Mona Charen
President Obama has declined to outline a second term agenda. He doesn't say what he would do about the fiscal cliff that looms in just a couple of months. He hasn't addressed the glaring challenge of an aging population and entitlement spending that is careening toward insolvency. (On the contrary, he has significantly hastened the emergency by piling on new entitlement spending.) He hasn't proposed policies to improve the economy. He promises nothing more on Iran than to maintain ineffective sanctions.

We can glean this much: He'd like to hire 100,000 new teachers and he wants to raise taxes on "millionaires and billionaires." That's a flimsy agenda for a great nation. Does it even make sense?

Let's start with the teachers. This may be an old-fashioned idea, but shouldn't states and localities decide how many teachers they need? Isn't it just possible that Bangor, Me. might need fewer teachers and Yuma, Ariz. might need more?

We've been hiring greater numbers of teachers for decades now, casting our ballots for candidates who promise that a vote for more teachers is a vote for a better future. In the process, we dramatically reduced class sizes and boosted the power of the teachers' unions. As education reformer Jay Greene points out, in 1970 public schools employed one teacher for every 22.3 students. By 2012, the public schools employed one teacher for every 15.2 students. Yet student achievement has remained stubbornly flat during that period. The best evidence suggests that teacher quality, not class size, is the best guarantor of student success. And those goals may be in conflict. When you hire more teachers, there's less money available to offer higher salaries to better teachers.

So Obama's 100,000 new teachers proposal is at once an affront to federalism, a sop to the unions, and a waste of precious resources that could be better used to actually improve public education.

The second part of the president's plan is to force "millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share" of taxes. First: a translation. When Obama refers to millionaires and billionaires, he's talking about those earning $200,000 per year for an individual or $250,000 per year for a couple. That's the actual proposal. So if you are in that income group, congratulations, you're a millionaire or billionaire!

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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