How can Donald Trump be so wrong (and yet so right about middle class anger)

“With all due respect” to Donald Trump’s supporters, there is absolutely no doubt that Trump is a sociopath, psychopathic, lunatic who would quickly destroy what is left of the fundamental ideals that produced what we nostalgically refer to as The Great United States of America.

That said, for a clue about the Trump juggernaut, one need only read the Washington Post’s article entitled, Charting Trump’s rise through the decline of the middle class.  The Post wrote,

“For anyone trying to understand the emergence of Donald Trump as a force in this pre-election year, the Pew Research Center this past week provided some valuable insight. There’s little doubt that what has happened to America’s middle class has helped to create the climate that has fueled Trump’s sudden rise.”

The entire political dynamic is, of course, more complex than can be explained by a single circumstance but there is a disturbing truism about Trump and the Middle Class that can’t be denied.

Trump taps into the bitterness about what can best be described as people’s hatred of “politics as usual.

It is a form of politics we know well here in Connecticut.

Eight years ago, in April 2008, before Barak Obama upended Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President, I wrote a “controversial” commentary piece in the Hartford Courant that led the editorial section that day and generated a good deal of backlash from the power elite.

At the time I was actually a Hillary Clinton supporter, having had the extraordinary opportunity to sit down with her on two occasions to talk policy and politics.  Then, as now, there are few that can deny she is extraordinarily prepared to serve as our nation’s President.

But in April 2008, in comment that turned out to be surprisingly controversial, candidate Obama observed that “economically frustrated people in small towns are bitter…”

The comment generated harsh attacks from Hillary Clinton, John McCain and the political establishment.

For her part, Clinton blasted Obama saying, “Sen. Obama’s remarks are elitist, and they are out of touch.”  The attacks continued and Obama ended up “walking back” his comments.

As we now know, Obama went on to win and has done a pretty good job keeping the status quo intact.

At the time, I found the whole political debate bizarre considering there were, in fact, lots of middle class people who were angry and bitter about the way the way the rich were getting richer at the Middle Class’s expense and that some of those people, like myself, lived in small towns.

The commentary piece I wrote may be as “timely” today as the day it was published – April 20, 2008.

The editorial was entitled, BITTER? YOU BET!

It read,


Hey, over here – I’m bitter!

The presidential candidates, political pundits and media have plunged themselves into a fevered debate about Barack Obama’s recent comments observing that some hardworking Americans are bitter.

Although I can’t speak for the small-town people of Pennsylvania, I can certainly report that as far as I’m concerned, I’m bitter and getting more bitter by the day.

In fact, as a middle-income American, I’m not only bitter, I’m angry and disappointed as well. Political pandering, mediocrity and incompetence on the national and state levels are undermining many of the fundamental values that we middle-income Americans hold dear, while threatening the economic vitality and viability of our country and our state and undermining the economic health of many of our families.

The damage from failed leadership is evident throughout the political process and across the political spectrum. Perhaps most clearly of all, it can be seen right here in Connecticut, where our state is losing its competitive edge while our leaders are unable or unwilling to confront the challenges of the 21st century.

Take the Connecticut economy. For the 40 years leading up to 1990, Connecticut’s job growth was impressive, but since then, the complete failure of our state to develop a coherent and effective economic development strategy has had devastating consequences.

From 1989 to 2005, while the nation witnessed job growth of 24 percent, the number of jobs in Connecticut dropped by 0.2 percent, placing us dead last – 50th – in the nation in job growth.

As of late 2006, the number of nonfarm jobs in Connecticut was only about 5,400 more than in 1988. Incredibly, according to the Connecticut Economic Resources Center, “Connecticut is notable as the only state in the nation with negative business growth between 1989 and 2004.”

The state’s failure has damaged families across the economic scale. Over the past 15 years, the income gain for Connecticut’s middle-income families (the middle 20 percent) was barely half the national average, which ranked us 49th worst in the country as measured by the change in average real income.

Although it’s true that some of Connecticut’s wealthiest families have done just fine over the past decade and a half, the level of income inequality between Connecticut’s top- and middle-income families, as well as the income disparity between Connecticut’s top and bottom families, increased more than in any other state in the country.

Rather than step forward with vision and courage, Connecticut has responded to these economic challenges with an extraordinary and mind-numbing failure to make the right policy decisions. Instead of addressing the unfairness of Connecticut’s tax structure, state leaders have made our tax system even more regressive, which in turn has placed an even greater burden on hardworking families.

Lest we forget, the state has raised the gross receipts tax on gasoline four times over the past four years. In addition to the 25 cents per gallon state tax on gasoline, the state charges an additional 7 percent (which equals about 21 cents a gallon).

Then, to add insult to injury, more than half a billion dollars of the revenue from that expanded gross receipts tax that has been raised since 2000 wasn’t even used to upgrade our failing transportation infrastructure, but was dumped into the state’s general fund.

However, it is hard to imagine anything more troubling then the state’s decision to saddle our state, our taxpayers and our children with an extraordinary level of irresponsible and crippling state debt.

Today, Connecticut’s state government faces long-term obligations and indebtedness of more than $54 billion.

Excessive borrowing and the failure to set aside sufficient funds to pay for future costs associated with state employee and teacher pensions, as well as health and retirement benefits, means that a future bill of unimaginable proportions awaits us all. The cost, as of now, is about $15,500 for every man, woman and child in our state.

Imagine that in addition to all of their other troubles, the average middle-income family of four in Connecticut has an “outstanding debt” to the state exceeding $60,000 – on top of their existing annual tax obligations.

Regardless of what Sen. Obama really meant by his recent comments, it strikes me as quite obvious that many families, lower- and middle-income alike, are undoubtedly bitter.

Let’s face it: In addition to the challenges associated with our sub-rate economy, Connecticut families are struggling to pay mortgage and health care bills, while trying to figure out how to pay for the increased costs of gasoline, home heating, electricity and local property taxes (not to mention the problems associated with having to cope with the obscene costs of getting their children a college education).

It’s enough to make anyone bitter.

Jonathan Pelto is a former state representative from Storrs.

Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff becomes President of the education reform industry’s Broad Foundation

As if it wasn’t clear enough where President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden stand on when it comes to the corporate education reform industry, moments ago, it was announced that “Bruce Reed, assistant to President Barack Obama and chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, was named president of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation

According to the Broad Foundation’s press release, “As the foundation’s first president, Reed, 53, will oversee the activities and investments of The Broad Foundation’s work to improve America’s public

President Obama, along with his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, have been leading supporters of the effort to increase standardized testing, dramatically expand the number of charter schools and push the Common Core standards, curriculum and testing scheme on the nation’s children, parents and teachers.

In addition, Vice President Biden’s relationship with the expansion of charter schools has been particularly controversial considering Biden’s brother owns a charter school management company.

Bruce Reed, Biden’s Chief of Staff is quoted as saying, “I have long been impressed by the visionary philanthropy of Eli and Edye Broad, and it is an honor to work with them to continue their legacy.”

The Broad Foundation press release adds, “Reed and then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel co-authored The Plan: Big Ideas for Change in America.”

You can read more about the Broad Foundation’s role in public education in an article I wrote for Public School Shakedown entitled “Funding “Education Reform”: The Big Three Foundations.”

Sarah Darer Littman among renowned authors to call out Obama on failure of corporate education reform laws

Sarah Darer Littman, a fellow public education advocate, blogger and regular commentator here at Wait,What? is also an award-winning author of books for young people.

Last week she and a number of other leading authors and illustrators wrote a powerful letter to President Obama about the inappropriate use of standardized testing and the failings of the corporate education reform movement.

In a commentary piece that appeared in the Connecticut Post and Stamford Advocate, Sarah Darer Littman explains why she and the authors took this important step;

“I am proud to have been a signatory to a letter sent to President Obama last week, along with over 120 authors and illustrators of books for children — including luminaries of the field such as Maya Angelou, Judy Blume and Jane Yolen.

We signed on to the letter because we know that lighting the fire of literacy is critical to our nation’s future, and we’re deeply concerned that current educational policy is dousing that fire. When one receives letters from young people telling them how reading your book has changed their life, it creates a special responsibility to advocate for change.

As you ponder who to vote for in your local Board of Education elections, please consider carefully each candidate’s position on excessive standardized testing.

Party label is no indication of position, alas — over-testing insanity might have started under a Republican administration with No Child Left Behind, but rather than correcting the problem, the Obama administration’s policies have reinforced it. Here in Connecticut, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy even went so far as to state that he’d “settle for teaching to the test” as long as it meant raising test scores.

In many of the schools in Connecticut that need them the most, we don’t have full-time librarians, or libraries filled with books that appeal to young people. Yet we’re spending a fortune on consultants, and on technology to implement what — more testing. Author Neil Gaiman summed it up in a recent lecture, “Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming”:

“The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.”

Test scores don’t matter as much as raising a nation of life-long readers — because reading fiction is a key to imagination and creativity. It is both a mirror, where we can see that we are not alone in our experiences, and a window, where we can learn to empathize with the experiences of others whose lives might be very different from our own.

A friend of mine in New York state called me, upset, after receiving the results of the tests this fall. Her son’s reading scores weren’t what she’d expected, and she wondered if she should worry. I know her son well — he loves reading and we have lively discussions about the latest book. I sent her links to numerous articles about the flawed Pearson ELA tests and told her that there was nothing the matter with her son — that he’s a bright kid who loves reading and that it borders on criminal that these tests would even create a doubt in her mind about the truth of this.

Please consider this carefully when voting for Board of Education. Vote for literacy, not test score-driven “readicide.”

You can read Sarah Darer Littman’s piece at:

You can read the author’s letter to Obama and additional background on Valerie Strauss’ blog at the Washington Post:

Friend, parent activist and fellow pro-public education blogger Wendy Lecker’s letter to President Obama.

Yesterday, in the wake of the Newtown massacre, Wendy Lecker sent the following letter to President Obama.

Her letter was posted on the Parents Across America website and as reprinted on Diane Ravitch’s site.

Here is a link to Ravitch’s site:

And here is the letter as printed on the Parents Across America site:

Parents Across America grieves with the community of Newtown, Connecticut over the loss of their precious children and educators. The following letter, sent yesterday to President Obama from the founder of Parents Across America-CT, expresses some aspects of what many of our members are feeling at this difficult time.

Hon. President Barack Obama

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

As a public school parent of three in Stamford, Connecticut, I wanted to thank you for lending your support to the devastated community of Newtown. I listened intently to your remarks at the memorial service last night, especially to the questions you raised: “Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?”

You indicated that you were reflecting on these questions, alluding to the issue of gun control. I hope also, that these questions caused you also to reconsider your approach to education reform.

As you said last night, “our most important job is to give [children] what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear.” You described in vivid detail how skilled the teachers and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School were at dealing with the immediate unthinkable trauma of the tragedy; how they managed to keep children calm and feeling safe in the face of life-threatening danger. We can predict that the teachers of the surviving children will have to be as equipped to handle the trauma these children will carry with them as they will be to teach them the subjects the children learn. We know that these teachers will have to help these children develop the non-cognitive skills that make all the difference to success in life- those skills we cannot measure on any standardized test.

We also know, as you mentioned, that those poor children in Sandy Hook are not the only ones who deal with trauma on a daily basis. Children today, especially those living in our poorest areas, face the stress that crime and poverty exact on their young lives on a daily basis. And we know from research, like that done at the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, that when children experience prolonged stress, it becomes toxic and hinders the development of the learning and reasoning areas of the brain. These researchers maintain that a nurturing environment is key to enabling these areas to grow properly. For many children, school is their safe haven; and science, and the awful events in Newtown show us that it is our paramount duty to maintain school as a secure and loving place.

In order to ensure that schools are a safe haven, where children can develop both cognitive and non-cognitive skills, they need to have preschool, reasonable class size, so children can get needed attention from teachers; enough supplies and books, and rich curriculum, including art, music sports and extra-curriculars, so children can explore and understand the world and have many outlets to express themselves; and enough support services, especially for children at-risk.

Many of our schools across this nation do not have the resources to make our schools a safe haven. As you noted in your recent report, for example, in New York City, the number of classes of 30 and over has tripled in the past four years. School districts across this country have been forced to cut support services, teachers, extra-curricular activities, music, art, even AP classes and core classes. They have to delay repairs until a roof collapses, endangering children.

Unfortunately, your policies toward our public schools are making it nearly impossible to keep public schools a nurturing and safe environment. Your chief strategies are evaluating teachers based on standardized test scores and implementation of the Common Core standardized tests in every grade, with a multitude of interim computerized tests as well as summative computerized tests. None of these preferred strategies of yours have ever been proven to raise achievement. Surely you are aware of the studies proving that rating teachers on standardized tests results in a 50% misclassification rate. The ratings vary by year, class, test and even statistical model used. The CCSS is not supported by any research showing that standards or tests improve learning. In fact, the National Research Council concluded that ten years of NCLB testing has done nothing to improve achievement.

Even more damaging, these strategies force teachers, administrators and children to abandon attention to all-important non-cognitive skill development, and focus primarily, if not only, on test scores.  This shift of focus includes a diversion of limited resources away from necessary educational basics. You have moved the focus from the well-being of children to the job status of adults.

A recent report from the Consortium of Policy Research in Education reveals just how harmful this strategy is. The report found that NCLB’s test-driven mandates provided little guidance on how to improve. Consequently, schools tried a hodgepodge of strategies akin to “throwing many darts at a target and hoping one of them hits the bulls-eye.” The only consistent tactic used to raise test scores was test prep. As CPRE acknowledged, test prep is shallow and narrow. The report recommends changing accountability systems so schools concentrate less on standardized tests and more on developing the “host of non-cognitive skills found to be related to later success.”

Other researchers found a disturbing trend caused by testing, standardization and scripting: America’s children are becoming less creative. While other countries strive to build creativity into the curriculum, American schools are increasingly forced to homogenize. Consequently, creativity, which increased steadily until 1990, has declined ever since, with the most serious decline appearing in children from kindergarten to sixth grade.

This body of research demands that we rethink our national obsession to use tests as the goal in education. A low test score should be an alarm, not that a school or teacher is failing, but more likely that there are stressors in a child’s life that warrant intervention.

Your waiver and Race to the Top programs, which push the use of standardized tests to judge all teachers and the implementation of even more standardized tests through the Common Core State Standards, only increase this hollow focus on testing. You hold hostage funding to provide the necessary resources described above to the implementation of these narrow and destructive goals. You encourage states to withhold basic funding as well, as evidenced by Governor Cuomo’s threat to withhold basic state school aid unless districts implement a teacher evaluation based on test scores. You hold up as examples of model schools privately run charters that often exclude our neediest children and often are militaristic-style test-prep factories. Moreover you encourage the proliferation of these schools, which are not answerable to democratically elected school boards, and therefore disenfranchise our neediest citizens.

My oldest child is in 12th grade and my youngest is in 7th. I have seen the increased scripting and narrowing of learning that has occurred in just the five-year gap between them. I have seen the increase in stress in my youngest, who has to suffer through meaningless computerized test after test, while units on poetry and other subjects that would expand his world, are jettisoned (to the point where I have opted him out of many of these tests). I have spoken to so many wonderful teachers frustrated and dejected by their new roles as simple proctors, rather than inspiring educators. I have spoken to school nurses who tell me that at test time, they see a spike in headaches, stomachaches and the need for anti-anxiety medication.

Is this the safe haven to which we aspire for our children? Can this stressful and intellectually-empty school experience really teach our children that they are loved, how to love and how to be resilient?

You said last night that we have to change. While I believe you were hinting at gun control, I respectfully request that you expand this resolve to change and include a rethinking of your education policy. We want all our children to feel safe and loved. We want them to be able to find their own, unique voices. We want to protect them and teach them ways to adapt and protect themselves. Please help us do that by helping schools expand our children’s world. Let us build our schools’ capacity to serve all our children, rather than tearing down the foundations of our public education system.


Wendy Lecker

October 17th – National Letter Writing Campaign To the President for Our Public Schools

Those who read Diane Ravitch’s blog already know that Diane, and some of her readers, are organizing a letter writing campaign to President Obama.  The goal is to get as many letters to the President as possible on October 17th and October 18th.

The letters are a way to push back on the “education reform” changes that are being pushed at the national level and in states across the nation.

They can specifically address a particular “reform,” such as the absurd standardized testing frenzy or you can take a broader perspective on the need to promote positive developments in public education in the United States.

At the end of this email is a very thoughtful example that one teacher wrote it.  Other examples can be found on Diane’s website or click

Anthony Cody, another pro-public education blogger has offered to help coordinate the campaign.  As you’ll see from the instructions, letters can be sent to Diane, Anthony or directly to the White House.  Wait, What? readers are also welcome to send the letters to me or paste them into the comment section and I will format them and send them on to Diane. My email is [email protected]

Here is Diane’s latest blog post on the October 17th effort.

Our campaign is meant to include everyone who cares about public education: students, parents, teachers, principals, school board members, and concerned citizens. We want everyone to write the President and tell him what needs to change in his education policies.

Tell your friends about the Campaign. Ask them to join us. If you have a blog, write about it. Wherever you are, spread the news. Join us.

Here are the instructions:

You can send your letter to Anthony Cody or to this blog.

Or you can send it directly to the White House, with a copy to me or Anthony.

Anthony will gather all the emails sent to him and me and forward them to the White House.

1. Email your letters to [email protected]

2. Or submit them as comments to this blog. You can respond to this post or to any other post on this blog about the October 17 Campaign for Our Public Schools.

All letters collected through these two channels will be compiled into a single document, which will be sent to the White House on Oct. 18.

In ADDITION to this,

3. You can mail copies of your letters through US mail to The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 20500

4. You can send them by email from this page:

If you choose to write or email the White House, please send us a copy so we can keep track of how many letters were sent to the President.

One more thought: when you write to the President, also write to your Senators and Congressman or -woman and to your state legislator and Governor. Send the same letter to them all.

Let’s raise our voices NOW against privatization, against high-stakes testing, against teacher bashing, against profiteering.

Let’s advocate for policies that are good for students, that truly improve education, that respect the education profession, and that strengthen our democratic system of public education.

Let’s act. Start here. Start now.

Join our campaign. Speak out. Enough is enough.


Here is a great example of a letter that one teacher wrote

Dear President Obama,

I am teacher and a lifelong Democrat. I have voted in every presidential election since I was old enough to vote. I’m certainly not going to vote for Mr. Romney but for the first time in my adult life I am considering not voting at all. I can not in good conscience support the educational policies espoused by you and your Secretary of education, Arne Duncan. I know many teachers who are facing the same crisis of conscience. When you ran for president four years ago, I like many of my colleagues, were full of hope that you might take measures to address the negative outcomes that were the result of the No Child Left Behind mandates. Instead, The Race to the Top, standardization, and privatization are destroying our public schools.

Although I agree that teachers should not be evaluated by test scores, this is not my principle concern. Inside the school building, there are three stakeholders. The students, the teachers and the administrators. A wise middle school principal of my acquaintance has pointed out that the students should always be considered first, the teachers second and the administrators third. When so much time is being spent on teaching the student how to do well on standardized tests, can it truly be argued that we are putting the student first? Bloom’s revised taxonomy suggests that there are six levels of learning. The bottom of the pyramid starts with remembering and then moves upwards to understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and finally creating. At best, standardized testing might measure the bottom two skills. The united States has always been recognized for its innovation and creativity. Do we really want our teachers to ignore the top four learning skills in order to conform to a “one size fits all” concept that doesn’t recognize student abilities, interests and needs. The other major stakeholder in education is our students’ parents. We are seeing more and more of them who are expressing dismay at what we have to do to keep from becoming a school in need of improvement. Many are seeking alternatives such as Waldorf Schools where students are treated as creative human beings rather than as fodder for data. I come from a long tradition of teachers and even my own grandchildren are all going to a Waldorf School. My daughters’ families are willing to make personal financial sacrifices so that their sons and daughters will not be exposed to the standardization that was mandated by the Bush Administration and now yours.

I have been fortunate to witness the outcomes of student based learning. Students who are engaged in an environment where they may pursue some of their own interests blossom into true learners. Standardized testing is alienating not only our teachers but also, more importantly, our students. NECAP test prep is about the worst possible way I can think of to engage potential learners at the start of a new school year. I actually had a student suggest to me that we should find a way to fill a bucket with what is on the tests. Then we should bore a hole in the students’ heads and pour the contents of the bucket into the hole. Is this how we want our students to see education?

The Common Core Standards may very well be useful guidelines but they do not teach the students to infer. Interpreted literally, they are fostering a mentality coming from the top down that each teacher must cover the same material at exactly the same pace and during the same time period. Most teachers don’t believe in this methodology but they are afraid to speak up in fear of losing their jobs. The top levels of the taxonomy are being lost to what appears to be an effort to make everyone be the same. 21st Century learners need to be creative problem solvers, not mindless automatons. Studies have shown that formative assessment is much more effective than summative assessment and yet we spend an inordinate amount of time on cumulative assessments that address only the lower levels of learning. As one educator has said,”Rigor is not giving the students difficult stuff, it is the quality of the feedback.” The feedback from standardized tests is not high quality. Noam Chomsky from MIT has pointed out that it is not what is covered that is important, it is what the student discovers that matters.

Mr. President and Mr. Duncan please realize that your present policies are not only demoralizing teachers, these policies are also doing our students a great disservice. Those of us who choose to teach do it not for monetary reward. it is however not unreasonable to assume that we should be able to earn a respectable professional income. We don’t work to win monetary recognition for high test scores. Doing so does not set a good example for our students. Bribing our students to do well on the tests is also not a good model for future adult behavior.

I want to support you on November 6 but I don’t know if I can. Do we really want a society where only the students who go to private schools will be the creative thinkers of the future? Education is not a basketball game. The Race To The Top only creates a few winners and many losers. The losers are also the future of our country. Please listen to those of us who have devoted our lives to helping our students become lifelong learners and thoughtful productive citizens in a free society. Diversity, not standardization is what has brought out the best in the United States of America.

Conservatives and Education Reformers: When in doubt, make sh*t up

The verbal assault on teachers has reached a fevered pitch as conservatives and “education reformers” push to make it look like the Chicago Teacher Strike is about money and the demands of greedy teachers and their greedy unions, rather than the fact that Chicago teachers are actually standing up to the “education reform” industry and the politicians that support it.

Yesterday, Leonie Haimson, a leader of Parents Across America, the country’s primary public education parent group, was on CNBC.

In typical fashion, as Haimson laid out the facts about what is going on in Chicago, Larry Kudlow, the commentator asking the questions, was literally left screaming that they only fact that mattered was that “only 15 percent of fourth graders” in the Chicago public schools can read.

Of course, such a claim is completely false, but facts never seem of importance to the right-wing or those who claim to be dedicated to “reforming” education.

Yesterday also saw a Heritage Foundation talking head telling the media that the Chicago Teachers Union was demanding a “30 percent pay increase,” even though only 15 percent of the children in Chicago’s public schools can read and only 56 percent of the students graduate.

Again, the statement is completely false.

It turns out the right-wing talking points are coming from the right-wing Heartland Foundation and the right-wing National Review.

For what it is worth, Illinois’ state standardized test scores show that 62 percent of Chicago’s fourth graders meet or exceed the goal in reading and the number of students, at or above goal, in math, science and reading has been increasing.

At no time did the right-wing or the “reformers” admit that poverty, language barriers and the number of students needing special education services are the three biggest predictors of test score results.  (Strange, they forget to admit that in Connecticut as well.)

And as to the reason that they falsely claim that only 15% could read?

Apparently they were “confused” between the meaning of “goal” and “proficiency,” or they knew the difference, and decided that it was just better to lie about it.

But the greatest irony of all is that it was Paul Ryan, the politician who can’t seem to ever tell the truth that actually explained what is happening in Chicago.

Yesterday Ryan proclaimed. “We stand with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.”

Adding moments later, he added, “We will stand with education reform…”

The one time Ryan tells the truth is to make it clear, the Chicago Teachers Strike is about our generation’s equivalent of the fight against the Military Industrial Complex.

There is a group of corporations, led by a group of “education reformers,” and backed by a group of Republican and Democratic politicians, all of whom are engaged in an effort to destroy public education, and hand the nation’s education system over to corporations and consultants, who can make a huge amount of money.

Meanwhile,  the President of the United States hasn’t gone beyond having his spokesman say that the President doesn’t have an opinion on this strike.


Thanks to Diane Ravitch and Jersey Jazzman for their efforts to get the truth out into the public domain.

Mr. President, I went ahead and upgraded the shipment to next day, priority delivery.

“And understand this: If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America. Because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.”

 – Senator Barack Obama • Spartanburg SC • November 3, 2007


PS, if they don’t show up by 10am, I’ve got the tracking number

I’m sorry; can you run that by me again?

On the day President Obama’s name was put into nomination for a second term, Arne Duncan, Obama’s Secretary of Education addressed the Democratic National Convention.

Duncan, who followed Paul Vallas as the CEO of Chicago’s school system, is another “True Believer” in the “Education/Industrial Complex” reform movement.

As one reporter noted, despite the fact that Duncan has dedicated the last few years to undermining public education, his speech to the delegates, “steered clear of mentioning charter schools expansion, teacher evaluation, and aggressive school turnaround – policies at the heart of the Obama administration’s agenda…”

Instead, Duncan said President Obama, “believes teachers must be respected and paid like the professionals they are,” and added the President believed that, “No teacher should have to teach to the test.”

Meanwhile, Governor Malloy’s press office issued a press release with the news that Malloy has been named the chair of the National Governor’s Association’s Education and Workforce Committee.

Meaning, within hours of each other, Education Secretary Duncan said the President believes that “No teacher should have to teach to the test,” while the Governor of Connecticut, who said he has no problems with teaching to the test as long as the scores go up, is named chair of the committee developing education policy for governors and their states.

Malloy’s press release bragged that his “education reform bill” invests money in, “struggling schools that embrace much-needed changes – changes that will make sure our kids can compete.”

And what are those changes?

  • More standardized testing
  • More charter schools expansion
  • And an ill-conceived teacher evaluation system that relies significantly on the standardized test scores of students.

Meanwhile, Michelle Rhee, the extremist education reformer, standardized test champion and alleged standardized test cheater, was at the Democratic National Convention to host a screening of a new, anti-teacher film, “Won’t back down”

Last week, at the Republican National Convention, the screening was hosted by Michelle Rhee AND Jeb Bush.  According to published reports at the time, “both Rhee and Bush expressed optimism that Republicans and “reform-minded” Democrats could come together on education policy.”

Either Duncan was the only one to “get the memo.” Or maybe there really is something to this whole quantum physics, parallel universe stuff.

The President’s Speech and the 2012 election

Barack Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention, last night, was impressive, (as one would expect.)

The President’s passion, dedication and commitment to putting the country on track were evident, and he provided a sense of hope that a Second term would see a true re-commitment to the ideal that got him elected four years ago.

For many of us, it is that sense of hope that will lead us back to the polls to vote for him in November.

The President’s speech also brought me back to a commentary piece I wrote for the Hartford Courant in April 2008 that was titled “Bitter? You Bet.”

At the time, the Democratic Party nomination process was headed into the all-important Pennsylvania primary.  At an event, candidate Obama was quoted as saying that some people in Pennsylvania (and elsewhere in the country) were bitter.

Establishment politicians and the media went nuts.

The New York Times reported, “The remarks touched off a torrent of criticism from Mrs. Clinton, Mr. McCain and Republican activists and party officials, all accusing Mr. Obama of elitism and belittling the working class.”

Time Magazine led with an article entitled, “Will Obama Pay for ‘Bitter’ Flap?”  The piece observed, “After the last few days he has endured over his controversial comments about “bitter” small-town America , Barack Obama can only hope that the Pope’s arrival in Washington on Tuesday steals some of the spotlight. But given the hits he took from both the Clinton and McCain campaigns over his questionable choice of words, that may be too much of a miracle to ask for.”

Obama’s response was, “No, I’m in touch…I know exactly what’s going on. I know what’s going on in Pennsylvania, I know what’s going on in Indiana, I know what’s going on in Illinois. People are fed up, they’re angry, they’re frustrated, they’re bitter and they want to see a change in Washington. That’s why I’m running for president of the United States of America.”

But among political pundits, there was serious discussion as to whether Obama “bitter” comment might have derailed his campaign. His own team was backtracking, saying Obama meant to use the word frustrated, not bitter.

Although a supporter of Hillary Clinton, a week later, I wrote a commentary piece for Sunday’s Hartford Courant.

Bitter? You Bet, started out with the statement that, “Our Political Leaders Seem Unable to Grasp, Let Alone Solve, The Economic Problems Confronting Connecticut and the Nation.”

I wrote;

“Although I can’t speak for the small-town people of Pennsylvania, I can certainly report that as far as I’m concerned, I’m bitter and getting more bitter by the day.

In fact, as a middle-income American, I’m not only bitter, I’m angry and disappointed as well. Political pandering, mediocrity and incompetence on the national and state levels are undermining many of the fundamental values that we middle-income Americans hold dear, while threatening the economic vitality and viability of our country and our state and undermining the economic health of many of our families.

The damage from failed leadership is evident throughout the political process and across the political spectrum. Perhaps most clearly of all, it can be seen right here in Connecticut, where our state is losing its competitive edge while our leaders are unable or unwilling to confront the challenges of the 21st century.”

I then outlined the reality of Connecticut’s failed economic development policies and the fact that, “although it’s true that some of Connecticut’s wealthiest families have done just fine over the past decade and a half, the level of income inequality between Connecticut’s top- and middle-income families, as well as the income disparity between Connecticut’s top and bottom families, increased more than in any other state in the country.”

And I concluded with the observation that, “it is hard to imagine anything more troubling than the state’s decision to saddle our state, our taxpayers and our children with an extraordinary level of irresponsible and crippling state debt….Excessive borrowing and the failure to set aside sufficient funds to pay for future costs associated with state employee and teacher pensions, as well as health and retirement benefits, means that a future bill of unimaginable proportions awaits us all.”

I ended my piece with the observation that , “Regardless of what Sen. Obama really meant by his recent comments, it strikes me as quite obvious that many families, lower- and middle-income alike, are undoubtedly bitter.

Here we are, four years later.

We have a Democratic President and a Democratic Governor.

We have a right-wing Republican Party that will do and say anything to undermine the President’s ability to get things done.

And we also have a Democratic Party that is generally timid and meek, unwilling to truly challenge the status quo.

Listening to President Obama, I was reminded, again, just how far short our leaders have fallen from their promised goals.

That said, listening to President Obama’s speech, I was also reminded why the choice to vote for Obama over Romney is such an easy one.

I am bitter.  In fact, I’m even more bitter than I was in 2008.

But last night, Barack Obama proved, yet again, that he truly understands what needs to happen in the country, and I’m banking on the hope and belief that, in a second term, he will fight even harder for those beliefs and policies.

The alternative is to vote for Romney and that ensures that we will be going in the completely wrong direction.

My full 2008 Hartford Courant commentary piece can be found by clicking the links above or here:

Obama’s heating oil cut indefensible; Okay, what about Malloy’s?

(Cross-posted from Pelto’s Point at the New Haven Advocate)

Today, in an editorial, The Connecticut Post joined the chorus of voices condemning the Obama Administration’s proposed cut to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Calling it “indefensible.”

The Connecticut Post states “We’d call the federal budget provision that would literally leave poor people in the cold an outrage, but it is much more than that. It’s yet another confirmation that if you are poor and powerless, the best you can do is hang on, hope for the best, and pray you don’t get crushed by Washington as it dives to kiss the feet of the rich and powerful. “

The editorial writers at the Connecticut Post are absolutely right.

President Obama’s proposed budget for the federal fiscal year starting on October 1, 2011 cuts the federal Energy Assistance from $5.1 billion to $2.5 billion. Connecticut’s share of the funding would drop from $98 million to $41 million.

Representative Rosa DeLauro has pointed out that nearly 80% of the US households that use heating oil are in New England and she has said that while she applauds Obama’s budget plan she has “deep concerns” about his proposed cut to fuel assistance.

Congressman and candidate for the U.S. Senate Chris Murphy has gone even further saying that the “LIHEAP cut is dumb” and pointing out that “It really plays with people’s lives.”

Faced with the criticism, the President has explained his rationale by saying that when energy prices were spiking when he took office he proposed dramatically increasing federal support for LIHEAP but that “Energy prices have now gone down but the cost of the program has stayed the same” and that is why he has proposed to “go back to a more sustainable level.”

But even if prices have declined some, the need is still great and without the fuel assistance thousands of people will be unable to afford to heat their homes and apartments.

Last week, State Senator Martin Looney led a press conference with Connecticut legislators and advocates calling on Obama to withdraw his proposal.

Senator Looney said that over 110,000 Connecticut families needed heating assistance help last year and that “nearly a third of those who received help were elderly, while 26 percent were disabled, and 24 percent had children under the age of five.”

The Connecticut Post and every newspaper editorial writer should speak out against this mean-spirited, short-sighted and disgusting cut.

But what is so interesting about this issue is that the Connecticut Post and the Democratic legislators who are being so articulate and outspoken in their opposition to the proposed federal cut to low income fuel assistance were silent when, back in May, Governor Malloy announced that his Plan B budget would eliminate funding for Connecticut’s Operation Fuel heating assistance program.

And they were all silent again when Malloy actually moved to implement that budget three weeks ago.

At the time, Senate President Don Williams said “If you talk to any legislator they will tell you they don’t like these cuts…But unless the state employees have a second vote and ratify the concessions, there are few alternatives — and the alternatives aren’t appealing as well”

A Hartford Courant editorial went ever further proclaiming “Don’t Blame Malloy For Deep Budget Cuts.” The Courant added “the scope of the state budget cuts ordered this week by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is breathtaking. But they are made necessary by the failure of the state’s employee unions to make reasonable concessions in their benefits and wages.”

While it may be true that Plan B was Malloy’s “response” to the original failure of the Malloy/SEBAC agreement to get sufficient votes, the Governor (and Legislature) could have and should have proposed alternatives to cutting Connecticut’s fuel assistance program.

The fact is there are plenty of alternatives to making such a drastic cut including requiring the wealthiest in Connecticut to pay their fair share in taxes, closing corporate tax loopholes, reducing municipal aid for the state’s wealthiest communities or identifying some other cut that doesn’t do as much damage as cutting fuel assistance for lower income families.

Instead, the Governor (and the President at the federal level) has put fuel assistance programs on the chopping block.

Here in Connecticut, our state legislators have thrown up their hands saying that there is no alternative and apparently, according to the Harford Courant, we shouldn’t even blame our elected officials but instead should be blaming our public employees.

Meanwhile, back here in reality, cuts to heating oil assistance would be devastating.

That holds true for Obama’s proposal and for Malloy’s proposal.

It would be nice to think that our elected officials and our editorial writers would be consistent when it comes to articulating the need for the most essential government programs and services.



The Hill:

The Courant:,0,1148722.story

The CT Post: