April 9, 2020

Thunderous applause for Bernie, from Naomi and Noam




And Naomi Klein says exactly why.

Here are some mostly quoted, partly paraphrased and clipped remarks from her interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now this morning (starting at 03:41):

She mainly wishes to express her HUGE gratitude to Sanders and everyone involved in his campaign who opened up the window to what is possible politically ...

More than anything else, what the campaign did is HELP US FIND EACH OTHER. And he did this not just now but also in 2016, where he really broke the spell of the Reagan era — that spell that has lasted for four decades, that told people who believed that this system that was funneling so much wealth upwards and spreading insecurity, precariousness and poverty and pollution for everybody else, everybody who saw that system and thought there was something deeply wrong with it ... what the Sanders campaign did is tell us that we had been lied to ... the organizing wove this amazing web and we were able to find each other and find that we were many and they were few.

Sanders was so correct in zeroing in on the conspiracy of lowered expectations ... He said to the American public:  if you don’t believe that you deserve universal healthcare, you’re not going to get it, if you don’t believe that you deserve a safe planet, you’re not going to get it.

You can simultaneously win the battle of ideas and still believe that you will never actually win, that you are still a weak minority, that you will still be destroyed by the forces of establishment power and money.  And that, I think, is the real generational divide that Bernie was also speaking to in his address ... the “younger” voters were starting to believe they could actually win ... they understood that the intellectual project of neo-liberalism was bankrupt ... and these words like “Democratic Socialist” were not as scary anymore.  In fact, they had become appealing.

For the older generation ... when Bernie’s opponents raised the specter of the Red scare that would be used against him, that was incredibly triggering, terrifying ... Progressive voters who agreed with Bernie could not believe that he could win, where younger voters did believe that he could win. And that was the most important generational divide.

The way this pandemic is playing out is further opening up that window of what is politically possible, indeed what is necessary for people’s survival. And yes, support for Medicare for All is surging, as well as support for other kinds of programs like Housing for All, that were always at the center of the Sanders campaign.

We are seeing that it is possible to clean the air ... but we don’t want to clean the air by brutal crash. We want to clean the air by craft ...  People are seeing this, and being radicalized by this, and demanding policies that were at the center of the Sanders campaign

But during times of crisis, people are also risk-averse ... What we need to be focused on right now is winning those policies for a kind of people’s bailout ... and we need to be focused on beating Donald Trump.

In the next few months, we are still able to make ourselves heard in sending a very clear message to Congress that people are enraged by this bailout, and the fact that these meager strings that were attached to the corporate bailout were immediately snipped by the Trump administration in terms of oversight ... watchdogs ... giving Mnuchin the ability to override that oversight.

I think that the battle, when it comes to disaster capitalism in this corporate free-for-all under cover of pandemic, that that battle was lost when the rescue for people was bundled together with the corporate bailout. The demand we need to make on lawmakers right now is to keep those things separate.

The fact is:  there is power right now, there’s power from the working people who are holding the world together ... we’re seeing a wave of job action from these workers who understand themselves to be so essential despite decades of having their labor belittled by those in power.  That was one of the great strengths of the Sanders campaign, that he always recognized the power of those essential workers ... people who recognized Sanders as their champion from the very beginning.  Let’s trust them, and let’s do everything we can to augment their political power.
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URZihNBsnjA
Amy continues with a bit of video from Noam Chomsky :  “If Trump is re-elected, it will be
It’s common to say now that the Sanders campaign failed.  I think that’s a mistake. I think it was an extraordinary success. Completed shifted the arena of debate and discussion that were unthinkable a couple of years ago are now right in the middle of attention.

Full interview with him on Democracy Now Friday.

March 13, 2020

Collective shock and Naomi Klein — again


I wrote about Naomi Klein and her book The Shock Doctrine for the first time twelve years ago, relating it to Hurricane Katrina. That was the natural disaster that was bound to trigger corporate takeovers, in that case, public education.

The quote I put into that post is equally relevant today:
That is how the shock doctrine works: the original disaster ... puts the entire population into a state of collective shock. ... Shocked societies often give up things they would otherwise fiercely protect. (p.17)
In the corpocratic state we live in today, a natural disaster like this unique virus has already given us:

        1. Chaotic social behavior, including fear of travel, famine, congregating, and personal space
        2. Extraordinary, sometimes inexplicably far-reaching governmental directives (e.g., shut-downs)
        3. Huge financial reactions (the crash)
        4. Severe cuts to individual livelihoods and businesses
        5. Political maneuvering and strategies to capitalize on the instability

In other words, a perfectly shocked society that is ripe for giving up things it would otherwise fiercely protect.

Trump has always wanted to shut the borders to certain kinds of people, and the virus is perfect for going in that direction. He also called for a big tax cut a couple of weeks ago.  According to an MPN report, the Bank Policy Institute recommended “that the Federal Reserve lower capital requirements to zero. This would mean banks could lend an unlimited amount without having any assets or wealth to back it up.” That’s fun.

Marie Solis, reporting in VICE, also makes the connection to theory of disaster capitalism:
History is a chronicle of “shocks”—the shocks of wars, natural disasters, and economic crises—and their aftermath. This aftermath is characterized by “disaster capitalism,” calculated, free-market “solutions” to crises that exploit and exacerbate existing inequalities. ...

Trump has proposed a $700 billion stimulus package that would include cuts to payroll taxes (which would devastate Social Security) and provide assistance to industries that will lose business as a result of the pandemic. “They’re not doing this because they think it’s the most effective way to alleviate suffering during a pandemic—they have these ideas lying around that they now see an opportunity to implement,” Klein said.
She either quotes or paraphrases Klein when she also says: “This combination of forces has delivered a maximum shock. It’s going to be exploited to bail out industries that are at the heart of most extreme crises that we face, like the climate crisis: the airline industry, the gas and oil industry, the cruise industry—they want to prop all of this up.”

And I believe the super-corporate Democratic machine is also enjoying the chaos, offering Biden up to the electorate to keep the entire upper strata of the country financially very happy and selling the lower 99% the idea that it’s much safer to keep the status quo (= Obama years) than try for real reforms that might actually help people.

More and more links are cropping up about Klein’s shock doctrine theory.

Inequality: “The 2008 financial collapse would vividly illustrate the dynamics Klein so powerfully described. The Wall Street giants whose reckless and even criminal behavior ushered in that crisis ended up, after the dust settled, even bigger and more powerful than before the crisis began.”

Daily Kos: “And this COVID-19 crisis is yet another example of how the government bails out the rich, while everyone else suffers.”

Related post in EdNotes, quoting Farhad Manjoo in the Times: "... this is America, and forgetting working people is just what we do."

Hopefully the country will get a grip and realize that the proverbial rug is ready to be pulled out from underneath them in so many regressive socio-economic ways.





March 1, 2020

Bernie: "We believe in ED-U-CA-TION."

A short post this time to mention that the Sanders platform is more than just tuition-free higher education and student debt forgiveness.


At a rally in Columbia, SC, two days ago, Sanders made these points, starting around 11:50.
We believe that all of our kids — and this is a national issue ... regardless of the income of their families, deserve a high-quality public education.

We’re going to triple funding for Title I schools.

I don’t know about triple, but Title I schools need a ton of services they just aren’t getting, from special ed services, to school nurses and health positions, social workers, food, meaningful before-and after-school programs, equipment and supplies, you name it.
In America, teachers should be focussed on teaching ... and that is why we’re going to fight to make sure all teachers in America receive at least $60,000 a year in salary. 
Other than after-school or mentoring programs, they shouldn’t need to take on additional non-related jobs, like the teacher he spoke to in South Carolina who drives an Uber and waitresses on the side.

(I have to interject here that I’m not crazy about filling positions with under-qualified post-grads and giving them the same salary as certified teachers. There was too much of that going on when I retired in 2011 and maybe still is. I mean, six weeks summer training after getting a BA? That’s just unjustifiable. We aren’t paying for babysitters, we’re paying for skilled workers. Apprentice teachers — interns, or whatever you want to call them — should get one salary, certified teachers should get another. Salaries shouldn’t be equal if the training isn’t equal, much less the experience.

The Education platform is on his website with a lot more details: read it here.  It also lists:
  • Combat racial discrimination and school segregation (though I don’t know how you can stop school segregation AND have local schools without rebuilding cities)
  • End the unaccountable profit-motive of charter schools (Yeah!  Actually, his platform specifically states he’d like to ban for-profit charter schools and have a moratorium on public funds for charter school expansion).  “WE DO NOT NEED TWO SCHOOL SYSTEMS.”
  • Expand collective bargaining rights
  • Better fund special education
  • Protect the rights of students from harassment, discrimination, and violence
  • Rebuild, modernize, and green our nation’s schools.
I love, love, love this platform, which reads like a What’s Wrong with Public Education in the Year 2020, and I can’t think why advocating these things isn’t just a no-brainer for anyone running for public office.

Medicare for All and the Sanders stance on public education is nothing less than a win-win for the entire country.

February 28, 2020

Taking their fight to the streets — kinda

It’s good to see there’s some other ways to get your message out. You don’t always have to get out the bullhorn and pound the pavement at City Hall.  Innovation is good, going national with it is even better.

In these two video clips we hear about two teachers from the Midwest, one speaking through a comedian’s playbook, the other in a public resignation up close and personal in front of a Des Moines school board.

Black reading the teacher’s letter in his rant
Lewis Black is known for his rants, but also for sharing the letters he gets that bring attention to the absurdities of the country we’re living in.

In this clip, he reads an email he got from a middle school science teacher in Des Moines who wants people to stop taking elections for granted.
Citing specifics, the teacher (I think it’s a guy, but can’t make out his name from the video) says he arrives an hour or two before school starts, only to see 50–60 students dropped off as early as 7 a.m.  Why? It’s childcare by default.
Some haven’t eaten, so the school feeds them. Why? Wages too damn low for so many people.

When he leaves school at 5 or 6, kids stop to ask him for food. They should have gone home at 3:25.

No pencils. The school organizes pencil drives to replenish the no.2s the kids can’t write with because there aren’t any.

There’s no funding for up-to-date technology or the arts.
Next to zero health services.
Quality after-school programs slashed and cut.
Quality textbooks, not either.
Field trips?  Hah. Can’t afford them unless a teacher applies for a grant to hire a bus. A grant!
TEACHER: "We have to take responsibility to elect people who actually care about the young people in our schools, and will fund our schools.  Yes, F-U-N-D them.  Stop trying to apply Walmart economics to our school system.”
_________________________________________________________________________________

Opposing a new contract offer, this teacher throws in her resignation at a school board meeting.
Amanda Coffmann resigning from
a Kansas MS, courtesy NowThisNews
TEACHER:
[to the Board:] “You aren’t listening ... The kids and I deserve better ... I could accept this contract, smile, and stay silent about the lies the district perpetuates about its teachers, but that doesn’t mean I should ... Disrespect in an uneven power dynamic is bullying. When we see bullying, we must stand up and call it out.”

[to her kids:] “Please don’t see my empty doorway as a sign that I’ve abandoned you or that I don’t care ... I will always be your biggest advocate.”

[to the Board:] “There will be no clarifying questions. I don’t answer to you anymore.”
I count my blessings I don’t have to answer to the Bloomberg/Klein regime of ed deform anymore. What destruction their corporate ideologies brought to us in classrooms, school buildings, local neighborhoods. Much, of course, needed to be fixed, that’s always the case with public funding, but I blame those particular men for such bad, bad use of what monies were available, so grossly and unevenly applied citywide.

February 26, 2020

Bloomberg in last night's debate:
"I treated teachers right."


Hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah!

This is really too much.  Let’s take a look at what this guy really think about teachers.

Revised ......

Ednotes posts Leonie Haimson’s recent piece in the Indypendent, “Michael Bloomberg’s disastrous public education policy
Bloomberg embodied an aggressive free-market ideology with policies that were contrary to research and hugely disruptive — in the worst sense of the word. Far from the benevolent, pragmatic centrist his campaign likes to portray,  Bloomberg and his chancellors reigned over NYC public schools for 12 years with an iron fist, autocratically imposing destructive reforms with little concern for how they upended the lives of communities, students and teachers.
[Leonie refers to an “explosive video” of Bloomberg here.]
And I don’t know how I missed this one the other day, but more critique in the Indypendent from NYC teacher Julie Cavanagh:A Teacher’s Story: How Bloomberg wreaked havoc on my ‘A-rated’ public school” (Feb 2020)
Yet all that offered no immunity when our school became one of the first targets for a “co-location,” installing a charter school in the same building as a public school. This wasn’t just any charter school. It was an education corporation run by Spencer Robertson, the son of hedge fund billionaire Julian Robertson. The elder Robertson had donated generously to Bloomberg’s education initiatives and was, like the mayor, a national player in promoting the corporate school “reform” agenda — pushing high-stakes testing, closing public schools, co-locating charters with well-performing schools and attacking teachers’ unions, while cutting funding to our public schools.
Bloomberg: “If I had my way, I’d dump half of NYC’s Teachers”, subtitle:  “Mayor stuns many at MIT speech, says he’d greatly enlarge class size, too“ (CBS reporting, Dec 2011)
“Education is very much, I’ve always thought, just like the real estate business. Real estate business, there are three things that matter: location, location, location is the old joke,” Bloomberg said. “Well in education, it is: quality of teacher, quality of teacher, quality of teacher. And I would, if I had the ability – which nobody does really – to just design a system and say, ‘ex cathedra, this is what we’re going to do,’ you would cut the number of teachers in half, but you would double the compensation of them and you would weed out all the bad ones and just have good teachers. And double the class size with a better teacher is a good deal for the students.”
Leonie Haimson and Diane Ravitch: “The education of Michael Bloomberg“ (May 2013)
Unfortunately, his claims of closing the achievement gap proved misleading. On the reliable national assessment known as the NAEP, there had been no significant increase in scores or narrowing of the gap since 2003, when the mayor’s policies were first imposed. In 2010, the state Education Department finally admitted what observers had long suspected: that the state exams had become overly predictable and that scoring well had grown easier over time. After New York State acknowledged that test score inflation had occurred, scores across the state were recalibrated and declined dramatically. The achievement gap was revealed to be as wide as it had been before Bloomberg implemented his policies. The black-white test proficiency gap in eighth-grade reading actually increased.
Dr. Heather Gautney and Eric Blanc:  “Mike Bloomberg’s education ‘reforms’ would be a disaster for public schools”  (Feb 2020)
Like Trump and his inept secretary of education, Betsy Devos, Bloomberg is a fervent backer of privatizing and dismantling public schools across the country. Education, in their view, should be run like a business.
     While other establishment Democrats have begun changing their tune in response to the “Red for Ed” movement, Bloomberg’s campaign spokesman has made it clear that privatization will be a core message of his 2020 presidential run.
Barbie Latza Nadeau: “Michael Bloomberg once compared Teachers Union to the National Rifle Association“ (Feb 2020)
Former New York mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg has long been a vocal critic of the National Rifle Association, which he has called both “shameful” and “dangerous.” ... In a video of remarks Bloomberg made while still mayor of New York, obtained by Politico, he can be heard likening the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York City teachers union to the NRA.
Jake Jacobs: “How Bloomberg trashed public education in New York” (Feb 2020)
New York City teachers are vocal critics of Bloomberg, who not only used public money for school privatization but usurped the power of elected community school boards as the state granted Bloomberg “mayoral control” of New York City schools in 2002.
     Bloomberg proceeded to appoint corporate attorney Joel Klein as head of New York City’s education department. Klein began a “test-and-punish” regime, which led to the closure of 150 schools and earned him an 80 percent disapproval rating with teachers.
And of course read ANYTHING in these blogs — including mine — during the Bloomberg years:
Ednotesonline
NYC Educator
Chaz
Pissed Off     
South Bronx School
ICEUFT blog
Class Size Matters
NYC Public School Parents
etc.
     etc.
          etc.

February 23, 2020

Bernie gets it, our union leaders just ... won’t

Here’s the reasons many union workers want to see Medicare for All happen:
1.  They have coverage through their job, but their friends and relatives don’t.

2.  They worry what happens if they lose their jobs.
See Buzzfeed a few days ago:  Members of Nevada’s Largest Union Defied Their Leadership
3.  With healthcare discussions off the table, union leaders can negotiate for other things. As Bernie said this week (as per Common Dreams a week ago):
“Many, many unions throughout this country ... absolutely understand that we’ve got to move to Medicare for All ... and the reason is ...  they spend half of their time arguing against cutbacks for the healthcare that they have.

“When everybody in America has comprehensive healthcare ... unions can then negotiate for higher wages, better working conditions, better pensions.” 
4.  Some ed activists speculate that union admin jobs could be eliminated if healthcare administration were to migrate to a government platform.
Regarding this last point, the UFT Welfare Fund handles some of our health coverage, the parts that are supplemental to the city’s plans. It says on its website that it’s a “unilaterally operated trust fund” administered by a 5-person board of union trustees. An executive director and an unspecified number of staffers take care of its day-to-day operations. (I’ve been reminded more than once that these are patronage jobs.)

Here’s a paragraph on the board’s powers that probably very few in the rank-and-file ever knew about, including myself:


So, not only are our jobs, working conditions, and pensions intertwined with our coverage, but some of that coverage — bartered away for lower wages and quite a few regressive working conditions — could easily be modified or taken away altogether. That’s rather unsettling.

This tying of healthcare to jobs has got to stop.

Back in October I posted a list of unions backing Medicare for All, and Sanders lists a bunch of union endorsements on his website, claiming in the last debate he’s got more of them than any other candidate. Several of the unions listed are teachers: American Federation of Teachers, United Teachers LA, United Teachers Richmond, and Washington Teachers.  The UFT is not one of them.

Some reporters suggest that the Medicare for All debate is “fracturing organized labor, sometimes pitting unions against Democratic candidates that vie for their support” (here).
It’s a discussion at every single bargaining table, in every single union shop, every single time it’s open enrollment and people see their costs going up,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, a vocal single-payer advocate and one of a number of union officials who spoke to the divide.
But what they seem to be missing is absolutely addressed in the proposed legislation:
When Medicare for All is signed into law, companies with union negotiated health care plans would be required to enter into new contract negotiations overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Under this plan, all company savings that result from reduced health care contributions from Medicare for All will accrue equitably to workers in the form of increased wages or other benefits.  Furthermore, the plan will ensure that union-sponsored clinics and other providers are integrated within the Medicare for All system, and kept available for members. Unions will still be able to negotiate for and provide wrap-around services and other coverage not duplicative of the benefits established under Medicare for All.
                                    — from Bernie’s website on “Workplace Democracy
I’m glad the culinary workers and others local union members are speaking out against their leadership’s resistance.

I don’t see much of a shift yet, but two weeks ago, I wasn’t sure if Bernie had the wind at his back to take three states in a row.

February 17, 2020

American healthcare —
our own brand of Sophie's choices


Revised somewhat below, but see also Ednotes, where Norm talks about healthcare and the unions. We all have to keep digging into that issue.

...........................................

I was wondering when John Oliver would get around to explaining Medicare for All, and here he is a couple of days ago.

I appreciate his joking around, don't get me wrong. But, he makes some serious points about the simply fabulous choices we'd have to give up if we go for single-payer.

The current "choices" in our system are actually quite dire if you happen to live in the wrong state, or have a pre-existing condition, or just don't make enough money to cover the bills.

Oliver's examples (starting around 14:00) are grotesque and should never be allowed:


1.  Should you call an ambulance in a serious emergency or get a friend to drive you?

2.  Which hospital are you going to head for, the one in your plan or the closer one?  And what will you do if the doctor on duty is not in your plan?

That's where he says: "You can get fucked by taking an ambulance, you can get fucked by going to the wrong hospital, or you can get fucked by going to the right hospital but getting the wrong surgeon...." 

3.  How about which medication will you choose, the one that'll keep your faulty heart from totally giving out or the diabetes that'll take longer to kill you?

That's where he says:  "A humane health system should not require people to pick their favorite organ." 

I've heard of other choices people are making every day: 
Which bills to pay, food or prescription drugs?
Which job to take, the one with healthcare, or the one I really want? 
Which state should I live in to get the best coverage?
How about this for Sophie's choice: Should I help pay the meds for one of my adult children over another?

All in all, that's where I agree with Oliver when he says the American system is truly "the Kama Sutra of healthcare."


So many choices, but all the wrong kinds.

January 29, 2020

Spoiler alert! Informational post

Public Citizen’s Texas billboard
Advocacy groups like Public Citizen work pretty arduously towards to change the healthcare delivery system in this country, even when we’re not paying much attention to them.

Every once in a while, though, like in the Jan/Feb issue of News, they tell you exactly what they’ve been doing and invite people — of course — to jump on board.

Here’s their prongs:
  • Encouraging local governments to pass resolutions for M4A (update)
  • Creating citizen petitions (sign now)
  • Pushing for House hearings
  • Collecting co-sponsors for the M4A Act (118 to date, more than half of the Democratic caucus)
  • Advertising and informing (billboards, graphics, videos, etc.)
  • Setting up webinars/virtual town halls (full list here
  • Calling press conferences and sending tipsheets to reporters
  • Publishing reports and analyses, e.g., “Fever Pitch: Surge in Opposition Lobbying” (June 2019) and “The Case for Medicare-for-All” (Feb 2019)
  • Organizing public statements

And three they didn’t mention in the article:

Town hall includes Reps. Pressley and Omar and Public Citizen’s
Medicare for All campaign director Melinda St. Louis

Webinar speakers include Richard Master (founder of Business for M4A) and
research prof Jeannette Wicks-Lim (U. of Amherst Political Economy Research Inst.)

Webinar speakers include Rep. Pamila Jayapal and dr. Sanjeev Sriram (aka Dr. America)


I like the way they’re spending my donations.


January 28, 2020

Where is everybody?


It's a month or two since I started fighting in the streets  ... 


and expected many more compatriots by this time.  
But alas, not yet.

Westchester County people, get it together!  
Here, I'll make it easier for you ....




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December 5, 2019

Bernie's Workplace Democracy Plan —
Medicare for All is right in there



Most union members really fear losing their negotiated coverage if Medicare for All becomes law, and I can understand why.

I'm on Medicare, and like all other retired workers in NYC, we get our Part B and D premiums (plus the surcharges for higher incomes) refunded each year.  Wouldn't want to lose all that.

Medicare only pays for part of your healthcare costs. The leftover deductibles, co-pays, co-insurances, and premiums are handled to a greater or lesser extent by one of the city's retiree Medicare plans. (Yes, we have a choice).  I am in an Advantage Plan type, an HMO, but could easily switch to the Medigap kind (like GHI) every two years.

And for a little extra money each month, I get some extra benefits from the union's Supplement Health Insurance Program (SHIP). There's no question that these are great.

Am I also happy that this insurance will never go away?  Yes.
And that there's so much coverage?  Yes.
And that I can switch from one type of plan to another every couple of years?  Sure.

But, am I happy that we're still paying for redundant administrative costs and the huge salaries of insurance industry execs?  No.
Or the costs of overpriced drugs? Definitely not.
(Tarbell's exposé of drug companies donating heavily to conservative groups pushing industry-friendly policies here ...)
Or having the increasingly present inconveniences and iffiness of prior authorizations for so many procedures?  No again, and simply horrified at this transparent attempt by insurance companies to limit the benefits I'm supposed to be able to get.


It's one thing to be generally happy with your union coverage and still be clear-eyed about the enormous waste, the not so admirable corporate goals, and the actually harmful practices of the industry as a whole


That's why it's important to spread the word about Sanders's Workplace Democracy Plan, which describes how he plans to interface with the unions during the phasing in of Medicare for All. Scroll way down to the bottom at this link.
• A fair transition to Medicare for All:  Bernie will require that resulting healthcare savings from union-negotiated plans result in wage increases and additional benefits for workers during the transition to Medicare for All. When Medicare for All is signed into law, companies with union negotiated health care plans would be required to enter into new contract negotiations overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Under this plan, all company savings that result from reduced health care contributions from Medicare for All will accrue equitably to workers in the form of increased wages or other benefits.  Furthermore, the plan will ensure that union-sponsored clinics and other providers are integrated within the Medicare for All system, and kept available for members. Unions will still be able to negotiate for and provide wrap-around services and other coverage not duplicative of the benefits established under Medicare for All.
This is a really heavy lift, and people in general don't trust that the government (this one in particular) will get any of it right. Look at all the things this plan calls for:

  • returning savings back into salaries and/or benefits
  • enter new contract negotiations
  • involve the National Labor Relations Board in the process
  • keep union-sponsored clinics and providers integrated in the new system
  • negotiate all those additional, non-duplicative benefits they're allowed to provide.

But I have to keep saying:  All social programs take a long time to build and involve risks.

Take Social Security, for example. It needed a stock market crash and the Great Depression, as well as Share Our Wealth clubs in every state, Townsend's old-age pension plans (which disappeared in 1950, a full 15 years after it was launched), and many other pension schemes before and during the creation of the national Social Security program in 1935. Then the Social Security Board had to be established, which was funded in 1936, became a cabinet FSA agency in 1939 and replaced the current SSA in 1946.  Lump-sum payments started in 1937, monthly payments were to begin in 1942 after the Trust Funds could be built up.

Still no health benefits for decades. Medicare was established as Title XVIII of the 1965 Social Security Act, 30 years later.

Bernie's Medicare for All legislation will also not happen immediately.  But it MUST happen, if people are not to be diddled interminably by a couple of out-of-control industries, tethered to jobs in fear of losing their insurance, or living without insurance altogether.  It MUST happen if we don't continually want our laws written up by lobbyists and adopted by amoral elected officials.

Medicare for All is the only way to go, but we must allow the process to start, and we must have the fortitude and patience to get the complexities sorted out in the conversion.

November 18, 2019


Last week the elected leadership of that 34,000-member union voted 80% to endorse Sanders — “capping the most comprehensive member engagement process that UTLA has ever conducted for a political candidate.”  (Wow.)

“Thursday’s House vote followed a six-week discussion at school sites.”  (They do that over there?)


"More than 500 elected site representatives voted 72.5% yes to the presidential endorsement” of Sanders at nine regional meetings.  (Starting to get angry.)

The quotes are from the union’s website, which includes this from their president, Alex Caputo-Pearl:


“Why now, and why Bernie? Because we want him to win in the primary election and because we need an unapologetic, longstanding ally of progressive policies to make public education a priority in the White House. Sanders is the first viable major candidate in 25 years in the Democratic Party to stand up against privatization, the charter billionaires, and high-stakes testing and to stand up for a massive redistribution of wealth to schools and social services. Critically, like UTLA, Sen. Sanders believes in building a national movement for real, lasting change.”


Now, that’s an endorsement. 

The deal breaker over here is that bit about Sanders being a “longstanding ally of progressive policies,” because our leadership, alongside its decision to never ever poll the rank and file on endorsements, isn’t interested in progressivism. They may borrow the terminology from time to time to gain some points with us lefties, but not much really translates into the kinds policies we’d favor. I mean, the UFT still has its own charter school and boasts of its “organizing efforts of NYC’s charter educators through the UFT Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff.” Condoning the charter movement’s direct threat to public education doesn’t seem progressive to me. More like accommodation.

Keep these endorsements coming, Bernie. Maybe you'll find some needles here in the NYC unions that can be moved.
_______________

PS:  There are more details on the about this endorsement (timeline, links to commentary elsewhere, the Nurses endorsement) over at Ednotes.


November 17, 2019

Weingarten's playbook: old or new?

I really enjoyed Randi Weingarten’s speech yesterday at CUNY’s School of Labor and Urban Studies, her central points being:
Unions have lost their power.
Get it back through DENSITY, COMMUNITY, and NARRATIVE.
Turn values into actions.
The strategy is to organize. Catch phrase: “Community is the new Density.”
Slogan: “Organize, don’t agonize.”
And the blue AFT bookmarks they were handing out mirrored the messaging, especially in the second paragraph: “We live in a perilous era of extreme economic inequality, existential threats to our democracy ... opponents aren’t going away ... we are the change agents ... the dreamers and the fighters for a better life, a better world and the soul of America ....”

Hold on.

The whole speech was beginning to sound like the old ICE meetings, when we were hammering out our strong social justice position for the 2010 UFT election.

You can still read the platform on the web.

The “Introduction” alone precedes her remarks by about a decade, so of course I have to re-post a chunk of it here. DOWN BELOW. Am still proud of the work ICE did then and very glad Weingarten’s furthering our fundamental caucus messaging.

By the way, I've included the 3rd- and 5th-paragraph attacks on the UFT’s collaboration in the excerpt below because one can never be sure that the progressive words we heard from Weingarten yesterday represent the actions she’ll actually be taking. They haven’t tended to in the past. After all, leadership’s had a hand in continued class size issues, the whole ATR situation in general, arbitration concessions, a despicable tolerance for rubber room and 3020-a procedures, unremovable grievances, that kind of thing.

I was going to end this post by saying I am pleased with what I heard yesterday from the AFT prez, but then checked back in my archives and found to my dismay she did more of the same progressive-speak in 2009 pushing her new ACES plan: “Active Communities Enabling Success.”

https://underassault.blogspot.com/2009/05/aces-sounds-like-ice.htmlI wrote extensively about that fluffery in a post called ACES sounds like ICE,” and this morning tried to find out how long she stuck with that plan. A google search produced the message “PAGE NOT FOUND.”

Seems like it was a hat-tip to progressivism then, and this whole production that we witnessed yesterday — though energetic, clever and seductive — may still be just from the same old play book. But she must be getting better at it. I felt happy when I left the meeting.

But, then we have to come back to what my old ICE buddy’s been saying for years (e.g., EdNotes 2006, 2013, 2015) — “Watch what they do, not what they say.”
______________________________________________________________

A chunk of the ICE platform Introduction ...

We believed then and continue to believe now that we cannot afford to be silent on the issues that affect our working conditions, in many cases our jobs, and the future prospects of the children we educate.

In these difficult times for unionism across the nation, and with union officials failing the members politically, contractually, and philosophically against a dictatorial mayor [=Trump admin]
they continue to back under the present system of mayoral control, we have chosen once again to offer an alternative platform for the 2010 elections.


While we stand with the members of the three other caucuses against outside attacks, the Weingarten/Unity team has weakened the union. Furthering an almost 50-year record of autocratic control, it continues to stifle dissent. More than this, Unity is tirelessly committed to its failed policy of collaboration — with government officials unprepared and sometimes even improperly certified to run this school system and with private organizations that have other agendas. We speak up to make the union stronger and provide an opportunity for any UFT member who is critical of Unity’s stranglehold on policy to get involved. One of our major goals is to bring the entire opposition movement together through this election process.

What continues to unify ICE? The sense that we can be both strong trade unionists and strong educators, that by its very nature, a school is a mini-community, and everyone who works in a school — teachers, psychologists and guidance people, paras, secretaries, administrators, custodial staff, and security agents — has a role in the education of children.

We aim to provide a voice for all UFT members, in particular the classroom teacher, often the most neglected by school administrators and the union staff. These people bear the brunt of the responsibility, and the blame when things don’t go well. We believe that members need to participate in school governance, for it is through grassroots movements that individuals become empowered and active in shaping institutions and the roles of the people working and learning within them. Our union, when it is truly in the hands of members and not a band of misguided and self-interested union managers, can be central to growth of good learning environments.

In the past six years, ICE has developed three functions. The first is keeping up to date with education issues, analyzing and talking about them in the form of essays (in the blogosphere and other media), speeches, videotaping, and forums. They participate in union activities (such as running for and serving as chapter leaders and delegates, attending meetings of all kinds, and studying the contract and other laws) and share their knowledge and experience freely with any union members who ask them for help. Lastly, ICE members are activists, who stand strongly against the many inequities in our learning communities. They mount and/or participate in demonstrations of all kinds, particularly against the ATR situation, rubber rooms, charter schools, and war.


November 12, 2019

The public option needs to go on the “ash heap of history”

The public option was viable ten years ago when the fight was on to get universal coverage, and since then Congress hasn't done anything to control costs. That's why ex-health insurance insider Wendell Potter says we're living with a healthcare system that can no longer work.

Potter appeared on a recent Joy Reid podcast (starting at 15:30), where Reid broke down healthcare insurance this way:
Those who get coverage through their job — employers pay some of the cost of premiums, and
Those who don’t — you’re on your own for the whole thing.
The fundamental concept of all insurance is the larger the “risk pool,” the more predictable and stable the premiums can be.

But, even when lots of people are insured by sprawling companies, the pool for each one of these is still much smaller than Medicare’s. That social program puts all 43,000,000 seniors into one super large group, then administers the payments. These two factors mean lower costs for everyone in the pool, which is why seniors would never think of giving up Medicare.

The M-4-All legislation backed by Sanders and Warren aims to create one big mega-pool for the whole country. The reason why it’s taking so long to catch on is that the for-profit health industry has been mounting a massive campaign to protect its gains. Fearmongering makes people queasy about changing a system they’re used to.

In a recent article in NBC’s Think, Potter talks about the propaganda being put out against the M-4-All bills, saying:
“ ... the industry strategy has been more effective in manipulating journalists and pollsters than I could have ever predicted. I feel compelled to speak up and help set the record straight when so many politicians and journalists are using talking points that come straight from health insurance central casting scripts.”
Potter enumerates four lies promulgated by the PR groups running the industry’s campaign (the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future in particular) to create a sense of national apprehension for anything that smacks of single-payer.

1. Free market can work in health care — yet free market depends on price transparency, which (Potter notes) is largely nonexistent in healthcare. Plus, people don’t always get the chance to decide on what procedures they’re going to get.

2. Reforms mean a government takeover — yet under the proposed tax structure of M-4-All, providers would still be working for themselves. Single-payer would be publicly financed, privately delivered.

3. It would be “one-size-fits-all” healthcare — yet the new legislation creates more options for everyone (e.g., no networks, no referrals, helps more hospitals stay open).

4. It would be too expensive and too disruptive — yet we spend more on health than any other country because of the high admin costs, because the law created boondoggles like Medicare not being able to negotiate drug prices and the infamous donut hole, and because people have to go through hoops to get access to benefits and drugs.


One has to keep asking: 
Why is it so important for our union’s leadership to bolster the notion that healthcare is purchasable commodity rather than a social amenity paid for by taxes?
Why do they advocate proposals that back fractionated risk pools instead of embracing one enormous, cost-saving group?
Why don’t they support real cost-control legislation or anything that would make services and products more accessible?

I've already written on how some unions have signed on to M-4-All, which is a transformative piece of tax legislation. Unfortunately, our union continues to support positions that are truly harmful to so many people. The UFT/NYSUT/AFT combo is often more aligned with Wall Street and Conservative think tanks than we'd like.

They’d serve us much better if they’d start COUNTERING what’s coming from the corpocracy by calling out its propaganda. We’re not going to get universal healthcare, better choices or lower prices by regurgitated platitudes spewed out from a tired old armchair on the sidelines. That just stinks of status quo — a position that Weingarten and the rest of them seem more than willing to just curl up and die for.


November 5, 2019

"The glib and oily art" (part II)

For once, I’d love to read something from UFT leadership that doesn’t smack of fake progressivism and lip-service reform.

Not to say that a lot of what Retired Teachers chapter leader Tom Murphy says in the October newsletter isn’t about what we’re all feeling. It is. The country and its values are a mess under this administration, sold to the highest bidder, and not a single one of us who’s paying attention is feeling happy-clappy about the conversion.

But, but, but.

It’s lines like these that make me actually wince: 
“Like any other labor and political progressives, I am hoping to play my part in transforming our national nightmare, reclaiming the rightful heritage of enlightened government.”

“Perhaps we are on the eve of a new Progressive Era, a New Deal or a New Frontier/Great Society.”
Why wear the mantle of progressivism when at no level does UFT/AFT leadership enter the fray?
“Words, words, words.”   Hamlet, act 3
If after the congressional wins in 2018 Murphy says there’s now “a bit more clarity,” I have to ask: Why now? Educators have been have been seeing the “shadows of anti-union” and “regressive social policies” for decades, and guess what, the union has played right along with practically all the “erosion of ... labor achievements.”

Whose classes are smaller?
Who has real autonomy in the classroom or is being encouraged to bring their own talents and skills to the learning environment instead of having to conform to ridiculous cookie-cutter designs and dance before the mindless minions of DOE-trained administrators?
How many kids are getting the counseling they need?
And which of them is getting help with time-tested old-style math, grammar, civics, and vocational classes to allow them to function adequately in society?

Our union has done nothing about any of this, so don’t come to us now and say you’ve got “clarity” or that you “can’t give up fighting to prevent further erosion.” It is leadership itself that has given up the ghost on any of this a long time ago.


Moving on to what Murphy says about health care, I doubt very much that he or any other exec can “show the way.” Let’s look at the four health care “improvements” he mentions.

“Guarding pre-existing conditions...”
The regulation of pre-existing conditions started way back in 1945 (when it was left to individual states), and continued through laws enacted at the state level and Congress in 1974 (ERISA), 1978 (pregnancy), 1996 (HIPAA), and 2010 (ACA) (Wiki). Since in some form or other pre-existing conditions legislation has been around for more than 40 years, I’d say guarding them is tantamount to keeping the status quo, nothing special.

“Cutting pharmaceutical prices, and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices...”
Our union clearly has helped us, the rank-and-file members, with medical costs: My more expensive drugs don’t cost much, and I love getting reimbursed for Part B premiums and IRMAA. But as far as fighting for cutting pharmaceutical prices for everyone else, I’m not so sure leadership has done a darn thing except yap about it.
      The various proposals for drug coverage in Medicare all relied on “private pharmacy benefit managers on a regional basis to negotiate drug prices (Wiki).” I’m just now finding out that the Dems actually advocated one-size-fits-all benefits nationwide, but were out-maneuvered by the Republicans, whose plans called for multiple choices and “a wide array of deductibles and co-pays (including the famous ‘donut hole’).” Those are what we’re stuck with til now. So, good on the Dems, but where was the union voice from 1999 to 2003 in that fight. Maybe I missed it.

“... and perhaps creating a public option.”
What a great word, “perhaps.”
But apart from that position of extreme fence-sitting, the public option is defined as “a proposal to create a government-run health insurance agency that would compete with other private health insurance companies” (Wiki). Please tell me how that could work.
As far as I’m concerned, competition with private health insurance companies solidifies in stone their very existence, yet these companies are the very essence of the crazy cost and access problems in the current design.  Again, the public option just can’t be part of what Murphy is calling a “new Progressive Era, a New Deal or a New Frontier/Great Society.”  This position is about 5 mm left of center.


As for his last paragraph:
Our premise has to be the creation of a vision and perception in the midst of self-doubt. If there is ambiguity out there, then we have to sharpen our focus. Can we distinguish between seeing the safety of a domesticated dog or the threats of a wild wolf?  I’m betting on clarity and vision.
Oh, my! I’m not entirely sure I’m getting his rhetoric, but as far as I can see, the union is very comfortable with “the safety of a domesticated dog” — it’s had so much practice.

As for “clarity and vision,” it hasn’t had much of either.








November 1, 2019

"The glib and oily art to speak and purpose not" (part I)

Medicare for All means restructuring the tax code to eradicate a market-driven, for-profit industry that deprives Americans of coverage, needless expense and choice.

I’d venture to say that what the 99% really wants, in addition to universal coverage, is a reduction of the overall costs we pay for public items — infrastructure, government, education, and the like. Under Medicare for All, we’d pay for healthcare like everything else, through taxes, not with bloated out-of-pocket amounts for healthcare in the current design of things.

Unfortunately, as the Kaiser Foundation noted earlier this month, you can’t discern that widely held position from the polls. Wording of the questionnaires themselves affects the responses you get, and how successful politicians and their spokespersons “sell” the various proposals in different parts of the country also makes analysis slippery.

The true Medicare for All candidates, catching the tailwind of the two bills already introduced in the Senate and House, are very clear on the issues. We have to change the tax structure to achieve two goals: make healthcare universal and reduce the overall cost. What’s in their way is Big Money, Big Pharma and a couple of the Big Unions, ours included.

That the AFT/UFT’s position on Medicare for All is not progressive, even spineless and duplicitous, is clear from Weingarten’s Sept. 27th letter in the Jacobin, from which I’ll riff on a few things she’s written.

“I am supportive of AFT members fighting for diverse viewpoints and positions”
and “the AFT has embarked on a very different process — one that puts member engagement front and center.”

Silky smooth. The fact that leadership may support members “fighting for diverse viewpoints” doesn’t mean that Weingarten, Mulgrew or other execs actually listen to or buy into the arguments made by the rank and file, particularly those of us who support M4A legislation. In fact, I’d argue there’s been a certain hostility to polling the membership, much less following its lead.
“I want that glib and oily art to speak and purpose not.” (Shakespeare, King Lear, act 1)

“Everything that deceives may be said to enchant.” (Plato, The Republic, book 1)

“We agree that we must make healthcare a basic, universal human right ... but ... I don’t believe there is just one way to get there.”
It’s way too facile to agree with Progressives that healthcare is a basic right. To suggest that there’s more than one way to get it is catastrophic for any real change. Every proposal that sidelines M4A legislation buttresses the fundamentally self-serving layer of bureaucratic redundancy and greed we have now in for-profit insurance. But Weingarten supports that fluffy prose.
“We may yet go singing on our way — it makes the road less irksome.” (Virgil, Eclogue 9)

“The safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)
In fact, restructuring the tax code is the only way to kill this dragon and make healthcare truly universal and truly universally accessible.
“There is but one road that leads to Corinth” (Pater, Marius the Epicurean)

“I argued for Medicare for all as a floor, not a ceiling, with a role if people want for private insurance.”

This stance is idiotic. Anyone who advocates for it condones for-profit healthcare.
“Here the boundaries meet and all contradictions exist side by side.” (Dostoevski, The Brothers Karamazov)

“Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.” (Mencken, Prejudices, 3rd series)
And, in fact:
“This was the most unkindest cut of all.” (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, act 3)

“In concept, health insurance is supposed to lower the cost of care and expand coverage ...” That’s a false premise right there. Let’s be honest. The purpose of health insurance right now in this country is to limit the amount of care people can get and make money for shareholders.
“He who would distinguish the true from the false must have an adequate idea of what is true and false.” (Spinoza, Ethics, pt. 1)

“Truth exists, only falsehood has to be invented.” (Braque, Pénsées sur l’Art)

“That which has always been accepted by everyone, everywhere, is almost certain to be false.” (Valéry, Tel quel)

... Unfortunately it hasn’t worked that way. Medicare for All is one way to fix the concept, but it’s not the only way. The point is to get to universal coverage, and to stop the prohibitive costs that keep prescription drugs and healthcare out of reach for too many people.”
You can’t stop “prohibitive costs” when the biggest players back industry-driven out-of-pocket expenses. This argument is essentially a sham.
“A picture is something which requires as much knavery, trickery, and deceit as the perpetration of a crime.” (attributed to Degas)

“If I be false, or swerve a hair from truth ...
Upbraid my falsehood!” (Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, act 3)
Upbraid her falsehood indeed.




“ ... the goal for us as a union remains finding a standard-bearer who fights for universal coverage.”
So they want us to fight just for universal coverage? If that’s all she’s willing to go to the mat for, our cause is truly hopeless.
What might ills have not been done by woman!
Who was ‘t betrayed the Capitol? — A woman!
Who lost Mark Antony the world? — A woman!
Who was the cause of a long ten years’ war,
And laid at last old Troy in ashes? — Woman!
Destructive, damnable, deceitful woman!
                                                     (Otway, The Orphan, act 3)