Sunday, February 11, 2018

How Trump's Way Of Looking At Short Term Metrics Is Destroying American Innovation


In 2014 Oklahoma reelected conservative Republican Mary Fallin over conservative Democrat Joe Dorman 460,298 (55.8%) to 338,239 (41%). Although there have been some shocking recent special election wins by Democrats in Oklahoma, the state Senate has 39 Republicans and just 8 Democrats and the state House has 73 Republicans and 28 Democrats. The Oklahoma congressional delegation consists of 5 Republican congressmen and 2 Republican senators... and no Democrats. The state Agriculture Commissioner is a non-partisan job but every other executive brand job-- from Auditor, Attorney General, Treasurer and Labor Commissioner to Lt. Governor, Secretary of Commerce, Insurance Commissioner and Superintendent of Public Instruction-- is held by a Republican. Oklahoma is what you would call a one-party state.

Tangent: Democrats keep running conservative establishment types-- and losing. Last year Allison Ikley-Freeman's successful campaign for a state Senate seat in Oklahoma-- a seat where Trump beat Hillary 61.4-32.7%-- was in a very red district southwest of Tulsa. No one though she had any chance at all. It's the kind of area where the DCCC always says-- and always wrongly-- that only a rich Republican-lite Blue Dog could win. But Allison is a young progressive who was outspent 3-1, campaigning on Bernie-like issues. And she's a proud lesbian, married to an African-American. She doesn't fit the DCCC model at all.

Yesterday, Boing Boing ran a story about how Oklahoma schools have now gone on 4-day weeks so teachers can work at Walmart on Mondays to make rent. That's what one party conservative rule looks like. This is one party conservative governance:
In 1992, Oklahoma passed a ballot initiative saying that the state could only raise taxes with a three quarters majority in the state assembly, creating a one-way ratchet where every tax cut becomes effectively permanent, including the sweetheart deals cut for frackers and the deep cuts to taxes on the wealthiest residents of the state.

As a result, the state is going broke. Teachers haven't gotten a raise in 10 years and the only way they can afford to accept the pay-- third-worst in the nation-- is by negotiating a four-day school week in 90 districts, freeing teachers up to take jobs at Walmart on Mondays to make ends meet.

Teachers are fleeing the state in droves, including the Teacher of the Year, who quit his job in 2016 shortly after receiving his award, taking a better-paid teaching job in a neighboring state (the Dallas school system actively recruits Oklahoma teachers with Oklahoma City hiring booths).

Teachers are especially hard hit: their health plan was replaced with a private system that eats up more than $1000/month for a family of three-- one teaching aide was actually paying to work her job, spending $200/month more on health insurance than she was paid in salary. Teachers make ends meet with public housing vouchers and food stamps, and school food-bank drives sometimes give their leftovers to hungry teachers and their families.

It's not just teachers: the highway patrol has been given orders not to completely fill their gas-tanks at the pump, to help with state cash-flow; drunk drivers go free because there is no one available to process their tickets, and the prison system is on the verge of collapse.
Another example: Oklahoma

Looks bad, doesn't it. And it's not just Oklahoma. 7 states have failed education systems that are even worse than Oklahoma's. From bad to worse:
West Virginia
New Mexico
And this is connected to an embarrassing new report from Bloomberg, the annual innovation Index. For the first time-- and you won't hear Señor Trumpanzee bragging about this one, the way he bragged about airline safety and a rising stock market-- the U.S. fell out of the top 10. Why? Education. And if Trumps-The-clown cuts off immigration... the U.S. will keep falling. The top 10:
1- South Korea
2- Sweden
3- Singapore
4- Germany
5- Switzerland
6- Japan
7- Finland
8- Denmark
9- France
10- Israel
There are 7 criteria Bloomberg uses to come up with their scores.
The U.S. fell to 11th place from ninth mainly because of an eight-spot slump in the post-secondary, or tertiary, education-efficiency category, which includes the share of new science and engineering graduates in the labor force. Value-added manufacturing also declined. Improvement in the productivity score couldn’t make up for the lost ground.

“I see no evidence to suggest that this trend will not continue,” said Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation in Washington, D.C. “Other nations have responded with smart, well-funded innovation policies like better R&D tax incentives, more government funding for research, more funding for technology commercialization initiatives.”

Singapore jumped ahead of European economies Germany, Switzerland and Finland into third place on the strength of its top ranking in the tertiary-efficiency category.

“Singapore has always placed strong focus on educating her populace, especially in STEM disciplines,” said Yeo Kiat Seng, professor and associate provost at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, referring to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It also has a “steadfast commitment to funding R&D and innovation,” added Yeo, who holds 38 patents.

  South Korea remained the global-innovation gold medalist for the fifth consecutive year. Samsung Electronics Co., the nation’s most-valuable company by market capitalization, has received more U.S. patents in the 2000s than any firm except International Business Machines Corp. And its semiconductors, smartphones and digital-media equipment spawned an ecosystem of Korean suppliers and partners similar to what Japan developed around Sony Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp.

China moved up two spots to 19th, buoyed by its high proportion of new science and engineering graduates in the labor force and increasing number of patents by innovators such as Huawei Technologies Co.
The U.S. did well in several of the criteria-- #2 in Patent activity, #1 in high tech density, #6 in productivity-- but got destroyed in 2 areas where the Trump Regime has no interest: educational efficiency (#42) and researcher concentration (#20). They're about the future and Trump is about the quarter, not about long term success. He's the worst thing that ever happened to America.

One of the first people I turned to, among the Blue America candidates, for a perspective on this was Jenny Marshall a an educator herself. "As a public school teacher in North Carolina I can tell you first hand that neither Trump with his disastrous pick of Betsy DeVos nor Virginia Foxx give one thought to bettering educational opportunities for all students. They seek to defund, deregulate and eventually privatize our public school system so that only those with the means will succeed. It feeds in to this elitist model that doesn’t look at the whole picture though. For our country to innovate we must broaden the base making education equitable for all students. That is why I am an advocate for fully funded, tuition free public schools from pre-K all the way through college. On the other side of the aisle Rep. Foxx is making it harder on students to obtain a college degree if her PROSPER Act passes. Even more horrible is that Rep. Foxx chairs the education and workforce committee in the House. The exact place that forward thinking ideas begin to shape into law. With Foxx in charge we will see little gains in education or workforce development."

Goal ThermometerThere is no candidate Blue America has endorsed who is more passionate about education and its relationship to innovation and economic development than Lisa Brown, until recently Chancellor of Washington State University, Spokane. She knows what she's taking about and told us that "state and federal government can support innovation and real economic development that can actually reverse rising inequality by focusing on a critical factor, what economists call 'human capital.' Human capital is investing in the potential of the people-- from quality early learning  through ample K-12 and skills training, to medical schools, like the one I helped start in eastern Washington. The tax bill, supposedly focused on economic growth, missed this critical human capital element entirely, and  the version House Republicans originally passed was actively anti-education-- taxing graduate students and worsening the burden of student loan debt. Leaving the Dreamers to languish is the moldy icing on a stale cake-- not only a human rights violation-- but a significant anti-innovation move, that will cost us economically, as we lose the tremendous potential of these young people to transform their lives and contribute to their communities."

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez served as a Law Professor at the University of New Mexico for over 27 years, including eight years as Associate Dean of UNM’s Clinical Law program. She told us she's concerned that the U.S. has dropped out of the top 10 in innovation, but she's not surprised. "While we have some of the best colleges, universities and vocational/apprenticeship training programs in the world, our government doesn't sufficiently invest in the long term success of our people. In order for our country to continue to innovate and grow, we need to invest in research and quality education and training in science, technology, engineering art and math. And, we must also invest in human needs that allow for the type of innovation that takes place in countries like Sweden. Single-payer healthcare, livable wages, and debt-free college allow for people to commit themselves to R&D and innovation. Giving people the dignity and security of having readily accessible healthcare, employment opportunities, affordable housing, and educational and training opportunities without a debt-sentence, is the type of forward-thinking investments in human capital that we need to make. The costs of not prioritizing human needs not only affect the individuals in our communities, but affects our overall ability to thrive as a country."

  Philadelphia chemist Nina Ahmad completely agrees. "Our research funding has fallen behind 2003 levels when indexed for inflation, even with recent modest increases and despite the President's best effort to enact further cuts," she told us. "As a scientist, I have seen the way that investing in research can spur economic growth for people throughout the economic spectrum. However, this Congress decided we needed a massive tax giveaway to the wealthy first. We need to change our priorities. Soon."

Lillian Salerno, the progressive in the race against Pete Sessions in the north Dallas area told us that she grew up with meager resources and that her parents didn’t go to college, nor could they afford to send her. But she told us that she "depended on quality public schools and PELL grants to help me achieve the life that allowed me to become a business owner, provide jobs, and advocate for anyone without a voice loud enough to be heard in DC. My government invested in me and believe me, I paid them back ten fold. Without teachers like Mr. Erpamer, my English teacher, I likely would never have attended the University of Texas, dramatically changing the course of my life and my family’s life. Look, the American dream is built on a foundation of equitable access to high quality education. If we don’t elevate the teaching profession, pay teachers what their worth, and give all of our public schools, in every neighborhood across our country, what they need to be successful, we are putting the nail in the coffin of the American dream. And that’s what the GOP wants to do. Income inequality is working for them, but it sure as hell isn’t working for us. It is time we demanded that the rich stop getting richer on the backs of the rest of us-- our teachers, children, and public servants included. I have nieces, brothers, and sisters who are teachers and school and district leaders. Every single one of them is a passionate advocate for every kid, every single kid no matter their zip code or background, getting what they deserve from our public education system. I see how their passion translates into long work hours, working overtime with no pay, and spending their own money on school supplies. They deserve to be paid what their worth and given what they need to help our children soar to the greatest heights. What are our educators worth? Well, frankly, a lot more than the GOP lawmakers who are putting our children at risk of not reaching their fullest potentials. I can think of nothing more criminal than that." Before she decided to run for Congress, Lillian worked in the Obama administration as Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development.

And how could we not end this with the progressive Democrat who has the best chance to break the Republicans' grip on the congressional delegation, Tom Guild, who's running for the House seat in Oklahoma City... and an educator himself.
Oklahoma has followed a trickle down economic model and has put the trickle in trickle down with great gusto. For the last decade, Republican legislatures have given away the store to the fossil fuels industry and the uber wealthy, aka Okies with God’s unlisted phone number. For the last eight years they have had a Republican trickle downer as governor and hold all statewide elected and congressional offices, a super majority in the state house, and a super duper majority in the state senate. They have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. They have defunded public education both K-12 and higher education. They have watched the Sooner State’s infrastructure crumble around us. They finally had to pony up money to refurbish the state capitol building when pieces of the sky like mortar etc. were literally falling on the heads and desks of public employees trying to concentrate on their work.

Four years ago the gross production tax was lowered from 7% to 2% to reward big individual donors and also PAC donors in the oil and gas industry. They continually lowered the state income tax mainly for the benefit of the wealthy and also the faulty automatic trigger for lowering income taxes they put in place triggered reductions even when the money coming into the state budget was falling. As a result, many Oklahoma school districts now have four day school weeks, so that teachers can work at Walmart three days a week to pay their bills. This results in inadequate education for our children and more financial pressure on parents to safeguard their children while they try to earn a living. Teacher’s salaries are pathetically low and as a result quality teachers are flocking to surrounding states in droves.

The state legislature made it ILLEGAL for municipalities to raise the minimum wage just as we were filing a petition to do just that in the state’s capital city. It’s so low that Okies can’t survive with just one job. The legislature made it ILLEGAL for cities and towns to regulate oil and gas production in their city limits just as Stillwater and other local governments were trying to impose reasonable regulations. This was to protect their huge wealthy donors.

The state of the state of Oklahoma is dismal and decaying. The Republican governor is one of the two most despised in the country even though she rules the roost in a DEEP RED STATE. The state legislature is so bad that a compensation panel LOWERED their pay just recently in a DEEP RED STATE.

Why is Oklahoma a failed state? Follow the money! The state chamber crowd that heavily funds local and state races yells “jump” and the governor and legislature ask, “How High Master!”  The fossil fuels industry unleashes their PACs on anyone and everyone who doesn’t bow to them and also heavily finances dutiful lackeys holding public office. Oklahoma is on par with the dismal track record of autocratic governments around the world. Just what you would expect from a wealthy selfish oligarchy with pliable politicians answering their beckon call.

What’s Wrong with Oklahoma? The same thing that’s wrong with Kansas!

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At 12:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's add in the insane tax provision which penalizes grad students for their educational aid by calling it income. Let's look at how much grant money has been cut, including to those researchers who accepted an offer from France to move their studies there. And so very much more (lookin' at you, DeVos).

The majority of this nation boasts about their ignorance. We couldn't create aircraft, rocketry, the telephone, radio, television, computers, etc., because we're too stupid to know who to work such things out. This nation truly has become like the satirical one portrayed in Idiocracy, only a few centuries earlier than the makers of the movie expected.

This nation is going down the tubes, and we have no political organization with the power and the necessary resources to do anything about it, Both parties are owned by the very people destroying American education and moving the good jobs to India and Indonesia where the wages are a fraction of those paid domestically because so many people in both nations are ignorant and impoverished.

Dubya sent Colin Powell to India to affirm that American jobs would continue to go to India, then Obama sent Geithner four years later to make the same promise. So what is the goal? Make America even MORE ignorant so that the wages can again be cut below those paid in Asian nations to attract the work? One does have to wonder.

At 7:17 PM, Blogger Larry Piltz said...

I enjoyed your comment, 'Anonymous'. Indeed, down the tubes we go without a mandate and power source to restore democracy and rebuild education, healthcare and democratic institutions. And of course a real and sustained infrastructure update. Loved your thoughts about Idiocracy too. Maybe we're just living in Idiocracy, the Prequel?

At 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's kind of a chicken/egg/nugget paradox.

The American education system has been slowly (now very rapidly) strangled of resources for 60 years in many of our dumbest states, and now in nearly all of them partly due to bush's NCLB standardization to the lowest common denominator.

The American industrial capacity has been hollowed out by globalization and the never-ending search for the lowest labor costs since the '50s when we started importing small manufactured items from Japan.

Where nothing is made, there is no driving need to innovate.

And America's stupidest of the stupid have out-reproduced those of greater potential by a factor of at least 2 for the past 3 generations.

The only reason we managed an innovation edge before the '60s was because of all the jews that fled Nazi Germany.

There has been an innovation DRAIN since the '90s, moving away from the united shithole of America and to education centers in India, Europe and other Asian nations.

The brain drain and education resource flush has been ongoing since at least the '60s. I would point out that presidents named Clinton and Obama presided at times when these facts were well known and oft reported... yet all either one did was to make the exodus and flush worse instead of better.
But Clinton "felt our pain" and Obama was too busy "looking forward" and having all that "hope" and shit. so there was that...


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