Friday, October 28, 2016

School Scope: How Democrats and Republicans Lost the Working Class Leading to Trumpism

I had two pieces in The Wave this week.

Norm in The Wave

School Scope: How Democrats and Republicans Lost the Working Class Leading to Trumpism
By Norm Scott

A number of articles have been published on the Trump appeal to the white working class which used to be solidly Democratic and often pro-union. There is no way I can fully cover this issue in a short column but I want to touch on a few points and include links for those readers who want to delve deeper. Both parties bear responsibility which is why Trump supporters reject the traditional Republican Party which has been pro-free trade and anti-union. The Dems have been ostensibly pro-union but in reality have done little for unions since they came under attack in the first days of Ronald Regan in the early 1980s. (I’ll explore how the Dem betrayal, especially regarding their support of the union busting charter schools, undermined teacher unions in a future post.)

Let’s look at free trade. It was the left and some unions that rose up in November1999 to protest globalization, leading to 40,000 people protesting and riots in Seattle at the WTO conference. (Wiki at China’s admission to the WTO at the end of 2001 (under the Bush administration) basically led to the wipe out of the American steel (and coal) industry since China could make steel much cheaper and efficiently (the American steel industry had not upgraded for decades). A lot of Trump support comes from the areas where people were affected. Cheap Chinese furniture also wiped out the entire North Carolina furniture industry along with others.

NAFTA, which was pushed hard by the Clintons and the Republicans, led to the movement of industry to Mexico with no penalty on the corporations. There are estimates that at least 3 million jobs were lost. On the other hand, free trade has allowed the American consumer to buy cheap at the cost of American jobs. So there is a yin-yang. Now this is not the first time that our industries have been savaged. Both my parents were garment workers and my father (a presser) was still doing some work into the early 1970s as that industry was on life-support. Some industries are gone due to technology (printing). With 80% of our jobs being service, Trump’s promise to bring back dead or dying manufacturing is a myth.  The coming threat is that service jobs are being savaged by robots and technology. The largest growth of jobs currently are low wage home health care workers. As I reach my dotage I expect to be taken care of by a home health care robot, a long-term threat to even these jobs.

The failure of both parties is evident in both NAFTA and the WTO, both of which have their merits in lowering consumer costs and keeping inflation down, but in not taking good care of the massive number of workers affected by increasing the safety net. European workers have also been negatively affected but they have a much stronger safety net. Strong unions are a reason and since they have been weakened by Republican attacks and Democratic inaction, the safety net here is weak and left millions of people vulnerable. That was why Bernie Sanders, who offered coherent programs, was also so popular in areas where Trump is also strong.

Even though I find Donald Trump abhorrent, some of the points he raises are very valid and resonate with the non-deplorable segment of his supporters. We were at a family wedding this past weekend with some Trump supporters and did get to hear their reasoning, in one case due to how negatively they were affected by Obamacare, a very legitimate point. My relative recently reached 65 and is now on Medicare which he loves. My response was that even though a flawed plan – we agreed that the insurance companies basically wrote the bill in a way to maximize their profits – I did try to point out that if  the Republicans had tried to fix what was wrong instead of spending 6 years trying to kill Obamacare things might be working a little better. He pointed out that Obama was so desperate to get something passed he was willing to accept any piece of crap and is defending that piece of crap for his “legacy.” But I don’t really want to defend Obama care since I’m for a single payer system – Medicare for all – and Obama pretty much gave up that ghost from day 1 because the insurance companies would have lobbied that to death.

Now there is no little irony in that my relative loves single payer and I believe the entire nation would love single payer if it were gradually extended. (There are ways to pay for it and remember that every advanced Western nation has such a system – and rumors that people die under it because of long waits is belied by examining the death rates of these countries.) Remember, most people are insured by their employer, not Obama care. More irony is that early assaults on Hillary Clinton began when she was assigned the job under her husband of shepherding in a health care system in the early 90s and was savaged for urging that it be single payer. She has apparently learned her lesson and came off to the right of Bernie Sanders on this issue.

If interested in exploring some ideas raised, here are some links.
A left-leaning current NYC teacher and former West Point grad who served in Iraq writes:

West Virginia used to vote solidly Democratic. Now it belongs to Trump. What happened?

Trump: Tribune Of Poor White People | The American Conservative

Check out this hot book: J.D. Vance - 'Hillbilly Elegy,' a Tough Love Analysis of the Poor Who Back Trump and "Deer Hunting With Jesus" by Joe Bageant about the southern white working class.

Norm blogs at

CB 14 Education Committee Meets

Community Board 14’s Education Committee and School District 27’s Community Education Council (the successor to the pre-Bloomberg local school boards) have initiated a series of meetings aimed to attract parents from every Rockaway school where they get an opportunity to share issues of concern regarding their schools.

The joint committees will follow up with politicians and Department of Education officials as an advocate for the schools. One common theme that emerged is the school safety issue around the schools -- from broken sidewalks to unsafe traffic patterns. Some schools don’t have an after school program. Another has seen a major spike in children from Central America with little or no English in the home yet have not received the services needed to address this issue. Another issue that emerged was the question of how many homeless children from shelters attend Rockaway schools, as these children often need a high degree of services and schools with high numbers are under resourced. While the numbers of shelter children are not high, it was pointed out that there are a high number recently of shelter students who have moved into housing in Rockaway, a sign that schools with these children may need some extra support in assisting with the transition.

CB14, whose members are appointed by elected officials, addresses a wide variety of concerns related to Rockaway and education is often left on the margins. The activation of the education sub-committee in reaching out to CEC 27 should bring more focus on the schools.

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