Archives for category: Economy

While most people are struggling with a tough economy, nine tycoons cleaned up last year.

Nine tycoons took home more than $2.6 billion, according to the Wall Street Joirnal.

“Nine founders of four of the world’s largest private-equity firms together collected the sum–more than twice as much as they made in the prior year–through dividends and other payments. The executives each took home more than $160 million…”

Nice work if you can get it.

From Angie Sullivan in Nevada, where the rich play, kep taxes low, and are privatizing the public schools:

“Some of the most wealthy people in the world live in Nevada.

What do billionaires and business people do for fun in Nevada?

Reform public education of course!

What do Casino Tycoon Elaine Wynn, Jeff Bezos, and Zappos Tony Hsieh have in common? Teach for America and ALEC inspired education reform. The return on investment model should be applied everywhere!

All this experimentation with public education – without research or time tested results , wouldn’t bother me so much if the situation were not so financially dire in the State of Nevada. Last in the nation in funding, huge at-risk populations, and limited funds to siphon for billionaire fly-by-night ideas.

Did you know that Nevada will vote on a 2% tax on businesses earning $1 million or more in November 2014? This has our education reforming billionaires really twisted. Nevada is one of the few states that does not tax corporations. This attracts billionaires who are adverse to paying . . . anything.

Did you know that Jeff Bezos the founder and CEO of has a warehouse outside of Fernley, Nevada in the desert?

Did you know that this ecommerce company pays taxes based on location of warehouse?

Did you know that has a history of union-busting and treating labor poorly to maximize income?

Did you know that is a known tax evader and does all it can to not pay its fair share?

Did you know Jeff Bezos belonged to ALEC and ALEC aided him with his loopholes?

Did you know that Jeff Bezos is really excited by charter schools, privatization and union-busting? Bad news for public schools.

Did you know that bought Zappos?

Did you know that Tony Hsieh is the founder and still works at Zappos – which is now located in downtown Las Vegas – revitalizing the area?

Did you know that Tony Hsieh is involved with Teach for America and plans to continue to bring at least 1,000 TFA to Vegas?

Teach for America are young and excited but they aren’t trained to be teachers – unless you think a few weeks is enough. 150 Teach for America were hired in Vegas at the same time 1400 fully licensed Teachers were pink slipped resulting in union-busting.

Did you know TFA mingle with Zappos employees, even going on spring break trips and retreats together?

Did you know that Victor Wakefield, Executive Director of Teach for America, is married to Nevada State School board member (former TFA) Alexis Gonsalez-Black, Zappos?

Did you know that Elaine Wynn, Casino Tycoon, and Tony Hsieh, Zappos donated heavily to the Nevada State Election Campaigns of Alexis Gonsalez-Black and Allison Serafin? President Elaine Wynn, Alexis Gonsalez-Black and Allison Serafin who all have connections to big money and Teach for America sit on the Nevada State Education Board. Hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars spent on unpaid board seats — one has to ask . . . why?

Did you know that during the last legislative session the NV assembly prevented TFA from receiving additional tax payer funds for its non-profit. And TFA then went to CCSD and asked for additional funds – this was rejected. And then TFA went to the City of Las Vegas – and received money from the city . . . unprecedented “education funding” to a cash flushed non-profit? Public Schools recently endured one billion in budget cuts but there is money for this?

Did you know that Teach for America is becoming a major political player and national campaign contributor – as a non-profit?

Did you know that Governors in other states refused to give TFA money because they had so much? $350 million in net assets.

Did you know that education philantrophy makes a nice non-profit tax shelter.

Did you know that Elaine Wynn is President of the National Non-Profit Communities in Schools- which declares an unbelievable and most likely unprovable – drop out prevention (return on business investment) success story?

Wynn donates hundreds of thousands across the nation to Communities in Schools – she is so kind!

And her international $135 million giving to Macau was even cause for investigation! The SEC called the gift suspicious; More suspicious is Wynn’s appointment by the Governor of Reno to the Nevada State School Board while being investigated?

Does anyone see a pattern with these business oriented billionaires and their plans for public schools? When public education is a large portion of the state budget and you are a billionaire partially because of sketchy business practices and tax dodging . . . it makes sense that you want to distract everyone by reforming public schools instead of paying your fair share and funding schools adequately.

Nevada needs the community to vote for the TEI in November 2014.

The high rolling billionaires need to pay their fair share this time around instead of coming up with “great education ideas” that don’t work.


Notes and Links:

Jeff Bezos

Amazon is required to collect the tax only in states where it maintains a physical presence, such as a warehouse. But Amazon now is supporting the bill, which has passed the Senate and is pending in the House. State sales taxes no longer pose a real threat to Amazon; with an emphasis on same-day shipping, the company is building distribution warehouses across the country and would have to pay the tax anyway.

The Bezos Family Foundation — whose board includes Bezos, his parents and other family members — gave more than $11 million in 2011 to an array of national organizations such as Teach for America, Stand for Children and the KIPP Foundation, according to tax filings. The foundation also gave grants to scores of individual schools around the country as well as several charter school chains, including Uncommon Schools, which operates schools in New York and Massachusetts. Inc
1600 Newlands Dr E
Fernley, NV 89408

(775) 575-8000

Fulfillment and Warehouse Centers

We receive, pack, and ship tens of millions of items from our global network of fulfillment centers.
North America
* New Castle, Delaware
* Coffeyville, Kansas
* Campbellsville, Kentucky
* Hebron, Kentucky
* Lexington, Kentucky
* Fernley, Nevada
* Red Rock, Nevada
* Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
* Carlisle, Pennsylvania
* Lewisberry, Pennsylvania
* Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

Close of facility in Red Rock, Nevada – Fernley still opened

Amazon are Union Busters
Amazon have a little-reported, but undeniable record of preventing their work force from unionising. In 2001, hired a US management consultancy organisation, The Burke Group, to assist in defeating a campaign by the Graphical, Paper and Media Union (GPMU, now part of Unite the Union) to achieve recognition in the Milton Keynes distribution depot. It was alleged that the company sacked four union members during the 2001 recognition drive and held a series of captive meetings with employees.

Tax dodging and union busting

Amazon’s workplace practices have come under fire in recent years. News outlets have detailed everything from the exhausting nature of warehouse work (employees can walk as much as 15 miles daily) to ambulances waiting outside a facility to collect workers who overheated because of a lack of air conditioning. Warehouse workers in Germany have walked out several times over wage issues. Some later traveled to Seattle to picket in front of Amazon’s headquarters.

Read more: How Amazon Crushed the Union Movement |

Purchase of Wasington Post

Bezo’s Politics called into questions

Donations to keep from being taxed
Family big support’s of charter schools
Donations on both sides of the aisle.

Donation to gay marriage equality
Donations to various candidates
Donations to defeat taxes

But what has not made news is Bezos’ careful activism on behalf of big business and some of the richest Americans. In 2010, a coalition of Washington state public interest groups, teachers and socially minded wealthy Americans like Hanauer and Bill Gates Sr. supported Initiative 1098, which would have established the first-ever income tax in the state. If passed, the initiative would’ve established a tax on adjusted gross income for individuals earning more than $200,000 a year and $400,000 on married couples or domestic partners. By taxing high-income Washingtonians, the initiative would also have allowed for a reduction in property taxes and the expansion of certain business tax credits.

Amazon has also taken heat for its membership in ALEC—the American Legislative Executive Council—a corporate-funded group that backs right-wing politicians. ALEC also drafts and promotes laws like those that effectively disenfranchised large numbers of minority voters, the “Stand Your Ground” legislation that has resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin and a number of other people, and the anti-union laws brought to national attention by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

And Amazon was behind the curve in withdrawing from ALEC, lagging well behind companies such as KFC, Taco Bell, Coca-Cola, Proctor & Gamble, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Intuit, McDonald’s, PepsiCo and Kraft Foods. Most of these companies left ALEC more than a month ago, when revelations about its role in “Stand Your Ground” gave renewed momentum to demands that corporations leave it.

But then, ALEC has treated Amazon very well. It has defended the “Amazon loophole” that allows online sellers to avoid charging sales taxes the way other businesses do. This unfair advantage has given Amazon a lot more clout against neighborhood bookstores and retail book chains—clout it has used to drive many of them out of business.

Bezos is a libertarian who reportedly exults in the fact that Amazon’s loophole prevents the government from collecting taxes. He appears to exemplify a certain kind of Internet or computer entrepreneur—call them “digital libertarians”—who can be visionaries in technological and cultural ways and yet blind to social and economic realities.

Bilderberg Group

Privatization and Union-Busting

There’s one area where Bezos has been hyper-active, but it is largely unknown to the general public: education reform. A look at the Bezos Family Foundation, which was founded by Jackie and Mike Bezos but is financed primarily by Jeff Bezos, reveals a fairly aggressive effort in recent years to press forward with a neoliberal education agenda:

• The Bezos Foundation has donated to Education Reform Now, a nonprofit organization that funds attack advertisements against teachers’ unions and other advocacy efforts to promote test-based evaluations of teachers. Education Reform Now also sponsors Democrats for Education Reform.

• The Bezos Foundation provided $500,000 to NBC Universal to sponsor the Education Nation, a media series devoted to debating high-stakes testing, charter schools and other education reforms.

• The Bezos Foundation provided over $100,000 worth of Amazon stock to the League of Education Voters Foundation to help pass the education reform in Washington State. Last year, the group helped pass I-1240, a ballot measure that created a charter school system in Washington State. In many states, charter schools open the door for privatization by inviting for-profit charter management companies to take over public schools that are ostensibly run by nonprofits.

Other education philanthropy supported by the Bezos Foundation include KIPP, Teach for America and many individual charter schools, including privately funded math and science programs across the country.

But will Bezos’ interest in changing education policy affect his control of the Post? Only time will tell.

The most troubling part of Amazon’s record, as it might relate to Bezos’ ownership of thePost, is Amazon’s December 2010 decision to shut down WikiLeaks’s server access after the group published a trove of State Department cables. Robert McChesney, citing Amazon’s move to pull the plug on WikiLeaks, released a statement today condemning the sale.

Tony Hsieh – Zappos
acquisition closed on November 1, at a valuation of $1.2 billion (based on Amazon’s stock price on the day of closing). Our investors at Sequoia made $248 million. Our board was replaced by a management committee that includes me, Jeff, two Amazon executives, and two Zappos executives. As CEO, I report to the committee every quarter, and Zappos is responsible for hitting revenue and profitability numbers. But unlike our former board of directors, our new management committee seems to understand the importance of our culture — the “social experiments” — to our long-term success. In fact, one Amazon distribution center recently began experimenting with its own version of Zappos’s policy of paying new employees $2,000 to quit if they’re unhappy with their jobs.
The acquisition closed on November 1, at a valuation of $1.2 billion (based on Amazon’s stock price on the day of closing). Our investors at Sequoia made $248 million. Our board was replaced by a management committee that includes me, Jeff, two Amazon executives, and two Zappos executives. As CEO, I report to the committee every quarter, and Zappos is responsible for hitting revenue and profitability numbers. But unlike our former board of directors, our new management committee seems to understand the importance of our culture — the “social experiments” — to our long-term success. In fact, one Amazon distribution center recently began experimenting with its own version of Zappos’s policy of paying new employees $2,000 to quit if they’re unhappy with their jobs.

Four years ago today on July 22, 2009, finalized an agreement to acquire for $807 million. Since both of these internet-based retail companies have a global reputation for their customer-centric missions and associated fanatic customer loyalty, the union of Amazon and Zappos was logical, expected, and controversy-free. By all reports today is an anniversary of AmaZappian bliss for leaders Jeff Bezos and Tony Hsieh, who have both been busy leveraging their success over the past four years.

As Zappos prepares to relocate to downtown Las Vegas, its growing list of investments in the area now includes more than $1 million to lure dedicated teachers to the area’s schools.

Teach For America, which trains teachers to work in schools that serve children from households in poverty, will receive a donation of $300,000 from the company and $1.2 million from CEO Tony Hsieh.

Allison Serafin, a special consultant to Clark County Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones, also went through Teach For America’s program after graduating from Texas Christian University in political science and social work.

“It completely changed my life,” Serafin said. “I was able to see firsthand through the experience of teaching my sixth-graders that the students were brilliant and capable.”

Serafin, who works by contract with the School District, called Teach For America one of “many excellent partners who share the same commitment to students … and a commitment that all children can achieve.”

Zappos Spring Break – Teach for America
What is it?
The Teach For America – Las Vegas Valley & the Zappos Family of Companies Alternative Spring Break is intended to spark bold, new innovations that expand opportunities and close the achievement gap in the Las Vegas Valley community. Applicants will submit a response to one of three challenges being posed via video by three Las Vegas Valley corps members. Twenty five students from across the country will be selected and will be invited to join Teach For America- Las Vegas Valley, the Zappos Family of Companies, and Las Vegas Valley community leaders for an all expenses paid alternative spring break trip to the Las Vegas Valley in March. Programming will be Monday to Friday (with travel on Sunday, the 18th and Saturday, the 24th) and will include travel, all meals, activities, and housing, which will be with current Las Vegas Valley corps members. Participants will continue the spirit of social innovation and tackle community, school, and business challenges in Las Vegas with the Zappos Family of Companies, Teach For America corps members and staff, and other Las Vegas Valley community leaders.

According to a 2009 USA Today article, Teach For America has been criticized by opponents who claim that the program replaces experienced teachers with brand-new employees who have had only five weeks of training during the summer and are brought in at beginners’ salary levels. John Wilson, executive director of the National Education Association, sent a memo in May 2009 stating that union leaders were “beginning to see school systems lay off teachers and then hire Teach For America college grads due to a contract they signed.” Wilson went on to say that Teach For America brings in “the least-prepared and the least-experienced teachers” into low-income schools and makes them “the teacher of record.”[16]

Fixing Cities: Fixing the world

For Hsieh, though, this was part of the appeal. Transforming downtown Vegas would “ultimately help us attract and retain more employees for Zappos.” For the city itself, it would “help revitalize the economy.” More important, it would “inspire,” a word Hsieh uses often. Hsieh closed his presentation at the faux log cabin high above the desert with the sort of fact he seems to always have on hand: up to 75 percent of the world’s population will call cities home in our lifetime. “So,” he concluded, “if you fix cities, you kind of fix the world.”

1,000 Teach for America Core Members
But now, he has to build the neighborhood. Much of the plans are already in the works. Plans are being finalized for 21,000 square feet of “co-working” space along the lines of General Assembly in New York. The small business development team is exploring building a back-office technology platform that the mom and pop shops can share to handle accounting, inventory, payroll and the like. Hsieh has made a $1.5 million deal with Teach for America to bring 1,000 core members and alumni to live and teach in the area. He is talking to the creators of the Burning Man festival about supplying art to the neighborhood. Party buses? He and his team are in the process of acquiring and revamping a dozen. Oh, and Hsieh is also part of a group trying to buy the Las Vegas 51s, the farm team; cue the new stadium plans.

There remains but one question for us to answer, dear reader: is there a way for the tax payers of Nevada to increase their stake in the excellence project that is Teach for America? Good news again. In his state-of-the-union address, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval announced that the state is ponying up $2 million to bring still more TFA recruits to the Sagebrush State. Of course not everyone here is rolling out the welcome mat for the excellence express. Take the residents of Towne Terrace, a down-at-the-heels apartment complex in downtown Las Vegas, purchased by Zappos magnate (and Alexis Gonzales-Black employer) Tony Hseih who dreams of repopulating the entire area with more than 1,000 TFA corps members and alum. Except that the residents of the Towne Terrace made it exceedingly clear that they had no interest in being evicted to make way for excellence. Oh well, next time…

In addition to this week’s activities and the recruiters’ conference in May, our local TFA team has more excitement to look forward to in the very near future. They’ll be welcoming their new corps members for induction week during June and will be relocating their offices to Downtown in July.

Alexis Gonzales-Black
Holacracy Implementation Team
Las Vegas, Nevada (Las Vegas, Nevada Area) Human Resources

$50million in education initiatives? Downtown Projects

Victor Wakefield ( married to Alexis Gonzales-Blavk) TFA Leadership Nevada
Attracting and retaining high-quality teachers to Las Vegas is an important aspect of Downtown Project’s education initiatives as it partners with Teach for America. “The largest ingredient in school quality, just like in urban success, is human capital—the talents of the teachers,” writes Glaeser. It’s a sentiment echoed by Victor Wakefield, executive director of Teach for America-Las Vegas Valley.

Victor Wakefield

Nevada funding for cash flush TFA

Elaine Wynn Chair National Communities in Schools

Mrs. Wynn has been a member of the Communities In Schools’ board of directors since 2000, assuming the Chair position in 2007. Under Mrs. Wynn’s leadership, the organization has focused on data-driven results, including the release of a five-year, third-party evaluation, a return on investment report, and annual program results demonstrating that the organization’s cost-effective model is effective in urban, suburban, and rural communities.

Kazuo Okada, a co-founder of Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN) who is locked in a legal battle with his former partner Steve Wynn, accused the company of making a “suspicious” $135 million donation to a Macau university.

A teacher sent me this letter offering helpful advice to Bill Gates. He hopes that someone will see it on the Internet and pass it along to Bill.

Dear Mr. Gates,

“I don’t know many business leaders who are satisfied with America’s schools. In fact, just about every CEO I know is worried that this country simply isn’t producing enough graduates with the skills they need to compete globally.” – Bill Gates

I find it ironic that you opened your notes with this remark just prior to a story was published about two hundred wealthy and famous Wall Street figures to the Kappa Beta Phi dinner in New York City. It consisted of a group of wealthy and powerful financiers making homophobic jokes, making light of the financial crisis, and bragging about their business conquests at Main Street’s expense. The reporter who witnessed this dinner didn’t mention any CEO’s worried about the plight of the American schools.

As a 7th grade middle school Social Studies teacher in Carmel, NY, I never thought about the need to satisfy business leaders. I focus on teaching students to value American History and to question the choices that have been made in the past. Since the Industrial Revolution, business leaders have been given enormous opportunities in this country and throughout the world. The technology has made American lives remarkably more convenient but certainly at a price to our environment and to economic equality.

As a teacher, I am worried that this country simply isn’t producing enough CEO’s with the moral and ethical skills they need to create a sustainable future. The news is constantly reporting on chemicals being leaked into drinking water or how the CEO of McDonald’s makes $8 million a year compared to his employers making minimum wage and yet nothing gets done to make it better. The Common Core Standards do not address how our future CEO’s will be prepared to make compassionate and ethical decisions that will benefit all of humanity.

The public is skeptical about Common Core because they see the individuals who are backing this privatization of education. The public views the standardized testing and modules being produced by Pearson Corporation as products that Americans are being forced to purchase. These tests will not produce the leaders with the collaborative and innovative skills to solve the problems of the 21st century. The public views Common Core as a marketing scheme designed to make a few CEO’s and the shareholders billions of dollars. Your foundation money has bought off our elected officials and teacher unions but the public outcry remains.

Mr. Gates, I’m sure that you are an excellent CEO and I hope that your heart is in the right place when it comes to your educational endeavors. I am offering you insight into why you are facing backlash about Common Core. K -12 education is a very human and personal experience with complicated interactions that Common Core is trying to standardize and dehumanize.

Our American experience is to be individuals who make our own decisions about our lives and our children’s education. By your remarks you are making it very clear that your priority is only to care about CEO’s and not the American public. It is not a myth that the business CEO’s are primarily concerned about profit and are going to benefit the most from Common Core implementation. It is a fact. In the future, please come clean with the American public and admit to the flaws of Common Core. If you are committed to improving American education, it will require collaboration and an understanding of United States history.

Thank you for your time. I hope that this response from a Social Studies teacher will help you. Please feel free to contact me if you would like my insight on teaching in a public school.


Keith J. Reilly

A sage comment by a reader:

“The chief purpose of the Common Core standards –– one cited by the Common Core initiative, and repeatedly echoed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Business Roundtable, and Arne Duncan and the like –– is that the standards are necessary to enable American students and the American nation “to compete successfully in the global economy.”

That’s demonstrably false.

American economic competitiveness is not tied to test scores; it is inextricably linked to stupid decisions made by politicians and corporate America.

When the U.S. dropped from 2nd to 4th in the 2010-11 World Economic Forum’s competitiveness rankings, four factors were cited by the WEF: (1) weak corporate auditing and reporting standards, (2) suspect corporate ethics, (3) big deficits (brought on by Wall Street’s financial implosion) and (4) unsustainable levels of debt.

More recently major factors cited by the WEF are a (1) lack of trust in politicians and the political process, with a lack of transparency in policy-making; (2) “a lack of macroeconomic stability” caused by decades of fiscal deficits and debt accrued as a result of boneheaded economic policies; (3) gross income inequities; and (4) political dysfunction.

The fact that the most ardent avid supporters of the Common Core are also
those most responsible for our nation’s economic problems is not very comforting.

Yesterday, Thomas Friedman published yet another article lambasting American public education. Every time he writes about public schools, it is a put-down. He said in one article that America is “in decline” because of low scores on international tests, because McKinsey & Co. said so. Google his name and “Teach for America,” and you will get more than 100,000 hits.

David Sirota, an investigative journalist, wondered why New York Times’ columnist Thomas Friedman always sides with the economic elites in this country and around the world, and he suggests the answer: He married into one of the richest families in America.

He wrote in 2006:

I’ve documented repeatedly how New York Times columnist Tom Friedman parrots the propaganda of Big Money, using his column to legitimize some of the worst, most working-class-persecuting policies this country has seen in the last century – all while bragging on television that he doesn’t even bother read the details of the policies he advocates for. I have always believed Friedman’s perspective comes from the bubble he lives in – that is, I have always believed he feels totally at ease shilling for Big Money and attacking workers because from the comfortable confines of the Washington suburbs he lives in and the elite cocktail parties he attends, what Friedman says seems mainstream to him. But I never had any idea how dead on I was about the specific circumstances of Friedman’s bubble – and how it potentially explains a lot more than I ever thought.

As the July edition of the Washingtonian Magazine notes, Friedman lives in “a palatial 11,400-square-foot house, now valued at $9.3 million, on a 7½-acre parcel just blocks from I-495 and Bethesda Country Club.” He “married into one of the 100 richest families in the country” – the Bucksbaums, whose real-estate Empire is valued at $2.7 billion.

Sirota thinks that full disclosure matters. In the case of Ted Kennedy, for example, everyone knew about his family and its wealth. And, furthermore, he did not advance his family’s economic interest.

As we have seen again and again, whenever Thomas Friedman writes about education, he writes with hostility towards public education, towards career educators, and with indifference to the struggles of many middle-class and poor families. He consistently writes admiringly about corporate reform policies such as high-stakes testing and Teach for America (one of his daughters joined TFA).

Sirota writes:

Friedman, unlike Kennedy, uses his position to push the very specific economic policies (such as “free” trade) that the superwealthy in this country are pushing and exclusively benefit from. That’s why his billionaire scion status is so important for the public to know – because it raises objectivity questions. If, for instance, Richard Mellon Scaife wrote articles in newspapers demanding the repeal of the estate tax – don’t you think it would be important for readers to be warned that Scaife was a multimillionaire whose family (and the few families like his) would almost exclusively benefit from the policies he was writing about? Of course. That’s called full disclosure and transparency, the very things critical to an objective free press and democracy – the very thing Friedman says is so important for other countries when he writes about foreign policy.

So the next time you read a piece by Tom Friedman telling us how wonderful job outsourcing is or how great it is to pass Big Money’s latest trade deal that include no labor, wage, human rights or environmental provisions – just remember: Tom Friedman, scion of a billionaire business empire, is just doing right by his own economic class.

This is a mind-blowing video about wealth inequality in America today.

These are facts to reflect upon this Christmas Day.

Inequality is huge and growing in our beloved nation.

A tiny proportion of our population owns a vast amount of our nation’s wealth.

Wealth inequality, like income inequality, has grown dramatically in the past generation.

There really is a 1% that owns an unbelievable amount of the nation’s assets.

Those who live in poverty have next to nothing, a statistical blip, and the share owned by the middle class is small.

Sometimes, I am inclined to think that all the ink spilled on “school reform” is misdirected.

Maybe our attention is being purposely diverted from far more important issues, like inequality and poverty.

Why are we indifferent to the fact that nearly a quarter of our children live in poverty?

Why do “reformers” insist that poverty doesn’t matter, that “great teachers” can overcome poverty, that charters can overcome poverty, that a certain curriculum can close the achievement gap?

Why do they refuse to acknowledge that poverty is the single most reliable predictor of low academic performance?

Why are we not embarrassed that we have more child poverty than any other advanced nation?

(The studies of inequality say that child poverty is higher in Romania, but Romania is a desperately poor nation that emerged from a harsh Communist dictatorship only twenty-five years ago.)

Do the big corporations support charters and TFA as a way of diverting our eyes from the singular cause of low academic performance?

Think about it.

I am not in the custom of quoting religious leaders, being a secular Jew, but I am nonetheless impressed by Pope Francis’ advocacy on behalf of the poor and his critique of the unfettered market.

To clarify, I understand and believe in the values of a free marketplace of goods and services, but at the same time, I think that society has an obligation to make sure that the market is regulated sufficiently to prevent extremes of inequality.

A healthy society requires a balance of the private and the public sector. A society without a public sector would be (in my eyes) mean, nasty, and brutish for all except those at the very top of a pointy pyramid, for all, that is, except the top 1% or 10%. A society without a private sector concentrates far too much power in the hands of those who rule and fails (as we saw in the instance of the Soviet Union) to permit enterprise, individualism, and personal freedom.

And it is in that spirit that I here cite a short article about Pope Francis, who has emerged as a powerful voice on behalf of the world’s poor.

Pope Francis, the author writes, is critical of “a world that is about “competition and survival of the fittest.” It is a world “where the powerful feed upon the powerless.”

He questions “a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.” He is concerned that this culture has produced global indifference. Society seems content to believe that poverty is somebody else’s problem. For him, the poor are not only exploited but excluded. They have become “the outcast, the leftovers.”

He hammers the injustice of growing inequality. He sees this income gap as a “result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace.” He speaks of the “sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

He also speaks of growing world-wide corruption which is at least tolerated as the world eagerly seeks to serve the “interests of a deified market which become the only rule.” He specifically mentions “self-serving tax evasion,” and “the thirst for power and possessions,” as examples of the harmful corruption that abounds and knows no limits.”

As I reflect on the growing inequality in our society, where a very small number of people enjoy vast wealth while a vast number of people live in poverty, the words of Pope Francis ring true.

Yes, we need a marketplace where people buy and sell goods and services. But the marketplace should not make us indifferent to the losers, to those who cannot succeed in the competition to buy and sell.

A healthy society takes care of all its children and builds a culture where love, kindness, and compassion are valued more than the goods we acquire.

I guess that sounds radical, but I am no radical. I just want a better world for my children and grandchildren and yours too.

Some months ago, I added Steve Nelson to the honor roll of this blog because everything I read by this remarkable man made so much sense. He is the headmaster of the Calhoun School, a fine New York City private school.

Yet he isn’t looking out for the self-interest of the private schools and their pupils, but for the good of American children and our society.

In this article, Nelson surveys the media moaning over PISA scores and says that the critics have chosen the wrong target.

Our schools are not broken, he writes.

Our society is.

Here is a sample of his thinking, which I share and admire:

We don’t have an education problem in America. We have a social disease. It is as though we are starving our children to death and trying to fix it by investing in more scales so we can weigh them constantly.

Charter schools, Common Core, voucher programs, online education, Teach for America… None of these initiatives, whether financially-motivated opportunism or sincere effort at reform, will make a dent in our educational malaise, because the assumptions are wrong.

As is often the case in our “blame the victim” culture, it is generally believed that improving education will cure poverty. This invites the inference that poor education created poverty. But it is simply not true. Poverty created poor education. The victim blamers cite lazy children and bad parenting as contributors to poverty. But poverty dulls motivation and cripples parents.

And perhaps worst of all, the poor performance of our students is attributed to poor teaching and unions. I propose that today’s teachers (even the underprepared Teach For America kind) are as good or better than teachers were a generation ago. Neither they nor their weakened unions are the cause of our education problems.

It is also asserted that our place in the global economy is threatened by the poor quality of American education. But this is also backwards. Our place in the global economy threatens education, not the other way around. In the service of economic global dominance, we have sacrificed families and schools.

But we persist in our misguided efforts to “fix” education nonetheless. Education reform has been underway for many years, most energetically since No Child Left Behind was enacted in 2001. I challenge any reader to provide comprehensive evidence that education has improved since then.

And I would add, though nothing need be added, that “school reform” has become a Great Distraction, a way of NOT addressing the root causes of low academic performance.

That may explain why so many billionaires and corporations love to invest in “school reform,” because it is so much more cost efficient than doing something about income inequality and wealth inequality, which are worst than at any point in the past century.

But again, Nelson says it better than I could. He writes:

Raise the minimum wage to a real living wage. Provide affordable health care for every family. End the regressive tax system that has eviscerated local communities. Provide disincentives to the multi-national corporations that have abandoned American communities while chasing the cheapest labor overseas. Put Americans to work with bold infrastructure investment. Extend the meager unemployment benefits that keep many families out of abject poverty. Stop pretending that racism is dead. Instead of telling people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, remove the boot heels of oppression.

Let’s do these things for a decade, and then we’ll talk about PISA scores.

Remember the D.C. Whistleblower? Adell Cothorne was the new principal at a highly-touted elementary school where test scores had gone up and off, off the charts. She said she walked in on a grade-erasure session, where staff members were changing student answers from wrong to right. When she blew the whistle on what she learned, she became a pariah and nearly lost her career. For a time, she ran a cupcake bakery. She appeared on John Merrow’s PBS program about the legacy of Michelle Rhee, telling her story.
Now she is back as an educator.

In this post, Cothorne tells us about her early years as a worker for McDonald’s. she reminds us why thousands of fast-food workers are demanding a living wage of $15 an hour. Employers say the rise in costs would be prohibitive for consumers. But would it? She says no.

Another side to this story, which Cothorne does not explore, is the millions of dollars that the heads of these corporations are paid. When you read about the corporate head of a fast-food chain who is paid $10 million a year while paying workers $7-9 an hour, you have to wonder if they have a conscience.

A recent article by business columnist Eduardo Porter in the “New York Times” was titled “Americanized Labor Policy Is Spreading in Europe.”

This is what the “Americanization of labor policy” means:

“In 2008, 1.9 million Portuguese workers in the private sector were covered by collective bargaining agreements. Last year, the number was down to 300,000.

“Spain has eased restrictions on collective layoffs and unfair dismissal, and softened limits on extending temporary work, allowing workers to be kept on fixed-term contracts for up to four years. Ireland and Portugal have frozen the minimum wage, while Greece has cut it by nearly a fourth. This is what is known in Europe as “internal devaluation.”

“Tethered to the euro and thus unable to devalue their currency to help make their goods less expensive in export markets, many European countries — especially those along the Continent’s southern rim that have been hammered by the financial crisis — have been furiously dismantling workplace protections in a bid to reduce the cost of labor.”

Cutting back on workplace protections is sure to increase income inequality while shrinking the middle class.

Porter writes that “These policy moves are radically changing the nature of Europe’s society.”

“The speed of change has certainly been very fast,” said Raymond Torres, the chief economist of the International Labor Organization in Geneva. “As far as I can tell, these are the most significant changes since World War II.”

“While most of the debate over Europe’s response to the financial crisis has focused on the budget austerity enveloping the Continent, the comparatively unheralded erosion of worker protection is likely to have at least as big and lasting an impact on Europe’s social contract.

“It has a disastrous effect on social cohesion and a tremendous effect on inequality,” argued Jean-Paul Fitoussi, an economics professor at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris. “Well-being has fallen all across Europe. One symptom is the rise of extremist political parties.”

“Europe’s strategy offers a test of the role played by labor market institutions — from unions to the minimum wage — in moderating the soaring income inequality that has become one of the hallmarks of our era.

“Inequality across much of Europe has widened, but it is still quite modest when compared with the vast income gap in the United States.

“The question is whether relative equity can hold as workplace institutions that for decades protected European employees’ standard of living give way to a more lightly regulated, American-style approach, where the government hardly interferes in the job market and organized labor has little say.”

This is a model that will ill-serve Europe and which should shame our political and economic leaders. Translated, it means that the rich get richer, the middle class shrinks, and the poor feel hopeless.

The 1% say that charter schools and Teach for America will close the gap that their policies created. They know it isn’t true, but it changes the subject enough to allow them to keep enlarging their share of the pie.


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