[MKE - Indymedia] public damned
pryz1 at earthlink.net
Sat Jun 11 05:50:33 PDT 2005
(Published in educationnews.org commentary June 9, 2005)
Vanderbilts The public be damned reformed
By Daniel Pryzbyla
A reporter asked William Henry Vanderbilt (1821-1885) why his New York Central railroad was cutting its Chicago Limited route. Dont you run it for the public benefit? The railroad czar replied angrily, The public be damned!
Born into the already wealthy Vanderbilt family, William began working as a clerk at age 18 in a New York banking house, and remained employed there from 1839-1842. His father Cornelius regarded him as incompetent, and changed his opinion only when William turned around the already bankrupt Staten Island Railroad (1857-1863). This won his fathers respect, and upon his death in 1877, son William took over as president of the New York Central in addition to inheriting almost $100 million dollars.
Vanderbilt expanded the New York Central railroad empire through more railroad acquisitions and financial shenanigans. According to a biography, (He) secured his position with favorable treatment to commercial customers and covered his tracks with bribes to officials investigating the preferential treatment. Continuing the familys philanthropy, in 1880 he gave $100,000 to found the Theological School of Vanderbilt University, which his father had endowed. No doubt this was prompted by his marriage in 1841 to Maria Louisa Kissam, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister. His favorable treatments knew no boundaries. By then he had almost doubled the family fortune to about $200 million, and after his death in 1885 was considered to be the richest man America had ever seen. In todays currency, the family fortune would be more than $3 billion.
Of course, that was back during the capitalist robber baron era also known as the plutocratic Gilded Age. Now, robber barons, plutocratic wealth and public be damned are no longer concerns in our current egalitarian democracy, right? Well, not exactly. The mirrors are reflecting glaring similarities. As the gap between rich and poor has widened since 1970, the odds that a child born in poverty will climb to wealth or that a rich child will fall into the middle class remain stuck. Sounds like more humbug from sore loser Democrats or unions crying the blues again, eh? The article continues, Despite the widespread belief that the U.S. remains a more mobile society than Europe, economists and sociologists say that in recent decades the typical child starting out in poverty in continental Europe (or Canada) has had a better chance at prosperity. The naysayers were almost right. These statements were delivered by Bill Moyers at a recent Take Back America conference in Washington, D.C. however, he was quoting from a front-page story in the May 13, 2005 Wall Street Journal.
Its a good thing former U.S. Secretary of Education Roderick Poverty is no Excuse Paige had called it quits after one term. The travel arrangements for families and kids in poverty heading to Europe and Canada would now be the responsibility of his successor Margaret Spellings. WSJs business ally in London, The Economist, noted similar U.S. widening economic gaps, according to Moyers. With income inequality not seen since the first Gilded Age with an education system increasingly stratified with fewer resources than those of their richer contemporaries, and the great universities increasingly reinforcing rather than reducing these educational inequalities
and with a yawning gap between incomes at the top and bottom
the United States risks calcifying into a European-style class-based society. Calcifying?
to make or become rigid or intransigent; as in a political position. Except at the top of the income ladder.
Almost a month later, the June 5, 2005 Sunday New York Times headline blared, Richest are Leaving even the Rich Far Behind. Sub-head: Tax laws help to widen gap at very top. Gee, and King George W. and all his new 21st Century Gilded Age robber-baron supporters were praising the new tax law to be the savior of the middle-class, with provisions for more leftover donuts for the poor too. Well, how about the wise old proverb, The rising tide lifts all boats? Nope. No other income group rose nearly as fast, reported Times scribe David Cay Johnston. Under the Bush tax cuts, the 400 taxpayers with the highest incomes a minimum of $57 million in 2000, the last year for which the government will release such data now pay income, Medicare and Social Security taxes amounting to virtually the same percentage of their incomes as people making $50,000 to $75,000. Those earning more than $10 million a year now, reported Johnston, pay a lesser share of their income in these taxes than those making $100,000 to $200,000. The way the tax code is devised, it affects far fewer of the richest, he wrote. One big reason is that dividends and investment gains, which go mostly to the richest, are not subject to the tax.
Meantime, societys other calcified classes continue struggling for economic survival. There remains no shortage of robber-baron lieutenants and underlings some tricked waving No More Taxes banners at state and local budget hearings. Will their new banners demand reality: Tax breaks like the super rich? Not likely. This would unmask the trail of corporate and private funding of their ultimate goal to dismantle public services. However, calcifying class-status does bother sober economists, even Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan. Warning of the increasing concentrations of incomes during earlier Congressional testimony, Johnston quoted him saying, For the democratic society, that is not a very desirable thing to allow it to happen.
Activist robber-barons solution to Vanderbilts the public be damned gaff was to modify it for their reform agenda the public be privatized instead. Contracting out and privatizing public services and jobs have been going on for decades within federal, state, county and local governments to allegedly save taxpayer dollars. But soon, feeding entrepreneurs appetites for competitive tax dollars became the modus operandi for shrinking public departments the profiteering conveniently camouflaged by anonymity of the real payees the generic taxpayers. In addition to governmental agencies, public school districts began contracting out more services too, hoping this would satisfy immediate shortfalls by downsizing their education budgets to meet taxpayers demands for lower taxes. Laying off a few teachers here and there at different schools in the district, adding fees to supplement the arts, music and sports programs soon became a district norm and growing nightmares.
Education entrepreneurs saw the public school district nightmares as a dream instead. With national, annual $400 billion public school budgets, their reformed Vanderbilt gaff, the public be privatized, could be implemented on the education front too. Federal Title 1 education programs in public school districts aimed specifically for poor and disadvantaged students already existed. More specifically, large city school districts would provide them the largest taxpayers kitty. Their pro-voucher/charter school propaganda think-tanks, foundations, corporate brethren and private donors had no shortage of funds, mouthpieces and scribes challenging the already underfunded city districts academic shortcomings. Compassionate conservatism resurfaced. Poverty is no excuse! became their battle cry for racial and education justice for all public school students. Leaders would even borrow a previous education slogan No child left behind as their new Title 1 NCLB cornerstone.
Protests against the underfunded federal education mandate were dismissed immediately in congressional hearings. Demanding voucher monies for private and religious schools be included in the new Title 1 NCLB, but excluded from its nefarious education plots, proved to be another privatization smokescreen. After voucher inclusion was finally politically defeated, public school advocates cheered their educational victory. It was short-lived. The devil is in the details prevailed again. High-stakes testing using computer technology and sound research subject and teaching methods would be implemented in every Title 1 school in every state in the nation. Adequate yearly progress (AYP) of every Title1 eligible student would be monitored by single high-stakes test scores, including Special Ed students and English learners. Comparing scores with state-wide and nation-wide schools, although calcified socioeconomically, would elicit objections, but so what. Various school sanctions began the first year and increased in severity every year thereafter for faltering schools allowing parents to transfer students to other schools, including the cost of busing; and receive private tutoring at a districts expense. Not meeting district AYP goals culminated with closing at 5 years.
NCLB was the necessary political bulldozer to enable charter school expansion. It created fears, anxieties and chaos within Title 1 public school district communities inundated with underfunded, overzealous accountability demands. The public be privatized had taken another step forward in education. Social Security was next on their political horizon.
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