Corbett’s Gifts and Favors

Originally posted on Progressive PA Rising:

Government benefits received by some who gave gifts to Corbett
The Pennsylvania People’s Campaign, Progressive Philly Rising


Executive Summary: Is Tom Corbett Above the Law?

While the legislature and the attorney general’s office have investigated gift-taking by members of the General Assembly and a judge, no investigation has begun of the governor’s taking of gifts and the receipt of government benefits by some of those who gave. This report documents shocking facts that demand an investigation and pose a stark question: is Gov. Corbett above the law?

Gov. Corbett has delivered substantial benefits to several people and companies that have made large gifts to him and his wife. The benefits provided by the governor include appointments to state commissions, appointments to the board of the state-funded and controlled Team Pennsylvania which the governor co-chairs, a contract worth hundreds of thousands of dollars entered into without competitive bidding, and regulatory relief…

View original 2,864 more words

Vote to Put People First; Endorsements for 36th Ward (D) Committee people.

(***Endorsements below)

9593335219_fd966e7946_c

The Point Breeze Organizing Committee would like to remind Philadelphia and specifically the residents of Point Breeze of the importance of voting this tomorrow, May 20th.

As most of you are aware, this election is especially important given the recent litigation efforts made by real estate developer Ori Feibush to challenge long-time committeeperson incumbents and replace them with people more inclined to support his profit-over-people form of development.

Mr. Feibush, a millionaire, used his resources to support the filing of 75+ lawsuits to push many long-term residents and incumbents off the ballot.  It is yet another sign that Mr. Feibush and many of his supporters have no plans of integrating into the neighborhood, rather they are attempting a hostile take-over.

It is also another step in his political effort to oust 2nd District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson next May.  Councilman Johnson, is from the neighborhood, the first African-American to hold the seat, and has maintained that there must be a place for affordable housing, and other policies that protect long-term residents from economic displacement.

Mr. Feibush, OCF Realty, and the moneyed interests they represent rely on the weakening of democratic institutions to advance their profit over people development ambitions.  So, it is of the utmost importance that people get out and VOTE.

VOTE TO PUT PEOPLE FIRST.

After careful consideration, the Point Breeze Organizing Committee is proud to endorse the following candidates for 36th Ward Democratic Committee Person:

 

Div Name  Press Button#
1 Tiye Thompson 134
1 Anthony Tappe Write-In
2 Constance Goodwin 133
2 William Goodwin 137
3 Dawn Chavous 134
3 Dita White 136
4 Delores Richardson 133
4 Gaynell Scott Write-in
5 Harold James 133
5 Linda Thomas Write-In
6 Karen James 133
6 Mary Smitherman 134
7 Jokon Brown Hart 133
7 Tiphanie White 134
8 Nakia Carr 136
8 Maxine Hayman 137
9 Tanasha Vann Write-in
9 Wilma Frazier Write-in
10 Lisa Birckett 133
10 Jonathan Abbott 134
11 Luther Carr 133
11 Jacqueline Johnson 134
12 Marie Hightower 133
12 Dorothy Wright 134
13 Daralis Lippett Simms 133
13 Carolyn Ramsey 134
14 Marlene Schuck 133
14 Thomas Dever Jr 134
15 Joseph Middleton 133
15 Donald Dudley 135
16 George Upshur 133
16 Ralanda King 135
17 Darlene Swint Write-in
17 Audrey Hill 134
18 Malik Cherry 133
18 Ethel Charles Write-in
19 Beresford Gabbadon 133
19 Alice Gabbadon 137
20 Terry Wiggins 133
20 Angela Parks 134
21 Willie Allen III 133
21 Ervin Davis Write-in
22 Patricia Cormier 133
22 Mary Blackwell 137
23 Edmond Wiggins 134
23 Sherri Stanford 135
24 Katherine Thomas 133
24 Joseph Cifoni 134
25 Barbara Gillespie 133
25 Joanne Kopaczewski 134
26 Tammy Smith 133
26 Basym Hasan 134
27 Thomas McCormick 133
27 Robert Gormley Jr 134
28 Roosevelt Brant Jr 133
28 Valerie Carr 134
29 Tulsa Wills 133
29 Jennifer Norwood 134
30 Christal Heath 134
30 Harriett Henley 135
31 Daria Ward 133
31 Jefferson Branch 134
32 Kevin Hannah 134
32 Tara Hannah Taliaferro 135
33 Shawn Gormley 133
33 Kellyann Haggerty 135
34 Rita Butler Write-in
34 Stanley McCant Write-in
35 Juanita Jarrett 134
35 Michael Bell 137
36 Pamela Stroman Gibson 134
36 Alexandria Gibson 136
37 Jennifer Devor 133
37 Rashid Hughes 134
38 William Ryan Jr 133
38 Juanita Davis 134
39 Marjorie Jones 136
39 Jennie Burton 137
40 Karen Harris 134
40 Judy Walston 135
41 Darlene Lewis 134
41 Dionne Bracley 135

 

 

 

4/16/14: Unity Statement on the ICE Hold victory from the Philadelphia Family Unity Network

Originally posted on :

We stand here today as members of the Philadelphia Family Unity Network to celebrate the historic victory of ending ICE holds in Philadelphia. This moment represents years of organizing, coalition building, and hard work by community groups across Philadelphia against immoral deportation policies. It also represents successful partnerships with Mayor Nutter’s administration and City Council, who have worked alongside our community organizations to make Philadelphia a more welcoming city.

 

Today, we are proud to show what a community united for justice looks like in Philadelphia. Our coalition led this campaign by building strength and solidarity across all communities, and fought for the rights of all individuals to remain in the city they call home, including our members and our loved ones who are currently or formerly incarcerated.

 

On March 12th at the City Council hearing on ICE holds, Director of Public Safety Michael Resnick testified on the city’s…

View original 389 more words

Stardom Doesn’t Change Where You’re From

pointbreezeorganizing:

Richard Sherman writes about DeSean Jackson’s departure from the Eagles.

Originally posted on The MMQB with Peter King:

I’m not going to tell you that DeSean Jackson isn’t in a gang, because I can’t say unequivocally that he isn’t. I can’t tell you whether his friends have done the things police have accused them of doing, because I wasn’t there. I can’t tell you what DeSean does with his time, because we play football on opposite ends of the country. I can only tell you that I believe him to be a good person, and if you think, say or write otherwise without knowing the man, you’re in the wrong.

And if it’s true the Eagles terminated his contract in part because they grew afraid of his alleged “gang ties,” then they did something worse. [Editor’s note: Jackson has agreed to terms with the Redskins.]

I look at those words—gang ties—and I think about all the players I’ve met in the NFL and all…

View original 853 more words

Karen Lewis. Standardized testing and the Eugenics movement.

Originally posted on Fred Klonsky:

lewsi

Karen GJ Lewis is the President of the Chicago Teachers Union and National Board Certified Teacher.

Many people who are convinced that standardized tests are reliable and valid indicators of student learning are not only sadly mistaken, but they are often people who also support policies that harm children, teachers and schools. This is unfortunate for a variety of reasons, the least of which is that unions, think tanks and other entities no longer pursue alternatives—multiple measures. Researchers have pointed out that standardized tests do not cover 70 percent of teachers, but rather than invest in multiple measures, companies respond with a plan to develop more tests.

What many people do not know is that the use of standardized tests has its origins in the Eugenics movement, where basic tenets assert that certain races are inferior to others biologically and intellectually. From our 21st century perspective, we can look back in…

View original 323 more words

McCord Campaign defends investment in for-profit education management.

McCord Campaign defends investment in for-profit education management company that privatized entire Chester Upland School District, then cashed out.

timthumb.php

In early, January, the Point Breeze Organizing Committee (PBOC) released a statement, “Would Rob McCord stop the privatization of Public Education?”  It documented the role a Rob McCord led venture capital firm played in privatizing the Chester Upland School District; a move that not surprisingly, quickly led to a fight with the Teacher’s Union.  McCord’s involvement was also documented by AP Ticker on Scrapple TV highlighted by Philadelphia Weekly.

PBOC submitted the statement to the Progressive Democratic Caucus (PDC), which was asking for verifiable information about candidates, in order to develop their scorecard.  PDC was successful in getting a response from the McCord Campaign.

The McCord Campaign’s response was defensive and disturbing.  It is immediately below, followed by our response.

Rob went to Pennsylvania public schools and credits them with giving him the foundation for his future academic and professional successes.  He’s not a proponent of school privatization, he is a full-throated advocate for Pennsylvania’s public schools.
Here are the facts:

-  When Rob was at PA Early Stage Partners, the firm, on behalf of the teachers’ pension fund, invested in a small, start up company called Learn Now.  It was founded by two Morehouse grads who wanted to make a difference in the education sector.  One of the founders, Jim Shelton, is now the Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.  Here’s his bio: http://www2.ed.gov/news/staff/bios/shelton.html.  The other, Gene Wade, continues to be an advocate for innovation in education.  Here is his bio:  http://unow.com/team_members/gene-wade/

-  This is really nothing more than PA Early Stage Partners investing in two start-up business owners from an inner city background who were trying to find ways to improve the educational system.

-  When Learn Now was bought by Edison, the teachers’ pension fund made a small profit and got their initial investment back.  Rob and his partners did not make any money from the sale of Learn Now to Edison.  It’s worth repeating that last part: Rob and his partners did not profit from the sale of Learn Now to Edison!

-  Once the sale of Learn Now to Edison was complete, PA Early Stage Partners no longer had any stake in either company.

We believe the McCord Campaign response sidesteps fundamental questions about his policy beliefs and responsibility.  We believe we deserve more from a candidate for Pennsylvania’s highest office.

What roles does he believe for-profit education management companies should play in public education?

Would he have led Early Stage Partners to invest in Learn Now, if he knew, that just three months after it won the contract, it would break its word to the Chester Community and sell to Edison Schools?  – that shortly thereafter Edison Schools would fight the Teacher’s Union?

Rob McCord has not once on the campaign trail referred to the attack on public schools as a privatization effort – rather his rhetoric, along with some other candidates, has attempted to narrow the scope and define it simply as a funding issue.

Further, as a matter of policy the McCord Campaign saying he is “not a proponent of school privatization” is contradicted by the later stated support of Jim Shelton and Gene Wade.  They both have personally have profited from for-profit education management companies that have not served students.  Wade continues to do so and Shelton went on to advocate policy that enables privatization.

His bio page at the Department of Education uses code words like “Teacher Quality” and “School Choice” and while the McCord Campaign holds up his position at the U.S Dept. of Education to validate his legitimacy, that office has been at odds with Public Education movements and the policies advocates like Diane Ravitch have called for.  Indeed, the head of that department, Arne Duncan’s visits to Philly, have been often met with protest.  What’s more is Shelton’s career includes time at the Gates Foundation, a huge proponent of privatization.  Pittsburgh’s elected school board is being threatened by the Gates Foundation right now, precisely because it has cancelled contracts rather than close schools and is standing up for high quality public education and against privatization efforts that the Gates Foundation advocates.

Gene Wade is a pioneer of for-profit education, that the NY Times described as “more entrepreneur than educator.”  He has a long track record of educational failures, including in Chester with Learn Now.

So, again, here are the facts:

A venture capital firm that Rob McCord led, invested in a for-profit education management company – LearnNow, that was a driving force in the privatization of the entire Chester Upland School District.  Even worse, LearnNow made promises to Chester and emphasized it had differences with Edison Schools, but 3 month later cashed out for over $30 million by selling to Edison Schools – a fact McCord’s company prominently displayed on it’s website, as a win.  Edison Schools, then with more power took on the Teacher’s Union in Chester, on its way just a few months later to attempting privatization of the entire Philly School District.

If Rob McCord is unapologetic about investing in for-profit education management companies, then he should make that case, and see if Pennsylvanians agree with him.  If he recognizes people were wronged and that this is the wrong direction, then he should take responsibility for that mistake.

Would Rob McCord stop the privatization of Public Education?

and other questions about the soul of the Democratic Party.

The struggle for a well-funded and vibrant Public Education system in Philadelphia has been long and storied.  The School Reform Commission’s announcement that it would close 23 schools, was the latest outrageous development, and one of the many severe consequences of Governor Corbett’s decision to cut $1 Billion from the state education budget.  The school closings, as has been well documented, happen in almost exclusively low-income and majority African-American neighborhoods.

1501065_780233405326687_1636190634_o

The resistance has been fierce.  It has been led by young people, parents, teachers, school safety staff, and unionists from many industries.  It has included massive student walk-outs, hunger fasts, civil disobedience, and much more.  The resistance has operated with a unity and clarity of purpose that brought organizations together, and engaged thousands of people, who sought to put their outrage to good use.

There is nothing that will challenge that unity and clarity more than the Pennsylvania Governor’s race.  It is with this in mind, that we believe we need to examine Rob McCord’s candidacy, particularly as his campaign just released a video that puts forward his experience as a businessman as giving him perspective on the need for Education.  This is in line with Mayor Nutter’s governing strategy, which has often suggested that “government is a business.”

However, Philadelphians and Public Education activists who have had to fight Mayor Nutter are clear that this type of thinking has been detrimental and in some cases devastating to Public Education.  It is precisely the approach that has led to schools that run like factories or worse, prisons.  It is exactly that “cost-effectiveness over everything” mantra that has led to program cuts, school closings, and attacks on teachers.  In fact, leading anti-privatization activist Diane Ravitch just posted a blog praising new elected NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio for appointing an educator – not a businessman, to be the city’s Chancellor of Education.

On this key point, it is not just Rob McCord’s recent campaign video that is disturbing, but more importantly, his record.

0120 MCCORD  JRH 22871

In 2001, Public Education activists fought against the state take over led by Republican Governors. This included fighting against a for-profit education management company, Edison Schools’ bid to privatize the entire Philadelphia School District.

Rob McCord, at that same time, was a leader of Early Stage Partners PA, a venture capital firm.  Under McCord’s leadership, Early Stage Partners PA invested in LearnNow – a for-profit education management company with revenue of $38 million dollars per year.[1]

LearnNow’s CEO was a fellow Wharton School grad, a businessman by the name of Gene Wade.  The NY Times described him as “… more education entrepreneur than educator.”[2] LearnNow, with Wade, at the helm worked to establish private, for-profit, management of Chester Schools.

Early Stage Partners PA’s website, at the time, boasted LearnNow as part of it’s portfolio,

“LearnNow won a very important contract representing a total of 2,350 students in the Chester, Pennsylvania Upland School District. Shortly thereafter, in July 2001, Edison Schools (Nasdaq:EDSN) acquired LearnNow in a stock transaction valued at approximately $30 million.”[3]

LearnNow received a contract to manage Chester Schools and just three months later, sold the company to the main competitor, they had sought to distinguish themselves from.  The New York Times put the sale even higher, at $38 million.  That sale meant profit – good returns on investment for Rob McCord and other Early Stage Partners PA investors, but it did not sit well with those tasked with the education of Chester’s young people.

The Philadelphia Inquirer noted at the time, the concern this caused Public Education activists like Keith Reeves, director of Swarthmore College’s Center for Social Policy Studies, he said,

“LearnNow really knew how to focus in on and energize the community. They had persuaded us that they could offer us something very different [from Edison]. One has to question whether they can deliver that now.”

Chester Public Education advocates also pointed to the duplicitous nature of an education management company that “won” a contract in March 2001, and just three months later sold the company to Edison Schools for $38 million.

Charles Gray, whom headed the Chester Upland district task force that crafted the recovery plan said,

“I’m disappointed. I have some problems with it. . . . If [the two firms] had initially come to the process with this arrangement, I’m not sure it would have been accepted.”

It is no surprise that just a few months later, when Edison Schools, who had since brought former LearnNow CEO, Gene Wade on-board, would push to demand concessions from teachers.  Their for-profit approach demanded they please their investors at all cost, and they were more than willing to fight educators on the ground for resources and power.  Businessmen were to get richer.  Teachers were to get poorer.

These types of decisions, those made to maximize profit at the expense of young people, mislead public officials and parents, and fight Teacher’s Unions are at the core of the privatization agenda that Early Stage Partners PA under Rob McCord’s leadership, participated in.

The Democratic Primary for Governor offers many candidates who, in the primary, will commit to restore funding.  However, the primary offers few candidates, who dare to take on the problem at its root, and challenge the privatization agenda.  Could this be because candidates like Rob McCord have donors and friends who like him have personally profited from the privatization agenda?

The future of Public Education in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania is in many ways a question of who will win the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party.  The struggle for how to address Public Education challenges has a strong relation to another key aspect of this battle: how Democratic Party fundraising is conducted.

What we see is that big donors are largely businessmen who invest in elections to see a return, what will the return be in this election?

The “Third Way” – Wall Street-financed wing of the Democratic Party has pushed to abandon the fight for democratic campaign finance laws.  They’ve done so because their donors demand that their “right” to influence elections (disproportionately) be protected.  So more and more we see even Democrats opposed to what the majority of working people need and want, such as Public Education and Public infrastructure broadly.

BLANK-ROME-Sam-Lerner-Rob-McCord-Larry-Flick*

Rob McCord puts forward his “prolific fundraising” as an asset – but an asset for who? How does that shape his accountability?

It is Democrats who fight for real campaign finance laws and democratic regulations on investment who are assets to the majority of us.  The majority of us could not, like Rob McCord, rely on millionaire friends or donate $200,000 of our own money, to fund a campaign, like he did in his bid for PA Treasurer.  It is a history that’s only made more disturbing with the perspective on how this money is made – in one case, through the privatization of Chester Schools.

The vast majority of Americans believe there is too much money in politics.  Seventy-Six percent believe it gives rich people disproportionate influence.[4]  It is this pay-to-play electoral terrain that has incubated the destruction of Public Education in Philadelphia and beyond.

It is no time for a Democratic Party nominee whose rise to power was an egregious abuse of Pennsylvania’s lack of campaign finance laws.  This is no time for a nominee who has personally profited from the privatization of schools.

***

References:

* This photo was published by the Philadelphia Public Record on Dec. 13th, 2013.  It shows Rob McCord at the Blank Rome party at the Pennsylvania Society gathering.  Blank Rome is a law firm that specializes in services like White Collar defense, Banking, and Finance.

A)  “It’s in the Country’s Best Interest for Poor Folks To be Smart’: The most compelling opportunities for social entrepreneurs are the public schools.”, Fast Company, Rekha Balu, November 2000. http://www.fastcompany.com/40961/its-countrys-best-interest-poor-folks-be-smart

[1] “Edison Schools to Acquire LearnNow, Inc.: Combines Nation’s Largest Schooling Company With One of Industry’s Fastest Growing ”, PRN Newswire, June 4, 2001 http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/edison-schools-to-acquire-learnnow-inc-72019022.html

[2] “For Profit and People: UniversityNow Rides a Low-Cost Wave”, The New York Times, Anya Kamenetz, November 1, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/education/universitynow-rides-a-low-cost-wave.html?_r=0

[4] “Reuters Poll: Most Americans Think Too Much Money in Politics”, NewMax, Thursday, 24 May 2012,http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/americans-money-politics-elections/2012/05/24/id/440238
Tagged , ,

A Few Things I Think We Should Learn From MCTC’s Attack on Professor Shannon Gibney

Originally posted on Opine Season:

Chaun Webster

Chaun Webster

As many who are within this network are aware and many I’m sure who are not, Shannon Gibney, a Professor of English and African diaspora studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC), recently received a formal reprimand from the institution.

 The reprimand was due to the discomfort of two white male students who said they were being personally attacked while Professor Gibney led a discussion about structural racism in her political science and communications course.  These very students interrupted Professor Gibney during the discussion, expressing that it was upsetting to them that it was being discussed at all.   MCTC went so far as to identify Professor Gibney’s conduct in the class as a violation of the Non-Discrimination Policy and she was directed to meet twice with the Chief Diversity Officer to learn how to be more welcoming to people of  all backgrounds.

 It is an outrage…

View original 907 more words

A Choice to Believe in Our Own Power

PBOC announces its intent to endorse John Hanger for Governor.

It is a choice to believe we can turn back the tide on the privatization of Public Education.
It is a choice to take on the monied interests that infect even our own party.
It is, at its core, a choice to recognize that we deserve better, to believe we can achieve better, and to seize the opportunity in front of us.

From public education and public sector union-busting to corporate tax breaks and mass prison expansion, the privatization agenda out of Harrisburg threatens the future of the vast majority of Pennsylvanians – this is a Governor’s race with the highest of stakes.

And the Corbett-backed “Voter ID” laws threaten to suppress the political will of the majority, preventing us from fighting back against economic policies that benefit only the wealthy few.

Walter G. Smith school in Point Breeze closed as a result of Governor Corbett’s cuts to the state education budget.

sanchez_phillyschools02_custom-3155aec4298c2c91b2872559628c09ae40460944-s40-c85

Point Breeze community members have also watched the Corbett administration deliberately defund Cheyney University – the country’s oldest African-American Higher Education institution.  School closings in Philadelphia happened in majority African-American and low-income neighborhoods.

2013-11-17-MichaelCoardCheyney-thumb-1

Taken with the Cheyney effort, this suggests that, much like Ronald Reagan, the Corbett Administration hopes to use targeted attacks against the African-American community and public education as a way to set the stage for the privatization of everything, undermining the public infrastructure necessary to have real democracy.

Hanger’s campaign earlier this week released a statement entitled, “Top education policy goal – stop the war on public education.” Here is the thesis:

“Funding shortages are only the symptom – not the root cause – of our public education problems… We must recognize that the crisis in our schools has been largely manufactured by those with ideological and financial interests in destroying them. Unless we accurately diagnose the problem, we won’t come up with the solutions needed to correct it, and our public schools’ problems will persist. We are facing a well-financed and organized privatization movement whose money has bought support in Harrisburg, not only on the Republican side of the aisle, but on the Democratic side, as well… I am the only candidate for Governor who is willing to expose the cynical strategy of the privatization interests to damage and destroy public education so they can divert more and more taxpayer money into the privatized schools they operate.”

Hanger has publicly criticized the school-to-prison pipeline. And, “in Philadelphia,” he says, “where a decade of state control has not improved the city’s schools, it is time to restore direct local control and abolish the School Reform Commission.

On marijuana reform, the Hanger campaign has stressed, “Pennsylvania’s marijuana laws are being enforced in a racially discriminatory manner against African Americans… prosecuting and jailing people for the non-violent offense of using marijuana ruins lives, stresses our judicial system and strains our prisons.

These are the words of those who speak truth to power, and yet if the people come together, and exert power, they could also be the words of our next Governor.

When we found out that the John Hanger for Governor campaign was touring the state with a Save our Schools initiative, we reached out and asked to meet with his campaign staff.  Mr. Hanger asked to be there himself.

We were surprised to find that he was one of us.  He attended public schools and took out federal student loans to complete law school.  He lived in Philadelphia for 12 years and worked at Community Legal Services for 4 of those. After working at CLS, his work consisted largely of advocating for low-income consumers in the world of energy and public utilities, fighting to keep gas and electric bills low for working-class households. He has also been a proud union member.

JHhousemtg

During our meeting with his campaign, he pointed out that he was the most progressive candidate in the race; however, with the exception of eliminating the death penalty, all of his positions are majority positions in Pennsylvania.  A sign of the times, is it not?

The will of the people – of the majority, subjugated so that the top 1% of income earners can have more money and more power.

And yet, people in Philadelphia have not been willing to go down without a fight. Student safety staff, along with students, teachers, organizers and clergy, fasted for two weeks to win their jobs back after budget cuts. Thousands of young people have organized student walkouts. Hundreds of parents are filing complaints with the State Department of Education claiming Philadelphia’s public school conditions are unconstitutional.

As we look for leadership from those who have stood up, and as we gain clarity that our vision is shared by the majority of people across this state, the words of the poet June Jordan, could not be more a propos:

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

The Point Breeze Organizing Committee will join with NORML, the families of Dimock, PA, and others across the state, to stand up – not just against Corbett, but for strong public infrastructure, high quality public education, and democracy.

We are in fact the only ones who can build a Philadelphia and Pennsylvania that we deserve.  Join us, and let’s wait no more.

***

Check out this video from a few months back of PBOC members interviewing John Hanger:

Tagged , , , , , , ,

First Corbett. Then Feibush.

PBOC will stand for the Public Good and defeat 21st Century Reagonomics in the both up-coming elections.

TCOF
Two stewards of 21st Century Reagonomics

Governor Tom Corbett cut $1 billion dollars to the state education budget.  In early March, the effects of the budget cuts were felt deeply in Philadelphia, and the School Reform Commission (SRC) voted to close 23 Philadelphia neighborhood schools.  Walter G Smith School, an elementary school at 19th and Wharton, was one such school, that Ms. Wilma Frazier reminded us, has been a pillar of the Point Breeze neighborhood.

Then, in August, as the Philadelphia School District looked for the funds through which it could safely open schools, the Corbett Administration released a statement calling for an extension of a sales tax and give backs from Philadelphia Teachers.

It’s important to note that American Teachers in general make less money that their counterparts in other developed countries like Switzerland, Germany, or Japan; and Philadelphia Teachers make less than their suburban counterparts.  Most countries with high performing Public Education systems have high paid teachers, in other words, lowering teacher pay is bad for students.

With the August statement, the Corbett Administration demonstrates callous disregard for Philadelphia’s young people and particularly those of less economic means.  Corbett refuses to tax the highly profitable natural gas industry and instead proposes pushing that burden onto working-class people through regressive taxation measures and attacks on the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT).

Diane Ravitch, whose principles and conscience, have led her to go from being a public official appointed by the Bush Administration, to being the nation’s premiere anti-privatization activist, recently posted this graphic on her blog.

school-closures-md

It shows the school closures have disproportionately effect Black communities and low-income communities.

The Corbett Administration has also pursued other policies that hurt the working poor – in spite of protests from Point Breeze’s State Representative Jordan Harris and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Republicans under Corbett’s leadership have pushed an effort to privatize liquor stores, which would eliminate jobs and leave reduced compensation for the jobs that remain.

It gets worse, PA Republicans, under the leadership of the Corbett Administration have paired these attacks on the majority with an effort to suppress the political will of the majority.  Governor Corbett signed into law “Voter ID” legislation, which the Philadelphia Inquirer reported would disenfranchise about 10% of voters across the state and 18% in Philadelphia.

Here, we see shades of not just the economic policy agenda of Ronald Reagan but of his approach to politics.  Ronald Reagan, prior to his election as California Governor, opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, calling it “humiliating to the South”.  As President, he even went so far as to oppose the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

The recent decision of the U.S Supreme Court to overturn key provisions of the Voting Right Act must be understood as the logical conclusion of the trajectory that Ronald Reagan’s leadership put the country on.

Further, we have to understand the focused attacks on African-American’s political rights, are not just racist, they are a tactic for creating the political conditions necessary to attack the vast majority of people in the country.  Economic inequality broadly has increased exponentially since the Reagan agenda took hold.  Just before Ronald Reagan took office as President, the average CEO made 42 times that of their worker.  In 2010, thirty years after Reagan shifted the country’s trajectory, CEOs were making 343 times that of their worker.

This is the legacy that Governor Tom Corbett is a part of.  He is a steward of 21st century Reagonomics.

Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

What did he actually mean? He meant that for those who had money and power, “government,” and the possibility it affords for democratic participation, was a barrier to the richest among us – the top 1% – becoming even richer.  If there are organizations designed for the general welfare, and if there are institutions where everyone has an equal say – well, that’s a pesky thing for monied interests who want to accumulate money and power. “Government,” according to his formula, is reduced to a mess of bureaucratic red tape in the way of business, rather than the sphere in which we must struggle for democratic inclusion and policies that promote equity and the public good.

One of the challenges the Reagan Administration ran into was that its policies designed to consolidate money and power in the hands of the few were not very popular.  However, it responded to this challenge in aggressive and politically sophisticated ways that would inspire new generations of Right-Wing activists.

First, rather than engage in public debate around various social programs or openly criticize their necessity, the Reagan Administration would simply de-fund them behind closed doors.

Second, it enacted a divide and conquer strategy – Reagan’s team deliberately cultivated the racism and fear of white working-class and middle-class people.  Reagan’s calls for “Law and Order,” that began while he was Governor, were designed to cultivate deep fears in the electorate following the race riots in major American cities. As President, he would give speeches filled with bogus tales of “young bucks using food stamps to buy T-Bone steaks” and “Chicago welfare queens who drive Cadillacs.”  This mythology from the Hollywood storyteller was used to cultivate resentment and generate an understanding, particularly among white people of all classes, that there was a “parasite class” threatening the nation.

Third, once generally white, working-class and middle class people accepted this “parasite class” existed, it was then easier to win them over to a regressive economic program, such as opposition to all taxation and opposition to so called “big government.”  Why should they, who work so hard, they reasoned, have to supplement the others who aren’t willing to work?

While one could take great moral issue with the budget, particularly defense spending, the truth is that the vast majority of spending on social programs goes into programs that everyone, except the very wealthiest, rely on: programs like Social Security and Medicare.

So, Ronald Reagan’s legacy is both an economic and political agenda.

Economically, it is to:

  1. Privatize everything –defund the public sector, criticize the diminished capacity of government to respond, then points to the failure as a reason to further de-fund.
  2. Oppose any democratic government regulation on business.
  3. Reduce taxes on the wealthy and move the tax burden to the working-class.
  4. Attack unions and workers’ right to organize.

Politically, it is to:

  1. Use racism and coded language to divide and conquer the electorate.  Particularly invoke mythology of “criminality” and “parasitic nature” of the African-American community.
  2. Promote racially tinged narratives in order to cultivate identification with a leader, as a representative of the “silent majority” i.e.  interests of the few, represented as broad white sentiment

With this economic policy agenda and approach towards politics in mind, we can see that Ori Feibush, too, is a steward of 21st Century Reaganomics.

First, Feibush and his supporters don’t openly criticize the idea of public infrastructure or democratic government, but instead they design their rhetoric to suggest it’s only lack of competence and effectiveness, and particular City officials, that they oppose. However, the actions of Feibush and his company, OCF Realty, are designed not to invest in and improve democratic government, but rather to take private control over land use and public safety.

He opposed land in Point Breeze being held in the public sector for affordable housing. He has bypassed, obstructed and dismissively criticized the community-input process around zoning and land use.

Second, Feibush’s interviews where he points to a gun on his hip, or press releases about privately-funding increased camera surveillance on Point Breeze Avenue, or attacks on Kenyatta Johnson’s office for being too lenient on crime – this is the updated “Law and Order” playbook, and Feibush has cast himself as the new sheriff in town.  Also, as PBOC has documented in “OCF Realty and the Incubation of Hate” and in “Top 5 Examples of Ori Feibush, OCF Realty and its Allies Incubating Hate,” Feibush operationalizes a media infrastructure to paint all long-term, usually African-American residents of Point Breeze, as criminals, parasites, racists (against white people), or poor people who don’t know what’s in their own best interest.

Third, once people have accepted these respective understandings of government, and accepted to some degree the representation of the neighborhood, it’s easier to develop in ways that are highly profitable for Mr. Feibush, but will result in economic displacement for many in the neighborhood.

Mr. Feibush’s support for the ten-year tax abatement offers a case study in 21st century Reagonomics.  It is supply side economics that Mr. Feibush is able to portray as helping the middle-class.  The truth is, as a matter of policy, the ten-year tax abatement, benefits each respective new resident, a little, by subsidizing their purchase of a home, they might otherwise not be able to afford.  However, its overall effect is that of publicly subsidizing demand for developers like Ori Feibush, who then privately profit.  The people cut out of the deal are the same people whose neighborhoods are experiencing school closings in Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia.

However, it serves Mr. Feibush’s interests perfectly, because he not only benefits financially, he is also able to present himself as representing the broad interests of all new residents and young professionals who are in the neighborhood and want to move to the neighborhood.  Like Ronald Reagan, Feibush has been successful in building racially tinged narratives and cultivating identification with him and his leadership.  Many new residents, even-progressive minded people identify with Feibush.

We – the Point Breeze Organizing Committee, in the past, had made the mistake of feeding into this dynamic, for example, we were wrong to ever suggest the issue was “yuppies moving in.”  And we must be crystal clear at every opportunity that our beef is not with new people moving in, but rather with developers who place profits above people.  With this clarity that has emerged through dialogue with new residents and older residents, the question of our objectives have been brought into focus:  We must build the broadest possible principled unity around the general welfare of all residents and protection against economic displacement of any residents.

It is with this clarity of intention that we must turn our attention towards the Governor’s race and the defeat of Tom Corbett.  There is no threat more severe to the general welfare of all Point Breeze residents and Pennsylvanians than a second term for Governor Corbett.  We talked in depth about what is at stake for Point Breeze residents here.

We will do voter registration drives, voter education, build phone trees and the like, so we can participate in the massive turnout from Philadelphia that will be necessary to defeat Corbett.

Then, we will pivot, and join others in Point Breeze and through out the 2nd District, in defeating Mr. Feibush’s campaign for city council.  We will not allow his campaign to hide their own interests in the rhetoric of “a better Point Breeze.”  Nor will we accept competence in carrying out an agenda that he benefits from as proof that he can be competent in carrying out an agenda we would all benefit from.  We will defeat Mr. Feibush.

With the defeat of these two stewards of 21st century Reagonomics, we will be part of ushering in a new era of defense of the Public Good and expansion of Democracy.  Onwards.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.