"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Structural Inequality’

How To Destroy Public Education While Making A Trillion Dollars

In Uncategorized on April 30, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Oldspeak:”The U.S is ratcheting up a societal-level war on public education. At issue is whether we are going to make it better — build it into something estimable, a social asset that undergirds a noble and prosperous society — or whether we’re going to tear it down so that private investors can get their hands on the almost $1 trillion we spend on it every year. If America wants better education, it needs to fix the greatest force undermining education, which is poverty. The single most powerful predictor of student performance is the average income of the zip code in which they live. But one out of four American students now live in poverty, and the numbers are growing. One out of two will live in poverty sometime during their lives. Forty-seven million Americans are on food stamps. Is it any wonder American school performance is faltering? But poverty is a hard and expensive problem to fix. We prefer easy, painless fixes, or even better, vapid clichés about the “magic of the market” and such.” Robert Freeman, Public School Teacher.  When profit trumps quality free education, the future is very bleak indeed.  When the U.S. Secretary of Education oversaw the conversion of 100 public schools to charter schools while he was superintendent of Chicago Public Schools you can see the writing on the wall. It’s time to erase the blackboard and start with a clean slate. “Ignorance Is Strength”

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By Robert Freeman @ Common Dreams:

The Vietnam War produced more than its share of iconic idiocies. Perhaps the most revelatory was the psychotic assertion of an army major explaining the U.S. bombing of the provincial hamlet of Ben Tre: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” If only such self-extinguishing claims for intelligence were confined to military war.

The U.S is ratcheting up a societal-level war on public education. At issue is whether we are going to make it better — build it into something estimable, a social asset that undergirds a noble and prosperous society — or whether we’re going to tear it down so that private investors can get their hands on the almost $1 trillion we spend on it every year. The tear-it-down option is the civilian equivalent of Ben Tre, but on a vastly larger scale and with incomparably greater stakes: we must destroy public education in order to save it. It’s still early in the game, but right now the momentum is with the wreckers because that’s where the money is. Whether they succeed or not will be up to you.

Here’s a three-step recipe for how to destroy education. It maps perfectly to how to make a prodigious profit by privatizing it. It is the essential game plan of the big money boys.

First, lower the costs so you can jack up the profits. Since the overwhelming cost in education is the salaries of the teachers, this means firing the experienced teachers, for they are the most expensive. Replace them with “teachers” who are young, inexperienced, and inexpensive. Better yet, waive requirements that they have to have any training, that is to say, that they be credentialed. That way, you can get the absolute cheapest workers available. Roll them over frequently so they don’t develop any expectation that they’ll ever make a career out of it.

Second, make the curriculum as narrow, rote, and regimented as you can. This makes it possible for low-skilled “teachers” to “teach.” All they need do is maintain order while drilling students in mindless memorization and robotic repetition. By all means avoid messy things like context, nuance, values, complexity, reflection, depth, ambiguity—all the things that actually make for true intelligence. It’s too hard to teach those things and, besides, you need intelligent, experienced people to be able to do it. Stick with the model: Profitable equals simplistic and formulaic. Go with it.

Finally, rinse and repeat five thousand times. Proliferate franchised, chartered McSchools with each classroom in each McSchool teaching the same thing on the same day in exactly the same way. So, for the math lesson on the formula of a line, you only need develop it once. But you download it in Power Point on the assigned day so the room monitors, i.e., the “teachers,” know what bullets to read. Now repeat this for every lesson in every course in every school, every day. In biology, chemistry, geometry, history, English, Spanish, indeed, all of a K-12 curriculum. Develop the lesson literally once, but distribute and reuse it thousands of times with low-cost proctors doing the supervision. The cost is infinitesimal making the profit potential astronomical.

This is the essential charter school model and the money is all the rationale its promoters need. Think about it. There’s a trillion dollars a year spent on public education in the U.S. and enterprising investors want to get their meat hooks on it. Where else in the world can you find a $1 trillion opportunity that is essentially untouched? Not in automobiles. Not in health care. Not in weapons, computers, banking, telecommunications, agriculture, entertainment, retail, manufacturing, housing. Nowhere.

Oh, to be sure, you have to soften up the public with a decades-long PR campaign bashing teachers, vilifying their unions, trashing schools, and condemning public education in general, all the while promising the sun, moon, and stars for privatization, which is the ultimate charter goal. Voila! You’ve got your chance.

But to really make a killing, you need not just revenues, but profits. That’s why the low cost delivery and “build it once but resell it millions of times” model is so key. It was that very model that made Bill Gates the richest man in the world. It is what earned Microsoft 13 TIMES the rate of profit of the average Fortune 500 company in the 1990s and persuaded the Justice Department to declare it a “felony monopolist”. Gates recognizes the model very well, which is why his foundation is pouring tens of millions of dollars into charters. And you thought it was his altruism.

Of course, anybody who actually knows education, indeed, anybody who is simply intelligent, knows that intelligence does not come from rote repetition or parroting Power Point slides at the regimented direction of a room monitor, no matter how perky or well intended. It comes from an agonizingly complex, intricate, sustained set of challenges to the mind that are exquisitely choreographed over the better part of two decades, all intimately tailored to the specific needs of an individual, inquisitive, aspiring student.

That is what real teachers do. And it is precisely what a cookie-cutter, low-content, low-cost, high-turnover, high-profit money mill cannot do. Because it’s not intended to do that. It’s intended to produce profits. Real education, real intelligence, real character are agonizingly slow, dazzlingly complex, maddeningly difficult things to create. You can’t make a profit off of it, unless you destroy it in the process. That is why not one of the nations of the world that surpass the U.S. in education performance operate charter-based or privatized educational systems.

If America wants better education, it needs to fix the greatest force undermining education, which is poverty. The single most powerful predictor of student performance is the average income of the zip code in which they live. But one out of four American students now live in poverty, and the numbers are growing. One out of two will live in poverty sometime during their lives. Forty-seven million Americans are on food stamps. Is it any wonder American school performance is faltering?

But poverty is a hard and expensive problem to fix. We prefer easy, painless fixes, or even better, vapid clichés about the “magic of the market” and such. Why, look what we got from the deregulation of the banking system: the greatest economic collapse of the last 80 years and the greatest plunder of the public treasury in the history of the world.

This is the essential neo-liberal agenda which Obama enthusiastically supports: privatize and deregulate everything, especially public services, so that the money spent on them can be transferred to private hands. This is how Arne Duncan, Obama’s Secretary of Education, earned his bureaucratic bonafides: he converted more than 100 of Chicago’s public schools to charters while the city’s school superintendent. It’s unbelievable how credulous we are but obviously, propaganda works. That’s why the likes of the Gates Foundation keep pouring money into the cause.

The problem with charter schools is that they simply don’t work, at least not for delivering high quality education. Of course, given their formula, how could they? The most thorough research on charter schools, by Stanford University, shows that while charters do better than public schools in 17% of cases, they actually do worse in 37%, a more than 2-to-1 bad-to-good ratio!

If your doctor injured two patients for every one he cured, would you go to him? If your mechanic wrecked two cars for every one he fixed, would you go to him? Yet that is literally the proposition that charter school operators are peddling. And that 2-to-1 failure rate is after charters have skimmed off the better students and run what can only be called ethnically cleansed schools, counseling out poor performers, special needs cases, and “undesirable” minorities, leaving them for the public schools to deal with. For the data show they do that as well.

The irony of all this, indeed, the hypocrisy, is that America is at least nominally a capitalist county. You would think it would be ok to be honest about your intentions to make money by pillaging children’s futures while looting the public purse. God knows the weapons makers, the banks, the oil companies, the pharmaceutical companies, agribusiness and others aren’t bashful about it. But that doesn’t seem to be true here, in education.

Here, it’s all about “the children,” about “streamlining” education, boosting scores, uplifting minorities, making America competitive, and just about every other infantile fairy tale they can invoke to convince the country to hand over the loot. For that’s what it’s really about. The trillion dollars a year to be made by turning “the children” into intellectually impotent dullards but profit producing zombies? Well, that’s just a lavishly fortunate coincidence. Right?

Remember, you can’t save something by destroying it. Which isn’t to say that swashbuckling entrepreneurs aren’t willing to try. All they need is the liberating impetus of that essential American ethic: “I’m getting mine, screw you.” But the cost of this plunder will be incalculable, for it will ripple through the economy for decades. And the damage will be irreversible for, while public education is the most powerful democratizing institution in the world, it only works when the schools work. When they cease to work, it’s over.

So watch out. A destroyed educational system, a desiccated economy, and a debauched democracy are coming soon to a school district near you.

 

 

 

Report: Poverty In America Likely To Get Worse; 46 Million ‘Living’ Below Poverty Line

In Uncategorized on January 16, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Oldspeak:” ‘Poverty in America is remarkably widespread, the number of people living in poverty is increasing and is expected to increase further, despite the recoveryMillions of Americans will be forced into poverty in the coming years even as the US hauls itself out of the longest and deepest recession since the second world war’ Dr King would be appalled.

By Chris McGreal @ U.K. Guardian:

Millions of Americans will be forced into poverty in the coming years even as the US hauls itself out of the longest and deepest recession since the second world war.

A study from Indiana University, released on Wednesday, says the number of Americans living below the poverty line surged by 27% since the beginning of what it calls the “Great Recession” in 2006, driving 10 million more people into poverty.

The report warns that the numbers will continue to rise, because although the recession is technically over, its continued impact on cuts to welfare budgets and the quality of new, often poorly paid, jobs can be expected to force many more people in to poverty. It is also difficult for those already under water to get back up again.

“Poverty in America is remarkably widespread,” concludes the study, At Risk: America’s Poor During and After the Great Recession. “The number of people living in poverty is increasing and is expected to increase further, despite the recovery.”

The white paper, drafted by the university’s school of public and environmental affairs, which is among the best ranked schools of its kind in the US, says that six years ago, 36.5 million Americans fell below the poverty line. By 2010, the number of people living in poverty rose to 46.2 million and continued to grow over the past year.

“The Great Recession has left behind the largest number of long-term unemployed people since records were first kept in 1948. More than 4 million Americans report that they have been unemployed for more than 12 months,” said the report.

John Graham, dean of the school and one of the authors of the report, said that the numbers of “new poor” will continue to rise.

“One of the big surprises is that poverty in the United States is likely to continue to increase even as the economic recovery unfolds,” said Graham. “The unique feature of the great recession is not just the high rate of unemployment, but the long duration of unemployment that millions of Americans have experienced. [For] a lot of these long-term unemployed, the job that they had won’t exist when they go back in to the labour market.”

Graham said that many of those who once held well-paid jobs will be forced to settle for lower paying work, trapping some in a permanent cycle of poverty.

“As a consequence they will be poor or near poor for a substantial period of time,” he said.

The latest census data shows that nearly one in two of the US’s 300 million citizens are now officially classified as having a low income or living in poverty. One in five families earns less than $15,000 (£9,600) a year.

The Indiana University study says that the numbers of people falling into poverty is also likely to grow because of severe cuts to state and federal welfare budgets.

“The states by their constitutions all have to have a balanced budget each year. A lot of states are already in the process of cutting back their safety net programmes at the same time that poverty is increasing,” said Graham. “Their needs are going up but the programmes are receiving less support. It’s going to continue because the revenues of state governments are not increasing as rapidly as is needed and the federal government will be under a lot of pressure because of its large deficit to decrease funding given to the states.”

The report warns that the situation is likely to become even worse if the long-term unemployed lose their jobless benefits. Congress extended them for two months at the end of the year, but it is unlikely they will be continued indefinitely.

Among the most severely affected states are Florida, Nevada and Arizona, which have been particularly badly hit by the housing foreclosure crisis, and Michigan and Ohio, which have seen the collapse of traditional manufacturing.

Minorities are among the hardest hit. More than one in four African Americans and Hispanics is officially recorded as living in poverty. About one in 10 white Americans fall below the poverty line.

“We can expect to find that the most vulnerable parts of our society are the ones who will recover most slowly from a deep recession like this. More have gone in to poverty and they’ll be slower coming out of it,” said Graham. “If you look at the educational levels and skill levels of African Americans and Hispanics, they are more vulnerable as the job market tightens. They don’t have either the extra edge in education or skills that white Americans do.”

The report says that the situation would have been much worse had it not been for the Obama administration’s 2009 federal stimulus package, which increased child health insurance for poorer families, and cut taxes for low income workers.

Still, the study says that although unemployment is officially falling, that may not be the whole story. Some workers give up looking for jobs and are no longer counted in the unemployment rate.

“Although the official rate of unemployment is declining, much of this apparent progress is attributable to the fact that many adults are giving up on the search for a job,” it said.

The report argues that a better measure of how well an economy is creating employment is the “jobs-to-people ratio”. It says that in a healthy economy the range is between 0.60 and 0.70. The US fell within that range until it fell to 0.582 at the end of 2009. It had risen only to 0.585 in November 2011.

“These data suggest that the reported progress in reducing the rate of unemployment may not be as encouraging as we think since increasing numbers of the unemployed may simply be giving up on the search for a job,” the report said.

Why The Wealthiest Americans Are the Real ‘Job-Killers’

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Train Chartering & Private Rail Cars

OLDSPEAK: ‘”It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.’ –Syme (1984). Doublethink par excellence. ‘That the wealthy are “job creators,” and therefore have interests that must be defended by the public at large, is a talking-point that, however facile, is so popular it slips effortlessly from the lips of conservatives every day…It’s also complete nonsense; the opposite of the truth. Sure, the wealthy create a few jobs – people who offer exclusive services or sell them high-end goods. But the overwhelming majority of jobs in this country are “created” by ordinary Americans when they spend their paychecks.” -Joshua Holand. What a sad society it is where truth has so little sway in the course of its affairs. In this backward economic system, less consumption is seen as undesirable , even if it’s been established that perpetual ‘growth’ and ever-increasing consumption is unsustainable and life threatening our planet and everything on it. In this reality controlled society America’s bought and paid for ‘public servants’ are allowed to so brazenly propagate their overseer’s baseless propaganda and pass laws that benefit the few, with no challenge from its corporate consolidated and controlled journalists and news outlets. “Freedom is Slavery”

By Joshua Holand @ AlterNet:

That the wealthy are “job creators,” and therefore have interests that must be defended by the public at large, is a talking-point that, however facile, is so popular it slips effortlessly from the lips of conservatives every day.

It can be deployed for any purpose – not only in calling for more tax breaks for the rich, but also when opposing public interest regulation, consumer litigation and worker protections. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, even used it to deflect attention from the “gay rehabilitation” services her clinic allegedly offers. When asked about it by ABC News, Bachmann merely acknowledged, “we do have a business that deals with job creation.” When pressed, she stuck with it: “As I said, again, we’re very proud of our business and we’re proud of all job creators in the United States.”

It’s also complete nonsense; the opposite of the truth. Sure, the wealthy create a few jobs – people who offer exclusive services or sell them high-end goods. But the overwhelming majority of jobs in this country are “created” by ordinary Americans when they spend their paychecks.

Consumer demand accounts for around 70 percent of our economic output. And with so much wealth having been redistributed upward through a 40-year class-war from above, American consumers are too tapped out to spend as they once did. This remains the core issue in this sluggish, largely jobless recovery. The wealthy, in their voracious appetite for a bigger piece of the national pie, are the real job-killers in this economic climate.

Don’t take my word for it. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that “the main reason U.S. companies are reluctant to step up hiring is scant demand, rather than uncertainty over government policies, according to a majority of economists” the paper surveyed. That jibes with what business owners themselves are saying. Last week, the National Federation of Independent Businesses released a survey of small businessmen and women that found widespread “pessimism about future business conditions and expected real sales gains.”

New York Times reporter David Leonhardt wrote this week that “We are living through a tremendous bust. It isn’t simply a housing bust. It’s a fizzling of the great consumer bubble that was decades in the making.”

The auto industry is on pace to sell 28 percent fewer new vehicles this year than it did 10 years ago — and 10 years ago was 2001, when the country was in recession. Sales of ovens and stoves are on pace to be at their lowest level since 1992. Home sales over the past year have fallen back to their lowest point since the crisis began. And big-ticket items are hardly the only problem.

Leonhardt cites worse-than-expected retail sales and a study conducted by the New York Federal Reserve Bank that found “discretionary service spending” – which excludes housing, food and health care – to have dropped 7 percent, more than twice the decline we saw during previous recessions.

“If you’re looking for one overarching explanation for the still-terrible job market,” Leonhardt concludes, “it is this great consumer bust. Business executives are only rational to hold back on hiring if they do not know when their customers will fully return. Consumers, for their part, are coping with a sharp loss of wealth and an uncertain future (and many have discovered that they don’t need to buy a new car or stove every few years).”

Average American households’ economic malaise started long before the current downturn, as those at the top started grabbing an ever-increasing share of the pie in the 1970s. These graphs, courtesy of Mother Jones, tell the tale:

(click for larger version)Discounting those in the top 20 percent of the pile – according to economists Emanuel Saez and Thomas Picketty it’s actually the top 10 percent – Americans haven’t seen their real incomes rise in the past 30 years.

Paul Buchheit, a professor with City Colleges of Chicago, crunched some numbers using IRS data and found that “if middle- and upper-middle-class families had maintained the same share of American productivity that they held in 1980, they would be making an average of $12,500 more per year.” In other words, because the share of income going to the top has increased so dramatically, ordinary people have $12,500 less in their wallets today. Studies have shown that when wealthy people grab more post-tax income they’re more likely to bank it than to spend it, so much of that $12,500 also represents lost demand, and hence less jobs. Wealthy Americans’ avarice is a job-killer.

American households compensated for their flat incomes first by sending millions of women into the workforce – the single-earner household is largely a relic of the past – and then by running up lots of debt. In the 1970s, Americans socked away between 8-12 percent in case hard times hit, but the national savings rate declined precipitously as the top earners started grabbing an outsized share of the nation’s income.

As a result, we were among the least prepared citizens in the developed world to handle the crash – we didn’t have a rainy-day fund put away.

 

 

(click for larger version)

Then came the Great Recession. The federal Reserve did a study in 2009 in which it went back and surveyed the same households that had been examined in a 2007 snapshot of consumer finances to see how they were faring during the recession. The study found that between 2007 and 2009, median family net worth fell 23 percent, from $125,400 to only $96,000.

Like income, that continued a longer trend that began as those at the top of the pile began grabbing an ever-greater share of the nation’s wealth. As Edward Wolff, an economist at NYU, noted, between 1983 and 2007, only those in the top 5 percent of the income distribution added to their households’ net worth (PDF). The rest of us tread water. Economists talk about a “wealth effect,” which simply means that when you have more wealth you tend to spend more freely. So, this concentration of wealth has also impacted demand.

None of this is particularly complex. In 1978, the top 1 percent of the ladder took in just under 9 percent of the nation’s income, leaving a bit more than 91 percent for the rest of us. In 2007, the year before the crash, they took in 23.5 percent, leaving just 76.5 percent for the rest of the population to split up.

They banked most of that income, whereas we would have spent it. The fact that we’re broke means that businesses are facing less demand for their goods and services than they otherwise would, and have less need to hire a bunch of employees. And that dynamic explains why it’s the wealthiest Americans who are the real “job killers.”