PBOC will stand for the Public Good and defeat 21st Century Reagonomics in the both up-coming elections.
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.
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:
- 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.
- Oppose any democratic government regulation on business.
- Reduce taxes on the wealthy and move the tax burden to the working-class.
- Attack unions and workers’ right to organize.
Politically, it is to:
- Use racism and coded language to divide and conquer the electorate. Particularly invoke mythology of “criminality” and “parasitic nature” of the African-American community.
- 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.