Politics


"Other People's Children": The Corollary of Bad Policy

By Mark Naison

For some time, I have argued that School Reform is the most destructive bi-partisan initiative we have suffered in the United States since the Vietnam War, a policy which has, and will continue to inspire mass movements to limit the damage it inflicts through universal testing of the nation's children, and the humiliation and micro-management of the nation's teachers.

Some have argued, correctly, that people have not lost their lives as a result of School Reform even when schools are closed, teachers are fired, communities destabilized, instruction has been reduced to test prep, and young people's minds have been reduced to mush by relentless testing. That is certainly true. But one thing does seem similar. Both produced PTSD.

The Hollowing Out of Government

Robert ReichBy Robert Reich

The West Texas chemical and fertilizer plant where at least 15 were killed and more than 200 injured a few weeks ago hadn't been fully inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 1985. (A partial inspection in 2011 had resulted in $5,250 in fines.)

OSHA and its state partners have a total of 2,200 inspectors charged with ensuring the safety of more than 8 million workplaces employing 130 million workers. That comes to about one inspector for every 59,000 American workers.

There's no way it can do its job with so few resources, but OSHA has been systematically hollowed out for the years under Republican administrations and congresses that have despised the agency since its inception.

Showdown on California Fracking Moratorium Set for Monday

By Dan Aiello

A key committee vote on legislation calling for a halt to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in California that would effectively stop out of state oil companies from reaching California's vast Monterey Shale deposit is set for Monday in Sacramento.

The stakes could not be higher for the oil and gas industry as environmentalists embark on their latest David versus Goliath struggle over California's environment before the Assembly's Natural Resources Committee April 29th.

Don't Blame Obama for Gun Control Defeat

By Randy Shaw

NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd has never liked Barack Obama, so it was fitting that she blamed him for the Senate's failure to break a GOP-led filibuster on gun control bills. According to Dowd, Obama "doesn't know how to work the system" and "still has not learned how to govern." But while Obama's lack of political skill still bedevils supporters, he did "work the system" to pass gun control.

Brown Administration Official Claims "Delta Can't Be Saved"

By Dan Bacher

Recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, Indian tribal leaders, family farmers, environmentalists, Delta residents and many elected officials strongly oppose the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build peripheral tunnels diverting water out of the Delta, because they say it will lead to the extinction of Central Valley salmon, steelhead and other fish species. Natural Resources Secretary John Laird and Governor Jerry Brown have constantly portrayed the BDCP as a visionary effort based on "science" to accomplish the "co-equal goals" of "ecosystem restoration" and "water supply reliability."

"Science has and will continue to drive a holistic resolution securing our water supply and substantially restoring the Delta's lost habitat," said Laird on March 28.

However, a Brown administration official recently admitted that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan has nothing to do with saving the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the estuary that salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, Delta smelt, striped bass and a host of other species depend on for survival.

Why School Test Resistance May Be About to Sweep the Nation

By Mark Naison

When people decide to resist unjust policies that have overwhelming support and for which there are few antecedents in their lifetime, mass movements do not erupt overnight. They are often inspired by the accumulation of individual acts of protest, taken at great risk.

One of the best examples of this is the lunch counter sit-ins during the Civil Rights movement, which began when four black college students in Greensboro, North Carolina, decided to challenge segregation in their downtown business district, sparking a movement in scores of cities that eventually encompassed more than 35,000 protesters and led to the creation of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee(SNCC).

April Is the Cruelest Month As the Economy Crawls Along

By Robert Reich

Bad news on the economy. It added only 88,000 jobs in March - the slowest pace of job growth in nine months.

While the jobless rate fell to 7.6 percent, much of the drop was due to the labor force shrinking by almost a half million people. If you're not looking for work, you're not counted as unemployed.

That means the percentage of working-age Americans either with a job or looking for one dropped to 63.3 percent - its lowest level since 1979.

The direction isn't encouraging. The pace of job growth this year is slower than its pace last year.

What's going on? The simple fact is companies won't hire if consumers aren't buying enough to justify the new hires. And consumers don't have enough money, or credit, or confidence to buy enough.

The Tea Party's Last Stand

By Victoria DeFrancesco Soto

It was a fierce battle. One that the Texan underdogs knew they would likely not survive let alone emerge from victorious. But the men who were holed up in the Alamo, led by William Travis, Davy Crocket, and Jim Bowie, took a stand for a cause they believed in regardless of the consequences.

The battle at the Alamo took place 177 years ago this week. And coincidentally, on its anniversary another group of men took their last stand on the floor of the U.S. Senate. A band led by Tea Party Senators battled to filibuster John Brennan's confirmation to serve as CIA director. There were no muskets or knives involved; instead it was a battle that relied on candy bars and strategic sips of water.

Fixing the Economy's Real Problem

By Robert Reich

"Our biggest problems over the next ten years are not deficits," the President told House Republicans Wednesday, according to those who attended the meeting.

The President needs to deliver the same message to the public, loudly and clearly. The biggest problems we face are unemployment, stagnant wages, slow growth, and widening inequality - not deficits. The major goal must be to get jobs and wages back, not balance the budget.

Paul Ryan's budget plan - essentially, the House Republican plan - is designed to lure the White House and Democrats, and the American public, into a debate over how to balance the federal budget in ten years, not over whether it's worth doing.

The American Dream: A Conspiracy Fact

By Tina Dupuy

I've been assured my in-laws don't read my column. However, because of their mix of shame, guilt and blame, I'll be vague on some details. They've fallen on hard times. No one wants to talk about it, let alone have it written about and syndicated.

But I think their story is illustrative:

My in-laws live in a generic suburb of modest mid-century tract homes in the middle of strip mall sprawl. They have a well-attended lawn; two mid-range cars in the driveway, a loyal Lab mix sleeping on the porch. They both worked in middle management in not-important-enough-to-name small businesses tangentially related to serving the housing industry for over 20 years each. They paid off their mortgage. Their son, my husband, was the first in their family to attend college. During the housing boom they looked at the massive amount their small three-bedroom home was worth and opted not to partake in the equity, but knew it meant they were secure. The future was bright.

In short: They were living every part of the real American Dream. Not the grandiose one where we're all millionaires or soon-to-be millionaires. The one where we all have a job, a home and our kids are better off than we were. My in-laws had that.