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Dana Milbank: A perfect curriculum

I tip my 10-gallon hat to the Texas school board, which just voted to “streamline” the public-school curriculum in a way that will surely Make America Great Again.

The board, on which Republicans have a two-thirds majority, agreed with recommendations that it is “not necessary” for students to learn about Hillary Clinton, Helen Keller or the father of modern conservatism, Barry Goldwater, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Eleanor Roosevelt and Betty Friedan were also deemed “not necessary” by a working group, which undertook an intriguing ranking of historical figures: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln fell short of perfect scores, but “local members of the Texas legislature” scored a perfect 20 of 20, as did “military and first responders.”

The board decided to save 40 minutes of third-graders’ time by sparing them a lesson on how government services are paid for. But it did preserve the one teaching that “Arab rejection of the State of Israel has led to ongoing conflict.”

My favorite: the decision to strike from the fourth-grade curriculum a lesson about “holding public officials to their word.” (Killing this topic, deemed “not being grade appropriate,” should save kids 30 minutes, the board estimates.)

Some will take this as evidence that politicians should not write lesson plans. But I think Texas has done a great service. Indeed, if we are to survive the current era without succumbing to terminal cases of cognitive dissonance, we must eliminate all lessons, at all grade levels, on “holding public officials to their word.” (For maximum relief, it would also help to strike all lessons involving “math” or “economics.”)

Abandoning the obsolete teaching that public officials should be held accountable would make us all feel better about current affairs. Applying the veil of ignorance to our eyes, we would no longer be troubled to discover that:

Despite President Trump’s promise that the $1.5 trillion tax cut would not benefit rich people, the rich can now write off 100 percent of their multimillion-dollar corporate jet purchases — double their previous benefit, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Despite Trump’s promise that corporations would devote their vast tax savings to job creation and raises for their workers, executives are instead using the windfall primarily on stock buybacks that benefit themselves and their shareholders. A Goldman Sachs report finds that repurchases of company stock (which push up share values) were up nearly 50 percent, to $384 billion, in the first half of 2018, eclipsing capital expenditures.

Despite the Trump administration’s promise that, as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin put it, “not only will this tax plan pay for itself, but it will pay down debt,” the Congressional Budget Office reports that the government had a deficit of $895 billion over the past 11 months — up 33 percent from a year earlier — as corporate tax receipts plunged 30 percent. As The Washington Post’s Damian Paletta and Erica Werner observed, the last time unemployment was at the current 3.9 percent, in 2000, the government ran a surplus.

Despite Trump’s promise to eliminate the debt, it has grown from $19.9 trillion to $21.5 trillion, with trillions more set to be added by the tax cuts (House Republicans just proposed another $650 billion cut) and higher spending despite a strong economy.

Despite Trump’s drain-the-swamp promises, FEMA Administrator William “Brock” Long is the latest person in his orbit to earn the attention of federal prosecutors — this time an inspector general’s referral over his use of taxpayer funds to commute home to North Carolina. Three Trump Cabinet officials were forced out over similar travel-related issues. Five former Trump advisers already have federal convictions for a range of wrongdoing.

Despite Trump’s assurance a month ago that Paul Manafort “happens to be a very good person” in part because he “refused to ‘break’” under pressure from prosecutors, the former Trump campaign chairman has admitted that over a decade he laundered more than $30 million, cheated the United States of $15 million in taxes, secretly lobbied for a repressive government in Ukraine (attempting to enlist “Obama Jews” and Israeli officials to pressure the administration) and tampered with witnesses.

Now Trump has escalated a trade war with China, adding tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports and drawing fast retaliation. Higher prices on consumer goods will follow.

But Trump’s millionaire commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, announced on CNBC that “nobody’s going to actually notice it.” Ross, who probably won’t notice the price increases personally, previously held up a can of Campbell’s soup on TV and said nobody “in the world is going to be bothered” by increased steel prices.

I won’t be bothered, because I’ve learned my lesson: Holding public officials to their word is no longer on the books.

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

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