2012 THIRD PLACE ESSAY

Politicians and Promises: What happens when people play god

by Andrea Schwinghammer, Age 16
Submitting Teacher: Karl Salscheider


American Society today is becoming continually more reliant on the government. Legislators have spread their influence into healthcare, job security, small business transactions, and what people do with their own property. As control has become more far-reaching, the American public has been lead to believe that government is responsible for their individual happiness. Politicians have responded to the public's new demands by creating elaborate and expensive programs to supposedly assure everyone a chance at success. In reality, however, government involvement almost always leads to more regulation, less freedom, and stunted economic growth.

When on the campaign trail, politicians make promises to the American people. Many of these promises are empty and, even if the politician wanted to keep them, it would be either impossible or detrimental to the United States economy. The reasons politicians do this are complicated. Perhaps one of the reasons is that politicians are being pressured into playing god to the American public. Because Americans have always been free, we tend to take that freedom for granted and become complacent, even indifferent to our freedom. We do not realize how important freedom is because we have not experienced life without it. Preserving freedom is hard work. Many Americans have started to think it is too hard. They seem to say, "Maybe it would be better to let the government run our lives. Then we would not have to think about what to do with our money or property because Uncle Sam would tell us."

The fact is: Americans are often ignorant. They do not know the consequences of their behavior. Throughout history, ignorance has been shown to lead to bondage. If people do not know what is going on or how to make solid decisions, they look to someone who seems to have all the answers. In this case: politicians. With the American public becoming more ignorant, politicians have stepped up with plans to save the economy. They think they can fix the problems with more regulations and government programs. However, what history has told us is that power corrupts good people. When politicians have too much power, serious problems can develop.

There are so many glaring examples of failed government programs that it is hard to find the worst. However, one that stands out is president Obama's "Recovery and Reinvestment Act" of 2011, more specifically the section of the Act devoted to public education. According to the White House official report on education, President Obama promised to, "Reform America's public schools to deliver a 21st Century education that will prepare all children for success in the new global workplace." He plans on accomplishing this goal by giving the public education system more funds. The report further states, "The Act also provides $77 billion for reforms to strengthen elementary and secondary education, including $48.6 billion to stabilize state education budgets (of which $8.8 billion may be used for other government services)." The nature of "other government services" remains unstated as does the source of all these new funds. John Stossel's "Stupid in America" report (aired September 17, 2011) clearly shows however, that more money is not the answer. The expenses used for education have, "tripled over the last 40 years but student learning has remained flat." President Obama approved all this new spending but instead of improving education, it is getting worse. Because of the continued support of the teacher's union, competition has been eliminated from public education. The White House report says, "President Obama will ensure that teachers are supported as professionals in the classroom." In other words, the bureaucracy of the teacher's union will continue to be supported by the United States government. As stated by Stossel, with no competition and the protection of the teacher's union, teachers have no incentive to do well at their job. The government already spends an average of $9,305 per student per year on public education. Compare that number to the $3,267 spent at the average elementary private school and the $6,300 spent by charter schools and the amount spent on public schools is simply ridiculous. To make the problem even more obvious, both charter and private schooled students get significantly higher test scores than public schooled students.

My personal experience with the public school has been limited since I was homeschooled through elementary and middle school. My parents spent an average of $1,000 on me and my five siblings total per year. I was held to a very high standard of learning. At the age of 14 I started college classes. At 15 I was attending college full-time. I am now 16 and a sophomore in college. I will graduate with a bachelor's degree at the age of 19. I am living proof that money does not ensure an excellent education, competition does that. The free market is essential to the functioning of a free economy.

The bottom line is that politicians make promises because they have so much power over the American public. They start thinking that they can solve any problem when they usually make it worse. When people depend on them, politicians feel responsible to play god and try to fix all the problems in society. This results in loss of freedom, less satisfaction in hard work, and decreased faith in the American dream. This country was founded on the belief that hard work makes a person great and the only limitations are within oneself. Americans cannot lose that belief or our freedom will be taken from us.