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The convergence of the Tea Party and the Billionaire Boy’s Club

Over at Forbes I have a post up on Detroit schools Emergency Manager, Robert Bobb, and his announcement that he will be issuing layoff notices to all 5,466 public school school teachers there. What’s really interesting is that Bobb is a graduate of the Broad Foundation’s Superintendent Academy – a program that shapes new corporate reformers to go out and bring school choice and privatization to the masses.

Even more interesting, to me at least, is how the school reform movement is so closely tied to the recent power grabs in Wisconsin and Michigan and elsewhere. For instance, the Detroit Public Schools were challenging Bobb’s authority in the courts. He was appointed by Rick Snyder’s Democratic predecessor, and from the beginning people have been unhappy with his top-down approach to fixing the Detroit school system – which is admittedly in rough shape. He was constantly hampered by pesky lawsuits. Then Snyder passed Public Act 4 which gave Emergency Managers (and the governor’s office) sweeping new powers over financial emergencies, and gave Bobb the powers he’d almost had revoked in the courts.

So the law basically quashed the ongoing attempts to stop Bobb from doing what he’s doing – which is closing schools, firing teachers, unilaterally changing union contracts, and starting up a bunch of new charter schools. All of which is great for his pals over at the Broad Foundation which, incidentally, is paying a hefty chunk of Bobb’s salary.

All of this is very much connected. People focus a lot on the Koch brothers, but the Broad and Gates Foundations are in many ways just as or more responsible for this craziness. If you have any information on this, or pieces of the puzzle I may be missing, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email.








Yes, cutting spending will hurt people

Ezra Klein sums up the anti-union proposal put forth by Wisconsin’s Governor:

The best way to understand Walker’s proposal is as a multi-part attack on the state’s labor unions. In part one, their ability to bargain benefits for their members is reduced. In part two, their ability to collect dues, and thus spend money organizing members or lobbying the legislature, is undercut. And in part three, workers have to vote the union back into existence every single year. Put it all together and it looks like this: Wisconsin’s unions can’t deliver value to their members, they’re deprived of the resources to change the rules so they can start delivering value to their members again, and because of that, their members eventually give in to employer pressure and shut the union down in one of the annual certification elections.

Of course, the whole crisis is manufactured to begin with. Walker created the deficit through tax cuts and new spending, and is using it as an excuse to go after the unions. Get ready for more of the same across the country. Walker also wants to get control of Medicaid for reasons that should not be too hard to surmise.

Meanwhile Andrew Sullivan continues to distance himself from Obama and the left he so unabashedly embraced during Obama’s first two years by calling the Democratic senators who strategically fled Wisconsin “pathetic”; by complaining that the president is “AWOL” on the question of deficits; and by sarcastically responding to this excellent piece by Freddie deBoer on the very real human cost of spending cuts with a post titled “But Cutting Spending Will Hurt People!

It’s a rare talent that allows a pundit to mock and deride both the poor and the blogger they’re responding to all in just the title of a post, but Sullivan manages. He then outsources his response to McArdle who commences in arguing for cuts in pensions and healthcare services because she doesn’t want to see cuts in pensions and healthcare services. The “math demands it” according to Sullivan, even though the average Wisconsin public employee pension is only $24,500 much of which the workers themselves contribute; even though Social Security is not going to sink us no matter the false assertions of pundits and politicians; even though healthcare is the real issue and even though Obama tackled that issue first, expending almost all his political capital on it in his first year in office to however imperfectly enact reform.








King of Hearts

Republicans in the Arizona state legislature, not content to twiddle their thumbs whilst SB 1070 navigates the courts, have introduced new legislation challenging birthright citizenship:

The aim is “to trigger … a Supreme Court review of the phrase ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ in the 14th amendment,” said Rep. John Kavanagh, one on the backers of the legislation.

It ultimately seeks “to deny citizenship to any child born of parents who are not citizens of the United States, be they illegal aliens, or foreigners on business or for tourist purposes,” he added.

A total of four proposals were introduced, two in the state House of Representatives and two in the Senate, where Republicans have a majority.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Joe and Steven Seagal took to the streets with deputies and a posse to round up the illegals:

In Phoenix, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Thursday kicked off a sweep to crack down on illegal immigration.

Aside from his deputies, Arpaio also relied on volunteer members of a newly formed Illegal Immigration Enforcement Posse, who took to the streets in a two-day countywide operation targeting drop houses, drug activity and human smuggling, said sheriff’s spokesman Sergeant Jesse Spurgin.

Action flick star Steven Seagal is a member of the sheriff’s posse, and he took part in the operation, Spurgin said. Twenty-two suspected illegal immigrants had been arrested by late Thursday, he said.

The legislation Arizona lawmakers introduced on Thursday is part of a coordinated drive by Republican legislators in several U.S. states that seeks to deny birthright citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.

Truly, the inmates have taken control of the asylum.

These are the same people who want to cut 280,000 thousand poor people off the Medicaid rolls in Arizona, who want to slash education funding from K-12 and public universities – all because it’s impossible to pass any tax hikes beyond a measly, temporary jump in the state sales tax. Jan Brewer wants to create a state college system to run alongside the University system to offer a lower cost alternative (along the lines of California’s parallel institutions). But this is no fix to an immediate budget crisis! This is a long-term plan that certainly may have its merits – I’m skeptical given it comes from the governor’s desk – but it’s no short-term fix. If anything, it’s a disguised attempt to pull more funds from the existing higher education system and funnel them into a theoretical state college system. I have my doubts those funds will end up where they say they will. This is not the first time the legislature has attempted to rob the coffers of other state programs – attempts that have been rejected time and again by Arizona voters. The same voters who, inexplicably, keep electing these people to office.

But hey, at least Arizona students and faculty will be able to carry guns on campus.

What bloody madness.

I think Arizona is a wonderful state. It’s sunny, diverse, has quirky artsy towns like Gerome Jerome (I always misspell that) and Bisbee, and the super-quirky Arcosanti. We’ve got legal medical marijuana and soon will have a dispensary system. The state is actually quite a lot more diverse than reports like these would have you believe – bordering purple, and trending that direction (which may explain the reactionary nature of its current government). But these bills that keep coming up just get crazier and crazier. Nothing has done more to push me leftward politically than watching the consequences of these red-meat politicians and their paranoid, revanchist legislation.