Friday, May 31, 2019

School Scope: How are we going to pay for that?

The WAVE - May 31, 2019

School Scope:  How are we going to pay for that?
By Norm Scott

I hear this question raised when it comes to the progressive ideas like Medicare for all, free college tuition, a green new deal and guaranteed incomes being promoted by people like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But no one seems to ask that question when Trump just came up with a $16 billion bail-out for farmers hurt by his tariff policies or when we pay for billion dollar airplanes or disaster relief. I mean, where did the money come for Sandy relief?

I’ve been using this space to explore various views of socialism and capitalism and the areas in between, trying to define the various concepts of liberalism and what it means to be a liberal, which on the surface seems antithetic to socialism and to conservatism. But there is more complexity to 350+ year old concept of liberalism that have been associated with both trends over the centuries: classic liberalism, often associated with Adam Smith, one of the godfathers of capitalism, with calls for free markets without government interference.

Capitalism was a 17-18th century progressive revolutionary reaction to mercantilism - the economic theory that trade generates wealth and is stimulated by the accumulation of profitable balances, which a government should encourage by means of protectionism.

Another definition: economic theory and practice common in Europe from the 16th to the 18th century that promoted governmental regulation of a nation's economy for the purpose of augmenting state power at the expense of rival national powers. It was the economic counterpart of political absolutism. And mercantilism was considered progressive when compared to the feudalism that preceded it. (I know I’m being simplistic, but I only have 500 words.)

So does this mean Trump’s protectionist trade polices is anti-capitalistic and a return to the 17th century? There’s a lot to more to say (but not now) about how anti-capitalistic so many policies have been, including monopolies supported by the state. Capitalism in theory moves the economic power into the hands of individuals but is often aided by the state.

What I really wanted to talk about is neo-liberalism since the 1970s, an ultra-form of market-driven capitalism with little state interference – unless it is needed. Here’s a formal definition: Neoliberalism is characterized by free market trade, deregulation of financial markets, individualisation, and the shift away from state welfare provision. Since the 1990s the term has been consistently used in academia to imply the move from welfare state to laissez faire economic management, particularly associated with the promotion of free market ideals in the late 1980s by Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the US.

Milton Friedman, a leading guide for conservatives and libertarians, was the chief American voice.

Consider neo-liberalism a counter reaction to FDR’s New Deal which rescued us from the depression and helped win WWII and served to  guide this nation to unprecedented prosperity through the late 60s. The economic impact of the Vietnam War had a lot to do with the rise of neoliberalism which also included attacks on unions and a free market that led to the devastation of American manufacturing.

The interesting rise of Bernie Sanders and AOC are a counter-reaction to neoliberalism. Note there are intersections between some of the positions of both Sanders and Trump – an estimated 30% of Bernie supporters went for Trump in 2016.

I will close by referencing neoliberalism as the embodiment of the charter school movement -  the main agent in undermining the public school system, which Friedman considered a monopoly and called for its abolishment. Bringing the free market to education is a disaster just as it was to manufacturing and it couldn’t have happened without either the active support of the government or a hands off policy when workers lost their jobs in the millions, led by both parties – i.e, Bush and Obama/Biden. Oh yeah, wars always seem to play a role.

Bernie Sanders is one of the first politicians to call for a national moratorium on charter schools. And it is no surprise that Corey Booker and other Democrats have attacked Bernie. Keep an eye on the education policy divide inside the Democratic Party.

Norm blogs at


  1. Neo Liberalism has become a front for centralization of power. It is essentially globalism. We are seeing the resistance to globalism in Brexit, and anti globalist forces in Europe and America. Neo Liberalists love the term free trade, but the EU commision's (non elected) policies saw Ireland importing potatoes from Sweden, and UK fishermen unable to trawl their own waters. It is anti free trade. De regulation of banking was certainly a central component, and helps explain how a globalist banker like Macron was spirited to power by a complicit globalist press. Traditional capitalism has also become expendable as corporatist forces ally with central banks to consolidate power. It is not unlike Mussolini's corporate state at an international level.

  2. The trope that "We don't have the money" for nice things, because of some mythical federal deficit is bogus misdirection. We spend trillions on bad things like war, and that hasn't led to hyper-inflation yet. No less than an authority than Dick Cheney famously said, "Reagan showed that deficits don't matter."

    A sovereign state that prints it own money- especially one such as the US, whose dollar is the global reserve currency - is only constrained by resource limits and the productivity of its economy. In fact, on the federal level, taxes are only necessary to insure that we don't create a dynastic Overclass.

    Go to YouTube and check out some videos of Professor Stephanie Kelton and Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

    You want a Green New Deal, Universal Health Care, Free College (which we already once had in NYC, and effectively had in California) and more resources for K-12? Those are strictly political questions, not monetary ones...

  3. LaGuardia HS had two events happen and nothing made it to any NYC education blogs. The students had a sit-in protesting the Principal for treating the arts (what the school is for) as an after-thought and a hindrance and pushing APs (also admissions which was on NBC a few days ago). And, the teachers voted a no-confidence against her. I believe 88% who voted voted no confidence. There have been news articles and some TV channels have talked about all this, but no blogs. Thanks.


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