Monday, May 17, 2010

The Rahm Emanuel Side Of Obama Cynically Pits Teachers Against Troops


If the leaders in Congress were confident that U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan was purposeful and worthwhile, they would not have to sugar coat a supplemental war appropriation with billions for teacher retention, Haiti reconstruction, and veterans' health care. Americans deserve an honest vote, a real referendum on the trillion-dollar wars that multiply our enemies and squander our treasury. In Congress, I will not only vote against such bribery, I will work hard to organize the Progressive Caucus as a swing block opposed to deceptive war supplementals. With our states facing massive social service cutbacks, we can't afford to spend half of each taxpayer dollar on perpetual war and occupation. Bring the troops home, stop the drones, and invest at home.

-Marcy Winograd, Democratic candidate for Congress (CA-36) 

There was a little celebration at my pal Roland's school the other day. They had had some good news: the one teacher who had been selected as the cutback had somehow gotten a reprieve. She wasn't being "laid off" after all. Somehow the school district found the money to keep her. Her life wasn't ruined. Her own family wasn't in jeopardy. All the weeks of anguish had been for naught. And all the other teachers felt a little safer too. But they don't know John Boehner.

Melody Barnes is the Director of President Obama's Domestic Policy Council. Last week she addressed the serious concern-- in Washington and in America-- about how the economic downturn has caused the kinds of budget cuts on state and local levels that are threatening hundreds of thousands of public school jobs across the country. (Wealthy conservatives, whose political lives are centered around not paying their fair share of taxes-- and their political handmaidens in Congress-- are unconcerned since their own children go to private schools. That's a very narrow, shortsighted point of view since without an educated workforce America would be unable to sustain a growing and a prosperous economy.) Obama gets this in a big way and explained it at this year’s Teacher of the Year Awards at the White House Thursday. "[I]t's why," he explained, through our recovery efforts, we’ve provided emergency aid that saved the jobs of more than 400,000 teachers and other education jobs-- and why I believe these efforts must continue. I believe these efforts must continue as states face severe budget shortfalls that put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk. We need and our children need our teachers in the classroom. We need your passion and your patience, your skill and experience, your determination to reach every single child."

He had an appreciative audience. Barnes went further:
Now we need swift, bold action from Congress to respond to state and local budget cuts that are placing public education at risk and endangering teacher jobs. Thanks to the leadership of Senator Harkin and Congressmen Miller and Obey, we have legislation to avert this crisis. Today, our Administration wrote to Congressional leaders indicating the President's support for this critical legislation, and urging Congress to include education jobs funding in the supplemental appropriations bills soon to be considered in the House and Senate.

She published a letter from the president to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid about action needed to shore up local governments with between 100,000 and 300,000 education jobs at risk in 2011. "Without swift action," he warns, "millions of children will experience these budget cuts in one way or another through reductions in class time; cuts to early childhood programs, extracurricular activities, and summer school; and reduced course offerings as teachers are laid off. These budget cuts would also undermine the groundbreaking reform efforts underway in states and districts all across the country." And, he goes on, "budget cuts to police and fire departments threaten to undermine public safety and the emergency readiness of first-responders. All of these budget cuts threaten to cause damage that ripples through the economy as a whole.  The layoffs create a new drag on the economy when-- despite the recent encouraging jobs report-- we still have a long way to go." So what do we do, what do we do? 

Give him the billions he requested for the continued occupation of Afghanistan. Huh? That's right. The president who vowed he would never use the disastrous Bush Regime budget tricks that went into funding wars with unaccountable, borrowing-against-future generations "supplementals," is offering reluctant Democrats a deal: give me the endless billions the Pentagon wants for more pointless war and you can tack on money to bolster local governments so they can prevent teachers, policemen and firemen from being laid off.
We applaud Chairmen Harkin, Miller and Obey for crafting legislation in direct response to these challenges. S. 3206, the Keep Our Educators Working Act, H.R. 2847, the Jobs for Main Street Act, and H.R. 4812, the Local Jobs for America Act, each call for $23 billion in emergency support to preserve education jobs modeled after the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) established in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). This funding would keep teachers in the classroom while helping to sustain meaningful and necessary reforms in public education across the country.

We urge Congress to include this funding in the supplemental appropriations bills soon to be considered. We also urge Congress to include $2 billion in support to localities for police and firefighters to ensure that our communities remain safe, as well as $1 billion in funds for the Child Care and Development Block Grant to preserve early childhood education jobs and ensure that our youngest children do not lose the supports and services critical to their learning and overall well-being.

Sickening. And he has an easy to find comic book villain to blame: John Boehner, a well-tanned hack whose entire political career is centered around being a bagman for corporate interests and who spent nearly one in three days last year on the golf course. Boehner loves spending money on wars but hates spending money on teachers. In fact, he favors laying them off.
“The American people recognize that Washington’s out-of-control spending is hurting our economy and stifling job creation, and they’re asking their elected leaders to make tough choices on fiscal responsibility. Unfortunately, the Administration’s call for another $23 billion to pad the education bureaucracy will only make state governments more dependent on the federal government and more vulnerable when the federal funding explosion disappears. This latest state bailout proposal promotes the same flawed logic as the failed ‘stimulus’ bill that has contributed to a record $1.5 trillion deficit and left one in every 10 Americans from our workforce out of work. 

“Last year as part of their trillion-dollar “stimulus” bill, Democrats borrowed nearly $100 billion to bail out state governments and education shortfalls. Even though tens of billions remain unspent, Democrats are demanding even more unchecked spending. We continue to see examples of how this ‘stimulus’ education money was wasted or abused. The American people deserve better.

“Giving states another $23 billion in federal education money simply throws more money into taxpayer-funded bailouts when we should be discussing why we aren’t seeing the results we need from the billions in federal dollars that are already being spent. House Republicans stand ready to work with our nation’s Governors to enact education reform that gives states and localities greater flexibility while protecting taxpayers and students at the same time. If Democrats want to debate spending billions more in taxpayer money on education, then they should do it as a stand-alone bill rather than attaching it to a measure that funds our troops.”

Boehner is rarely right about anything-- and his intentions are always malevolent-- but he's correct this time. Congress should reject the war funding, bring the troops home immediately, and double down on rescuing the economy. I reached out to some of the straightest shooting Blue America congressional candidates to ask them where they stand on this incongruous conflict between the clownish Boehner and a president each one of them admires. Marcy Winograd's comments are at the top of the page. Our newest endorsee is Claudia Wright, a progressive Democrat in Salt Lake City who managed to prevent reactionary Blue Dog Jim Matheson from walking away from the Utah Democratic convention with his party's endorsement last weekend. If you think the only commonsense progressive approach to big problems comes from Washington and New York and Chicago, you're completely mistaken. Caludia:
Although I agree with Representative Boehner that the bill for troops funding and education be split, I am afraid that is where our similarities end. We are on a schedule for withdrawal from Iraq and that should be kept. As for Afghanistan, our foreign policy seems to be catching more operatives than our war. Pakistan, using its own forces, have recently captured several more terrorists than our army has been able to find. This eight year war of ours is dangerous for our already struggling economy. Do I need to remind you that an eight year war in Afghanistan helped to bankrupt the USSR? Adding debt to our future without any way of paying it off is courting chaos.

However, the same is not true about public education. Education is primarily funded by property taxes. With record number of bankruptcies, levels of funding for education have also dropped. This is a temporary crisis. Education is an investment in EVERYONE'S future. These are the future taxpayers of America and all of us need to invest in their future. This investment pays off for all of us three-fold. First, education insures higher paying jobs. Second, public education keeps our social classes fluid. Finally, education should produce better informed citizens, all of these are necessary for a Democratic Republic to function. The temporary nature of the education crisis and the permanent demand of these wars are very different. I would suggest that dividing these demands and considering each part carefully would best serve the public good.

UPDATE: Progressive Democrat Bill Hedrick Agrees With Reactionary Shithead John Boehner... Hey, It's Bipartisan!

Boehner wants to defund local governments' ability to provide essential services like education, health and safety, while spending billions on pointless wars that only benefit politically-connected contractors... typical conservative claptrap. But he's right about one thing: tying funding for the war in Afghanistan to support for public education is disgusting and even if this stroke of genius comes straight from sleazy hack Rahm Emanuel, it is not worthy of the Democratic Party leadership. Hedrick:
I am deeply opposed to linking education funding to the war supplemental bill. Those who disagree with the ever-expanding war in Afghanistan yet support vital education funding are left with a “take it or leave it” scenario. As a teacher and school trustee, I have made public education advocacy my life’s work, but I cannot in good conscience support added funding for a war that I am convinced does nothing to make us safer, damages our military capacity, destabilizes Pakistan, and is simply unaffordable.  It is enormously disappointing that leaders have chosen to use schools to leverage support for a fundamentally flawed foreign policy in Afghanistan. It is wrong to hold schools hostage. Separate the votes!

Bill Hedrick and family

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