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“Uber Drivers And E-Cigarette Users”: Grover Norquist’s Plan To Stop Hillary…Seriously

Over the last few years there has been a lot of discussion about the Rising American Electorate (unmarried women, millennials and people of color) that Barack Obama tapped into in order to win two presidential elections. Back in November, Stan Greenberg cautioned that these voters weren’t being engaged in the 2016 election. But in a more recent poll, he found that things had changed.

The disengagement pall has been lifted. Our focus groups with white unmarried women, millennials and African Americans showed a new consciousness about the stakes in November. In this poll, the percentage of Democrats giving the highest level of engagement has increased 10 points.

The result is that the country might be heading for an earthquake election in November.

Rather than embrace the recommendations of the RNC autopsy report following the 2012 presidential election, the response of Republicans has typically been to drill down on the idea that there are millions of white voters they can tap into who didn’t show up to vote for Mitt Romney. But even Sean Trende, whose original article spurred that discussion, says that there aren’t enough missing white voters available to swing an election.

Into this breach comes Grover Norquist with…what can I say…a “creative” solution. He has identified six new voting blocs that have developed over the last 30 years that won’t want Hillary Clinton in the White House. Between the lines, his contention is that she is just so out of touch with what is happening in the world that she’s missed them.

Either this revelation is so ground-breaking that no one in the political world is as in-touch as Norquist, or it’s a load of huey put out by someone who is desperately grasping at straws rather than face the fact that his predictions about a “permanent Republican majority” are drowning in a bathtub.

Here are Norquist’s six voting blocks that will challenge the Rising American Electorate:

1. Home schoolers
2. Charter school supporters
3. Concealed-carry permit holders
4. Fracking workers
5. Users of e-cigarettes and vapor products
6. Uber drivers

I kid you not! Those are the voting blocs Grover Norquist said the Republicans can tap into in order to stop Clinton in November. We could spend some time deconstructing each one. But that would give this nonsense from Norquist more attention than it deserves. I merely point this out in order to show how vacuous Republican attempts are these days to deal with the fact that they are in the midst of alienating large swaths of the American electorate. If the best they’ve got to combat that reality is mobilizing people like e-cigarrette users, you know they’re in big trouble.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 11, 2016

April 13, 2016 Posted by | Electorate, Grover Norquist, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Fiorina’s Fast And Loose With The Facts”: Fiorina Relies On Speed And Specificity To Give The Impression Of Substantive Knowledge

I noted at Lunch Buffet that the fact-checkers are having a ball with Carly Fiorina’s performance last night. But it’s worth remembering that’s a real pattern with her. Back on August 20, WaMo intern Celeste Bott deconstructed a Fiorina appearance at Campbell Brown’s education summit in New Hampshire, and found the former CEO did not really know what she was talking about:

Many of her responses in the Q&A stuck to the same GOP talking points the other candidates mostly stuck to, criticizing the Common Core standards and an overinvolved Department of Education. Her biggest argument? Increased federal spending on education hasn’t led to substantive improvement.

“Let’s talk about what’s not working. It’s pretty obvious what’s not working. The Department of Education has gotten more money every year for roughly 30 years, and yet these income disparity gaps I described are getting worse. We’re not improving in terms of our achievement rates relevant to other nations. So we know factually speaking that when Washington spends more money, the quality of education in this nation does not improve.”

What Fiorina said, however, is factually inaccurate, even if it plays to common misperceptions about our “failing” public schools. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which education experts generally agree is the most reliable measure of K-12 attainment, reading scores for American nine year olds have increase by 12 points, or an entire grade level, and math scores have gone up 24 points, or two grade levels, since the early 1970s. And the disparities between advantaged and disadvantaged students she says have widened have in fact narrowed: black and Latino students’ test scores have risen faster than white scores. Though the topline NAEP scores are flat, making it seem like there has been little progress, as the conservative American Enterprise Institute has pointed out this is a statistical quirk arising from the fact that in recent decades the percentage of students who are affluent and white (and generally score relatively high) has decreased while the percentage who are lower-income and minority (and generally score relatively low) has increased. In fact, NAEP scores for all subgroups have increased substantially, during the same period that federal spending and involvement has grown.

That wasn’t the only problem with Fiorina’s education rap.

A great deal of Fiorina’s responses centered around promoting school choice, going so far as to say that if elected, she would surround herself with people who have built successful charter schools. When asked about challenges to choice, she pointed to federal programs like the Obama administration’s Race to the Top.

“Federal government money is being used to pick winners and losers. You see a program like Race to the Top being used to determine, ‘Well, you’re doing it the way we want you to do it, so you get federal money’ and ‘You’re not doing it the way we want you to do it, so you don’t get federal money.’ That’s not going to work. The truth is more federal money ought to flow out of Washington D.C. into the states, and money at the state level ought to flow into the community level.”

Race to the Top, a so-called barrier to school choice, awarded grants to states for lifting their caps on charter schools, effectively providing incentives for states to offer more choices and create innovative programs, the very things Fiorina is advocating.

Bott concludes by noting Fiorina’s assertion that the federal government should get out of education policy and instead focus on its primary responsibilities, like “repairing roads and bridges.”

Wrong again, Batman!

In fact, the vast majority of roads and bridges in America are owned and maintained by state and local governments, with the federal government picking up only 24 percent of all surface transportation costs, mostly for interstate highways and mass transit systems.

As we saw again last night, Fiorina relies on speed and specificity to give the impression of substantive knowledge, even if it’s not actually there. But what else would you expect from some fast-talking politician who’s been in office playing these games for years?

Oh, wait….

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 17, 2015

September 18, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Education, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“America’s Craziest Governor”: Just When Things Couldn’t Get Worse For Paul LePage…

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is caught up in a doozy of a controversy. As regular readers know, a Maine charter school recently hired state House Speaker Mark Eves (D), but LePage, a fierce opponent of Democratic legislators, threatened the school – either fire Eves or the governor would cut off the school’s state funding. In effect, LePage played the role of a mobster saying, “It’s a nice school you have there; it’d be a shame if something happened to it.”

The school, left with no options, reluctantly acquiesced. The problem, of course, is that governors are not supposed to use state resources to punish people they don’t like. By most measures, it’s an impeachable offense.

As of today, as the Portland Press Herald reported, it’s also the basis for a civil suit.

Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves will file a civil lawsuit Thursday against Gov. Paul LePage, alleging that the governor used taxpayer money and the power of his office to prevent his hiring at a private school in Fairfield.

The lawsuit, to be filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, has been anticipated ever since the board of directors at Good Will-Hinckley voted to rescind its offer to pay Eves $150,000 a year to become the organization’s next president. Eves said that the board told him before his contract was terminated that LePage threatened to eliminate $530,000 in annual state funding for the school unless it removed him from the job.

“Acting out of personal rage, vindictiveness and partisan malice, Gov. Paul LePage blackmailed a private school that serves at-risk children into firing its president, the Speaker of Maine’s House of Representatives,” the complaint reads.

The discovery phase of this case ought to be a doozy.

Remember, the Tea Party governor hasn’t actually denied the allegations, and neither have LePage’s allies. The Maine Republican did argue this morning, however, that when he threatened the school it was comparable to LePage intervening in a domestic-violence dispute.

“It’s just like one time when I stepped in … when a man was beating his wife,” the governor said. “Should have I stepped in? Legally, No. But I did. And I’m not embarrassed about doing it.”

I honestly haven’t the foggiest idea what that’s supposed to mean in this context. Unless the state House Speaker intended to physically assault the charter school, the comparison appears to be gibberish.

And just in case this wasn’t quite enough of a mess for the beleaguered governor, LePage is simultaneously facing a parallel controversy in which he claims to have vetoed bills that have already become state law.

This morning, the GOP governor said he’s “not going to enforce” the state laws he doesn’t believe exist, even if the state legislature and state Attorney General’s office believes those state laws do exist. The Maine Supreme Court hears arguments in the veto issue tomorrow.

Politico recently characterized LePage as as “America’s Craziest Governor,” asking whether the Republican is still “playing with a full deck.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 30, 2015

July 31, 2015 Posted by | Impeachment, Maine Legislature, Paul LePage | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Your Dollars At Work — For The Rich”: We’re Not Talking Trickle Here, We’re Talking Cascading To Privatize Everything

Conservative pundits and politicians routinely divide our U.S. economy into two totally distinct spheres. We have the noble private sector over here, they tell us, and the bumbling, bloated public sector over there.

In reality, of course, we have just one economy, with the private and public sectors inextricably entangled. Each year, in fact, hundreds of billions of tax dollars end up flowing directly into the private sector.

The federal government alone, a new Congressional Budget Office report calculates, annually spends $500 billion — that’s half a trillion dollars — to purchase goods and services from private companies. State and local governments spend many billions more on top of that.

We’re not talking trickle here — we’re talking cascade, as our elected leaders rush to privatize services that public employees previously provided.This massive privatization of everything from prisons to public schools hasn’t done much of anything to make the United States a better place to live.

On the other hand, this privatization has paid off quite handsomely for America’s most affluent. They’re collecting ever more generous paychecks, courtesy of the tax dollars the rest of us are paying.

In Washington, D.C., for instance, top officials of the private companies that run many of the city’s charter schools are taking in double or triple what traditional public schools take in, or even more.

The CEO at one company that runs five of these charters, The Washington Post recently reported, pulled in $1.3 million in 2013. That’s nearly five times the pay that went to the top public official responsible for the District of Columbia’s 100-plus traditional public schools.

America’s taxpayer-funded military contractors would, of course, consider that chump change. The CEO at Lockheed Martin, for one, personally pocketed over $25 million in 2013.

So do you like this idea of executives in power suits raking in multiple millions of your tax dollars?

Rhode Island state senator William Conley sure doesn’t. He and four of his colleagues have just introduced legislation that would stop the stuffing of tax dollars into the pockets of wildly overpaid corporate executives.

Conley’s bill directs Rhode Island to start “giving preference in the awarding of state contracts” to business enterprises whose highest-paid execs receive no more than 25 times the pay of their median — most typical — workers.

Back in the middle of the 20th century, only a handful of top corporate executives ever made more than 25 times the pay of the average worker. Today, by contrast, only a handful of top execs make less than 100 times median pay.

If Conley’s bill becomes law, the ramifications could be huge.

That’s because we may soon know, for the first time ever, the exact ratio between CEO and median worker pay at every major American corporation that trades on Wall Street.

Five years ago, legislation that mandates this disclosure passed Congress and made it into law. Intense corporate lobbying has been stalling its enforcement, but the stall may soon end. The federal Securities and Exchange Commission finally appears ready to issue the regulations needed to enforce full pay ratio disclosure.

CEO-worker pay comparisons for individual companies will likely start hitting the headlines the year after next. With these new stats, taxpayers will be able to see exactly which corporations feeding at the public trough are doing the most to make America more unequal.

With this information, average taxpayers could then do a great deal. They could, for starters, follow Senator Conley’s lead in Rhode Island and urge their lawmakers to reward — with our tax dollars — only those corporations that pay their workers fairly.

 

By: Sam Pizzigati, Columnist, OtherWords; Associate Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies: The National Memo, March 25, 2015

March 27, 2015 Posted by | Corporations, Economic Inequality, Taxpayers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Schools In The Crosshairs”: Parent-Trigger Laws Effort Has Become A Stealth Means To Privatize Public Schools

When her dyslexic second-grader landed in a failing public elementary school in Pittsburgh, single mother Jamie Fitzpatrick spotted trouble right away. Her daughter’s teacher spent class time shopping online for clothes while the kids bullied one another. Though other teachers wanted to do right by the kids, their union wouldn’t allow it; teachers were forbidden to offer any extra help to the students outside of class, and because their pay was based on seniority, some of the worst made the most. So despite working two jobs, Fitzpatrick somehow found the time to persuade other parents to sign a petition to turn the school into a nonunion charter. Most teachers joined the effort, perfectly content to give up their union protections. At the new charter school, magic happened. The kids began to get a proper education. Fitzpatrick’s daughter learned to read almost immediately.

It’s an inspiring tale. It’s also fiction—the plot of Won’t Back Down, a film released this fall starring Maggie Gyllenhaal as the supermom and Viola Davis as a frustrated teacher who becomes her ally. Like most people, you probably steered clear of this critically panned box-office flop. If so, you didn’t miss much—except a revealing glimpse into the Hollywood-style fantasies of education reformers who believe they have found a new panacea for saving public education: parent-trigger laws.

These laws sound appealingly straightforward. If enough parents sign a petition, they can get their children’s failing school shut down or converted into a charter. Seven states have passed a parent trigger over the last two years; more will likely follow suit next year. These laws are designed to make public education increasingly look like the free marketplace of parental “choice” that reformers long to see. The idea has powerful backers, including conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—best known for “stand your ground” self-defense laws—and the Heartland Institute, famous for challenging climate science. Walden Media, which produced Won’t Back Down and funded the charter—school documentary Waiting for Superman, is owned by Philip Anschutz, an ALEC supporter and prominent Tea Party funder.

Parent trigger is not solely a right-wing cause. Democratic legislatures in Connecticut and California have passed these laws, the U.S. Conference of Mayors has unanimously endorsed them, and 70 percent of Americans view them favorably. The broad support is no surprise. If parents organize to make radical changes to a failing school, who would want to stop them? But many who back parent-trigger laws don’t realize that the effort has become a stealth means to privatize public schools. Heartland, which owns the website theparenttrigger.com, has crafted model legislation for trigger laws that apply to all schools—not just those that are failing. That might be a logical, if drastic, response if public schools were mired in the deep “crisis” that education reformers constantly cite. But they’re not: Many achievement gaps have narrowed substantially, test scores have risen, and high-school completion rates are at all-time highs.

Won’t Back Down, like the movement it champions, begins from the assumption that public schools are a hopeless mess. The complicated challenges that public educators grapple with—severe budget cuts, for instance, or health problems that make learning a particular challenge for low-income kids—are nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, parents are exempted from responsibility. Jamie Fitzpatrick never volunteers to help out at the school. She doesn’t go to PTA meetings. She never even asks about her daughter’s homework. Gyllenhaal’s character is not so much a parent as an unhappy customer demanding a better school.

Anyone who believes in the school-reform fairy tale of Won’t Back Down should be required to watch another film released this fall to much less fanfare. This one doesn’t feature an Academy Award winner or a soundtrack of No. 1 hits. Instead, Brooklyn Castle chronicles a messy reality—that of Intermediate School 318, a Brooklyn middle school where 70 percent of the kids live below the poverty line, and where funding cuts are threatening the after-school activities that are key to getting many of them engaged. That includes the school’s chess team, which is, improbably, among the best in the country.

In most respects, I.S. 318 is ordinary. It’s not a magnet school or a charter, but it’s also not failing. The kids featured in Brooklyn Castle have real problems: They struggle with ADHD, asthma, and hunger, and many must work after school to help their parents make ends meet. Teachers and administrators encourage the students, helping to set goals for each one. When after-school programs are endangered, the parents rally, launching a letter–writing campaign to state officials and organizing a walkathon to raise money. I.S. 318, like most public schools, succeeds because the community invests in it, without expecting perfection.

“I think this is a good thing for kids to be exposed to—the idea that truth isn’t quite so simple as right and wrong,” I.S. 318 teacher and chess-team coach Elizabeth Vicary says. “The answers aren’t really clear to anybody.” She’s talking about chess. She could just as well be talking about our entire approach to education. The quest for easy fixes is seductive. But the more we look for Hollywood-style magic bullets, the less we focus on what makes public schools work.

 

By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, November 30, 2012

December 1, 2012 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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