Archive for July, 2019

Reagan’s Revolution, Norquist’s Quest Complete: Distrust in Government at All Time High

July 28, 2019 Comments off

Nearly four decades ago Ronald Reagan declared that government was the problem and twenty years later, GOP operative Grover Norquist declared his desire to shrink the federal government so that it was so small he could drown it in a bathtub. in 2010, as the GOP blocked any efforts by the Democrats to increase government spending, NYTimes columnist and Nobel economist Paul Krugman summarized the GOP’s strategy as follows:

“Rather than proposing unpopular spending cuts, Republicans would push through popular tax cuts, with the deliberate intention of worsening the government’s fiscal position. Spending cuts could then be sold as a necessity rather than a choice, the only way to eliminate an unsustainable budget deficit.” He wrote that the “…beast is starving, as planned…” and that “Republicans insist that the deficit must be eliminated, but they’re not willing either to raise taxes or to support cuts in any major government programs. And they’re not willing to participate in serious bipartisan discussions, either, because that might force them to explain their plan—and there isn’t any plan, except to regain power.

As readers of this blog realize, the GOP has shown itself willing to ride the coattails of a boorish charlatan in order to fulfill its plan to regain power… and the combination of tax cuts enacted by the GOP and their free spending on the military we now have an unsustainable $1,000,000,000,000+ deficit. Worse, as a result of the GOP’s persistent message that “government is the problem” and it’s profligacy now that it is in power, government IS the problem and, according to the most recent Pew Research Poll, voters trust in the government is at an all time low and waning. But that is not the worst news. As Matt Stevens reported earlier this week:

It will probably come as no surprise that most Americans distrust the federal government.

A new study released Monday by the Pew Research Center has found that to be true, and that Americans largely perceive trust in Washington to be shrinking. But the deep skepticism is not reserved solely for politicians, according to the survey: Almost two-thirds of respondents said they thought trust in each other had declined, too.

The report paints a rather dreary picture of how Americans today feel about their political leaders, the news media and their neighbors down the block.

Later in the article, Mr. Stevens dug deeper into the findings, and what he found is particularly disturbing but unsurprising to this “high truster”:

In general, those who were more likely to be “high trusters” were older, more educated and had higher household incomes than “low trusters.”

“Americans who might feel disadvantaged are less likely to express generalized trust in other people,” the report said.

The generational gap in trust that emerged was especially striking. Almost half of young adults between the age of 18 and 29 fell into the low trust category. The same was true about only one-fifth of respondents 65 and older.

Over all, the Pew study found that three-quarters of Americans thought confidence in the federal government was slipping, and 64 percent said the same about trust in each other.

It is completely unsurprising that those in the 18-to-29 demographic have low trust in government: they were raised in the post-Reagan era and came of age when Grover Norquist was promoting his ideas that big government was ipso facto a bad thing and taxes were ipso facto confiscatory and unnecessary. Why would anyone growing up in that era have trust in an institution that was “the problem”.

It is also unsurprising that most Americans sense that confidence in the federal government is waning. Those who voted for Trump did so based on the belief that he would drain the swamp and those who did not vote for him now feel that the leadership in Washington is either corrupt, incompetent, or both. As for the loss of trust in each other, based on what I read on social media, the tendency to “other-ize” is exacerbating educational, political, and economic divides. Many “friends” on social media make disparaging remarks about Trump voters, seeing them as an uniform mass that embraces racists, misogynists, and anti-intellectualism… and I sense that those with Trump 2020 bumper stickers look at my “friends” with the same disdain. How can we trust each other if we draw conclusions based on one’s support for a particular political party?

Despite the gloomy findings in the Pew poll, there was some good news:

On a more positive note, the survey found that strong majorities of both Democrats and Republicans wished trust would rise.

More than 90 percent of both groups said they thought it was important to improve the level of confidence Americans have in government and in each other. And more than 80 percent thought such improvement was possible.

How can trust increase? A 66-year-old woman who responded to the survey has a good answer:

“Each one of us must reach out to others. It takes interaction with people face-to-face to realize that we do all inhabit this space and have a vested interest in working together to make it a successful, safe, and environmentally secure place to live. No man is an island.”

Get off social media and get into the flow of life in the community. Try to find a way to interact with people who hold different political views, who are in a different generation, who see the world differently. Democracy will work only if and when we do so.

The REAL Boomer Prototype is NOT an Aging Flower Child…

July 27, 2019 Comments off

I just finished reading a week-old NYTimes article by Charles Homan titled “Bob Dylan and the Myth of Boomer Idealism”. The article was mostly about Martin Scorsese’s recent movie, Rolling Thunder Review”, which was a partly fictionalized account of a series of concerts Bob Dylan did in 1975. But the overarching theme was captured in this sentence that appeared near the middle of the article:

We know now that the real story wasn’t the people at the protests and the concerts; it was all the people who weren’t.

As one who did attend protests and concerts, but also one who worked with the public in an effort to pass school budgets and improve schools, this has always seemed true to me. My “fellow boomers” often appeared at the microphone complaining about how their taxes were being squandered on public education. They sometimes showed up to protest a syllabus that included a book about the traumas of growing up poor and Hispanic. More unsettling, they appeared at the microphone when we wrestled with re-drawing attendance zones so that schools were more racially and economically diverse. Where, I wondered, were those “fellow boomers” who sought a better world for the poor and downtrodden, who wanted a more progressive form of education?  As I observed national politics it became evident that “the people at the protests and the concerts” had little impact on elections even though pundits tended to think of the Boomers as flower children. Later in the same article Mr. Homan writes:

Today’s politics are shaped far less by the intra-Democratic street fighting of 1968 or Vietnam or Watergate than by the subtler, structural consequences of the Civil Rights and Immigration and Nationality Acts: the black-and-white part of the ’60s, not the Day-Glo coda that dominates the ex-hippie narrative.

I’m not sure Mr. Homan is entirely right in this assessment. I think that the intra-Democratic street fighting of 1968…Vietnam and Watergate DO dominate our politics today as much as Civil Rights and immigration. The progressive wing of the Democrats, who are chastised by the moderate DNC and largely marginalized by the mainstream media, represent those who went to protests and concerts and understood what the street-fighting of 1968 was about even if they didn’t support it. They also view any form of war as unacceptable and see the burgeoning budgets for the military as wasteful. They also have faith in government DESPITE the Watergate episode in our history, remaining fully engaged in the ideals of politics despite the smarmy undertow Watergate exposed. The Progressives also want racial justice as well as economic justice and want to restore America as the City of the Hill, the nation that welcomes those who are downtrodden and oppressed by their government.

One thing I am sure of: in 2020 we need to restore our focus on the ideals of this country instead of the power of this country. If we do so, that debate will be the focal point of all elections and we will have a substantial debate on ideas instead of a superficial round of name-calling.



“Learn Everywhere”, Chris Sununu and Frank Edelblut’s Backdoor Privatization Scheme, Unlikely to be Implemented

July 27, 2019 Comments off

NH Governor Chris Sununu and NH Secretary of Education Frank Edelblut, pro-privatization advocates, concocted a deschooling idea called “Learn Everywhere” that the current State Board of Education adopted over protests from every public education organization. The concept behind “Learn Everywhere” was that the State Board of Education would be able to grant high school credits to students who participated in learning opportunities outside of their public school. This is a wonderful concept… but there was no need for the State Board to adopt such a concept because one was already in place! Several years ago the State Board authorized local boards to do the same thing when they created “Extended Learning Opportunities”. But despite the existence of this opportunity, the State Board decided to get into the credit-granting business itself, an action that would clearly undercut the authority of local boards, and an action that was universally seen as a power grab. Here’s an excerpt from a report in the Manchester Union Leader that appeared when the “Learn Everywhere” proposal was on the verge of adoption:

In a letter to the Board of Education released on Tuesday, the top education groups were united in their criticism of Edelblut’s proposal.

“We believe that as proposed, the ‘Learn Everywhere’ rules trample local control, are highly skewed toward wealthy families, grant graduation credits from non-accredited, non-credential sources, and provide little oversight and limited protections to students with disabilities and their families,” the letter states….

The League of Women Voters echoed that theme in their statement, pointing out that “New Hampshire’s public schools already award credit for work done outside the traditional high school program, including Extended Learning Opportunities coordinated by the local high schools.”

“We urge the State Board of Education to support learning opportunities such as these rather than the ill-defined Learn Everywhere proposal.”

The “Learn Everywhere” proposal passed by a slim majority on the State Board, with Sununu appointees supporting the proposal and holdover board members opposing it.

But passage of a regulation by an agency does not have the force of law. Before an agency’s rule can have the force of law it must be reviewed and accepted by the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules, or JLCAR…. and, as Bill Duncan, State Board member and opponent to the “Learn Everywhere” proposal, wrote in an op ed article in the July 24 Concord Monitor, JCLAR opposes the rule as it is written. Why?

Central to the committee’s concerns is the provision that New Hampshire high schools “shall” accept graduation credits created by private groups accredited by the State Board of Education (SBOE).

Normally, when JLCAR sends a proposed rule back with a preliminary objection, the agency makes the required changes and resubmits the rule to JLCAR for a virtually assured final approval. That does not seem likely in this case.

While merely changing the requirement that schools “shall” accept Learn Everywhere credits to “may” would be the obvious remedy to the key JLCAR objection, SBOE will probably not do that. The whole goal of the Learn Everywhere program is to replace public school courses with privately created graduation credits overseen by the education department.The word “shall” is the heart of the project. So this may become a real battle, one in which both sides will feel the stakes are high.

It is ironic that the GOP, a party that espouses local control over everything, wants to take local control away when it comes to awarding high school credits. But the endgame of all of this is the replacement of public schools with for profit enterprises and/or religiously affiliated schools that are not staffed with certified teachers. That was Frank Edelblut’s vision when he ran for Governor and almost defeated Chris Sununu and has been his mission ever since he took control of the State Department of education.

Mr. Duncan’s op ed article asserts that the JCLAR ruling is likely to stop the complete implementation of “Learn Everywhere”… but it also underscores the importance of having a progressive-minded Governor and legislature in 2020 and thereafter… for if the GOP controlled JCLAR the pro-privatization movement would be gaining steam now. Every election is important… and thankfully the 2018 election restored a degree of moderation to the NH legislature. Here’s hoping it remains that way for the foreseeable future.