Betsy DeVos

What DeVos Should Have Said

Donald Trump's education secretary nominee is being considered by the Senate.


Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, probably survived the grilling she got from angry Democrats last week.

When Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) demanded she promise not "to privatize public schools," DeVos replied, "Not all schools are working for the students."

When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) asked her to make "universities tuition free," DeVos replied, "I think that's a really interesting idea (but) there's nothing in life that's truly free."

Those answers were fine. I suppose it's important for a nominee to be polite.

But what I wish she'd said was: "No, Sen. Murray, I won't promise not to privatize! Didn't you notice the mess government schemes create? Many government-run schools are lousy! Private is better!"

"Sen. Sanders, how clueless can you be? Your 'free' stuff is already bankrupting America! Your 'free' health care plan was rejected by your own state—once your fellow Democrats did the math. Then your wife bankrupted Burlington College! You call yourself 'socialist!' Haven't you noticed that socialism wrecks people's lives? You should resign in shame!"

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) demanded DeVos explain what she will do about schools like Donald Trump's "fake university… I am curious how the Trump administration would protect against waste, fraud and abuse at similar for-profit colleges."

DeVos tried, "If confirmed, I will certainly be very vigilant…"

"How?" interrupted Warren, who went on to sneer, "You're going to give that to someone else to do?"

Warren's attack was absurd because Trump University was not an actual college that received federal funding. As the Cato Institute's Neal McCluskey points out, "Of course it wasn't, and the education secretary did not have jurisdiction over it."

What DeVos should have said: "I would do nothing about Trump University, you smearmonger! Trump U has nothing to do with schools that get federal money. Do you conflate the two just to make profit the villain?"

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked DeVos whether students' learning should be assessed based on "proficiency or growth." Proficiency means a third-grader masters third-grade-level work. Growth means improvement—that's fairer to disadvantaged students, who start from behind. DeVos began, "I would … correlate it to competency and mastery…"

"That's growth. That's not proficiency," interrupted Franken, suggesting that DeVos didn't understand education terms.

DeVos should have said: "Senator, neither measure is fair to teachers or kids! The proficiency vs. growth argument is a by-product of your stupid No Child Left Behind law. Such federal micromanagement is terrible because every kid is different. That's why your opposition to choice is destructive. Of course, you don't even know how bad many government-run schools are. You sent your kids to a private school that charges $44,000 tuition. Get real, Al!"

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Ct.) demanded that DeVos support a ban on guns in schools. DeVos replied, "That is best left to locales and states."

Murphy was incredulous. "You can't say definitively, today, that guns shouldn't be in schools?!"

Earlier at the hearing, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wy.) mentioned a Wyoming school that has "a grizzly bear fence." So DeVos joked that there was "probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies."

The New York Times called that comment an "internet punchline." GQ called DeVos "Horribly Embarrassing in Every Way" and, oversimplifying the issue, said that "she thinks guns belong in schools because of … grizzlies."

What DeVos should have said: "Senator! Have you no understanding of federalism? You think Washington, or you, know what's best for all schools in America? As education secretary, I don't have the power to ban guns. No federal official does! Read the Constitution, you ignorant control freak!"

OK. This is fantasy. No nominee can be that rude to politicians who have power over her.

But I can wish, can't I?


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  1. Man I love Stossel. I can’t help but read his articles with his voice in my head.

    I found myself a little disappointed there weren’t enough zingers in her responses. Some of the questions in these hearings are just off the wall stupid.

    1. Me too. He writes how he talks.

      Stossel is by far the best.

      1. If she had actually talked back to the senators like that, she likely wouldn’t have been confirmed.

        Nice to expound on libertarian principles, but a senate confirmation hearing where they can withhold your ability to get appointed and put those principles in action is not the right place.

        Plus, I doubt her first move if appointed will be to fire every employee in the DOE because their jobs aren’t authorized under Article I, Section 8.

        /wet blanket

        1. Minor detail; she will be confirmed, because “elections have consequences, and we won”.
          The democrats can delay to a minor extent, but not block any nomination other than Supreme Court judges.

          1. The democrats can delay to a minor extent, but not block any nomination other than Supreme Court judges.

            Article II, Section 2, Clause 2

            He(the President) shall have the Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

            There are nearly 1200 executive offices that require Senate approval — which can be blocked with a filibuster


            Thus, for example, it’s now impossible to seat a Supreme Court Justice committed to overturning Roe v Wade (which would also violate the Ninth Amendment.)

    2. It is said that there is no such thing as a stupid question, only stupid people to ask them.

      Proggies are easily summed up by Warren’s “the metric is money.” They don’t need to think. They don’t need to plan. They don’t need to consider unintended consequences. Money is fucking fairy dust and if they take it from evil capitalists and sprinkle it around, all the world’s problems will be solved. Who cares how much is wasted? They can always squeeze for more until the nations that host them like money-sucking ticks suffer the fate they all eventually do when exclusively run by pinkos.

      1. “The metric is money” is sort of like saying that it’s the speedometer that makes the car go fast. Everyone but leftists know that it’s the motor that makes it go.

  2. Stuart Smalley and Pocahontas are the worst. I was begging for DeVos to ask them what their grand qualifications were to be national legislators. They were picked by their constituents. DeVos was picked by the president. Seems like equal “qualifications” for the job.

    1. Not at all. The analogy doesn’t remotely hold up.

      It makes sense, when considering a job candidate, to ask for their qualifications. In the case of Sens. Smalley and Pocahontas, those doing the hiring are the states (nowadays, the voters) of Minnesota and Massachusetts respectively. They present their qualifications to those electorates, who then consider the qualifications when deciding whether to hire them. The analog of said electorates, for the hiring of executive branch employees, is the U.S. President and Senate. It is their job to demand Ms. DeVos’s qualifications and determine if they are sufficient, as they are doing. What, is it an act of hubris for them to do so or something? I don’t get it.

      I don’t like having to defend a woman who openly declares that she measures the success of government programs by how much money they manage to spend. But your shit scares me.

      1. The thought I see going around from my public school teacher relatives on Facebook is that the only person qualified to be Secretary of Education is someone with an education degree, i.e. someone from their guild. They tend to hold the idea of public schools as an end in themselves, with an almost holy mission.

        1. Ha! The Attorney General doesn’t even need to be an attorney. (Although the Solicitor General does, since he is the one to actually represent the government in court.)

          I have a lot of respect for teachers, but no offense to your family, all teachers whose intelligence I have ever respected have had no trouble recognizing education schools as factories of the purest grade-A bullshit this side of chiropractic college.

          1. I really don’t have a lot of respect for (public school) teachers. They’re one of the most overpaid, underworked, undereducated yet overcredentialed professions on the planet, and yet so many of them act like their job is pure charity work and that they’re curing the blind for free and all they ask for is a modest tip.

  3. I know this is wishful thinking, but I feel like any mentally stable person following these hearings should be coming away with the impression that the Democrats in the senate are making themselves look like a bunch of frothing belligerent retards.

    1. No man they totally destroyed her!!!!

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  5. (fifth comment and still beat out by and ad-bot)

    If only Libertarians, Conservatives and Republicans fought as hard as Progressive’s. But without the immoral tactics.

    1. Frankly, most of the ‘hard fighting’ progs do are just immoral tactics

    2. Progressive’s

      I’ll call that “the public education apostrophe.”

  6. Of course, you don’t even know how bad many government-run schools are. You sent your kids to a private school that charges $44,000 tuition. Get real, Al!”

    Of course, you – Al Franken – don’t even know how bad many government-run schools are. You – Al Franken – sent your kids to a private school that charges $44,000 tuition. Get real, Al!”


  7. Lend her your moustache so that she has the appropriate mien for these angry zingers, John

  8. “But what I wish she’d said was . . .”

    Pace yourself, Mr. Stossel. It’s going to be a long four years.

  9. Mr. Stossel, you should be nominated for a Cabinet position!!

  10. “OK. This is fantasy. No nominee can be that rude to politicians who have power over her.”

    Why? I’d tell these morons they are fucking morons to their faces while on camera for all to see. These sacks of shit need to be called what they are.

    1. Fortunately, she appears to want to reform the Education Department more than she does call the Senate sacks of shit. Though perhaps it would be fun–and I don’t see why we couldn’t do this–if we had both. The President has a first nominee for each position who basically gets up there and calls it like it is to everyone’s faces, then gets negged. The second one is the one who’s intended to fly through low and actually govern.

      1. Great idea.

      2. If I was nominated if do that so I wouldn’t get the job and get to call out the senators.

      3. Recall Robert Bork who kept us amused for three days while intellectually slapping around the likes of Titty Kennedy until being denied his SCOTUS appointment. Reagan quickly runs in a guy even more conservative and black to boot. Though they tried Thomas was much harder to demagogue .

        1. Didn’t Bush nominate Thomas? And Reagan, the guy who started it all out by nominating O’Connor, end up filling the Bork seat with Anthony Kennedy (after the controversy over “Professor Tokes” Ginsburg?)

          I’m a lot more textualist than most here (and anti-Obergefell and pro-death penalty to boot, so definitely no love for Kennedy) but even I am glad Bork got borked.

          1. ^addendum: Bush nominated Thomas after Souter, at that. Good Lord.

    2. Patience, lads, that day may yet come. But for the moment let everyone play all nicey-nice to get through the confirmation hearings. Once they have been appointed they can take a more combative tone. And you know that the senate will waste no opportunity to call them back for hearings on actual ongoing policies and actions. Remember, it’s much easier to derail a nomination than it is to impeach an appointee.

  11. Whip it real good?

    1. I was under the impression that one merely whips it good, and that one pushes it real good.

      1. I stand corrected:)

      2. *stands to vigorously applaud

  12. Most of these confirmation hearings are simply opportunities for senators (on both sides) to grandstand and generate soundbites for distribution to their respective media channels. They have absolutely nothing to do with vetting a candidate for office.

    1. ^This. Political theater.

      1. It’s theatrics all the way down.

        I mean, i sort of get the impression that Bernie believes in it, but he’s a special* case.

        *THAT kind of special

        1. Don’t be too hard on him, he’s just upset that the Dodgers left Brooklyn.

          *no, seriously*

          1. Dim, obsessive, adolescent. That’s Bernie and his wordlview, alright.

          2. “I thought the dodgers belonged to Brooklyn.” Because things automatically belong to the people who happened to live near them, not the people who bought them.

            This does elucidate a lot though. There’s a strong association between socialist rejection of private property and the childish ‘possessive phase.’ When the kid sharing his toys with you has to go home, you shout “mine!” because in your juvenile mind you think him letting you play with his toys somehow makes them yours. Unfortunately some people never grow up.

        2. “Don’t mock the afflicted” – George Gobel

      2. Looked more like experimental theater at some of these confirmation hearings.

    2. Yep. Frankenfans, Bern victims, and Warrenites can post shit their heroes said all over Facebook without reference to DeVos’s responses, and everyone else will just get on with living.

  13. Thanks, Mr. Stossel, for another wonderful article. Please, Sir, may we have more?

      1. That is a rather disturbing masturbation euphemism.

        1. Well, I’d prefer him waving the ladle rather than a cup of gruel.

  14. If DeVos had said those things, my unionized public school teacher relatives would even be more despairing about her than they are. Of course, they also think Bernie Sanders is some kind of sage, so they come by it honestly.

  15. I’ve heard that Francisco d’Anconia likes Stossel.

    1. You’re thinking of David Schultz.

  16. No offense, but on what grounds could the federal education secretary pledge to privatize state and county run schools anyway? Can she give grants or vouchers to students of public and private schools alike? Yes, unless the church of state tries to ban it on threatening their establishment of religion. Freeze public schools out of vouchers altogether? Maybe, but it will be very unpopular. Shut a state school down because she doesn’t like it? That would be a power grab that would even make progs balk.

    1. I’ve always wondered why people think vouchers violate the federal establishment of religion prohibition. These people get animated over that but never say a peep about the same issue for the GI bill, Medicare, Medicaid, the earned income tax credit, food stamps, etc. etc. All those programs provide federal money to consumers to use any way they like, including at religious organizations.

    2. What she can do is deny federal funding to states that don’t liberalize (I.e., greater school choice) their school systems.

      I maintain that conservatives (and libertarians, if any had power) should use federal funding the way Johnson used it agai st segregation in the states: as a bludgeon to make them change policy. Make states lower the min wage, deregulate housing, implement school choice in order to get funds. If Johnson could do it, why can’t they?

      1. Make states lower the min wage, deregulate housing, implement school choice in order to get funds. If Johnson could do it, why can’t they?

        Johnson was not libertarian.
        Libertarians do not use force to “make” people do what we prefer.

        1. It would not be ‘force.’ States aren’t entitled to unconditional federal funding.

          Perhaps one would argue, “but the states still have to pay federal taxes! Why should they be denied funding?!” Well then, maybe the progs in those states should jump on the bandwagon for lowering federal taxes.

          1. It would not be ‘force.’

            I quoted you.

            Perhaps one would argue, “but the states still have to pay federal taxes! Why should they be denied funding?!”

            States don’t pay taxes.

            A better argument is … how will you convince Congress to punish their own voters, to “make” the states do something against their will?

            Maybe the progs in those states should jump on the bandwagon for lowering federal taxes.

            Conservatives wouldn’t do it either. And federal taxes, as their name implies, are not a state function

            Are you aware this is a libertarian site? We don’t take kindly to authoritarian diktats — even for outcomes we might prefer. Authoritarians diktats are … authoritarian.

            Are we clear that (a) LBJ was not a libertarian. And (b) segregation is/was an issue of equal rights?
            Eisenhower sent federal troops to oppose segregation. Do you advocate that also, to enforce your diktats? Eisenhower had the 14th Amendment and a Supreme Court decision, which is how we govern in America.

  17. I’m a big fan of stossel but that second page was just gratuitous and unnecessary (as in the page itself, not the content)

  18. If the commies want to intimidate cowardly nominees into obeying their edicts, they need only pass them as laws. Then the appointees will have to comply. So what they are saying is “I want you to promise to obey my personal imaginary law which my colleagues would rather shoot down and burn than pass.” The rule of social pressure thus replaces the rule of victimless crime law and similar daily usurpations.

  19. Stossel says it’s more important to keep saying how stupid government is. Devos believes it’s more important to describe how to achieve better outcomes for our children and grandchildren.

    Of the two, which is the one who actually achieves things. And which should pay attention to, and learn from, the other? There will be a test on Friday. You will be graded on your results, not your talk.

    1. You sure you want to go there as a libertarian?

      1. Of course. Libertarians prefer achievement (of liberty) over talk. (about liberty) Why don’t you?
        Or are you saying that tribal labels are more important than actual achievement?

  20. “DeVos began, “I would … correlate it to competency and mastery…”

    “That’s growth. That’s not proficiency,” interrupted Franken, suggesting that DeVos didn’t understand education terms”

    Okay, for starters I acknowledge that I am not indoctrinated into the official Newspeak that is particular to education policy.

    That said, how the fuck would you consider “competency and mastery” to be terms that reflect assessments of growth; not proficiency? Is “growth” anything other than a change in the level of proficiency over time? Words like competence and mastery reflect one’s position; one’s level; one’s proficiency. They don’t reflect a change to that level over time.

    1. You win. But you already knew that!

    2. Franken is just illustrating that he’s a vapid sciolist. Sciolist: word of the day.

      1. Sciolism has nothing at all to do with THAT remark by Franken. Neither does socialism

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    3. Franken was clearly fed the question as a gotcha to show that she was not up on the latest debate. Before the hearing was even over their minions in the media were circulating clips from the hearing and explaining that everyone knows those terms and she obviously doesn’t so she is not qualified.

      They also circulated the bit about her reforms in Detroit being a failure, all counterfactuals notwithstanding. It was a coordinated smear campaign with select journalists being in on the plan. You can tell because they got their articles out so quickly and with the same excerpts and language.

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