Archives for category: Economy

In an earlier post, I cited a New York Times article saying that 158 families had contributed about half of the money raised thus far for the 2016 presidential campaign. 138 support Republicans. 20 support Democrats.

I asked readers if anyone was willing to calculate what % of American families these 158 are.

I got similar responses.

“Diane, I did the math and the 158 families you mentioned comprise 0.000130321% of the population of the U.S. I guess we can call them the “10 thousandth percenters.”

“There are about 115 million families in the US. So these 178 families are roughly one-and-a-half out of a million. Wow. Not the one percent. But one-and-a-half of a percent of a percent of a percent.” –G.F. Brandenburg

“To answer the question at the beginning of Diane’s post, if the NY Times is correct that there are 120 million households, then the 158 families represent “The 0.0013166%”.
–P. Garrity

“Diane, I did the math and the 158 families you mentioned comprise 0.000130321% of the population of the U.S. I guess we can call them the “10 thousandth percenters.”–Michael

All these comments appear following the post.

So forget about the 1%. Think instead of the ten-thousandth of 1%. If the people turn out to vote, we can take back our government. We can have a Supreme Couurt that overturns Citizens United (which allows plutocrats to buy elections), a Supreme Court that does not threaten the rights of working people, and a Congress that writes a tax code to reduce income inequality and wealth inequality.

The key to change: Vote. Get your neighbors to vote. This is what really terrifies the ten-thousandth of 1%: A large turnout of informed voters. The 99.999% have power if they use it.

Yes, we do need a rebirth of labor unions.

A new study shows that the workers who make the least money have experienced the biggest decline in their take-home pay since the recession of 2008.

Despite steady gains in hiring, a falling unemployment rate and other signs of an improving economy, take-home pay for many American workers has effectively fallen since the economic recovery began in 2009, according to a new study by an advocacy group that is to be released on Thursday.

The declines were greatest for the lowest-paid workers in sectors where hiring has been strong — home health care, food preparation and retailing — even though wages were already below average to begin with in those service industries.

“Stagnant wages are a problem for everyone at this point, but the imbalance in the economy has become more pronounced since the recession,” said Irene Tung, a senior policy researcher at the National Employment Law Project and co-author of the study.

The economy is recovering, but not everyone is benefitting.

One explanation may lie in the findings of another study released on Wednesday by the Economic Policy Institute, also a liberal research group. Its report showed that even as labor productivity has improved steadily since 2000, the benefits from improved efficiency have nearly all gone to companies, shareholders and top executives, rather than rank-and-file employees.

A good society provides opportunity for all, not luxury for the few and misery for the bottom quarter.

Wendy Lecker, civil rights attorney, notes that the release of Common Core test scores proved the adage that the tests measure family income.

“Decades of testing evidence show that the only stable correlation that exists, whether it is the CMTs or the SATs and likely the SBACs, is between test scores and wealth. Researchers such as Sean Reardon at Stanford note that wealthy parents not only can provide basic stability, nutrition and health care for their children, but also tutoring and enrichment that gives affluent children an edge over poorer children.

“The wealth advantage extends beyond test scores. Two studies, by St. Louis Federal Reserve and by the Boston Federal Reserve, demonstrate that family wealth is a determining factor in life success. The St. Louis report, published in August, revealed a racial wealth gap among college graduates. A college degree does not protect African-Americans and Latinos from economic crises as it does for whites and Asians. Employment discrimination figures into the disparity, but a major role is played by family wealth. Without a safety net of family assets, graduates of color must make more risky loan and other financial decisions. Last year’s Boston Fed study noted that wealthy high school drop-outs stay in the top economic rung as often as poor college graduates remain in the bottom economic rung. As a Washington Post article put it, rich kids who do everything wrong are better off than poor kids who do everything right. These reports, coupled with the fact that most job openings in the United States are for low-skilled workers, expose the uncomfortable truth that education is not the great equalizer.”

Instead of providing poor kids with smaller classes and other supports, we spend billions on testing.

“Education reformers deflect attention from the supports poor kids need and tell us that all kids have to do is develop some “grit” to succeed. In his best-selling book, “How Children Succeed,” Paul Tough claims there is “no antipoverty tool we can provide for disadvantaged young people that will be more valuable than the character strengths” like grit. Connecticut policy makers are trying to develop tests to measure the degree of “grit” our kids have. We are even told that if students have enough “grit” to get high test scores, our economy will be more competitive….

“Robber-baron education reformers such as Gates fight to protect their wealth to pass on their success to their children. For other people’s children their message is clear, as teacher/blogger Joe Bower remarked: “Let ’em eat grit.””

Jersey Jazzman reviews the economic mess in Puerto Rico. The Commonwealth was burdened by billions of dollars in debt that it could not repay. Much of the debt was held by hedge funds that speculated on the chances of repayment. The government decided to default on its crushing debt.

Hedge funds offered advice. Close schools, fire teachers, cut university spending. What about the future? Not their problem.

JJ, also known as Mark Weber, does some cAlculations about school spending in P.R. He also discovers this fact:

“Here’s a quick-and-dirty graph showing the differences in school-aged poverty rates between the 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico. Not even Mississippi or DC come close to matching Puerto Rico’s 55 percent student poverty rate. It’s extraordinary, and it’s probably underreported. The entire island’s child poverty rate is as high as Camden, NJ, America’s poorest city.

“But these guys want to cut funds to Puerto Rico’s schools. Think about that….

“I’m always hearing from reformy types that education is the pathway to the middle class (all others doing necessary work that doesn’t require college are left hanging, however). Why, then, would hedge-fundies, who subsidize charter schools on this very premise, think it was a good idea to slash education in Puerto Rico when it really does return higher wages for the island’s citizens? If you want to grow Puerto Rico out of its debt, why slash the one thing — education — that we know will grow the island’s wages?

“I know next to nothing about macroeconomics, but I understand that governments should not borrow with abandon without a clear plan for repayment, and without using their borrowings for investments that will generate economic growth. I actually don’t think it’s fair to shift the entire blame for Puerto Rico’s woes on Wall Street, although they certainly deserve some of it.

“It’s clear to me, however, that forcing Puerto Rico to fully repay the hedge funds while cutting school spending is both stupid and immoral. This is an island that desperately needs a high-quality education system as part of a program of social rebuilding. From all early indications, Puerto Rico has been inexcusably stingy in funding its schools and paying its teachers.”

The New York Times writes about the workplace and culture of

It is an unsparing portrait of a brutal, competitive, heartless work environment.

No excuses!

“At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)”

“Many of the newcomers filing in on Mondays may not be there in a few years. The company’s winners dream up innovations that they roll out to a quarter-billion customers and accrue small fortunes in soaring stock. Losers leave or are fired in annual cullings of the staff — “purposeful Darwinism,” one former Amazon human resources director said. Some workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal crises said they had been evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover.

“Even as the company tests delivery by drone and ways to restock toilet paper at the push of a bathroom button, it is conducting a little-known experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers, redrawing the boundaries of what is acceptable. The company, founded and still run by Jeff Bezos, rejects many of the popular management bromides that other corporations at least pay lip service to and has instead designed what many workers call an intricate machine propelling them to achieve Mr. Bezos’ ever-expanding ambitions.”

Sound familiar?

A modern version of Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis,” a classic silent film?

Fareed Zakaria warns that fears about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are greatly overblown.

Zakaria comes close to acknowledging that the “crisis” rhetoric of so-called reformers is a myth,or as Berliner and Biddle called it years ago, “a manufactured crisis.”

The demand fo expand STEM is often accompanied by disdain for liberal education, writes Zakaria:

“If Americans are united in any conviction these days, it is that we urgently need to shift the country’s education toward the teaching of specific, technical skills. Every month, it seems, we hear about our children’s bad test scores in math and science — and about new initiatives from companies, universities or foundations to expand STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math) and deemphasize the humanities. From President Obama on down, public officials have cautioned against pursuing degrees like art history, which are seen as expensive luxuries in today’s world. Republicans want to go several steps further and defund these kinds of majors. “Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists?” asked Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott. “I don’t think so.” America’s last bipartisan cause is this: A liberal education is irrelevant, and technical training is the new path forward. It is the only way, we are told, to ensure that Americans survive in an age defined by technology and shaped by global competition. The stakes could not be higher.”

But, he writes, to de-emphasize the humanities would be a huge mistake:

“This dismissal of broad-based learning, however, comes from a fundamental misreading of the facts — and puts America on a dangerously narrow path for the future. The United States has led the world in economic dynamism, innovation and entrepreneurship thanks to exactly the kind of teaching we are now told to defenestrate. A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization. Yes, science and technology are crucial components of this education, but so are English and philosophy. When unveiling a new edition of the iPad, Steve Jobs explained that “it’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — that it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”

Zakaria then makes a point I have made again and again to those who lament international test scores:

“In truth, though, the United States has never done well on international tests, and they are not good predictors of our national success. Since 1964, when the first such exam was administered to 13-year-olds in 12 countries, America has lagged behind its peers, rarely rising above the middle of the pack and doing particularly poorly in science and math. And yet over these past five decades, that same laggard country has dominated the world of science, technology, research and innovation.”

Sweden and Israel have poor scores on the same tests, yet are high on investment, entrepreneurship, and innovation. There are characteristics that are more important than test scores:

“They are flexible. Their work cultures are non-hierarchical and merit-based. All operate like young countries, with energy and dynamism. All three are open societies, happy to let in the world’s ideas, goods and services. And people in all three nations are confident — a characteristic that can be measured.”

The defining characteristic if a successful society, he concludes, is its ability to hone creativity and critical thinking skills. And for that, both the sciences and liberal arts are necessary.

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times is one of our most thoughtful commentators on education. He cuts through hype and spin.

Recently he noticed a startling contradiction. a spokesman for QUALCOMM bemoaned the lack of well-prepared workers for STEM jobs. But at the same time, the same high-tech corporation announced that it was cutting its workforce.

He writes:

“Alice Tornquist, a Washington lobbyist for the high-tech firm Qualcomm, took the stage at a recent Qualcomm-underwritten conference to remind her audience that companies like hers face a dire shortage of university graduates in engineering. The urgent remedy she advocated was to raise the cap on visas for foreign-born engineers.

“Although our industry and other high-tech industries have grown exponentially,” Tornquist said, “our immigration system has failed to keep pace.” The nation’s outdated limits and “convoluted green-card process,” she said, had left firms like hers “hampered in hiring the talent that they need.”

“What Tornquist didn’t mention was that Qualcomm may then have had more engineers than it needed: Only a few weeks after her June 2 talk, the San Diego company announced that it would cut its workforce, of whom two-thirds are engineers, by 15%, or nearly 5,000 people.

“The mismatch between Qualcomm’s plea to import more high-tech workers and its efforts to downsize its existing payroll hints at the phoniness of the high-tech sector’s persistent claim of a “shortage” of U.S. graduates in the “STEM” disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

He questions whether there is a shortage of STEM graduates, or whether the tech industries are looking to import cheap workers.

The industry claims shortages and highlights national security concerns, but the facts are complex. “”If you can make the case that our security and prosperity is under threat, it’s an easy sell in Congress and the media,” says Michael Teitelbaum, a demographer at Harvard Law School and author of the 2014 book “Falling Behind? Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent,” which challenges claims of a STEM shortage in the U.S.

“Despite its “cost-cutting initiative,” a company spokesperson says, Qualcomm “continues to have open positions in specific areas, and still faces a “‘skills deficit’ in all areas of today’s workforce, especially engineering.”

Hiltzik adds:

“The industry’s push for more visas glosses over other issues. As we’ve reported, the majority of H-1B visas go not to marquee high-tech companies such as Google and Microsoft, but to outsourcing firms including the India-based giants Infosys and Tata. They’re not recruiting elite STEM graduates with unique skills, but contract workers to replace American technical employees — who often are required to train their foreign-born replacement as a condition of receiving their severance. This is the scandalous method of cost-cutting used by companies such as Southern California Edison, which outsourced the jobs of some 500 information technology employees, as we reported in February.”

The American Federation of Teachers sent questionnaires to all the candidates. Three responded: Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders. I previously posted Sanders’ responses. Here is Hillary’s.

Candidate questionnaire: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Today, almost 50 million students attend our nation’s public schools. Along with their parents, communities, teachers, paraprofessionals and other school employees, these students have been forced to live under test—and-punish policies that include sanctions and school closings, high-stakes assessments, and federalized teacher evaluations that are counterproductive and have taken the joy out of teaching and learning.
Q. What is your view of the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also
known as the No Child Left Behind Act)? What changes, if any, would you make to the law, and
why? Please include positions on:
• The federal government’s role in ensuring equity and access to resources for all children;
• The role of standards, assessments and accountability in public education;
• Ensuring that all students have access to a broad curriculum that includes art and music,
as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM);
• Professional development for school staff; and
• Community schools.

HRC: I have been working to improve and support our public schools for decades. Throughout my
career I have worked to ensure that every child reaches his or her full potential, and I know a
quality education is essential to reach that goal. When I was First Lady of Arkansas, I chaired
the Arkansas Educational Standards Commission where I worked to raise standards for
Arkansas’ schools, increase teacher salaries, and lower class size. I continued in this effort as
First Lady of the United States and as a Senator, working throughout my career to provide
dedicated resources and support to teachers and to recruit, support, and retain more outstanding
teachers. We need to attract a whole new generation to teaching because it is critical that our
students have well-prepared and well-supported teachers.

When the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted, I viewed it as a historic promise between the
federal government and educators. I hoped that it would lead to a greater sense of shared
responsibility for our schools’ success. Unfortunately, that promise was largely broken because
schools struggled to meet the mandates imposed by the law and the implementation at the federal
level was problematic.

I applaud Senator Patty Murray and Senator Lamar Alexander for coming together in a
bipartisan fashion to unanimously pass the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 out of the Senate
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee to reauthorize NCLB. I believe this bill
addresses some of the real challenges with NCLB while retaining our commitment to high
academic standards, and to assessments that give parents and teachers the information they need
to know how students are performing and if and where they need help to improve. I believe that
this bill will correct for some of the real challenges that schools and communities experienced in
implementing the law and will ensure that principals, educators and local communities are lifted
up as full partners and innovators in improving public education. I also applaud the forward-
looking investments in education contained in the bill, including a new commitment to improving
early learning.One of the issues that I am most concerned about is testing. Tests are intended to provide parents and educators with an understanding of how well kids are learning. Having that
understanding is crucial. And it is important to remember that testing provides communities with
full information about how our low-income students and students of color are doing in
comparison to other groups so that we can continue to improve our educational system for all

But I understand the frustration many parents and educators feel about tests. Teachers and
parents alike are concerned about the amount of time being spent on test preparation, and worry
that children are missing out on the most valuable experience in the classroom– a teacher
sparking a student’s curiosity and love for learning.

So I am mindful that we need to find the right balance—and that starts with bringing parents
and educators back into this conversation about how we ensure a robust and engaging
curriculum that engages students in the love of learning rather than narrowing our schools to
focus primarily on test preparation.

I do think that Senators Murray and Alexander struck the right balance in the Every Child
Achieves Act by continuing to maintain the federal requirement for annual statewide testing in
grades 3-8, but ensuring that accountability for improving schools will be based on multiple
measures of performance. And I think it will be critical for states and communities to continue to
strike the right balance and not layer test upon test. There must be room for invigorating
teaching and learning in the classroom.

Q. Do you support any of the current reauthorization proposals under consideration in the 114th

HRC: I applaud Senator Patty Murray and Senator Lamar Alexander for coming together in a
bipartisan fashion to unanimously pass the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 out of the Senate
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee to reauthorize NCLB.

Q. What role do you think the federal government can play in providing access to early childhood
education? What specific policy proposals would your administration pursue?

HRC: I believe we need to improve access to quality child care and early learning opportunities for all
children. Every child, regardless of parental income, deserves access to high-quality pre-K. I
think any discussion of improving our public schools must include universal access to pre-
kindergarten. I believe we can start to close the achievement gap by investing in programs that
increase children’s school readiness and academic preparation while making it easier for
parents to balance their responsibilities at work with their responsibilities to their children. We
know children’s brains develop more rapidly at this time in their lives than at any other and that
high quality interventions make a real difference in the outcomes of children from low-income
families. . In the months ahead, I look forward to laying out a significant agenda to improve
early learning in our country.

I have been highlighting the importance of early childhood education for more than forty years.
As First Lady of Arkansas, I helped bring the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool
Youngsters Program (HIPPY) to Arkansas. As First Lady, I hosted the first White House
conference on early learning and the brain, championed the program “Prescription for
Reading,” in which pediatricians provided free books for new mothers to read to their infants as
their brains were rapidly developing, and supported the Administration’s work to create Early
Head Start, which reaches children from birth to age three throughout country. As Senator, I co-
sponsored the Education Begins at Home Act, which expands the Parents as Teachers program
and other quality programs of early childhood home visitation. As a leader at the Clinton
Foundation, I led a national initiative called “Too Small to Fail” aimed at supporting parents to
improve vocabulary and brain development in the early years to close the “word gap” and
better prepare children for school. As President, I will continue my lifelong work to expand
early childhood and parent education programs.

Q. What are your views on private school vouchers, tuition tax credits, and charter school
accountability and transparency?

HRC: I strongly oppose voucher schemes because they divert precious resources away from financially
strapped public schools to private schools that are not subject to the same accountability
standards or teacher quality standards. It would be harmful to our democracy if we dismantled
our public school system through vouchers, and there is no evidence that doing so would
improve outcomes for children.

Charters should be held to the same standards, and to the same level of accountability and
transparency to which traditional public schools are held. This includes the requirements of civil
rights laws. They can innovate and help improve educational practices. But I also believe that
we must go back to the original purpose of charter schools. Where charters are succeeding, we
should be doing more to ensure that their innovations can be widely disseminated throughout
our traditional public school system. Where they are failing, they should be closed.

Access to an affordable and high-quality system of public higher education is critical to the
health of the nation—both to ensure that students reach their fullest potential, and to
enable the United States to continue to develop as a just society, a vibrant democracy and a
land of economic opportunity.

Q. Escalating tuition and fees are leading to a growing number of students leaving college with
overwhelming debt from student loans. This burden of rising costs and rising debt makes access
to higher education increasingly difficult for many students and their families. What is the role of
the federal government in ensuring that higher education is affordable and accessible?

HRC: First, too many young people are struggling under the burden of student debt and too many
families are struggling to pay the rising cost of college. Second, too many students are starting
but never completing college, which means they leave with debt but no degree. I will be offering
my own ideas for how to make college more affordable, how to make sure no one graduates with
crushing debt, and how to hold colleges accountable to help more students graduate. Among
other things, we have to do more to link student loan repayments to income and to help people
refinance their loans. And we have to think about both four-year colleges and community
colleges. I support President Obama’s free community college proposal. I will be talking about
ways to reduce the burdens on those entering four-year colleges too, as well as those who are
out in the world trying to start a business or a family. I intend to introduce significant proposals
on these subjects in the weeks and months ahead.

Q. There has been a nationwide pattern of disinvestment in public higher education such that per-
student funding dropped 26.1 percent between 1990 and 2010. What would your administration
do to remedy this?

HRC: State budget cuts are a primary cause of tuition increases at public universities and reversing
this trend is key to making college more affordable. That’s why I will make incentivizing
increased state funding of higher education a priority, and explore ways to make sure that the
federal government is actively partnering and working with states to address the problem of
college affordability.

Q. Career and technical education programs help ensure that postsecondary credentials and skills
are accessible to all—a necessity in today’s economy. In your view, what is the role of the
federal government in supporting high-quality CTE programs?

HRC: In the months ahead, I will lay out my ideas for a comprehensive proposal to train millions more
workers over the next decade. I am exploring a number of options to incentivize GTE programs
and help provide grants to train workers for the 21st century economy.

Q. What is the federal government’s role in requiring appropriate transparency and accountability
of for-profit institutions?

HRC: We have to do a lot more to protect students and families from unscrupulous institutions and
abusive debt servicers. There are a lot of non-traditional students who want to go back to school
to improve their lives, but don’t have access to much information or support to figure out how
best to do that. Money and time are both tight, with a lot of them trying to juggle family, jobs,
and school all at the same time. So they’re particularly vulnerable to exploitation and

All students need more guidance in making decisions about where to go to school. We should
protect them from institutions that will almost certainly not serve them well. The government
should stop funding colleges where almost no one graduates and where most students
accumulate a lot of debt but can’t get the jobs that would allow them to repay their loans. In the
months ahead, I will be laying out specific ideas and proposals on how to increase
accountability in the for-profit sector.

Having a high-quality healthcare system in the United States is a moral imperative, an
economic necessity and a fundamental right for all. Underpinning this right is a healthcare
system that reflects the needs of the patients, providers and community.

Q. What are your views of the Affordable Care Act? What changes would you make, if any, to
the ACA, including the excise tax on high-cost plans and the provisions on shared responsibility
for employers?

HRC: Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 16 million Americans have gained new coverage.
The reduction in the uninsured rate across the country has been staggering, down to roughly
12% for adults.

These statistics translate into real change in people’s lives. Families who no longer have to face
the threat of bankruptcy because of catastrophic health care costs. Parents who now have health
care when only their children were covered before. Women can no longer be charged higher
rates solely because of their gender. People with preexisting conditions can no longer be denied
coverage. Americans can make the leap of changing jobs or starting a business without
worrying about whether they’ll still be able to buy insurance — because now they know they can
purchase it on the marketplace. So this is a real accomplishment we should be proud of

As with any piece of major legislation, it’s not perfect and would benefit from updates and fixes.
One area of the ACA that I am examining is the so-called “Cadillac” tax. As currently
structured, I worry that it may create an incentive to substantially lower the value of the benefits
package and shift more and more costs to consumers. As President, I would work to ensure that
our tax code appropriately advances the health care interests of lower-income and middle class

We also need to take steps beyond the ACA. We should crack down on the drug companies that
charge too much and the insurance companies that offer too little. And we need to tackling
rising out-of-pocket health care costs for consumers across the board.

Q. Do you support initiatives designed to move health insurance coverage away from an
employer-based model? If so, what would you propose as an alternative to the current system for
covering working adults?

HRC: I’ve long believed that progress on health care is only possible if there is a principle of shared
responsibility among every major actor in our health care system. Employers have always
played a critical role in ensuring working families have access to coverage — in fact more than
96% of firms with 50 or more employees already offer health insurance.

Q. Many licensed healthcare professionals, particularly RNs, are leaving hospital service
because of difficult working conditions, including excessive and unsafe workloads, understaffing
and mandatory overtime. What would you do to address these problems and to improve
recruitment and retention of nurses and other healthcare professionals?

HRC: I know that we must address the nursing shortage in this country and give nurses the training,
education, and support they need to provide the care patients deserve. We need appropriate
nurse-to-patient ratios in order to improve patient care and working conditions for nurses.
I have a history of working for America’s nurses. As Senator, I was proud to champion
provisions in the Nurse Reinvestment Act that provided significant resources to recruit and train
nurses, and I introduced the Nursing Education and Quality of Health Care Act.

I believe it is important that all American employees are safe and protected where they work In
particular, I believe that we need to consider the effects of ergonomic hazards in order to quickly
and effectively address musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace. I know that this is a problem
for nurses, who often suffer from back-related injuries as a result of having to move and lift

Q. Merger and acquisition activity continues to consolidate the U.S. healthcare system into the
hands of a few corporations, many of which are for-profit. What would you do to ensure
competition in the healthcare industry is fair and protects the American consumer?

HRC: The federal government plays a critical role in evaluating and enforcing health care mergers to
ensure that they do not stymie competition, burdening consumers with fewer choices and higher
prices. Anti-competitive and costly market consolidation in health care or other markets should
not be permitted. While the Affordable Care Act created incentives for providers to better
coordinate care and pass those savings onto consumers, we need to make sure that acquisitions
and integration of health care stakeholders will ultimately lower cost growth and increase
quality of care. To that end, in addition to providing necessary guidance to health care providers
about appropriate and beneficial ways to better integrate their services, the Federal Trade
Commission (FTC) should be funded and directed to be ever-vigilant in halting anti-competitive
health care arrangements through robust enforcement.

Q. What would you do to ensure that communities have access to public health services?

HRC: I believe we must take full advantage of the movement from volume to value purchasing of health
care to encourage much more of a focus on the value of prevention and the imperative of
population health. My record shows my dedication to this issue. As Senator, I led a bipartisan
coalition to fight for legislation to combat childhood obesity, helped pass legislation to provide
extra funding for flu vaccine and proposed legislation that would raise public awareness and
speed up production of the vaccine, and proposed legislation to combat diabetes, asthma and
HIV/AIDS. As the chairperson of the Superfund and Environmental Health Subcommittee of the
Environmental and Public Works Committee, I held the first-ever congressional hearing on
environmental justice, bringing much-needed attention to the fact that certain environmental
conditions cause health problems, which is often the case in low-income or underserved
communities. Following the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, providers are being more
appropriately rewarded on their success in ensuring wellness and good health and not on
unnecessary, wasteful, expensive and, all-too-frequently, dangerous health care interventions.
By focusing on prevention and the necessity of population health, we have a real opportunity to
finally make long-overdue inroads in the public’s health.

An administration’s economic policy has far-reaching implications for the United States
and the world. It also says a great deal about a president’s priorities and general
philosophy about the federal government’s responsibility to its citizens.

Q. What are your priorities for revitalizing the economy, strengthening the middle class,
creating jobs and ensuring fair taxation? How would your plan help restore funding for
education, healthcare, transportation, public safety and many other services provided to our

HRC: I want to make being middle-class mean something again. I’m going to take on four big fights in
this campaign: (1) building an economy for tomorrow, instead of yesterday; (2) strengthening
our families and communities; (3) fixing our broken political system; (4) protecting our country
from threats.

I will lay out a number of new ideas over the course of the campaign, including helping small
businesses create jobs, making college more affordable, raising workers’ wages and reducing
cost pressures on families, balancing work and family, helping workers get the skills they need to
get ahead in a changing economy, and making sure all our kids have the chance to live up to
their God-given potential.

Q. The United States has a $3.2 trillion infrastructure deficit according to the American Society
of Civil Engineers—and that’s just for repairs. What are the mechanisms (e.g., public, private,
infrastructure bank) through which we can fund the rebuilding of this country, including the
necessary renovation and modernization of our public schools, hospitals and public buildings?

HRC: Ordinary Americans can’t afford failing to invest in our infrastructure. If we don’t repair our
roads and bridges, and upgrade our infrastructure for the 21st Century, it’s harder for
Americans to get to work, and for our businesses to grow and compete. It’s time for us to invest
in America. That means Congress must make the investments we need in our roads and
highways and that means leveraging investment by the private sector as well. I will be laying out
my own proposals on how to leverage both public and private sources of funding and creative
financing mechanisms to address America’s infrastructure needs.

Q. What would your administration do to build and strengthen retirement security for all
working men and women, including protecting employees’ pensions? What is your plan for
sustaining and strengthening Social Security and Medicare?

HRC: Let me start by saying I’ve fought to defend Social Security for years, including when the Bush
Administration tried to privatize it. We need to keep defending it from attacks and enhance it to
meet new realities. I’m especially focused on the fact that we need to improve how Social
Security works for women. I also want to enhance benefits for our most vulnerable seniors. We
need to reject years of Republican myth-making that claims we cannot afford it and that the only
solution must therefore be to cut benefits.

I will continue to oppose Republican efforts that seek to privatize or gut Medicare.

We need a broader strategy to help Americans with their retirement security. I will have ideas
on that.

Q. What are your views on the privatization and contracting out of public services, including
school services and state and local government services?

HRC: I do not believe that we should be contracting, outsourcing, or privatizing work that is inherently
governmental in nature, including school services and state and local government services. In
the Senate, I helped secure a measure that became law that blocked the Bush administration
from downsizing the Federal Protective Service. I cosponsored legislation to protect city and
rural letter carriers from having their work contracted out by the U.S. Postal Service to private
firms and individuals. Lastly, I was an original cosponsor of the Honest Leadership and
Accountability in Contracting Act.

Labor unions give workers a collective voice in the workplace and are integral to the social
and economic health of our country. AFT members are interested in knowing your views
on the role of labor unions.

Q. Current federal laws and policies encourage and promote collective bargaining through the
National Labor Relations Act. What are your views on collective bargaining for the private and
public sectors? What is your view regarding agency fee and so-called right-to-work laws?

HRC: The right to organize is one of our most fundamental human rights. I believe that unions are
critical to a strong American middle class. Throughout my career, I have stood with all workers
as they exercise their right to organize and bargain collectively and was an original co-sponsor
of the Employee Free Choice Act. I’m talking to a lot of labor leaders and labor economists
about what the next president can do to support 21′ century organizing and collective

Q. As president, what would you do to: (a) prevent employers from intimidating and harassing
workers who support union representation, (b) ensure that workers are free to organize and
bargain in the workplace, and (c) protect the rights of American workers?

HRC: Throughout my career, I have stood with all workers as they exercise their right to organize and
bargain collectively and am an original co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act. I actively
opposed anti-collective bargaining provisions contained in the Department of Defense’s
proposed National Security Personnel System and have voted in favor of collective bargaining
rights for TSA screeners. It is also vital that we modernize basic labor standards. Worker
protections and basic labor standards have failed to keep pace with changes over the past half
century. We need to raise wages and reduce poverty among working families, including raising
the minimum wage, eradicating wage theft, promoting collective bargaining, updating overtime
protections, ensuring that employers do not misclassify, true employees as “independent
contractors” to skirt their obligations, and leveling the playing field for women and people of

Q. The federal government has direct responsibility for setting labor standards. There has been a
growing call for changes to those standards, including paid sick days, paid family leave and
higher minimum wages. What changes, if any, would you prioritize?

Experience shows that policies that are good for middle-class families are good for everyone—including businesses. These policies are pro-growth, and pro-family, and that’s a pretty good

HRC: It is long past time for the U.S. to join every other nation in the developed world in having paid
leave, which is critical to ensuring that workers do not have to choose between caring for their
family and keeping a job. I’m not under any illusions that this will be easy. We had to fight for
years to pass the unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act, and the day my husband signed that law
was a day I’ll never forget. I look forward to talking about how we move forward on this.

I have fought to raise the minimum wage for many years, and I strongly support the fast food
workers and others who are out there asking for a living wage and a fair shot at success. A
higher minimum wage doesn’t just help those at the bottom of the pay scale, it has a ripple effect
across the economy and helps millions of American workers and middle class families. As we
work to raise the federal minimum wage, we should also support state and local efforts to go
above the federal floor where it makes sense to do so.

Q. More than 8 million public employees in 25 states currently have no OSHA protection or
entitlement to a safe and healthful workplace. Do you support universal OSHA coverage for all
public employees?

HRC: I believe it is important that American employees are safe and protected where they work In the
decades since OSHA has been enacted, we’ve made great strides in strengthening the safety of
work environments for our workers. But there are improvements that need to be made. In
particular, too few workers are protected by OSHA. That’s why in the Senate I was an original
cosponsor of the Protecting America’s Workers Act, which would extend OSHA protections to all
federal, state, and local public employees.

The AFT and our members are champions of fairness; democracy; economic opportunity;
and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their
families and our communities. We are committed to advancing these principles through
community engagement. Our members are interested in knowing your views on the
following important community issues:

Q. What policies would your administration pursue to ensure that all people—regardless of who
they are, where they live or where they come from—are able to climb the ladder of opportunity
and participate fully in our economy and democracy?

HRC: Today, there are nearly 6 million young people in America who are out of school and out of
work The unemployment rate for this rising generation is double what it is for the rest of the
population. It wasn’t like that in 2000. Young people were getting jobs, they were climbing the
ladder of opportunity. Millions more of our young people are underemployed because the jobs
that are available just aren’t sufficient. They don’t offer the kind of income and growth potential
that should be more broadly accessible. For young people of color things are even harder. And
if you don’t have a college degree or didn’t graduate from high school, most doors just aren’t
open, no matter how hard you knock.

That is why education at all levels — from birth through higher education — is so important to
helping all people climb that ladder of opportunity. I have worked hard throughout my career to
make sure that every child gets a chance to develop his or her mental capacity by developing
their brain from the very earliest age, because if your vocabulary is so far behind by the time
you’re five years old, through no fault of your own but because the adults in your life are so
busy, so stressed or don’t know how you build brain cells, by talking and singing and reading to
babies, then you enter kindergarten having heard 30 million less words than a child from one of
our families. And that’s very hard to overcome. It’s not that when you’re 18 you’re not trying,
it’s when you’re five you were already left behind.

Q. In your opinion, what are the elements of comprehensive immigration reform? How would
your administration’s stance on immigration reform fight back against inequality, promote
economic justice and increase wages for all workers?

HRC: I support comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) and a path to citizenship not just because it’s
the right thing to do, but because it strengthens families, strengthens our economy, and
strengthens our country. I was a strong supporter of CIR as a Senator, cosponsoring Senator
Ted Kennedy’s 2004 bill and supporting the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act in 2006
and 2007. In 2003, 2005 and 2007, I cosponsored the Dream Act in the Senate. I also support
President Obama’s DACA/DAPA executive actions. And if Congress continues to refuse to act,
as President I would do everything possible under the law to go even further.

Q. What are your views on campaign finance reform? Do you support a constitutional
amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision?

HRC: We have to reduce the influence of big money in politics. As I said recently, I support a
constitutional amendment to get unaccountable money out of politics.

Q. What would your administration do to ensure that voting in elections is free, fair and
available to all Americans? Do you oppose policies that restrict access to voting and voter

HRC: As I said recently, the assault on voting rights threatens to block millions of Americans from fully
participating in our democracy. We need to fix the holes opened up by the Supreme Court’s
ruling. Congress should pass legislation to replace those portions of the act that the Court struck
down, and as President I would work to ensure that all citizens have the information and access
they need to fully participate in our democracy.

Q. What do you think this nation’s priorities should be during the next decade? How would your
presidency advance those priorities?

HRC: I am committed to being a champion for everyday Americans and American families. That’s
what I’ve been devoted to my entire adult life, starting with my first job out of law school when I
went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund, all the way through to the work that I did as
Secretary of State promoting women’s rights, promoting the rights of people who would
otherwise be marginalized or left on the sidelines. And I know that although we have begun to
move forward again, it is still hard to imagine exactly how we’re going to get to the point where
people are not just getting by but getting ahead again and staying ahead. Because the deck is
still stacked in favor of those at the top.

We have to be focused on how we’re going to bring about the changes that will ignite
opportunity for everybody willing to work hard for it again. We have to build an economy that’s
innovative, sustainable, and producing good jobs with rising wages. We need to actually reward
workers with increases in their paychecks for the increases in productivity and profitability.

It’s also imperative that we give people the tools through education and job training, so that they
can make the most out of their own lives. And for me that starts at the very beginning. I have
been a child advocate and a child development proponent for my entire adult life, because it’s
what I really care about and believe in. Then we have to make sure that we are doing all we can
to empower our educators, to make sure that they have the support of parents so that they can do
the job they have been trained to do to help prepare our kids. And then we’ve got to make sure
that college is affordable.

One of the biggest stresses in anybody’s life is healthcare. I’m going to support and defend the
Affordable Care Act, and I will work to fix those parts of it that need fixing. But, we have made a
great step forward as a nation to provide a mechanism for people to get access to healthcare,
some for the first time.

We also have to address the unaccountable dark money in politics. I think the Supreme Court
made a grave error with its Citizens United decision. And I will do everything I can do to
appoint Supreme Court Justices who will protect the right to vote and not the right of billionaires
to buy elections.

Finally, we have challenges around the world. But we have to be confident and strong in
understanding that there are many ways to approach the problems that America will be
confronting in the world, and we must do so in cooperation with our friends, our allies, our
fellow democracies around the world. I am convinced that the 21st century can once again be a
century in which the United States leads and helps to set the values and standards.

– See more at:

Laura Chapman, a frequent contributor to the blog, comments here in response to an article in the Boston Globe about whether the Common Core was “killing” kindergarten:

THE BIG LIE: “The United States is falling behind other countries in the resource that matters most in the new global economy: human capital,” declared a 2008 report from the National Governors Association. Creating a common set of “internationally benchmarked” standards was seen as the best way to close the persistent achievement gaps between students of different races and between rich and poor school districts.”

THE BIG LIE: I have found only two international benchmarking documents in the early history of the Common Core. The first was in 1998 with comparisons of standards in two states and the math and science standards in Japan and standards available from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS). The second report in 2008. titled “Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring U.S. Students Receive a World-Class Education,” was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates and GE Foundations. The author was a professional writer of reports. The advisory committee included seven governors or former governors, CEOs at Intel and Microsoft, three senior state and large metro area education officials, three advocates for minority groups, one foundation, and five university faculty, only two of these scholars in education. The most important source of information was the data analytics expert at the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). In this report, benchmarking is little more than a process of: (a) identifying the nations that score high on international tests, then (b) assuming the scores reflect higher expectations, and then (c) looking at some economic descriptors for those countries.

The result is a set of dubious inferences– high test scores and high standards are predicates for economic prosperity. Dubious should be written DUBIOUS, especially because this publication was rolled out with great fanfare in the midst of the 2008 crash of the world economy…for reasons that have no bearing on international test scores, no bearing on educational standards, no bearing on the nation’s children and teachers and public schools.

Nevertheless, “The executive summary (p.6) calls for the following:
Action 1: Upgrade state standards by adopting a common core of internationally benchmarked standards in math and language arts for grades K-12 to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to be globally competitive.

This is a very big lie. It is a dangerously misleading one when tossed into a discussion of kindergarten. There is no way to internationally benchmark standards or tests for every grade or subject because the meaning of “internationally benchmarked” is limited to test scores on international tests in at most three subjects, no international tests yet in kindergarten.

On top of those insistent misrepresentations from the nation’s governors and those involved in the whole Common Core Experiment to save the economy is it not strange that we find no demand at all for more and better knowledge of geography, cultural history including the arts, political history, and world languages–all of which might actually bear on functioning with savvy and grace on an international stage?

If the only or the prime value of our nation’s children and youth is economic, we are back to the same wretched outlook on children as that which existed before child labor laws. The Governors are still using this appalling rhetoric, treating the nation’s children and youth as more or less useful and productive for the economy. The same for their teachers. What will it take to get a reversal of this narrow and attitude that “It is perfectly OK to think of kids as economically worthless, or worthwhile, or somewhere in between?

The real causes of the so-called achievement gap are the result of thinking that test scores are objective…when they are not. It is the result of thinking that humans should all be thoroughly standardized to perform in the same way, at the same time, to the same level on a set of test questions that only predict scores on other tests. And those tests and scores are the marketing tools of choice for the unregulated testing industry.

Test scores have been a major weapon in the arsenal of federal and state policies designed to produce, reproduce, and not to reduce the huge disparities in income and opportunities in this nation and to distract attention from real fraud and abuse. Children are not responsible for the fate of the economy. They did not tank the economy in 2008. Nor did their teachers.

This nation is in desperate need for more ample education and for more generous views of humanity than has come from the National Governor’s Association, the Secretary of Education, corporate leaders, billionaires, and the press. The press has become too lazy. This piece about kindergarten does little more than recycle talking points from easy to find and ready-made sources.”

Gene V. Glass, emeritus professor at Arizona State University and an associate of the National Education Policy Center, ponders the ubiquity of the “Shoe Button Complex” among leading “reformers” of education.

In this essay, he recalls a story of a man who became the nation’s leading vendor of “shoe buttons” a century ago. He cornered the market on shoe buttons. He knew everything there was to know about shoe buttons, and he became a very rich man. His great success persuaded him that he was an expert on everything. The essay then refers to the “reformers” who think that their fabulous wealth entitles them to opine on how to re-engineer schools. They don’t listen to people who work in schools or people who are researchers and scholars of education, because those people are not fabulously wealthy; in the eyes of those who have cornered the market on shoe buttons or computers, the opinion of mere educators counts for nothing. Educators, in the eyes of “reformers,” are the status quo because they are educators. Better to trust someone who has never taught or studied the subject in depth.

Glass suggests that Bill Gates and his wife Melinda may be prime examples of the Shoe Button Complex. And then there is Arizona, where he finds this scenario:

Jan Brewer, Republican governor of Arizona and famous for issuing a tongue wagging to President Obama, appointed Intel ex-CEO Craig Barrett to chair a council—Ready Arizona–to study and recommend public education reform for the state. It is unclear what Barrett knows about education. One suspects that we are encountering another case of the Shoe Button Complex. Barrett is urging businesses to push school reform. His public utterances strike familiar chords: the future of the entire state rests on the test scores of little kids; more science and math majors will attract businesses to the state; it’s a global economy. After all, the public schools are “suppliers” of labor for businesses. And at Intel, “if a supplier didn’t meet our specifications, we would call the supplier and say, ‘Meet our specifications or we will fire you.’” Apparently, Barrett shares his fellow Republican Mitt Romney’s pleasure in firing people.

Of course, what Barrett is actually and unknowingly talking about is crony capitalism: Linking government and business in relationships that favor the economy. Whether the intellectual, moral, physical, and aesthetic well-being of young people is benefited by their education probably never occurs to Barrett and his ilk. Or perhaps “well-being” to Barrett means having acquired a taste for consumerism and a job to support it. In fact, most industry leaders would like to see specialized training pushed down as early in the curriculum as possible so that high school graduates appear in their HR departments job-ready, trained at public expense. And if training kids for Intel just happens to involve piping a bunch of online courses into Arizona public schools, well so much the better since Barrett also serves on the board of K-12 Inc., the nation’s #1 supplier of cyber-courses. Whether the former CEO of Intel knows everything there is to know about selling microprocessors AND education, or whether this is merely another manifestation of the Shoe Button Complex remains to be seen.


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