Archives for category: Jobs

David Dayen writes a daily update on the pandemic crisis for the American Prospect. It is called “Unsanitized.” I highly recommend it.

In this post, he recounts the GOP’s lack of interest in helping anyone but their funders.

How about going to the voters with a promise to help the 1%, not them? Or just distract them by prattling about law and order and Antifa?

To read the links, open the post.

First Response

The second-to-last jobs report before the election would sound really great if you were airlifted in from the International Space Station after a year of isolation. The economy added 1.37 million jobs and dropped the topline unemployment rate to 8.4 percent. This is down from 1.7 million added in July, and remains 11.5 million jobs under the number in February, a 7.5 percent loss since the beginning of the pandemic. Permanent job loss is actually falling more quickly than it did during the Great Recession, at 3.4 million. In all 19 million workers are either unemployed or have lost their jobs, based on this report. And it includes 237,000 Census hires, who will lose their jobs shortly.

The report is indicative of a country where the rich have completely cleaved themselves off from the rest of society. As Tim Noah writes, the prediction that we were living in a plutonomy, a nation of, by, and for the 1 percent, has now come to pass. You can have an economy without caring about the welfare of an exceedingly large section of the population, if you just shut your eyes. Food bank participation and the stock market are nearing record highs, simultaneously. Threat of eviction and rental debt has never been this elevated, and neither have bank profits from investments and trading. You either have it or you don’t.

So expecting a bunch of haves in the Senate Republican caucus to figure out how to prevent disaster for the have-nots might be a foolish enterprise. Senate Republicans can enable a Federal Reserve bailout (“The Fed created a bubble where life could go on—not unlike the NBA bubble,” is one great quote from that above-linked Wall Street Journal piece), but helping invisible people they never come into contact with in a typical day? Come on, they’re not miracle workers!
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So it’s not surprising, then, that Senate Republicans can’t decide on what to do, or whether to do anything, about the continuing economic crisis. Mitch McConnell first announced a $1 trillion legislative effort, mostly as a coat rack for his scheme to give a liability release to corporations, hospitals, and schools for wrongful infections or deaths from COVID-19. That split the caucus almost in half.

McConnell has come back with something about half the size. There’s a $300 a week federal unemployment enhancement, down from the $600/week that expired in July. There’s a round of small business Paycheck Protection Program funding. There’s the $105 billion for schools, and there’s the conversion of an existing $10 billion line of credit for the Postal Service into a grant. (That’s only in there to make this bill line up with the measure House Democrats passed that was only about the Postal Service. It’s an attempt to limit the negotiation.) And of course, there’s that liability release.

Of course Chuck Schumer is outraged by the Senate GOP’s offer getting smaller, not bigger, as time goes on. And the lack of funding for state and local government (Los Angeles just announced the furlough of 15,000 city jobs), stimulus checks, rental assistance, and food assistance—those things the “other” Americans need—makes this wholly inadequate.

What McConnell wants to do is find something his entire caucus can agree on, or at least the majority of the Senate (so 50 of his 53 members), to make that the right pole in the negotiation. But that has now been threatened. Some Republicans are seeing this desire to find common ground as an opportunity to layer on unrelated ideological demands.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is pushing to add a $5 billion provision for private school vouchers to the relief bill. Few actually want this as part of the overall package, rightly reasoning that it has nothing to do with coronavirus relief. But you just need a handful of splitters—four to be exact—to derail the entire enterprise. The bill is supposed to get a vote next week, when the Senate returns to session.

One of the objections is that Cruz’ tax credit shouldn’t get in while others get out. You can imagine the mollifying of Senators playing out with the entry of other tax credits to get their grudging agreement, turning the relief bill into a tax bill with a little relief.

In the end we’re likely not to see any coronavirus bill at all. It’s already September, and at the end of the month government spending runs out. Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin have reportedly agreed on a stopgap that avoids a government shutdown, regardless of the impasse over stimulus. That stopgap is probably the last chance before the election for any additional measures. But House Democrats want a “clean” continuing resolution, which means that it won’t be used to pursue other stimulus efforts.

Again, in a plutonomy, you can’t expect plutocrat-owned lawmakers (or plutocrats themselves) to see past their noses to the non-people in the streets. The stock market took a tumble yesterday, but it would take plenty more for official Washington to notice the pain

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his State of the Union address on January 11, 1944.

Seventy-five years ago today.

He included what was then called the “Economic Bill of Rights.”

It’s good to remember a time long ago when we had a national leader with a vision of a just and fair society, a vision that we remain very far from achieving. It’s good to remember a time when we had a national leader who was intelligent and articulate, surrounded by others who cared deeply about social and economic progress. It’s good to remember a time long ago when America meant something other than rampant individualism, greed, me-first, me-only, competition, and gun violence. It’s good to remember when America was motivated by ideals of the common good and the just and decent society. That was the America of my childhood. I miss it. I hope it can be recaptured.

FDR said:

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.”[3] People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.

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The New York Times showed that Trump tariffs on cars will boomerang and hurt Trump voters in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama.

“BRUSSELS — President Trump has complained about seeing too many German cars on Fifth Avenue, and threatened heavy tariffs on the companies that produce them. There is a good chance, though, that those Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs were not only made in the United States, but made by workers who voted for Mr. Trump.

“European companies have turned Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee into auto manufacturing powerhouses in recent years, churning out cars not just for American buyers but also for export to China and Europe. Germany’s three biggest carmakers all have facilities there, and Volvo Cars, which is owned by a Chinese company but based in Sweden, began producing at a new plant in South Carolina just last month.

“Yet being major employers in regions that voted heavily for Mr. Trump has not protected them.

“With barely a peep of resistance from his own party, the president has threatened tariffs — expected to be 20 percent — on imported cars and car parts. In a prelude to such a move, he has ordered an investigation into whether the imports pose a threat to national security. Trade restrictions could be put in place within months. And if he follows through, the European Union has pledged to retaliate.

“The damage would be far-reaching, draining an estimated $14 billion from the United States economy. If other countries retaliated, the cost would skyrocket to nearly $300 billion, the European Union’s Washington delegation said last week.

“Carmakers, both foreign and domestic, say such penalties would severely damage their lines of supply, interfere with exports and eventually force them to curtail operations in, of all places, Republican strongholds.

“Mr. Trump won 63 percent of the vote in Spartanburg, S.C., home of BMW’s biggest factory anywhere in the world. But Allen Smith, president of the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said the president’s tariffs would threaten the region’s livelihood.

“For BMW and its many, many suppliers scattered across the state and region, you’re talking tens of thousands of jobs,” Mr. Smith said. “We would all agree with the president’s overall aim to improve trade with America’s interests top of mind. But getting to that end by inflicting so much pain on American business is the wrong approach.”

“Mr. Trump’s threat to impose auto tariffs would be the latest manifestation of his willingness to alienate longtime allies and American companies, ostensibly to protect domestic jobs. He has already imposed levies on steel and aluminum from the European Union, Canada, Mexico and other nations, and on Friday will place tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese products.

“But this new front in the trade war carries substantial risk not just for the auto industry but for Mr. Trump and Republican officeholders nationwide, given the impact that a full-blown trade war could have on American jobs tied to the auto industry.

“Virtually all cars made in the United States contain imported parts. Unlike steel and aluminum tariffs, whose costs may not be obvious to most consumers, automotive levies would show up in showrooms within weeks. Sticker prices would rise by hundreds if not thousands of dollars. That is why Ford and General Motors, alongside foreign automakers, have also roundly condemned the protectionist measures.

“The times are gone that a producer was only headquartered in one country with production in that country and exporting from that country to the rest of the world,” said Erik Jonnaert, the secretary general of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, in an interview in Brussels.

“The economic impact would be greatest in a triangle demarcated by BMW’s factory in Spartanburg; Daimler’s Mercedes complex in Tuscaloosa, Ala.; and Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn…

“Over time, the European carmakers have expanded their operations in those regions not only to build vehicles for American buyers, but also to serve customers in places like China. Last year, Daimler added 900 jobs to its American operations, which also include truck factories, and it is investing $1 billion to expand the Tuscaloosa operation to produce electric vehicles and batteries.

“Mr. Trump’s contention that these companies may present a threat to American national security, though, has thrown that growth into doubt.

“BMW exports 70 percent of the vehicles that it makes in Spartanburg, about 270,000, helping to reduce the trade deficit that Mr. Trump often complains about. BMW plans to add 1,000 jobs in Spartanburg as part of a $600 million expansion. If trade tensions continue to escalate, BMW warned in a letter on June 28 to Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, the result could be “strongly reduced export volumes and negative effects on investment and employment in the United States.”

Thanks to Fred Smith for sending a sharper, clearer video of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s magnificent speech, “I Have a Dream.” In addition to its clarity, it also has captions.

In these troubled times, beware the reactionaries who claim that Dr. King wanted only a color-blind society, where children needed nothing more than to be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. The March on Washington was a march for jobs, a march for basic freedoms, like the right to vote, and a march for justice and equality of opportunity. Dr. King reminded us that 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, black Americans were still not free. Given our nation’s embrace of mass incarceration, millions of black Americans are literally not free, and millions more worry about excessive use of force by police.

Today, as the Trump administration plans to abandon affirmative action and desegregation, the movement for equality has been dealt a grievous blow. As it is poised to appoint another justice to the Supreme Court, all the gains of the civil rights movement of the past six decades are in jeopardy.

The March was funded by a coalition of civil rights groups and labor unions.

Please note that Bayard Rustin, the great intellect and strategist of the civil rights movement, can be seen at King’s side. Rustin was a pacifist and a brilliant writer. He was gay, and he was frequently pushed aside or hidden for fear he would hurt the movement. He went to propison during World War 2 as a conscientious objector. He was no coward. He risked his life repeatedly in demonstrations and protests. He was a beloved friend, who performed a capella in my home in a fundraiser for the Young People’s Socialist League. I am proud to have known this great man.

One of the greatest speeches in American history was delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28,1963,on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

You can watch and listen here.

Much better than reading it is hearing it.

I was somewhere in the back of the crowd with my husband. I was 25 years old.

What would Dr. King say about Donald Trump and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions?

In an article in Salon, Gary Sasso asks why the billionaires are so intent on funding privately-managed alternatives to public schools. Sasso is the Dean of the College of Education at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. After all, if they want to improve education, the vast majority of students in this nation attend public schools. Why aren’t they helping public schools? The reality is that charter schools drain funding from public schools, and they usually don’t get better results (if one considers only test scores). Many of them have a stern disciplinary regime that may raise test scores but does not improve education or the spirit of learning.


Sasso says that the huge disparities in income today and the erosion of the middle class explain more about educational outcomes than anything that happens in schools. Why are the 1% focused solely on the schools?


Sasso speculates:


Charter schools will never be the answer to improving education for all. It is simply not scaleable. And yet titans of industry such as Bill Gates, Eli Broad and the Walton family, and billionaires such as John Paulson who earlier this year gave $8.5 million to New York’s Success Academy charter school system, are pouring their millions into support for charter schools—millions that will not, incidentally, be invested in improving the schools that the vast majority of U.S. students attend: traditional public schools.


Can it be a coincidence that those who have benefited most from the last 50 years of steadily increasing income inequality—the top 10 percent–support an education solution that hinges on denigrating public school teachers, dismantling unions and denying that income inequality is the underlying condition at the root of the problem?


The most generous explanation for this phenomenon says that the wealthiest among us are motivated to support charter schools purely out of ideology. They are operating under deeply held beliefs that a school system run by the government smothers innovation and that teachers unions inhibit a free market system that, if allowed to operate, would result in better teachers and child outcomes. In addition, these philanthropists believe that public education has become so hidebound that meaningful change within the system is no longer possible, and that fresh ideas and programs not beholden to a system that resists change will provide programs and ideas that are more effective.


Another explanation that has been posited is that good, old-fashioned greed is at the root. After all, the wealthy did not achieve their wealth through an indifference to achieving a return on their investments—and our public school system is a $621 billion per year endeavor. For example, a recent investigation by the Arizona Republic found that the state’s charter schools purchased a variety of goods and services from the companies of its own board members or administrators. In fact, the paper found at least 17 such contracts or arrangements totaling more than $70 million over five years.


In addition, there are specific tax loopholes that make it especially attractive to donate to charter schools. Banks and equity and hedge funds that invest in charter schools in underserved areas can take advantage of a tax credit. They are permitted to combine this tax credit with other tax breaks while they also collect interest on any money they lend out. According to analysts, the credit allows them to double the money they invested in seven years.


However, applying the principle of Occam’s Razor (the simplest explanation is usually the best), the super-rich may support charter schools to weaken unions. That strategy increases inequality of wealth and income, especially for the poorest kids whom the charter promoters claim to be “saving.”


Sasso suggests that the best path forward for the 1% would be to focus on rebuilding the middle class, which is currently being squashed.


Rebuilding the middle class—not expanding charter schools—is the most effective path to increasing access to quality education and to giving more students the opportunity to achieve their dreams.



Vince Guerrieri is a Youngstown native and a writer. He tells the history of Youngstown, Ohio, in this post. Governor John Kasich has targeted Youngstown as a school system that will be taken over by the state, with the assumption that its public schools will eventually be turned over to privately managed charters.

But as Guerrieri shows, the problems of Youngstown do not come from the schools. They are the problems of what was once a thriving city that lost industries, jobs, and population. As industries moved elsewhere, as jobs were outsourced, the population shrank and grew poorer.

He writes:

But the district – and the city – kept hemorrhaging people. The city population, which once peaked around 160,000 and was 100,000 as recently as 1980, is now down to 65,000. With a median household income around $25,000, the city is the poorest in the state and one of the poorest in the country. There are actually a higher percentage of adults in the city without a high school diploma (20 percent) than there are with at least a bachelor’s degree (16 percent). The problems in the city schools go deeper than the board and administration – although they don’t help.

The Youngstown story is a variation of the Detroit story, and a variation of the experience of many other American cities that experienced deindustrialization, loss of population, and a steady deterioration in the economy and in the quality of life.

Politicians think they can cure these deep social and economic problems by privatizing the schools. This is like putting a band-aid on cancer. It makes non sense but they will do it anyway. They will do it because they know how to open charter schools, but they don’t know how to revive cities that lack the resources to provide decent jobs. They will do it because it shows they are doing something. They will do it even though Ohio’s charter schools are among the worst in the nation. They will do it because they lack vision.

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.

One of the central narratives of the faux “reform” movement is that poverty is just an excuse for bad teachers. In my book “Reign of Error,” I documented many reformers claiming that poverty can be overcome by high expectations and great teachers. The fact that test scores reflect family income, they say, demonstrates that poor kids are not getting great teachers.

But social science research has demonstrated for decades that poverty hurts children and families. It means less access to medical care, good nutrition, and good housing. It means that families lack economic security, a decent home, and the many advantages that middle-income and upper-income families take for granted.

Now, new studies of brain development are showing that poverty has even deeper effects on children’s health and well-being than previously suspected. The effects of living without the basic necessities of life can damage children’s life prospects. In this age of affluence and austerity, it seems wildly radical to say it, but I will: education will improve if we reduce poverty. Poverty will decrease if the federal government creates real jobs. Real jobs will be created if the federal government invests in rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

The problems of our society should be addressed by action. Demonizing teachers does not help children or improve education.

To learn more, read Bob Herbert’s powerful book, Losing Our Way.