Michele Bachmann said something really interesting in the debate last night that got overlooked in the general furor about Rick Perry’s memory lapse: she said that even poor people should pay something in federal income taxes.
Bachmann suggested $10, which she described as the price of two McDonald’s Happy Meals. That somehow sounds about right. Only if people have first-hand experience of being on the paying side of the tax system can they vote responsibly on issues related to fiscal policy.
What jogged my memory about Bachmann’s idea was a piece in the Wall Street Journal this morning about philanthropist Ted Forstmann, who with fellow-one-percenter John Walton started the Children's Scholarship Fund. CSF raises money to help parents of inner-city children send their kids to schools of their choice.
The CSF, which enjoys support from both prominent Democrats and Republicans, is a truly bipartisan operation that contributes scholarship money that is typically $2,000 or less for a family. Like Bachmann, Forstmann believes that paying a fair share is good for everybody:
Mr. Forstmann has long argued that all the money dumped into public education budgets misses the element most crucial to the schools' success: active parental involvement.
His solution to getting them in the game has been requiring the parents to contribute between 25% and 75% of the scholarship award, based on need. That's it. The parents can pick any private school they desire.
Many go straight to neighborhood parochial schools, once the sturdy adjunct to many urban public systems. Asked how they assure the quality of the choices, Scholarship Fund President Darla Romfo says, "We don't decide what is a good school; they do." And if they don't like that school, they're free to switch the scholarship to another.