Friday, August 26, 2016

If We Don't Stop Billionaires From Buying Up The Political System, We Will All Soon Be Their Slaves


I first ran across Houston hedge fund billionaire John Arnold and his wife Laura when I noticed them spending millions of dollars supporting California fake Democrat Ro Khanna, school privatization and charter school advocacy, of the kind John Oliver discusses in the video above. The vile Arnolds have made their fortune through fracking and charter schools and they happily push their greedy agenda by financing right-wing candidates, some Republicans but primarily Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, like, besides Khanna (their biggest candidate investment), corrupt characters Darren Soto (FL), Josh Gottheimer (NJ), Ami Bera (CA), and repulsive and power-hungry Rahm Emanuel protégée, Illinois Blue Dog Cheri Bustos.

This cycle they teamed up with a Marco Rubio operative, a dip-shit named Thomas Datwyler, to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in FL-09 in order to bolster Darren Soto-- a right-wing NRA-poster boy masquerading as a Democrat and running for Alan Grayson's old congressional seat in the Orlando area. The Common Sense Leadership PAC is running a barrage of independent expenditures against Dena Grayson and in favor of Soto-- over $200,000 so far, but with expenditures accelerating by the day. Ironically, their vicious attacks on Grayson have been augmented by the sleaziest and least trustworthy of all Democratic groups, EMILY's List, which has, over the last decade, become expert at spreading lies and distortions. Hedge fund criminal Donald Sussman has given EMILY's List $2 million to spend against Grayson and Michael Bloomberg gave EMILY's List another million, some of which is being used against Soto and some against Grayson. It's ironic that EMILY's List is spending their donors' money to smear a pro-choice woman doctor in such a way that could well result in the election of a virulently anti-choice, right-wing tool like Soto who has been publicly endorsed by the Wall Street-owned and operated New Dems.

The Arnolds, vampires
Although some of the Arnold's money ($44,917) has gone into pro-Soto efforts, the big money is all being spent tp smear Grayson, smearing being a John and Laura Arnold trademark whenever it comes to progressives. This is how predatory billionaires like the Arnolds seeks to advance their political agenda, by helping elect puppet candidates like Darren Soto who will support their bid to destroy public education, one of the long-term goals of these people. As Jeff Bryant wrote for CommonDreams yesterday, "[John] Oliver focused much of his attention on Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, three states with especially depressing charter track records-- including negligence in the approval process and school executives embezzling funds."
None of Oliver’s critics seriously refuted the crux of his argument that there might be something fundamentally wrong by design, rather than by implementation or intent, with the idea that  a “free market” of privately operated and essentially unregulated schools is a surefire way to improve education opportunities for all students.

Indeed, charter schools are “here to stay” has become a refrain among advocates for these schools, even though there’s no doubt the controversy caused by this new parallel school system is just beginning, and no one can predict what the ongoing conflict will lead to.

The charter industry is currently responsible for educating a small percentage of students-- just 6–7 percent nationally and barely measurable in many communities, especially more well-to-do metropolitan and rural areas. A minority of Americans and relatively few politicians completely understand what charter schools are. And most experts have mixed views on the purpose of the schools.

However, what charter advocates generally won’t admit is that many of the problems these schools cause are reflective of what inevitably seems to happen when an essential public service is privatized.

The charter industry claims its schools are “public” institutions because they get tax dollars, but that’s like saying a defense contractor is a public business because it takes in revenues from the federal government.

Numerous experts point out charter schools blur the line from what it means to be a public institution providing a public good and that, by their very design, they expand opportunities to profiteer from public tax dollars and privatize public assets.

People in communities affected by these schools are just beginning to see the conflicts these institutions cause, and it’s just a matter of time before government officials at all levels are forced to respond to the increasing concerns with these schools.

Just consider recent actions taken by the Department of Justice to curtail the expansion of the private prison industry-- a privatization trend that generally predates the rise of the charter industry.

As Mother Jones reports, after “a damning report on the safety, security, and oversight of private prisons,” DOJ announced it would stop contracting with these institutions.

Donald Cohen, who leads In the Public Interest, an organization that researches problems posed by privatizing public services, writes for Huffington Post, privately operated prisons are fundamentally flawed because the business model they must follow encourages the companies to “actively seek new prisoners to fill facilities they own.”

As ITPI has previously reported, “in an effort to provide the service with fewer resources while also maximizing profits, [private prison] companies often cut corners, reducing the quality, effectiveness, and accessibility of the service.”

“The more contractors can cut costs on running their facilities, the wider their profit margins,” writes Aman Banerji for the Roosevelt Institute. “No wonder … private prisons contracted by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) contain one or more security deficiencies, health service deficiencies, and a greater number of food grievances.”

This clear and obvious conflict of interest-- between serving the public and rewarding private enterprise-- led to a misalignment with DOJ’s mission to hold an essential function of government to the high standards the public demands.

If the charter school industry believes it can avoid this conflict, it’s kidding itself.

More than one attentive blogger has noticed the striking similarities between charter schools and the private prison industry. In one of these posts, Mitchell Robinson notes that charters, like private prisons, differ from the public counterparts by not being locally managed or controlled, not providing the same level of services and programs, and not answering to the same level or degree of regulation and oversight.

Over the years, the US Department of Education has rewarded charter schools with over $3.3 billion in federal funds, and with passage of the most recent federal education law, the every Student Succeeds Act, USDoE will send $333 million more to these schools before the current fiscal year is over.

Remarking on the actions DOJ took to end tax dollars going to the private prison industry, Banerji concludes, “It offers an opportunity to contest the privatization of state services beyond the prison system.”

Let’s hope reexamining the role of charter schools is the next step.

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At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Arnold has also done a lot of damage in cutting pensions around the country. Taibbi and Sirota have written about him. He came from Enron.

Kim Kaufman

At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too many Americans still only believe what they lying corporatist media tells them to believe. When they are told that their shackles are free jewellery, they will revel in their new stylishness. The reality even then won't dawn on too many for a very long time, if ever.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Sharon Winfield said...

The Arnold's have recently popped up in my sleepy, little town, Baltimore, as the financial funders of The Baltimore Community Foundation. The foundation is making news here because they were the source of grant that the police department used to pay a contractor to fly Cesna's equipped with cameras to photograph vast swaths of the city (32 square miles at a time). Fun fact, the police department kept this program under wraps and it wasn't until Bloomberg reported on this program a couple of weeks ago, that many electeds found out about this program.

Needless to say, citizens are pissed, the ACLU is pissed, con law professors are pissed, city council people are pissed, but the question remains, "Why would the Arnold's fund this?"


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