Charest Answers James Simpson

Letters To The Editor
Letters To The Editor

After a long pause from writing Letters to the Editor (LTE) I jumped back into the fray last week.  The occasion of my return to poking local conservatives was being directly challenged by a local columnist.  It seems even my on-line comments are enough to annoy our conservative writers.

I’ve commented on local columnist James Simpson before.  When I first started reading the local newspaper “The Potomac News” I dubbed him as one of the “Three Wingnuts” columnists.One, Ken Concannon, has thankfully disappeared from this newspaper, for which I’d like to give myself a little bit of credit. But James Simpson and Charles Reichley are still wasting dead tree with their ridiculous and frequently offensive scrivenings.

We also have a comments feature for the on-line edition of this newspaper that is frequently very “lively” with comments against columns and LTEs. Even though I have not written any LTEs for several months, I have remained very active in the comments posts. Well, it seems after only one year of having the comments feature, Mr. Simpson discovered it, and discovered what I was writing about him. I think my comments got under his very thin skin.

In a December 12 column, “How much will we let government take?” Mr. Simpson discussed taxes.  Being a self-proclaimed Libertarian, his perspectives on taxes is that they are a violation of basic humanity and affront to all-that-is-good and-decent in this world.  He quoted “Anthem”, published by Ayn Rand in 1938, to back up his opinion.

Really.  He finished his column with this question:

I have a question for all the people who think that K-12 schools never have enough funding. How much is enough? Please tell me, in today’s dollars, exactly how much money (per child/per year) would be required to provide an adequate education? I eagerly await your answer.

I couldn’t see the logic in making the leap from Ayn Rand to K-12 education funding, but no matter.  He asked a question, so I responded in the comments with this post:

“So now we have Mr. Simpson quoting a 1938 novel by Ayn Rand to make a point that the government is taxing us too much today.

But, Mr. Simpson asks a question: “I have a question for all the people who think that K-12 schools never have enough funding. How much is enough? Please tell me, in today’s dollars, exactly how much money (per child/per year) would be required to provide an adequate education? I eagerly await your answer“

My answer: What is percentage of current funding directed towards public schools K-1 through K-12 as compared to our defense industry?

To help Mr. Simpson answer; we are currently spending about 460 billion dollars each year on defense, more than nearly the rest of the world combined. However, this 460 Billon does not include operational costs for our war in Iraq. I eagerly await Mr. Simpson’s answer as to how the amount of money spent building bigger and better ways of killing off entire populations of our planet is justified, but spending money providing an education for all people is not.

Well, when Mr. Simpson discovered the on-line comments feature, he read my post. In his December 19 column “Who will answer my question?” he quoted me by name, reprinted part of my comment, and used it as a springboard to mock me with the following:

Of course, Mr. Charest didn’t answer my original question (as most leftists/collectivists tend to avoid), which was: “… in today’s dollars, exactly how much money (per child / per year) would be required to provide an adequate education.” Instead he answered my question with his own question, which was: “What is percentage of current funding directed towards public schools K-1 through K-12 as compared to our defense industry?”

Good attempt to divert the conversation, but I still haven’t heard a single person answer my original question. Still waiting …”

So, never one to back away from a challenge, I leaped back into my LTE-poking-fun-of-local-wingnut-writers mode, and answered his question.  My LTE “Charest answers James Simpson” was published Sunday December 28:

I’d like to thank Mr. James Simpson for quoting me in his Dec. 19 column “Who will answer my question?” I do appreciate being referred to as a “leftist” (Definition: “Belief in or support of the tenets of the political left.”) and “collectivist” (Definition: “The principles or system of ownership and control of the means of production and distribution by the people collectively, usually under the supervision of a government.”).

I’d also like to give Mr. Simpson a direct answer to his question: “In today’s dollars, exactly how much money (per child/per year) would be required to provide an adequate education?” Mr. Simpson does not define “adequate,” which automatically puts any answer in the category of an opinion and subject to ridicule; a pretty typical ploy for conservatives. However, I can quantify education spending in relationship to our defense spending on the basis of Thomas Jefferson’s opinion that “The best defense against tyranny is an educated population.”

Data360.org shows that in 2008 U.S. defense spending per capita (per person) was $1,960. Note that this is federal spending, not state or local.Sourcebook.governing.com shows our national average per capita K-12 education spending in 2006 was $1,763.However, the U.S. Census Bureau shows that only 9 percent of this money is federal, with 47 percent from state funds and 44 percent from local sources.

Therefore, the average per capita federal spending on K-12 education is only $159. As 91 percent of all education funding is provided by state and local sources, the actual amount per state varies, with Virginia spending $1,742 per capita.

My answer to Mr. Simpson: In consideration of Thomas Jefferson’s views on education, we should be spending at least as much on education as on defense.

Therefore, our federal per capita spending on K-12 education should currently be $1,960. With current levels of funding from state and local sources, Virginia’s total per capita education spending should be $3,545.

So, I’ll see what happens next.  It will be interesting to see how Mr. Simpson reacts to someone directly taking him on and giving a direct answer like this.

More to follow…

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