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Paul Rosenberg, writing at Salon, is outraged that many super-wealthy people–and their apologists at the NY Times–blame poverty on the lifestyles of the poor.
“There they go again. Conservatives are back again with their “war on poverty,” which is to say, their war on poor people and any liberals, or sympathizers, who try to help them.
“Unlike Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, which despite 50 years of demonization and policy reversals has cut U.S. poverty by 40 percent (see No. 3 here), the conservative version has little hope of doing anything about poverty. But that’s not the point. Neither is attacking poor people and liberals, for that matter. The point is defending the obscenely rich, and the massive upward redistribution of wealth America has seen going on since the 1970s. At the same time the broad-based increase in affluence of the early post-World War II era has been decisively shut off.
“IRS data compiled by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saenz and their colleagues at the top incomes database shows how stark America’s shift from a broad-based prosperity model has been. From 1947 to 1973, the average incomes of the bottom 90 percent increased 99.2 percent, compared to 88.9 percent for the top 10 percent, and a mere 7.4 percent for the top 0.1 percent. But from 1973 to 2008, the average incomes of the bottom 90 percent fell 6.1 percent, while the average incomes of the top 10 percent continued rising by another 70.8 percent, and average incomes of the top 0.1 percent skyrocketed an astronomical 706.4 percent.
“With the bottom 90 percent losing ground, on average, and the top 0.1 percent gobbling those losses up like candy, it makes perfect sense to try to distract attention by finger-pointing at the poor—as well as those who might be inclined to help them. Whether it actually makes sense or not is irrelevant. All it has to be believable—for those with a powerful-enough motive to believe.
“A case in point is the recent David Brooks Op-Ed blaming poor folks for their poverty, which Salon’s Elias Isquith wrote about here recently, along with a disturbingly similar poor-bashing piece by neoliberal Nicholas Kristof. Given his high-profile perch at the so-called liberal New York Times, Brooks drew some rather pointed data-informed responses, including ones by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig at the New Republic (“Poor People Don’t Need Better Social Norms. They Need Better Social Policies. What David Brooks doesn’t understand about poverty,” Connor Williams at Talking Points Memo, who argued that “David Brooks Is Mistaking Poverty’s Symptoms For Its Causes,” and Noah Smith who responded with a short blog post, providing the links to make his point that “Americans are better behaved than ever.”
All the references are linked to their sources in the article.
How does this connect to education? The leading funders if the charter school movement are billionaires and multi-millionaires who are beneficiaries of income inequality. Their spokesmen, like Governor Cuomo say that money is not the answer to the problems of education. He refuses to pay the schools the billions of dollars the state owes after losing the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. He imposed a tax cap so districts can’t raise taxes to cover rising costs unless it is approved by 60% of voters in the district–59% won’t do.
His answer to the needs if districts: open charter schools. That satisfies his patrons, but drains the budgets of public schools even more.
Skeptics suspect that the 1% prefer charter schools as a means of avoiding discussion of taxing the 1% to reduce inequality. When hedge fund managers show as much interest in fully funding the public schools as they do in privatizing them, the skepticism will disappear.
As long as they continue to treat privately managed charters as society’s best (and cheapest) way to fight poverty, they will appear to be paraphrasing the old line misattributed to Marie Antoinette: “Let them Eat Charters.”