Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Moistness of Water/Catholicism of Popes Dept.

Yeah, democracy, whatever.
The idea that U.S. presidents look out for the wealthy and powerful over the mass of ordinary Americans is nothing new. But a new study claims to confirm that assumption with hard data while seeking to spur a conversation over the flagging health of American democracy.

Echoing a much-discussed paper out of Princeton last year that argued the U.S. is no longer a proper representative democracy, the book, "Who Governs?" is an exploration of presidents, public opinion, and manipulation.

James N. Druckman from Northwesten University and Lawrence R. Jacobs from University of Minnesota make the case that presidents from both Republican and Democratic parties mainly serve and are guided by the wishes of the wealthy and political elites and exploit public opinion in order to serve those ends.

The duo turn to previously confidential documents from presidential archives, interviews with White House officials, and previously unquantified data to argue that "elites do most of the deciding," since presidents purposefully aim to "shirk citizen control."
This research focuses specifically on the Presidency. But you may have noticed your local governance mileage does not vary. I've rambled on at length twice this week already about the ways in which the Katrina recovery has been an exercise in wish fulfillment for political and economic elites.

Nowhere has the neoliberal agenda been more fully realized locally and nationally than in the realm of education reform. David Sirota wrote this two years ago but it lays things out pretty plainly.
For education, technology and charter school companies and the Wall Streeters who back them, it lets them cite troubled public schools to argue that the current public education system is flawed, and to then argue that education can be improved if taxpayer money is funneled away from the public school system’s priorities (hiring teachers, training teachers, reducing class size, etc.) and into the private sector (replacing teachers with computers, replacing public schools with privately run charter schools, etc.). Likewise, for conservative politicians and activist-profiteers disproportionately bankrolled by these and other monied interests, the “reform” argument gives them a way to both talk about fixing education and to bash organized labor, all without having to mention an economic status quo that monied interests benefit from and thus do not want changed.
That sounds like a policy designed to benefit wealthy elites at the expense of middle class workers like teachers not to mention the damage to a public service as fundamental to democracy as public education.  How much political muscle can you muster for that sort of enterprise?  A lot, it turns out.

A few weeks ago we learned that Mary Landrieu is going to work for the Walton Family Foundation promoting more charters
In an interview, Landrieu, who lost her bid for a 4th term last December to Republican Bill Cassidy, said the position will enable her to continue advocating for one of her priorities as a senator -- helping encourage school reform. Landrieu points to the creation of dozens of charter schools in New Orleans as an example of "positive reform" that generates innovation and more learning options for students.
Mary's brother Mitch often talks up the "success" of the New Orleans charter movement during his many travels.

When Bobby Jindal takes a break from his many travels to announce his Presidential campaign in New Orleans this month he will likely emphasize his support for the charter movement. He has called it a "lasting legacy" of his tenure as Governor.  It's also a "lasting legacy" of perhaps more serious Presidential candidate Jeb Bush's time as Governor of Florida.

So the charter movement is pretty much the "bipartisan" feel-good issue of our time. At least for our ruling elites it is.  And, of course, they are the only people who count.

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