Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor's Last Day? (And One Ring To Rule Them All - Greed Rules - Pay Attention!:   Who the Education Reformers Really Are) Profit Triumphs! (War on Jobs Corps.)   Billionaires Educate US - Who Would Want To Be A Good Teacher, Anyway? (France Falls To Faux F(l)ops)



Some last thoughts on what may be the U.S.'s last seriously observed Labor Day (and I do mean last):

Labor Day 2014 (Progressive Eruptions)

Thank A Union (Mike the Mad Biologist)

thank a union
You might want to read what this union supporter thought about workers, by the way.

It's Labor Day, Bitches!!! (Steve Simels at Power Pop)

Neil Young goes all solidarity on our asses, and good for him.


. . .  I was gonna dedicate Neil's song to a certain 2008 Democratic presidential candidate who vowed to walk the picket lines in support of workers rights whenever they were being threatened.

I wonder what happened to that guy?

Indeed.

Organized Labor in America Today (Steve Lendman)

The day is commemorated on the first Monday of September. It's been so since 1882.

In June 1894, it became a federal holiday. It was when workers had few rights. Management controlled things. Labor was systematically exploited.

It took many years of organizing, taking to the streets, going on strike, boycotting management, battling police and National Guard forces, and paying with blood and lives to win rights.

They included an eight-hour day, a living wage, employer-paid benefits, and passage of the 1935 landmark Wagner Act.

It established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It guaranteed labor the right to bargain collectively on equal terms with management. It did so for the first time.

Erosion followed. War on working Americans decimated organized labor. Hard won rights were lost.

Membership has been in steady decline from its 1950s 34.7% post-war high. It remained constant through most of the 1970s.

In 1979, it was 24%. In the late 1980s, it was 16.8%. It's currently around 11%. It's the lowest rate since 1916.

Private sector unionization stands at 6.5%. It's the lowest rate in over a century.

The business of America is business. America is corporate occupied territory.

Political Action Committees, lobbyists, well-connected consultants, and business-friendly think tanks exert enormous influence.

Labor’s Demise Is America’s Demise (Paul Craig Roberts)

September 01, 2014

Labor Day is a holiday that has outlived its time. Like Christmas, Labor Day has become a time-out period. As Christmas has become a shopping spree, Labor Day has become the last summer holiday.

The holiday originated in 1887 to celebrate the contribution made by American workers to the strength and prosperity of the United States. The first Monday in September was chosen by President Grover Cleveland to avoid a May date that would keep alive the memory of the previous year’s Haymarket Massacre in which workers striking for an eight-hour day suffered casualties from the Chicago police.

As time passed union leadership became a career rather than a movement in behalf of a cause, but the labor movement in its initial years was reformist. It brought safer working conditions into industry and manufacturing. Unions served as a countervailing power and constrained the exploitative power of capital. An industrial or manufacturing job was a ladder of upward mobility that made the US an opportunity society and stabilized the socio-political system with a large middle class. A large and thriving industrial and manufacturing sector provided many white collar middle class jobs for managers, engineers, researchers and designers, and American universities flourished as did their graduates.

The labor unions provided the Democratic Party with a financial base in labor that served as a countervailing power to the Republican base in manufacturing and finance. Whether it was a plot or unintended consequence, jobs offshoring wrecked the industrial and manufacturing unions and destroyed the Democrats’ independent financial base. The two-party system that had maintained a reasonable balance was transformed into a one-party system in which both parties were dependent on the same monied interests and thus answered to the same masters.

The consequence was the demise of the middle class and rise of the One Percent. Today the US has the most unequally distributed income and wealth of all developed economies and one of the worst in the entire world. Few Americans other than the One Percent have a stake in the American economic and political system.

The imbalance in the distribution of income and wealth cannot be corrected through the tax system. The imbalance is due largely to the loss of the jobs that provided the economic basis for the middle class. Correction requires a retreat from globalism and the return to a largely self-sufficient economy, which the US economy was during its glory decades. Globalism is a scheme for impoverishing First World labor and taking power and influence from the hands of the many and putting them in the hands of the few. The champions of globalism are the champions of America’s destruction.

Today the Republicans are demolishing the public sector unions. These jobs can’t be outsourced, but public schools can be replaced with charter schools, prisons can be privatized, and many public services can be contracted out to private businesses.

Public sector unions never had as strong a case for their existence as manufacturing and industrial unions. Moreover, strikes by firemen, police forces, school teachers, and trash collectors undermined public support for public sector unions as did many unpleasant experiences with the licensing bureaucracies of state and local government departments. Nevertheless, public sector unions could serve as a check on ambitious executive and legislative power.

Whether one has a favorable or unfavorable opinion of unions, their demise is also the demise of countervailing power. A system in which there is no countervailing power is a tyranny in which power is unconstrained and unaccountable.

The American people have been subdued and turned into a flock of sheep. Will they ever rise again?

(Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts' latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West and How America Was Lost.)

And if you don't believe it's the last serious observance of labor's true worth:

The War on Job Corps (Sardonicky)

The first Monday in September was originally designated as "Labor Day" for the sole purpose of appeasing working stiffs who'd revolted against management in the bloody Pullman Strike of 1894. The legend that the Knights of Labor founded the holiday is only half true. That union did once hold a parade on the first Monday in September - but Labor Day's eventual legal designation as a paid national holiday was essentially an olive branch proffered by nervous robber barons and the politicians who've always served them so well.

The other pro-labor day, May 1st, is observed in most other civilized countries and all but ignored in the United States. The irony is that this global May Day was inspired by Chicago's 19th century Haymarket Massacre. What happened in America not only didn't stay in America, it has been hidden and suppressed even as its pro-worker spirit has spread throughout the rest of the globe.

But aren't we constantly being reminded how exceptional America is? In America, a country of laws for everybody but the banks and the surveillance state, May 1 has been officially designated "Law Day." You are legally required to go to work, and not agitate.

Even Labor Day USA has been bowdlerized into a forced celebration of the last day of summer, the last weekend we can fire up the grill, cavort at the beach, and gambol in the town square to the sound of all-American brass bands and  politicians in taupe suits and flag pins tepidly wheezing out one tired platitude after another.

Labor Day USA is a special day to perpetuate the myth that the bosses, the politicians, and the workers are all part of one big American family. We get a three-day weekend! It ranks right up there with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July!  It is one of onlya handful of  paid national holidays. Unless, of course, you happen to work at Walmart or McDonalds, or wherever minimum wage is paid and paid days off are a Marxist pipe dream.

Labor Day USA should be extra-special this year, because it marks the 50th anniversary of LBJ's Job Corps Program, a natural Great Society offshoot of FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps. Although "unknown to most Americans," (by design?) it serves 60,000 of us every single year. As Time reports,

In total, some 2.7 million young people have participated in the Jobs Corps since President Lyndon Johnson launched the program as part of his Great Society initiative in 1964. And just like in the 1960’s, participants come from the harshest of circumstances. Still, 80 percent of program graduates leave with a full-time occupation.

With a successful track record like that, you'd think that President Obama and Congress would be champing at the bit to expand this program in order to alleviate our record wealth disparity and epidemic of wage stagnation and chronic unemployment and underemployment. Of course, you would then be thinking wrong.

This, after all, is Exceptional America. The budget of the Job Corps has been cut in every succeeding year of the Obama administration, with the usual "mismanagement of funds" and "poor performance" excuses thrown out to justify the slow but sure whittling away of this valuable social safety net program.

Obama has proposed a permanent reduction in the Job Corps' "slot capacity" in his 2015 budget. Translated from Orwellian Newspeak, this means that about 10,000 at-risk youths will be left with no place to go. Since Job Corps centers feed and house participants as well as train them for careers, this will mean 10,000 more at-risk youths on the streets in such dystopian locales as Chicago and Ferguson.

If you needed any more evidence that the Obama administration's first allegiance is to tax-evading plutocrats who dictate prosperity for themselves and austerity hardship for the rest of us, look no further than the White House's own budgetary web-page for an explanation of why he is making these draconian cuts that harm some of the most vulnerable members of our society:

The Department of Labor (DOL) is charged with promoting the welfare of workers, job seekers, and retirees, which are key Administration priorities as our economy continues to recover and we work toward strengthening America’s competitive edge globally. The Department’s budget reflects the need to make sacrifices in many areas in order to invest in job creation and boost competitiveness for years to come.

Accordingly, the President’s Budget provides $12.8 billion for DOL, a 5-percent reduction from the 2010-enacted level. To support effective job training programs, the Budget shifts resources from an underutilized portion of formula grants for states to a new Workforce Innovation Fund.

Savings and efficiencies are achieved through a reduction in funding for the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which is transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services; and through a 25 percent reduction in the Job Corps construction budget. The Budget increases funding for worker protection and mine safety programs that were underfunded in the previous administration and are critical to Americans’ health and safety.
Translation:  the little people must sacrifice in order that multinational corporations may profit globally and perpetually.

No need to waste money on training programs for the dregs of society when the ravenous plutocrats can scrape the dregs in any corrupt Banana Republic at their disposal ("invest in job creation and boost competitiveness.")

Read the whole essay here.

Just lovin' this Labor Day essay so far?

Put on your flak jackets!


They don't know much about history . . . but, boy, do they know about making money!

Just ask them.

And this essay contains a rather large hint as to why Bill Gates is recommending that all his acolytes/followers include in their summer reading list Rahm Emanuel's movie-connected brother's latest book on education "change."

Bill Gates and the Waltons on the same side of an educational (or business) issue?

Who'da thunk it?

Keep thinking!

“Reform” is really a misnomer, because the advocates for this cause seek not to reform public education but to transform it into an entrepreneurial sector of the economy.

The groups and individuals that constitute today’s reform movement have appropriated the word “reform” because it has such positive connotations in American political discourse and American history. But the roots of this so-called reform movement may be traced to a radical ideology with a fundamental distrust of public education and hostility to the public sector in general.

The “reform” movement is really a “corporate reform” movement, funded to a large degree by major foundations, Wall Street hedge fund managers, entrepreneurs and the US Department of Education.

The movement is determined to cut costs and maximize competition among schools and among teachers. It seeks to eliminate the geographically based system of public education as we have known it for the past 150 years and replace it with a competitive market-based system of school choice — one that includes traditional public schools, privately managed charter schools, religious schools, voucher schools, for-profit schools, virtual schools and for-profit vendors of instruction.

Lacking any geographic boundaries, these schools would compete for customers. The customers would choose to send their children and their public funding wherever they wish, based on personal preference or on information such as the schools’ test scores and a letter grade conferred by the state (based largely on test scores).

Don't they look serious in their expensive suits and ties?

From Diane Ravitch’s book Reign of Error at Bill Moyers and Company:

Public Education:  Who Are the Corporate Reformers?


Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg

Former Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, center, speaks during a news conference to announce the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's donation of $51.2 million dollars to the New York City school system at Morris High School in the Bronx, New York, Wednesday, September 17, 2003. He is flanked by Joel Klein, former chancellor of the city's Department of Education and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The following is an excerpt from Diane Ravitch’s book Reign of Error.

The education reform movement must be defined in terms of its ideology, its strategies and its leading members.

The “reformers” say they want excellent education for all; they want great teachers; they want to “close the achievement gap”; they want innovation and effectiveness; they want the best of everything for everyone.

They pursue these universally admired goals by privatizing education, lowering the qualifications for future teachers, replacing teachers with technology, increasing class sizes, endorsing for-profit organizations to manage schools, using carrots and sticks to motivate teachers and elevating standardized test scores as the ultimate measure of education quality.

 


Reform” is really a misnomer, because the advocates for this cause seek not to reform public education but to transform it into an entrepreneurial sector of the economy. The groups and individuals that constitute today’s reform movement have appropriated the word “reform” because it has such positive connotations in American political discourse and American history.

But the roots of this so-called reform movement may be traced to a radical ideology with a fundamental distrust of public education and hostility to the public sector in general.


The “reform” movement is really a “corporate reform” movement, funded to a large degree by major foundations, Wall Street hedge fund managers, entrepreneurs and the US Department of Education.

The movement is determined to cut costs and maximize competition among schools and among teachers. It seeks to eliminate the geographically-based system of public education as we have known it for the past 150 years and replace it with a competitive market-based system of school choice — one that includes traditional public schools, privately-managed charter schools, religious schools, voucher schools, for-profit schools, virtual schools and for-profit vendors of instruction.

Lacking any geographic boundaries, these schools would compete for customers. The customers would choose to send their children and their public funding wherever they wish, based on personal preference or on information such as the schools’ test scores and a letter grade conferred by the state (based largely on test scores).


Public Schools for Sale?

Some in the reform movement, believing that American education is obsolete and failing, think they are promoting a necessary but painful redesign of the nation’s ailing schools. Some sincerely believe they are helping poor black and brown children escape from failing public schools.

Some think they are on the side of modernization and innovation. But others see an opportunity to make money in a large, risk-free, government-funded sector or an opportunity for personal advancement and power. Some — a small but important number — believe they are acting rationally by treating the public education sector as an investment opportunity.


The corporate reform movement has its roots in an ideology that is antagonistic to public education. Partisans on the far right long ago turned against public schools, which they call “government schools.” As a matter of ideology, they do not believe that government can do anything right.

From the time that the University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman introduced the idea of vouchers in 1955, his supporters embraced vouchers as the best school reform ever, because it would enable parents to take government money to a school of their choice, including private and religious schools.

Voucher advocates have long argued that the money should follow the child to whatever institution the family chooses, be it public, private or religious. . But for many years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954, the idea of school choice was tainted because segregationists used it to evade desegregation in districts facing court-ordered desegregation.


The election results in state after state show that the public does not want to subsidize religious schools with its tax dollars. Voucher advocates do not accept that the public likes and supports its community public schools, free from any religious teachings, with doors open to all.

President Ronald Reagan, an admirer of Milton Friedman’s, supported vouchers but was never able to persuade Congress to go along. In state referenda, the public has consistently opposed vouchers. Every time vouchers were put to a public vote, they were defeated by large margins. As recently as 2012, voters in Florida decisively rejected a constitutional amendment to permit vouchers.

Voucher proponents complain that the public doesn’t understand its own best interest and is misled by teachers’ unions, who are just protecting their jobs and power. The election results in state after state show that the public does not want to subsidize religious schools with its tax dollars. Voucher advocates do not accept that the public likes and supports its community public schools, free from any religious teachings, with doors open to all.

So choice supporters continually parrot or manufacture a steady stream of bad news about public education to shake the public’s faith in public schools. However, even when polls show that people have a low opinion of American education, they nonetheless continue to have a high opinion of their own neighborhood schools.


Today’s reformers assert that “the money should follow the child” and they herald this as a bold new reform idea. But it is not new. It is the same idea that was behind vouchers more than half a century ago.

Today, the same arguments are made by Governor Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, who wants the money to follow the child to any school (even schools that teach creationism as science), any online corporation, any for-profit vendor of educational services, regardless of experience, quality or qualifications.

As public money is dispersed, so is public oversight and accountability for the spending of public money. Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan, eager to dismantle public education, proposed a formula for education funding based on this principle: “Any time, any place, any way, any pace.”

Conservative governors in other states make the same arguments. [1] But there is nothing conservative about replacing a beloved and traditional community institution — the public school — with a marketplace of privately run schools and for-profit vendors. This is a radical project, not conservative at all.


The organizations that advocate for “reform” have names that are appealing and innocuous, like the American Federation for Children, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Better Education for Kids (B4K), Black Alliance for Educational Options, the education program at the Brookings Institution, the Center for Education Reform, Chiefs for Change, ConnCAN (and its spin-off, 50CAN, as well as state-specific groups like MinnCAN, NYCAN and RI-CAN), Democrats for Education Reform, the Education Equality Project, Education Reform Now, Educators 4 Excellence, EdVoice, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, the National Council on Teacher Quality, New Leaders for New Schools, NewSchools Venture Fund, Parent Revolution, Stand for Children, Students for Education Reform, StudentsFirst, Teach for America, Teach Plus and a host of others.

Many of these groups have overlapping membership on their boards and are funded by the same foundations. They exist in a giant echo chamber, listening and talking only to one another, dismissing the concerns of parents, teachers and communities.


The reformers are Republicans and Democrats. They include not only far-right Republican governors but some Democratic governors as well.

They include President Barack Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan, as well as Democratic mayors in such cities as Newark, Chicago and Los Angeles. Elected officials of both parties have signed on to an agenda that threatens the future of public education.


The aims of the corporate reform movement are supported by a broad array of think tanks, some purportedly liberal, some centrist, some on the right and some on the far right.

These include the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for American Progress, the Center on Reinventing Public Education, Education Sector, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the Goldwater Institute, the Heartland Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Koret Task Force at the Hoover Institution and Policy Innovators in Education Network, as well as a bevy of state-level public policy think tanks that support privatization.

Many of these think tanks — both liberal and conservative — work closely together, co-sponsoring conferences and publications to advance their shared agenda. Major foundations handsomely fund the think tanks that promote the corporate reform ideology.


The corporate reform movement has co-opted progressive themes and language in the service of radical purposes. Advocating the privatization of public education is deeply reactionary. Disabling or eliminating teachers’ unions removes the strongest voice in each state to advocate for public education and to fight crippling budget cuts.

In every state, classroom teachers are experts in education; they know what their students need and their collective voice should be part of any public decision about school improvement. Stripping teachers of their job protections limits academic freedom. Evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students undermines professionalism and encourages teaching to the test.

Claiming to be in the forefront of a civil rights movement while ignoring poverty and segregation is reactionary and duplicitous.


The leading funders of the reform movement are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which supports charter schools and test-based teacher evaluation; the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which supports charter schools and trains urban superintendents in its managerial philosophy; and the Walton Family Foundation, which funds vouchers and charters.

These powerful and wealthy foundations have overlapping interests. They subsidize many organizations in common, such as Teach for America (which recruits young college graduates to teach for two years in low-income schools), the KIPP charter schools and Parent Revolution (the chief advocates of the “parent trigger” idea). They jointly funded the digital learning policy statement issued by Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia, which promotes the proliferation of low-quality virtual charter schools.

Many other wealthy foundations support the corporate reform agenda, including the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, the Robertson Foundation, the Fisher Foundation and the Anschutz Foundation, as well as fabulously rich individuals, including the Bezos family (Amazon.com), Reed Hastings (Netflix) and Rupert Murdoch (News Corporation).


The Gates Foundation is by far the largest foundation in the United States and possibly the world. It awards hundreds of millions of dollars in education grants every year. In addition to underwriting the expansion of charter schools, it invests heavily in test-based evaluation of teachers and merit pay.

It has made grants to the biggest teachers’ unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association and also made grants to start groups of young teachers to challenge the teachers’ unions. It is difficult to find education organizations that have not been funded by the Gates Foundation.

It underwrites “advocacy,” by subsidizing almost every major think tank in Washington, D.C. It supported the creation, evaluation and promotion of the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted in almost every state.

In addition, the Gates Foundation has joined in a partnership with the British publisher Pearson to develop online curriculum for teaching the Common Core standards. And the Gates Foundation underwrote the creation of a large database project to collect confidential student data with Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation; critics fear that this information will be disclosed to vendors to market new products to schools and students.[2]


The corporate reform movement has a well- honed message:  We are the reformers. We have solutions. The public schools are failing. The public schools are in decline. The public schools don’t work. The public schools are obsolete and broken.

We want to innovate. We know how to fix schools. We know how to close the achievement gap. We are leading the civil rights movement of our era. We want a great teacher in every classroom.

Class size doesn’t matter. Teachers should be paid more if their students get higher scores. They should be fired if their students don’t get higher scores. Teachers should have their seniority and tenure stripped from them because those things protect bad teachers.

Bad teachers cause the achievement gap. Great teachers close the achievement gap. Teachers’ unions are greedy and don’t care about children. People who draw attention to poverty are just making excuses for bad teachers and failing public schools.

Those who don’t agree with our strategies are defenders of the status quo. They have no solutions. We have solutions. We know what works. Testing works. Accountability works.

Privately managed charter schools work. Closing schools with low test scores works. Paying bonuses to teachers to get higher scores works. Online instruction works. Replacing teachers with online instruction not only works but cuts costs while providing profits to edu-entrepreneurs who will spur further innovation.


It is a seductive message because it offers hope that someone knows how to fix difficult problems. They claim they not only know how to do it but are doing it. They express their message with clarity and certainty. Their message resonates with the major media and with the most powerful people in our society:  billionaires, corporate executives, the leaders of major foundations, the president of the United States, the US secretary of education, Wall Street hedge fund managers, pundits and think tank opinion makers.

The corporate reformers don’t like local school boards, because they sometimes defer to the views of teachers and they squabble too much; school boards, they say, slow down decision making with public hearings and sometimes they make the wrong decisions. That is always a risk in a democracy; deliberative bodies are slow and sometimes make mistakes.

Corporate reformers want education decisions in the hands of a powerful executive who is immune to public opinion. They like the idea of a governor who appoints a commission to override the decisions of local school boards that resist charter schools.

They like the idea of a superintendent at the state level who has unlimited power to impose his (their) policies, especially closing public schools and opening charter schools. In urban districts, their preferred mode of governance is a mayor or superintendent who controls the schools and answers to no one. At the school level, they want principals who can hire and fire at will, without due process. Corporate reformers don’t like checks and balances. They want executives who can ignore the protests of parents, students, teachers and community leaders, no matter how loudly they complain and no matter how many show up at public hearings or protest at rallies.

It pays to be on the reform team, certainly much more than it does to be a public school teacher. When Chicago’s teachers went on strike in September 2012, the national media thought it shocking that the average Chicago teacher was paid $75,000 a year; they ignored the fact that Chicago teachers are compelled by law to live in Chicago and that this is not an outrageous salary for an educated, experienced professional who lives in a major city. Yet the media are indifferent when charter executives receive salaries of $300,000, $400,000, $500,000, to oversee a single school or a chain of small schools. The reformers are flush with cash from foundations and corporations. The Walton Family Foundation alone made school- reform grants of $159 million in 2011. Reformers often complain about the power and influence of the teachers’ unions, but the unions cannot match the resources of the Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, as well as the many other foundations that march in lockstep with them, plus individual billionaires and millionaires who support candidates for state and local school board races. (The Gates and Walton foundations alone spend more than $500 million annually on education projects, which is more than ten times what unions spend to support civil rights groups and other allies.) When you combine the wealth of the big foundations with the financial and political clout of the US Department of Education, they are a mighty force.[3] The “reformers” are the status quo.

For an ambitious person, being part of the corporate reform movement offers not only access to money but an accelerated route to professional success.
For an ambitious person, being part of the corporate reform movement offers not only access to money but an accelerated route to professional success. Graduates of the Broad Superintendents Academy, an unaccredited program created by the Broad Foundation to teach Eli Broad’s management style of corporate reform, are on a fast track to become superintendents of urban districts — and the Broad Foundation may enhance their salaries. Some of the graduates of this short- term program are now state superintendents. Many are in charge of urban districts.
The young person who joins up with Teach for America or one of the big charter chains becomes part of a powerful network. These organizations provide an escalator to the top that no ordinary teaching career can match. Teachers without these connections may work for years in their classrooms before they are even considered for department chair or assistant principal. Those who rise in the corporate reform movement are soon managing their own charter schools or assuming leadership roles in large urban districts or state education departments, some before they reach the age of 30.

Wall Street hedge fund managers have their own organization, called Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). DFER raises money for candidates and elected officials whom it likes and it doesn’t like them unless they agree to the corporate reform agenda, especially the expansion of charter schools and the imposition of teacher evaluation systems based on test scores (though not for teachers in the charter schools it supports). At the inaugural meeting of DFER in 2005, the speaker for the event was a promising young senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. When Obama ran for president in 2008, his chief education spokesperson was Linda Darling- Hammond of Stanford University. But when Obama was elected, he chose Arne Duncan as secretary of education. Duncan not only was his friend but was recommended by DFER. [4]

In states with a Republican governor and a Republican supermajority in the legislature, the measures to privatize education advanced rapidly.
Arne Duncan is one of the recognized leaders of the corporate reform movement who implemented many of its ideas when he was superintendent of schools in Chicago. Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, is another national leader. He created an organization called the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which actively promotes vouchers, charter schools, for- profit charter schools, virtual learning and for- profit online corporations, as well as testing and accountability tied to test scores. In states with a Republican governor and a Republican supermajority in the legislature, the measures to privatize education advanced rapidly. In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder promoted legislation to allow emergency managers to take over fiscally troubled districts; in two small school districts, the emergency managers closed the public schools and gave the students to a for- profit charter school chain (the law was repealed in 2012 by Michigan voters, but Snyder left the emergency managers and their decisions in place). Governor Mitch Daniels and the Indiana legislature authorized vouchers, for- profit charter schools, for- profit cyber- charters and a test- based teacher accountability system. Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana pushed through sweeping legislation in 2012 that offered vouchers to more than half the students in the state and authorized the opening of many new charter schools; in addition, students will be able to take their state money and spend it in almost any place that calls itself a vendor of educational services. The money to support the alternatives to public education was to be taken out of the budget for public schools, until state courts ruled it unconstitutional to do so. The Louisiana reform legislation ties teachers’ evaluations to the test scores of their students, but teachers in charter schools and voucher schools do not need to be certified or subject to the same requirements, as is the case in many other states and districts.

When the Louisiana legislation was hurriedly passed, it was hailed by a group of state superintendents called Chiefs for Change as “student- centered reforms” that “will completely transform Louisiana and its students.” [5] Chiefs for Change is affiliated with Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. It describes itself as a coalition of state leaders who share a “zeal for education reform.” Its members include the state superintendents in Rhode Island, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Florida, Maine, New Jersey and New Mexico.
Much of the legislation for the education reform movement in states with conservative governors or legislatures comes from a shadowy group called ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council).
Much of the legislation for the education reform movement in states with conservative governors or legislatures comes from a shadowy group called ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council). ALEC stayed out of the public eye until 2012, when a shooting in Florida brought it unwanted national attention. A black teenager named Trayvon Martin was killed by a man who said he was defending himself in accordance with Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which was based on model legislation written by ALEC. ALEC was founded in 1973 to advance privatization and free- market principles. Its membership includes some 2,000 state legislators. Funded by scores of major corporations and philanthropists, ALEC writes model legislation, which its members bring to their state legislatures. Many states have adopted ALEC model laws, simply inserting the name of the state into the proposed legislative language. ALEC does not like public schools or unions. ALEC likes vouchers and charter schools. It wants to eliminate tenure and seniority and to encourage paths into teaching that don’t involve getting a license or pedagogical training. ALEC likes for- profit schools, especially cyber- charters. It promotes “parent trigger” laws to enable privatizers to convince parents to sign petitions that will turn their schools over to charter managers. [6]

The most unexpected supporter of corporate reform was President Barack Obama. Educators enthusiastically supported Obama, expecting that he would eliminate the noxious policies of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind. They assumed, given his history as a community organizer and his sympathy for society’s least fortunate, that his administration would adopt policies that responded to the needs of children, rather than concentrating on testing and accountability.
The first big surprise for educators occurred when President Obama abandoned Linda Darling-Hammond and selected Arne Duncan, who had run the low- performing schools of Chicago, as secretary of education. The second big surprise — shock, actually — happened when the Obama administration released the details of Race to the Top, its major initiative, which was designed in Secretary Duncan’s office with the help of consultants from the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation and other advocates of high- stakes testing and charter schools.

The most unexpected supporter of corporate reform was President Barack Obama. Educators enthusiastically supported Obama, expecting that he would eliminate the noxious policies of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind.
There was very little difference between Race to the Top and NCLB. The Obama program preserved testing, accountability and choice at the center of the federal agenda. Race to the Top was even more punitive than NCLB. It insisted that states evaluate teachers in relation to the test scores of their students, which made standardized testing even more important than it was under NCLB. It encouraged states to authorize more privately managed charter schools, an initiative that President George W. Bush would never have been able to get through a Democratic- controlled Congress. It endorsed competition and choice, which were traditional themes of the Republican Party. The very concept of a “race to the top” repudiates the traditional Democratic Party commitment to equity; it suggests that the winner will “race to the top,” leaving the losers far behind. But a commitment to equity means that federal resources should be allocated based on need, not on a competition between the swift and the slow.

Because Race to the Top was handsomely funded, states eagerly competed for a share of its $5 billion. President Obama spoke out of both sides of his mouth about this signature program. He said in his State of the Union address in 2011 that Race to the Top was not a topdown mandate (after all, states had volunteered to accept its mandates) but “the work of local teachers and principals; school boards and communities” (which was not true in any sense).

Even though Race to the Top made standardized testing more important than ever, President Obama spoke out against testing. In 2011, he said he was strongly opposed to teaching to the test. He said,
One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching to the test. Because then you’re not learning about the world; you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math. All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and the little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test. And that’s not going to make education interesting to you. And young people do well in stuff that they’re interested in. They’re not going to do as well if it’s boring.
His critics agreed with him. The California teacher and blogger Anthony Cody wondered if the president knew that Race to the Top required states to tie teacher evaluations to test scores, that Secretary Duncan wanted to evaluate teacher preparation programs by the test scores of the students of the teachers they produced and that Obama’s Department of Education “is proposing greatly expanding both the number of subjects tested and the frequency of tests, to enable us to measure the ‘value’ each teacher adds to their students.” At the same time that the president was lamenting “teaching to the test,” his own policies made it necessary to teach to the test or be fired. [7]

In his 2012 State of the Union, the president’s message was even more inconsistent. He said that he wanted schools to encourage teachers to “teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test,” but at the same time he wanted schools to “reward the best ones” and “replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.” He didn’t acknowledge that the rewards and the punishments he approved would be tied, at his administration’s insistence, to test scores.

In response to Race to the Top, the number of charter schools grew rapidly. For-profit charter schools expanded, as did virtual charter schools. Neither President Obama nor Secretary Duncan expressed any concern about the risks of deregulating public money to private corporations, nor did they oppose the entry of for-profit entrepreneurs into the charter school market. By advocating for school choice rather than public schools, Race to the Top implicitly encouraged not only charters but the other form of school choice: vouchers.

The 2010 elections brought a new crop of far-right governors into office and these governors warmly embraced charter schools and advocated for vouchers. The Obama administration was silent; after a brief attempt to defund the Washington, DC, voucher program, the administration gave in to Republican protests and permitted it to continue.
The 2010 elections brought a new crop of far-right governors into office and these governors warmly embraced charter schools and advocated for vouchers. The Obama administration was silent; after a brief attempt to defund the Washington, DC, voucher program, the administration gave in to Republican protests and permitted it to continue. As state after state adopted vouchers, the Obama administration raised no protest against the advance of privatization. Nor did Obama strongly object when the governors of Republican states attacked the collective bargaining rights of public- sector unions. In the spring of 2011, Wisconsin’s right- wing governor, Scott Walker, proposed to strip away the collective bargaining rights of most public sector workers, including teachers and they organized massive protests in Madison. They surrounded the state capitol and mounted daily protests. President Obama said he sided with the workers but didn’t show up in Madison to demonstrate his support. Instead, he and Secretary Duncan flew to Miami in the middle of the Wisconsin protests to praise the former Florida governor Jeb Bush as “a champion of education reform” and to celebrate the successful “turnaround” of Miami Central High School. The national media recognized that President Obama was bestowing important support on Jeb Bush’s policies of testing, accountability and grading of schools. The national media did not pay attention, however, when the Florida Department of Education announced plans to shutter Miami Central because of its low performance only four months after the meeting between President Obama and Governor Bush. The state granted the school a waiver to avoid closure. Despite some gains, it was still one of the state’s lowest-performing high schools.[8]

In his support for charter schools, high- stakes testing, merit pay and evaluating teachers by test scores, President Obama forged a bipartisan consensus. But he had strange bedfellows, at least for a Democrat. When I blogged about ALEC and its right- wing agenda for privatization and lowering standards for entry into teaching, the organization’s research director responded that President Obama shared credit with ALEC for promoting charter schools and “teaching- profession reforms.” During the 2012 election campaign, the only difference between Obama and Mitt Romney in relation to their K– 12 policy was that Romney supported vouchers (which he called “opportunity scholarships”) and Obama did not.[9]

During the 2012 election campaign, the only difference between Obama and Mitt Romney in relation to their K–12 policy was that Romney supported vouchers (which he called “opportunity scholarships”) and Obama did not.
Neither candidate in the 2012 election supported public education. Both agreed that it was in crisis and that it needed radical change. In their debates, the subject of poverty never came up. Indeed, the subject of education was barely mentioned aside from the candidates’ agreement that Race to the Top was a great success.

The public is only dimly aware of the reform movement’s privatization agenda. The deceptive rhetoric of the privatization movement masks its underlying goal to replace public education with a system in which public funds are withdrawn from public oversight to subsidize privately managed charter schools, voucher schools, online academies, for- profit schools, and other private vendors.
No matter how many Hollywood movies the corporate reformers produce, no matter how many television specials sing the glories of privatization, no matter how often the reformers belittle the public schools and their teachers, the public is not yet ready to relinquish its public schools to speculators, entrepreneurs, ideologues, snake- oil salesmen, profit- making businesses and Wall Street hedge fund managers.

1. Rick Snyder, “A Special Message from Rick Snyder: Education Reform” (memorandum), April 27, 2011. 
2. Sam Dillon, “Behind Grass-Roots School Advocacy, Bill Gates,” The New York Times, May 21, 2011; Sam Dillon, “Foundations Join to Offer Online Courses for Schools,” The New York Times, April 27, 2011; Stephanie Simon, “K– 12 Student Database Jazzes Tech Startups, Spooks Parents,” Reuters, March 3, 2013.
3. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers together gave a total of $330 million to political campaigns and civil rights groups over a six- year period from 2005 to 2011. Alicia Mundy, “Teachers Unions Give Broadly,” The Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2012. During the same period of time, the major foundations supporting test — based accountability and choice spent many times that amount. Gates spends $300 — $400 million each year on education. Ken Libby, “A Look at the Education Programs of the Gates Foundation,” Shanker Blog, March 2, 2012. In 2011, the Walton Family Foundation spent $159 million on education grants. These figures do not include political contributions made by either Gates or the Walton family. 
4. Steven Brill, Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011), 131– 32, 224– 25. 
5.“Chiefs for Change Statement on Louisiana’s Bold Education Reforms,” Foundation for Excellence in Education website, April 18, 2012. 
6. Andrew Ujifusa, “Policy Shop Casts Long K–12 Shadow,” Education Week, April 25, 2012.
7. Julie Underwood and Julie F. Mead, “A Smart ALEC Threatens Public Education,” Education Week, February 29, 2012.
8. Anthony Cody, “Obama Blasts His Own Education Policies,” Living in Dialogue (blog), Education Week, March 29, 2011; Sunlen Miller, “Obama on Wisconsin Budget Protests: ‘An Assault on Unions,’ ”ABC News, February 17, 2011; Nia-Malika Henderson and Peter Wallsten, “Obama Praises Jeb Bush on Education Reform,” The Washington Post, March 4, 2011; “Struggling Florida Schools Get More Time,” WCTV, July 19, 2011. 
9. Adam Peshek, “ALEC Responds to Ravitch Blog Post,” Education Week, May 15, 2012. 
Excerpted from Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch Copyright © 2013 by Diane Ravitch. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Diane Ravitch
Diane Ravitch is a research professor of education at New York University and a historian of education. She was the assistant secretary of education in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. Ravitch has authored several books on education, including her latest Reign of Error. She blogs about education issues at dianeravitch.net. You can follow her on Twitter @dianeravitch.

From that most esteemed George Washington'sblog:

Labor Day 2014: Economic solutions already here for full employment, zero public deficits and debts


Labor Day is an Orwellian holiday: US “leaders” psychopathically pretend to care about American labor while lying about a real unemployment rate of close to 25% (the so-called “official” rate excludes under-employed and discouraged workers).
Along with unemployment, Americans receive policy enabling oligarchs to “legally” hide $20 to $30 trillion in offshore tax havens in a rigged-casino economy designed for “peak inequality.” For comparison, $1 to $3 trillion ends global poverty forever, saving a million children’s lives every month from slow and gruesome death (here, here). And, as always, US “leaders” lie-begat Americans into unlawful Wars of Aggression (in comparison, 11 days of US war cost would pay for all tuition of US college students).
Americans could have full-employment and zero public deficits and debt with monetary and credit reform.
These solutions are obvious upon a few moments of your attention. See for yourself:
What is monetary and credit reform? 
Since the 1913 legislation of the Federal Reserve, the US has had a national “debt system;” the Orwellian opposite of a monetary system. What we use for money is created as a debt, with the  consequence of unpayable and increasing aggregate debt. This is a description of the simple mechanics of adding negative numbers. Although it’s taught in every macroeconomics course in structure, the consequences of increasing and unpayable debt are omitted (unpayable because it destroys what is used for money, and eventually the debt becomes tragic-comic in amount).
Monetary reform creates debt-free money as a public service for the direct payment of public goods and services. This would replace the existing system of creating what we use for money out of debt; both from the Federal Reserve issuing credit for US federal debt instruments charged to taxpayers with interest, and private banks issuing credit through fractional reserve lending.
Closely related is credit reform that replaces private bank credit with public credit (and here). This transfers interest payments from private profits to public service.
Benefits of monetary and credit reform: no debt, optimal infrastructure, falling prices
The benefits include paying the national debt, ending a national debt forever, issuing money and credit for full employment, and optimal infrastructure. The prima facie case of benefits should undergo professional multiple and independent cost-benefit analyses. The facts that a Federal Reserve-type debt-based system causes unpayable debt, unemployment, inflation, and decaying infrastructure is relatively easy to demonstrate.
Debt begone: Monetary reform pays the national debt of over $17 trillion dollars virtually without cost, and ends its gross $400 billion+ annual interest payments. This saves the ~100 million US households an average of ~$170,000 in total debt cost, with ~$4,000 gross annual interest cost. Another way to calculate the savings is to figure those amounts per $50,000 annual household income (for example, if your household earns $100,000/year, you save $300,000 in national debt costs and $8,000 every year in gross interest).
The way the national debt is paid nearly cost-free is to use government-created money to pay the debt securities as they are due instead of what is done today: never pay them and “roll them over” (re-issue the debt to existing owners or issue new debt to pay for redeemed debt instruments) while only paying the interest. What is done today is similar to only paying the interest on a credit card with ever-increasing debt total. The inflationary effect of paying the debt will be counteracted by simultaneously removing private banks’ fractional reserve authority proportional to the payments (increasing banks’ reserve requirements).
When government has authority to transparently create money, a national debt becomes a tragic-comic part of history. Trial and error will inform total money supply, with an option of removing money from the supply through some form of simple taxation. For example, if public credit issues mortgages and credit cards at ~5%, this form of taxation can pay for public goods and services with the ability to raise or lower the interest rate. Again, proposals such as these should be subject to professional and independent cost-benefit analyses.
Full employment, optimal infrastructure, falling prices: Government can become the employer of last resort for hard and soft infrastructure investment. This provides triple benefits for employment, the best infrastructure we can imagine, and falling overall prices to the extent infrastructure investment contributes more economic output relative to costs of inputs. History demonstrates infrastructure investment does reduce overall prices in the current debt-funded model that typically adds ~50% of the projects’ nominal cost to its total cost. Monetary reform with infrastructure means the cost of debt-funding disappears, making this employment even more attractive.
Additional anticipated benefits are reductions of crime and other social costs related to human despair as people see and participate in creating a brighter future for all.
What’s missing for the implementation of these solutions: Our 1% “leaders” will not and can not implement solutions without becoming visible in criminal culpability for having the current system that parasitically transfers literal trillions from the 99%.
The solution to this problem is also obvious: prosecute obvious criminals in “leadership” in government, economics, and corporate media for fundamental fraud by lying to the 99% that debt is “money,” and lying in omission by failing to inform that public credit and money would solve all current economic issues. The public costs of this fraud are trillions of dollars, harm to millions of Americans, and significant totals of deaths.
An alternative to criminal prosecution is Truth and Reconciliation (and here).

And France may be the strongest of the European Union?

The Fall of France

François Hollande, the president of France since 2012, coulda been a contender. He was elected on a promise to turn away from the austerity policies that killed Europe’s brief, inadequate economic recovery. Since the intellectual justification for these policies was weak and would soon collapse, he could have led a bloc of nations demanding a change of course. But it was not to be. Once in office, Mr. Hollande promptly folded, giving in completely to demands for even more austerity.
Let it not be said, however, that he is entirely spineless. Earlier this week, he took decisive action, but not, alas, on economic policy, although the disastrous consequences of European austerity grow more obvious with each passing month, and even Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, is calling for a change of course. No, all Mr. Hollande’s force was focused on purging members of his government daring to question his subservience to Berlin and Brussels.
It’s a remarkable spectacle. To fully appreciate it, however, you need to understand two things. First, Europe, as a whole, is in deep trouble. Second, however, within that overall pattern of disaster, France’s performance is much better than you would guess from news reports. France isn’t Greece; it isn’t even Italy. But it is letting itself be bullied as if it were a basket case.
On Europe: Like the United States, the euro area — the 18 countries that use the euro as a common currency — started to recover from the 2008 financial crisis midway through 2009. But after a debt crisis erupted in 2010, some European nations were forced, as a condition for loans, to make harsh spending cuts and raise taxes on working families. Meanwhile, Germany and other creditor countries did nothing to offset the downward pressure, and the European Central Bank, unlike the Federal Reserve or the Bank of England, didn’t take extraordinary measures to boost private spending. As a result, the European recovery stalled in 2011, and has never really resumed.
At this point, Europe is doing worse than it did at a comparable stage of the Great Depression. And even more bad news may lie ahead, as Europe shows every sign of sliding into a Japanese-style deflationary trap.
How does France fit into this picture? News reports consistently portray the French economy as a dysfunctional mess, crippled by high taxes and government regulation. So it comes as something of a shock when you look at the actual numbers, which don’t match that story at all. France hasn’t done well since 2008 — in particular, it has lagged Germany — but its overall G.D.P. growth has been much better than the European average, beating not only the troubled economies of southern Europe but creditor nations like the Netherlands. French job performance isn’t too bad. In fact, prime-aged adults are a lot more likely to be employed in France than in the United States.
Nor does France’s situation seem particularly fragile. It doesn’t have a large trade deficit, and it can borrow at historically low interest rates.


Why, then, does France get such bad press? It’s hard to escape the suspicion that it’s political: France has a big government and a generous welfare state, which free-market ideology says should lead to economic disaster. So disaster is what gets reported, even if it’s not what the numbers say.



And Mr. Hollande, even though he leads France’s Socialist Party, appears to believe this ideologically motivated bad-mouthing. Worse, he has fallen into a vicious circle in which austerity policies cause growth to stall, and this stalled growth is taken as evidence that France needs even more austerity.
It’s a very sad story, and not just for France.
Most immediately, Europe’s economy is in dire straits. Mr. Draghi, I believe, understands how bad things are. But there’s only so much the central bank can do, and, in any case, he has limited room for maneuvering unless elected leaders are willing to challenge hard-money, balanced-budget orthodoxy. Meanwhile, Germany is incorrigible. Its official response to the shake-up in France was a declaration that “there is no contradiction between consolidation and growth” — hey, never mind the experience of the past four years, we still believe that austerity is expansionary.
So Europe desperately needs the leader of a major economy — one that is not in terrible shape — to stand up and say that austerity is killing the Continent’s economic prospects. Mr. Hollande could and should have been that leader, but he isn’t.
And if the European economy continues to stagnate or worse, what will become of the European project — the long-term effort to secure peace and democracy through shared prosperity? In failing France, Mr. Hollande is also failing Europe as a whole — and nobody knows how bad it might get.

The one thing there's no doubt about is that it won't be bad for the wealthy.

Although they may lose a few bucks in the money transfers.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Happy Labor Day? (No, Not Really . . . Not At All In Fact) The USA Con Was A Very Long One - And Deep - One of the Greatest Causes of the Ever-Widening Income Gap:  A Bridge Straight to the 19th Century (Without Social Security or Security of Any Type)



Contributions for this blog's operation are always welcomed. Thank you, in advance.

When I read any of Thomas Frank's books and essays I always marvel that his subject has also been mine for the last 30 years. And he's organized the arguments mathematically to back them up.

If you stopped watching Jim Cramer and the rest of CNBC's money/politics shills long ago, it was probably because you became aware of their long con game.

It's never changed.

And has only increased in velocity and acceleration.

Sunday, Aug 31, 2014

The 1 Percent’s Long Con:  Jim Cramer, the Tea Party’s Roots, and Wall Street’s Demented, Decades-Long Scheme


(TF's intro) Happy Labor Day. A few years ago, Eric Cantor used this holiday as one more occasion to celebrate business owners. To a lot of people, that sounded crazy. But in truth, it came straight out of the bull market ideology of the 1990s, a time when the nation came to believe that trading stocks was something that people in small towns did better than slicksters in New York, and when Wired magazine declared, in one of its many frenzied manifestoes, that “The rich, the former leisure class, are becoming the new overworked” and that “those who used to be considered the working class are becoming the new leisure class.” We were living in a “New Economy,” Americans said back then, and the most fundamental novelty of the age was an idea:   that markets were the truest expression of the will of the people. Of course the Beardstown Ladies were better at investing than the Wall Street pros; they were closer to the humble populist essence of markets. Of course the Millionaire Next Door was an average Joe who never showed off; that’s the kind of person on whom markets smile. And of course bosses were the new labor movement, leading us in the march toward a luminous economic democracy. Ugh. I got so sick of the stuff that I wrote a whole book on it:  One Market Under God, which was published by Doubleday just as the whole thing came to a crashing end. Here is an excerpt:

The DowJones Industrial Average crossed the 10,000 mark in March of 1999, a figure so incomprehensibly great that it was anyone’s guess what it signified. The leaders of American opinion reacted as though we had achieved some heroic national goal, as though, through some colossal feat of collective optimism, we had entered at long last into the promised land of riches for all.
On television, the rounds of triumphal self-congratulation paused for a nasty rebuke to the very idea of financial authority brought to you by the online brokerage E*Trade, a company that had prospered as magnificently as anyone from the record-breaking run-up:  “Your investments helped pay for this dream house,” declared a snide voice-over. “Unfortunately, it belongs to your broker.” And behold:  There was the scoundrel himself, dressed in a fine suit and climbing out of a Rolls Royce with a haughty-looking woman on his arm.
Go ahead and believe it, this sponsor cajoled:  Wall Street is just as corrupt, as elitist, and as contemptuous toward its clients as you’ve always suspected. There should be no intermediaries between you and the national ATM machine in downtown Manhattan. You needed to plug yourself in directly to the source of the millions, invert the hierarchy of financial authority once and for all. “Now the power is in your hands.”
In the rival series of investment fairy tales broadcast by the Discover online brokerage (a curious corporate hybrid of Sears and J. P. Morgan) a cast of rude, dismissive executives, yawning and scowling, were getting well-deserved payback at the hands of an array of humble everymen.
Again the tables of traditional workplace authority were rudely overturned by the miracle of online investing:  The tow-truck drivers, hippies, grandmas, and bartenders to whom the hateful company men had condescended were revealed to be Midases in disguise who, with a little help from the Discover system, now owned their own countries, sailed yachts, hobnobbed with royalty, and performed corporate buyouts — all while clinging to their humble, unpretentious ways and appearances just for fun.
And oh, how the man in the suit would squirm as his social order was turned upside down!

In the commercials for his online brokerage, Charles Schwab appeared in honest black and white, informing viewers in his down-home way how his online brokerage service worked, how it cut through the usual Wall Street song and dance, how you could now look up information from your own home. “It’s the final step in demystification,” he said. “This internet stuff is about freedom. You’re in control.”
To illustrate the point other Schwab commercials paraded before viewers a cast of regular people (their names were given as “Howard,” “Rick,” and “Marion”) who shared, in what looked like documentary footage, their matter-of-fact relationship with the market — the ways they used Schwab-dot-com to follow prices, how they bought on the dips, how they now performed all sorts of once-arcane financial operations completely on their own. The stock market was about Rick and Marion, not Charlie Schwab.
In another of the great stock market parables of that golden year, the Ricks and Marions of the world were imagined in a far more insurgent light. Now the common people were shown smashing their way into the stock exchange, breaking down its pretentious doors, pouring through its marble corridors, smashing the glass in the visitors’ gallery windows and sending a rain of shards down on the money changers in the pit — all to an insurgent Worldbeat tune.
As it turned out, this glimpse of the People Triumphant in revolution — surely one of the only times, in that century of red-hunting and labor-warring, that Americans had ever been asked by a broadcasting network to understand such imagery as a positive thing — was brought to you by Datek, still another online trading house. What the people were overthrowing was not capitalism itself but merely the senseless “wall” that the voice-over claimed always “stood between you and serious trading.”
Exactly! As the century spun to an end, more and more of the market’s biggest thinkers agreed that “revolution” was precisely what was going on here. Thus it occurred to the owners of Individual Investor magazine to send gangs of costumed guerrillas, dressed in berets and armbands, around Manhattan to pass out copies of an “Investment Manifesto” hailing the “inalienable right” of “every man and woman . . . to make money—and lots of it.”
Meanwhile, the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts ran ads in print and on TV in which a casually dressed father and his young son capered around the towering office blocks of a big city downtown. “Do we own all this, Dad?” queried the tot. “In a way we do,” answered his father. This land is their land — not because they have bought it outright, like Al, the country-owning tow-truck driver in the Discover spots, but in a more intangible, populist, Woody Guthrie sort of way:   Because they have invested in REITs.
Not to be outdone by such heavy-handed deployment of 1930s-style imagery, J. P. Morgan, the very personification of Wall Street’s former power and arrogance, filled its ads with hyper-realistic black and white close-ups of its employees, many of them visibly non-white or non-male. Literally putting a face on the secretive WASP redoubt of financial legend, the ads reached to establish that Morgan brokers, like Schwab brokers, were people of profound humility.
“I will take my clients seriously,” read one. “And myself, less so.” The ads even gave the names and e-mail addresses of the Morgan employees in question, a remarkable move for a firm whose principal had once been so uninterested in serving members of the general public that he boasted to Congress that he didn’t even put the company’s name on its outside door.
Faced with this surprisingly universal embrace of its original populist campaign against Wall Street, E*trade tried to push it even farther:  The changes in American investing habits that had brought it such success were in fact nothing less than a social “revolution,” an uprising comparable to the civil rights and feminist movements. In its 1999 annual report, entitled “From One Revolution To the Next,” E*trade used photos of black passengers sitting in the back of a bus (“1964: They Said Equality Was Only For Some of Us”) and pre-emancipated white women sitting in the hilarious hairdryers of the 1960s (“1973: They Said Women Would Never Break Through the Glass Ceiling”) to establish E*Trade itself as the rightful inheritor of the spirit of “revolution.”
The brokerage firm made it clear that the enemy to be overthrown on its sector of the front was social class:   Next to a photo of a man in a suit and a row of columns, a page of text proclaimed, “They said there are ‘the haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’” But E*trade, that socialist of the stock exchange, was changing all that: “In the 21st century it’s about leveling the playing field and democratizing individual personal financial services.” The company’s CEO concluded this exercise in radicalism with this funky rallying cry:   “Bodacious! The revolution continues.”
*
Whatever mysterious forces were propelling the market in that witheringly hot summer of 1999, the crafters of its public facade seemed to agree that what was really happening was the arrival, at long last, of economic democracy. While the world of finance had once been a stronghold of WASP privilege, an engine of elite enrichment, journalist and PR-man alike agreed that it had been transformed utterly, been opened to all.
This bull market was the götterdammerung of the ruling class, the final victory of the common people over their former overlords. Sometimes this “democratization” was spoken of as a sort of social uprising, a final victory of the common people over the snobbish, old-guard culture of Wall Street. Sometimes it was said to be the market itself that had worked these great changes, that had humiliated the suits, that handed out whole islands to mechanics, that had permitted little old ladies to cavort with kings. And sometimes “democratization” was described as a demographic phenomenon, a reflection of the large percentage of the nation’s population that was now entrusting their savings to the market.
However they framed the idea, Wall Street had good reason to understand public participation as a form of democracy. As the symbol and the actual center of American capitalism, the financial industry has both the most to lose from a resurgence of anti-business sentiment and the most to gain from the ideological victory of market populism.
For a hundred years the financial industry had been the chief villain in the imagination of populist reformers of all kinds; for sixty years now banks, brokers, and exchanges have labored at least partially under the regulations those earlier populists proposed.
And Wall Street has never forgotten the melodrama of crash, arrogance, and New Deal anger that gave birth to those regulations. To this day Wall Street leaders see the possibility of a revived New Deal spirit around every corner; they fight not merely to keep the interfering liberals out of power, but to keep order in their own house, to ensure that the public relations cataclysm of 1929-32 is never repeated.
This is why so much of the bull market culture of the Nineties reads like a long gloss on the experience of the 1930s, like a running battle with the memory of the Depression.
Take the stagnant-to-declining real wages of American workers, for example. A central principle of “New Economy” thought is that growth and productivity gains have been severed from wage increases and handed over instead to top management and shareholders.
Since the redistributionist policies of “big government” are now as impermissible as union organizing, stocks of necessity have become the sole legitimate avenue for the redistribution of wealth.
In other eras such an arrangement would have seemed an obvious earmark of a badly malfunctioning economic system, a system designed to funnel everything into the pockets of the already wealthy, since that’s who owns most of the stock.
After all, workers can hardly be expected to buy shares if they can’t afford them.
But toss the idea of an ongoing financial “democratization” into the mix, and presto:  Now the lopsided transformation of productivity gains into shareholder value is an earmark of fairness — because those shareholders are us!
Sure, workers here and there are going down, but others, through the miracle of stocks, are on their way up. Furthermore, ownership of stock among workers themselves, an ideologue might assert, more than made up for the decade’s stagnant wages. What capital took away with one hand, it was reasoned, it gave back with the other — and with interest.
This idea of stock prices compensating for lost or stagnant wages had long been a favorite ideological hobbyhorse of the corporate right, implying as it did that wealth was created not on the factory floor but on Wall Street and that workers only shared in it by the grace of their options-granting CEO.
What was different in the 1990s was that, as the Nasdaq proceeded from triumph to triumph, economists and politicians of both parties came around to this curious notion, imagining that we had somehow wandered into a sort of free-market magic kingdom, where the ever-ascending Dow could be relied upon to solve just about any social problem.
Now we could have it all:   We could slash away at the welfare state, hobble the unions, downsize the workforce, and send the factories overseas — and no one got hurt!
Naturally the idea was first rolled out for public viewing in the aftermath of a serious public relations crisis for Wall Street.
One fine day in January, 1996, AT&T announced it was cutting 40,000 white-collar jobs from its workforce; in response Wall Street turned cartwheels of joy, sending the company’s price north and personally enriching the company’s CEO by some $5 million.
The connection of the two events was impossible to overlook, as was its meaning:   What’s bad for workers is good for Wall Street.
Within days the company was up to its neck in Old Economy-style vituperation from press and politicians alike. Then a golden voice rang through the din, promoting a simple and “purely capitalist” solution to “this heartless cycle”:  Let Them Eat Stocks,” proclaimed one James Cramer from the cover of The New Republic.
“Just give the laid-off employees stock options,” advised Cramer, a hedge fund manager by trade who in his spare time dispensed investment advice on TV and in magazines, and “let them participate in the stock appreciation that their firings caused.”
There was, of course, no question as to whether AT&T was in the right in what it had done:  the need to be competitive” justified all. It’s just that such brusque doings opened the door to cranks and naysayers who could potentially make things hot for Wall Street.
Buttressing his argument with some neat numbers proving that, given enough options, the downsized could soon be — yes — millionaires, Cramer foresaw huge benefits to all in the form of bitterness abatement and government intervention avoidance.
He also noted that no company then offered such a “stock option severance plan.” But the principle was the thing, and in principle one could not hold the stock market responsible; in principle the interests of all parties concerned could be fairly met without recourse to such market-hostile tools as government or unions.
And in ideology all one requires is principle. Thus it turned out to be a short walk indeed from Cramer’s modest proposal to a generalized belief in the possibility of real social redress through stocks. After all, since anyone can buy stocks, we had only ourselves to blame if we didn’t share in the joy.
The argument was an extremely flexible one, capable of materializing in nearly any circumstance. In a November, 1999 think-piece addressing the problem of union workers angered by international trade agreements,New York Times writer found that they suffered from “confusion” since even as they protested, their 401(k)s were “spiking upward” due to “ever-freer trade.” 
To Lester Thurow, the answer to massive and growing inequality was not to do some kind of redistribution or reorganization but to “widen the skill base” so that anyone could “work for entrepreneurial companies” and thus have access to stock optionsFor lesser bull market rhapsodists the difference between “could” and “is” simply disappeared in the blissful haze.
Egalitarian options were peeking out of every pocket. The cover of the July, 1999 issue of Money carried a photo of a long line of diverse, smiling workers — a familiar populist archetype — under the caption, “The employees of Actuate all get valuable stock options.” Inside, the magazine enthused about how options “are winding up in the shirt pockets of employees with blue collars, plaid collars and, increasingly, no collars at all.”
By decade’s end the myth of the wage/stock tradeoff was so widely accepted that its truest believers were able to present it as a historical principle, as our final pay-off for enduring all those years of deindustrialization and downsizing.
In a January, 2000 Wall Street Journal feature story on how the good times were filtering down to the heartland folks of Akron, Ohio — a rust belt town that had been hit hard by the capital flight of the Seventies and Eighties — the soaring stock market was asserted to have gone “a long way in supplanting the insecurity of the 1980s, when the whole notion of employment for life was shattered, with something else: a sense of well-being.”
Yes, their factories had closed — but just look at them now! The Journal found a blue-collar Akron resident who played golf! And an entrepreneur who drove a MercedesWho needed government when they options?
The actual effect of widespread use of stock options in lieu of wages, of course, was the opposite. Options did not bring about some sort of New Economy egalitarianism; they were in fact one of the greatest causes of the ever widening income gap.
It was options that inflated the take home pay of CEOs to a staggering 419 times what their average line-worker made; it was options that unleashed the torrent of downsizing, outsourcing, and union busting. When options were given out to employees — a common enough practice in Silicon Valley by decade’s end — they often came in lieu of wages, thus permitting firms to conceal their payroll expenses
In any case, the growth of 401(k)s, even in the best of markets, could hardly be enough to compensate for declining wages, and it was small comfort indeed for those whose downsizing-induced problems came at age 25, or 35, or 45. Options were a tool of wealth concentration, a bridge straight to the Nineteenth century.
And yet the fans of the bull market found it next to impossible to talk about options in this way. Only one interpretation, one explanatory framework seemed to be permissible when speaking of investing or finance — the onward march of democracy.
Anything could be made to fit:  The popularity of day trading, the growth of the mutual fund industry, the demise of Barings bank, the destruction of the Thai currency. The bubble being blown on Wall Street was an ideological one as much as it was anything else, with succeeding interpretations constantly heightening the rhetoric of populist glory. It was an “Investing Revolution!” It was all about “empowerment”!
And there were incredible prizes to be won as long as the bubble continued to swell, as long as the fiction of Wall Street as an alternative to democratic government became more and more plausible. Maybe the Glass-Steagall act could finally be repealed; maybe the SEC could finally be grounded; maybe antitrust could finally be halted.
And, most enticingly of all, maybe Social Security could finally be “privatized” in accordance with the right-wing fantasy of long standing.
True, it would be a staggering historical reversal for Democrats to consider such a scheme, but actually seeing it through would require an even more substantial change of image on Wall Street’s part.
The financiers would have to convince the nation that they were worthy of the charge, that they were as public-minded and as considerate of the little fellow as Franklin Roosevelt himself had been.
Although one mutual fund company actually attempted this directly — showing footage of FDR signing the Social Security Act in 1935 and proclaiming, “Today, we’re picking up where he left off” — most chose a warmer, vaguer route, showing us heroic tableaux of hardy midwesterners buying and holding amidst the Nebraska corn, of World War II vets day-trading from their suburban rec-rooms, of athletes talking like insiders, of church ladies phoning in their questions for the commentator on CNBC; of mom and pop posting their very own fire-breathing defenses of Microsoft on the boards at Raging Bull.

This was a boom driven by democracy itself, a boom of infinite possibilities, a boom that could never end.

Excerpted with permission from “One Market Under God” (Doubleday Books).

Thomas Frank


Thomas Frank is a Salon politics and culture columnist. His many books include What's The Matter With Kansas, Pity the Billionaire and One Market Under God.  He is the founding editor of The Baffler magazine.


Yep.

That privatization of Social Security is a done deal in Obama's last two (but astonishingly productive) years.

Enjoy the riches, peasants.

(Or get organized and stop that train!)


Big Dan and Bill Moyers and Paul Krugman are also awaiting your attention.

Big Dan:  You Can Be Assured That Agent Provocateurs Are "LOOTING" And Throwing "MOLOTOV COCKTAILS" In Ferguson

Bill Moyers and Paul Krugman:  What the 1% Don’t Want Us to Know


I'm not here.

How about you?