How Obama and Valerie Jarrett Helped Launch Their Political Careers in an Outrageous ‘Urban Renewal’ Scheme February 24, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Chicago, Housing/Homelessness, Race.
Tags: allison kilkenny, black poverty, chicago, chicago housing, community housing, homelessness, housing develoment, michelle obama, non-profit housing, privatization, public-private, roger hollander, subsidized housing, urban development, urban renewal, valerie jarrett
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Roger’s note: as anyone who has followed this Blog knows, I have characterized Obama as a fraud from the beginning (of his ascendency to the presidency). I posted an article reprinted from the Toronto Star when Obama was elected the first Black editor of the Harvard Law Review, where a fellow Black student talks about his charismatic gifts always leading to a cop out. In the article below, compare Obama’s history of “community development” in housing with that of Saul Alinsky in the 60s, where he organized popular protests against the University of Chicago’s plans to destroy neighborhoods for expansion. Also, in the article below you will learn how Michelle Obama earned over $300,000 a year dumping poor patients to make room for richer ones at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Developers and investors got rich on a project that destroyed the homes of thousands of Chicago’s poorest black residents.
…[A]s Obama knows very well, for most of the last two decades in Chicago there’s been in place a very specific economic development plan. The plan was to make the South Side like the North Side. Which is the same kind of project as making the land north of Central Park like the land south of Central Park. The North Side is the area north of the Loop—Chicago’s midtown central business district—where rich white people live; they root for the Cubs. They’re neighborhood is called the Gold Coast.
For almost a hundred years in Chicago blacks have lived on the South Side close to Chicago’s factories and slaughter houses. And Cellular Field, home of the White Sox. The area where they lived was called the Black Belt or Bronzeville—and it’s the largest concentration of African American people in the U.S.—nearly 600,000 people—about twice the size of Harlem.
In the 1950s, big swaths of urban renewal were ripped through the black belt, demolishing private housing on the south east side. The argument then was that the old low rise private housing was old and unsuitable. Black people needed to be housed in new, high-rise public housing which the city built just east of the Dan Ryan Expressway. The Administration of the Chicago Housing Authority was widely acclaimed as the most corrupt, racist and incompetent in America. Gradually only the poorest of the poor lived there. And in the 1980s, the argument began to be made that the public housing needed to be demolished and the people moved back into private housing. …
If we examine more carefully the interests that Obama represents; if we look at his core financial supporters; as well as his inmost circle of advisors, we’ll see that they represent the primary activists in the demolition movement and the primary real estate beneficiaries of this transformation of public housing projects into condos and townhouses: the profitable creep of the Central Business District and elite residential neighborhoods southward; and the shifting of the pile of human misery about three miles further into the South Side and the south suburbs.
Obama’s political base comes primarily from Chicago FIRE—the finance, insurance and real estate industry. And the wealthiest families—the Pritzkers, the Crowns and the Levins. But it’s more than just Chicago FIRE. Also within Obama’s inner core of support are allies from the non-profit sector: the liberal foundations, the elite universities, the non-profit community developers and the real estate reverends who produce market rate housing with tax breaks from the city and who have been known to shout from the pulpit“ give us this day our Daley, Richard Daley bread.”
Aggregate them and what emerges is a constellation of interests around Obama that I call “Friendly FIRE.” Fire power disguised by the camouflage of community uplift; augmented by the authority of academia; greased by billions in foundation grants; and wired to conventional FIRE by the terms of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1995. And yet friendly FIRE is just as deadly as the conventional FIRE that comes from bankers and developers that we’re used to ducking from. It’s the whole condominium of interests whose advancement depends on the elimination of poor blacks from the community and their replacement by white people and—at least temporarily—by the black middle-class—who’ve gotten subprime mortgages—in a kind of redlining in reverse.
The public housing included in Senator Obama’s transformation plans, such as the 504 apartments in the squat brick buildings of Grove Parc Plaza, quickly fell into disrepair. Reports emerged of uninhabitable units with collapsed roofs, fire damage, mice infestations, and sewage backups. In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale, a score so bad the buildings were demolished in 2011.
A Boston Globe review found that thousands of apartments across Chicago that had been built with local, state and federal subsidies — including several hundred in Obama’s former district — deteriorated so completely they were no longer habitable. Grove Parc, a project that was, along with several other prominent failures, developed and managed by Obama’s close friends and political supporters, became a symbol of the broader failures of handing over public subsidies to FIRE cronies, private companies to build and manage affordable housing, an approach lauded by Obama as the best, sometimes only, replacement for public housing.
At the time, Jarrett was the chief executive of Habitat Co., which managed Grove Parc Plaza from 2001 until the winter of 2008 and co-managed an even larger subsidized complex in Chicago that was seized by the federal government in 2006 after city inspectors found widespread problems. Jarrett had earlier served as Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development from 1992 through 1995. When questioned by the Globe, Jarrett defended Obama’s position that public-private partnerships are superior to public housing.
“Government is just not as good at owning and managing as the private sector because the incentives are not there,” said Jarrett, whose company manages more than 23,000 apartments. “I would argue that someone living in a poor neighborhood that isn’t 100 percent public housing is by definition better off.”
But as theGlobe pointed out, Daley’s plans to privatize Chicago public housing quickly drew criticism:
[Chicagoans] asked why the government should pay developers to perform a basic public service — one successfully performed by governments in other cities. And they noted that privately managed projects had a history of deteriorating because guaranteed government rent subsidies left companies with little incentive to spend money on maintenance.
Most of all, they alleged that Chicago was interested primarily in redeveloping projects close to the Loop, the downtown area that was seeing a surge of private development activity, shunting poor families to neighborhoods farther from the city center. Only about one in three residents was able to return to the redeveloped projects.
“They are rapidly displacing poor people, and these companies are profiting from this displacement,” said Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle of Southside Together Organizing for Power, a community group that seeks to help tenants stay in the same neighborhoods.
“The same exact people who ran these places into the ground,” the private companies paid to build and manage the city’s affordable housing, “now are profiting by redeveloping them.”
Obama believes deeply that privatization works. He once told theChicago Tribune that he had briefly considered becoming a developer of affordable housing, but after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1991, he turned down a job with Tony Rezko’s development company, Rezmar, to instead work at the civil rights law firm Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland. The firm represented a number of nonprofit companies that were partnering with private developers to build affordable housing with government subsidies.
The Globe reported that shortly after becoming a state senator in 1997, Obama told theChicago Daily Law Bulletinthat his experience working with the development industry had reinforced his belief in subsidizing private developers of affordable housing. “That’s an example of a smart policy,” the paper quoted Obama as saying. “The developers were thinking in market terms and operating under the rules of the marketplace; but at the same time, we had government supporting and subsidizing those efforts.”
What Obama is describing is corporate welfare: the government subsidizes private companies which then lack incentive to provide services to tenants because the government i.e. taxpayers will continue funding them regardless, and then the same private companies win new contracts down the road when they demolish and rebuild apartments as part of a “revitalizing” scheme.
Oftentimes, Obama’s community organizer veneer served to camouflage his FIRE roots. For example, Grove Parc Plaza opened in 1990 as a redevelopment of an older housing complex, and the new owner was a local nonprofit company called Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corp, led by two of the neighborhoods’ most powerful ministers, Arthur Brazier and Leon Finney. All of this sounded like grassroots in action. However, Woodlawn Preservation hired a private management firm, William Moorehead and Associates, to oversee the complex. The company then lost that contract and a contract to manage several public housing projects for allegedly failing to do its job, and was subsequently convicted of embezzling almost $1 million in management feeds theGlobe reported.
Woodlawn Preservation then hired a new property manager, Habitat Co., where Valerie Jarrett served as executive vice president. Residents told the Globe that the complex deteriorated under Moorehead’s management and the decline continued after Habitat took over. A maintenance worker at the complex told the Globe that money often wasn’t available for steel wool to plug rat holes, but regardless federal inspectors rated Grove Parc an 82 out of 100 as late as 2003.
In their extensive report on Obama’s private-public partnership failings, theGlobe profiles one of the largest recipients of government subsidies: Rezmar Corp, founded in 1989 by Tony Rezko, who between 1999 and 2008 used more than $87 million in government grants, loans, and tax credits to renovate about 1,000 apartments in 30 Chicago buildings. Companies run by the partners also managed many of the buildings, collecting government rent subsidies. Neither Rezko, nor his partner Daniel Mahru, had any development experience:
Rezmar collected millions in development fees but fell behind on mortgage payments almost immediately. On its first project, the city government agreed to reduce the company’s monthly payments from almost $3,000 to less than $500.
By the time Obama entered the state senate in 1997, the buildings were beginning to deteriorate. In January 1997, the city sued Rezmar for failing to provide adequate heat in a South Side building in the middle of an unusually cold winter. It was one of more than two dozen housing-complaint suits filed by the city against Rezmar for violations at its properties.
People who lived in some of the Rezmar buildings say trash was not picked up and maintenance problems were ignored. Roofs leaked, windows whistled, insects moved in.
“In the winter I can feel the cold air coming through the walls and the sockets,” said Anthony Frizzell, 57, who has lived for almost two decades in a Rezmar building on South Greenwood Avenue. “They didn’t insulate it or nothing.”
“Affordable housing run by private companies just doesn’t work,” Mahru told the Globe. “It’s difficult, if not impossible, for a private company to maintain affordable housing for low-income tenants.”
Most of Rezko and Mahru’s buildings have since been foreclosed upon, forcing the tenants to find new housing.
When Obama opened his campaign for state senate in 1995, Rezko’s companies gave $2,000 on the first day of fundraising, and as the Globepoints out, essentially “seeded the start of Obama’s political career.”
While Obama eventually distanced himself from Rezko, he maintained close ties to other developers. Jarrett became a close adviser, and Obama chose Martin Nesbitt, chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority, as his campaign treasurer. Nesbitt was one of the key overseers of the shift toward private management and development. And Obama kept the rich families around him.
From the Globe story:
As a result, some people in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods are torn between a natural inclination to support Obama and a concern about his relationships with the developers they hold responsible for Chicago’s affordable housing failures. Some housing advocates worry that Obama has not learned from those failures.
“I’m not against Barack Obama,” said Willie J.R. Fleming, an organizer with the Coalition to Protect Public Housing and a former public housing resident. “What I am against is some of the people around him.”
Jamie Kalven, a longtime Chicago housing activist, put it this way: “I hope there is not much predictive value in his history and in his involvement with that community.”
In a 2012 Harpersmagazinearticle, Ben Austen writes that the area around Cabrini-Green no longer resembles the neighborhood he remembered from his years growing up in Chicago in the ’70s and ’80s.
Down the street from 1230 N. Burling stood a mixed-income development of orange-bricked condos and townhomes called Parkside of Old Town. Its squat buildings were outfitted with balconies and adorned with purple ornamentation and decorative pillars. There was a new school, a new police station, a renovated park, and a shopping center with a Dominick’s supermarket and a Starbucks. A Target was expected on the site the last tower would soon vacate. Later, I would warm up two blocks south in @Spot Café, where employees from Groupon’s nearby corporate headquarters streamed in to pay full price for lattes and panini.
Today, what seems harder to fathom than the erasure of entire high-rise neighborhoods is that they were ever erected in the first place. For years the projects had stood as monuments to a bygone effort to provide affordable housing for the poor and working-class, the reflection of a belief in a deeper social contract.
Shortly before the demolition of 1230 N. Burling in 2012, Austen attended a Chicago Housing Authority meeting during which residents protested the board in response to the city forcing poor people off prime real estate. Activists included residents and supporters of a housing project called Lathrop Homes, a development in a well-off section of the North Side that was next in line to be demolished.
“The residents didn’t want to be forced into the private market or into temporary housing, especially since they doubted they’d be able to return to whatever replaced Lathrop; nor did they agree that market-rate apartments were needed in the redeveloped community, as the surrounding area was already full of market-rate condos,” Austen wrote.
Chicago’s $1.6 billion “Plan for Transformation” envisioned a mix of public-housing residents with market-rate condos and subsidized rentals or homes, with one-third of each in these new communities.
In late 2012, NPR detailed how after more than a decade in the works, one of the country’s most closely watched public housing experiments was badly failing, partly due to the flailing economy.
Thomas has lived here for eight years with her husband and 7-year-old son. Lathrop sits on what many now consider prime land, next to the Chicago River. A busy street splits the development into a north and south section.
The north side is completely shuttered, cordoned off by gates, a ghost town of boarded-up buildings. Thomas lives in the open southern section, where steam from the old heating system wafts into the street. About 170 of the 900-plus units are occupied.
Thomas says all three of the concepts for Lathrop should be dumped and there should be more input from residents. She says there’s little affordable housing in the area and there’s no need for market-rate units at all.
Far from adopting a reflective attitude in the wake of Chicago’s failed experiment in public-private housing partnerships, Obama has now taken his love of public-private codependence to a national level, touting public-private partnerships in everything from creating jobs to education to tackling insurance fraud to collaborations involving foreign nations, which you can bet means the wealthiest multinational conglomerates teaming up to increase their profits at the expense of the 99 percent.
“This is a dangerous precedent that could have catastrophic effects in poor neighborhoods across the country. Congress needs to hold hearings about the problems facing emergency patients. If other community, non-profit hospitals follow this example and shift the lion’s share of resources to its high-revenue elective patients and procedures, it will leave many emergency patients virtually out in the cold. The University of Chicago Medical Center is located in a poor neighborhood whose residents have few, if any, other options for emergency care.”The media barely paid any attention to Michelle Obama’s role in all of this, though the Chicago Sun-Times reported in 2008 that her $317,000-a-year role as Vice-President of the hospital helped create the patient-dumping program.
“If you put enough money into it, you could save a whole bunch of community health centers,” Young said. “But to date, they haven’t.”
Edward Novak, president of Chicago’s Sacred Heart Hospital, declined to discuss the center’s initiative in particular but dismissed as “bull” attempts to justify such programs as good for patients. “What they’re really saying is, ‘Don’t use our emergency room because it will cost us money, and we don’t want the public-aid population,’ ” Novak said.
At the end of January this year, community residents launched a protest outside the University of Chicago Medical Center, angry that the hospital ignored their needs, especially for “victims of gun violence,” according to a news report: “One woman said her son, shot just blocks away from the university, died on the way to a hospital ten miles away.” Four were arrested at the protest.
Robert Fitch’s words hold true: the poor remain at the mercy of the rich, who are seeking profits on everything possible, including their homes, but also their water, healthcare and education.
Allison Kilkenny co-hosts Citizen Radio, an alternative political radio show. Her work has appeared in the American Prospect, the LA Times, In These Times, and Truthout.
Private Prison Corporations Are Slave Traders May 4, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Labor, Race, Racism.
Tags: black incarceation, corrections, corrections corporation, crime, glen ford, mass incarceration, prisons, privatization, Race, racism, roger hollander, slave labor
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A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Crime has been going down for nearly a generation, and the states have finally put the brakes on prison growth in response to the fiscal crunch. But Wall Street prison profiteers see the crisis as an opportunity. The Corrections Corporation of America has offered to buy nearly all the nation’s state prisons. “To ensure their profitability, the corporation insists that it be guaranteed that the prisons be kept at least 90 percent full.”
Private Prison Corporations Are Slave Traders
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“The Corrections Corporation of America believes the economic crisis has created an historic opportunity to become the landlord, as well as the manager, of a big chunk of the American prison gulag.”
The nation’s largest private prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America, is on a buying spree. With a war chest of $250 million, the corporation, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, this month sent letters to 48 states, offering to buy their prisons outright. To ensure their profitability, the corporation insists that it be guaranteed that the prisons be kept at least 90 percent full. Plus, the corporate jailers demand a 20-year management contract, on top of the profits they expect to extract by spending less money per prisoner.
For the last two years, the number of inmates held in state prisons has declined slightly, largely because the states are short on money. Crime, of course, has declined dramatically in the last 20 years, but that has never dampened the states’ appetites for warehousing ever more Black and brown bodies, and the federal prison system is still growing. However, the CorrectionsCorporation of America believes the economic crisis has created an historic opportunity to become the landlord, as well as the manager, of a big chunk of the American prison gulag.
The attempted prison grab is also defensive in nature. If private companies can gain both ownership and management of enough prisons, they can set the prices without open-bid competition for prison services, creating a guaranteed cost-plus monopoly like that which exists between the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex.
“If private companies are allowed to own the deeds to prisons, they are a big step closer to owning the people inside them.”
But, for a better analogy, we must go back to the American slave system, a thoroughly capitalist enterprise that reduced human beings to units of labor and sale. The Corrections Corporation of America’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission read very much like the documents of a slave-trader. Investors are warned that profits would go down if the demand for prisoners declines. That is, if the world’s largest police state shrinks, so does the corporate bottom line. Dangers to profitability include “relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws.” The corporation spells it out: “any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.” At the Corrections Corporation of America, human freedom is a dirty word.
But, there is something even more horrifying than the moral turpitude of the prison capitalists. If private companies are allowed to own the deeds to prisons, they are a big step closer to owning the people inside them. Many of the same politicians that created the system of mass Black incarceration over the past 40 years, would gladly hand over to private parties all responsibility for the human rights of inmates. The question of inmates’ rights is hardly raised in the debate over prison privatization. This is a dialogue steeped in slavery and racial oppression. Just as the old slave markets were abolished, so must the Black American Gulag be dismantled – with no compensation to those who traffic in human beings.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Tags: alec, arne duncan, charter schools, chris christie, cyber charter, diane ravitch, education, gates foundation, jeb bush, koch brothers, privatization, public education, Rahm Emanuel, right wing, roger hollander, teachers, teachers' unions
Published on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 by Bridging the Difference Blog / Ed Week
What You Need To Know About ALEC
Since the 2010 elections, when Republicans took control of many states, there has been an explosion of legislation advancing privatization of public schools and stripping teachers of job protections and collective bargaining rights. Even some Democratic governors, seeing the strong rightward drift of our politics, have jumped on the right-wing bandwagon, seeking to remove any protection for academic freedom from public school teachers.
This outburst of anti-public school, anti-teacher legislation is no accident. It is the work of a shadowy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Founded in 1973, ALEC is an organization of nearly 2,000 conservative state legislators. Its hallmark is promotion of privatization and corporate interests in every sphere, not only education, but healthcare, the environment, the economy, voting laws, public safety, etc. It drafts model legislation that conservative legislators take back to their states and introduce as their own “reform” ideas. ALEC is the guiding force behind state-level efforts to privatize public education and to turn teachers into at-will employees who may be fired for any reason. The ALEC agenda is today the “reform” agenda for education.
ALEC operated largely in the dark for years, but gained notoriety because of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida. It turns out that ALEC crafted the “Stand Your Ground” legislation that empowered George Zimmerman to kill an unarmed teenager with the defense that he (the shooter) felt threatened. When the bright light of publicity was shone on ALEC, a number of corporate sponsors dropped out, including McDonald’s, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Mars, Wendy’s, Intuit, Kaplan, and PepsiCo. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said that it would not halt its current grant to ALEC, but pledged not to provide new funding. ALEC has some 300 corporate sponsors, including Walmart, the Koch Brothers, and AT&T, so there’s still quite a lot of corporate support for its free-market policies. ALEC claimed that it is the victim of a campaign of intimidation.
The campaign to privatize the schools and to dismantle the teaching profession is in full swing. Where is the leadership to oppose it?
Groups like Common Cause and colorofchange.org have been putting ALEC’s model legislation online and printing the names of its sponsors. They have also published sharp criticism of ALEC’s ideas. This is hardly intimidation. It’s the democratic process at work. A website called alecexposed.org has published ALEC’s policy agenda. Common Cause posted the agenda for the meeting of ALEC on May 11 in Charlotte, N.C. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has dropped out of ALEC and also withdrawn from the May 11 conference, where it was originally going to be a presenter.
A recent article in the Newark Star-Ledger showed how closely New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s “reform” legislation is modeled on ALEC’s work in education. Wherever you see states expanding vouchers, charters, and other forms of privatization, wherever you see states lowering standards for entry into the teaching profession, wherever you see states opening up new opportunities for profit-making entities, wherever you see the expansion of for-profit online charter schools, you are likely to find legislation that echoes the ALEC model.
ALEC has been leading the privatization movement for nearly 40 years, but the only thing new is the attention it is getting, and the fact that many of its ideas are now being enacted. Just last week, the Michigan House of Representatives expanded the number of cyber charters that may operate in the state, even though the academic results for such online schools are dismal.
Who is on the education task force of ALEC? The members of the task force as of July 2011 are here. Several members represent for-profit online companies, including the co-chair from Connections Academy; many members come from for-profit higher education corporations. There is someone from Jeb Bush’s foundation, as well as right-wing think tank people. There are charter school representatives, as well as Scantron. And the task force includes a long list of state legislators, from Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Quite a lineup. Common Cause has asked why ALEC is considered a “charity” by the Internal Revenue Service and holds tax-exempt status, when it devotes so much time to lobbying for changes in state laws. Common Cause has filed a “whistleblower” complaint with the IRS about ALEC’s status.
The campaign to privatize the schools and to dismantle the teaching profession is in full swing. Where is the leadership to oppose it?
Diane Ravitch is a historian of education at New York University. She is a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. She has written many books and articles about American education, including: The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform, (Simon & Schuster, 2000); The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (Knopf, 2003); The English Reader: What Every Literate Person Needs to Know (Oxford, 2006), which she edited with her son Michael Ravitch.
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Tags: education reform, fundamentalism, indiana education, joseph l. conn, koch brothers, mitch daniels, private education, privatization, privatize education, public education, public schools, religion, religious education, religious right, right wing, roger hollander, tim lahaye, vouchers
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The push for vouchers is not about “education reform,” but
part of a national drive to radically privatize education.
and state are under relentless assault.
In late April, the Indiana legislature approved House Bill 1003, a measure
that broadly funds religious and other private schools. The multi-million-dollar
program sets up a new school voucher scheme, expands a tax credit program and
offers tax deductions for the costs of private education and homeschooling.
Gov. Mitch Daniels was a chief promoter of the package, and he clearly means
to force taxpayers to fund religious education. He is the founder and driving
force behind The Oaks Academy, a “Christ-centered” private school in
Indianapolis. Daniels sometimes poses as a moderate, but his education plan is
Make no mistake. This is not about “education reform.” This is part of a
national drive to radically privatize education. Indiana is just one of many
states where mega-bucks foundations and sectarian interest groups are demanding
taxpayer dollars for parochial and other private schools. Their long-term goal
is to shut down the public school system or leave it so damaged that its role in
American life is minimal.
In October 2010, Religious Right godfather Tim LaHaye addressed the Council
for National Policy about his goals for education. (The secretive CNP is the
premier meeting place for Religious Right zealots, TV preachers, right-wing fat
cats and others who want to take America back to the Dark Ages.) He viciously
mischaracterized the public schools and issued a call to arms for the CNP and
its allies to remake them.
“I have a pet concern,” said LaHaye, the fundamentalist preacher and “Left
Behind” author who founded the CNP. “And I think it is the concern of everyone
in this room; and that is we are being destroyed in America by the public school
systems of our country. And it was Abraham Lincoln who said, essentially, let me
educate the children of this generation and they will be the political leaders
of the next generation.
“And, folks, we have let the enemy come in and take over the greatest school
system in the history of the world,” he continued. “At one time, Noah Webster
was the school master of America, a dedicated Christian who founded people on
the Word of God and principles of God. And I’d like to see you join me in prayer
that God would let us wrestle control of the American school system from the
secularists, the anti-Christians and anti-Americans that want to bend the minds
of our children.
“At our expense,” LaHaye blustered, “they want to take the most priceless
thing we have – the brains of our children – and let them educate them. They
educate the teachers, they provide the textbooks, and we give them the most
precious things we have. That doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m hoping that this
conservative movement will be long enough to get a majority who can vote what I
consider a new bill of rights – a bill of parental rights where parents can
decide where to send their children to school.”
Touting “biblically based education,” LaHaye concluded that ideology is the
answer to education reform, not additional funding.
“May I suggest,” he said, that “more money is not what they need, it is a
better ideology, and we have already got it.”
LaHaye’s take on public schools is, of course, a pack of lies. Our school
system is not secularist or anti-Christian or anti-American. It welcomes
children of all faiths (and none). Nobody is turned away from the door,
regardless of religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, family background,
disability or economic situation. And our public schools are generally governed
by elected school boards, whose members represent their diverse communities and
are answerable to them.
But LaHaye’s screed serves an important purpose. It gives us the master plan
that he and other right-wing ideologues are pursuing. That’s why we have raging
battles over vouchers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and a host of other states.
(And it’s why House Speaker John Boehner strong-armed through Congress a federal
taxpayer-funded voucher scheme in the District of Columbia.)
LaHaye and his cronies hate America’s vitally important public school system.
They want to shut it down and move to a “choice” system where taxpayers
subsidize private schools that are accountable only to the sponsoring clergy and
are free to indoctrinate children in their “biblically based” ideology. They
don’t want to improve public education, as they sometimes claim; they want to
LaHaye is not alone in this battle. Betsy DeVos, the infamous Koch brothers
and other wealthy members and supporters of the CNP are funding the nationwide
attack on public schools and church-state separation today. Don’t be fooled.
They often put forward bogus “parents groups,” to serve as front operations, but
it’s they who are calling the shots.
Wake up, America. This radical movement is advancing. Let your legislators
and members of Congress know how you feel before it’s too late.
Obama’s Education Reform Push is Bad Education Policy March 14, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Education.
Tags: charter schools, diane ravitch, educatio system, education, education reform, no child left behind, privatization, public schools, race to the top, roger hollander, schools
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(Roger’s note: beware the word “reform.” Under mental health reform, “de-institutionalization” only left psychiatric survivors struggling to survive on the mean streets; Clinton’s welfare reform was little more than an attack on the poor; and Obama’s health reform, if passed, will institutionalize the blood-sucking private insurance industry, probably forever. The Republicrats are one in the same on these issues. The objective is always the erosion of the social safety net and the corporatization of America. Obama’s “Race to the Top” educational reform is no different. The [not so] hidden agenda is privatization and union-busting. Obama may be a brilliant orator, but he is either terribly naïve or wilfully blind. Take your pick.)
One simple solution for our schools? A captivating promise, but a false one.
by Diane Ravitch
There have been two features that regularly mark the history of U.S. public schools. Over the last century, our education system has been regularly captivated by a Big Idea — a savant or an organization that promised a simple solution to the problems of our schools. The second is that there are no simple solutions, no miracle cures to those problems.
Education is a slow, arduous process that requires the work of willing students, dedicated teachers and supportive families, as well as a coherent curriculum.
As an education historian, I have often warned against the seductive lure of grand ideas to reform education. Our national infatuation with education fads and reforms distracts us from the steady work that must be done.
Our era is no different. We now face a wave of education reforms based on the belief that school choice, test-driven accountability and the resulting competition will dramatically improve student achievement.
Once again, I find myself sounding the alarm that the latest vision of education reform is deeply flawed. But this time my warning carries a personal rebuke. For much of the last two decades, I was among those who jumped aboard the choice and accountability bandwagon. Choice and accountability, I believed, would offer a chance for poor children to escape failing schools. Testing and accountability, I thought, would cast sunshine on low-performing schools and lead to improvement. It all seemed to make sense, even if there was little empirical evidence, just promise and hope.
Today there is empirical evidence, and it shows clearly that choice, competition and accountability as education reform levers are not working. But with confidence bordering on recklessness, the Obama administration is plunging ahead, pushing an aggressive program of school reform — codified in its signature Race to the Top program — that relies on the power of incentives and competition. This approach may well make schools worse, not better.
Those who do not follow education closely may be tempted to think that, at long last, we’re finally turning the corner. What could be wrong with promoting charter schools to compete with public schools? Why shouldn’t we demand accountability from educators and use test scores to reward our best teachers and identify those who should find another job?
Like the grand plans of previous eras, they sound sensible but will leave education no better off. Charter schools are no panacea. The nation now has about 5,000 of them, and they vary in quality. Some are excellent, some terrible; most are in between. Most studies have found that charters, on average, are no better than public schools.
On the federal tests, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, from 2003 to 2009, charters have never outperformed public schools. Nor have black and Latino students in charter schools performed better than their counterparts in public schools.
This is surprising, because charter schools have many advantages over public schools. Most charters choose their students by lottery. Those who sign up to win seats tend to be the most motivated students and families in the poorest communities. Charters are also free to “counsel out” students who are unable or unwilling to meet expectations. A study of KIPP charters in the San Francisco area found that 60% of those students who started the fifth grade were gone before the end of eighth grade. Most of those who left were low performers.
Studies of charters in Boston, New York City and Washington have found that charters, as compared to public schools, have smaller percentages of the students who are generally hardest to educate — those with disabilities and English-language learners. Because the public schools must educate everyone, they end up with disproportionate numbers of the students the charters don’t want.
So we’re left with the knowledge that a dramatic expansion in the number of privately managed schools is not likely to raise student achievement. Meanwhile, public schools will become schools of last resort for the unmotivated, the hardest to teach and those who didn’t win a seat in a charter school. If our goal is to destroy public education in America, this is precisely the right path.
Nor is there evidence that student achievement will improve if teachers are evaluated by their students’ test scores. Some economists say that when students have four or five “great” teachers in a row, the achievement gap between racial groups disappears. The difficulty with this theory is that we do not have adequate measures of teacher excellence.
Of course, it would be wonderful if all teachers were excellent, but many factors affect student scores other than their teacher, including students’ motivation, the schools’ curriculum, family support, poverty and distractions on testing day, such as the weather or even a dog barking in the school’s parking lot.
The Obama education reform plan is an aggressive version of the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind, under which many schools have narrowed their curriculum to the tested subjects of reading and math. This poor substitute for a well-rounded education, which includes subjects such as the arts, history, geography, civics, science and foreign language, hits low-income children the hardest, since they are the most likely to attend the kind of “failing school” that drills kids relentlessly on the basics. Emphasis on test scores already compels teachers to focus on test preparation. Holding teachers personally and exclusively accountable for test scores — a key feature of Race to the Top — will make this situation even worse. Test scores will determine salary, tenure, bonuses and sanctions, as teachers and schools compete with each other, survival-of-the-fittest style.
Frustrated by a chronic lack of progress, business leaders and politicians expect that a stern dose of this sort of competition and incentives will improve education, but they are wrong. No other nation is taking such harsh lessons from the corporate sector and applying them to their schools. No nation with successful schools ignores everything but basic skills and testing. Schools work best when teachers collaborate to help their students and strive together for common goals, not when they compete for higher scores and bonuses.
Having embraced the Republican agenda of choice, competition and accountability, the Obama administration is promoting the privatization of large segments of American education and undermining the profession of teaching. This toxic combination is the latest Big Idea in education reform. Like so many of its predecessors, it is not likely to improve education.
Diane Ravitch, a historian of education, is the author of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.”
© 2010 The Los Angeles Times
Private Contractors “Like Vultures Coming to Grab the Loot” February 20, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Haiti.
Tags: aid, anthony fenton, aristide, haiti, haiti aid, haiti earthquake, haiti relief, haliburton, mercenaries, naomi klein, private contractors, privatisation, privatization, rene preval, roger hollander
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Friday 19 February 2010
Vancouver – Critics are concerned that private military contractors are positioning themselves at the centre of an emerging “shock doctrine” for earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
Next month, a prominent umbrella organisation for private military and logistic corporations, the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA), is co-organising a “Haiti summit” which aims to bring together “leading officials” for “private consultations with attending contractors and investors” in Miami, Florida.
Dubbed the “mercenary trade association” by journalist Jeremy Scahill, author of “Blackwater: the Rise of the World’ Most Powerful Mercenary Army”, the IPOA wasted no time setting up a “Haiti Earthquake Support” page on its website following the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the Caribbean country.
IPOA’s director Doug Brooks says, “The first contacts we got were journalists looking for security when they went in.” The website of IPOA member company, Hart Security, says they are currently in Haiti “supporting clients from the fields of media, consultancy and medical in their disaster recovery efforts.” Several other IPOA members have either bid on or received contracts for work in Haiti.
Likewise, the private military contractor, Raidon Tactics, has at least 30 former U.S. Special Operations soldiers on the ground, where they have been guarding aid convoys and providing security for “news agencies,” according to a Raidon employee who told IPS his company received over 1,000 phone calls in response to an ad posting “for open positions for Static Security Positions and Mobile Security Positions” in Haiti.
Just over a week following the earthquake, the IPOA teamed up with Global Investment Summits (GIS), a UK-based private company that specialises in bringing private contractors and government officials from “emerging post-conflict countries” together, to host an “Afghanistan Reconstruction Summit”, in Istanbul, Turkey. It was there, says IPOA’s director Doug Brooks, that the idea for the Haiti summit was hatched “over beers”.
GIS’s CEO, Kevin Lumb, told IPS that the key feature of the Haiti summit will be “what we call roundtables, [where] we put the ministers and their procurement people, and arrange appointments with contractors.” Lumb added that his company “specialise[s] in putting governments together [with private contractors].”
IPOA was “so pleased” with the Afghanistan summit, says Lumb, they asked GIS to do “all the organising, all the selling” for the Haiti summit. Lumb pointed out that all of the profits from the event will be donated to the Clinton-Bush Haiti relief fund.
While acknowledging that there will be a “a commercial angle” to the event and that “major companies, major players in the world” have committed to attend, Lumb declined to name most of the participants.
One of the companies Lumb did mention is DACC Associates, a private contractor that specialises in management and security consulting with contracts providing “advice and counsel” to governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
DACC President Douglas Melvin, a former Special Forces commander, State Department official and director of Security and Administrative Services for President George W. Bush, acknowledged that “from a revenue perspective, yes there’s wonderful opportunities at these events.”
Melvin added that he believes most attendees will be “coming together for the right reasons,” a genuine concern for Haiti, are “not coming to exploit” the dire situation there, and does not expect his company to profit off of their potential contracts there.
Naomi Klein, author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”, is concerned that the thesis of her best-selling book will once again be tested in Haiti. She told IPS in an e-mail, “Haiti doesn’t need cookie cutter one-size fits all reconstruction, designed by the same gang that made same such a hash of Iraq, Afghanistan and New Orleans – and indeed the same people responsible for the decimation of Haiti’s own economy in the name of ‘aid.’”
Unhappy with critics’ characterisation of the IPOA, Brooks said, “If Scahill and Klein have the resources, the capabilities, the equipment, to go in and do it themselves then more power to them.”
University of California at Los Angeles professor Nandini Gunewardena, co-editor of “Capitalizing on Catastrophe: Neoliberal Strategies in Disaster Reconstruction,” told IPS that “privatisation is not the way to go for disaster assistance.”
“Traditionally, corporations have positioned themselves in a way that they benefit at the expense of the people. We cannot afford for that to happen in Haiti,” she said, adding that “any kind of intermediate or long-term assistance strategy has to be framed within that framework of human security.”
This, according to the U.N-.based Commission on Human Security, means “creating political, social, environmental, economic, military and cultural systems that together give people the building blocks of survival, livelihood and dignity.”
Denouncing the “standard recipe of neoliberal policies,” Gunewardena said, “If private corporations are going to contribute to Haiti’s restoration, they have to be held accountable, not to their own standards, but to those of the people.”
Reached by telephone, Haiti’s former Minister of Defence under the first presidency of Jean Bertand Aristide, Patrick Elie, agreed. He’s worried about the potential privatisation of his country’s rebuilding, “because these private companies [aren't] liable, you can’t take them to the United Nations, you can’t take them to The Hague, and they operate in kind of legal limbo. And they are the more dangerous for it.”
Elie, who accepted a position as advisor to President Rene Preval following the earthquake, added “These guys are like vultures coming to grab the loot over this disaster, and probably money that might have been injected into the Haitian economy is going to be just grabbed by these companies and I’m sure that they are not only these mercenary companies but also the other companies like Halliburton or these other ones that always [come] on the heels of the troops.”
In its 2008 report, “Private Security Contractors at War: Ending the Culture of Impunity,” the NGO Human Rights First decried the “failure of the U.S. government to effectively control their actions, and in particular the inability or unwillingness of the Department of Justice (DoJ) to hold them criminally responsible for their illegal actions.”
The IPOA’s Brooks told IPS that members of the Haitian diaspora and Haiti’s embassy have been invited and are “going to be a big part” of the summit.
While stressing that it’s impossible to know the exact details of an event that is planned outside of public scrutiny, Elie countered that if high-level Haitian officials were to participate, “It’s either out of ignorance or complicity.”
Worried that Haiti is already seeing armed contractors in addition to the presence of more than 20,000 U.S., Canadian, and U.N. soldiers, Elie says he has seen private contractors accompanying NGOs, “walking about carrying assault rifles.”
If the U.S. military pulls out and hands over the armed presence to private contractors, “It opens the door to all kinds of abuses. Let’s face it, the Haitian state is too weak to really deal efficiently with this kind of threat if it materialises,” he said.
The history of post-disaster political economy has shown that such a threat is all too likely, says Elie. “We’ve seen it happen so many times before that whenever there is a disaster, there are a bunch of vultures trying to profit from it, whether it’s a man-made disaster like Iraq, or a nature-made disaster like Haiti.”
Send In the Clowns: 3 Stooges, Gingrich, Sharpton & Duncan Hit the Road For Corporate “School Reform” February 2, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Education.
Tags: al sharpton, arne duncan, bruce dixon, charter schools, chicago model, corporate school, education, education reform, educational privatization, newt gingrich, no child left behind, obama administration, privatization, public schools, roger hollander, school reform
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Quite separately from each other, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Rev. Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich have long ago forfeited whatever credibility they may once have had. Taken together, they are simply a bad joke: three grown men publicly eye-poking and slap fighting each other while they all come together to sell us high-stakes testing, charter schools, educational privatization and the whole package of corporate “school reform.”
by BAR managing editor Bruce Dixon
Back in the late 19th and early 20th century heydays of vaudeville, when the singers bombed, when the jokes fell flat and audience attention started wandering, management knew what to do. They would send in the clowns. Some things haven’t changed.
Despite a decade of hard sell by right wing think tanks, foundations, and big media, the American people have not bought the corporate version of school reform. Most people just don’t believe public schools should be privatized or militarized, or operated by business people like businesses instead of by educators, parents and communities in the interests of children, parents and communities, like the best schools always have been run. And most educators doubt that high stakes testing improves educational outcomes in any meaningful way.
Since the public debates on charter schools and privatizing education are ones that our elite cannot win, they have decreed there will be no debate. Instead of an honest public examination of the disastrous impact of No Child Left Behind, and its attendant decade of creeping educational privatization, corporate media, the Obama administration and its bipartisan allies are sending in the clowns with a 21st century three stooges remake starring the Rev. Al Sharpton, along with Republican former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Obama Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, elbowing and slapping at each other, yukking it up about their supposed political differences while they all come together around the corporate elite’s version of “school reform.”
Stooge number one is Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a former basketball player and friend of the president who, without a single hour of teaching experience was named by Chicago’s Mayor Daley to head the nation’s third largest school system. Duncan now pledges to extend the Chicago model of high stakes testing and massive school closings to create opportunities for what he calls “innovative” charter schools. Thanks to Duncan, Chicago’s public schools are now being sued by black teachers for racial discrimination in the wholesale dismissal of hundreds of qualified, dedicated black teachers and their replacement with younger, cheaper, less experienced and mostly whiter ones. Even now, the Obama administration is withholding federal education funds from states and school districts to force nationwide implementation of these so-called “reforms.”
Stooge number two is the Rev. Al Sharpton, whose presence allows the stooges to claim they are a “civil rights” act. Rev. Sharpton jumped aboard the corporate education reform bandwagon with both feet after receiving a half million dollar bribe last year for his National Action Network, reportedly brokered by New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein through a right wing not for profit agency that promotes charter schools.
Stooge number three is the same Newt Gingrich who once advocated removal of underachieving children from their parents’ homes to boarding schools and military academies, and whose 1994 Contract For America, demanded the dissolution of the US Department of Education.
Mass media ought to be where the studies, the facts, the experience and the voices of parents, educators, students and communities across the country wrestling with the problems of education are held up for all to examine and understand. But that would be too much like public service for our America’s privatized media. What we’ll get instead is entertainment. They’re sending in the clowns. And here they come!
Privatization Pictures presents a No Child Left Behind Production starring the New Three Stooges, Arne Duncan, Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich in Corporate School Reform directed by Barack Obama and produced by the Bradley, Heritage and Walton Family Foundations, featuring fake statistics, dubious studies, crackpot merit pay schemes, charter schools including military charter schools, cronyism, patronage, corruption, worse educational outcomes, thousands of school closings, mass firings of qualified teachers, community destabilization, loss of public and community control, and the privatization of education.
For Black Agenda Report, I’m Bruce Dixon apologizing to the ghosts of the original three stooges. They’d understand. On the web, we are at http://www.blackagendareport.com.
Stunning Statistics About the War Every American Should Know December 18, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, afghanistan troops, Afghanistan War, Blackwater, defense department, dod, dyncorp, jeremy scahill, mccaskill, mercenaries, obama administration, private contractors, private security, privatization, roger hollander, surge, USAID, war, war cost
Contrary to popular belief, the US actually has 189,000 personnel on the ground in Afghanistan right now—and that number is quickly rising.
by Jeremy Scahill
A hearing in Sen. Claire McCaskill’s Contract Oversight subcommittee on contracting in Afghanistan has highlighted some important statistics that provide a window into the extent to which the Obama administration has picked up the Bush-era war privatization baton and sprinted with it. Overall, contractors now comprise a whopping 69% of the Department of Defense’s total workforce, “the highest ratio of contractors to military personnel in US history.” That’s not in one war zone-that’s the Pentagon in its entirety.
In Afghanistan, the Obama administration blows the Bush administration out of the privatized water. According to a memo [PDF] released by McCaskill’s staff, “From June 2009 to September 2009, there was a 40% increase in Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan. During the same period, the number of armed private security contractors working for the Defense Department in Afghanistan doubled, increasing from approximately 5,000 to more than 10,000.”
At present, there are 104,000 Department of Defense contractors in Afghanistan. According to a report this week from the Congressional Research Service, as a result of the coming surge of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, there may be up to 56,000 additional contractors deployed. But here is another group of contractors that often goes unmentioned: 3,600 State Department contractors and 14,000 USAID contractors. That means that the current total US force in Afghanistan is approximately 189,000 personnel (68,000 US troops and 121,000 contractors). And remember, that’s right now. And that, according to McCaskill, is a conservative estimate. A year from now, we will likely see more than 220,000 US-funded personnel on the ground in Afghanistan.
The US has spent more than $23 billion on contracts in Afghanistan since 2002. By next year, the number of contractors will have doubled since 2008 when taxpayers funded over $8 billion in Afghanistan-related contracts.
Despite the massive number of contracts and contractors in Afghanistan, oversight is utterly lacking. “The increase in Afghanistan contracts has not seen a corresponding increase in contract management and oversight,” according to McCaskill’s briefing paper. “In May 2009, DCMA [Defense Contract Management Agency] Director Charlie Williams told the Commission on Wartime Contracting that as many as 362 positions for Contracting Officer’s Representatives (CORs) in Afghanistan were currently vacant.”
A former USAID official, Michael Walsh, the former director of USAID’s Office of Acquisition and Assistance and Chief Acquisition Officer, told the Commission that many USAID staff are “administering huge awards with limited knowledge of or experience with the rules and regulations.” According to one USAID official, the agency is “sending too much money, too fast with too few people looking over how it is spent.” As a result, the agency does not “know … where the money is going.”
The Obama administration is continuing the Bush-era policy of hiring contractors to oversee contractors. According to the McCaskill memo:
In Afghanistan, USAID is relying on contractors to provide oversight of its large reconstruction and development projects. According to information provided to the Subcommittee, International Relief and Development (IRD) was awarded a five-year contract in 2006 to oversee the $1.4 billion infrastructure contract awarded to a joint venture of the Louis Berger Group and Black and Veatch Special Projects. USAID has also awarded a contract Checci and Company to provide support for contracts in Afghanistan.
The private security industry and the US government have pointed to the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker(SPOT) as evidence of greater government oversight of contractor activities. But McCaskill’s subcommittee found that system utterly lacking, stating: “The Subcommittee obtained current SPOT data showing that there are currently 1,123 State Department contractors and no USAID contractors working in Afghanistan.” Remember, there are officially 14,000 USAID contractors and the official monitoring and tracking system found none of these people and less than half of the State Department contractors.
As for waste and abuse, the subcommittee says that the Defense Contract Audit Agency identified more than $950 million in questioned and unsupported costs submitted by Defense Department contracts for work in Afghanistan. That’s 16% of the total contract dollars reviewed.
© 2009 Jeremy Scahill
Why I Voted NO November 8, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Health.
Tags: co-pay, Dennis Kucinich, health, health care, health care reform, health costs, health insurance, healthcare reform, insurance companies, insurance industry, max baucus, medicare, premiums, privatization, public option, roger hollander, single payer
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We have been led to believe that we must make our health care choices only within the current structure of a predatory, for-profit insurance system which makes money not providing health care. We cannot fault the insurance companies for being what they are. But we can fault legislation in which the government incentivizes the perpetuation, indeed the strengthening, of the for-profit health insurance industry, the very source of the problem. When health insurance companies deny care or raise premiums, co-pays and deductibles they are simply trying to make a profit. That is our system.
Clearly, the insurance companies are the problem, not the solution. They are driving up the cost of health care. Because their massive bureaucracy avoids paying bills so effectively, they force hospitals and doctors to hire their own bureaucracy to fight the insurance companies to avoid getting stuck with an unfair share of the bills. The result is that since 1970, the number of physicians has increased by less than 200% while the number of administrators has increased by 3000%. It is no wonder that 31 cents of every health care dollar goes to administrative costs, not toward providing care. Even those with insurance are at risk. The single biggest cause of bankruptcies in the U.S. is health insurance policies that do not cover you when you get sick.
But instead of working toward the elimination of for-profit insurance, H.R. 3962 would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatization of health care. In H.R. 3962, the government is requiring at least 21 million Americans to buy private health insurance from the very industry that causes costs to be so high, which will result in at least $70 billion in new annual revenue, much of which is coming from taxpayers. This inevitably will lead to even more costs, more subsidies, and higher profits for insurance companies – a bailout under a blue cross.
By incurring only a new requirement to cover pre-existing conditions, a weakened public option, and a few other important but limited concessions, the health insurance companies are getting quite a deal. The Center for American Progress’ blog, Think Progress, states, ‘since the President signaled that he is backing away from the public option, health insurance stocks have been on the rise.’ Similarly, healthcare stocks rallied when Senator Max Baucus introduced a bill without a public option. Bloomberg reports that Curtis Lane, a prominent health industry investor, predicted a few weeks ago that ‘money will start flowing in again’ to health insurance stocks after passage of the legislation. Investors.com last month reported that pharmacy benefit managers share prices are hitting all-time highs, with the only industry worry that the Administration would reverse its decision not to negotiate Medicare Part D drug prices, leaving in place a Bush Administration policy.
During the debate, when the interests of insurance companies would have been effectively challenged, that challenge was turned back. The ‘robust public option’ which would have offered a modicum of competition to a monopolistic industry was whittled down from an initial potential enrollment of 129 million Americans to 6 million. An amendment which would have protected the rights of states to pursue single-payer health care was stripped from the bill at the request of the Administration. Looking ahead, we cringe at the prospect of even greater favors for insurance companies.
Recent rises in unemployment indicate a widening separation between the finance economy and the real economy. The finance economy considers the health of Wall Street, rising corporate profits, and banks’ hoarding of cash, much of it from taxpayers, as sign of an economic recovery. However in the real economy – in which most Americans live – the recession is not over. Rising unemployment, business failures, bankruptcies and foreclosures are still hammering Main Street.
This health care bill continues the redistribution of wealth to Wall Street at the expense of America’s manufacturing and service economies which suffer from costs other countries do not have to bear, especially the cost of health care. America continues to stand out among all industrialized nations for its privatized health care system. As a result, we are less competitive in steel, automotive, aerospace and shipping while other countries subsidize their exports in these areas through socializing the cost of health care.
Notwithstanding the fate of H.R. 3962, America will someday come to recognize the broad social and economic benefits of a not-for-profit, single-payer health care system, which is good for the American people and good for America’s businesses, with of course the notable exceptions being insurance and pharmaceuticals.
Why We Should Banish Larry Summers From Public Life April 20, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis.
Tags: Alan Greenspan, banking laws, derivatives market, financial crisis, larry summes, naomi klein, privatization, roger hollander, Wall Street
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Published on Monday, April 20, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
I vote to banish Larry Summers. Not from the planet. That wouldn’t be nice. Just from public life.
The criticisms of President Obama’s chief economic adviser are well known. He’s too close to Wall Street. And he’s a frightful bully, of both people and countries. Still, we’re told we shouldn’t care about such minor infractions. Why? Because Summers is brilliant, and the world needs his big brain.
And this brings us to a central and often overlooked cause of the global financial crisis: Brain Bubbles. This is the process wherein the intelligence of an inarguably intelligent person is inflated and valued beyond all reason, creating a dangerous accumulation of unhedged risk. Larry Summers is the biggest Brain Bubble we’ve got.
Brain Bubbles start with an innocuous “whiz kid” moniker in undergrad, which later escalates to “wunderkind.” Next comes the requisite foray as an economic adviser to a small crisis-wracked country, where the kid is declared a “savior.” By 30, our Bubble Boy is tenured and officially a “genius.” By 40, he’s a “guru,” by 50 an “oracle.” After a few drinks: “messiah.”
The superhuman powers bestowed upon these men — and yes, they are all men — shield them from the scrutiny that might have prevented the current crisis. Alan Greenspan’s Brain Bubble allowed him to put the economy at great risk: When he made no sense, people assumed that it was their own fault. Brain Bubbles also formed the key argument Greenspan and Summers used to explain why lawmakers couldn’t regulate the derivatives market: The wizards on Wall Street were too brilliant, their models too complex, for mere mortals to understand.
Back in 1991, Summers argued that the subject of economics was no longer up for debate: The answers had all been found by men like him. “The laws of economics are like the laws of engineering,” he said. “One set of laws works everywhere.” Summers subsequently laid out those laws as the three “-ations”: privatization, stabilization and liberalization. Some “kinds of ideas,” he explained a few years later in a PBS interview, have already become too “passé” for discussion. Like “the idea that a huge spending program is the way to stimulate the economy.”
And that’s the problem with Larry. For all his appeals to absolute truths, he has been spectacularly wrong again and again. He was wrong about not regulating derivatives. Wrong when he helped kill Depression-era banking laws, turning banks into too-big-to-fail welfare monsters. And as he helps devise ever more complex tricks and spends ever more taxpayer dollars to keep the financial casino running, he remains wrong today.
Word is that Summers’s current post may be a pit stop on the way to the big prize, Federal Reserve chairman. That means he could actually make “maestro.”
Mr. President, please: Pop this bubble before it’s too late.
This column first appeared in The Washington Post.