Archives for category: Economy

This reader commented on a post called “Is the Charter Movement Imploding?” That post reviewed some recent egregious charter school scandals.

He wrote:

“One purpose of school privatization is to bring about “deregulation” of the education system. wherever and whenever deregulation has been permitted to proceed, the result, for public goods and services, has been disastrous. The financial collapse of 2008 was the direct outcome of deregulation. Deregulation was supposed to lead to greater efficiency in the provision of housing and in financial services. Instead it wiped out trillions in individual and social wealth; it nearly destroyed the American economy; and it created a deep, deep well of misery and suffering. The high priests of neoliberalism who called for deregulation should have been made to eat their hats. Their bogus theorizing did not lead to the paradise they promised; instead it put many people in hell. All deregulation of finance achieved was the enrichment of predators and parasites, who preyed on the vulnerable and the desperate by scams, deception and outright criminal acts.

“The deregulation of public education, by leave of privatization, is creating similar opportunities for the unscrupulous and untrustworthy. Because there are no hard and fast criteria for opening a charter school (except a religious commitment to corporate education reform), it’s obvious that this wide open “wild west” frontier where public money is there for the taking was bound to attract venal and criminal types, who have no business at all being around children. Connecticut is notable, because the gap between rich and poor communities is extremely stark, and the State is under legal pressure to make school funding more equitable. But the powers that be in Connecticut are closely connected to the Wall St Hedge Fund Crowd (some of the very people who brought about the 2008 economic collapse), and it is this power which is strongly pushing school privatization. The Hedge Fund Predators don’t care who gets a charter school, just so long as charter schools are created. And the Democratic Governor Malloy is all too willing to oblige his patrons. Malloy is a low character with high ambitions. He would sell his mother to advance his career. But seeing as no one is interested in buying his mother, Malloy has decided to sell out minority children in Connecticut’s poorest cities.

“Deregulation of financial services led to the destruction of many poor neighborhoods, as people were given mortgages they could not manage. The mortgages were given because they were ultimately insured by the Federal government. Private investors got stinking rich by fraud and deception. Homeowners got foreclosed. And the general public picked up the tab for unethical and criminal profiteering. As the Charter school movement continues to grow, you can see the same sorry pattern. Charters are given to crooks, incompetents and charlatans. Some of them make out like bandits. Children in the charters are often given a dreadful education. Neighborhood schools are ruined. Profiteering is at the public expense, as hardly any charter school could survive without public funding. I would not say that the Charter school movement is imploding, but this prospect can’t be ruled out in the future, as deregulation is just another name for ongoing and deepening chaos.”

According to a guest post for EduShyster by high school teacher Keith Benson, The taxpayers of Camden, New Jersey, will spend $82 million to build a practice facility for the Philadelphia 76ers at the same time it is laying off hundreds of school teachers. The new facility will provide 50 low-wage seasonal jobs. This clarifies the priorities of the political leaders of Camden and New Jersey. Education last. Students last.

As Benson writes, “At every turn, the mayor and the *leadership* of Camden start with the assumption that the solution to our city’s problems lies in the hands of outside others. Hence our city leaders are now placing their hopes in corporate-led charter school chains, like Mastery Charter Schools, UnCommon Schools and KIPP (please YouTube some clips of their respective pedagogical techniques), to be staffed with mostly white Teach for America corps members who will only temporarily fill the role of teacher to children desperately needing quality educational leaders and stability. This despite the fact our public schools serve a citizenry mired in generational and concentrated poverty (due largely to historic discriminatory housing and employment policies and inherent structural inequality) that greatly affects students’ scholastic outcomes.”

And so it goes.

Regular reader and commenter Lloyd Lofthouse explains why we need unions:

Let me add something one of my uncles told me. He was 96 when he died about ten years ago.

As a young man, he remembered going to the railroad yard hoping to get work to earn enough to buy food. There was no union then. He said hundreds got up early every morning to show up. The manager in charge of loading and unloading the trains would stand in the opening of one of the box cars and throw ten, fifteen or twenty chips over the heads of the crowd of hopeful workers. Those who caught the chips and kept them got to work sixteen hours that day for about 25 cents.

The next day was a repeat.

This was in the United States during the Great Depression.

Without labor unions working as a collective voice for the workforce, most of the rich and famous will make sure the world we live in returns to that time. Study history as Back2basic suggests and you will learn from it. Mankind doesn’t change and power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. History repeats itself if we allow it.

I read an article recently that compared business methods and this article said that about 4 out of every 5 business are run like dictatorships and the workers are not treated with respect or paid a fair wage with benefits.

Businesses like Costco that are not unionized, Wholefoods, and Trader Joe’s that treat their workers with respect and pays them a living wage with benefits are the exception. Costco has even been criticized by Wall Street because of how much they pay their employees (like $12 or $14 an hour instead of the minimum wage). The stock holders grumble that if Costco paid their employees less, the stock holders would make more from the stocks. If you doubt this, Google it. Costco’s CEO basically told Wall Street to “F” off without using the “F” word. Companies like Costco have a high retention rate compared to corporations like Wall-Mart.

Why is it that some of the 1% who have the most money have spent HUGE fortunes on propaganda and lobbyists in state capitals and Washington DC for decades to destroy the labor unions? What do they have to gain?

Negative opinions of labor unions come from that propaganda and if you believe them and you are not a billionaire or millionaire, what does that say about you?

The answer may be found in this Abraham Lincoln quote: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Who is greedy—the Koch brothers who are worth more than one hundred billion dollars (combined) and are willing to pollute the air, water and soil to increase their wealth or the union worker who is paid maybe $25 an hour with a retirement and health plan that cuts into the profits and wealth of people like Bill Gates, the Walton family or Eli Broad?

Without labor unions, the worker has no voice. The only voice heard will be from someone like Bill Gates.

Paul Thomas uses “Hamlet” and allegory to make the point that the myth of rugged individualism is over, that we are ruled by an oligarchy, and that we must redirect our belief system to recognize reality.

He writes:

“The U.S. is trapped in our false myths—the rugged individual, pulling one’s self up by the bootstraps—and as a result, we persist in blaming the poor for being poor, women for being the victims of sexism and rape, African Americans for being subject to racism. Our pervasive cultural ethos is that all failures lie within each person’s own moral frailties, and thus within each person’s ability to overcome. We misread the success of the privileged as effort and the struggles of the impoverished as sloth—and then shame those in poverty by demanding that they behave in ways that the privilege are never required to assume.

“We refuse to step away from the gaze on the conditions and actions of the individual in order to confront the failures of our society: the Social Darwinism of our capitalist commitments to competition and materialism.

“To place this in pop culture terms, the U.S. has too long been a Superman culture, the most rugged of rugged individuals, and it is time to replace that myth with a commitment to the X-Men (while not perfect, the X-Men mythology is grounded in community and a moral imperative about the sacred humanity in every person regardless of his/her status at birth, an imperative that rejects the tyranny of the norm).

“Once we recognize that community and solidarity are powerful, we will collectively change the paradigm, and like Hamlet, we will tear away false promises of the oligarchs, recognizing that the privileged ruling class in the U.S. (like kings in Hamlet’s Denmark) are substantially one level below excrement (“how a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar”); and thus, the promise of a free people, the promise of democracy can be served only if we recognize our shared interests as workers, as humans, as the majority, and ultimately as the moral grounding too long ignored by the billionaire class we now serve.”

Anthony Cody is confused by the contradictions of the corporate reform movement. “On the one hand, we have a seemingly utopian project with bold pronouncements about the boundless capacity of all students – even those with serious learning disabilities – to succeed on ever more difficult tests. On the other hand, we have tests that are apparently intentionally designed to fail in the realm of two thirds of our students.”

Cody considers the views of Bill Gates, who has finally admitted that student motivation plays a role in whether students learn.

Cody points out that student motivation is affected by their sense of their own future. Yet as Gates himself admits:

“Well, technology in general will make capital more attractive than labor over time. Software substitution, you know, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses… It’s progressing. And that’s going to force us to rethink how these tax structures work in order to maximize employment, you know, given that, you know, capitalism in general, over time, will create more inequality and technology, over time, will reduce demand for jobs particularly at the lower end of the skill set. And so, you know, we have to adjust, and these things are coming fast. Twenty years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower, and I don’t think people have that in their mental model.”

So if there are fewer jobs, a shrinking middle class, and fewer opportunities for social mobility, students face a bleak future. How can they be motivated in an economy where their prospects are dim?

Cody writes:

“Gates is suggesting we increase taxes on consumption by the wealthy, and use those revenues to provide a sort of subsistence level payment to the poor. He opposes an increase in the minimum wage because it might raise employer costs, which they would then try to cut by laying people off.

“Gates is unconcerned about income inequality as an issue. He defines poverty as abject starvation and homelessness, and hopes employers can be convinced to keep on employees because they do not cost very much.

“The motivation of 50 million K12 students in the US is directly related to the degree to which their education leads to a brighter future. We have a big disconnect here when the future does not, in fact, offer much chance at access to college or productive employment. And as Wilkinson and Pickett established in their book The Spirit Level, the level of inequality societies tolerate has a dramatic effect on the mental state and wellbeing of its citizens…..

“As I wrote earlier in the week, there seems to be an attempt to use ever more difficult Common Core aligned tests to certify as many as two thirds of our students as unworthy of such opportunities.

“This brings to mind a dystopian future where an underclass of Common Core test rejects is allowed to subsist with the bare minimum payments required to keep starvation at bay, while a shrinking cadre of insecure workers maintain the machinery that keep the lights on and the crops harvested.

“The fundamental problem of the current economy is that we have not figured out a means by which the top 1% can be persuaded to share the prodigious profits that have flowed from technological advances…

“I cannot reconcile how this future of growing inequality and a shrinking workforce intersects with the grand utopian vision of the Common Core. So then I go back and have to question the validity of the promises made for the Common Core, since the economic projections Gates is making here seem sound….

“These economic problems will not be addressed by Common Core, by charter schools or any other educational reforms. They will not even be addressed in a significant way by what we might praise as authentic education reforms, such as smaller class sizes or more time for teacher collaboration – though these are worthwhile and humane things.
Imperfect as they have been, public schools have been an institution under mostly democratic control, funded by taxpayers, governed by elected school boards, and run by career educators. Market-driven education reform is bringing the cruelty of commerce into what was part of the public sphere, attempting to use test scores to open and close schools like shoe stores, and pay teachers on test score commissions as if we were salesmen.

“The rhetoric of the corporate reform project draws on the modern movement for civil rights, and even Bill Gates asserts that his goal is to fight inequity. But elites have rarely, if ever, designed solutions that diminish their privilege, and this is no exception. It appears that corporate education reform has devised a means to affix blame for inequity on classroom teachers, even as technological advances make it possible to transfer even more wealth into its sponsors’ bank accounts, with fewer people being paid for the work that remains necessary. The promise that the Common Core will prepare everyone for the American dream is made a lie by the intentionally engineered failure rates on Common Core aligned tests.”

Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Columbia University, writes that the increasing inequality in the U.S. is neither inevitable nor necessary. Other nations have experienced economic growth while assuring greater equality. We could as well, but the super-rich have managed to capture control of enough politicians to prevent any legislation that might increase their tax rates and assure a fairer society “with justice for all.”

Stiglitz writes:

“So why has America chosen these inequality-enhancing policies? Part of the answer is that as World War II faded into memory, so too did the solidarity it had engendered. As America triumphed in the Cold War, there didn’t seem to be a viable competitor to our economic model. Without this international competition, we no longer had to show that our system could deliver for most of our citizens.

“Ideology and interests combined nefariously. Some drew the wrong lesson from the collapse of the Soviet system. The pendulum swung from much too much government there to much too little here. Corporate interests argued for getting rid of regulations, even when those regulations had done so much to protect and improve our environment, our safety, our health and the economy itself.

“But this ideology was hypocritical. The bankers, among the strongest advocates of laissez-faire economics, were only too willing to accept hundreds of billions of dollars from the government in the bailouts that have been a recurring feature of the global economy since the beginning of the Thatcher-Reagan era of “free” markets and deregulation.

“The American political system is overrun by money. Economic inequality translates into political inequality, and political inequality yields increasing economic inequality. In fact, as he recognizes, Mr. Piketty’s argument rests on the ability of wealth-holders to keep their after-tax rate of return high relative to economic growth. How do they do this? By designing the rules of the game to ensure this outcome; that is, through politics.

“So corporate welfare increases as we curtail welfare for the poor. Congress maintains subsidies for rich farmers as we cut back on nutritional support for the needy. Drug companies have been given hundreds of billions of dollars as we limit Medicaid benefits. The banks that brought on the global financial crisis got billions while a pittance went to the homeowners and victims of the same banks’ predatory lending practices. This last decision was particularly foolish. There were alternatives to throwing money at the banks and hoping it would circulate through increased lending. We could have helped underwater homeowners and the victims of predatory behavior directly. This would not only have helped the economy, it would have put us on the path to robust recovery.”

Educators see the results of what Stiglitz describe in the unwillingness by politicians to provide equality of educational opportunity. Our Secretary of Education is a champion of privatization who prefers competition to equity and doesn’t care about segregation. State legislatures are cutting school budgets. Class sizes are growing. Teachers pay for school supplies. Public education is dying in urban districts like Philadelphia and Detroit, as rich white bankers pump money into privatization. Some see public education as a sector ripe for profit and plunder. In some states, such as Ohio, Michigan, and Florida, the for-profit charter industry has captured control of the government and suffers little or no regulation.

Stiglitz concludes:

“The problem of inequality is not so much a matter of technical economics. It’s really a problem of practical politics. Ensuring that those at the top pay their fair share of taxes — ending the special privileges of speculators, corporations and the rich — is both pragmatic and fair. We are not embracing a politics of envy if we reverse a politics of greed. Inequality is not just about the top marginal tax rate but also about our children’s access to food and the right to justice for all. If we spent more on education, health and infrastructure, we would strengthen our economy, now and in the future. Just because you’ve heard it before doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try it again.

“We have located the underlying source of the problem: political inequities and policies that have commodified and corrupted our democracy. It is only engaged citizens who can fight to restore a fairer America, and they can do so only if they understand the depths and dimensions of the challenge. It is not too late to restore our position in the world and recapture our sense of who we are as a nation. Widening and deepening inequality is not driven by immutable economic laws, but by laws we have written ourselves.”

Zephyr Teachout is running for governor in the Democratic primary against Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo has collected more than $30 million for his campaign, much of it from Wall Street titans. At the convention of the Working Families Party last month, Cuomo won over the union leaders, who delivered the WFP endorsement to him over Teachout. She must gather 15,000 signatures on petitions by July 7 from across the state to place her on the ballot for the Democratic primary ballot on September 9.

Among other things, she wants to change the way political campaigns are funded. She says:

“Right now, the campaign funding system leads to politicians basically being beggars at the feet of oligarchs. It’s what the progressives of another era called the invisible government: the private power that sits behind public power. Politicians are not making decisions based on what they think their constituents want or even what they think is best for their constituents. They’re making decisions based on who is giving them $60,000; that’s more money than any middle-class person can afford.”

In this interview, Teachout explains why she is running and why she thinks she has a possibility of upsetting Cuomo. Her basic issues are public corruption, about which she is an expert; the environment (she opposes fracking and favors alternative sources of energy); economic development; jobs; a higher minimum wage; and education. Everyone who runs for office in New York promises to “clean up” the ethical swamp in Albany. Teachout means it.

This article in Salon tries to understand education from an economic perspective. It says that the great expansion of public education occurred when our factories were expanding and we needed more workers. Now, with outsourcing and autation, society and our elites are less willing to invest in education, and so we live in an era of austerity and privatization.

Eric Levitz writes of the Obama administration’s reluctance to address glaring inequality:

“We have an economy in which 46.5 million Americans live in poverty, the real unemployment rate is above 12 percent, and our 400 wealthiest citizens enjoy as much wealth as the entire bottom half of the population. But a political system designed for gridlock, the grossly disproportionate influence of the rich, and Americans’ ideological aversion to class politics conspire to make it politically inadvisable for a Democratic president to even speak the words “income inequality” before a national audience. Absent the political will to explore redistributive structural reforms, we’re left with “ladders of opportunity,” and a vision of economic salvation through higher test scores.”

Levitz interviews philosophy of education professor David Blacker. He asks him about how charter schools fit into the current era, and Blacker replies:

“I think the logic there is a kind of marketization logic. It’s an ideal of privatization which I think is ultimately tied to… I think privatization is the twin of austerity. Austerity being withdrawal of public commitment and public expenditure. I see those things as hand in hand, and they are symptomatic, from my point of view, of this decrease in commitment to that project of universal public education. Because the market logic sort of implies that education is this contingent matter for individuals. It’s less of a social good. It’s less of something we ought to worry about collectively, and more a commodity that individuals need to seize or take advantage of on their own. Invest in yourself. Or parents, invest in your children.”

Peter Dreier of Occidental College explains how the Occupy Wall Street movement started a momentum that changed Seattle:

Friends,

An idea that only a year ago appeared both radical and impractical has become a reality. On Monday, Seattle struck a blow against rising inequality when its City Council unanimously adopted a city wide minimum wage of $15 an hour — the highest in the nation.

In my new article in The American Prospect, “How Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage Victory Began in New York City’s Zuccotti Park,” I explain that this dramatic change in public policy is partly the result of changes brought about by last November’s Seattle municipal elections. But it is also the consequence of changing social conditions beyond Seattle, shifts in public opinion about business, government, and the poor, and years of effective grassroots activism around the country.

We can trace Seattle’s remarkable victory to the wave of local “living wage” campaigns in the 1990s, growing public outrage about corporate abuse and widening inequality, the explosion of anger that became Occupy Wall Street, and the rising protest movement of low-wage workers in the past two years.

Seattle’s union and community organizers, and their allies in government, did not wait for the time to be “ripe.” They helped ripen the time — seizing new opportunities and building on past successes.

Now that Seattle has established a new standard, the pace of change is likely to accelerate quickly as activists and politicians elsewhere seek to capture the new mood. Many other cities and states are now looking to follow in Seattle’s footsteps. The momentum for raising the minimum wage will not only improve living conditions for millions of Americans. It will also spark a new wave of organizing, by revealing how the combination of inside politics and outside protest can bring about progressive change.

Five years from now, Americans may look back at this remarkable victory in Seattle and wonder what all the fuss was about.

Feel free to circulate and repost.

Peter

——————————————————————
Peter Dreier
Dr. E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics
Chair, Urban & Environmental Policy Department
Occidental College
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Phone: (323) 259-2913
FAX: (323) 259-2734
Website: http://employees.oxy.edu/dreier
New book: The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books) — published July 2012

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality” – Dante

David Leonhardt says the latest data demonstrate that a four-year college degree is worth the investment. In fact, it pays so well that it actually rewards those who get the degree. College graduates with a four-year degree definitely make more money than those who didn’t finish college or those with only a high school diploma.

He concludes that everyone should get a four-year degree.

“Not so many decades ago, high school was considered the frontier of education. Some people even argued that it was a waste to encourage Americans from humble backgrounds to spend four years of life attending high school. Today, obviously, the notion that everyone should attend 13 years of school is indisputable.

“But there is nothing magical about 13 years of education. As the economy becomes more technologically complex, the amount of education that people need will rise. At some point, 15 years or 17 years of education will make more sense as a universal goal.

“That point, in fact, has already arrived.”

Now, it is hard to argue against college for all. I personally believe that anyone who wants to go to college should do so. I also believe that every state should have free public universities so students can enroll and leave with no debt.

But what puzzles me is this: first, if everyone has a four-year degree, will there still be a big wage premium for everyone? Second, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that most of the new jobs in the next decade won’t require a college degree. These will be jobs like “personal care aides,” home health aides, construction workers, retail salespersons. Will college graduates fill those jobs?

just wondering.

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