Although Obama is preparing to browbeat those of us unhappy with his first term into submission, plenty of people have dug in their heels to disagree vigorously with him on many issues. But there is a curious wobble on the topic of so-called educational ‘reform’, a.k.a. a full-court press for privatization of a foundational element of our democracy: public education. [photo: Hagen/Daily News]
Why this classically Republican worldview is so close to the Obamanian heart is for psychoanalysts to discover. In any case, New York City is the epicenter of this fight to disenfranchise future generations, and Mayor Bloomberg (of the Bloomberg business behemoth) is leading the charge. The movement suffered a lovely setback when Bloomberg shot himself all up and down one leg with the debacle of the Cathie Black appointment as commissioner of education.
How Bloomberg thought this vapid, corporate hack was going to fly in a field she knew nothing about is a mystery—maybe he thought it was important to put a clueless bimbo in the job to prove how irrelevant it is who runs the city’s public schools. As described here recently, Black was forced out after a few disastrous months.
A little-known sidebar to this loathsome tale is the platinum parachute provided for Black’s predecessor, Joel Klein, who loyally carried hod for Bloomberg’s schemes during his eight-year term. Klein is now ensconced at the News Corporation of Rupert (Valdemort) Murdoch, where he earns $4.5 million a year as head of the newly created ‘educational division’. (The concept draws one’s breath: a Murdoch ‘educational division’ makes sense like a hamburger stand for Hindus.) Klein only pulled a measly $250,000 a year in his last job, so one can quickly see how lush are the rewards for doing the bidding of the ruling elite.
Meanwhile, Klein’s shiny new employer, Murdoch, is busy wiping out dissenting views from any nation-state invaded by his media empire. Al Gore, not exactly a small-time player, has just found his Current TV censored from the Italian airwaves by the Murdoch juggernaut, in cahoots with the professional pimp known as Silvio Berlusconi.
If we were to ask someone like Rahm Emanuel or Larry Summers if they are alarmed by this development, no doubt they could give us a dozen reasons not to worry. This insouciant confidence is the principal deformation of the political debate that is occurring around us today.
In fact, Berlusconi’s increasingly authoritarian Italy is an excellent example of where we could be headed if constant enablers like Obama and his party keep looking for bipartisan agreement at the expense of basic democratic principles. They’ve done marvelously well in that pursuit with things like Guantánamo and the rule of law; with letting the banks get away with massive theft, fraud and usury; and with confusing the public over the supposed horrors of the federal deficit without clarifying that it was created by tax cuts for the rich, unfunded wars and the steady redistribution of wealth upwards. To see present trends as threatening to wipe out dissenting views is not paranoia but realism.
Just as the corrupted Democratic establishment poo-bahs eagerly await ‘reforms’ that will put private business in charge of education, they will sit quietly with arms crossed while media barons like Murdoch gobble up our democratic spaces. The phenomena are two sides of the same tarnished coin. Only popular resistance independent of electoral distractions will slow down these trends.