I hope you saw our interview with the comptroller of the United States last week, where he admitted that billions of taxpayer dollars simply cannot be accounted for.

Now comes word that public school fourth graders in the U.S. still can't read very well. In fact, the latest statistics just released last week show an astounding 63 percent of black fourth graders can barely read at all. And 60 percent of all the poor children in this country read well below the basic level.

The new secretary of education, Roderick Paige, is quoted as saying that after spending $125 billion in Title I money, the federal government has achieved basically nothing in poor school districts.

So, the president, who was so concerned about the children, Bill Clinton, failed dismally to help poor kids get educated in his eight years in office. Now, President Bush gets a crack at it. But if Mr. Bush thinks that money is the answer, he will fail, as well.

While working Americans take a beating in their paychecks, the federal government can't admit to what the real problem is in the nation's public schools: the lack of discipline and accountability.

Here's the deal. No American child should be promoted out of the second grade unable to read. What the heck are children who can't read doing in the fourth grade anyway? What is that? I'll tell you what it is, brutally unfair to these kids and to the taxpayers. We are subsidizing the public school system and that system, generally speaking, is corrupt and ineffective, especially in the poorer neighborhoods, where parental supervision is often lacking.

It doesn't cost big money to teach kids how to read or to have clean and orderly schools. What it takes is caring and no nonsense policies of achievement. You either pass the test or get left back, period. And if the teachers can't get most of the children to pass, they should be out the door and the union can go scratch themselves.

I estimate that half of all the tax money you forked over today is wasted on foolish programs or stolen outright. All this week, The O'Reilly Factor will zero in on blatant misuse of taxpayer money. We will tell you the stories from the trenches and if you care about your country, you'll be outraged.

Finally, this fact. If a kid can't read by the time he's 10 years old, his future is almost assured. He will be poor or trapped in a hopeless life. Reading is not an option, it is a necessity. Sixty-three percent of all black students in the fourth grade in America's public schools can't read. Read that and weep.

And that's the memo.

Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

Against my better judgment, I am going to give Sean Combs — no relation to Alan — more publicity because he is a consistently ridiculous guy. Sean, not Alan.

Latest incident happened in South Beach, where the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy but now known as something equally inane was pulled over by Miami Beach police for erratically driving his motor scooter, or whatever the heck these things are called. Anyway, a check on Combs's license showed it had expired. So he was booked and released.

You know, some guys are just ridiculous, and it really doesn't matter what they do, they'll still be ridiculous.

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