Harold Meyerson, editor of The American Prospect, writes today:
JULY 19, 2018
Meyerson on TAP
Even Trump’s Man at the Fed Says Workers Are Being Screwed. Anyone who still remains bewildered by the rebirth of American socialism should consider this: Jerome Powell, the Trump-appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve, says he’s concerned that the share of the national income going to labor has fallen “precipitously.”
In testimony Tuesday before the Senate Banking Committee, Powell bemoaned the fact that “labor’s share of profits has been sideways.” This, he said, was “very troubling.”
That’s Jerome Powell who said this. Donald Trump’s appointee as the nation’s top banker.
The unhappy development Powell was referencing was the fact that the share of the national economy going to workers’ wages and benefits has fallen since the turn of the millennium from 66 percent to 62 percent, while the share going to corporate profits has risen correspondingly, from 8.3 percent to 13.2 percent. (And, adding insult to injury, more than 90 percent of those profits have been doled out in the form of increased dividends and share buybacks to shareholders and top corporate executives.) Had the workers’ share stayed at 66 percent of the economy, according to estimates by Jared Bernstein, Vice-President Biden’s former chief economist and a contributing columnist to the Prospect, their average annual income would have risen by $3,400.
Cautiously, Powell intimated this wasn’t good. “We want an economy that works for everyone,” he concluded.
That, however, is as far as the Fed chairman was willing to go. He didn’t adduce causes for the decline of the labor share, other than “global factors.” He didn’t cite the role that the business community’s and the Republican Party’s war on unions had played, or the Republicans’ opposition to raising the federal minimum wage, or the shareholders-uber-alles ethos that has governed corporations since Milton Friedman first propounded it and Ronald Reagan’s SEC supercharged it by legalizing share buybacks. He did admit he wasn’t sure how to reverse the decline—in fairness, a cluelessness that follows logically from his refusal to recognize the causes of that decline.
Still, even Trump’s man at the Fed is distressed that the labor share has dwindled. Is it any wonder that, among more sentient Americans, socialism is on the rise? ~ HAROLD MEYERSON
PUERTO RICO SCHOOL CLOSURES DEBATE HEATS UP: School closures will move ahead in Puerto Rico as tensions between the territory’s Education Department and teachers union escalate. Earlier this week, the Tribunal Supremo of Puerto Rico ruled that a plan to close dozens of schools in Puerto Rico does not “directly and substantially interfere with the right to an education,” el Vocero de Puerto Rico reports.
— Officials there celebrated the victory, even as teachers unions and civil rights advocates continue to oppose the plan. The Puerto Rican civil rights commission this week called for a one-year moratorium on the closures, calling the process “disorganized” and “directionless,” according to El Nuevo Dia. Education Secretary Julia Keleher issued a statement in response, saying that “the process was based on data … and responded to the urgent need to address the consistent decline in school enrollment.”
— The ruling only exacerbated tensions between Keleher and the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, the largest teachers union in the island. During a press conference earlier this week, union President Aida Díaz decried the ruling as harmful to displaced students and teachers, and called Keleher “machiavellian.”
Would Puerto Rico be a nice destination for recruits from TFA? Especially if they don’t have to be there for the hot summer months.
A few days ago, I posted teacher Stuart Egan’s description of the attack on public schools in North Carolina, which identified the malefactors who are luring kids to charter schools, religious schools, cyber charters, and home schools, driving down public school enrollment to 81%.
Egan received a response from a staff member of the North Carolina Department of Instruction, which is led by Mark Johnson, former TFA who marches to the tune of the Tea Party and has no conscience of his own, no vision for the 81%, no concern about the quality of education in the state’s charter or religious schools. How does TFA find the people who advocate and act so strongly against public schools that enroll the majority of students? Will TFA ever be held accountable for them?
Here is the comment:
“This is so spot on. Everyone should translate ‘choice’ into ‘undermining of public schools’, because that is exactly what it is. The most sickening part is how low-income families and those of children with disabilities have been targeted, cajoled, hoodwinked and bamboozled into believing that choice automatically equates to quality. (Anyone who considers themselves conservative should be outraged at this profound misuse of their tax dollars.)
“Unfortunately, I get to witness this erosion and implosion every day at DPI. I just met another of my colleagues whose job was eliminated by the General Assembly’s draconian cuts and our puppet superintendent’s ‘just following orders’ approach. It was so sad to see this person, who was providing passionate, competent and knowledgeable support to eastern NC schools trying mightily to serve their markedly low-income populations, tossed aside in this ponzi scheme to dangle ‘school choice’ in front of needy families. It’s like eliminating the road crew that is fixing potholes and cracks on I-95 and using the public’s money to build a flimsy expensive two-lane highway right next to it that has no markings, guardrails, speed limits or enforcement (with full kickbacks going to the private paving company). ‘Hey mom and dad — let your kids ride on this shiny new road because you’ll have a choice, and we all know choice is better!’
“EdNC put out an excellent article a few days ago: https://www.ednc.org/2018/07/11/steep-cuts-to-north-carolinas-education-agency-hurt-low-performing-schools-the-most/. It perfectly spells out the absurdity in our agency and our feckless leadership. We’re told ‘shh, be quiet; this is a sensitive time’ for all our colleagues who were laid off, when in reality there should be a loud leader fighting for his folks every step of the way, even if the jobs could not be saved. You see, that’s how the damage really occurs here in our agency — not by vocal or visible action of those who ultimately have to answer to their supervisor every day, month and year, but by the SILENCE and joint inaction of the only ones in the agency who AREN’T supervised. The superintendent has no official boss and writes no annual work plan like the rest of us; instead, he gets a four-year ride and won’t have a whiff of accountability for another two and half years, long after the damage has been done. Meanwhile, scores of good people continue to walk out the door, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and the Public Schools of North Carolina will continue to suffer for it.”
I recently got a comment on the blog from someone who said, “why should I have to pay union dues to teach?” I told him he was right. He should not be required to pay union dues. He should also not expect to get the pay raises negotiated by the unions or the health and pension benefits. No reason for him to pay dues.
Dr. Michael Hynes is the Superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford School District on Long Island in New York. He is a champion of child-centered education, has given TED talks, and has led his community in support of a vision of education that is good for children. He should be New York’s State Commissioner of Education.
In this video, he talks about women who informed and inspired him.
You will recognize some of them immediately, maybe all of them.
When Arne Duncan was named the ninth U.S. secretary of education in early 2009, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) had shown a decade of substantial growth, efforts to launch the Common Core and reform teacher evaluation were getting under way with ample support and little opposition, and education seemed a bipartisan bright spot in an increasingly polarized political climate.
Seven years later, when Duncan stepped down, NAEP scores had stagnated, the Common Core was a poisoned brand, research on new teacher-evaluation systems painted a picture of failure, and it was hard to find anyone who would still argue that education reform was a bipartisan cause. It would be ludicrous to say any of this was Duncan’s “fault,” but it’s fair to say that his self-certitude, expansive view of his office’s role, and impatience with his critics helped bring the great school-reform crackup to pass.
Now, Duncan has written a book about his years in education. It could have been a meditation on why things went awry, what he’s learned, and how all this should inform school improvement in the years ahead. That would have been a book well worth reading. Or Duncan might have really taken on the skeptics, answering their strongest criticisms and explaining why the path he chose was the best way forward. Instead, Duncan has opted to pen a breezy exercise in straw men and self-congratulation, while taking credit for “chang[ing] the education landscape in America.” The narrative follows Duncan from his time as a Chicago schools central-office staffer, to his tenure as superintendent in Chicago, to his service in Washington during the early years of President Barack Obama’s first term (skipping the second half of Duncan’s time in Washington), before closing with his thoughts on gun violence and an eight-point education agenda.
Throughout, Duncan comes across as a nice, extraordinarily confident guy who really likes basketball and has no doubts about how to fix schools or second thoughts about his time in Washington.
I had exactly that impression when I met Arne in 2009 and urged him not to follow in the same punitive path as NCLB. What a very nice guy! How tall he is! He took notes. But I don’t think he remembered or cared about anything I said.
The Guardian view on the Trump-Putin summit: Russia is the winner
Posted on 7/18/2018
Editorial – The Guardian
Donald Trump was not adlibbing when he said his meeting with Putin might be the easiest part of his Europe trip. That was his intention too
Before he left Washington last week for the Nato summit, his UK visit and talks with Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump raised eyebrows by suggesting that the meeting in Helsinki on Monday might be the easiest one of the three. In retrospect, it is clear that this was not an off-the-cuff comment. It was his plan all along. First rough up Nato in order to damage transatlantic commitments, then stir things up in Britain in order to damage the EU, and, finally, play the cooperative statesman in his talks with the Russian president. Or, to put it another way: bully, bully and cringe.
The European visit and its outcomes have offered a chilling illustration of Mr Trump’s worldview. His strategy decries the values that endured in western policy since the defeat of Hitler. It is a conscious break with the postwar network of alliances and aspiration for universal standards. It is a return to the era in which big powers have self-interests not allies, little countries do not matter, and international standards are subordinate to military might. Because Russia is a significant military power, Mr Trump has brought it in from the cold. It is not just the cold war that is over. The post-1945 order of international values and ethics may be ending too.
Mr Trump went into the talks with Mr Putin offering bland banalities that signalled his readiness to resume business with Moscow: there were “a lot of good things to talk about”, the two sides had “great opportunities together”, it would be an “extraordinary relationship” and the world wanted “to see us get along”. Beside him, Mr Putin put on his stone face, saying little, giving nothing away. Five hours later, after two sets of talks, the leaders re-emerged. This time Mr Putin was garrulous. The talks had been successful and useful. Relations had moved to a different phase. There were no objective reasons why Russia and the United States could not cooperate strategically on military, anti-terror, economic and ecological issues. It was all smiles. Mr Putin even gave Mr Trump a football, to mark the end of Russia’s successful hosting of the World Cup.
As well he might, because the US president gave the Russian leader a far bigger present than a football. Mr Trump used the meeting to smooth Russia’s almost unconditional re-entry into his version of the international order. If the accounts that the leaders produced at their press conference on Monday evening are reliable, the issues that have made relations with Russia so difficult for so long – Ukraine, interference in elections, cyber disruptions and the Salisbury novichok attack – counted for very little in their talks. In his overeagerness, Mr Trump essentially gave Mr Putin a free pass.
Mr Putin was always likely to be the big winner from the Helsinki meeting. The mere fact that it took place was a victory for the Kremlin. But Mr Trump made it clear in Helsinki that he regards bygones as bygones. He is prepared to reset the dial. Mr Trump barely seems to have made an issue of Moscow’s unilateralism against Ukraine, so much so that Mr Putin was emboldened to suggest at the press conference that Washington was not putting enough pressure on Kiev to give in to Russian demands. The practical impact of the two men’s discussions on Syria and the Middle East remains unclear, but there was no suggestion that Mr Trump intends to take any kind of a stand here either. Russian interference in US elections – which has recently led to 12 Russians being charged – remains a very awkward obstacle. But not because of Mr Trump, who manifestly does not treat the issue seriously. Mr Putin returns to Moscow under less pressure than ever on all the difficult issues.
If Mr Putin is the big winner, Theresa May is one of the losers. The Salisbury novichok attack counted for nothing in Helsinki. In the Commons on Monday Mrs May talked about Nato to MPs as though nothing has changed. Britain and the US were on the same side on burden-sharing. Mr Trump’s approaches at Nato and in Britain had been constructive. This is nonsense. Mrs May talks as if the alliance is unchanged when in fact everything is changing. If she is to avoid Britain and her government becoming collateral damage in Mr Trump’s dangerous demolition of the global order, she will need to wake up very fast.
Making Russia Great Again. One of my favorite quotes is from the British historian A.J.P. Taylor, who was referring to the aborted democratic revolutions of 1848: “History reached its turning point, and failed to turn.”
Will the week of July 15, 2018, be remembered in the same way? By all rights, this should be the beginning of the end of Trump’s presidency. Republican defenders can swallow a lot, but flagrant treason is a bridge too far. Or is it?
Polls now show that increasing numbers of Americans are likely to support a Democrat for Congress, in order to rein Trump in. Even Fox News found the Putin embrace too much to swallow.
If the Republican leadership had a shred of decency and patriotism, they would go beyond the verbal distancing and begin to limit Trump’s powers. Several pieces of legislation would do just that, including bills to punish Russian behavior and to protect the Mueller investigation.
But here, Republican partisanship trumps the all but universal recognition that Trump is both a psychopath and a traitor. Despite the verbiage, Republican leaders continue to protect him.
Trump’s belated attempt at damage control—that he had garbled a double negative and had meant to say something like, “Why wouldn’t Russia meddle in our election?” rather than “Why would Russia?”—was beyond laughable; at a dozen other points in the joint press conference Trump insisted that he believed Putin’s denials.
The Republican leadership could advise Trump now that he needs to resign or face impeachment by a bipartisan effort. But Republicans fear alienating the hard-core Trump base.
So this wretched interregnum will continue a while longer, with Trump at odds with his entire administration and the national security establishment on the Putin question, yet Republicans too divided and paralyzed to act.
Trump’s latest footsie with Putin increases the odds that Democrats will win the House by a wide margin. Once Robert Mueller’s report is made public, the extent of Trump’s financial dependence on the Kremlin will become clear, as will the specifics of his collusion with Putin, and Democrats will proceed with impeachment.
Mueller is now likely to accelerate his efforts to get the report wrapped up. So yes, this week marked a turning point. But the turn will take a little while longer. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER
NYC Educator, aka high school teacher Arthur Goldstein, opines on the plight of Eva Moskowitz, the charter chain CEO who is paid $782,000 a year to get high test scores and show that it is easy if you are willing to weed out the slackers.
Back in the good old days (for her) of the Bloomberg-Klein years, she called the tune. Klein gave her anything she wanted. He would kick kids out of their public school and give Eva the space; he would kick kids with disabilities out of their home school and give the space to Eva.
It is harder now. The schools are overcrowded. De Blasio is afraid to get into a fight with her, because she and her billionaire buddies kicked him senseless when he tried that.
Space is tight, so tight that in 2016, Eva spent $68 million to buy a condo for 2 new schools in prime Manhattan real estate.
The next time Ivanka Trump or Campbell Brown comes to visit her model schools, she needs a beautiful space in which to show her achievements. Who knows when Betsy DeVos herself might show up?