Thursday, February 18, 2010

Killing public education from the inside

Watch this Bill Moyers' interview with Thomas Frank, the author of The Wrecking Crew. Frank explains how government-haters obtain positions of power within the government and then starve it from the inside. Their type of governing is one which actually wants as many inferior people working in the government as possible, as well as doing everything it can to incapacitate the workers' ability to produce a stellar product. The goal is to maximize government's incompetencies and failures. This keeps them well-supplied with more and more ammunition with which they can continue the kill.

Here’s an excerpt from the program:

THOMAS FRANK: Think of all the crises and the disasters that you've described. And I would add to them things like the, what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And the Madoff scandal on Wall Street. And, you know, on and on and on. The Jack Abramoff scandal. The whole sordid career of Tom DeLay.

All of these things that we remember from the last decade. I mean, some of them that we're forgetting. Like who remembers all the scandals over earmarking, anymore? And who remembers all the scandals over Iraq reconstruction? All that, you know, disastrous, when we would hand it off to a private contractor to rebuild Iraq. And it would, you know, of course, it would fail.

Those things have all sort of been dwarfed by the economic disaster and the wreckage on Wall Street. But I would say to you that all of these things that we're describing here are of a piece. And that they all flow from the same ideas. And those ideas are the sort of conservative attitude towards government. And conservative attitudes towards governance. Okay?

BILL MOYERS: That government is a perversion.

THOMAS FRANK: Government is-- yeah, government is a perversion. And to believe that the federal government can be operated, you know, with all of its programs, can be operated well and do things that are good for the people, is, as you say, is a perversion.

And they look at someone like Barack Obama and it makes them seethe. Because that's, you know, that's what he's trying to do. What conservatism in this country is about is government failure. Conservatives talk about government failure all the time, constantly. And conservatives, when they're in power deliver government failure.

BILL MOYERS: Not merely from incompetence, you say, but from ideology, from philosophy, from a view of the world.

THOMAS FRANK: And sometimes from design.

BILL MOYERS: From design? What do you mean?

THOMAS FRANK: Not always from design, but often. The Department of Labor, for example, the conservatives when they in office, routinely stuff the Department of Labor full of ideological cranks. And people that don't believe in the mission.

And the result is that it doesn't-- they don't enforce anything. Towards the very end of the Bush-era, the Department of Labor had been whittled down. It was a shell of its former self. And at the very end of the Bush Administration, one of the government accountability programs did a study of the Department of Labor. And, I'm smiling, because it's kind of amusing. It was like an old spy magazine prank.

They made up these horrendous labor violations around the country and phoned them in as complaints to the Department of Labor to see what they would do, okay? They responded to one out of ten of these, you know, where they called in as like, "Well, we got, you know, kids working in a meat packing plant during school hours. You know, can you, you going to do anything about that?" "No." Or you look at something like the Securities and Exchange Commission. These guys are supposed to be regulating, you know, the investment banks, okay? Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, that sort of thing. These guys were so under-funded, and not just under-funded, but you had people in charge of it who didn't believe in regulating Wall Street.

BILL MOYERS: So, they made the Securities and Exchange Commission a laughing stock, if you will. They really did.

THOMAS FRANK: Right. Well, there's these horrible stories that came out. Once Bush was out, there was a study done of the SEC, as well. These people didn't even have like their own functioning photocopiers, okay? So, we're talking about the lawyers that are supposed to be protecting us from Wall Street. And they have to go stand in line at Kinko's to do their own photocopying. And they're going up against the best paid, you know, best educated lawyers on planet Earth, who represent the investment banks. And they're supposed to be defending us.

BILL MOYERS: The curious thing about this is that you and I and my audience knows that our ancestors believed that capitalism needed to be supervised. But when the conservatives came to power, they begin to muzzle the watchdog.

THOMAS FRANK: Yeah. Well, or you know, do away with it altogether, de-fund it. Look, the beginning in the 1980s, President Reagan came to office and came to power, and you remember the kind of rhetoric that he used to use in denouncing the Federal workforce. He hated the Federal workforce. And this is an article of faith among conservatives.

There's something called the pay gap that they used to talk about a lot in Washington, D.C. Which is, back in the '50s, '60s, and up into the 1970s, Federal workers were paid a comparable amount to what people in the private sector earned. Okay? So, if you're a lawyer working for the government, you got about as much as a lawyer working in the private sector.

Not as much, because government benefits are considered to be much better. Okay. Under Reagan, you had this huge gap open up between Federal workers and the private sector. I asked around. And I found out a government attorney makes $140,000 a year on retirement. After he's been there all his life. In the private sector law firm in Washington, you'd be making $160,000 starting salary. That's first year. Right out of law school.

BILL MOYERS: So what's the consequence of this pay gap you described? Or, do we get inferior government because of it?

THOMAS FRANK: Absolutely. It keeps the best and the brightest out of government service, unless you're really dedicated to a cause.

But let me go one step further with this, Bill. When I say this is done by design, I'm not exaggerating. And this is one of the more surprising things that I found when I was doing the research for "The Wrecking Crew," is that there's a whole conservative literature on why you want second-rate people in government, or third-rate.

I found an interview with the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from 1928, where he said-- this quote, it's mind-boggling to me. But he really said this. "The best public servant is the worst one." Okay? You want bad people in government. You want to deliberately staff government with second-rate people. Because if you have good people in government, government will work. And then the public will learn to trust government. And then they'll hand over more power to it.

And you don't want that, of course. Your Chamber of Commerce. And I thought, when I first read this, "That's a crazy idea. I can't believe that sentiment." And then I found it repeated again and again and again. Throughout the long history of the conservative movement. This is something they believe very deeply.

BILL MOYERS: It comes out of a definitive way of seeing things, right?

THOMAS FRANK: Yes. And we can summarize that very briefly. That the market is the, you know, is the universal principle of human civilization. And that government is a kind of interloper, if not a, you know, criminal gang. And getting in the way.

Doesn’t this sound exactly like what's been happening to public education over the years?

And once you become aware of the fact that the entire whole public ed deform movement started way back during the Reagan years, and once you catch on to the players who have been pushing it, everything falls into place. Read A History Lesson About the Sandia Report to learn how an important report was suppressed back in the early 1990s to prevent its results from interfering with the master plan.

Of course, when their mansions fall down the hill or their big business venture is about to fail, these people suddenly fall in love with the government. It's totally sick.


Anonymous said...

re: truancy
While I was at Skyline I came across a 20 year old WASC report in the music office. One of the subjects covered in the report was ongoing truancy problems. The truancy rate and causes were the about the same as always.

NYC Educator said...

The thing that really freaks me out, though, is that Barack Obama is right there in lockstep with old GW on education, going in for every stupid idea that comes down the pike, just so Bill Gates likes it.

Bay Area Teacher said...

What I wonder is, once these oligarchs have completely starved the system, wiped out public education along with all other public services, who will be left to purchase their goods and services? Won't they eventually reach some sort of tipping point when the wealth distribution is so distorted that their own positions become compromised?

Or are they counting on the wealth of other nations to keep them on their pinnacle of privilege? I just don't get the level of selfishness these people exist on.
It's such a drag...

nikto said...

Perhaps the Oligarchs are just soaking up as much upward wealth transfer as they can before the dollar crashes.

They will need enough money to leave America entirely and establish armed fortifications to live in places like Paraguay, Bahrain, Arab Emirates, etc

The U.S. is now slightly over 85% in terms of Debt-to-GNP ratio.

The traditional tipping point for nations' economies/currency is 90-100%. We will be around 94% by the end of THIS YEAR.

A number of other countries are near where we are (or even a bit ahead). Just think of dominoes falling.

And the biggest domino of
all is US.

If you are not overly prone to nightmares, check this out:,1536239

and this...

nikto said...

This was my reply in a major newspaper to "citizen-critics" who make a habit out of mercilessly, and often mindlessly, ragging on Public Schools, Teacher's Unions, and especially TEACHERS:

Some of the anti-teacher comments here are clearly from former flunky students who probably carved-up desks, ditched school frequently, came to school high on dope, and got mad when their teacher caught them copying. Don't look, "critics", but, YOUR KIDZ ARE JUST LIKE YOU. Stop blaming others for YOUR FAILURES at raising your own narcissistic,
instant-gratification-seeking, headphone-wearing, obtuse, shallow children.

But the punishment is built-in, isn't it? You will still be supporting them in 20 years!!

No teacher can "fix" what you have already ruined!

But thank God for the great number of fine young people still in school today. You know, those "other" kids. The ones whose parents make no excuses. The ones who knew how to actually RAISE their children.

My moniker: