Saturday, March 5, 2011

Green Eggs and Flim Flam

To kick off National Education Month, President Obama sent out the missus to read Dr. Seuss to some school children. Then, apparently in conjunction with  quitting cigarettes, Obama also made a public announcement about the end of his Bush-bashing habit.  Not only is he no longer blaming George for leaving him a monumental mess, he is lauding the entire Bush clan as “outstanding public servants”.  He was joined by Jeb, former Florida governor, at a Miami high school this week, to announce some sort of weird hybrid between W’s No Child Left Behind  with his own Race to the Top education initiative, with a little of that nauseating Winning the Future P.R. tripe thrown in for good measure.
Outstanding public servants? Jeb a champion of education reform? While the collective bargaining rights of American teachers are under assault, while Republicans are threatening draconian cuts to education and all kinds of programs benefitting children and their families, the president chooses the Bushes for role models of social integrity?  I knew this guy was a corporatist president, but this was way over the top.
The most infamous Bush moment of education-championing chutzpah came in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when matriarch Barbara made a public donation to a charity for victims – with the stipulation that the money only be used for son Neil’s educational software. His product, costing over $3,000 per pupil, conveniently was designed to help prepare students for the endless batteries of No Child Left Behind standardized testing. The NOLA kids had no desks, no classrooms, no teachers, no buildings – but they had some real nifty software!  Later on, the attempt by Jeb and Neil to sneak the software into Florida schools via no-bid contracts was brought to public  light and then apparently abandoned. From an AP story:
"A software company run by Neil Bush, a younger brother of Gov. Jeb Bush, hopes to sell a program to Florida schools that students would use to prepare for the test that is key to the governor's education policy.Texas-based Ignite Inc. makes software being used in a pilot program at an Orlando-area middle school to help students prepare for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which the governor has championed as a yardstick for school performance.
Ocoee Middle School, which has received millions of dollars in state grants to study ways of lowering costs, is using the software for free.But a company spokeswoman said Saturday that Ignite soon hopes to sell its early American history course to other Florida schools, at a cost of $30 a year per student.
Ignite spokeswoman Louise Thacker denied the company had an unfair advantage because its founder and CEO, Neil Bush, is a brother of Florida's governor. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Education said Friday that Ignite officials had not approached the state about its product. Mike Eason, formerly the top technology official for the department, is a member of an Ignite advisory board.Katie Muniz, a spokeswoman for Jeb Bush, said the governor has never talked with his brother about the business”.(Associated Press, 2007).
It is widely reported that the Bush clan, including George and Laura, Poppy and Barb Sr., as well as investors from some of their oil-rich Middle East potentate friends, have made a profiteering fortune from the No Child Left Behind Act. One of their historic fortune-making accomplishments, it will be remembered, was when GrandPoppy Prescott Bush hid some money for the Nazis, kind of illegally. What a distinguished family, indeed.

But back to the bad blood between Obama and the Bushes. The feud continued all the way  through the bitterly fought 2010 campaign season, with the president sniping that the Republican president had left him a huge stinking mess of a car in a ditch, and Jeb grousing that Obama was like the kid who always complains that the dog ate his homework.  And it got personal. The president, Jeb said, was like “Hubert Humphrey on steroids.” (not a pretty picture).
Then Obama took his shellacking in November and decided to come around to the GOP's way of thinking. Not only did he cut, is cutting and will forever cut, he can never get enough of asking the Republicans just how much more deeply he needs to slash. This, at the Miami photo op:
“So what I’ve done is I’ve called for a five-year freeze on annual domestic spending -– and that freeze would cut the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and it will bring that kind of spending to a lower share of our economy than has been true for the last 50 years.  To achieve those savings, we’ve proposed eliminating more than 200 federal programs.  We’re freezing the salaries of hardworking civil servants for the next two years.  We’re finding ways to save billions of dollars, of tax dollars, by selling, for example, 14,000 government properties that we don’t need anymore.
And that’s just a start.  If we’re serious about tackling our long-run fiscal challenges, we’re going to have to cut excessive spending wherever we find it -– in defense spending, in spending on entitlements, spending through tax breaks and loopholes.  And I’m going to be sitting down with Democrats and Republicans to figure out how we can reduce our deficits.
But I want everybody to understand, our job is not just to cut.  Even as we find ways to cut spending, what we can’t do is cut back on investments like education that will help us create jobs and grow our economy.  (Applause.)  We can’t sacrifice your future.
Think about your family.  Let’s say something tough happens — somebody gets laid off in the family, or you have a medical emergency.  If you’re a family that has to cut back, what do you do?  First thing you do is you give things you don’t need.  So you give up vacations.  Maybe you eat out a little bit less.  Maybe you don’t buy as many new clothes.  Maybe you don’t buy that new car that you thought you needed.  But the last thing you give up on is saving for your child’s college education.  (Applause.)  The last thing you give up on is making sure that your children have the books they need and the computers they need — because you know that’s going to be the key to his or her success in life, over the long term."
Is it me, or was that just a whole truckload of doubletalk?  Cut, slash, starve , get evicted – but save for that college education, by golly!  Don’t eat, but buy the kids their computers (and don’t forget that educational software from you-know-who).
Meanwhile, I hope the president took the time to read the N.Y. Times op-ed today in which Bob Herbert wrote about American students’ abysmal lack of critical thinking, reading and writing skills. Obama’s main education thrust has been to “out-compete and out-educate the rest of the world” in science and technology (and  lead the way in acquisitions of huge, obscene profits presumably). He has mentioned little to nothing about the humanities or the liberal arts in his futuristic Race to the Top agenda. Wall Street has certainly proven you don't have to be a deep thinker to make, or even steal, money. You too can be in the one percent ownership of a third of all the wealth and leave your countrymen behind. It's called innovation, people!
So, the story of Jeb and Obama has a happy Dr. Seuss ending. Jeb has gone from singing “That Bam-I-Am, that Bam-I-Am, I do not like that Bam-I-Am” to taking a gander at Obama’s corporation-loving No Child Left in the Race to the Top of the Future, and chortling:

“Say! I like green eggs and flim flam!
I do!
I like them, Bam-I-Am!”


Marie Burns said...

What? You don't think Jeb was the Education Governor? As a Floridian, I can tell you a few things about Jeb's education policies:

On Teacher Competence: Bush initiated an "FCAT" test to assess teacher competence. Then he hired unqualified temps from Kelly Services to "grade" teachers. Jennie Smith, the Miami Examiner's education policy blogger, wrote last week,

"The FCAT itself, due to its high-stakes nature (third graders who do not pass are retained, regardless of their class grades, and high school students who do not pass are denied a high school diploma, again regardless of their grades), has caused an unconscionable narrowing of the curriculum, particularly in high-poverty, high-minority, struggling schools."

Also on Curriculum Content: Gov. Jeb said evolution "didn't need to be in the curriculum."

On Teacher Tenure: Jeb worked long & hard -- he's still at it -- to reduce the power of teachers' unions. Last year he campaigned for legislation to eliminate teacher tenure. The legislature passed Jeb's anti-teacher bill, but then-Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed it. The state legislature (which is in Republican hands is working on an even more draconian bill now, & the Worst Governor in America -- Rick Scott -- naturally intends to sign it.)

On Public/Private Schools: Bush initiated a school voucher program that was widely considered a scam to funnel money out of public education & into private, for-profit institutions. Jim Warford, Jeb's former K-12 education chancellor said, "What I saw was that 90 percent of the energy went to undermining our public schools with vouchers and charters." Florida has a well-deserved reputation as having some of the worst charter schools in the nation. The federal inspector general for education has opened more than 40 criminal investigations against the proprietors of Florida's charter schools. In the meantime, Gov. Jeb has established a foundation to support those same, possibly criminal, private institutions. Well, yeah, as Jennie Smith noted, "Many charter schools ... are for-profit and are run by millionaires who bankroll Republicans like Jeb Bush in return for legislation favoring their enterprise."

On Class Size: while governor, Jeb opposed a state constitutional amendment to cap class size. After it passed with more than 60% of the vote, Jeb tried to circumvent it. (He was caught on tape saying he had "devious plans for public education in Florida." Devious, indeed.) In 2010 ex-Gov. Jeb backed another amendment to rescind the 2003 class-size cap amendment. It failed, too.

Valerie Strauss, the education blogger for the Washington Post, asks: "So, at this point in time, when teachers in Wisconsin and elsewhere feel besieged, I’m wondering why Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are flying to Florida to be with Republicans who have been part of the attack force. Why, when teachers are fighting for union rights, does the president decide to spend time with anti-teachers union school reformers?"

Answer: we've got another Education President just like the last Education President.

The Constant Weader

Anonymous said...

I know people who think that the latest technology is all what it's about (they all have kids in college; I don't). You know, computers, iPads, cellphones. Why, just the other day over coffee, someone told me that the revolutions in Egypt and Libya wouldn't have happened unless there'd been Facebook and cellphone videos! The article? I think Obama's going to be not only the first black president but the first president elected by one party who jumps to another before he runs for the second term. He's a Republican and always was ("I've got my money - too bad about you"). He's just been in the party of convenience...

Delving Eye said...

Hi Karen.

I just read your comment on Paul Krugman's article in the NYTimes: "Degrees and Dollars." Excellent.

Obama is truly a disappointment, a cardboard cutout.

Interestingly, on Election Day back in 2008, I was all set to bring my daughter with me to vote for the first black Presidential candidate -- an historic event -- when I was suddenly stricken with a nasty flu that left me bed-ridden until 11 p.m. that night, too late to vote.

I was so disappointed to have missed out on a watershed moment, and yet there was a little voice in the back of my mind that said: "Maybe this guy doesn't deserve your vote."

Looks like that little voice was correct.

john r. ziemann said...

I am glad that Dr. Krugman is finally talking about this and I hope that it makes some people realize that they have been supporting policies that drive down wages. Wages are a matter of supply and demand. With a tight labor market employers are forced to pay more for labor because a worker has some bargaining power. To break the back of labor, which was Reagan's goal, one changes the dynamics or ratio between the number of workers and the number of available jobs. With more workers there is less bargaining. We've all seen wages drop as immigration rises. While millions of jobs are being outsourced we are bringing in millions of workers. The result is obvious. We have 9 million fewer jobs than in 1999 yet during the decade of 2000-10 our population increased by 27 million. The bubbles only masked the problem and since the bubbles have burst we are seeing the excess labor being squeezed out in the form of massive unemployment. So unless there is another bubble the unemployment is permanent...permanent lives as Ms. Garcia describes on the 60 Minutes program. We are importing millions of people from all corners of the earth while we have tent cities, wages driven so low that we have record numbers below the poverty line and one in six on food stamps, etc. Our minorities are being hit disproportionally be this. The construction trade is now less than 20% union as the non-union companies that employ illegals put them out of business. Construction isn't a job that can be outsourced so why drive down the wages? Now Obama is trying to push through the NAFTA program to throw American truckers under the bus. This has been happening to the blue collar on one end and to the high tech industry on the white collar end. It is nationwide. The problem is not that public workers make too much, it is that the private workers make too little. Wages have been driven down so low that employers no longer pay for their workers health benefits nor retirement, those are wages. As an example, BMW pays it's German auto line workers $33.50/hr. and their American counterparts $16.00/hr. We used to have the highest paid workers with the best living standards in the world. Now as the result of our corrupt politicians we've had declining wages even during the bubble years and right now it is a disaster. We need to tighten up our labor pool and take care of our own. Previous Presidents have returned millions of foreign workers to their homeland to insure jobs for Americans and we didn't have outsourcing then nor this ridiculous population. The US Chamber of Commerce which supports outsourcing and deregulating Wall Street will fight anything that might lead to a higher standing of living for our nation's citizens. They are very effective and it starts with politicians who are on gravy train to begin by name calling. It is sort of like the comment made on a current commercial, " It makes sense until you think about it." This is why Democrats like Byron Dorgan, Robert Byrd, Tom Harkin, Jon Tester, Claire McCaskill and others voted against immigration reform. The old school type Democrats know what the influx of millions will do to the job situation and the living standards of our citizens.

The new type of Democrats, the ones who voted to deregulate Wall Street, voted to allow oil company consolidation, voted for the Bush tax cuts. voted for the Bush wars, vote for these lousy trade deals and now will vote to cut our safety nets and give themselves and other multimillionaires tax cuts will do nothing to stop the import of foreign workers. In fact, it has been reported that worker import levels are back to their pre-crash levels. This is despite the condition of our county. With population growth adding 125-150,00 workers per month and with the added foreign workers the created jobs did nothing to help the unemployed. The official numbers are a recognized joke. This letter would be politically correct when Democrats, not just Democratic politicians, cared for their fellow citizens.

Hal Horvath said...

I was imagining how effective this post would be for many readers without the pathos: "nauseating Winning the Future P.R. tripe".

Pathos is understandable, and fun for some, but turns off many I'm sure.

We've become too much a people joining opposing camps. I've not said that before, but now it's becoming too common.

James F Traynor said...

Ditto to Marie Burns! Viva karen Garcia! And why are the women the only ones with cajones?