Monthly Archives: June 2014

Five Facts for the Dangerously Deluded Education Reformers

by Paul Buchheit, mirrored from CommonDreams

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The business community smells profit margins as it continues to infiltrate the public education arena. (Photo: flickr / cc / Maryland GovPics)

Free-market capitalists view education in terms of products and profits. The products, to them, are our children. The profits go to savvy businesspeople who use a “freedom to choose” rallying cry to convince parents that they’re somehow being cheated by an equal-opportunity public school system.

Education reformers focus on privatization, public program cutbacks, and plenty of revenue-producing testing. There are at least five truths about education reform that suggest ignorance or delusion among its adherents.

1. Privatized Education Steals from the Poor, Gives to the Rich

Eva Moskowitz makes $72 per student as CEO of the private Success Academy in New York City.

Carmen Farina makes 19 cents per student as Chancellor of New York City Public Schools.

More salary shock: The salaries of eight executives of the K12 chain, which gets over 86 percent of its profits from the taxpayers, went from $10 million to over $21 million in one year.

A McKinsey report estimates that education can be a $1.1 trillion business in the United States. Forbes notes: “The charter school movement [is] quickly becoming a backdoor for corporate profit.” The big-money people are ready to pounce, like Rupert Murdoch, who called K-12 “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.”

Meanwhile, Head Start was recently hit with the worst cutbacks in its history. Arts funding overall is lower than ever, with a National Endowment for the Arts budget barely accounting for 2 percent of the National Science Foundation budget. Spending on K-12 public school students fell in 2011 for the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records over three decades ago.

Continue reading Five Facts for the Dangerously Deluded Education Reformers

Watch What You Say, The New Liberal Power Elite Won’t Tolerate Dissent

By Joel Kotkin, June 07, 2014

In ways not seen since at least the McCarthy era, Americans are finding themselves increasingly constrained by a rising class—what I call the progressive Clerisy—that accepts no dissent from its basic tenets. Like the First Estate in pre-revolutionary France, the Clerisy increasingly exercises its power to constrain dissenting views, whether on politics, social attitudes or science.

An alliance of upper level bureaucrats and cultural elites, the Clerisy, for for all their concerns about inequality, have thrived, unlike most Americans, in recent years. They also enjoy strong relations with the power structure in Washington, Silicon Valley, Hollywood and Wall Street.

As the modern clerisy has seen its own power grow, even while the middle class shrinks, it has used its influence to enforce a prescribed set of acceptable ideas. On everything from gender and sexual preference to climate change, those who dissent from the official pieties risk punishment.

Continue reading Watch What You Say, The New Liberal Power Elite Won’t Tolerate Dissent

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats

By Nick Hanauer, Information Clearing House

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Memo: From Nick Hanauer
To: My Fellow Zillionaires

June 28, 2014  – You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries—from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like Amazon.com, for which I was the first nonfamily investor. Then I founded aQuantive, an Internet advertising company that was sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion. In cash. My friends and I own a bank. I tell you all this to demonstrate that in many ways I’m no different from you. Like you, I have a broad perspective on business and capitalism. And also like you, I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine. Multiple homes, my own plane, etc., etc. You know what I’m talking about. In 1992, I was selling pillows made by my family’s business, Pacific Coast Feather Co., to retail stores across the country, and the Internet was a clunky novelty to which one hooked up with a loud squawk at 300 baud. But I saw pretty quickly, even back then, that many of my customers, the big department store chains, were already doomed. I knew that as soon as the Internet became fast and trustworthy enough—and that time wasn’t far off—people were going to shop online like crazy. Goodbye, Caldor. And Filene’s. And Borders. And on and on.

Realizing that, seeing over the horizon a little faster than the next guy, was the strategic part of my success. The lucky part was that I had two friends, both immensely talented, who also saw a lot of potential in the web. One was a guy you’ve probably never heard of named Jeff Tauber, and the other was a fellow named Jeff Bezos. I was so excited by the potential of the web that I told both Jeffs that I wanted to invest in whatever they launched, big time. It just happened that the second Jeff—Bezos—called me back first to take up my investment offer. So I helped underwrite his tiny start-up bookseller. The other Jeff started a web department store called Cybershop, but at a time when trust in Internet sales was still low, it was too early for his high-end online idea; people just weren’t yet ready to buy expensive goods without personally checking them out (unlike a basic commodity like books, which don’t vary in quality—Bezos’ great insight). Cybershop didn’t make it, just another dot-com bust. Amazon did somewhat better. Now I own a very large yacht.

But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?

I see pitchforks.

Continue reading The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats

Dawn of the Age of Oligarchy: the Alliance between Government and the 1%

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Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

 

by Joel Kotkin

Thanks to their cozy relationship with the Obama administration, a new class of super-wealthy oligarchs keeps getting more powerful while the country’s middle class shrinks.

When our current President was elected, many progressives saw the dawning of a new epoch, a more egalitarian and more just Age of Obama. Instead we have witnessed the emergence of the Age of Oligarchy.

The outlines of this new epoch are clear in numerous ways. There is the diminished role for small business, greater concentration of financial assets, and a troubling decline in home ownership. On a cultural level, there is a general malaise about the prospect for upward mobility for future generations.

Not everyone is suffering in this new age. For the entitled few, these have been the best of times. With ever more concentration of key industries, ever greater advantage of capital over labor, and soaring real estate values in swanky places such as Manhattan or San Francisco which , as one journalist put it, constitute “vast gated communities where the one percent reproduces itself.” The top hundred firms on the Fortune 500 list has revenues, in adjusted dollars, eight times those during the supposed big-business heyday of the 1960s.

This shift towards oligarchy well precedes President Obama’s tenure. It was born from a confluence of forces: globalization, the financialization of the economy, and the shift towards digital technology. Obama is not entirely to blame, it is more than a bit ironic that these measurements have worsened under an Administration that has proclaimed income inequality abhorrent.

Obama’s Oligarchs

Despite this administration’s occasional rhetorical flourishes against oligarchy, we have seen a rapid concentration of wealth and depressed conditions for the middle class under Obama. The stimulus, with its emphasis on public sector jobs, did little for Main Street. And under the banner of environmentalism, green cronyism has helped fatten the bank accounts of investment bankers and tech moguls at great public expense.

Continue reading Dawn of the Age of Oligarchy: the Alliance between Government and the 1%

Remembering Frances Perkins: An Interview with Dr. Christopher N. Breiseth and Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall

by Brad Forenza, MSW, The New Social Worker

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Photo courtesy of the Frances Perkins Center. Secretary Frances Perkins testifies before the Congressional Naval Affairs Committee in 1942.

If the aim of social work is to alleviate human suffering, there are few whose reach has been as wide as Frances Perkins’. Perkins was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor and an architect of modern-day social welfare policy. Much of the New Deal’s enduring legacy—the minimum wage, the 40-hour work week, the primary concept and components of Social Security—are the brainchildren of Perkins.

In 2008, Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall founded the Frances Perkins Center to advance the legacy of his late grandmother. Chairman of the Center’s Board is Dr. Christopher N. Breiseth, who lived with Perkins and 39 other young men at Telluride House, when Perkins was teaching at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations during the final years of her life. In honor of National Social Work Month, Coggeshall and Breiseth reflect on Perkins, her chosen profession, and her impact, exclusively for The New Social Worker.

Continue reading Remembering Frances Perkins: An Interview with Dr. Christopher N. Breiseth and Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall

FDR FIRESIDE CHAT #5: REVIEW OF THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE SEVENTY-THIRD CONGRESS

Delivered Thursday June 28, 1934

radio-show-11It has been several months since I have talked with you concerning the problems of government. Since January, those of us in whom you have vested responsibility have been engaged in the fulfillment of plans and policies which had been widely discussed in previous months. It seemed to us our duty not only to make the right path clear but also to tread that path.

As we review the achievements of this session of the Seventy-third Congress, it is made increasingly clear that its task was essentially that of completing and fortifying the work it had begun in March, l933. That was no easy task, but the Congress was equal to it. It has been well said that while there were a few exceptions, this Congress displayed a greater freedom from mere partisanship than any other peace-time Congress since the Administration of President Washington himself. The session was distinguished by the extent and variety of legislation enacted and by the intelligence and good will of debate upon these measures.

Continue reading FDR FIRESIDE CHAT #5: REVIEW OF THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE SEVENTY-THIRD CONGRESS

The elephant in the room; Or, students bear the cost of the corporate university

BY ALEXANDER ERVIN HOWARD WOODHOUSE  |  JUNE 25, 2014  |  rabble.ca

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Base image: Flickr/sainthuck

Please help rabble.ca stop the ongoing corporatization of Canadian universities. Become a monthly supporter.

The firing of outspoken University of Saskatchewan Dean Robert Buckingham this May raised questions not only of academic freedom, but of the ongoing transformation of Canadian post-secondary institutions as sites of private profit rather than public education. rabble.ca is proud to launch this special summer series on the corporatization of Canadian universities, by USask Professors Sandy Ervin and Howard Woodhouse. See their first entry: How to make USask ‘The People’s University’ once again.

We have often been asked, “What is going on at the University of Saskatchewan?” The answer, we would maintain, is an appropriation of a younger generation’s future wealth — reflecting larger injustices.

One of our best students ever, a full-time single mom of two, received notice that by paying off her student loans at $800 a month, she would be debt free in 22 years! Only the beginning, since she plans to go on to graduate school aspiring to an uncertain academic job market. The average student debt is $28,000 and rising. It takes a student three times as many hours to earn the equivalent of tuition fees as in 1975. The proportion of the overall revenues paid by student fees has risen to 31 per cent from 10 per cent. Saskatchewan students pay the second highest fees in Canada. They are projected to rise considerably more. Living expenses have also risen dramatically since Saskatchewan’s economic boom.
Lower public funding combined with corporate intrusion and irresponsibility has caused the increase in tuition. The process began three decades ago with the formation of the Corporate-Higher Education Forum (CHEF), comprising 25 members from the Canadian corporate elite and the same number of university presidents. CHEF provided systemic pressure on universities to conform to market demands. This was achieved in two ways: first, ensure that governments defund universities. By 2009, the federal government would have had to invest $4 billion per year in universities just to return to the funding levels of the early 1980s, according to the Canadian Association of University Teachers. Second, it was necessary, in CHEF’s words, “to provide a greater incentive in the university community to seek out corporate partners.” Corporations were empowered to use leverage funding to redirect university research in ways that enabled them to maximize private profits. This completely changed governments’ relationship with universities. Until recently, they took more effort in creating a nation’s most important assets — a well-educated work force and critically engaged citizenry. At the same time, corporations, with already low corporate taxes found new ways to avoid supporting public infrastructures. How about Cameco’s $850,000,000 offshore tax rip-off or PotashCorp’s CEO’s tax sheltered salary declared as “stock options?” Corporations are highly unlikely to move somewhere else — this is where profits are made. And don’t tell us that tax relief on corporations improves economic growth — Canadian corporations are currently sitting on $600,000,000,000 of uninvested profits.

Continue reading The elephant in the room; Or, students bear the cost of the corporate university

Breaking out of the two-party (ballot) box

June 24, 2014  –  Jen Roesch examines recent breakthroughs and advances for the left in electoral politics and what they mean for the future, in an article for Jacobin.

elephant donkey logos fusedNEARLY SIX years into Obama’s neoliberal presidency, there are growing signs of discontent within the Democrats’ traditional voting base. While both of Obama’s electoral wins can be attributed to the turnout of young, female, Black, Latino/a and working-class voters, these are precisely the groups that have most suffered from the economic crisis and his administration’s commitment to austerity. This is part of the reason why, for the first time since 2000, there is a space opening up in mainstream politics to the left of the Democratic Party.

In Seattle, socialist Kshama Sawant’s campaign for City Council was able to gain support from constituencies, including some unions, that would normally support the Democrats. In Lorain County, Ohio, union activists angered by their local Democratic mayor and City Council broke ranks and ran their own independent slate of two dozen labor candidates–nearly all of whom won. This represents a flexing of labor muscle in the face of Democratic betrayal, rather than a firm break, but it points to the potential working-class audience for an independent political alternative.

Continue reading Breaking out of the two-party (ballot) box

Frances Perkins Recalls the 1911 Triangle Factory Fire

Lecture by Frances Perkins, Cornell University

Excerpt from a lecture given 30 September 1964, by Frances Perkins at Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

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Listen to the lecture (19:04) (link)

Lecture Transcript:

. . . Al Smith had never heard the words New Deal, he was governor of the State of New York, he had been in the legislature before. As a member of the legislature he was the majority leader he could have appointed anybody he wanted to the factory investigating commission, but he had himself appointed to the factory investigating commission so that he could see with his own eyes what was going on. As he said, this is too raw, we can’t have any mistakes here, we can’t make any blunders and I am going to sit there myself, I am not going to turn this over to somebody else. So he appointed himself to the factory investigating commission in 1911 which was the year of the great Triangle Fire in New York City, a terrible industrial accident which burned out the contents of a 9th and 10th floor loft building factory where they made light cotton shirt waists for women.
It caught on fire and the blaze spread very rapidly. There was only one means of exit available, the other two means of exits were the elevator which was ablaze almost immediately as the flames got into this open shaft and spread from floor to floor and the second exit was locked. It was an exit to the roof, not a very good means of exit at best but it would have saved most of the people in that building if it had not been locked.
It had been locked by the employer himself because he feared that on a Saturday afternoon which he was working just before Easter on a lot of shirtwaists for the market, he feared that some of the people in the shop might stroll out over the roof exit with a few shirtwaists rolled up under their jackets or that somebody might come in and take a few shirtwaists. In other words, he was – I only know what he said on the stand – he was afraid he would be robbed either by his employees or by the outsider. Not so much by the outsider, mostly afraid of his employees. I remember the judge in righteous indignation reproached him for his attitude toward his employees. It may have been a perfectly legitimate attitude. He may have lost goods that way, one doesn’t know, but it was at least bad judgement to tell it to the judge on that particular occasion.

Continue reading Frances Perkins Recalls the 1911 Triangle Factory Fire

Meet FDR’s Backbone: Frances Perkins – An Extraordinary Woman Leader

By Jim Taggart, Changing Winds, published January 25, 2010, updated May 12,2011

fp2tFranklin Delano Roosevelt rates as being one of America’s greatest presidents. Yet he was despised by many during his ascendancy to president and during his four term tenure. And he is still reviled by conservatives and many Republicans.

FDR, of whom I am a great admirer, was an exceedingly complicated man. He most certainly had his warts, weaknesses and biases, but he was also a visionary who understood what America needed to do during the Great Depression and as World War Two proceeded initially in the absence of the U.S. Furthermore, FDR was probably the most effective president at initiating and sustaining action. He launched the Civilian Conservation Core, instituted the New Deal, and deftly handled a demanding Winston Churchill during the War.

This all sounds great. And it is. But there’s one important omission: FDR didn’t accomplish his achievements alone. One person who served under him, and who was in effect his backbone in many ways, was a woman. Her name was Frances Perkins (April 10, 1880 – May 14, 1965).

Continue reading Meet FDR’s Backbone: Frances Perkins – An Extraordinary Woman Leader