"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Of Supermarkets and Billionaires

WAITING FOR SUPERMARKETS

Donald Boudreaux wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal last week titled If Supermarkets Were Like Public Schools.

[You must subscribe to the WSJ to read the whole article. Susan Ohanian has it on her web page at the end of THIS PAGE.]

In it he ridicules those who think public education and children are fundamentally different than widgets and products sold at grocery stores. He, like many others, blames teachers and their unions for all the problems facing public education.
Recognizing that the erosion of their monopoly would stop the gravy train that pays their members handsome salaries without requiring them to satisfy paying customers, unions would ensure that any grass-roots effort to introduce supermarket choice meets fierce political opposition.
The "gravy train" is, apparently, that fund of cash which pays teachers an average of $50,000 a year.

In contrast, Guy Brandenburg, in his blog post, Compare and Contrast: American Public Schools and Supermarkets, thinks that full disclosure is in order.

He starts by informing us of the difference between rich and poor when it comes to purchasing opportunities in the very grocery stores which Boudreaux holds up as a model for public education.
I lived in those low-income, segregated regions of some of our great American cities and countryside, and I would walk or drive to the local supermarket, guess what: I found that they sucked. There were rats, roaches, and mice; the tiles on the floor were coming up; the shopping carts wouldn’t work; the refrigeration often was broken; you risked getting robbed walking home with your bags in your arms; the food was old, of poor quality, and almost guaranteed to give you high blood pressure and to make you obese. Plus, numerous studies showed that the prices for this crappy merchandise was often higher than at fancy supermarkets in more well-to-do neighborhoods. Any laws to prevent this sort of nasty racial and economic discrimination are and were toothless and/or gutted by business interests.
He goes on to remind us that teachers and their unions are not necessarily the ones who have caused the economic situation in which we now find ourselves…
But wait a second. I thought the reason we are in a crisis right now, and that so many folks are out of a job, is because the billionaires who run the big banks and Wall Street …

(a) Shipped all the good manufacturing jobs to low-paid, seriously exploited workers overseas and are doing the same thing with a lot of high-tech jobs as well;

(b) Played such incredibly irresponsible gambling games, for their own benefit, that they have brought the entire world near the brink of bankruptcy, not once, but repeatedly;

(c) Changed the tax and regulatory and legal climate over the past 20 years so that the super rich have gotten an ever larger part of the national (and world) pie, while the rest of us get less and less and have to pay more and more for everything;

(d) Are doing their very best to organize an all-out attack on workers’ rights, pensions of all types, medical plans of any sort, and all of the rest of the ‘social safety net’, by blaming us, the working class, the middle class, and the poor, for our own problems!

(e) Have ushered in an era of nearly endless war and foreign interventions and invasions, violating just about all of our own Constitutional protections and international laws, and justifying each and every one of those violations.
FOLLOW THE MONEY

Brandenburg's most important information, however, comes at the end of his post. It turns out that Mr. Boudreaux…
is professor of economics at George Mason University and a senior fellow at the Mercatus Center.
Then he lets us know that the Mercatus Center
was founded and is funded by the Koch Family Foundations. According to financial records, the Koch family has contributed more than thirty million dollars to George Mason, much of which has gone to the Mercatus Center, a nonprofit organization. (SourceWatch)
Brandenburg ends his report with…
The Koch Brothers are funding many of the attacks on public employees across the country (Lipton, Eric “BillionaireBrothers’ Money Plays Role in Wisconsin Dispute” New York Times, Feb. 21, 2011).

Boudreaux is certainly not going to bite the hand that feeds him.
Charles Koch is expanding his role in universities as well. Besides George Mason, he has donated millions to Florida State University. One of the conditions of the donation is the right to approve candidates who fill the positions in the University's new programs...
called the Study of Political Economy and Free Enterprise (SPEFE) and Excellence in Economics Education (EEE).
Presumably, the positions will be filled with such experts in the field of public education as Donald Boudreaux.

The Kochs are the same people who helped elect governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan...the governors who are working hard to break the teachers unions and defund public schools. The Kochs are the same people who are funding the push for privatization of America's education...through vouchers and charters...just some more billionaires who want a cut of the "gravy train" going to educate our children.

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