Monthly Archives: October 2016

New Layers of Dirt on Charter Schools

Paul Buchheit | October 24 2016 | Common Dreams

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Charter schools have turned our children into the products of businesspeople. Enough. (Photo: AgainstAusterity.org)

An earlier review identified the “Three Big Sins of Charter Schools”: Fraud, a Lack of Transparency, and the Exclusion of Unwanted Students. The evidence against charters continues to grow. Yet except for its reporting on a few egregious examples of charter malfeasance and failure, the mainstream media continues to echo the sentiments of privatization-loving billionaires who believe their wealth somehow equates to educational wisdom.

The Wall Street Journal, in its misinformed way, says that the turnaround of public schools requires “increasing options for parents, from magnet to charter schools.” Wrong. As theNAACP affirms, our nation needs “free, high-quality, fully and equitably-funded public education for all children.” For ALL children, not just a select few.

The NAACP has called for a moratorium on charter schools. And Diane Ravitch makes a crucial point: “Would [corporate reformers] still be able to call themselves leaders of the civil rights issue of our time if the NAACP disagreed with their aggressive efforts to privatize public schools?”

Here are the 4 Big Sins of Charter Schools, updated by a surge of new evidence:

1. Starve the Beast

Corporate-controlled spokesgroups ALEC, US Chamber of Commerce, and Americans for Prosperity are drooling over school privatization and automated classrooms, with a formula described by The Nation: “Use standardized tests to declare dozens of poor schools ‘persistently failing’; put these under the control of a special unelected authority; and then have that authority replace the public schools with charters.” But as aptly expressed by Jeff Bryant, “As a public school loses a percentage of its students to charters, the school can’t simply cut fixed costs for things like transportation and physical plant proportionally…So instead, the school cuts a program or support service.”

Continue reading New Layers of Dirt on Charter Schools

William K. Black — Hillary: The “Good News” is That China is “Forcing Down Wages”

William K. Black | October 24 2016 | Mike Norman Economics

Champion of the people, or slave driver? Sheriff Bill is on Hillary’s case.

The general media has been treating the WikiLeaks disclosures of the Clinton campaign documents, particularly the transcripts of her lucrative talks with Goldman Sachs as much ado about nothing. I have not found any article about the disclosures, however, that reported on the extraordinary statements she made in her talk with Goldman Sachs on June 4, 2013.

Hillary told the Vampire Squid that the “good news” was that China was removing workers’ (meager) legal protections so that their employers could “forc[e] down wages” in order to increase corporate profits. She used China’s (pathetically weak) legal protections for workers as her exemplar of China’s “structural economic problems.”

Thirdly, they seem to — and you all are the experts on this. They seem to be coming to grips with some of the structural economic problems that they are now facing. And look, they have them. There are limits to what enterprises can do, limits to forcing down wages to be competitive, all of which is coming to the forefront…

Clinton’s support for “forcing down wages” by removing China’s meager protections for workers reveals that her (leaked) admission that she is increasingly “far removed from the struggles of” the working and middle-class is a grave understatement. She is not simply “far removed” from their “struggles” – she continues when speaking secretly to Wall Street to attack workers’ interests.

Department of Education Cooperates with ALEC to Privatize Education

Project Censored | October 4 2016

The Department of Education and school districts throughout the US are working with billionaire families such as the Waltons and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to undermine public education, Dustin Beilke reported for PR Watch in January 2016. Instead of defending public education in pursuit of equity for all students, the Department of Education (DoE) is working with organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—an alliance of corporate lobbyists and state legislators—as well as local chambers of commerce to encourage the conversion of public institutions into private charter schools.

A December 2015 DoE presentation showed that the federal government had spent over three billion dollars of tax-payer money to boost charter schools, supporting an uncritical assessment of how effective charter schools actually are. Beilke described the 25-slide overview of the DoE’s charter schools program as “an uncritical PR document embracing a magical idea of charter schools.”

According to the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), although many charter schools have failed and closed in the last twenty years, the DoE continues to provide significant funding to promote them. An October 2015 CMD investigation, “Charter School Black Hole,” uncovered how much the federal government has invested in charter schools, as well as the DoE’s ties to ALEC. As Beilke reported, a slide from the December 2015 DoE overview of its charter school program acknowledged that it had spent $3.3 billion to “fund the start-up, replication and expansion of public charter schools.” However, Beilke reported, “CMD was unable to extract this number from DOE despite inquiries and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests since 2014.” The actual figure may be higher, because the list of charter schools receiving DoE funding appears to have been incomplete. Overall, the DoE overview suggested that it functions as a “propagandist” for charter schools, Beilke wrote.

Continue reading Department of Education Cooperates with ALEC to Privatize Education

‘Evicted’ probes the multiple dimensions of the housing crisis

BY YUTAKA DIRKS | OCTOBER 27, 2016 | rabble.ca

Illuminating a grave yet solvable human crisis

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Once bursting with well-paying jobs in the brewing and manufacturing industries, Milwaukee, Wisconsin is now the second-poorest city in America. Over 170,000 people, including 41 per cent of the city’s African-American and 32 per cent of the city’s Hispanic residents, are living in poverty.

Between 2009 and 2011, one in eight Milwaukee residents were forced from their homes by eviction or foreclosure. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City tells their stories. Written by Matthew Desmond, now a Harvard sociologist, the book follows eight families, Black and white, who struggle to keep a roof over their heads.

The reader meets Arleen and her two boys, Jori and Jafaris, after their rented house is condemned as “unfit for human habitation” by the city. After several short stays in apartments across the inner city, she finds a duplex unit for $550 a month, 88 per cent of her welfare cheque. Desmond introduces us to other Black Milwaukeeans, mostly women, in similar straits, and recounts the stories of a smaller number of poor white residents facing eviction: people like Scott, a young nurse who lost his license when he was overtaken by his drug addiction.

Continue reading ‘Evicted’ probes the multiple dimensions of the housing crisis

Iowans on their wages: ‘I’m not stupid or lazy. It’s just not there’

Mike Kilen | October 21 2016 | Des Moines Register

FORT MADISON, Ia. — After being laid off from her factory job in 2008, Becky Haage took a job at Dollar General.

She started out making $8.50 an hour and moved up to $11 an hour as an assistant manager, but says she knew that was as much as she could make at the retail job.

“Retail is almost sickening to me, how much corporate America makes and throws peanuts to their workers, who are working so hard,” she said. “So you just have to fight for yourself, is what it’s come down to.”

The anemic rise in wages over the past five decades is one factor stirring unease among voters as the Nov. 8 election nears.

In Iowa, wages for low- and middle-income workers have not increased as much as for high-income earners.

And Iowa workers have seen even slower wage growth than their counterparts across the country. In the past 35 years, their wages dropped to 81 percent of the U.S. average, while the cost for Iowans to purchase all goods and services is roughly 90 percent of the U.S. average, said economist Dave Swenson of Iowa State University.

In other words, it’s cheaper to live in Iowa, but average wages of about $42,000, which have increased only $2,300 in seven years, don’t necessarily cover living costs

Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have both supported spending on infrastructure to create jobs and a boost in the minimum wage — Clinton to $15 an hour and Trump to $10 — but they differ on other strategies to boost wages. Trump, the Republican nominee, supports cutting taxes and reducing costly regulations, while Clinton, the Democratic nominee, has promoted plans to grow the economy through investment in manufacturing and clean energy.

Some economists see recent signs of improvement, including last month’s Census Bureau national data that showed a 3.8 percent gain in real median household income in 2015.

That’s little comfort to employees like Haage, who has struggled to find better-paying work since her layoff eight years ago, amid the Great Recession, and now makes $11.50-an-hour at a Fort Madison factory.

The factory worker

“I’m not a genius. I haven’t gone to college,” Haage said. “But I’m not stupid or lazy. It’s just not there. Used to be, you work at a factory, and you have it made. With two of us working factory jobs, we should have it made. We don’t. We’re paycheck to paycheck.”

Both Haage, 41, and her husband, Dan Haage, 47, were laid off from factories in Missouri during the recession. They moved to Fort Madison four years ago with their three children.

She eventually left Dollar General for a temporary job at Silgan Containers, slipping plastic sleeves over can lids in the canning factory, for $11.50 an hour. Her husband found a job at a nearby factory starting at $20 an hour, and with union backing has been able to move up to $25 in the last four years.

“It’s not like we are starving, but we could be better off,” Becky Haage said.

They have student loans from when her husband returned to college after his layoff and are trying to buy a house on contract. The house needs a new roof, windows and a bathroom remodel.

Continue reading Iowans on their wages: ‘I’m not stupid or lazy. It’s just not there’

Somehow This Jarritos Ad Is the Most Unifying Moment of the Presidential Election

Zachary Harris | Oct 25, 2016 | FirstWeFeast

Video via Jarritos/YouTube

Packaged in brightly colored glass bottles, and available in almost every Mexican restaurant and grocery store from California to New York City, Jarritos has become a staple on soda shelves both in the U.S. and Mexico. Now, with a powerful new TV ad titled “The Journey,” the soft drink company is positioning itself as a voice in American politics, and a strong supporter of immigration reform.

According to Remezcla, the new commercial is directed by Diego Luna—the Mexican-born actor best known for films like Y Tu Mamá También, as well The Terminal and Milk—and takes viewers on a trip to America through the eyes of an immigrant.

Continue reading Somehow This Jarritos Ad Is the Most Unifying Moment of the Presidential Election

Blackstone’s Tony James Touting What Looks Like Hillary’s Scheme to Gut Social Security

Yves Smith | October 19 2016 | Naked Capitalism

Readers may recall that Bill Clinton planned to privatize Social Security in the second term of his Presidency. The Monica Lewinsky scandal derailed his plan.

As the Clintons knew, only a Democrat can dismantle Social Security. Hillary looks to be picking up where Bill left off. As David Sirota describes in a must-read story, Hillary is planning to introduce mandatory retirement accounts, a scheme that Hillary has mentioned in high concept form earlier. As details emerge, this “enrich Wall Street at the expense of everyone else” program is even more attractive to pet Democratic party constituencies than the 1.0 version of going after Social Security directly. No one in the Clinton or George W. Bush administration was so audacious as to cut in private equity and hedge funds in the way this variant would.

But Hillary, and her major advisor on the plan who is also on her short list of Treasury Secretary candidates, Blackstone CEO Tony James, are too adept to label these required savings accounts as a stealth replacement for Social Security.The plan, as described in Sirota’s article parallels the way the contributions are made now to Social Security, with both employers and employees required to put aside a percentage of payroll…but not in the form of Social Security taxes, but in individual retirement accounts that in turn are put in “pooled plans run by professional managers”.

If you look at James’ speech, what he is proposing sounds innocuous, a supposed additional 3% of worker savings. But that is a nearly 25% increase over what workers are paying into Social Security now. Moreover, most experts agree that to the extent that Social Security needs fixing (30 forecasts are fraught), some not very onerous tweaks would do the trick. First and foremost would be to eliminate the payroll tax ceiling.

Continue reading Blackstone’s Tony James Touting What Looks Like Hillary’s Scheme to Gut Social Security

Just say no to term limits! They’re fundamentally undemocratic and that’s why the right likes them

David J. Climenhaga | October 19 2016 | rabble.ca

rooseveltAs recent events clearly illuminate, our American cousins really ought to reconsider the 22nd Amendment to their Constitution. Surely by now the rest of the world heartily agrees.

“If only, if only the Obamas could be our President and First Lady for the next 4 or 8 years,” someone named Nan Socolow commented under Frank Bruni’s column last Saturday in the New York Times.

I’m sure Socolow speaks for millions of Americans, and perhaps tens or even hundreds of millions of citizens of the world, as they bleakly contemplate the two most likely winners among the politicians now running to replace the current U.S. president, the aforementioned Barack Obama.

Only Conrad Black, bloviating from his rapidly crumbling pedestal at the National Post, seems reassured by the character of both the principal candidates for the job, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Black’s views on a variety of topics are well known, so that in itself should probably be taken a warning flag. However, je digresse …

Just to be perfectly clear, as Richard Nixon used to say, I’m talking about the Twenty-second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. For Canadian gun nuts about to work yourselves into a full-blown swivet about that, it’s the Second Amendment you care about. Just sayin.’ The 22nd is the one that limits U.S. presidents to two four-year terms in office.

Notwithstanding the worries expressed by Thomas Jefferson — second president of the United States and admittedly a fellow whose advice is worthy of at least second glance — that allowing presidents to serve more than two terms would open the door to chief magistrates remaining in office for life (he had in mind the sort who would be monarchs) there is no evidence in American history through Civil War, Great Depression or World War his fears were justified.

Continue reading Just say no to term limits! They’re fundamentally undemocratic and that’s why the right likes them

How they manage to hide a weak jobs market with numbers

caucus99percent | October 18 2016

On June 6, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said in a speech at the World Affairs Council that the U.S. economy was “now fairly close to the … goal of maximum employment.”

At President Obama’s State of the Union address, he proudly claimed to have created a “more durable, growing economy” with “15 million new private-sector jobs since early 2010”.

Both Yellen and Obama have the numbers to back up their claims. So why is the public’s economic outlook still negative? Why has nearly half of the unemployed given up looking for work?

Some 59 percent of those who have been out of work for two years or more say they have stopped looking, the Harris Poll of unemployed Americans showed. Overall, 43 percent of the jobless said they have given up, according to the poll released in conjunction with Express Employment Professionals, a job placement service.

“This is a tale of two economies,” Express CEO Bob Funk said in a statement. “It’s frightening to see this many people who could work say they have given up.”

Something doesn’t add up.

The political shills may not want to admit it, but the workers are always right about the labor market. Their opinions are the only ones that really matter.

There is more than one way this disconnect of official stats from reality is done.

For starters, there are the people filing new and continuing unemployment claims.

Initial filings have remained below 300,000 for 84 straight weeks — the longest streak since 1970 — and continuing unemployment claims, at 2.05 million, are at the lowest level since 2000….

New laws implemented across several states after the recession have cut the duration of benefits. Until 2011, all states paid at least as many as 26 weeks of aid to eligible, unemployed individuals, according to an August report from the Congressional Research Service. Now, about eight states have less generous plans in effect, ranging from as few as 12 weeks of aid in Florida and North Carolina, conditional on the state’s unemployment rate. That makes it less attractive for people to file a claim to begin with.

unempl

Continue reading How they manage to hide a weak jobs market with numbers

What the Narcissists Have Done to Our Jobs and Health

Paul Buchheit | October 17 2016 | Common Dreams 

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‘Like other great narcissists, [Donald Trump] is a very important man in his own head.’ (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)
When Donald Trump blurted out “that makes me smart” as a reason for non-payment of taxes, he was revealing a truth about the American narcissist. Senator Lindsey Graham was equally arrogant when he stated, “It’s really American to avoid paying taxes, legally… It’s a game we play.” The game has become very popular, with an incomprehensible three-quarters of Fortune 500 companies stashing profits in offshore tax havens, avoiding over $700 billion in U.S. taxes.

Who Are the Narcissists?

They’re people who don’t feel any responsibility to the society that made them rich, largely because they believe in the “self-made” myth. Their numbers are growing. For every 100 households with $100 million in assets in 2010, there are now 160.

Some of the super-rich care about average Americans, and some are well-intentioned philanthropists, but in general, as numerous studies have shown, wealthier individuals tend to be imbued with a distinct sense of entitlement. They believe their talents and attributesgenius, even – have earned them a rightful position of status over everyone else.

The narcissists care less about the feelings and needs of others, they become anti-social, they are less generous with their money, they move further to the right, and they become less willing to support the economic needs of all members of society. People in rich countries have been found to express less concern about their environmental impact.

And as the wealth gap widens, people at the two extremes become more and more distrustful of each other.

Most disturbing is that ‘upper-class’ individuals tend to behave more unethically than average citizens. Especially at the highest levels, where career success has been associated with Machiavellianism — doing anything necessary to get ahead. A recent study of 261 U.S. senior professionals found that 21 per cent had clinically significant levels of psychopathic traits, compared to about one percent in the general population. That’s roughly the same rate as for prisoners.

Jobs: Narcissists Blame “the U.S.” for the Collapse of the Job Market

Stunning hypocrisy: Apple claims to be responsible for “creating and supporting 1.9 million jobs” while actually employing 115,000; but the company complains that “the U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need”; yet Apple undermines job creation in its role as the biggest overseas profit hoarder and a leading tax avoider; but its CEO Tim Cook said, “We pay all the taxes we owe – every single dollar.”

Continue reading What the Narcissists Have Done to Our Jobs and Health