Salvatore Babones, Op-Ed, Truthout:
In September 2012 Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel attempted to break the
Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) with a bid to privatize Chicago's public
schools. The mayor's proposal was based on a plan to subject teachers
(and schools) to performance measurement based on students' standardized
Teachers whose students scored poorly would be fired. Schools whose
students scored poorly would be closed. The students would then be
farmed out to so-called "charter schools" - for the most part,
for-profit institutions run by corporations like Edison Schools,
Rocketship, Victory Schools, and Educational Services of America.
The CTU went out on strike with the goal of maintaining public education
in Chicago, America's third largest city. Schools in Philadelphia,
America's fifth largest city, have already been largely privatized, and
the state of Texas is currently in the process of privatizing its local
public school systems.
The Obama administration: Center-right Democrats
Rahm Emanuel is not just any Democrat. He was Barack Obama's first
chief of staff, responsible for hiring many of the Obama
administration's key personnel. One of Obama's appointees, Secretary of
Education Arne Duncan, is a former "Chief Executive Officer" of the
Chicago public school system. In Chicago he had promoted the expansion
of for-profit charter schools.
In Washington, Secretary Duncan developed the $4.35 billion "Race to
the Top" program to encourage states to privatize their schools. The
funding was structured as a competition. All 50 states adopted the Race
to the Top program in hopes of receiving scarce federal funding during a
severe recession; only 12 actually received any grants. The tournament
format was designed to ensure maximum institutional impact for the
smallest possible investment.
It's not just in education policy that the Obama administration has
pursued a broadly neoliberal, center-right agenda. For example,
President Obama has taken no action to improve minimum wages or working
conditions. The US federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, with no
guaranteed sick days, holidays, or vacation time.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 is proudly or
derisively (depending which side you're on) known as Obamacare. America
has long been the only rich country without universal health insurance.
Obamacare is intended to extend health insurance coverage to all
What is Obamacare really? At its heart is a requirement that all
Americans will have to buy health insurance, mainly from private,
for-profit insurance companies. Insurance premiums will remain largely
unregulated, subject to the single requirement that insurance companies
will have to accept all applicants and not be allowed to turn away those
with pre-existing conditions.
People who refuse to buy health insurance will be forced to pay a
$695 penalty. Given that the cost of the most basic private health
insurance in the United States is far greater than this, many people are
likely to remain uninsured even after Obamacare is fully implemented in
The Obama administration embraces targeted assassination and
maintains a kill list - sorry, "disposition matrix" - of people it
considers fair game for drone attacks. The Obama administration embraces
the use of torture on people in US custody (with the sole specific
exclusion of waterboarding).
The Obama administration maintains a gulag archipelago of secret CIA
prisons around the world, and automatically as a matter of policy
classifies as "enemy combatants" any adolescent or adult male civilians
who are killed in its military operations on the logic that if they were
killed, they must have been combatants.
Over the past forty years, America has become much more politically
correct with regard to gender and sexualiy. Men do not openly display
calendars featuring topless models on their office walls, and public gay
bashing is now considered inappropriate, even in Republican circles.
But gender and sexuality are issues that transcend social class. Even
rich, powerful men have gay children - or may be gay themselves. Even
rich, powerful men have wives.
On every other issue, America - or at least American politics - has
swung violently to the right. The more social class is involved, the
further to the right America has swung. Poverty was once a social
disease to be cured; it is now an individual crime to be punished. Put
it down to individualism, conservatism, neoliberalism, or whatever -ism
you want, America is now the world's greatest reactionary force.
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