By Anna Edlund
Pay to play politics is unfortunately the new, hot topic of the week.
For those following Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as education secretary, it has been, to say the least, grizzly. A billionaire with deep political ties to the Republican establishment and even deeper pockets, she is completely unprepared and unqualified for the job she has inherited.
Her nomination required a first-time ever vote by leader of the Senate, Vice President Pence, to gain the majority vote needed for confirmation.
During a skewering interrogation from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, DeVos was asked about her experience with public schools, higher education and federal loan programs.
Has she ever overseen a trillion, or even billion dollar loan program? No.
Has she ever taken out a federal student loan? No. Have her children? No.
Nor has DeVos ever attended or taught at a public school.
In short, she has absolutely no experience or qualification to be within 50 yards of our Department of Education, let alone at its helm. This isn’t a radical statement.
For college students, this looks especially grim. Student debt is only getting worse as paying for college becomes more difficult. Not to mention the oft-quoted numbers of our public education. In the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment, the U.S. ranked 19th in science, 20th in reading and 31st in mathematics out of 35 developed countries. Now, more than ever, we need competence. At the very least.
There has been plenty of recent controversial cabinet nominations to get fired up about, but this goes beyond simple partisanship.
DeVos’s pick delves into a dangerous territory where, regardless of the political ramifications, pure ineptitude comes into play. This is a clear cut case of an individual who has contributed huge sums of money to a political party being granted power. Money greases the wheels of politics. It shouldn’t be used to bypass them entirely.
The worst thing we can do is normalize this. Don’t take at face value the notion that billionaire financiers can buy their way into the top levels of government whenever it happens. Don’t accept that someone as appallingly unready to spearhead education in the U.S. can get there by wealth alone. Despite overwhelming outcry against her, all but two GOP senators voted against her confirmation. Is accountability too much to ask for?
And ultimately, don’t ignore it when more things like this happen. This is certainly only the first of many, many times someone with the correct financial motivations will be put into office. It’s our job to educate ourselves and those around us. Because it looks like the federal government certainly won’t.