Archive for the ‘Obama’ Category

A friend at a mid-size, private, second-tier university recently posted this lament,

“When I started speaking out aggressively in defense of public school teachers eight years ago, based on what I saw in the Bronx where school closings, uncontrolled testing and the demonization of teachers was squeezing creativity out of the schools, I knew, in theory, that professors would eventually become a target of similar policies, but I didn’t think Fordham would be one of those places where the attack took place. Well, I was wrong Fordham’s attempts to resist unionization of adjuncts and decimate the health care benefits of tenure track faculty should be a wake up call for anyone who still believes they are protected by ” the Ivy Tower.”. Any college professor who thinks that efforts to destabilize public education and de professionalize public education has nothing to do with them needs to wake up and smell the cappuchino. Every attack on the autonomy, living standards, health benefits and pensions of public school teachers is going to eventually come home to the universities. For college professors, whether adjuncts or tenure track, there is “Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide” They came for the public school teachers. Now they are coming for you…”

Teachers and professors have to be worried. The corporatization, automation, and austerity budgeting of the teaching professor is taking steam. Eventually, no teacher except for those at the very elite schools will be spared. But it’s important to know why these things are happening. I believe the reason is not that administrators are crass, bureaucratic, authoritarian fools. They may very well be some or all of these things. But the major reason for this attempt to radically reshape education comes from the contradictions of capitalist production.

Education is becoming unmoored from national capitalist economies. A trained, skilled, and professional workforce is becoming a far less important concern for individual nation-states. If our corporations need computer coders, they can find them in India and Africa for far lower wages. If they need sports news writers, they can get good results by sending, through the Internet, the bare facts of the sports event to a writer in Ireland who shapes it into a story worth printing. And that Irish reporter is paid less too.

Education has become unmoored from national economic needs. It used to be that the titans of industry in the U.S. believed it was in their economic interest to make sure that American workers were better educated. Thus philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie contributed to the expansion of public libraries begun by towns and labor groups as a way of educating the public. But today, there are few business leaders who have devoted their wealth to such broad educational purposes, in this country. And both conservatives and liberals seem determined to radically transform education in a way that makes it less educational and less expensive.

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There is a lot of misinformation out there. I actually teach this stuff and know what the facts are. You can google my points below:
1. The flow of undocumented workers has been from and not to the U.S. since 2005. Thus, building or making the border more ‘secure,’ something that is impossible anyway, would actually keep the undocumented from leaving the U.S.
2. Obama has deported more undocumented than any other president. That is why Latinos call him the “Deporter in Chief”
3. Yes undocumented get some health benefits. But this happens because of actions at the local level rather than by federal policy. See the article below.
4. Why do cities and counties provide such services? First, because it is cheaper to do preventive care than pay for undocumented using hospital emergency rooms. Second, because the undocumented provide essential cheap labor for many local industries, from restaurants to crop harvesting to house cleaning to construction. Local economies need their labor. Trump has used undocumented Polish labor at some of his construction projects. And documented labor will not do those jobs at those wages. Third, undocumented labor contribute enormous amounts of tax revenue, often using other people’s Social Security numbers, but do not collect any unemployment, housing, disability, public housing, or retirement benefits. In fact, the revenue they contribute to social security has kept that program afloat financially and makes possible the retirement of documented Americans. This is a fact. Finally, the U.S. Offers very few immigration opportunities to Latin American countries as opposed to European countries. Thus, the economic demand for cheap labor, the destruction of economies in Latin America by American companies investing there, produce pressures which result in people having to come here without papers. It is a complex process where the U.S. is just as responsible for what is happening as the people sneaking in. http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/personalfinance/illegal-immigrants-get-public-health-care-despite-federal-policy/ar-BBqT8Xo?ocid=fbmsnmoney

Trump’s victory is the end of liberalism and the rise of progressivism. Neo-liberalism, in particular, is dead. Trump has not and will not kill it. But he will help mobilize an opposition that will. He will prove to his supporters that he is not the answer.

Destroying Obamacare without a single payer system to replace it, is not the answer. Bombing ISIS families will just create more terrorism. Killing NAFTA will not bring jobs back. Lowering taxes on the rich will not reverse growing inequality. He will not build a wall across the southern border and not just because Mexico won’t pay for it. He may yet surprise us all and not even try to do any of those things. He could have been just blowing hot smoke after all. But his Republicans in Congress will push him towards those goals. And the country will suffer.

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Trump’s victory is a sign that half-measures, like Obamacare don’t work. It is a sign that we want radical solutions to our growing problems, like inequality. It is a sign that people don’t trust our political leaders. And Trump will show that his measures go in the entirely wrong direction. And that is how the country will turn back towards a truly progressive agenda. Many of his supporters will turn against him and his Republican policies. Frustration will increase. People will wonder what went wrong. It will be the responsibility of progressives to deliver the ideas and the organization to point till a true solution.

Get ready Bernie…your time will come…maybe before 4 years are up!

Superman got his power by being dropped to Earth. He came from another galaxy that operated according to different laws of physics. Spiderman became powerful after a spider bit him.  Wonder Woman got her special powers from Olympian Deities.

Roberto Suro recently wrote a New York Times editorial where he asks the question “Whatever Happened to Latino Political Power?” Suro provides a good description of how Latinos have not become more powerful. But, unlike what we know about superheroes, he nowhere explains what it takes to become powerful or to lose it.

So, where the hell does power come from?

barack-obama-funny-supermanIn one of her songs, Diana Krall sings plaintively “What do I have to do to make you love me?” The answer is, of course, obvious. She can try giving him flowers or a kiss or a hug or sex. She can tell him “I’m sorry.” Whether any of those actions or words will cause her beloved to open his arms again to her is not assured. Her beloved must still value what she has to offer if she is ever going to be able to make an impression and get his love back again.

Humans, unlike superheroes, get our power from each other. It does not come from outside, from external accidents, superior beings, or unusual laws of physics. We cannot influence those who do not engage with us. We cannot affect the way they think, act, or feel if we cannot offer them something of value. Two year olds know this well. They automatically spew out a barrage of “no’s” to any entreaty a parent or anyone makes to them. And by those declarations, those two year olds reject and prevent the adult’s attempt to influence them. “Comete esto ahora mismo!!” “No” dice el Niño embullado con su poder.

Suro tells us that we Latinos have tried marching and voting. Yet, still, immigration reform is not a political priority for either political party. He wrote that

“Latinos have claimed a political destiny based on their population numbers, but the numbers that count in politics are those that decide elections. On that score Latinos have a dismal record to overcome.”

That is true. Demographic growth and voting have not delivered the policy and legal changes Latinos seek. However, is it true that all that Latinos have to do to reverse this political failure is, as Suro concludes, to show up on Election Day? Only if you think that political power comes mostly by voting. We have plenty of evidence to suggest the opposite.

Voting is an integral part of the democratic process. But it is not the most important part, especially today. There is, for instance, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. That court decision unleashed and amplified the already caustic power of money in elections.  How does a mostly poor Latino community succeed against that? It can be done. But it won’t happen with money or, more accurately, with Latino money.

Those without money can compete in this corporatized republic. The Tea Party movement has proven that. This group of mostly disaffected white middle class conservatives and evangelicals managed to upend Republican congressional leadership, elect scores of Tea Party supporters, as well as push the Republican Party and it’s presidential candidates harder to the right.  But a great deal of that success has come because of the financial support they have received.

The Tea Party Movement has received generous financial support from the Koch brothers as well as from conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works. In addition, the Tea Party has the focused and uncritical support of an entire media empire and faux news distributor in Fox News.  The millions of dollars and media attention the Tea Party has received has elevated what is a small, fringe, and extremist political group into a mainstay of public consciousness and recognition.  They became well known, tapped into a growing white American fear and resentment, and hijacked the Republican Party political agenda. As a result, they were able to leverage that support into a power that outpaces its actual size of about half a million active members.

DreamersIn comparison, the mostly Latino Dreamers Movement has not received comparable support from financial elites and media. They have received funding from groups such as Unbound Philanthropy, the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and other groups such as the National Education Association (NEA). Most of that money has gone to organizational development, lobbying in Washington, and scholarships. Why the difference?

The major reason why the Dreamers did not have the impact of the Tea Party is that its goals are narrow, affecting mostly Latino immigrant youth.  They sought changes in law in order to more fully participate in educational opportunities and the “American Dream.”  Financial support came from those few who agreed that existing immigration laws violated moral and democratic principles.  The Dreamers were, unlike the Tea Party, not seeking to transform the very structure of how the state taxes, spends, and relates to the economy.  The latter are the kinds of issues that make both conservative and liberal economic elites salivate.

Those different outcomes for the Tea Party and the Dreamers provide clues as to how to create more political power for Latinos.  We have to think of what Latinos can offer the general public and the economic elite that will motivate them to support and reinforce our political goals.  The problem is that I really can’t think of one such issue. Will we get support to prevent random and traumatic deportation? Not likely. What about our poor wages? Some support exists for this issue, but only as a general push to raise the minimum wage for everybody. The current economic stagnation means that a higher minimum wage will not translate into direct improvements to Latino wages, especially since so many of our community work off the books.

The conservative attempt to roll back voting rights is an important structural issue that can galvanize bipartisan support in this society. However, the weight of public opinion and support seems skewed towards restricting voting rather than expanding it.  While some bipartisan financial and political support for voting rights has emerged on the national level, the conservative political machine has focused on and succeeded in changing and rolling back voting rights at the state level. They have succeeded in changing public opinion. Today, a large majority of Americans support more restrictive voter ID laws, which are a solution to a non-existent problem. Thirty-two states have passed voter ID laws as of 2015.

The irony is that any success in fighting restrictive voter ID laws will do very little to improve Latino political power. The reason is simple. Elections are not as important to politicians as they used to be.  Politicians are concerned about elections. They want to get reelected.  Congressional politicians have to win elections every two or 6 years. But getting reelected depends more on money than on policies, legislation, or the voter’s interests.

Congressman Steve Israel, about to leave Congress, recently confessed that, when he first entered Congress, he was “advised that if I didn’t raise at least $10,000 a week (in pre-Citizens United dollars), I wouldn’t be back.” How does a poor Latino community compete with that? How do we contribute and offer the dollars that will make the hundreds of Israels in Congress, other levels of government, and the media answer our phone calls, welcome our visits, as well as open their minds and hearts to our concerns?

All Yours lovePoliticians spend more time each day they serve in Congress on raising money than on constituent communication and service.  They know without money, they can’t win. And that means that Latino sources of power will remain severely limited for the foreseeable future. It also means that Latinos will have to think of new ways to amass power that are not focused only on tactics like voting. We have to develop strategies for power that can inspire non-Latinos to join and support our causes, goals, and policies. Without that, we will forever be stuck asking, pursuing, and hoping for love… but being very disappointed.

In a recent Hugh Eakin New York Books interview, Mark Danner does a masterful job of dissecting the voids, contradictions, and failures of the recent Senate report on the CIA’s torture program.  This interview article, “Our New Politics of Torture,” includes many observations and gems. One comment by Danner, in particular, stuck out because it points to a wider and more profound flaw in modern state sovereignty.  Danner concludes that the major problem with the U.S. torture, or “enhanced interrogation,” program was that it was mostly about our fears and, more exactly, the fears of our officials and leaders in the U.S. state. He states that,

“It’s an epistemological paradox: How do you prove what you don’t know? And from this open question comes this anxiety-ridden conviction that he must know, he must know, he must know. So even though the interrogators are saying he’s compliant, he’s telling us everything he knows—even though the waterboarding is nearly killing him, rendering him “completely non-responsive,” as the report says—officials at headquarters was saying he has to be waterboarded again, and again, because he still hadn’t given up information about the attacks they were convinced had to be coming. They kept pushing from the other side of the world for more suffering and more torture.”

Thus, we tortured because we were so afraid of another attack, of being surprised, of being embarrassed and shamed, of the terrorists! Aside from the idea that our fear is exactly what the terrorists wanted… and achieved, there is another very grave conclusion that we can make. It was not just the CIA that was afraid. The American people were very afraid too. And our state leaders, from Bush to Cheney to Rumsfeld to Congress, were very afraid indeed. Why? Primarily, I think, because terrorism strikes at the achilles heal of modern states, especially Super Powers like the U.S.  All of our weapons systems and armed forces are geared to repel and preempt attacks against us by other nation-states. But this is precisely what terrorism is not.

A Shiite pilrim w flag of martyr Iman HusseinTerrorists have no specific land to call their own. They have no military bases. They have no standing army. They operate without a specific chain of command. They operate like independent cells. There is no easy way to destroy its head, no matter how many drone strikes we deliver to eliminate terrorist leaders. Our missiles sit impotently in their silos. Our ships and planes circle “problem areas” but cannot encounter the enemy. We can spend billions and billions more on Defense, without a noticeable impact on our security.

Global travel, communications, and capital flows makes terrorist location, actions, and intentions so much more difficult to trace and block. The U.S. State is reduced to relying on information, and the CIA, in a much more profound and, ultimately incomprehensible way. The information we need is complicated, dense, unreliable, and often complicated by pesky things like human and constitutional rights. One can sense the exasperation of state leaders. Complaints about constitutionality of the bulk screening of U.S. civilian phone calls and emails are rendered irrelevant by the realization that intelligence officials have no other way of knowing what terrorists are up to. Thus, a recent government report lamented that

“From a technological standpoint, curtailing bulk data collection means analysts will be deprived of some information,” said Robert F. Sproull, the chairman of the committee that examined the problem and a former director of Oracle’s Sun Labs.”

That scares the hell out of state leaders. And thus, like a parent, who cannot get a child to behave with mere words and nagging, state leaders feel compelled to resort to violence. Their hope is that it will deliver the cooperation and information they need to not be embarrassed and shamed… by terrorists. But, ultimately, torture does not work.  It just inflames and expands the terrorism.

There are good reasons why it is racist to focus on bad parenting in black communities as an explanation for their plight. Just as it is absurd to dismiss all charges made by minority people and leaders that racism may be at work in particular incidents. These knee-jerk rejections have little logical or historical support. Poverty is what causes family stress and disintegration. All the data shows, for instance, that marriage rates increase as income and education get higher. That is true in all communities. Divorce is increasing and marriage rates are dropping in the fading white middle class too. Blacks are just a lot poorer than whites… thus, they experience more marriage breakdowns. So, an explanation that claims that it is black family disintegration that explains their economic and social condition is misleading and destructive. It is the other way around.

And I find it funny that conservatives often accuse President Obama or Al Sharpton of stoking “racial hatred” any time they suggest that racism and police brutality are an endemic problem in minority communities. The conservative thinking seems to be that just by uttering some magical words, Black leaders can make “racial hatred” appear out of nowhere!! And yet, the same people adamantly reject the idea that racism from whites towards blacks and Latinos exists at all despite all the CONCRETE evidence SHOWING that they lack proper representation in media, job opportunities, housing, politics, business, education, etc. Thus, real evidence of a racial division counts for a lot less and has much less power than the power of magical words like “police brutality” and “racism” uttered by elected and other Black leaders. Amazing. We now live in a world of magical realism.

American politics has become increasingly polarized… even toxic.  Truth may never be a very high goal in political debate, but it is too often proudly rejected as a goal today.  A lot of this has to do with what social psychologists say is ideological confirmation bias.  We tend not to pay much attention to facts that contradict our world view and values.  In fact, opposing facts usually make us hold onto our ideological beliefs even stronger. Which makes my feeble attempts to insert some rational discourse into conservative commentary on issues like the undocumented, “takers”, government spending, and President Obama that much more preposterous.  I can’t help myself.  I read those bizarre and incorrect statements and I respond.  Here are some examples of what I mean.  It comes from a Facebook site called Conservative Daily.  The commentary was in response to a post that claimed that people leaned to Republicans because the Democrats have so wreaked the economy.  It came with a chart, see below, that purports to show that Democratic led states do worse with unemployment than Republican led states.

screen-shot-2014-07-19-at-6.27.34-am

 

 

 

They also provided an “analysis” of what the chart means:

“A quick look at the 5 states on either side of the graph and a brief analysis of their statewide party support is revealing.

High Unemployment states:

  • Mississippi: Strongly Republican – Republican governor and Senators, 75% of their Congressmen are Republican and their state legislature is 55% Republican.
  • Rhode Island: Strongly not Republican – Independent governor, 100% Democratic Senators and Congressmen, and Republicans are only 10% of the state legislature.
  • Nevada: Mixed – Republican governor, Senators and Congressional representation is split down the middle, and the state legislature is 63% Democrat.
  • Michigan: Mixed – Republican governor, Democratic Senators, mixed in the House, and 58% Republican in the legislature.
  • California: Republicans need not apply – Democrat governor and Senators, 75% of those in Congress are Democrats, and Republicans are just under 30% of the state legislature.

Result: Only one “Strongly Republican” state is in the bottom five.

Low Unemployment states:

North Dakota: Strongly Republican – Republican governor, senators are split, Republican House member, and the state legislature is 75% Republican.
Utah: Even stronger Republican presence – Everything is Republican except one House member and 18% of the state legislature.
Vermont: Republicans need not apply – only 32% of the state body is Republican and that’s it.
Nebraska: Most Republican of all – 39% of the state legislature is Democrat and everything else is Republican.
South Dakota: Stongly Republican – one Democratic Senator and only 24% Democratic representation in the state legislature.
Result: Only one Democratic state in the top five.”

Obviously, there is much that is left out of such rudimentary analysis.  States like Michigan have suffered because manufacturing has fled while states like North Dakota have benefited from the discovery of gas and oil energy.  And all states have been able to reduce their unemployment to levels below 8% since the highs of 2008 under Bush.  That is, of course, something that can be attributed to the limited policies that President Obama has been able to institute.  What is more fascinating is the response of Conservative Daily’s members.  Here is a sample:

Gary Ei takers tend to be liberal, workers conservativ

  • Shelly Erickson Wake up America liberal ideas do not work!
    Greg Manger The problem has more to do with overpopulation and lack of industry than it does a states political affiliations. Before I get blasted for being a liberal I will state that I am a republican through and through. However, I feel like the kind of hyperbole that this post boasts is the problem the Republican Party has had over the past 2 decades. Instead always blaming liberals and going as far right as we can, I think we need to get back to some common sense politics and solutions and stop constantly fighting the other side of the isle. Let’s be the bigger people and lead again.
    John Vanis Love poverty? then vote democrat
    Richard Shockley Look at DETROIT!! 50 years of democrat rule!! only bright spot– u can buy a 3000 sq.ft home for 1000 bucks!!
  • Mike Davis Why do people consistently leave out Wyoming. Most conservative state in the US. Lowest tax rate. 7th highest average income in the nation. Highest in personal disposable income in the US.
    Deb Chambers Smith Oh! Maybe you might want to keep the secret and keep WY healthy
    Sylvia Olson Way to go North Dakota!!!
    Christopher Stevens actually population’s role has everything to do with it. they keep electing democrats, err progressives, err socialists.
  • Jenifer Leslie Much of North Dakota (western part at least) is paying over $15 an hour starting wages at places like Menards and fast food restaurants and they still can’t find people to work. People may dis this state, but at least we aren’t broke….and it isn’t just because of the oil industry.
    Alex Kuban More like a connection between lazy and stupid LOL
    Daryl Kirk Clinton didn’t create a good job climate Paul O. Thompson. After the 1st two years of his presidency, the people wanted his nonsense like NAFTA, pressuring banks to give loans to people who couldn’t afford them, and raising taxes stopped. We voted in a conservative Republican Congress headed by Newt Gingrich which put a balanced budget on his desk to sign for several years in a row. Due to that and their easing of regulations and taxes, the economy soared, jobs were created and Clinton took the credit.
    Brandon Vale It’s the same thing here in Canada; the most prosperous provinces are always Conservative. The Left wing provinces always high unemployment, high taxes, and growing debt. With the rise of Liberalism we see the decline of society. Not just North America, but abroad as well
    Brett Watson It’s a fact that states led by Republican or Conservative Governors have better economies and growth than those run by Democrat or Liberal Leaders. The truth hurts!
    Bob Moller I worked in NYC when Democrats ran the city down the drain. Then Republicans and Independents came in and crime rates dropped. Now a Liberatard Dumbocrat is Mayor and crime is up. I worked in Newark New Jersey (Dumbocrats) it was so bad we needed Armed Security Guards to accompany us so we wouldn’t get killed. So tell me how wonderful cities and states are under Dumbocrats
    Mike Stott I have been in Mississippi foe 30 years and not unemployed one time . I would rather be controlled by Republicans than rounded up like an animals to prison camps by our Democratic leaning commie president !
    Ginger Stevens Pelletier Liberals have no morals. They are all liars.
    PamChris Holmes Well Greg, good to hear you are republican. But the states political affiliations are the cause. Liberals-progressive policies along with the lefts over regulation is what kills industry. Unions are funding the lefts policies. The lefts policies are to blame for the 98 week unemployment. Their policies are letting cities die from within. Detroit is a perfect example. Haydays in the 50 and 60’s where industry thrived are dead because of over spending, big government. The American industrial complex is being gutted by The EPA. Energy sources are being made illegal because of the left. Expensive energy, means expensive industry, which means middle class suffering, which means the country suffering, which means the country slows down and stops. All perpetuated by leftist liberal progressive policies. Obama said in2008, “your energy costs are necessarily going to go up”. Combine that with the costs to business of Obama care, it doesn’t pay to own a business. 29 hour work weeks, other reduced benefit packages, no wonder why liberal states are suffering. Greece, Italy, Spain, Russia, and a few others are collapsing from socialist policies. If America keeps going down the socialist, progressive policies, we are doomed as a country!
    Gennan Cameron Carabajal What do they know? The Libtard credo….Keep the People stupid so that they will vote for handouts!!! Tax those who ARE working to death to pay for those handouts. Know nothing about economics and the concept that jobs= revenue!!!
    Stewart Abernathy Hmm? What do you mean states without income tax cant support themselves over the long run? Texas has been running budget surpluses for several years.
    Chris O’Dell and I will say I live in MS and the vast majority of unemployed are democratic/liberal minded people. so even though MS has mostly republican representation this still show the democratic mindset doesn’t work. bad work ethic bad additude, no education no ambition etc….equals poverty level life.
    Jon Nagle Pesky statistics, but the government under the liberal wing just thinks these facts are anomalies. Square pegs in round holes if you just campaign enough and hold enough fund raisers and promise the unemployed free stuff from other people’s pockets. Oh yeh and get some more illegals to shore up your base.
    Dee Richard Liberal socialism does not work!
    Christopher Shaffer Politics and all of those involved, regardless of their political party, are stupid. It’s really that simple. It’s not just one political party which is destroying this once-great nation, it’s all of them.
    Michael Raiborn Devising new taxes & increasing old ones doesn’t create jobs or help anyone but the Feds!!!!! It bankrupts cities!
    Michael Clark All I know is to create jobs, states must make it attractive to the company’s bottom line. Low capital gains taxes and lower regulation. That’s why many companies are moving to Florida and Texas. These companies create jobs and those workers pay taxes and spend their paychecks at other companies…. And so forth.”

 

 As you can see, the commentary is sprinkled with a few rational responses about over-population, loss of industry, and taxation.  But it is dominated by people who simply make ad hominem arguments about “libartards,” Obama, and “socialism.”  Our politics has become so polarized that even Reagan might seem like a liberal today.  When presidential candidate Romney told his big lie in 2012 that 47% of Americans are “Takers” because they paid no federal taxes, he took a position that Ronald Reagan would have rejected.
Romney was talking about people who are too young or old to make enough money to be taxed as well as many more who work but pay little taxes because they have big enough families to claim dependent and other deductions. It is insulting and not true to label them “takers,” as even Ronald Reagan understood.  Reagan was a strong supporter of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  This tax policy sends checks to Americans who work but earn less than around $46,000 a year, depending on family size. This means that these workers who receive the credit are going to be among those who don’t pay income tax.  Reagan did not see this as a problem. That 1986 tax code reform of the tax code removed 6 million working poor from the tax rolls. Reagan viewed this reform as a “sweeping victory for fairness” and “perhaps the biggest antipoverty program in our history.” But today, this kind of policy and this kind of centrist politics is no longer possible.