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Here we see the immense power of the legitimating myth: by discussing it as though the issue had something to do with the efficiency of markets or the freedom of consumer choice, the defense of a functionless pool of profits can be made to seem a legitimate political position. The expansion of Medicare to provide a drug benefit to senior citizens illustrates how the system works when a compromise is reached. In this case, a new benefit was delivered, meeting a need that had grown greater over the years as the composition of medical care shifted increasingly toward chemical and pharmaceutical therapies. But the program was done in such a way as to make payments to drug companies as large as possible. Notoriously, the U.S. government was prohibited by law from negotiating bulk discounts on the drugs purchased for the programdiscounts routinely exacted by other government agencies, such as the Veterans Administration. \(Before the benefit was enacted, there had been developing a minor industry of exports and imports, as U.S.-made drugs were shipped to Canada, sold at the lower prices negotiated by Canadian public authorities, and reimported to the United States. Needless to say, although this arbitrage reflected one of the better moments for free trade, it did not win favor drug benefit thus helped to ensure that a monopoly price on pharmaceuticals would be paid, while shifting the burden of paying it, in part, to the general taxpayer. Schools have been a bastion of American public effort for nearly two centuries, and they are today on the front lines of the Predator State. Early in the Bush administration, policy toward the public schools took the form of advancing voucherization, a system that would have allowed a partial state subsidy for alternative schooling, encouraging middle-class parents to take their children to the private sector. \(Such a system exists in Chile, having been created by the military guised purpose was to get public funding into the hands of for-profit and religious entities, which would then set up voucher-eligible schools. The clients of this new system would have been middle-class parents unhappy with the public schools, able to spend something from their own pockets on their own children’s schooling, but not willing to pay for private schools on top of the taxes that support their local school board. Vouchers would in effect permit those parents to pull their property tax payments from the public system. The idea of vouchers, whose origins go back to Milton Friedman himself, once again rested on a rhetoric of markets, competition, freedom, and “school choice.” But by and large, the public has not been persuaded: vouchers enjoy little public support, and the proportion of American children attending public school has so far not materially declined. It developed that even most middle-class Americans were not sufficiently unhappy with the public schools their children were actually in to risk confiding their children to schools not yet in existence, whether run by for-profit educational corporations or by churches. Nor were they willing, as a group, to desert the social and community networks that in many American communities are organized around the public school systems. Taking stock, the Bush team switched its emphasis to No Child Left Behind, a program that expanded federal spending on public schools while imposing an intense testing regimen on them. Forms of predatory free enterprise in which certain Bush family members participated \(selling test preparation larger effect of NCLB was to foment middle-class discontent with public schools, for three reasons. First, the testing regimes cut deeply into the flexibility and creativity in the classroom, discouraging creative professionals from becoming teachers and demoralizing many who remained. Second, the emphasis on teaching to the test undermined educators’ attention to and the resources available for untestable programs, including art, music, and athletics. And third, the harsh evaluation regime behind the tests themselves worked to label, and therefore to stigmatize, certain schools as failing. From the standpoint of both parents and teachers, schools that were judged to be failing by the test results sometimes were not. But this was beside the point: a bad test result could have serious, even catastrophic effects on reputation and funding, precipitating middle-class flight from the system. In this way, NCLB would feed the demand for vouchers later on. From The Predator State by James K. Galbraith. Copyright 2008 by James Galbraith. Reprinted by permission of Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. SEPTEMBER 5, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21