by Don Washington on 2012/09/18
A lot has been said about the recent conflict between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the parents, students, teachers and citizens concerned about the concept of fully funded, quality public education. I did not say Teacher’s strike because this was not about what the teachers are doing; it was about the adversarial relationship that Mayor Emanuel and all of the members of the investor class he truly represents have with unions, civil society and the common public good.
The strike has ended so let’s hope that now the coalition that turned out to defeat Mayor Marmoset 1% will push him to use his considerable power to secure the minimum, adequate resources to provide textbooks, materials and equipment for every student in every classroom in Chicago. Perhaps the coalition can demand he secure the public funding, not some corporate, market-driven dodge or hustle, that will place the minimum adequate number of teachers, social workers, counselors, school nurses and other professionals in every school in Chicago. It is now on us to put pressure on him to fight for a funding mechanism that creates a minimum budget capable of heating, cooling, cleaning and maintaining every school in Chicago because teacher’s working conditions are children’s learning conditions. After all this is what he's afraid will happen, a positive agenda, with broad public support that will stop him from giving money to his corporate friends and start spending and finding money for the public trust.
I say all of this because of who Mayor Rahm Emanuel is and how the only thing more dangerous than a marmoset running around loose with his power is a wounded one doing the same thing. Our little friend is a vengeful guy by reputation and a spiteful one by choice. He is a manifestation of organized money. As such he is an example of how far away the needs of ordinary people have been pushed from the light of the political calculus and how far people with his values have walked away from the moral center of an ethical society. The battle between Rahm and his set and the rest of us is not over now that the strike is resolved … it is not even on hold.
Remember that when he was a Congressman Rahm’s top contributors were from the financial sector and with every breath in his body he has fought for the interests of organized money over the broken bodies of labor and ordinary people. Some people have made the mistaken analysis that as a “New Democrat” Rahm Emanuel is not “beholden to labor” such is not the case. We are in a place where party labels mean nothing and actual relationships, actions and the values tied to them mean everything. Rahm Emanuel is not a New Democrat breaking from labor; he’s a powerful plutocrat obliterating labor and cowing the middle class on behalf his benefactors and campaign investors.
It’s not that Mayor Emanuel et al don’t want an educational system. It’s just that the set of “values” that has Mayor Rahm Emanuel casually writing off a quarter of all Chicago school children and Mitt Romney saying that nearly half the country isn’t worth considering are those of an amoral balance sheet or an immoral pursuit of cash not a moral society. To put it another way, at a time of gross economic inequality, corporate impunity, growing poverty and almost unparalleled greed from where they sit the world is going just fine and they need more influence and power not less to defend what they’ve secured from the rest of us.
When all is said and done the school system is just one more market to plunder and lever of control to exercise on the rest of us and one of the first steps to doing so is crushing/removing the union and privatizing as much of the system as they can. That goes for every aspect of the public sector… the teachers were just the first to fight back. If this sounds horribly cynical but it’s not my fault that the Mayor and his campaign investors are deploying public policy they know doesn’t work and are telling the public demonstrable and vastly discredited lies to do so.
I do not have the raft of fancy degrees these people have but thanks to a quality public education I can read and think critically. So, I know that we have ample history of what fails and what works to create quality public schools right here in Chicago. The best schools have unionized teachers, strong parent and community participation, thriving Local School Councils and the very best schools in Chicago are all not charter schools. If the object of the drill were education then the people in charge of our school system would replicating what works and consigning UNO, AUSL and Noble Street Charters to the scrap heap of terribly bad ideas that never should have been allowed to go on this damn long. But they haven’t done so… hmm… the game’s afoot and it’s a nasty game at that.
You see our little marmoset of a Mayor and his cadre of modern day robber barons; choose to ignore reality and impose a system that does not work. Such behavior is aggressively stupid at best and morally bankrupt at worst and if there is one thing our Mayor and his ridiculously wealthy friends are not is stupid. I will leave it up to you to gauge how morally bankrupt they have to be to willfully place millions of dollars of profit over the education of over a million school children. Their behavior tells me that the powers guiding Rahm and his friends probably can’t enter a church or your house without being given permission. What, you ask could motivate Mayor Emanuel to engage in and midwife such behavior? Predictably, when discussing plutocrats stealing from the public trust the answer comes down to money… and I’m not talking some tiny tens of millions… nope… I’m talking a growing market worth over $500 billion dollars.
Given the fact that we drastically underfund public education at every level and it already accounts for just under 9% of the GDP; if we were to begin to fully fund it as a direct transfer to private pockets we are talking an almost incalculable amount of money. To put that claim in perspective what we spend now is more than we invest in energy or technology. These people love money more than their children and they would beat you to death with a teaspoon for even thinking badly about their children so imagine what they would be willing to do to someone over that kind of money. We already know that they are willing to discard millions of children and possibly destroy what remains of our democratic society, for example and that’s not hyperbole because that’s what they are already doing whether they are aware such is the case or not is of no consequence. If ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law then avarice is no excuse for harming society.
So this strike is over but one must not forget what that means. It means that Mayor Emanuel still thinks that education should be a profit making venture, that should be run like a business for a select few and it should be grounded in certain anti-democratic/civic good principles. There are alternatives to failed corporate school reform and everyone who can read knows what they are. It says a great deal that the Mayor and his campaign investors are both willing to ignore them or drown them in a bathtub. I think that it means the Mayor and his fellow acolytes and soul-mates like Eden Martin, Mitt Romney, Ken Griffin, Martin Klondyke, Penny Pritzker, David Vitale, Laurence Msall still have a set of values closer to those of say Lord Voldemort than say Albert Shanker.
The strike may have ended but all of us need to remember that the forces that drive Rahm and friends have nothing to do with the common good and everything to do with greed, control and the power of naked profit over needful citizens. These people, people like Paul Ryan, Paul Finnegan, Matthew Hulsizer, Ken Griffin and Jonah Edelman are who he represents and they have the values of Ebenezer Scrooge before the ghosts of Christmas paid him a visit. To paraphrase someone far more poetic than myself... they are an evil that never sleeps and a proponents of a system that only knows one word… more until the rest of us have none.