All posts by Shawgi Tell

Public Funds For Charter Schools Is Socially Irresponsible

Public money comes from the new value workers produce. It does not come from somewhere else. This value is presently controlled not by those who produce it but by the financial oligarchy and its state. When socially-produced wealth is not controlled by those who actually produce it, endless problems arise. There is no way for the economy to benefit all individuals and serve the general interests of society when it is dominated by a handful of billionaires.

Socially-produced wealth belongs to the public and must be used for social programs and public services that benefit the socialized economy and the general interests of society. This includes education, healthcare, municipal services, and more. This can be achieved when major economic decisions are made by a public authority worthy of the name. A government beholden to the rich and their political representatives leads only to more retrogressive developments.

Since public money does not come from, or belong to, narrow private interests, it must not be used for privatized education arrangements such as charter schools. That is socially irresponsible.

Privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools are contract schools run by unelected individuals. They are not state agencies like public schools. They differ significantly from public schools, legally, organizationally, ideologically, and otherwise. Besides being governed by unelected individuals, charter schools cannot levy taxes, frequently hire uncertified teachers, and do not operate according to the same laws, rules, and regulations as public schools. Many courts have ruled that charter schools are not public entities.  In addition, charter schools support fewer high-needs students than public schools and lack the transparency of public schools.  Charter schools intensify segregation and are often plagued by instability and corruption as well. Further, more than 150 charter schools close every year, usually for financial malfeasance, mismanagement, or academic failure. Between 1999 and 2017, more than one-quarter of charter schools closed after operating for only five years.  Such instability has left hundreds of thousands of minority students out in the cold. Many other problems could be listed.

Although they are not public agencies, privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools siphon tens of billions of public dollars every year from the public purse, which leaves public schools worse off. In cities like Rochester and Buffalo, New York, charter schools collectively siphon over $225 million a year from under-funded public schools. And it does not help that the “results” delivered by privately-operated charter schools, especially cyber charter schools, are often unimpressive, if not abysmal.

All of this is inevitable when schools are run on the basis of “free market” ideology. Social responsibility and the “free market” simply do not go together. “Good business sense” and social responsibility negate each other. They are oxymorons, and attempts to blur the distinction between them should be opposed. Corporations pursuing maximum profits as fast as possible—unlimited greed—has nothing to do with serving the general interests of society. Social responsibilities like education must not be subjected to the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market.” The modern idea that humans are born to society and have rights by virtue of their being is alien to “free market” ideology.

Contrary to what neoliberals and privatizers claim, privatization does not serve the common good or improve “outcomes” for everyone. It just funnels public wealth produced by workers into the hands of narrow private interests, leaving fewer funds for the public and the economy.

The public, not narrow private interests, must have the first and last say over the use of public funds. Wealth produced collectively by workers must not escape their control. Socially-produced wealth must remain in public hands and not find its way to private entities. Publicly funded private entities and so-called public-private “partnerships” distort the socialized economy, increase inequality, diminish the voice of workers, and exacerbate a range of other problems. Around the globe, privatization in its many forms is intensifying problems in many sectors and spheres.

A modern economy and society cannot develop in a healthy, balanced, and self-reliant way when decisions are made mainly by competing owners of capital seeking to maximize profit as fast as possible. Education and all the affairs of society must be determined by working people, not by those who strive to use the new value produced by workers to enrich themselves.

Fight for public funds for public schools. Stand for social responsibility and oppose the flow of all public funds to charter schools. The powerful private companies that run charter schools must not receive any public funds or assets. Society needs a government that takes up its social responsibility to meet the broad educational needs of a modern society based on mass industrial production.

Charter schools are legal in 45 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Currently, about 3.3 million youth attend roughly 7,400 charter schools across the nation. This is a small fraction of all students and all schools in the United States.

The post Public Funds For Charter Schools Is Socially Irresponsible first appeared on Dissident Voice.

New York State: 50 Charter Schools Closed in 20 Years

According to New York Charter School Fact Sheet (January 2021) from the New York State Education Department, the number of charter schools issued in New York State since the passage of the state’s charter school law in 1998 is 397. The total number of privately-operated charters permitted statewide under 2015 legislative amendments is 460. It is worth noting that a conversion of an existing public school to a charter school is not counted toward the numerical limits established by Article 56 of Education Law. This amounts to about 10 charter schools.

A separate but related document from the New York State Education Department, New York State Charter Schools (January 2021), claims that 46 privately-operated charter schools closed or never opened in the state. Fifteen of these charter schools closed since 2010.

It is not unreasonable to assume that more investigation and more recent data would reveal that more than 46 charter schools have actually closed in the state over the past 20 years. For example, the Buffalo School Board voted in April 2021 to close two failing charter schools in Buffalo.

Broken Promises: An Analysis of Charter School Closures From 1999 – 2017 provides a more comprehensive picture of the high failure and closure rate of charter schools nationwide. Equally problematic, persistently poor oversight and weak accountability in the charter school sector have kept many failing charter schools open.

The frequent failure and closure of privately-operated charter schools is part of the constant instability in the crisis-prone charter school sector that has left thousands of black and brown families out in the cold.

The post New York State: 50 Charter Schools Closed in 20 Years first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Charter Schools: “Choice” Is Not An Argument

Advocates of privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools have long ignored serious criticisms of charter schools in a variety of ways. They have always believed, for example, that simply repeating worn-out phrases like “charter schools provide choice” will automatically cause everyone to dismiss the need for any discussion, investigation, and critical thinking about the well-documented negative effects of charter schools on education, society, the economy, and the national interest.

“Choice,” however, is not an argument for the existence or expansion of privately-operated charter schools.

When charter school promoters use the language of “choice,” they want people to:

  1. Not recognize that education is an inalienable human right that must be guaranteed in practice by a public authority worthy of the name.
  2. Believe that “free market” ideology is the best and most pro-social way to organize education in a modern society based on mass industrial production.
  3. Ignore how “choice” leads to greater stratification and segregation in charter schools through their geographic location and selective student enrollment and attrition practices.
  4. Disregard the fact that by “choice” charter school promoters really mean education is a commodity, not a social responsibility, and parents and students are consumers, not humans and citizens, who fend for themselves while shopping for a “good” school that hopefully does not close in under 10 years.
  5. Think that there is no need to analyze how and why public schools have been set up to fail by privatizers so as to justify the rise of deregulated charter schools.
  6. Get used to the disinformation that public schools are automatically bad and charter schools are inherently superior.
  7. Ignore the fact that charter schools usually choose parents and students, not the other way around.
  8. Overlook the fact that “choice” does not guarantee excellence, stability, or equity. Several thousand deregulated charter schools run by unelected individuals have closed in recent decades.
  9. Believe that it does not matter who “delivers” education, but what kind of “results” are produced.
  10. Dismiss the fact that “choice” means taking money away from under-funded public schools that educate thousands of students and that public schools in many instances are even compelled to provide some free services to charter schools.

It is not possible to conceal the fact that deregulated charter schools fail and close regularly, educate far fewer students than public schools, are continually mired in fraud and corruption, are governed by unelected individuals, have high teacher and principal turnover rates, spend a lot of public money on advertising and marketing, dodge public standards for meetings and accountability, and siphon enormous amounts of money from public schools every day. Privately-operated charter schools also have more inexperienced and lower-paid teachers than public schools. In addition, many charter schools offer fewer services and programs than public schools. It is also worth noting that the performance of cyber charter schools is consistently abysmal. This is what “choice” has delivered.

The 50 problems plaguing privately-operated charter schools will not disappear by endlessly repeating “choice is good” and by treating parents and students as consumers and shoppers instead of humans and citizens with rights that must be guaranteed. Turning major human responsibilities like education into a “free market” commodity is not a modern way of educating people in the 21st century. It will not solve any problems. Over the past 30 years, segregated charter schools have only given rise to more problems, including many problems for themselves.

Parents and students do not need more problematic “choices” or choice just for the sake of choice. They need locally-controlled, world-class, fully-funded, non-demonized, free schools completely uninfluenced by narrow private interests. A modern nation and economy can’t be built on an education system based on the ideology of “survival of the fittest.”

To be sure, the rapid multiplication of privately-operated charter schools under President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will go a long way toward nation-wrecking, undermining public education, harming the public interest, and dehumanizing the natural and social environment. It is no surprise that intense controversy and upheaval have characterized the charter school sector since day one and seem to increase every month.

Now is the time to step up defense of public schools and the public interest. The public matters more than ever. The privatization of schools and many other public enterprises through neoliberal state restructuring harms the majority, the economy, society, and the national interest. Privatization increases corruption and inefficiency, while lowering quality, increasing costs, and restricting democracy. The public must not permit neoliberals and privatizers to wreck public schools that have been serving 90% of America’s youth for well over a century. Schemes based on the “free market” and a “fend-for-yourself” ethos will certainly benefit a tiny handful of owners of capital, but they won’t solve deep problems that have worsened due to the actions of major owners of capital desperately hanging on to an obsolete economic system.

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Charter School Disinformation About Families Being the Most Important “Stakeholders”

Since day one, advocates of privately-operated charter schools have tried to convince everyone that segregated charter schools “empower parents” and that parents are not only “stakeholders” but the most important “stakeholders” in education. Everything in education is supposedly all about parents first and foremost. Parents are the end-all and be-all. Education apparently serves no one else or 10 other broad functions. Education exists mainly to serve parents. Everyone and everything else is secondary at best. Oddly enough, while the “parent empowerment” theme is central to charter school disinformation it is actually charter schools that choose parents and students, not the other way around.

Such a narrow notion of parents-first-last-and-always deliberately degrades and debases the historical, cultural, social, political, and economic role, significance, and importance of public education in a modern society based on mass industrial production. The days of petty production, small estates,  small farms, and feudal manors are long gone. Humans today are born to a complex modern society in which all production is highly technical, scientific, advanced, large-scale, and cooperative. Everything is interdependent and impossible without millions of skilled working people. The problem is that this modern mass production system is based on outdated relations of production, that is, it is owned and controlled by competing private owners of capital whose only aim is to maximize profit as fast as possible no matter the damage to the natural and social environment. Such a set-up reinforces old ideas such as consumerism, individualism, competition, and a fend-for-yourself culture. It renders education a commodity and parents become consumers who individually shop for schools the way they shop for a car. If things work out, that’s great, but if they don’t work out, then you are screwed. “Buyer Beware” is the only defense you have against getting ambushed in a “survival-of-the-fittest” society. In such a society, government abdicates its responsibility to people and nothing is guaranteed. Privileges, competition, and opportunities replace rights. Education is never upheld as a right that must be provided a guarantee by government, it is simply a commodity and an opportunity.

Neoliberal “Stakeholder”

The core idea behind the neoliberal notion of a “stakeholder” is that there are no social classes. We supposedly live in a “no-class” society. In this way, the 50 problems that exist in class-divided societies magically disappear. All that exists is isolated, abstract, allegedly equal self-interested calculating consumers with an “equal stake” in capitalism. We are to casually ignore massive and constantly-growing inequality and the fact that only the top 1% have a stake in capitalism and that the majority of humanity urgently needs an alternative to this crisis-prone economic system that leaves millions behind every year. The neoliberal idea of a “stakeholder” is a way to apologize for capitalism and to block any thinking that considers a modern alternative to this obsolete system.

Parents are not stakeholders. Nor are students, teachers, and principals. Women, workers, and senior citizens are not “stakeholders” either. They are human beings and citizens with basic human rights, not consumers, shoppers, or “market citizens” who fend-for-themselves in a chaotic and insecure “dog-eat-dog” world. Parents are members of the polity, just like everyone else, and they necessarily share the same objective interests as students, teachers, principals, and others. Education serves parents, as well as students, teachers, principals, society, the economy, and people who are not parents. The value of education is not based on parenthood. A modern society based on mass industrial production would not be possible without a modern mass public education system that is world-class, fully-funded, and locally-controlled.

The role of education is to pass on the accumulated knowledge of humanity to the next generation so that society can progress. Everyone has a “stake” in education. The same can be said about healthcare, transportation, postal services, food production, municipal services, and more. Everyone needs these services—parents and non-parents. Education must serve everyone in a modern society, not this or that “stakeholder” or “special interest.”

Government must take up its social responsibility to provide the rights of individuals and collectives with a guarantee in practice, not leave everyone to fend for themselves in a society that perpetuates insecurity, poverty, debt, unemployment, and inequality. Everyone should reject all attempts by narrow private interests to impose neoliberal ideas and arrangements on people, institutions,  public enterprises, and different spheres of life. Defend the right to an education that serves all individuals, collectives, and society.

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Charter Schools’ Obsession With Test Scores Deliberately Misses the Point

Putting aside the endless problems with punitive high-stakes standardized tests produced by a handful of large for-profit corporations, charter school advocates have never stopped making a fetish out of students’ scores on these political instruments. Charter school promoters obsess endlessly over racist psychometric tests that have been rejected by many for decades. They appear to be immune to all criticism of these widely-rejected tests. No critical examination of these top-down corporate tests is even attempted. It is as if everyone is expected to automatically embrace them and treat them as being useful, flawless, and meaningful.

What is odd, however, is that thousands of charter schools, which frequently cherry-pick their students, actually perform poorly on such corporate tests, more poorly than many under-funded public schools, and about the same as some under-funded public schools. There is really not much to boast about. The charter school record is not impressive, especially when viewed in its totality. Thirty years after their appearance, segregated charter schools cannot seem to claim victory for much.

It is no surprise that more than 150 privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools close every year due to academic failure (and financial malfeasance). Literally thousands have failed and closed in three decades, leaving many black and brown families out in the cold.

Overall, it remains hard to make a compelling argument for the existence of private business like deregulated charter schools. Why have another “system” of schools that undermines public schools and still fails to deliver? What is the reason for such wasteful redundancy, especially when it undermines the public interest? Competition makes losers out of everyone. If it was indisputable and crystal clear to everyone that deregulated charter schools are the silver bullet that advocates keep stubbornly claiming they are, there would be little or no controversy surrounding these contract schools. But every year the controversy around charter schools only intensifies.

Even if all students in a charter school scored 100 on an unsound corporate test, there is no justification for the existence of privately-operated charter schools. The main criteria for judging whether a school should exist is not whether students pass or fail unsound corporate tests.

The tests and students’ scores are meaningless at many levels—for both charter schools and public schools. They are methodologically, philosophically, and statistically flawed. Focusing on the tests pressures people to ignore the core issue regarding charter schools, which is whether they are public or not in the proper sense of the word. They are not. Charter schools are privatized marketized schools. Once it is recognized, understood, appreciated, internalized, and not forgotten that charter schools are not public schools, then all other issues become moot or secondary. The “publicness/privateness” of segregated charter schools is the key issue. Thus, for example, because they are private businesses, charter schools were able to seize hundreds of millions of dollars in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds from the CARES Act. Public schools were not permitted any access to PPP funds because they are not private businesses, they are public entities.

Once it is grasped that segregated non-profit and for-profit charter schools are not public entities then the issue becomes: why are they receiving any public funds, assets, facilities, resources, or authority? What valid claim do private entities have to such things? Public and private cannot be equated, they mean very different things. The public and private spheres have different aims, agendas, and preoccupations. The dictionary even defines public and private as the opposite of each other. Why confound terms that are antonyms?

It is helpful to recall that charter schools are contract schools that are segregated, deunionized, run by unelected officials, have high teacher turnover rates, siphon money from public schools, regularly under-perform, dodge many public laws and standards, frequently over-pay administrators, often cherry-pick their students, and are constantly plagued by endless scandal, fraud, and corruption. Charter schools on average also suspend students at a significantly higher rate than public schools. Who supports any of this?

If charter schools wish to exist, so be it. But like private schools they must not be permitted to have access to any public funds, assets, facilities, resources, or authority. They must fund and support themselves without any reliance on the public sphere. Public funds and resources belong to the public and public schools, not someone else.

The post Charter Schools’ Obsession With Test Scores Deliberately Misses the Point first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Biden Swiftly Disappoints Educators and Students

Months before he became president, many pointed out that harmful neoliberal policies would continue unabated in K-12 education under a Joe Biden administration. Indeed, there is a long record of both democrats and republicans supporting harmful education policies like high-stakes standardized testing, charter schools, performance-based pay schemes, NCLB, ESSA, and more.

But U.S. presidential elections always have a way of successfully enforcing amnesia and intensifying false hope in the context of a discredited political set-up that has long failed to affirm the interests of people. To be fair though, there has emerged in recent years a level of social consciousness that did in fact enable more people than usual to take a more measured conscious approach toward presidential candidates and political realities. More people are increasingly adopting a “we’ll believe it when we see it” attitude because they have come to learn, often the hard way, that politicians are usually unaccountable, break promises regularly, rarely respond to endless begging by the polity, and typically don’t do “the right thing.” It is hard to ignore cumulative experience.

It is no accident that Biden, who has previously claimed he is opposed to high-stakes standardized tests, chose a major promoter of charter schools and high-stakes standardized testing like the neoliberal Ian Rosenblum to make the recent antisocial announcement that punitive high-stakes standardized tests produced by large for-profit corporations would continue in the U.S. and that no reasonable waiver requests from states would be honored.

Rosenblum is acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, a former education assistant to Cuomo (who is currently being investigated for nursing home deaths and for bullying legislators), and also closely allied with John King, a staunch promoter of segregated charter schools. King was also former Commissioner of Education in New York State and former U.S. Secretary of Education. Such individuals have consistently enacted policies and arrangements that violate public education and the public interest. They are widely-disliked by many. Interestingly, while he probably would have gone along with this retrogressive decision, the new U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, was left out of the loop regarding the move to impose high-stakes standardized testing on students and teachers who have been traumatized by the “COVID Pandemic” for an entire year.

It is more imperative than ever to reject the aims, outlook, and agenda of the rich and their political representatives. Progress can be made when people develop their own aims and agendas and rely on their own strength to independently organize themselves and others to open the path of progress to society. Each day brings new fresh depressing evidence of how exclusionary and marginalizing existing outdated governance arrangements are and how being reduced to begging politicians in a humiliating way to do the most basic simple things is simply not working or dignified. “Representative democracy” has not stopped problems from going from bad to worse. A new independent way is needed, free of the influence of the rich and their representatives at many levels of government.

One strategy that has experienced some success in recent years is the test opt-out movement. This is when large numbers of students refuse to take government-mandated corporate tests. This has experienced considerable success in many states in recent years and compelled governments to change course. Those living in New York State can exercise their right to refuse to allow their children to participate in the grades 3-8 state assessments by completing and submitting a Test Opt Out letter, available in English and Spanish, at: NYS Allies for Public Education.

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What is a “Strong” Charter School Law?

Every year the billionaire-funded National Alliance for Charter Schools (NAPCS) produces a glossy report ranking state charter school laws. This year’s 72-page report is titled: Measuring up to the model, a ranking of state public charter school laws, twelfth annual edition.

The main goal of the report is to rank state charter school laws in terms of how “strong” or “weak” they are. This is supposed to signal to privatizers and neoliberals which states are most conducive to privatizing public schools and which are the least conducive to privatizing public schools.

When the report refers to a state’s charter school law as being “strong” what it means is that the door is wide open in that state to unfettered privatization of public schools. In other words, a state with a “strong” charter school law enables and empowers privatizers and neoliberals to create more privately-operated segregated charter schools than a state with a “weak” charter school law. States with “strong” charter school laws, for example, have less charter school accountability and fewer laws, rules, and regulations upholding public standards for non-profit and for-profit charter schools. Being able to dodge teacher unions and being exempt from collective bargaining agreements is also considered a feature of a state with “strong” charter school laws. States with “strong” charter school laws also tend to have more “charter school authorizers,” which means that it is easier to start a charter school in that state because if one authorizer rejects a charter school application, the applicant can always “hop” down the road to another charter school authorizer and see if they will authorize the school’s charter, which they usually do. This reveals the arbitrary and chaotic nature of charter school authorizing. Further, in states with “strong” charter school laws segregated charter schools can operate with a large degree of impunity and not be held accountable for a range of widely-reported unethical practices.

“For the sixth year in a row,” Indiana, according to this latest NAPCS report, is number one in the nation because it has the “strongest” charter school laws in the country. This is terrible news for public schools and the public interest but great news for privatizers and neoliberals. What makes Indiana particularly attractive to privatizers and neoliberals is that it allows an infinite number of deregulated charter schools, multiple charter school authorizers, and almost no rules or regulations for charter schools to uphold. Indiana has also taken steps to funnel even more public school funds into the hands of the private interests that own-operate segregated charter schools.

The NAPCS states that Maryland “has the nation’s weakest charter school law, ranking No. 45 (out of 45).” In other words, Maryland is the least attractive state to privatizers and neoliberals because it limits the number of charter school authorizers, upholds some rules and standards, and limits the amount of public funds that can be seized by private owners-operators of segregated charter schools. The report considers Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, and Kansas to be insufficiently friendly to owners of capital as well.

The issue at stake here is not whether charter school laws are “strong” or “weak” but rather: why are privately-operated charter schools permitted to exist in the first place? A related question is: why are private businesses like charter schools allowed to access public funds, assets, and resources? Charter schools are not public entities in the proper sense of the word. They are not state agencies like public schools. They are not political subdivisions of the state. They differ legally from public schools. They are contract schools that represent the outsourcing of public education to the private sector. Why are they legally permitted to siphon billions of public dollars that belong to public schools?

Currently, 45 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam have laws enabling the creation of charter schools. At this time, about 3.2 million students are enrolled in roughly 7,200 deregulated non-profit and for-profit charter schools. Privately-operated charter schools are notorious for consistently enrolling far fewer special needs students, homeless students, and English Language learners than public schools. It should also be noted that every 1-2 days a news report documents fraud, corruption, and arrests in the charter school sector.

The post What is a “Strong” Charter School Law? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Vaccinations and Stimulus Packages Won’t Mend the Economy

The social and economic destruction engulfing the U.S. and dozens of other countries remains out of everyone’s control and more chaos, instability, and insecurity now mark the global landscape.

The ruling elite have repeatedly shown their inability to tackle any serious problems effectively. They are at a loss for how to deal with current problems and refuse to consider any alternative to their obsolete economic system. The best they can do is recycle old ideas to maintain their class power and privilege. Their efforts to block the New focus mainly on promoting disinformation about “new and better forms of capitalism,” including oxymorons like “inclusive capitalism,” “responsible capitalism,” and “ethical capitalism.”

Since the outbreak of the “COVID Pandemic” in March 2020 every week has been a roller coaster for humanity. The economy and society keep lurching from one crisis to another while incoherence and stress keep amplifying. It is said that 1 in 6 Americans went into therapy for the first time in 2020.

Unemployment, under-employment, inequality, mental depression, anxiety, suicide, environmental decay, inflation, debt, health care costs, education, and poverty are worsening everywhere. Thousands of businesses that have been around for years keep disappearing left and right.

Top-down actions in response to the “COVID Pandemic” have made so many things worse for so many people. Many are wondering which is worse: the covid-19 virus or the top-down response to the pandemic. Governments everywhere have steadfastly refused to mobilize the people to solve the many problems that are worsening. The moral climate is low and more people are worried about the future.

An atmosphere has been created whereby people are supposed to feel like the exhausting “COVID Pandemic” will last forever and we can all forget about getting back to any normal healthy non-digital relations, activities, and interactions. No society in history has worn face masks for an entire year. We are told over and over again that there is no returning to anything called “normal.” Moving everything online and repeatedly asserting that this is great, “cool,” and wonderful is proving to be unsatisfactory and unfulfilling. People want and need real, direct, non-digital connections and interactions with other human beings. Life behind a screen is not life.

Even with all the restrictions and shutdowns the virus, according to the mainstream media, continues to wreak havoc at home and abroad. It is almost like none of the severe restrictions on people’s freedoms made any difference. People have had to endure this humiliation while also not being permitted any role in deciding the aim, operation, and direction of the economy or any of the affairs of society; they are left out of the equation every step of the way and not even asked for superficial “input” that always goes unheeded anyway. Existing governance arrangements are simply not working to empower people or affirm their rights. The people’s interests and will are blocked at every turn by an outdated political setup that advances only the narrow interests of the rich.

Despite intense pressure to blindly rely on the rich and their political representatives to “figure things out,” this is not working. Nor does it help that the mainstream media approaches multiple crises and issues with endless double-talk, disconnected facts, catchy sound-bites, dramatic exaggerations, angry voices, political axe-grinding, and lots of confusion. Coherence and a human-centered outlook are avoided at all costs. People are constantly left disoriented. Jumping arbitrarily and rapidly from one thing to another in the most unconscious way is presented as useful analysis and information. This is why sorting out basic information has become a full-time job for everyone. People are understandably worn-out and overwhelmed. Disinformation overload degrades mental, emotional, and physical health.

The world has become an uglier and gloomier place—all in the name of “improving health.” It is no surprise that a recent Gallup Poll shows that the majority of Americans are extremely dissatisfied with government, the economy, the culture, and the moral climate.

In this hazardous unstable context, there are two ever-present key pieces of disinformation operating side by side. Both are designed to deprive working people of any say, initiative, outlook, or power.

First there is the “once everyone is vaccinated things will be much better” disinformation. This ignores the fact that capitalist crises have endogenous causes not exogenous causes and that the economic crisis started well before the “COVID Pandemic.” More than 150 years of recessions, depressions, booms, busts, instability, chaos, and anarchy have not been caused by external phenomena like bacteria, germs, and viruses but by the internal logic and operation of capital itself. A so-called “free market” economy by its very nature and logic ensures “winners” and “losers,” “booms” and “busts.” It is called a “dog-eat-dog” fend-for-yourself competitive world for a reason. The modern idea that humans are born to society and have rights by virtue of their being is alien to “free market” ideology.

Despite the fact that millions have been vaccinated at home and abroad, poverty, inequality, unemployment, debt, and other problems continue to worsen. Businesses continue to suffer and disappear. Hospitality, leisure, recreation, and other sectors have been decimated in many countries. Air travel is dramatically lower. So are car sales. It is not enough to say, “Yes, the next few months will be rough and lousy economically speaking but we will get there with more vaccinations. Just be patient, it will all eventually work out.” This is not what is actually unfolding. The all-sided crisis we find ourselves in started before the “COVID Pandemic” and continues unabated. Such a view also makes a mockery of economic science and the people’s desire to decide the affairs of society and establish much better arrangements that exclude narrow private interests and do not rely on police powers.

In the coming months millions more will be vaccinated but economic decline and decay will continue. Both the rate and amount of profit have been falling for years. And owners of capital are not going to invest in anything when there is no profit to be had and when it is easier instead to balloon fictitious capital and pretend everything is a stock market video game. The lack of vaccinations did not cause the economic collapse the word is currently suffering through, nor will more vaccinations reverse economic decline and decay. The “COVID Pandemic” has largely made some people vastly richer and millions more much poorer. The “COVID Pandemic” has significantly increased inequality. Unfortunately, the so-called “Great Reset” agenda of the World Economic Forum and Pope Francis’s recent call for a “Copernican Revolution” in the economy will make things worse for millions more because they will perpetuate the existing moribund economic system. Such agendas are designed to fool the gullible, block working class consciousness and action, and keep the initiative in the hands of the global oligarchy.

The same applies to so-called “stimulus packages.” Various versions of these top-down monetary and fiscal programs have been launched in different countries, and while they have assuaged some problems for people, they have not been adequate or fixed any underlying problems. They have not prevented poverty or mass unemployment. Economies remain mired in crisis. In most cases “stimulus packages” have made things worse by increasing the amount of debt that many generations will have to repay. This is in addition to the many other forms of debt Americans suffer from and rent payments that will one day have to be paid.

Many are also wondering why trillions of dollars can be printed and instantly turned over to the banks and corporations with no discussion but the same cannot be done for social programs, public enterprises, and the people. Why, for example, can all not get free healthcare or have taxes eliminated? Why can’t various forms of personal debt be wiped out instantly? If the government can print money for “them” why can’t they print money for “us”? Who is government supposed to serve? Billionaires?

Nether the CARES Act of 2020 nor the stimulus package passed in December 2020 nor the one President Biden is pushing for in March 2021 will be adequate or solve any major problems. Many felt that the $600 stimulus checks that went out in December 2020 were pathetic and insulting.

The problem lies with a socialized productive economy run by everyone but owned and controlled by a tiny handful of competing private interests determined to maximize profit as fast as possible regardless of the damage to the social and natural environment. There is no way for the economy to benefit all individuals and serve the general interests of society so long as it is dominated by a handful of billionaires. The social wealth produced by workers cannot benefit workers and the society if workers themselves do not control the wealth they produce and have first claim to.

The outlook, agenda, and reference points of the rich must be rejected and replaced by a human-centered aim, agenda, direction, and outlook. The current trajectory is untenable and unsustainable. The situation is dangerous in many ways, but perhaps one good thing to come out of the accelerated pace of chaos, anarchy, and instability are the contradictions that are presenting new opportunities for action with analysis that favors working people.

The post Vaccinations and Stimulus Packages Won’t Mend the Economy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Can the Rich Fix Their Outdated Economic System?

A key feature of disinformation is that it robs people of an outlook, not just ideas and views, but a coherent world outlook that enables and empowers them to make sense of the world, figure out what is going, avoid illusions, and take actions that favor the public interest and restrict the unjust claims of owners of capital.

Joe Biden’s Economic Dream Team

Such disinformation is evident in a January 6, 2021, BBC News article titled: “Joe Biden: The team he hopes can fix the US economy.”

How exactly will the rich and their political representatives fix their obsolete economic system? Why wasn’t the broken economy fixed long ago? Why are inequality, poverty, unemployment, under-employment, debt, the labor force participation rate, environmental decay, and other major social problems steadily worsening regardless of which party of the rich is in power? Will there even be a useful analysis of what is actually unfolding and what is needed to serve the general interests of society?

Will Biden’s “team of Ivy League trained economists and lawyers, well-versed in the ways of Washington,” as the BBC News article describes them, bring about prosperity and security for all? Is it possible that such a “team” is exactly what is not needed?

Working people want to know why previous fiscal and monetary policies have not fixed the economy so far? Why does the economy keep lurching from crisis to crisis? Why are stability and security so elusive? Why do so many people have a nagging bad feeling in their stomach about what lies ahead? If previous economic stimulus strategies did not work and failed to avert economic collapse, why will the one currently being proposed by Biden work?

It is known that Biden’s “team of Ivy League trained economists and lawyers, well-versed in the ways of Washington” has experience bailing out large for-profit corporations and serving in one of the two parties of the rich in the past, but how does that help the average American who is confronted with growing inequality, joblessness, endless bills, inadequate healthcare, inflation, debt, anxiety, uncertainty, and insecurity?

The U.S. economy is not failing because someone never assembled a “team of Ivy League trained economists and lawyers, well-versed in the ways of Washington.” A “team of Ivy League trained economists and lawyers, well-versed in the ways of Washington” is actually part of the problem because it should be working people who decide the affairs of the economy, not someone else. Production and distribution of social wealth cannot take place without workers. Shouldn’t workers decide the aim, operation, and direction of the economy? Why are they not even in the picture? As the only source of value, why are workers dismissed so casually?

The BBC News headline, “Joe Biden: The team he hopes can fix the US economy,” is meant to keep working people marginalized, humiliated, and deprived of any say over the economy. It is designed to perpetuate the illusion that only the rich and their political representatives can figure things out and should be trusted to do so. The opinions and views of workers are to have no meaningful space or role in directing the economy or the affairs of society.

Unfortunately, Biden and his economic team will do nothing to address the basic contradictions inherent to an outdated crisis-prone economic system. No one believes that a massive surge of amazing jobs that provide people with a dignified existence and security is right around the corner. No one believes that workers in different sectors will suddenly have a real say in how things are run in their sector. And no one believes that the stock market is not going to crash again soon.

Jerome Powell Intensifies Disinformation

“There’s nothing more important to the economy now than people getting vaccinated,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday, January 27, 2021.

This is part of the stubborn “the vaccine will reverse economic problems because the virus, not something else, caused the economic collapse” disinformation being relentlessly promoted by the rich and their representatives. Many media outlets are tirelessly promoting the illusion that vaccinating everyone is key to restoring economic well-being. In other words, capitalist economic collapse is not caused by the internal logic and operation of capitalism but by “external” forces like germs or natural disasters. There is apparently nothing inherently wrong with the outmoded economic system itself and no serious analysis is needed: “We just have to get through this pandemic via mass vaccinations and then all will be well again. Just hang in there.” This makes a mockery of economic science.

With or without a vaccine the unplanned chaotic obsolete U.S. economy will continue failing and leave tens of millions behind. About a million new first time unemployment claims have been filed in each of the last 46 consecutive weeks. This is historically unprecedented and unheard of. Staggering by any measure. Even mainstream news sources like Reuters can’t ignore damning and indicting economic data and statistics.

The brutal “business cycle” that plagues all capitalist economies is not caused by bacteria, viruses, or germs. Most, if not all, slumps, busts, recessions, and depressions in the past have had nothing to do with bacteria, viruses, or germs. Pandemics, natural disasters, and other phenomena can affect economic conditions but they are not the underlying reason for endless “boom and bust” cycles that regularly wreak havoc on millions.

So far, big “stimulus packages,” infinite money printing, more pay-the-rich schemes, and endless other distortions of the economy have not solved any problems or given rise to a path that people can call stable, reliable, and sustainable.

Many countries have actually been describing their economic “recoveries” as “jobless recoveries” for decades. Others have used the phrase “another lost decade” to describe the economic mayhem caused by an economic system that cannot provide for the needs of the people. Where is stability, security, and prosperity for all? Why is the financial oligarchy so inept at solving basic problems in the 21st century?

The only solution to the constantly worsening economic crisis is to vest sovereignty in the people through democratic renewal so that they can be the actual decision-makers. Only when decisions are made by the people themselves can their interests and rights be upheld. Keeping people disempowered does not solve any problems. Talking about inclusion while constantly excluding people will ensure that things keep going from bad to worse.

In practice, the existing authority is committed only to making the rich richer. This is why constantly relying on and begging and pressuring the rich and their politicians to do the most basic simple things has not reversed growing inequality, joblessness, hunger, poverty, debt, anxiety, and insecurity. Such begging and pressuring only puts working people, the producers of all social wealth, in a humiliating impotent position. It causes lots of burnout and disillusionment as well. Sadly many will keep begging politicians without ever cognizing that the results of their begging are very poor or nonexistent. They never seem to realize that there are far better ways to advance the public interest than endlessly begging unaccountable politicians. They have yet to realize that existing governance arrangements no longer work, which is why problems keep worsening.

There is an urgent need for an entirely new outlook, direction, politics, and agenda in society, one that stems from working people and serves the general interests of a society free of the destructive influence of narrow private interests and their political representatives. The ideas, views, politics, outlook, and agenda of the rich are anachronistic and retrogressive. They have made things worse for the people and society. No one should believe for one second that the rich and their political and media representatives have the best interest of the people at heart. The power, necessity, and hope for opening the path of progress to society lies only with working people.

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Charter Schools Distort the Modern Socialized Economy

Every year billions of public dollars and assets flow into the hands of private businesses like charter schools, leaving public schools, the economy, the public interest, and the nation worse off. This is due to the fact that competing owners of capital are using deregulated charter schools to atomize the socialized economy for private gain. As pay-the-rich schemes, privately-operated charter schools drain the large-scale socialized economy of a huge amount of social wealth produced by working people and meant for the public interest.

When public funds leave the public sector and end up in the hands of deregulated private entities like non-profit and for-profit charter schools, that means narrow private interests are benefitting at the expense of the public. It means less added-value is used by and benefits the public. It means all public wealth is not reinvested fully and directly back into the public sector. Instead, a large portion of social wealth produced by workers is illegitimately claimed by external private claimants whose aim is to maximize profit as fast as possible.1 This distorts the economy and undermines public schools and the public interest. It is a net loss for society. It is socially irresponsible. Funneling public funds to private interests undermines modern nation-building that relies on a diverse, self-reliant, balanced, and pro-social economy under public control.

It may be asked: Why don’t public funds stay in public hands? Why aren’t public funds used for public enterprises and for public purposes only? Why do public funds have to go through the private circuit and still leave society with poor results? Why are narrow private interests even permitted to access public funds in the first place? Why do so many social programs and public enterprises have a pay-the-rich component to them? What legitimate claim do owners of capital have to wealth produced by workers?

Public and private are antonyms and should not be confounded. Public is the opposite of private. They do not mean the same thing. They should not be casually mixed up and used in intellectually lazy ways. It is problematic to mix them up because it denies the distinct properties of each category. There is a world of difference between the common good and exclusive private interests. What is good for major owners of capital is not good for the general interests of society. The aim of maximizing profit as fast as possible clashes head-on with the aim of serving the common good. These aims cannot be harmonized because one negates the other. Pursuing one comes at the expense of the other. There is no middle-ground or “safe mixing” of the two. Blurring the contrast between public and private is self-serving and invariably results in antisocial consequences. This is why so-called “public-private-partnerships” (PPPs), for example, are really pay-the-rich schemes that undermine the public interest instead of advancing it. There is little that is public about PPPs. The public does not need private “partners” to serve the economy and society; private “partners” are a big drain on both.

Public funds for public schools must not flow into the hands of narrow private interests; this does not solve anything, it just destabilizes education and the economy. Now more than ever public schools need more public funds and greater investments. This is especially true given that at least $600 billion has been cut from public education since the 2008 recession.

Public schools have been educating 90% of America’s youth for more than 150 years and must be fully funded, not continually starved of funds, over-tested, over-controlled, set up to fail, demonized and discredited, and then handed over to narrow private interests as a source of profit in a continually failing economy. Deliberately and persistently starving public schools of funds, over-testing them, demonizing and punishing them, and then letting neoliberals and privatizers privatize them only serves the rich and garbles the economy. It does not improve schools. It leaves the majority worse off.

The “starve-them, test-them, demonize-punish-them, and privatize-them” strategy is straight out of the neoliberal playbook and has been used in dozens of cities across America. It is a deliberate setup for failure. Neoliberals and privatizers are now directly responsible for thousands of failing charter schools and for mandating public school failure. Society is now stuck with two failing education arrangements thanks to neoliberals and privatizers. How is this helpful? Instead of solving anything, neoliberals and privatizers have made a mess of everything and humiliated the personality of society. An August 6, 2020 article from the Washington Post titled “New report finds high closure rates for charter schools over time” reported that:

A comprehensive examination released Thursday of charter school failure rates between 1999 and 2017 found that more than one-quarter of the schools closed after operating for five years, and about half closed after 15 years, displacing a total of more than 867,000 students.

How is this a good thing? In what sense can this chaos and instability be called a success? Is this what students, teachers, parents, the economy, and society need? Is this what charter school promoters mean by “success”? Over the past 30 years more than 3,000 segregated charter schools have closed, usually for financial malfeasance and/or poor academic performance. This is staggering when considering the fact that there are currently fewer than 7,500 privately-operated charter schools in the country. Charter school promoters are consistently silent on these damning and indicting facts.

Wealth is produced by workers who must have first claim to it. Wealth is not created by owners of capital. Owners of capital mainly control the wealth produced by workers. Workers do not control the wealth they themselves produce; they are alienated from the fruits of their labor, which means that the social product cannot be used to serve the general interests of society.

The state must be organized to advance the public interest using the social wealth produced by working people. Instead, the state is increasingly being used to pay the rich using the wealth produced collectively by working people. When the state prioritizes narrow private interests over the public interest in this way the socialized economy, workers, and nation-building suffer. The ability to reproduce the economy on a healthy sustainable basis is undermined. It means socially-produced wealth cannot be used to develop a diverse, self-reliant, and balanced economy that upholds the rights of all and provides a crisis-free life. This puts the future in peril.

The egocentric rich are only interested in expanding their class power and privilege, not the public interest, the socialized economy, or nation-building. Their objective position in the economy makes them blind to anything other than their private unlimited greed. They see the world only from their narrow business-centric perspective. The antisocial consequences that result from their seizure of social wealth for private gain does not concern them. This wrecking of society and the economy is presented as a “natural” and “normal” feature of a dog-eat-dog world that we are all apparently helpless to overcome.

Great strides can be made by blocking neoliberals and privatizers and by advancing a pro-social agenda that recognizes the need for new human-centered relations in society and the economy. Pay-the-rich schemes are socially irresponsible and make life worse for everyone except the rich. Enlarging the private fortunes of owners of capital at the expense of the entire society must be opposed in order to open the path of progress to society and strengthen and balance the socialized economy. There are much better ways to organize people, the economy, and society.

Socially-produced wealth must be plowed back into public schools and public enterprises, not handed over to private interests to do with as they please. If private businesses like segregated charter schools wish to exist and multiply, that is OK, but they must not have access to a single public dime, asset, or resource. Public funds and assets belong to the public and public enterprises. There is nothing public about charter schools.

Owners of capital must not be permitted to cannibalize the state for their narrow private interests. Education is not a commodity or “market opportunity” for “investors,” it is a public good, a social responsibility, and basic right that must be provided with a guarantee in practice.

  1. This is true for both non-profit and for-profit charter schools.
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