Tuesday, March 29, 2011

And It's Not Just In The Midwest Where Voters Are Repelled By Right-Wing Overreach


Yesterday's Washington Post column by E.J. Dionne, The Midwest's New Class Politics makes the point that Republican governors in the Midwest, particularly Kasich in Ohio, Rick Snyder in Michigan, and Walker in Wisconsin, are saving the Democrats from their own lameness. He's completely correct but I don't know why he makes it a Midwest story. Neither would Paul LePage (ME), Nathan Deal (GA), Rick Scott (FL), that loud, fat guy from New Jersey, Tom Corbett (PA), Sean Parnell (AK)... and has everyone just erased the ugly memories of secessionists Jan Brewer (AZ) and Rick Perry (TX)?
Republican governors, particularly in Wisconsin and Ohio, denied themselves political honeymoons by launching frontal assaults on public employee unions and proposing budgets that include deep cuts in popular programs.

Democrats in the region are elated at the quick turn in their fortunes. A few months ago, they worried that a region President Obama dominated in 2008 was turning against him. Republican triumphs in Wisconsin and Ohio, as well as in Indiana, Michigan and Iowa, all pointed to trouble for the president.

Now, for reasons having more to do with decisions by GOP governors than with anything the president has done, many voters, particularly in the white working class, are having second thoughts.

“We certainly addressed the issue of Reagan Democrats,” said Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, referring to the blue-collar voters who began drifting Republican in 1980. Barrett lost to Gov. Scott Walker in November by 52 percent to 46 percent, but recent polls suggest he would defeat Walker if the election were rerun. In Ohio, the approval rating of Republican Gov. John Kasich, who won narrowly in 2010, has fallen to as low as 30 percent in one poll.

In telephone interviews last week, Democratic politicians across the Midwest avoided premature victory claims. “I don’t think we’ll know until November of 2012,” Gov. Mark Dayton of Minnesota replied when asked if the Republican moves against public employee unions would turn out to be a major error.

It’s a political irony that Republicans clearly believed unionized public employees were so unpopular that taking them on would play well with voters.

“It was part of an intentional strategy on the part of the right-wing Republican ideological machine to split private-sector workers from public-sector workers,” said Dayton, a Democrat who beat back the 2010 Republican tide. After decades involving “a giant transfer of wealth to the very top,” Dayton said, the campaign against public unions was “a way to distract attention” by creating “a fight over who is getting a dollar an hour more or less.” The effort, he added, “has not worked as well as they thought it would.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, said that even union sympathizers were surprised at the degree to which the Republicans’ approach “blew up in their faces” and that “the poll numbers of support for collective bargaining for public-sector workers are stronger than even most labor supporters expected.”

Another surprise: the extent to which Democrats, long wary of being accused of “class warfare,” are now more eager than ever to cast the GOP as the party of the privileged.

Barrett recounted a parable making the rounds among Wisconsin Democrats, telling of a room in which “a zillionaire, a Tea Party person and a union member” confront a plate of 12 cookies: “The zillionaire takes 11 of the cookies, and says to the other two, ‘That guy is trying to steal your cookie.’"

Still, Democrats are aware that the flight from the Republicans is also a reaction against ideology. Dayton saw the GOP’s heavy-handed methods in Wisconsin as playing badly in a region proud of its tradition of consensus-building and good government.

And Brown said that while joblessness was the most important issue in last year’s election, one of the most effective Republican arguments was the claim that “Obama was governing by ideology.” That charge has been turned on its head because “now, they are so overdoing governing by ideology.”

And nowhere more than in Florida, where Governor Rick Scott is too extreme and ideological even for many Republican legislators, let alone for ordinary residents of the state who just want to get on with making a living for themselves and their families. Scott's ideological jihad has turned that on it's head, killing high speed rail, embracing Big Oil, instituting intrusive, authoritarian, random drug tests for state employees and wrecking the state's already wobbly education system, again, all in the name of right-wing, Randian orthodoxy. He was right on top of Alternet's list of America's worst governors this morning, as they also indicted him for working to to slash $4 billion in spending while cutting taxes for millionaires; working to use state funds to build golf courses in state parks while cutting education by 10 percent and corporate taxes by 5 percent; requiring 600,000 government workers (including police officers, teachers, firefighters, judges, and retirees) to contribute 5 percent to their retirement; lopped off $2,300 a year in teacher salary to give massive tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy; and racism. ["He proposed eliminating state support for two HBCUs (Historically black colleges and universities). He's shutting down a state agency that assists minority businesses, and he refuses to appoint an African American to any significant position in his administration. Where's Kanye West when you need him?"]

Florida Education Commissioner Eric Smith opined this month that Senate Bill 736 elevates "the teaching profession to the esteemed level it deserves."


The measure would end job security for incoming teachers and weld their pay schedule to student learning metrics that are notoriously hard to define.

Accountability is good, but this measure is a teacher-morale buster. The last thing teaching-- a difficult job that is not a high-paying one-- needs is further disincentives.

Education majors who read this bill may decide to give up on the classroom and seek other careers.

If so, we wouldn't blame them.

SB 736, which Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Thursday with as the disingenuously named Student Success Act, appears to be an effort to make Florida schools more accountable, effective and more rewarding for teachers who excel.

Unfortunately, the bill's approach is heavy-handed, administratively intense, drastically short on funding and lacks a reliable means of measuring teacher performance.

Under SB 736, new teachers' employment contracts would be year-to-year, following a probationary period. Their jobs and salaries would be tied to annual evaluations that follow a formula prescribed by the legislation.

Student-learning growth over a three-year period, as measured by the flawed Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and other exams that have yet to be developed, would constitute half of the evaluation.

...The problem is that SB 736 is almost all stick and no carrot. It takes away teachers' solid job foundation. And, despite a lack of evidence that the proposed approach will improve teacher and student performance, the bill puts teachers at the year-to-year mercy of test scores.

That's hardly the "esteemed level" that educators deserve.

Just yesterday evidence began surfacing that cheating has been an integral part of the trumped up "successes" conservatives are claiming in their quest to demolish teacher's unions and sell off the public education system to for-profit corporations (charter schools) looking for another way to steal taxpayer dollars.
Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of public schools in Washington, D.C., became a conservative star of sorts for her willingness to take on the teachers’ union and the education establishment, among other things by firing teachers whose students did not improve on standardized testing. As chancellor, Rhee also instituted a lucrative bonus program for teachers and principals at schools that did show significant improvement.

The policy change had an effect; standardized scores rose significantly during Rhee’s three-year tenure. Eventually, however, her brash, combative style contributed to the re-election defeat of her most important champion, Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty, and last year Rhee was forced to resign as DC chancellor.

However, that career setback conferred martyr status on Rhee, who launched a nationwide speaking tour to spread her message of reform. Earlier this year, she was welcomed at the Georgia Capitol with a hearing in her honor in the Legislature and a private session with Gov. Nathan Deal.

However, as USA Today reports, the claim of sudden, significant improvement in DC schools might not bear close scrutiny. Consider, for example, Washington’s Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus, which was lauded by Rhee and others as a shining illustration of what her new approach could accomplish. In 2006, only 10 percent of Noyes students tested as proficient or advanced in math; two years later, that number had jumped to 58 percent.

But all the deviations showing better results from public schools were based on cheating and conservative deception in the service of corporate chicanery and the bottom line-- nothing even remotely to do with educating students. "The consistent pattern," USA Today reports, "was that wrong answers were erased and changed to right ones." And that was the pattern over years. Like everything the GOP is offering, it may look good on paper, but when it comes to offering America a viable future... well, like Rick Scott says, "Sue me."

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At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, notice the hands off methods team obama is taking. Then has any investigation been done yet as to whether these governors were elected by fraud?
Finally, I don't know why anyone cares about polling and poll results anymore. We now know that money wins elections. The people with the money determine who they want to win and the person running for office only cares about getting approval from the people with money. So you wasted a lot of ppl's times by having them read this.
And another thing. Where were all you ppl at when our manufacturing sector was being offshore outsourced and hundreds of thousands of workers and retirees were losing their only source of making a living? It's so nice you can sit from the comfort of your home and tell us how we should fight for these ppl. They laughed in the faces of the blue collar workers as their union jobs were taken away and given to someone for far less money. They said those ppl were lazy and overpaid. So now the population of Detroit has declined 25% over the course of a decade. It is a war zone down there. Then the great and wonderful pride of GM, Buick city in flint, no longer stands. Gone. Overpaid factory workers replaced by overworked and underpaid Mexicans. People fail to remember that those factories didn't just employ people putting on hubcaps or installing batteries. There were accountants, engineers, supervisors, electricians, plumbers, and on and on. How is a steel worker from Pennsylvania supposed to stand up for these people when his retirement no longer provides health insurance so that he has lost both feet due to untreated diabetes.
We have let the monster out of the cage when we elected Reagan. Now it's very difficult to put the monster back.

At 7:52 PM, Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

That 71% is a bit of good news. When I heard about how Walker is subpoena-ing the emails of dissident professors and people who support human rights--I wondered if anybody was going to notice Moammar Khadafi is alive and well and living in Wisconsin.


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