care. In realty, what will be created are systems that subsidize the well-off at the expense of the less-well-off.
Public schools receive our tax dollars based on student attendance. If fewer students are attending those public schools, the money received by those schools is thereby reduced. They cannot charge more per pupil to make up for the loss. Schools, as each of us, have both variable and fixed expenses. When our own incomes go down we have to cut back where we can, but we still need the basics of food and shelter. Likewise with schools, which can layoff some teachers, have to maintain the physical plant regardless of the number of students attending.
Enter charter schools, education voucher programs and investor profits. Students can leave the public school system and attend a charter school, taking with them those tax-funded dollars. Charter schools may be able to operate on that money by not having to comply with certain governmental mandates required of public schools; charge more per pupil, and/or rely on tax credits such as the New Markets tax credit passed in 2000 by congress that allows enormous federal tax credits to banks and equity funds that invest in community projects in underserved communities. So even if a charter school program is run as a not-for-profit, the investors reap huge profits on the building. Parents, who cannot afford to pay the difference between a voucher and the tuition at a highly rated charter school, must keep their children in under-funded public schools, while their tax dollars fund vouchers for well-off families to pay for tuitions they already pay because they can afford private schools for their children. The tax dollars of the less well-off also go into the pockets of charter school investors.
Enter the health care voucher program. Seniors now can get Medicare benefits thanks to contributions made by them during their working life. People, who can afford it, buy their own health care. With a voucher system, those well-off people receive what amounts to a subsidy for health care insurance they already purchase. Less well-off seniors would have to supplement whatever voucher money they would receive to pay to for-profit insurance companies operating under no pricing or benefit regulations. Vouchers for the well-off would be funded in part by taxes on the less well-off.
Continuing this trend, we have privatized prisons taking our tax dollars to fund for-profit operations; and we have highly-paid mercenaries from for-profit companies providing security services at several overseas locations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our whole system of governmental protections; health, education, welfare and even national security seems to be moving inextricably into the hands of investors and their for-profit enterprises.
Is our “of the people, by the people, for the people” simply being reduced to “what the traffic will bear”?
Corporate America is turning our nation into America, Incorporated.
<IMHO> Fred Jacobsen