You are browsing the archive for Obama.

Anticapitalist Meetup: “Separate but Equal” Shuts Down Women’s Health Care by TPau

3:40 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

This week has a certain nostalgia for me. I am working the last four shifts in my home, Humboldt County. Nestled between pristine redwoods and dramatic cliffs overlooking the west coast of California, I want to stay here, but cannot. I am feeling the full force of the United States health care crisis. In the four years I have worked here eight of ten obstetricians in the southern half of the county have left, and now I find I am one of them.

Two obstetricians, far apart geographically and serving two different hospitals, are all that is left to serve an area once supporting 10 obstetricians. Both doctors are men over 60, who have a tough future ahead of them. Without outside help there is no way they can see all the patients that will need them. They have to remain within 30 minutes of the hospital and can be told to come to work any time of the day or night. They can never have a moment off, a full night’s sleep, a drink of alcohol to ring in the New Year. Watching a full length movie, or having a nice dinner with the spouse without interruption is a thing of the past. Neither of the remaining doctors can get sick or injured. This is really asking them to be super human and there is no cavalry on their horizon. In fact, if Catholic Health Systems is successful at closing one of the two hospitals, only one physician will remain.

As a young person, I wanted to take my medical skills to a disadvantaged third world nation. Looks like I got my wish—right here in the US. How did we get here?

Humboldt County illustrates many of the ills, both old and new, this broken system imposes on the citizens, and particularly the women, of the US. To really see the complexity, you have to look at all the levels putting pressure on this shattered system.

National:

If you were listening to American propaganda news casts last week, you heard the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare” shut down thousands of private health insurance plans and that President Obama lied when he made the campaign promise, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”

The standard set by the ACA was so low any real health insurance plan could have stumbled over it dead drunk and in the dark. So why are some of the plans failing?

For decades, the health care system in America has been plagued with “Junk Insurance.” These are plans that call themselves insurance, but if someone on the plan actually got sick, the insurance would not cover anything. Companies get away with this, because all health insurance contracts read like real estate derivative scams; they are so complicated, no one can understand them. It is not legally fraud. The customer signs a contract that does actually say they won’t get coverage for their heart attack, stroke, appendicitis, car accident, etc. It says it in fine print, in ways no one is intended to decipher.

People enrolled in these plans pay monthly premiums that are slightly less than real insurance, believing they have a great deal. Sales people, who “explain” the plan to them, give them that impression. But should they actually become ill or have an accident, they quickly find their premiums were wasted. They have been duped into believing they actually bought something. The truth is, those people would have been better off uninsured than paying premiums for years for no real benefit.

Even if you had real insurance you are a victim of this sort of scam. As junk insurance became more profitable, legitimate insurance companies found they could cover fewer and fewer benefits for the same price. It has created a race to the benefit bottom.

So the Affordable Care Act got rid of all those types of insurance, right? Wrong. The ACA apparently was never meant to stop scam insurance. Those plans were still operating even before the President caved in to media pressure and allowed new fraudulent insurance plans to continue. You might even be enrolled in one right now. Turns out I am.

When my adult daughter, who is getting a graduate degree and still on my insurance, hedged at going to the doctor for a check up this year, I proudly told her that she need not worry. The Affordable Care Act guaranteed that as of August 1, she could go for her annual, get her birth control and her immunizations for free.

15 Covered Preventive Services for Adults
1. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm one-time screening for men of specified ages who have ever smoked
2. Alcohol Misuse screening and counseling
3. Aspirin use for men and women of certain ages
4. Blood Pressure screening for all adults
5. Cholesterol screening for adults of certain ages or at higher risk
6. Colorectal Cancer screening for adults over 50
7. Depression screening for adults
8. Type 2 Diabetes screening for adults with high blood pressure
9. Diet counseling for adults at higher risk for chronic disease
10. HIV screening for all adults at higher risk
11. Immunization vaccines for adults–doses, recommended ages, and recommended populations vary:
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B
Herpes Zoster
Human Papillomavirus
Influenza (Flu Shot)
Measles, Mumps, Rubella
Meningococcal
Pneumococcal
Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis
Varicella
Learn more about immunizations and see the latest vaccine schedules.
12. Obesity screening and counseling for all adults
13. Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) prevention counseling for adults at higher risk
14. Tobacco Use screening for all adults and cessation interventions for tobacco users
15. Syphilis screening for all adults at higher risk

22 Covered Preventive Services for Women, Including Pregnant Women
The eight new prevention-related health services marked with an asterisk ( * ) must be covered with no cost-sharing in plan years starting on or after August 1, 2012.
1. Anemia screening on a routine basis for pregnant women
2. Bacteriuria urinary tract or other infection screening for pregnant women
3. BRCA counseling about genetic testing for women at higher risk
4. Breast Cancer Mammography screenings every 1 to 2 years for women over 40
5. Breast Cancer Chemoprevention counseling for women at higher risk
6. Breastfeeding comprehensive support and counseling from trained providers, as well as access to breastfeeding supplies, for pregnant and nursing women*
7. Cervical Cancer screening for sexually active women
8. Chlamydia Infection screening for younger women and other women at higher risk
9. Contraception: Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling, not including abortifacient drugs*
10. Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling for all women*
11. Folic Acid supplements for women who may become pregnant
12. Gestational diabetes screening for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant and those at high risk of developing gestational diabetes*
13. Gonorrhea screening for all women at higher risk
14. Hepatitis B screening for pregnant women at their first prenatal visit
15. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) screening and counseling for sexually active women*
16. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) DNA Test: high risk HPV DNA testing every three years for women with normal cytology results who are 30 or older*
17. Osteoporosis screening for women over age 60 depending on risk factors
18. Rh Incompatibility screening for all pregnant women and follow-up testing for women at higher risk
19. Tobacco Use screening and interventions for all women, and expanded counseling for pregnant tobacco users
20. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) counseling for sexually active women*
21. Syphilis screening for all pregnant women or other women at increased risk
22. Well-woman visits to obtain recommended preventive services*
Learn more about Affordable Care Act Rules on Expanding Access to Preventive Services for Women.
(Effective August 1, 2012)

26 Covered Preventive Services for Children
1. Alcohol and Drug Use assessments for adolescents
2. Autism screening for children at 18 and 24 months
3. Behavioral assessments for children of all ages
Ages: 0 to 11 months, 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years, 15 to 17 years.
4. Blood Pressure screening for children
Ages: 0 to 11 months, 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years, 15 to 17 years.
5. Cervical Dysplasia screening for sexually active females
6. Congenital Hypothyroidism screening for newborns
7. Depression screening for adolescents
8. Developmental screening for children under age 3, and surveillance throughout childhood
9. Dyslipidemia screening for children at higher risk of lipid disorders
Ages: 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years, 15 to 17 years.
10. Fluoride Chemoprevention supplements for children without fluoride in their water source
11. Gonorrhea preventive medication for the eyes of all newborns
12. Hearing screening for all newborns
13. Height, Weight and Body Mass Index measurements for children
Ages: 0 to 11 months, 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years, 15 to 17 years.
14. Hematocrit or Hemoglobin screening for children
15. Hemoglobinopathies or sickle cell screening for newborns
16. HIV screening for adolescents at higher risk
17. Immunization vaccines for children from birth to age 18 —doses, recommended ages, and recommended populations vary:
Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis
Haemophilus influenzae type b
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B
Human Papillomavirus
Inactivated Poliovirus
Influenza (Flu Shot)
Measles, Mumps, Rubella
Meningococcal
Pneumococcal
Rotavirus
Varicella
Learn more about immunizations and see the latest vaccine schedules.
18. Iron supplements for children ages 6 to 12 months at risk for anemia
19. Lead screening for children at risk of exposure
20. Medical History for all children throughout development
Ages: 0 to 11 months, 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years, 15 to 17 years.
21. Obesity screening and counseling
22. Oral Health risk assessment for young children
Ages: 0 to 11 months, 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years.
23. Phenylketonuria (PKU) screening for this genetic disorder in newborns
24. Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) prevention counseling and screening for adolescents at higher risk
25. Tuberculin testing for children at higher risk of tuberculosis
Ages: 0 to 11 months, 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years, 15 to 17 years.
26. Vision screening for all children

Health and Human Service

I was flabbergasted when she was actually charged for all those things in October of this year—long before the media ganged up on the President. I called Aetna, my insurance carrier, sure there had been some error. I was told it was no error, and if I had questions, I should contact the state. Since my employer is in South Carolina, I had to contact the insurance board for that state. Here is my conversation with the board:

Rosa Rivers
Senior Insurance Regulatory Analyst
Consumer Service Division

You requested clarification on the ACA law in regards to contraceptive and immunizations. A grandfathered health plan isn’t required to comply with some of the consumer protections of the Affordable Care Act that apply to other health plans that are not grandfathered.  If you have health coverage from a plan that existed on March 23, 2010 — and that has covered at least one person continuously from that day forward — your plan may be considered a “grandfathered” plan.

If your plan is a grandfathered plan it is not required to provide certain recommended preventive services at no additional charge to you.  This would include charges for contraceptives.  This would be the only reason the company is not paying for contraceptives.

The above also applies, but also the ACA requires coverage on vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) prior to September 2009 with no co-payments or other cost-sharing requirements when those services are delivered by an in-network provider.  The immunization vaccine you listed in your email is not on the recommended list. [Note from author: This is an inaccurate statement. HPV vaccine is covered. See the lists above.]

Sincerely
Rosa Rivers

TP: When can I expect the health care plan to cover contraception if it is “grandfathered?”

Rosa: There is no specific end date for grandfathered status.   When a company significantly alters its a health plan it can cause the plan to lose its grandfathered status.  Companies must send out notices advising if the plan is grandfathered or has lose its grandfathered status.

In other words, insurance that didn’t really insure anything, could seek “grandfather status” and completely ignore the ACA rules, as long as the insurance was created before the ACA went into effect August 1, the policy didn’t change too much after that, and they had at least 1 person enrolled.

So Obama went to extremes to honor his promise that you could keep your insurance, even to the point of giving insurers a way to keep junk insurance going indefinitely. Due to the grandfather clause, the ACA didn’t really guarantee Americans they would actually get anything out of their insurance. But, it did demand that its citizens enroll in something calling itself “health insurance” by the end of the year, delivering thousands of paying customers to the insurance companies and guaranteeing tax subsidies to these companies.

Even these concessions were not enough. People on these plans do eventually become ill, and realize they have been duped and drop the insurance. Or they complain to their employer that the insurance is worthless. So these plans must periodically shut down, change their names and enroll (fool) a new crop of customers. They needed to create “new” junk insurance plans every year. What the insurance companies are complaining about is that junk insurance plans created after August 1, or who did not go through the grandfathering process, will not be allowed to continue after January 1.

The real lie here is being perpetrated by Aetna, Blue Cross and Goldman Sachs (yep, they are in this too) and a host of other insurers who lead people to believe their premiums are going to cover a future health care crisis, which they will clearly never do. In fact, they are the ones who have been lying about their products for decades.
 
What these companies are peddling does not deserve to be called “health insurance” at all. They are the ones that should be held to account here, not the President. These plans don’t deserve to be “grandfathered,” rescued by the President or Congress, or supported by the Clintons. These plans deserve to die.

So what does this mean to the people of Humboldt county and thousands of other rural communities across the U.S? ACA will still support under insurance and high deductible insurance. That means people are sicker when they finally seek help, and they are still at risk for medical bankruptcy. In bankruptcy, or just nonpayment, it is the hospitals, labs and health care providers who foot the bill because they have already provided the service and won’t get paid.

Woman’s health care is hit the hardest by this betrayal. Supposedly, one of the hard won benefits of the ACA was the end of “separate but equal” health care for women. Women and men get charged the same or women get charged more for their health care, but cannot find health care that supports contraception and obstetric services. The grandfather clause, Obama’ s cave in to religious groups on birth control and abortion, and now his reversal on scam insurance means women will still face a barrage of insurance that does not cover their medical needs. Women will have to come out of pocket for these needs. That means more nonpayment for these services for doctors and hospitals and more pressure to decrease these services.

Finally, there is Medicare. Medicare reimburses gynecologic procedures at a rate of about 1/3 what is paid for similar skill level and time as other services, reinforcing the “separate but equal” health care system for women in this country. Those inequities fly below the radar and no one is even offering to fix that.

State:

Medicaid (state insurance for the poor) pays doctors very poorly in general. In California, it reimburses Gynecology less than it costs to provide the care. It pays a barely adequate amount for Obstetrics. Most obstetric patients have Medicaid because they are young and have not had time to establish themselves financially. Commercial insurance, conversely, pays well for gynecology and poorly or not at all for obstetrics.

In California, the playing field for doctors is uneven. The more established doctors in town are getting three times as much for every Medicaid patient, due to previous programs the state offered to rural doctors that new doctors cannot enter. When I came to Humboldt, I had to compete with these more established practices while getting lower rates for everything I did with Medicaid patients (about half of my practice). I did this by joining a large group. But when all the other doctors in the group moved or retired, I found myself having to pay all the overhead on my own. One of the ways I survived was to stop seeing obstetrics and Medicaid patients. This shifted my patients to gynecology with commercial insurance—the highest reimbursement profile. It allowed me to continue practicing for six months and gave my staff time to find work elsewhere. But it also decreased the physicians seeing obstetrics in town by one.

Multiple times the state has voted to open Medicaid to all the state citizens. This may have leveled the playing field and increased the reimbursement to doctors and hospitals because Medicaid would have had more funding. Right now, Medicaid in most states covers more than most insurance and could be provided to a state’s citizens for less than commercial insurance. Unfortunately, the law the people voted for was vetoed by the Governor each time.

County:

Santa Rosa, Ukiah, and Crescent City, cities in other counties surrounding Humboldt, are also recruiting for obstetrics for similar reasons. At least in our area, the crisis is wide spread. Santa Rosa can afford to pay more and clearly offers bigger practices and more city. It is likely to divert candidates from the smaller hospitals.

Humboldt and the surrounding counties are finding it very difficult to recruit, because reimbursement is so poor. With 50% Medicaid, a new physician may not be able to meet overhead demands. They could make more on Medicaid if they joined an existing practice with their special reimbursement rates, but the two surviving practices in Humboldt both have issues. Catholic Health Systems is considering closing the obstetrics ward in the southern half of the county, where one of the practices is based. The other practice is headed by a person who has a history of multiple partnership rifts. Catholic Health Systems could recruit into their own clinics, which also have a higher reimbursement, but this would mean the new doctor could not prescribe ANY birth control, further limiting birth control availability within the county. They have already interviewed a candidate for a position in that clinic.

Catholic Health Systems made a bid for Crescent City hospital. Crescent City is suffering its own lack of obstetric services. If the Catholics did buy Crescent City’s hospital, that would stop sterilizations in all hospitals along the Northern Coast of California except for the one small hospital in the north end of Humboldt that remains secular. Doctors from other cities along the coast would have to leave their practice area to do sterilizations on their patients in Northern Humboldt. Something they cannot do without partners to cover their practices in their absence.

Then there is a question about what the Catholics would do with Crescent City’s labor and delivery unit. Would it close that obstetric unit as it threatens to do with the labor and delivery unit at the southern end of Humboldt County? How far is too far to drive in labor?

This situation could be helped by a county-run health system. After all, the Health Department is county run. It’s not such a stretch to expand the Health Department’s responsibilities to meet the health needs of all the inhabitants of a county if they can not be met by commercial and private industry. I tried to set up a county run health care system in Arizona eight years ago and then network the various counties to provide care throughout the state. This is how universal health care in Europe first got started in the early 1900’s. Unfortunately, I discovered there is a federal law preventing counties from doing just that, because it would compete with commercial insurance. The federal law has never been tested and in the age of ACA, might be outdated. I would love to see a movement to organize single payer health care, county by county, in this country and right now, that might be the best solution.

Hospital:

As I mentioned earlier, Medicaid is the biggest payer of obstetric services in the rural sector. Although it pays physicians adequately for obstetric care, it pays hospitals poorly. Hospitals can only break even on obstetrics if they do very large volume or are in an affluent area where Medicaid is not such an issue. All the rural hospitals I have served lose money on obstetrics and that makes it the lowest service on the totem pole. Obstetrics is the last to get new equipment, always runs lean on staffing and is the last for recruitment. Right now, the staffing in Humboldt’s obstetrics wards is so sparse, the nurses are calling around to beg other nurses to come in and work, every time I am on call. The last time I was on the ward, a nurse actually broke into tears on the phone to one of her colleagues begging her to come in and help.

If this was any other type of business, the solution would be to close the department that wasn’t making any money and consolidate the work into another department. And Catholic Health Systems is considering doing just that. They are trying to close the obstetrics ward in the southern half of the county and force women to drive the extra 20 miles to the middle of the county. Unlike other nations, there are no rules or laws to prevent Catholic Health System from closing a ward and limiting access.

In fact, because our health care is own by private for profit interests, closing obstetrics at BOTH hospitals and letting obstetrics patients find their own solution outside of the hospital system is not out of the question. Only strong public objection and the communities withdraw of charitable contributions has stopped Catholic Health Systems from closing the southern obstetrics ward so far.

Health Care Provider:

My case illustrates the difficulties of making a living at this profession. I am not the first doctor to be driven out by financial difficulties. It is also not the first time for me to leave an area due to the financial collapse of a group. This is a recurring story in all of rural America for Obstetricians. My troubles started back in Arizona when my group adopted Electronic Med Records (EMR).

One of the first elements of the ACA to go into effect was the requirement for doctors and hospitals to use EMR. Technology that is marketed naturally, has to be convenient and useful so people will buy it. If the government forces you to buy something, there is no pressure on the manufacturer to make it work for the user whether it is a computer program or a health insurance plan.

The ACA asked doctors to invest in technology that was unproven, expensive, and takes about 2 to 5 times as long per patient as pen and paper. It is the poster child for inappropriate technology. Additionally, it is prone to errors and has a terrible safety profile. Orders are incorrect more often than pen and paper, they end up on the wrong patients, and labs get missed due to the difficult to read screens.

My former group in Arizona went under due to EMR and the expense and slow down in seeing patients that came from the conversion. The company that sold the program to us went out of business and so we invested in a $250,000 program that became junk after the company folded, taking our patient records with it into oblivion. It was a disaster we never quite recovered from and eventually I took the new job in Humboldt, only to find the older physicians in the practice unwilling to commit finances to EMR. One by one they retired, rather than invest in the available systems, or take the decrease in compensation Medicare and Medicaid threatened if we did not convert, leaving me without partners to share costs.

If EMR does not make health care cheaper or more safe, one might wonder why the government was so hot to trot to convert all the US to these untried software programs. One of the main requirements of the EMR programs is that they are able to provide the government with statistical information. That, in and of itself, is not concerning and might actually be useful to track types of care that decreases disease over large populations. But remember, this is a government that colluded with corporations to collect huge volumes of information on everyday people illegally. And then lied to Congress about it. A few months ago, I became much more concerned about the data collection EMR is performing.

Women of Humboldt County:

This all filters down to women in Humboldt and the rest of rural America. Routine care is likely to be delivered by a less specialized provider—Midwives and Family Medicine physicians. The remaining obstetricians in Humboldt have both hired multiple midwives to assist them. This is probably alright, as these providers are qualified to give routine care and they do spend more time with patients. Patients requiring a more specialized level of care are going to have little or no choice about who provides the care and their visit will be crammed into a schedule that is already too full.

Birth control remains an issue. The only place offering sterilization is one small hospital in the north end of the county. Even though some of the doctors have privileges to do sterilizations in the north, the doctors who are left might not have coverage for their practice in order to get away and do their sterilizations in the North.

It also puts into question quality issues. Recently, lactation (breast feeding) counseling and home health visits for new mothers have been cut and I think other very good programs will also be cut soon. The nurses and physicians who are left are not enough. They are being run ragged. Patients who need a critical level of care will soon face a doctor and a nurse who are much more stressed and less supported than previously.

Patients in the South end of the county could be facing the closure of their obstetrics ward and a longer drive in labor, or in an emergency, putting them at increased risk. I think it is a matter of time until disaster happens.

And for all that chaos, I would stay if I could. I like it here. I like the people and the family of bears that live in my neighborhood. I love the calm of the redwoods and the moodiness of the ocean. But, financially, I’m beaten. I have been working 2-3 jobs to recover. Next year, I am moving to Washington State, and starting over . . . again.

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: John Brennan, Barack Obama and the Banality of Evil in Service of Late Capitalist Imperialism by Le Gauchiste

12:54 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

“Some years ago, reporting the trial of Eichmann in Jerusalem, I spoke of ‘the Banality of evil’ and meant with this … the phenomenon of evil deeds, committed on a gigantic scale, which could not be traced to any particularity of wickedness, pathology or ideological conviction in the doer, whose only personal distinction was a perhaps extraordinary shallowness…., and the only specific characteristic one could detect on his part as well as in his behavior … was not stupidity but a curious, quite authentic inability to think.”

–Hannah Arendt

Whether political theorist Hannah Arendt was correct in her assessment of Adolf Eichmann–and I am inclined to believe she was duped by his testimony in Jerusalem and hence overstated the extent to which he was an example of the banality of evil–she was onto something important with the concept. For while the idea of the banality of evil may have become at times a cliche and, far worse, a facile evasion of moral responsibility, it nonetheless provides a way to understand how Late Capitalism’s Imperialism creates conditions that necessitate self-alienation on the part of the individual as well the social formation as a whole.

Torture doesn’t matter anymore, at least not to the Barack Obama administration. Four years ago, John Brennan, a 25-year veteran of the CIA, was forced to withdraw his name from consideration to be CIA Director (DCI) because of his public support of–and likely participation in–the Bush administration’s programs of torturing terrorism suspects and/or sending them to foreign prisons to be tortured. Apparently wishing to maintain his anti-torture credentials at the time, Obama appointed Brennan to a White House job that did not require Senate confirmation.

Four years later, his human rights record irretrievably tarnished by the illegal drone assassination program, Obama nominated Brennan–who has been running Obama’s drone assassination program from the White House–to be the next DCI. If confirmed, he would succeed Gen. David Petraeus, who resigned following revelations of an extra-marital affair in November 2009.

So, according to Obama, it’s okay to kidnap and torture and kill terrorism suspects without even a hint of “due process of law,” but if you put your dick in the wrong person, you’re unfit to run the CIA.

Obama is, sadly, right: Under the Imperialism of Late Capitalism, only a moral degenerate like John Brennan is fit to run an utterly amoral outfit like the CIA.

By “the Imperialism of Late Capitalism” we mean the forcible opening up of all spatial, ecological and cultural boundaries of peoples and nations to the global flow of capital and goods and services, according to the needs of capital and of Late Capitalism, which itself is wracked by ever-worsening crises that fuel the need for ever-more globalization.

But unlike Barack Obama, whose tolerance for torture and other human rights abuses seems of recent vintage, Brennan’s views were warped from a relatively young age. Born to Irish immigrant parents, John Brennan earned a B.A. in Political Science at Fordham University in 1977 and an M.A. in Government with a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin in 1980.

Although Brennan officially joined the CIA in 1980—he tells reporters a story of how his “wanderlust” was piqued by a CIA recruiting ad in the New York Times—some of his activities at Fordham suggest his recruitment dates back to his school days. Bob Keane, a classmate from the 4th grade through sophomore year at Fordham, told reporters that Brennan spent the summer after freshman year in Indonesia with a cousin who was working for the Agency for International Development, and visited Bahrain on the way home. “I wondered if he had even been recruited that early,” mused Keane. In fact, Brennan spent his junior year abroad learning fluent Arabic and taking Middle Eastern studies courses at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, a well-known site for CIA recruitment and training.

At UT, Brennan wrote an M.A. Thesis, “Human Rights: The Case Study of Egypt,” in which he denied the existence of “absolute human rights,” defended censorship in Egypt and indicated an early tolerance for torture. “Since the press can play such an influential role in determining the perceptions of the masses, I am in favor of some degree of government censorship,” wrote Brennan.

Taking his relativistic view of human rights to its logical conclusion, Brennan argued that

“the fact that absolute human rights do not exist (with the probable exception of freedom from torture) makes the [human rights] analysis subject to innumerable conditional criticisms.” (emphasis added.)

Think about that for a moment: John Brennan wrote that, in his opinion, not only are human rights not absolute, freedom from torture is only a “probable exception”–meaning that at the young age of 25, the Jesuit-educated Brennan was rejecting the 200-year-old anti-torture teachings of the Jesuit-educated Cesare Beccaria, the father of modern penology and human rights, who argued that torture is always wrong. Just a few years after his probable recruitment by the CIA, Brennan’s mind was already being warped by the needs of capitalist imperialism.

Working for Bush in the 2000s, Brennan became the embodiment of the banality of evil, helping to facilitate illegal kidnappings and torture in the name of the greater good–in this case so-called “national security.” Under Obama, Brennan has become the chief Angel of Death in the White House, selecting which terror suspects are to be murdered via unmanned drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, and elsewhere–and then lying about it later, as when he publicly claimed that drone attacks in Pakistan in 2010 did not cause “a single collateral death” when authorities knew better.

But the tragedy here lies with Barack Obama, who is able to make statements about the horrors of the Sandy Hook massacre while blithely raining down equivalent massacres on schoolchildren in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is this banality of evil–Obama’s ability to commit evil acts while pretending (to himself and to the world) that he remains a basically decent human being who loves his wife and daughters–that is one of the most corrosive aspects of Late Capitalist Imperialism.

Just as capitalist production alienates the worker, not only from the means of production and the product of his labor, but from his true species-essence as a human being, so too the reproduction of the Late Capitalist system requires acts of moral evil that alienate, not only the doers of these deeds but the entire social formation, from their human essence as creative and moral actors. Because such a reality would be intolerable if faced with honesty, the banality of evil represents a form of social-psychological ideology of denial that perpetuates Late Capitalism and the suffering attendant upon it.

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Brave New World – High Stakes Testing or When a Test is Not Just a Test

1:00 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

(This article was co-authored by Diana Zavala, a parent with a 9 year old child in New York City Public Schools who works with Change the Stakes and Geminijen, a member of the Anti-Capitalist Meet-up Collective who also taught in the New York City Public Schools).

In Aldous Huxley’s sci-fi classic, Brave New World, Huxley explores a dystopian world where the government, for the good of the society, programs citizens to conform to its norms through “repetitive learning” techniques and ‘soma’, a mind-altering drug, that makes humans compliant with its highly stratified, unquestioning consumer society run by a few elites or “alphas.” If a person either cannot or is unwilling to be programmed, they are cast out of the rational “civilized” society into an area saved for “savages” where the messy human emotional traits of people’s suffering and desiring and dissenting are relegated.
bravenewworld_edit2
This conforms to Marx’s concept that a society’s educational system is designed to reinforce the dominant economic culture, which in the current capitalist mode of production views people as inanimate commodities whose only usefulness is to promote increased profit for the corporate elite.

Obama’s “Race to the Top” model of educational reform (RTT) is an eerily good fit with both Huxley’s and Marx’s concepts. In response to globalization, Obama’s RTT, in line with the 1999 World Bank education reform model, is replacing public schools with privately run but publicly funded schools where a few students are being educated to become the corporate elites leaving the rest to be minimally educated as the blind consumers and maintainers of the system.

Obama’s approach recommends the development of a limited number of charter schools run by private corporations and institutions where the subject content of the schools is nationally standardized and teachers are taught to teach to the tests to indoctrinate the new, more limited number of white collar workers still needed in a global economy into the corporate “new speak.” That this is already happening is evidenced by the fact that under the new business model promoted in the charter schools, students are no longer referred to as citizens, but customers and clients. This corporate model is enforced through a system of standardized testing and “accountability”.

Just as Huxley’s Brave New World used ‘soma’ and repetitive ‘sleep learning’ to program and indoctrinate the populous, our new educational regimen of mandatory testing uses the element of repetition and standardized testing from early learning through high school to the same end. However, it is not the “success” of the individual student these tests are intended to measure. The tests are used to determine and label how well a student conforms to the dominant culture.

As in Brave New World, the Race to the Top educational model uses these techniques to repress any democratic dissent or critical thinking. If students, teachers, parents or school districts question these norms, or refuse to get with the program, schools will lose funding, a teacher may be laid-off or fired for being ‘unsatisfactory’, and a child may be denied promotion or access to a “good” school (i.e., end up among the “savages”). Thus the stratification of society is reinforced by the use of testing.

If punitive standardized testing is the stick that is used to enforce the corporate model, the possibility of upward mobility for the individual child regardless of race, gender or economic background is the “soma” used to sell this model to the public. As in Brave New World, people are told that the programming is for their own good, so that they can compete in the global economy of the 21st century.

Steeped in language of upward mobility and empowerment, rich liberals such as Bill Gates put billions into reassuring people that minority and poor children will receive the same consideration as the children of the rich. All children will begin equal in the race for the brass ring, ignoring the fact that, under this model there will always be only a few winners and that the Bill Gates’s of the world will not be sending their children to these the schools and – oh yes — the necessary funds are only available to those who go along with the program.

Instead of working for the collective good of all children, parents and teachers end up fighting each other for the limited number of slots available and available only to those who accept the corporate kool-aid.

An Educational Model for the “Savages.”

Instead of letting the multinational corporations define and use education to control the rest of us, what should education mean to those of us in the system? What is our view of the value of literacy and education? While education alone cannot create a more egalitarian and humane society, what kind of education can give us the tools to fight the domination of a corporate model that does not have our interests at heart? How can we develop the active critical thinking to question why some people have money and power and others don’t, why individualism and competition is better than cooperation and a collective approach, why teachers shouldn’t only teach to the test but include art, music, sports and literature? Finally, why our work is not valued on its usefulness to society as a whole but what will sell products? Radical education is not isolated from the real world, but is specifically designed to break the mold of top down education to empower students, parents and the community to act in our own self interest.

privatisingamericasschools_shrunk
from: http://www.otherwords.org/files/5038/school-privatization-cartoon.jpg?width=800

Challenging the “High Stakes” Testing Model (A Case Study)

Developing an understanding of how we “fight the power,” requires an understanding that for the power to be effective, it must be enforced. In this case, the corporate norms of capitalism are enforced through continual testing with punitive consequences should “the people” refuse to comply with this indoctrination. This continual testing is not only devastating to the mental health and learning process of young children, but as a method by which the state imposes its will on the people.

The following is what we hope will be the first in a series of diaries with a parent with a nine year old son in the New York City public education system. Diane Zavala’s son was subjected to the current version of “high stakes” testing personally. She is actively involved in educating the community about the consequences of high stakes testing and what can be done about it.

I see the role of parents in the current education reform as a critical one. For decades the policies of No Child Left Behind and now Obama’s Race to the Top, have obliterated the presence of parents from the equation. The tests have taken on their own omnipresence in the lives of teachers and students and are a core factor in schools.

“Changing” the system is still something many parents don’t grasp. Parents still see testing as a natural and appropriate part of education. Buzz words such as “accountability” “choice” and “achievement gap”are being used by the RTT advocates in a distorted way by plotting “Accountability” = bad teachers + “let’s get rid of them”. “Choice” = parents want to choose the best school for their children (i.e. charter schools that come in with disparate funding), This often or probably always pits one child against the other, one parent in a lottery against her neighbor. Children within the same school buildings don’t talk to each other because traditional public schools and the new privately sponsored Charter schools are co-located and the charters have the funds to have labs, music programs, libraries, and fancy technology while the zoned school is getting cuts to their budget. “Achievement gap” has come to mean that somehow the Black kids are behind and that what they should aspire is to be like the “white kids” who are the success, in and of itself a racist ideology. These are the core beliefs that we as parents and community members have to fight in order to shift the current direction of ed reform.

Another barrier for parents is the social and emotional concerns parents have over the consequences of resistance. If their child is to opt-out of the testing: will their child be teased by peers for not being part of the group? Will their teachers and principal single the child out and not support a parent’s decision by providing an alternative option during testing time?

For parents to question the value of testing is something that will require a major change of hearts and minds to accomplish. However, the momentum is growing as more parents experience different aspects of the Race to the Top agenda in their own families. Whether it be because:

- they see their child get left-back because s/he didn’t pass the ELA and or Math NYS exam,

- or because they notice that their child is anxious and stressed out about the tests,

- or because they see their favorite teacher replaced by a young, white-childless teacher product of Teach for America,[a conservative program, known for training teachers to educate to the new norms]

- or because they see their child’s school pushed into fewer, less desirable classrooms with larger numbers of students when it is co-located with another school, often a charter school that promoting the new test driven agenda,

- or because their child is “counseled out” of a school because s/he is not meeting the testing standards [and might make the school less competitive],

- or because they see special programs in their child’s school replaced with homework/test prep,

- or because the school they send their children to suddenly received an “F” and can potentially be closed before their second/third child ever attends.

For all these reasons and more, parents are noticing that there is something happening in education that does not fit the schema they have of what education “should” be. This becomes the catalyst for parents who see the need for a change in the system.

The Power of the Test

Parents are kept separate and in the dark about the tests, they are not given information and or asked for consent. Parents are told that the tests exist to prepare the children for college, but they are not told that the excessive emphasis on getting the grade on the test means there is a narrowing of curriculum to focus only on subjects that are tested and excluding subjects like social studies, art, music, technology, second language drama, etc. — all the subjects which make up a liberal arts education.

One role of the parent is to demand that parents be informed and consent be required for their children to participate in the testing, especially when consent is required for everything else from teaching health-education, to a student being photographed, school trips, and peanut allergies. In no other area does a school hold the ultimate decision, maybe in medical requirement of vaccines, but even here there is a way for parents to opt-out by claiming religious or medical exemptions. But even here, when parents comply with the vaccine requirement it is not like their child is taken into a doctor’s office and the parent is not allowed to know the vaccine their child is administered. If the tests are mandatory, then parents have a right to review the tests after the fact, but even this is denied by the current standard of practice for administering the tests. Currently there is a process whereby a parent can request access to see parts, but not all, of a child’s State exams; however, a Freedom of Information Law [FOIL]process is required in order to gain access and access is limited to the principal’s office, no photographs, or photocopying allowed, never mind it being a lengthy process.

This leads to the fact that students are being used as for-profit subjects for for-profit organizations who sample their testing material on the students without responding to an independent ethics committee to assess the impact of the testing on the students. Even when a parent decides to enroll their child in a study for scientific or educational purposes, the parent is given the right to opt-out at any point in the process without consequences. There is nothing that involves a minor in which the parent information and consent are denied, except in standardized, high-stakes testing used for purposes of “accountability” on the shoulders of an 8-year old on whose success lies the whole “national security” as it has been articulated by the likes of Joel Klein and Condoleezza Rice.

Parents are not only being kept in the dark about testing in the schools, but they are also held at the mercy of the privatization agenda by putting the fate of their child’s academic future on the test. Parents are in fear and feel disempowered by the current centralized educational system. There are many considerations parents need to make when confronted with the recognition that there is something not right happening and deciding that change is necessary and that they can be a part of the alternative.

As privatization of the whole educational system is slowly becoming a reality, the role of parents first and foremost in the current educational climate is for parents to unite and demand that their children not be used in this demented system of testing claiming to provide “accountability” and “choice”, which are “good” things, but that in essence are being used to destroy the teacher’s union as the last standing obstacle on the path of privatization. So parents should bear in mind that their civil rights are being violated in this current climate of education reform, and that they are being used to shift public education to the private sphere that has nothing to do with the well-being of children.
magicofschoolprivatization_edit
The current climate of testing creates a separation between all interested parties in education. When tests are administered, teachers are not allowed to assist a student, usually because the teacher did not design the test, so s/he doesn’t have knowledge of the test question, but it goes as extreme as not allowing a student a bag in the event of vomiting, which is known to have happened in extreme cases of testing anxiety and the teacher is not permitted to provide the student with a bag or a glass of water to assist the student. The administration guidelines prohibit the teacher from engaging with the student other than to proctor the exam by keeping time and by allowing the student required breaks if these are dictated by an Individualized Educational Plan. The alienation from the testing experience runs deep in severing the trust and established rapport a teacher has with his/her students and goes further into separating her from the parents and from the school community as a whole.

If parents can come together and refuse the testing, which is at the core of the privatization agenda, then the whole system of evaluating the teachers, producing the school report cards that leads schools to closure, implementation of charters, and the test-prep industry profiting off of the students will be disrupted. Parents need to see these connections and understand that their voice is critical in destabilizing this machine that will dismantle public education in our country.

Parents are not alone in their isolation from their children’s education and condition of fear of consequences for non-compliance, teachers are also alienated from each other, their union, their administrators, parents, and even from their students. Parents and teachers are often not allowed to share their personal opinions, but required to include the principal/supervisor when communicating with parents. Teachers are afraid for their own jobs, Even tenured teachers are harassed and given unfair evaluations and excessed from their buildings, which gives them a stigma for any future employment and professional growth.

Teachers are divided in two camps, those who were teaching before the days of “accountability” and those who were trained and hired to accept the notion that part of a teacher’s job is to closely analyze data to use to tailor instruction and to fear that if the student is not making quantifiable progress that the quality of her instruction is questionable.

The teachers teaching before the current emphasis on standardized testing are more likely to know that a student comes in many different forms and from many different backgrounds and circumstances that often are not reflected in the grades a student receives. There are those students who are natural test-takers and do well no matter what, and there are also those students who are intelligent, hard-working, creative, good writers, artists but who will not perform the part on a test, no matter the type. These teachers know that engaging instruction and monitoring growth at different points during a unit of study to tailor the instruction to the needs of the students means good teaching. However, with the emergence of NYC ’s Teaching Fellows and national programs like Teach for America, teachers are quickly being trained to administer tests, to follow standards, to analyze data, to keep pace with a dictated [top down] curriculum. They view their job as facilitators not instructors. The scripted curriculum, the national standards, and the standardized tests are the “real” education and they (the teachers)are mere facilitators or human factoids that implement the essential elements of education in the student.

What Is To Be Done?

In the current state of education, parents have been vanished from participation and their voices are ignored in favor of “professional” elected individuals. Often parents protest the closing of a school but will be ignored and the school gets closed. Parents need to be considered in the decision-making process at all levels starting from the classroom, the school, the community, and at the citywide level in order to have a push-back against this powerful train going determined to devastate education.

In the current climate, parents need solidarity with each other to share information and education and to make collective decisions. Parents cannot be pitted against one another because all parents want the best for their children and their schools. Parents need to have a presence in their children’s school be it through established forums or alternatives.

But even if parents participate in Student Leadership Teams [decision making bodies in a school that include parents, the parent organization, and school events], there is also a need to engage parents in an understanding of the structure and function of the citywide and regional administration that include the role of the Chancellor, the regional and district superintendent, learning support, the community school district superintendent, and district offices.

They need to know who makes decisions on charters, school closings, budgets, busing, special education, enrichment, after-school programs, school infrastructure, and resolutions passed by the district decision-making body that collects the concerns at the district level of schools to bring to the higher body for decisions.

The corporate powers that are implementing this system are afraid of the parents and have clearly used their power to encourage the development of school districts in which democratic input is limited; i.e., Bloomberg has usurped the public education system in New York City and is, in essence, the sole decider now in educational reform.

Reestablishing the role of parents and community control as a necessary component in education decisions at the district and regional level is critical. Parents have to get creative as to how this information can be transmitted to other parents [i.e., at a Saturday meeting which helps parents with their English and childcare is provided] There is also a need for grassroots educational organizations outside those within the system. And we don’t have to start from scratch. There is a long history of teaching black history in grassroots Freedom Schools established by SNCC activists in the South during the Civil Rights Movement. This concept continues today in occasional day long boycotts of inner city schools to provide grassroots black history workshops to protest the lack or distortion of black history in the official school curricula. La Raza, a Chicano organization instrumental in the 1960s, is once again organizing the community in the Southwest in the fight to keep bilingual education.

The strategy of focusing on the testing industry as the nexus where students, parent and teacher interests meet could also be the focus of a campaign of escalating protests and civil disobedience. Change the Stakes is a grassroots organization with a membership of about 20 core members who are parents, teachers, former parents or teachers, and professors who share an understanding that high-stakes testing is deforming the quality of education and are dedicated to resisting the use of standardized tests to evaluate students, teachers, and schools.

Change the Stakes (CTS) has organized successful actions (including civil disobedience)against stand-alone field tests administered to the elementary school students for the purpose of sampling questions by the for-profit organization Pearson Inc. to use in future exams.

Parents in CTS also opted their children out of the Spring exams this year. Their act of civil disobedience has gained strength and support with over 2,000 signatures of parents and teachers who support opting-out of testing. The Opt-Out petition has also spawned other testing resolutions including a Principal petition to not administer the tests and a Professor petition to not use the new “accountability” language in their teacher-training curriculum. CTS is leading the way in advocacy against high-stakes testing and the misuse of tests for other purposes not intended such as value-added performance equivalents to measure teacher quality and to create school progress reports.

CTS is pushing for a non-punitive alternative for parents to opt-out of high-stakes testing as these are developmentally inappropriate for children. CTS is an outgrowth of the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) which created a committee to examine the role of testing in education and has grown to become its own entity but continues to work closely with teachers and teacher issues.

It is CTS’s view that the teacher’s working conditions are the student’s learning conditions and these cannot be separate. What is good for the students is good for the teachers: class size, standardize testing, co-locations, school closures are not good for teachers and these are issues of concern to CTS.

from Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, Chapt 2:

“At the end of the room a loud speaker projected from the wall. The Director walked up to it and pressed a switch.
“… all wear green,” said a soft but very distinct voice “and Delta Children wear khaki. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They’re too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I’m so glad I’m a Beta.”

There was a pause; then the voice began again.

“Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they’re so frightfully clever. I’m really awfully glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They’re too stupid to be able …”
The Director pushed back the switch. “They’ll have that repeated forty or fifty times more before they wake; then again on Thursday, and again on Saturday. A hundred and twenty times three times a week for thirty months. After which they go on to a more advanced lesson.”

Till at last the child’s mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child’s mind. And not the child’s mind only. The adult’s mind too—all his life long. The mind that judges and desires and decides—made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions! ”

One Economy under God by T’Pau

4:20 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Has it occurred to you how strange it is that your job can slip across international boundaries, but you are prohibited from crossing the same border to follow that job? It should.

Multinational Corporations have been busy for the last twenty years creating a new type of serf. In feudal Europe and Asia, serfs were tied to the land by a master, called the lord, and obligated to work for him. Now, the 1% are creating serfs out of whole nations of people. Sure, those lands are huge—nations—but they are still boundaries that bind you, and prevent you for selling your work freely, while multinational corporations are borderless entities.

Seeking to continue the tail spin to the bottom of wages, big business has been busy writing international treaties, allowing jobs to shift to ever lower paying environments with the least protections for workers. Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam are already involved in the latest negotiations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If signed the treaty will be a “docking agreement” open to any country to sign later. Canada and Mexico are expected to join this month. Japan and China are being courted to join. It is the largest trade agreement the world has ever seen.

The treaty creates an über-government superseding and overriding existing law in sovereign nations–seeking to stamp out democracy. In old feudalism, it was the Catholic church that held dominion over the nations of man. Now “the market” has taken the place of God. Profits are all that matters. Anything the market endorses is right because the market is infallible, unchallengeable. Keep democracy out of it.

The powerful and wealthy have finally found a way to regain the power they once held in feudal times. They have done it in ways intentionally hidden from the majority. Most of us don’t even realize we are in a battle for the type of global governance we will have in the future. For the last 50 years corporate leadership have simply bought our democracies and media outlets, making it easy for corporations to gain the upper hand, and convince voters to support governance that is secretive and totalitarian, without letting voters know they are doing so. Now the 1% want to solidify that power into an actual international treaty. They are seeking one economy under the rule of American corporations. They are, in fact, seeking world dominion.

The Cost of NAFTA

In 1993, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was sold to the American public with grand promises. NAFTA would create tens of
thousands of good jobs here. U.S. farmers would export their way to
wealth. NAFTA would bring Mexico’s standard of living up, providing
new economic opportunities there that would reduce immigration to the
U.S.–Public Citizen

NAFTA was the opening salvo for the economy of outsourcing. Instead of focusing on reducing tariffs and trade quotas, NAFTA was a new breed of trade agreements. It protected the rights of foreign investors—even over the rights of the people in democratic countries.

Now, 19 years after NAFTA, most of us can clearly see the benefits touted to the
American worker never materialized. Instead of creating jobs, free trade agreements slashed wages and jobs on both sides of national borders. Investors used NAFTA’s new protections to move US operations to Mexico, where wages were lower and regulations lax. This skyrocketed the US trade deficit and unemployment. Since NAFTA, one in four manufacturing jobs in the US has eroded away, more than a million jobs lost.

Even for the jobs left in the US, the race to the bottom was on. The workers, who still had jobs, felt pressure from the growing number of jobless to accept poorer benefits and, finally, lower wages. NAFTA gutted worker unions, leaving workers without protections from downward pressure on their wages. Decreased income, means decreased tax base, and decreased ability to pay mortgage payments, adding fuel to the housing crisis. This deprived state funded social services, like schools and road repair, eroding local safety nets just when people needed them most.At the same time NAFTA allowed companies to off shored their production, it also allowed those same companies to bring goods and services back into the US duty (tariff) free–thus the “free” in free trade. The end result was increased worker productivity that was rewarded with lower wages, no safety net, and a smaller share of the wealth of the nation, resulting in the redistribution of wealth to the upper 1%. The pro-NAFTA Peterson Institute for International Economics estimated that 39% of the wage inequity that developed during this time was due to trends in international trade. Even with the cheaper goods on Walmart shelves, US workers are worse off with the wage decreases they have suffered.

Bad for American workers, the agreement was a disaster for Latin Americans. NAFTA duped Mexico, the same way Walmart duped the rest of America. It promised more jobs to Latin American countries if they would give foreign investors a tax break. Local businesses were put at an economic disadvantage by this unequal taxation. Instead of bringing new jobs, foreign corporations merely shifted jobs from local companies to foreign companies. This lead to a large share of profits going off shore, destabilizing Latin American economies. Additionally, NAFTA was used to extract $325 million from member countries in tribunals that overturned already frail environmental laws and labor protections.

Mexican markets were flooded with US taxpayer subsidized corn and wheat products. The subsidized products were priced below what it costs to actually grow these commodities due to the US tax money given to industrial producers of wheat and corn. The price paid for a bushel of corn to a small Mexican farmer, campesino, fell by 50%. Yet the price of tortillas actually increased 279%, leading to food riots in Mexico. The real value of Mexican minimum wage fell by 20%, and the number of families in need of food assistance increased by 50%. Yet, every attempt the Mexican government made to preserve jobs was met with judicial challenges by corporations whose investors are “wronged” by such favoritism of the government. Mexico is now on the verge of becoming a failed state. Migration to the north, due to this social collapse, increased 60% in the years after NAFTA. The massive influx of Latin American workers into the US (undocumented workers up 185%) cycled around to put further downward pressure on US worker wages.

Public Citizen: NAFTA’s Broken Promises

Obama and Free Trade

Leaked drafts of the agreement “sent shock waves through Congress because it showed that U.S. negotiators had totally abandoned Obama’s campaign pledges to replace the old NAFTA trade model and in fact were doubling down and expanding the very Bush-style deal that Obama campaigned against in 2008 to win key swing states.” –Lori Wallach, Public Citizen Global Trade Watch

Obama campaigned against NAFTA and used his stance on NAFTA in his bid for the presidency in 2008, saying it was time to rewrite our trade agreements to something that would create jobs. After his election, he dusted off the free trade deals, Bush could not get through Congress, and became their champion.

Obama also called for congressional passage of three controversial free trade pacts, stating “It’s time to clear the way for a series of trade agreements that would make it easier for American companies to sell their products in Panama, Colombia and South Korea.” –Between the Lines

All these deals made it past the Republican dominated Congress. Obama even touted this as a success in the recent debates. Despite his assertion that the deals bolstered US exports, the governments own figures show a widening of the trade deficit by 29% over 2011 levels, dragging down jobs with it. Estimates are that 50,000 jobs were lost in the first few
months of the trade deals. The promised controls over laws in South America have not materialized either—Panama is still a tax haven and Columbia is still the most dangerous place in the world to be a labor leader.

AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka, has warned that a free trade agreement with South Korea will cost U.S. workers 159,000 jobs, while a deal with Colombia will cost 54,000 jobs. — Between the Lines

After the election, Obama called for a stop to Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations for a “period of reflection.” That reflection never came. The negotiations continued, and Obama’s stance shifted, possibly due to worsening recession—with the thought that the trade agreement would increase jobs. This is nonsense, of course, but many of his advisers supported NAFTA in the Clinton era.

CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins said, “The TPP is shaping up to become one of the biggest and most destructive trade agreements because it could lead to even more offshoring of our manufacturing and service sector jobs, downward pressure on wages and benefits, and the subversion of our labor rights and environmental protections. But the public is unaware that the TPP even exists because negotiators are keeping their proposals hidden. Americans deserve the right to know what’s being proposed in our names.” –Communications Workers of America


At the time that NAFTA was being negotiated, the full text of the agreement was available on line. This led to a firestorm of controversy—not that the demonstrations against NAFTA had any effect. The agreement was still passed by the Clinton administration.

With NAFTA, jobs went to lower paid Mexico. Other free trade agreements saw jobs flee from Mexico to China. Now, big business feels Chinese workers are being paid too much and have too many protections! They want to move jobs to Vietnam and Malaysia. Labor unions and opposition political parities are illegal in Vietnam
making it the new bottom for low paid, exploited workers.

ACLU has called TPP one of the biggest threats to free speech that nobody knows about. Almost every environmental group and most worker unions have come out against the agreement. Even the Tea Pary is largely against both NAFTA and TPP. Unfortunately, Tea Party candidates usually vote for free trade once in
Congress.

Globalization leaders apparently learned a lesson from their ordeal with NAFTA. While Obama’s trade negotiator, Ron Kirk, called the TPP negotiations “the most engaged and transparent process [possible].”–Public Citizen the truth is self evident. TPP is being negotiated behind closed doors since 2008. (That’s right in the middle of the financial crisis that NAFTA helped to create, the Bush administration opened up another chapter of globalization in secret. Color me surprised.)

None of the text of this agreement is available for the press, Congress, or the peoples of the world who will labor under the treaty. When Sen Ron Wyden, on both the Budget and Finance Committees, requested to read the agreement, he was told
it would not be available in the Congressional reading room, where secret
documents are kept, but he would have to go to the negotiations without staff, paper or pen, in order to read the text.

The secrecy surrounding the negotiations is breathtaking. In July, 134 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk requesting that the appropriate congressional committees be consulted and that a draft of the text be released. The members reminded Kirk that draft texts were circulated and congressional committees consulted throughout the NAFTA negotiations in the early 1990s. Their letter received no response. A month later, House members petitioned Kirk to allow a congressional delegation to observe the negotiations—as in the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the launch of the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization, and numerous NAFTA rounds. Despite its persistence, Congress has not been granted any significant oversight or insight regarding the
negotiations.–Foreign Policy in Focus

A quarter million signatures on petitions were turned in to the US trade representative asking for the text to be released. The only response from the negotiators was to accelerate the timetable for the process so the deal can be signed before public outcry can be obtained.

The schedule for negotiation has recently accelerated in order to bring the agreement to a close. The process has become more and more closed—stakeholder forums, which were more common toward the beginning of the process, have now been replaced with “stakeholder tables” – a table staffed by interested stakeholders to which negotiators may or may not go. The negotiators are also holding off-the-record “intersessional” meetings between official sessions. Public Knowledge

Currently the text is not to be release to Congress or the public until the negotiations are complete. Congress will be asked to ratify it after a brief time for the public to comment on the deal. Of course, the public will need to comment on it after a near complete media blackout. Proposals that lead up to the final agreement would not be available until four years after it is signed.

Yet, 600 corporate “advisers” from companies like Wal-Mart, Cargill, Halliburton, Dow Chemical, and led by General Electric, the US corporation that prides itself in pioneering outsourcing, have direct access to the US trade negotiator. It is actually US law that the US trade rep consult with corporate leaders before, during, and after the writing of a trade agreement. The corporate leadership gets to red line any part of this agreement before Congress and the rest of us get a chance to even see it.

Springing a Leak

All the concerns about NAFTA and jobs and trade deficits are amplified in the TPP. Asia, unlike South America, is a hub of technology. Green jobs and high tech
jobs promised in the presidential campaign will go overseas to Asia under this
agreement.

Luckily, the secrecy has been rather leaky. Three sections of the draft have been leaked to the public so far. What has emerged is NAFTA on steroids, with even more
draconian provisions by corporations to overturn democracy and national sovereignty. Only 3 of the 26 chapters of the agreement deal with trade. The other 23 chapters are a dream sheet of corporate hegemony.

1. A Gift for Big Pharma:

The agreement increases the number of years a pharmaceutical company has a monopoly over a drug, beyond the twenty years that already applies in the US. It would broaden the scope of patents, making even minor variations of an old medication patentable, while making it harder to challenge a patent. Finally, it would demand that patents be allowed on plants, animals and surgical procedures.

Developing nations would be prevented from using generics before drug monopolies ended. TPP would negatively impact the number of patients getting compassionate AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria therapy. The first round of generic treatments for patients with HIV in poor nations brought the price per patient from $10,000 to $120.

Just because Britain was such a smarty-pants about your public health care system at the Olympics, the US trade negotiator is pushing several clauses to prevent governments from using formularies to reduce prices for medications, considered a form of price fixing here in the Pharma-friendly US. Of course, most other countries use formularies to keep prices low. TPP would force countries to have a judicial appeal system for pharmaceuticals to make sure governments “appropriately recognize the value” of various drugs. In Australia, where such a system has been implemented, the result was predictably higher drug costs.
Public Citizen, Citizen Trade

“The leaked text confirms the worst fears of health officials.
The Obama White House is walking back the core concessions on patent
extensions, patent linkage and test data protection that were
negotiated with the Bush White House in May 2007. Obama is now
objectively much worse than Bush on these issues. It may help
the White House raise campaign money from big drug companies, or help
USTR officials find their next high paying job working as lobbyists
for the drug companies. It is a huge disappointment for us.
The texts cover complex issues, and it is hard to summarize all that
is important. Even as regards to the reference to the WTO Doha
Agreement, the White House tries to sneak in text that makes it
appear as though it is limited to only some diseases or emergencies.
Collectively, the provisions are designed to strengthen IPR
monopolies on drugs, and make it harder to regulate prices. The
consequences of stronger monopolies and higher prices are less access
to medicine.”— James Love, Knowledge Ecology International

Don’t be fooled here. Obama is touting increased access. “Increasing access” means new drugs get to market faster and drug companies have access to more markets. What we need is not access to medications, but affordable medications.

“The leaked draft intellectual property proposals by the United States for the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement have confirmed our fears that the Obama administration is walking away from previous efforts to ensure that developing countries can access affordable medicines, setting a dangerous new standard that will likely be replicated in future trade agreements with developing nations. The administration is touting a so-called ‘access window’ as a mechanism to boost access to medicines. In fact, the administration is confusing access with affordability. The ‘access window’ is all about getting brand-name drugs to market faster, and giving their producers longer monopoly rights that prevent price-lowering competition and keeping medicines out of the hands of the millions of people who need them. Our doctors who work across the developing world rely on affordable generic medicines to trade patients. For example, competition among generic manufacturers is what brought down drug prices for HIV/AIDS by 99 percent, from US$10,000 per person per year to roughly $100 today. Trade agreements of the type being pushed this week in Peru threaten these types of crucial gains in access to life-saving medicines.”— Judit Rius Sanjuan, Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders

2. Gutting Worker and Environmental Protections at the Global Level:

. . . negotiations thus far have given corporations the right to avoid government review when acquiring land, natural resources, or factories. They have also banned corporate performance requirements, guaranteed compensation
for the loss of “‘expected future profits’ from health, labor, [or] environmental” regulations, and included stunning provisions concerning the right to “move capital without limits.” If these are indeed terms of the TPP, then the agreement would make it nearly impossible for countries to hold corporations accountable for their conduct—and would in fact hold governments liable for any “damage” incurred by corporations due to the institution of regulations.–Foreign Policy in Focus


TPP has a rewrite of NAFTA’s “Investor State Section.” Corporations can sue governments directly for violations of their investor’s rights and for projected loss of profits due to democratically passed laws. They do this, not in an impartial international court, but in a tribunal set up with corporate interests in mind, called an “investor-state dispute settlement mechanism.” If the democratic laws of a nation are found to be in conflict with the trade agreement, the trade agreement wins. Corporations can demand taxpayer money to replace predicted future profits not realized due to a nation’s laws. Multinationals already did this in Guatamla Peru, El Salvador, Ecuador and the US. In the US portions of the Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammals Protection Act have all been rolled back under similar agreements. That is why you don’t see dolphin free tuna any more. In fact over $325 million have been extracted already just from countries involved in NAFTA via such a tribunal.–Counterpoint, Public Citizen, Citizen Trade

So far, Australia stands alone in resisting this part of the TPP agreement. Kudos to
the Kiwis.

The provisions undo laws that force exports to be manufactured into some sort of
commodity, making “rip and ship” economies more likely. Current laws in developing nations prohibit raw materials, like logs, from leaving the country. They force exporters to make raw materials into a commodity, like boards, so they support local manufacturing economies. These laws would be undercut, allowing foreign corporations to come into a country, and take the raw materials for export at an inexpensive price, increasing mining or drilling in less developed nations by the cheapest way possible, without regard for the local people or the environmental destruction. The acquired raw materials are shipped to the Western world at a lower financial cost, but a much higher environmental and social cost. Citizen Trade

3. Capital Controls Overturned

After the banking crisis, some countries did re-regulate banks. Countries which instituted such capital controls could be taken to court by private corporations and could be held liable for damages. Limits on the size and scope of financial institutions (too big to fail laws) would be outlawed, reducing the regulation of hedge funds and insurance companies.–Foreign Policy in Focus, Public CitizenCitizen Trade

4. Public Safety Sacrificed

Countries would be forced to import food that does not meet their minimal safety requirements. The pact would mandate “scientifically justifiable” safety laws, which would undercut any “precautionary principle” for putting new pesticides and other chemicals into the environment. In other words, you would have to provethat a new or current chemical, food additive, genetically modified food caused cancer or some other harm before it could be restricted or removed from your countries shelves.

Additionally, US subsidized corn, soy, cotton, wheat and rice would be dumped on the poorer countries, driving out their family farms. This works to condense the owners of the global food supply into fewer and fewer hands. (Anyone read The Wind Up Girl?) –Public Citizen, CitizenTrade

5. Copyright Use

The draft strengthens copyright to the point of the ridiculous. “Fair use” laws that allow limited copies at libraries and for educational purposes (including the
block quotes commonly seen on blogs) could be abandoned.–Public Knowledge

6. Public Procurement Provisions:

The agreement provides companies greater access to government contracts. This would prevent local governments from favoring local businesses to keep taxpayer dollars in the local economy. It also prevents local governments from spending money preferentially on businesses that do not pollute their environment, advance social goals, or have good human rights records.–Citizen Trade

These represent roll backs of legislation won during the Bush era, making Obama actually worse than Bush on these issues. TPP is being called a trade agreement, but most of the agreement is granting business new privileges over nations and democracies. Collectively this agreement represents big businesses interest in domination of world governments and the end of democracy.

Citizen Trade
Citzens Trade Campaign
Transnational Capitalist Class (i.e. the 0.0001%)
Between the Lines Audio with Ben Beachy
Counterpoint audio with Arthur Stamoulis
Eyes on Trade
What Corporations are Seeking from the Deal
Sign the Petition to tell Obama you want to see the text of the agreement
Donate to reward offered by Wikileaks for leaks of the Agreements drafts

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Obama Privatizes Public Schools: Out Of The Frying Pan Into The Fire by Geminijen

3:00 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

The battle to privatize education as part of the neoliberal shock doctrine is in full swing–on one side we have a rank and file movement of public school K-12 educators and parents mobilized by the Chicago teachers’ strike trying to save the teachers unions and neighborhood schools — on the other side we have the “educational reform” agenda using the full power of Obama’s “Race to the Top” (RTTT) policy which uses government funding to force the closure of “nonfunctioning” public schools and replace them with privately run “Charter” Schools .

This article will briefly outline some of the current issues and battles surrounding privatization. Much of the information was taken from Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and Liberation, edited by Jeff Bale and Sarah Knopp and Grassroots Educational Movement (New York), Chicago; also: gemnyc@gmail.com. Next month we will take up solutions from a Marxist perspective.

Who Are the Culprits? Education is a particularly vulnerable part of the privatization agenda because the mainstream folks that are supposed to be on the “right” side in this struggle (who at least nominally support unions, social security, medicare, etc.) have jumped ship and are actively supporting privatization.

privatisingamericasschools_shrunk
from: http://www.otherwords.org/files/5038/school-privatization-cartoon.jpg?width=800

This certainly includes the Obama/Gates/Duncan triumvirate which has trumpeted the success of its “Race to the Top” (RTTT) policy as educators, individual teachers and students are forced to compete for federal funds by implementing a policy which has resulted in thousands of public schools closures and the implementation of a publicly funded/privately run school model.

Behind the scenes, our most wealthy & influential capitalists such as Bill Gates and the Walton Family are using their combined $30 billion dollars in capital to mold the educational program into a corporate model, with little or no accountability to the general public or the parents.

The media has jumped into the fray with movies which demonize public school teachers (“Waiting for Superman” and “We Won’t Back Down” starring celebrities like Viola Davis). MSNBC recently aired a six hour discussion called Education Nation which put the Educational Reform agenda front and center as the possible answer to all our woes from saving our children to saving our financial system and saving the American Way of Life.

Al Sharpton as a spokesperson for a large section of the black community has travelled the country with Newt Gingrich (!!!) promoting this educational reform agenda.

And it includes many middle class white liberals and “progressives” who are all for a government social agenda — except when it comes to the education of their own children where they tend to run away to the all white schools in the suburbs, homeschooling, alternative schools or private or charter schools.

The Role of Education in a Capitalist Society. The public school agenda to educate our entire populace has been touted as one of the crowning achievements of US democracy. It attracted and still attracts immigrants from all over the world with the promise of free education and upward mobility. While this agenda is one of the real advantages our society has inadvertently offered its citizenry, it was not then nor is it now the real agenda of education. From a Marxist point of view, education, as a part of the economic superstructure, has always been used to benefit the capitalist class and impose the values of capitalist ideology. In the 1800s, when the US capitalists needed more educated labor as we switched from a farming to an industrial economy, capitalists encouraged mass public education to provide the factory owners with the future workers they would need. This educational model was top down, authoritarian, teaching workers external disciplines such as working on a time clock and to accept the information they were being taught without question. The perfect model to get industrial factory workers to obey their bosses.

The decline of the US public schools in the current period began in the 1970s with the globalization of Capitalism and, interacted with the racist legacy of slavery after we failed to fully integrate our society and schools following the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

As globalization has made it increasingly advantageous for capitalists to take their business abroad and outsource their work for cheap labor, the need for workers in this country is becoming more and more obsolete. The capitalist class is no longer willing to support universal public education and has begun a half underground/half overt campaign to end public education as we know it by starving the public schools of funding and resources and shifting its support to a “corporate market model” of education better suited to the “flexible needs of 21st century global capitalism” (per Bill Clinton).

Under the new public/private, for-profit school model, the focus has shifted to a market approach where education is no longer promoted as a public good but an individual choice where educational consumers (children) now become customers of a product (education) at which the corporations can make a profit. While the ideology of the corporate model still mouths the ideology that “No Child Will Be Left Behind,” by presenting students with “a variety of educational choices” in the market, it does not take into account the underlying social inequities of class, race and sex and assumes all students come “equal to the market place.”

The problems of globalization are piled on top of the other major legacy which has created huge inequities and divisions in the working class and, consequently, in public schools — the legacy of racism. For centuries the history of slavery and legal segregation divided the working class. Unions were mainly white (and male), women and people of color could not buy property (houses) in many states, and jobs and schools were restricted or segregated. Efforts of the civil rights movement of the 60′s to integrate white and black US citizens and other minority groups to overcome class, race and cultural differences were only partially successful.

There was a brief period of integration in the 60s and early 70s, when supported by funding from the government’s Great Society poverty programs, the achievement gap between black and white students actually did narrow. However, the backlash toward individualism and a conservative social agenda in the 1980s ended that forward movement in the schools. With white middle class parents fleeing to well-funded all white suburban schools, urban schools have become even more segregated today than they were thirty years ago.

This has given the cities more incentive to cut corners in the urban schools since the populations that are left –lower middle class, the working poor, children of color, disabled students, new immigrants– have very little political power to demand a seat at the table. The teachers’ unions have been one of the few effective voices in getting issues like smaller classes, more innovative programming and enrichment programs addressed.

However, since teachers are mainly white in urban schools where the student populations are predominantly black or Latino, the degree of mistrust of parents of color toward the school system and the degree of mistrust of teachers toward their students often remains very high. While there are many exceptions, since most teachers do not live in the area or send their children to the schools they teach in, there is often a failure on the part of teachers to understand and respect the differences in culture, knowledge and experience of the communities that their students come from.

One of the most egregious examples of racial conflict in the school system was the 1970s strike in New York City where predominantly white unionized teachers failed to support the black community in the Ocean Hills-Brownsville area who were demanding parental control of schools.

The new grassroots movement in Chicago and elsewhere, has overcome some of these problems since there is black leadership in their union movement. In one of the most radical moves which Rob Emmanuel and Duncan (Obama’s education gurus) are fighting tooth and nail is the establishment of local school councils in the Chicago schools which have a high percentage of low income parents and women of color in elected leadership positions.

The Role of Charter Schools.

Charter Schools were originally marketed as a limited alternative to traditional schools where outside groups – nonprofits, private corporations, universities, interested community groups — would “partner” with a public school. The public schools would provide the funding and the outside group would govern the school. It was felt the outside group, often a private for-profit business, would bring “creativity,” “choice”, money and resources, to experiment with new models that were freed from the bureaucratic control of the government. Moreover, it was supposed to be geared to helping disadvantaged students enter the mainstream.

From the 1990s to 2010 the number of Charter Schools grew from a handful of schools to some 4,600 enrolling 1.4 million children nationwide, about a quarter of which are run by private for-profit Companies. Although this increase was due in part to parents frustrations with dysfunctional public schools, it was primarily do to Obama’s major educational policy, “Race to the Top” which requires schools around the country to compete for educational funding which they can only get by increasing the number of Charter Schools and closing “nonfunctioning” public schools.

In the beginning, some well meaning liberals (including the United Federation of Teachers in New York City) supported this idea. In reality, the movement allowed private organizations and for-profit businesses to use public space and tax payer funds, free of charge & with little accountability for the day to day administration of the schools and control of the schools’ message. The only measure of success has been the improvement of students’ standardized test scores. Instead of freeing schools from government bureaucracy, the private sector (particularly private enterprises) have taken on an increasingly close partnership with the government to promote the neoliberal agenda and further their own corporate interests.

The neoliberal agenda in the educational reform movement can be seen in five specific features:

1) The use of austerity measures imposed after the 2008 financial meltdown to make working people pay for the economic crisis. In education over 350,000 teachers have been laid off, thousands of schools have been closed. The included the intentional effort to break the teacher’s union and establish non-union schools to cut labor costs.

2) The increased stratification of the educational population, separating out a minority of elite youth being prepared for the white collar knowledge economy in a few, select, Charter Schools, while investing as little as possible in the education of everyone else. Indeed, the name of Obama’s policy, “Race to the Top” expresses this idea quite clearly. This agenda is often clothed in the talk of “School Choice” which sounds like a very liberating option to many of us, but has consistently ended up in increased stratification where we cannot be sure that our children will not end up on the bottom.

3) Increased social control and an ideological shift from education as a social institution for the public good to a model of Ayn Rand “individualism.” The ideological emphasis on education as the means to survival in the “new economy” increases the competitiveness not only among educational institutions, but among teachers (who are now evaluated individually on the test performance of their students), and the students themselves.

The current trend is to shift the dialogue from equity and a basic education for all citizens to one of education as each person’s individual responsibility. Put into a corporate business model, the student becomes the consumer of the product, a product which they must acquire if they are to succeed in 21st century capitalism. The degree to which we succeed or fail, however does not take into account the larger society questions of poverty, sexism and racism as factors in educational outcomes, but simple talks about the “achievement gap” in certain populations and how we can make it up “individually.”

4) The privatization of the remaining public assets of this country. This is clearly advocated in the Race to the Top (RTTT) policy which will not award any money to a school district unless it increases its number of charter schools. Textbooks and testing companies and other subsidiary forces have also profited from privatization.

5) Following a corporate model, the neoliberal model promotes the centralization of power to one centralized body or one person such as a mayor or a state appointed overseer). In the educational system this means eliminating local, democratic parental/classroom teacher control. As Bill Gates notes “The cities where our foundation has put the most money is where there is a single person responsible.”

The Success (or Lack Thereof) of the Privatization/Charter School Movement.

While the financial incentives of the RTTT program have had a lot to do with the explosion of Charter Schools, the already decimated and many dysfunctional traditional public schools, especially in the inner cities where the poorer and more disadvantaged population have essentially been left to fend for themselves, added another incentive.

Most parents were looking for a “good educational experience” for their children. Many parents in the black community were looking to form schools that would safeguard their children against the racism in the traditional public schools. Any many of the white middle class parents were looking to find schools where they would be assured that their children would be in classrooms where they would not feel “different” (read what you want). In both cases, parents were seeking to protect their children by opting out of the community, leaving others behind.

Unlike traditional public schools which have a commitment to provide a basic education to all students, most Charter Schools, in an effort to raise the standardized test scores (the main criteria used to evaluate their success and subsequent funding ) have managed to avoid populations who do not test well by writing their Charters to exclude these populations. Students with limited English won’t be able to attend a school that does not provide bilingual or ESL classes; students with disabilities will be excluded if there are no special education programs. The students with the least support from home will be excluded if the charter is written to require parental involvement and the child’s parents work two jobs and can’t participate.

When these measures fail (i.e., a percentage of the students are selected by lottery), the Charters have developed a strategy of “attrition” where they “counsel out” students who seem “inappropriate” for the school. As one student who was “counseled out” put it, using the new corporate language of the Charter Schools, “I got fired.”

The two for-profit Charter School networks who received the highest rates of excellence this year, KIPP and Democracy Prep, have a reputation for very high attrition rates. These schools received ratings between 89-95% and will receive 9 billion dollars that would have gone to traditional public schools. Moreover, there are, apparently, still 5% of public schools that rated higher –but that are not eligible for any of this money since RTTT requires that you only get the money by increasing the number of Charter Schools.

Photobucket
from: http://larrycuban.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/futureschoolreforms.gif

Even given the “policy” advantages. increased resources and populations which have selected out the potentially most “successful” students, the overall record of Charter Schools, has not lived up to its promotion.

A national 2003 study by the Dept of Education under George Bush showed that, using the limited criteria of standardized test scores, the Charter Schools, did no better on average than public schools. The study was suppressed because it did reach the desired conclusions. A 2009 study by Stanford economists which included 70% of all Charter School students, found an astonishing 83% of the Charter Schools are no better and often worse than other Public Schools serving similar populations. Indeed, bad Charter Schools outnumbered good Charter Schools by a ratio of two to one.

The reasons for the low performance of Charter Schools are multiple, but one significant finding shows that for-profit schools tend to increase the ratio of students to teachers in an effort to increase profit (since schools are paid by the state on a per pupil basis). In Ohio, where half the charters are for profit, educational results lag significantly behind mainstream public schools (8% excellence to 63%, respectively). Since the implicit goal of the Charter School movement is to remain non-union to keep costs down, Charters generally have less experienced lower paid teachers with a significantly higher rate of turnover, again lowering the educational outcome.

Another outcome is the greater racial segregation of students in the Charter movement than in public schools, even though public school segregation has also been increasing. Studies attribute this to the “Choice” model. Wherever school choice, is included, there is greater stratification and racial segregation.

But the real tragedy of the charter school movement is that it is intended to serve only a small percentage of students, draining and debilitating the general public school population both financially and in terms of high achieving students.

Moreover, the closing of public schools has caused great hardship for students who must relocate when their schools close– especially if they have to take two buses and a train to school each day, adding an hour each way to their school day. If both parents work, this sometimes provides extra stress in how to get your children to school when the parents can’t take them. Often older siblings are late to their own classes because they have to drop off younger brothers and sisters before they can go to their school.

Since Charter Schools often co-locate in public school space, that space is no longer available to the general student population. In one school in Brooklyn, a for- profit Charter School owned by a hedge fund billionaire pushed the students who had previously been in that space into classrooms in the basement, next to the boiler room. The billionaire, who planned to make a profit off the school, did not pay one cent to rent the space in the public school that had been paid for by taxpayer money.

As Jitu Brown explained in “Rethinking Schools,”for affected communities, [the charter school movement] has been traumatic, largely ineffective, and destabilizing to communities owed a significant educational debt due to decades of being under-served.

How Can We Get Educational Equity in a Capitalist system?

brokenladder-shrunk from:
http://www.otherwords.org/files/5271/broken-ladder-economic-immobility-cartoon.JPG?width=800

Capitalists will tell you that you can get equal opportunity and upward mobility (which reflects the “Race to the Top” model) but it implicitly only works for a few. Besides, the US now offers less upward mobility than any other industrialized country. So you can take your chances on escaping the worst excesses of capitalism for your child — but it is a risk.

Marxists will tell you, you can’t. That the educational system is only a reflection of the larger economic relations and there will be no meaningful reform of education without connecting this struggle to the larger movements for social justice in society (how you bring the classroom struggles to the social movements and how to bring the movement into the classroom. This follows a “we’re all in the same boat” philosophy and also has its risks, but at least you’ve got a lot more progressive friends in the boat with you. So, what are our real options for our children and our society? Stay tuned to next month’s article on some revolutionary ideas for real educational change.