Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Democracy and the Economic Crisis in Greece

Joseph Stiglitz,
The rising crescendo of bickering and acrimony within Europe might seem to outsiders to be the inevitable result of the bitter endgame playing out between Greece and its creditors. In fact, European leaders are finally beginning to reveal the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute, and the answer is not pleasant: it is about power and democracy much more than money and economics.

Of course, the economics behind the programme that the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) foisted on Greece five years ago has been abysmal, resulting in a 25% decline in the country’s GDP. I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences: Greece’s rate of youth unemployment, for example, now exceeds 60%.

It is startling that the troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been. But what is even more surprising is that Europe’s leaders have not even learned. The troika is still demanding that Greece achieve a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Walton Family - Walmart- Pushes to privatize public schools

Advocates of education privatization—whether through voucher programs that send tax dollars to private schools or through charter schools—like to market their ideas as "choice" or even as a civil rights struggle. But as soon as you start to follow the money, you see the reality. When you have a new system of education that's being funded by billionaires at the expense of a truly public education system that serves all kids, it's not about choice or civil rights. And when the Walton family, the Walmart heirs who make up four of the 10 richest Americans, is one of the biggest voucher and charter funders out there, it tells you a lot.
The Waltons have been pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into remaking American education for decades now, and a new report from In the Public Interest and the American Federation of Teachers connects the dots. On more than one occasion, the staff of Walton-funded advocacy organizations have made the agenda clear: weakening public schools to the point of collapse. That's the project the Walton Family Foundation is pushing with hundreds of millions of dollars, putting its stamp on charter schools and corporate education reform as much as Walmart has put its stamp on big box retail:

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Our Kids : The American Dream in Crisis

Our Kids: The American Dream In Crisis (2015)
Robert Putnam
A  Preliminary Review by Duane Campbell

This new book is an insightful and well researched analysis  of on the achievement gap, which Robert Putnam  correctly calls an opportunity gap for the current generation of young people.  I was drawn to the book by respect for his prior writing,  Bowling Alone . This new work  is of equal value in synthesizing social science research.  Perhaps it is of more value since we have major institutions-schools- in positions , that could contribute to the rebirth of equal, democratic opportunity.

In Our Kids, Putnam   describes major developments in our schools and our communities - the growing inequality of opportunity for the working class and the poor.
Educational writers have long chronicled several of the key concepts, the role of tracking, of concentrations of poverty and of race. This work excels because it is a very well informed outsiders sociological viewpoint of these issues.  Putnam and research associate Jen Sliva bring together extensive social science data and research to support the  many interpretive suggestions.

This is not the over simplification of many general and popular books, nor the ideological tracts of educations many critics and neoliberal "reform" advocates. Putnam provides vivid and useful examples combined with a well informed data bases  of social science research  of the most important issues. He builds his arguments upon both individual interviews and the synthesis of an enormous amount of social science research thus combining big and important  ideas with the research to support them.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Public schools and the Public Square

And yet the public square is under attack.
Remarks by Randi Weingarten
Leo talked about the public square as a metaphor for political voice, for robust civil and political life, and for public institutions that create the infrastructure to ultimately grow a shared and fair economy. All are critical to our democracy. All are under assault.
The idea of the public square – like a perfect Norman Rockwell painting or a speakers’ box in a public courtyard where anyone—black, white, rich, or poor—can speak about anything—doesn’t exist anymore.
There is a growing and harmful effort across America to make the public square smaller and smaller and to silence working people and stifle their economic aspirations.
Even the term “public,” once celebrated as a part of our national identity, is under relentless attack from governors like Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, and even Andrew Cuomo. Public services are being privatized and public employees are demonized, laid off and muted. Who would have thought that a Democratic governor with the last name “Cuomo” would say the public education system is a “monopoly” that must be broken up?
Tectonic plates. We are dealing with the equivalent of tectonic plates across America. On one side, we have the deck stacked against working families, attacks on the rights of workers, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy few. On the other side, we have working families whose wages have been stagnant for decades, who don’t just want to get by; they want to get ahead. They are clamoring for change.
The gap between rich and poor is growing. The American Dream has been eroded and out of reach for too many Americans who are playing by the rules and aspire for a better life. The middle class has been squeezed. People’s lives have been upended by stagnant wages, lingering effects of the greatest recession since the Great Depression, rising household and college costs.
Today, inequality in America has reached historic heights and economic polarization is more extreme than it was during the Gilded Age of the robber barons. Today, the wealthiest 10 percent have reaped the benefits of income gains, while the rest are dealing with stagnant wages. From the mid-1990s to today, income grew 62 percent for the top 1 percent, but just 7 percent for the bottom 99 percent.
Let me try to make this a little more clear:
American CEOs in 2013 earned an average of $11.7 million—331 times the average worker’s salary of $35,293. In 2012, 3.6 million workers earned salaries at or below the federal minimum wage. Corporate executives can legally pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries. And workers across the country have to fight for something very humane—paid sick leave.

Monday, June 01, 2015

The False Dichotomy Between Movement Building and Electoral Politics

By Tom Gallagher
Most people we might think of as being on the American left don’t generally embrace the idea of “American exceptionalism.” There is one apparent exception to this unexceptional point of view, however, at least in some corners of the American left. That is the notion that in the U.S. – unlike any other country with a reasonably democratic system – electoral politics are somehow only an optional part of a serious political movement. The latest expression of this “only in America” point of view comes in response to Senator Bernie Sanders’s declaration of his intention to run in next year’s Democratic Party presidential primaries.
The objections to his candidacy come in at least two variants – “not now” and “never.” The “never” perspective is articulated by David Swanson in hisCounterPunch article, “Invest in Activism, Not Bernie Sanders.” It’s not that Swanson doesn’t like Sanders. On the contrary, although he allows that he has some disagreements with him – which he characterizes as “imperfections” on Sanders’s part – Swanson considers “the contrast with Clinton ... like day to night.” Nevertheless, he pleads, “please do not give him or Hillary or the wonderful Jill Stein or any other candidate a dime or a moment of your life. Instead, join the movement,” referring to people seeking justice on the streets of Baltimore, trying to abolish nuclear weapons in the halls of the United Nations, and doing any number of other valuable things.
This movement, he reminds us, “has always been the driving force for change.” For instance it “gave women the right to vote” and we should support the efforts of those now “struggling to create fair elections through steps like automatic registration in Oregon, and pushing legislation to provide free media, match small donors, give each voter a tax credit to contribute.”
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