Sunday, January 02, 2011

U.S. Still Richly Rewarding Banksters-- Demonizing Schoolteachers


I got back from London a few hours ago, and Roland will be back a few hours from now. I came back to the long steam bath I was craving. He's coming back to an uncertain job situation at McKinley Elementary School in Compton-- a situation likely to have a national impact.

"It will be," as the L.A. Weekly explained last week, "either the first school seized from its district by unsatisfied parents, or it will be the first school to fight back so hard it defeats a bold new chance at reform. And it will not be the parents on either side who make this decision, though their signatures are needed. It will be the warring giants who back them," and a move by ascendant Latinos, backed by a for-profit, anti-union charter school company (Celerity) and Michelle Rhee, to take over a formerly all-African-American school system. This is all part of Obama's so-called "Race to the Top" initiative, which is likely to have as bad an impact on education as Bush's "No Child Left Behind."

When Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to Charles Jarvis on September 28, 1820 that education society's protection against tyranny he didn't have for-profit corporations in mind.
I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutions power.

Conservatives, always the enemy of (costly) public education-- why would slaves need education to distract them?-- are, once again, targeting public schools as failing while they deprive them of adequate funding and, at the same time, diverting public funds to slick, for-profit education corporations like Celerity.

On the plane home yesterday I watched Oliver Stone's Wall Street Never Sleeps. "It's not about the money," says Gordon Gekko 23 years after the first film; "it's about The Game." Within a couple of scenes he's turned $100 million in shady cash into a billion dollars through the kind of predatory speculation that has driven the world economy over a cliff and that is the tip of the spear that is concentrating our nation's wealth and power in the hands of fewer and fewer selfish, greedy-- and very dangerous-- egomaniacs.

Teachers don't play The Game. And they don't ever see that kind of money. Society ranks teachers-- judging by the tiny salaries they get-- very low on the totem poll, nothing like destructive Wall Street speculators and criminal banksters who are at the top of the heap. Unions have managed to keep teachers from penury, although it's difficult for them to remind the public that if society rewards banksters and drug dealers and lawyers so much more than schoolteachers, that profession won't always attract the highest-caliber minds. Yesterday's NY Times spotlighted how the Conservative Consensus is going after unions, the public-employee ones, again. The Republicans, conservative Democrats, including Obama, and their media allies have teachers' unions, not Wall Street traders, firmly in their sights.

The Times tells it from the point of view of the Establishment, of course.
Across the nation, a rising irritation with public employee unions is palpable, as a wounded economy has blown gaping holes in state, city and town budgets, and revealed that some public pension funds dangle perilously close to bankruptcy. In California, New York, Michigan and New Jersey, states where public unions wield much power and the culture historically tends to be pro-labor, even longtime liberal political leaders have demanded concessions-- wage freezes, benefit cuts and tougher work rules.

It is an angry conversation. Union chiefs, who sometimes persuaded members to take pension sweeteners in lieu of raises, are loath to surrender ground. Taxpayers are split between those who want cuts and those who hope that rising tax receipts might bring easier choices.

And a growing cadre of political leaders and municipal finance experts argue that much of the edifice of municipal and state finance is jury-rigged and, without new revenue, perhaps unsustainable. Too many political leaders, they argue, acted too irresponsibly, failing to either raise taxes or cut spending.

A brutal reckoning awaits, they say.

African-American schoolteachers in L.A. are kicking themselves for having backed Obama and realize they made a fatal mistake. Think about that. And in New York, teachers are realizing they made the same mistake by backing Andrew Cuomo for governor.
Richard Iannuzzi, president of the New York State Teachers Union, said he expects a battle over Cuomo's plans to cut school funding and impose a 2% cap on property tax increases.
"I expect the good people in the Assembly and Senate to push back on that," Iannuzzi said. "They understand the importance of education."

Cuomo has been anticipating attacks from major public sector unions and other special interests and has recruited help from private-sector unions and the business community.

Those groups are expected to help fund an effort to fight the ad wars the traditional interest groups use to try to trample a governor's agenda.

Iannuzzi stopped short of accusing Cuomo of trying to pit public and private sector unions against each other.

"Some of his supporters are looking to drive a wedge between the haves and the have-nots, and those are the haves that are trying to drive the wedge," he said.

The "haves," he said, are those with millions of dollars to support Cuomo's agenda.

"My goal, and the goal of the union movement, is to speak truth to that power," Iannuzzi said. "And what is fair is not balancing the budget on the backs of working people."

In one heartwarming scene in Wall Street Never Sleeps, the hero gets an unexpected $1,450,000 bonus check. So nice! Roland doesn't expect one like that either-- and he'll never get one. Those kinds of rewards, although strongly opposed by over 70% of Americans, show what society really values-- or at least those in the position, in our post-democracy society, to call the shots (for themselves) value... and enforce.
More than 70 percent of Americans say big bonuses should be banned this year at Wall Street firms that took taxpayer bailouts, a Bloomberg National Poll shows.

An additional one in six favors slapping a 50 percent tax on bonuses exceeding $400,000. Just 7 percent of U.S. adults say bonuses are an appropriate incentive reflecting Wall Street’s return to financial health.

A large majority also want to tax Wall Street profits to reduce the federal budget deficit. A levy on financial services firms is the top choice among more than a dozen deficit-cutting options presented to respondents.

With U.S. unemployment at 9.8 percent, resentment of bonuses and banking profits unites Americans across political, gender, age and income groups. Among Republicans, who generally are skeptical of business regulation, 76 percent support a government ban on big bonuses to bailout recipients, that’s higher than backing among Democrats or independents.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon got a bonus package for 2009 valued at $17 million and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein received a $9 million all-stock bonus for last year, down from his Wall Street record $67.9 million in 2007.

“The American people bailed them out and immediately they went and paid their employees very large bonuses,” says poll respondent Michael Robertson, 43, of Wayne, Michigan. “I don’t believe they should have a bonus at all for a while.”

Read the subtitles to get an interesting perspective on another battle in the class war that is gutting the American middle class:

Update: That Second Grader Who Keeps Taking Out His Penis During Class...

A teacher told me he has a pretty bright student in his second grade class, a kid that was tossed out of a charter school for bad behavior. The bad behavior is that he taking his penis out of his pants every day. So they shipped him off to public school, which can't ship him anywhere. The teacher has to deal with it as bets he can, taking away time and effort from students hungry-- or even just willing-- to learn.

David Weil posted a powerful warning about the takeover of the public schools by for profit corporations way back in October, 2009.
Unacceptable to most American citizens, the current public educational system is being radically disassembled, state by state, like Legos in a pre-school play room. In its stead is being built a new corporate educational model of non-profit and for-profit educational retail charter chains or outlets that will replace the decaying urban public schools. The public school water bag has burst and the Educational Maintenance Organizations (EMOs) are like kids scrambling for candy under a broken piñata.

For those witnessing the health care or health insurance reform dispute as it is playing out on the national landscape, they won’t be surprised when they begin to see the ‘astro turf’ groups assembled around charter schools emerge... [Arne] Duncan loves charter schools and so does President Barrack Obama and they’ve got pockets full of newly minted cash to fund them, along with the Walton Family, the Gates Foundation and of course the Eli Broad Foundation. Now that Los Angeles Unified School District has voted to turn over 250 public schools to the new ‘outside operators’ it’s time for them to move quickly to capture the headwinds of the coming educational ‘debate’; a debate which already happened, behind closed doors. The rest is show.

One week before the vote to handover the pubic schools to non-profit organizations such as Green Dot the LAUSD School Board voted to lay off hundreds of teachers. What followed were massive class size increases of fifty or more, with students sitting on the floors and teachers scrambling to accommodate the overflow (Landsberg, Mitchell, Budget cuts push some classrooms way over capacity. But alas this is preliminary planning for the new neoliberal reformers, the way it is supposed to work; public schools are purposely starved to induce failure in order to bring in the new ‘turnaround artists’ and non-profit privatization outfits to ‘fix the problem’.

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At 6:50 AM, Blogger Susan S said...

Welcome home!

This is an excellent post. Don't forget to wear red on Tuesday to show your support for public education.

At 6:51 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

this issue is why i read somerby. he is one of the few voices to talk about fraud perpetrated on our kids by the powers that be.

At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Making money with money, how sweet it is.

Be a manipulator or an inheritor, now that's where it's at.

At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What color should I wear if I support public education, but I don't support teacher's unions?

At 9:59 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Anon, you don't have to worry about wearing any color. The public schools you want to see destroyed are being destroyed -- in your name!

Oh wait, you said you "support public education." Actually, no, you don't. The anti-teacher propaganda you feast on allows you to pretend you do, maybe even pretend to yourself. But not to worry, your eager devouring of the lies of the Right is helping the economic predators and ideological wackos pursue their goal of a nation of cretins.



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