2012-06-22 / Columnists

School Scope

Coming Soon to A Nation Near You: “Greece” Is The Word, Or More likely, “Default”
By Norman Scott


Norman Scott Norman Scott Under a rational ruling class, one that responds to the demands of the citizenry, the energy in the street can be channeled back into the mainstream. But once the system calcifies as a servant of the interests of the corporate elites, as has happened in the United States, formal political power thwarts justice rather than advances it. – Chris Hedges

It is clear. With both parties abandoning labor we no longer have a rational ruling class that controls the people by handing out just enough goodies to keep people at bay. Instead we have two parties sucking at the money tree. Without unions to counterbalance through the force of millions capable of shutting things down, it is “Katy bar the door.” Just look at charts that match the decline of unions since the ’70s with the growing and massive income gap.

I live near a school and the other day as I was taking out the garbage I ran into a teacher packing boxes into her car. “Cleaning out your room already,” I asked? “No. I just found out I was excessed – there were four of us.” She has been teaching eight years and is now threatened with being thrown into the ATR pool, her professional career thrown into turmoil due to the UFT failure to protect the orderly process inherent in seniority. A total of 3600 teachers were excessed citywide while thousands of new teachers are being hired. Chaos. They say, “all politics is local” but the dots do connect to global.

I had a discussion with a Faux FOX Facts (FFF) supporter the other day in which he glowed about our democratic ability to vote. I pointed out that our “choices” are made by the ruling class. He didn’t get it. So I gave him a “choice” of cereals. Rice Krispies or Cheerios. “But I want something else,” he said. “Too bad. I have dictated your choices.” We do not live in a democracy but a plutocracy, an ancient (and modern) Greek term meaning “political control of the state by an oligarchy” – rule by the rich. The problem in this country is that everyone is under the illusion they will be rich one day.

We hear how we have to work the politicians – like lobbying for tiny laws will get us somewhere. So call your assemblyperson and tell them you don’t want mayoral control while the charter/eduindustrial complex lobby throws big bucks at them. I’m sick of hearing it. The only way to lobby these clowns is to throw thousands of bodies in front of them. Then we have something to talk about.

Speaking of Greece, I’m in-creasingly in favor of default in Greece given the phony debt servicing scam that is forcing people to eat cat food. Maybe I don’t say this often enough but I am in favor of capitalism. But not rapacious capitalism. At the very least I am a left-wing social democrat. But events are moving me further to the left. I have been focused on the education scene but there is a bigger picture and education is but one small piece of the deal. Paul Krugman had a piece on Greece as a victim.

So, about those Greek failings: Greece does indeed have a lot of corruption and a lot of tax evasion, and the Greek government has had a habit of living beyond its means. Beyond that, Greek labor productivity is low by European standards — about 25 percent below the European Union average. It’s worth noting, however, that labor productivity in, say, Mississippi is similarly low by American standards — and by about the same margin. On the other hand, many things you hear about Greece just aren’t true. The Greeks aren’t lazy — on the contrary, they work longer hours than almost anyone else in Europe, and much longer hours than the Germans in particular. Nor does Greece have a runaway welfare state, as conservatives like to claim; social expenditure as a percentage of G.D.P., the standard measure of the size of the welfare state, is substantially lower in Greece than in, say, Sweden or Germany, countries that have so far weathered the European crisis pretty well. So how did Greece get into so much trouble? Blame the euro. We have a lot more than the euro to blame. The entire crisis is about debt servicing and the workers are the ones who have to pay. A recent piece in the Times made this point by a Greek leftist leader: “It wasn’t us who weren’t paying taxes, it was the elite – the 1% — or the 10%.”

Just think of it. Debt is manufactured by investors and they get paid first at the expense of the rest of the population. I say screw them. Let them put their money in a bank at 1% interest like I have to do. Or a mattress, which might be the best bet – as long as you don’t have bed bugs. Or maybe bed bugs are a good bet to guard your money.

Chris Hedges made some great points: Those who have the largest megaphones in our corporate state serve the very systems of power we are seeking to topple. They encourage us, whether on Fox or MSNBC, to debate inanities, trivia, gossip or the personal narratives of candidates. They seek to channel legitimate outrage and direct it into the black hole of corporate politics. They spin these silly, useless stories from the “left” or the “right” while ignoring the egregious assault by corporate power on the citizenry, an assault enabled by the Democrats and the Republicans. Don’t waste time watching or listening. They exist to confuse and demoralize you. The engine of all protest movements rests, finally, not in the hands of the protesters but the ruling class. If the ruling class responds rationally to the grievances and injustices that drive people into the streets, as it did during the New Deal, if it institutes jobs programs for the poor and the young, a prolongation of unemployment benefits (which hundreds of thousands of Americans have just lost), improved Medicare for all, infrastructure projects, a moratorium on foreclosures and bank repossessions, and a forgiveness of student debt, then a mass movement can be diluted …once the system calcifies as a servant of the interests of the corporate elites, as has happened in the United States, formal political power thwarts justice rather than advances it.

A blogger commented: “The Wisconsin recall debacle is the final stamp on the ‘dead game of electoral politics.’ Occupy.”

Occupy indeed. The power is in the streets. We have to learn from the police tactics that managed to disrupt Occupy Wall Street by organizing not to lobby politicians but building structures that enable people to resist. And unions are our best bet. The problem with most unions is that they are in the hands of a small version of an oligarchy, undemocratically run and shutting out voices of criticism. Our own UFT is one of the worst. And the UFT controls the national union, the AFT, run by Randi Weingarten.

It would not be as easy for the corporate blood suckers if unions were in the hands of the rank and file as in Chicago where an epic battle is shaping up in the fall between Democratic Mayor (and former Obama Chief of Staff) Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Teachers Union. Rahm decided to extend the school day by 20 percent but pay teachers 2 percent. More than 90 percent of the teachers voted for a strike despite new draconian laws that were passed to hinder them from striking. They are garnering a lot of community support, the key to winning this battle.

I will be making my first visit to Detroit this summer for the AFT convention where we can expect an outpouring of support for the Chicago teachers from around the nation. As this is my last column of the school year I will try to update any readers who manage to wade through my columns with an up-date in early August. In the meantime you can follow events on my blog (edno tesonline.com). Have a great summer.

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