February 5, 2010
Last month, Congress scoured the spending bill—all 1,000 pages of it—trying to find the most wasteful, pork-filled programs to cut.
They finally found one they could agree on: the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides vouchers that get poor children out of bad and dangerous public schools into good private ones.
Cutting this program is a disgraceful example of how our leaders often pander to special interest groups than protect our most needy citizens.
And it's not that the voucher program didn't work. A federal study showed that the mostly black and Hispanic participants were making great academic gains, narrowing the achievement gap. And more than 70 percent of Washingtonians supported the program.
So why did Congress cut it out? The National Education Association wanted them to do so.
So our lawmakers—many of whom have their own kids in private schools—had a tough choice to make: Should they pander to the special interests that fund their campaigns, or help disadvantaged kids?
President Obama—who was the recipient of educational scholarships, and whose daughters attend an elite private school—signed the bill abolishing the program. His own secretary of education, Arnie Duncan, publically acknowledged that the voucher program had been a big success. But he privately told Christian leaders that he could never get it approved in the White House.
Once again, politics prevails; the poor and downtrodden are forced to bow before the vested interests. No wonder there's a surging populist revolt in America. No wonder the ordinary, hard-working American taxpayer is offended by the arrogance of the cultural elite.
Even the President's own supporters are outraged. As one voucher mother put it, "We voted for you...we went to the parade, we stood freezing. Why...Why, sir, why?"
Several senators are asking the same thing. Democrats like Robert Byrd, Diane Feinstein, along with many Republicans, begged that this program be preserved. It has, they said, "provided a lifeline to many lower income students." But their voices, sadly, were ignored.
I don't remember the last time I was quite this angry at political chicanery. I've traveled to some of the grungiest areas of the District—places most of us would not imagine people could survive in. The gangs reign; the drug lords rule. All those senators had to do was to march out of their comfortable offices and walk about six blocks.
They would have seen the horror of Washington's inner city. Instead, they gave high-sounding speeches about caring for the poor, and passed multi-billion dollar bills for government handouts.
But a handout that enables people to make their own choices, and provides the same resources available to upper middle-class citizens? Never!
What has happened to our sense of decency—and shame? Free societies cannot survive with this kind of callous disregard for the needs of the people.
At some point, our leaders had better remember that what is good for the cultural elite is also good for the common man. And if we ever lose that belief, we lose the trust that makes free societies possible.
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.