HILL: Tearing down Berlin Walls to liberation and prosperity

** FILE ** In this June 12, 1987 file photo U.S. President Reagan acknowledges the crowd after his speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, where he said "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!'. On Tuesday June 12, 2007, It will be the 20th anniversary of the moment seen by many to be the start of a new age for politics. Applauding Reagan are West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, right, and West German Parliament President Philipp Jenninger, left. (AP PHOTO/Ira Schwartz)

President Ronald Reagan famously inserted his signature “Mr. Gorbachev: Tear Down This Wall!” line in his Berlin Wall speech in June of 1987 over the objections of his bureaucratic State Department advisors. 

There are two government programs that are “Berlin Walls” to prosperity and liberation of the American spirit today — public education at the state level and Social Security at the national level. 

American life is defined by every individual’s right to choose. Many government programs, even though administered by bureaucrats, allow individuals to use government money and resources to get what they want, not what the government tells them to get. The GI Bill allows military personnel and veterans the choice to decide where to go to college or grad school, and then pays for it in full. The VA loan program helps veterans who want to buy a house wherever they choose to get a loan at slightly discounted interest rates. Food stamps can be used at any grocery or food store by recipients. Medicare and Medicaid recipients don’t have to go to a government hospital or physician — they get to choose which provider to use, as long as they take Medicare or Medicaid, of course. 

One place where there is very little choice is in our nation’s public schools. Corey A. DeAngelis, a senior fellow at Reason Foundation and the National Director of Research at American Federation for Children, has pointed out that COVID forced parents to look very closely at what their children were being taught during the lockdowns of public schools. In many cases, when it came to Critical Race Theory or social indoctrination, they did not like it very much at all in terms of content and quality, as evidenced in the recent Virginia elections. 

Around 75,000 students left the North Carolina public education system in the last year. They are now either in private schools or homeschooled by resourceful parents, many of whom are now teaching their kids in pod systems, whether online or in the neighborhood. 

Republican leaders in the NCGA significantly expanded Opportunity Scholarships in the most recent budget to help more lower-income families afford to send their kids to schools outside of the public education system. There are 1.34 million children in North Carolina public schools today, 127,000 of which are in public charter schools, which have much more flexibility to meet the needs of students than traditional schools. There are 107,000 students in private schools and 162,000 in home schools. 

Why shouldn’t every parent and child have the ability to decide where to go get educated just like the Opportunity Scholarship recipients?  

In a similar manner, Boomers are trapped in an archaic, soviet-style defined-benefit retirement plan, Social Security, which has the added detriment of being in technical bankruptcy. Boomers now retiring can expect to see a return of maybe, possibly 1% or less after decades of paying big taxes to Social Security.  

I hate to break this to you Gen-Xers and Millennials, but you are not going to get any positive financial return on your “contributions” (aka “forced payroll taxes”) to Social Security when you retire. You will be lucky to get back all of the money that you put in Social Security in the first place. Welcome to your own “Berlin Wall” of forced government-mandated retirement insecurity. 

Everyone should have choice when it comes to public education or Social Security. President Reagan said it best a long ago: 

Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe. . . . Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German, separated from his fellow men. Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar. . . . As long as this gate is closed, as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand, it is not the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind. . . . 

    General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. 

    Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! 

    Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!