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Keeping Score

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

On Wednesday I was invited by the former national political reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dick Polman, who is now the "Writer-in-Residence" at the University of Pennsylvania which is the best title in the history of titles.

• •

Now that I know that the title "Writer-in-Residence" actually exists in academe I am going to petition Marietta College Marietta, Ohio 45750 to appoint me "Writer-in-Residence" so long as the "Residence" in question is a bar I tend to frequent when I visit there, and not some stuffy classroom filled with teenagers who think modern music is … music.

As I was invited to speak on the campus of an Ivy League University (I have previously spoken at Harvard but neither Harvard nor I have made a big deal about it) I decided I should be smarter than I am normally which is not a particularly high bar to get over.

In one of the sessions, Polman read a quote by David Frum (whom I very much like and admire) saying that the GOP has made a huge, if not potentially fatal, error by embracing the 2013 budget as proposed by the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan.

I don't remember the exact quote, but Frum held that embracing tax cuts for the rich, cutting programs which affect the poor, and reducing Medicare benefits for everyone, might be good policy, but is bad politics.

Polman asked me if I agreed with Frum.

"No," I said (as nearly as I can remember, for I was trying to be smart).

Dick Polman literally flinched when I said that but, undaunted (and having learned I would be paid for this visit), I continued.

"David has bought into the Liberal method of scorekeeping," I said.

I said to the students in the room that the New York public school system is, by every measure, dreadful. If we doubled the amount of money we spent on the New York public schools, did anyone think it would be better? Or would it simply be a more expensive failure?

No one challenged me. And these are actual students who have actually been found worthy of attending the University of Pennsylvania, not just some schlug who drove up from Washington for the day.

I further said it seemed to me that if we could provide the same or better services at a lower cost that would be a good thing. I said that Medicare "as we know it" is unsustainable and someone better come up with a better system or not only with Medicare go broke but it will bring down the entire economy of the United States.

I might not have said that last part, but it is true, nonetheless.

I am not, as you know, the poster child for Conservative thought in the United States. The last guy who asked me for political and/sor policy advice was Fred Thompson and you saw how well that turned out for him.

But, I am correct about this: It is a matter of score-keeping.

We cannot continue to score everything based upon the amount of money we are spending. We must begin keeping score based upon how well - or badly - a program is doing whatever it was designed to do.

It would be as if Major League Baseball games were decided on which side used up more baseballs during the course of the game, rather than which side scored more runs.

We have become so enamored with "process" that we have learned to completely ignore the outcome.

The simple question every taxpayer should ask of every program he or she is paying for is: Is it working?

If it's not; redesign it, replace it, or cut it.

I have not read the Ryan budget and I don't think (not withstanding my three hours on the Penn campus) I would understand it if I did. But, I do know this: We can't afford to fund failed programs. We need to design new programs to help the people who need it.

We have to change the way we keep score.

Happy Easter or Happy Passover if either suits. Reach out to your family.

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