Neo-liberalism: The Leveraging of Charter Schools with Public and Private Funds

The funding of American public schools is historically based on regressive local property taxes; and this applies to charter schools as well. Notwithstanding subventions from the state to local school districts, spending per pupil has long varied from district to district, state to state. More specifically, ever since the 19th century, spending on public education has importantly been a function of the per pupil wealth of the local district, with low wealth districts the most disadvantaged.

Because of more than thirty years of litigation that began in the late 1960s, this problem has now been substantially ameliorated in some states—states like Kentucky, New Jersey, Texas, Wyoming and California—although, even today in California, for example, some wealthy communities like Beverly Hills continue to outspend most other districts. Overall, however, inter-district spending inequalities remain significant in most states and very large in some states. Inter-district spending inequalities also create a dilemma for charter school funding. Either, charter schools will be funded (typically by their local sponsoring districts) at a level that relates to the spending level per pupil in the districts that charter them—this is the most typical solution around the country. Or, they will be funded (perhaps directly by the state) at some state average level of funding per pupil—this, for example, is increasingly the California solution. (((Serrano v. Priest (“Serrano II”), 557 P.2d 929 (Cal. 1976); Serrano v. Priest (“Serrano I”), 487 P.2d 1241 (Cal. 1971); Abbott v. Burke (“Abbott II”), 575 A.D.2d 359 (N.J. 1990); Abbott v. Burke (“Abbott I”), 495 A.D.2d 396 (N.J. 1990); Edgewood Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Kirby (“Edgewood “III”), 826 S.W.2d 489 (Tex. 1992); Edgewood Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Kirby (“Edgewood “II”), 804 S.W.2d 491 (Tex. 1991); Edgewood Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Kirby (“Edgewood “I”), 777 S.W.2d 391 (Tex. 1989); Lincoln County Sch. Dist. No. 1 v. State, 985 P.2d 964 (Wyo. 1999); Campbell County Sch. Dist. v. State, 907 P.2d 1238 (Wyo. 1995); Washakie County Sch. Dist. No. 1 v. Herchler, 606 P.2d 310 (Wyo. 1980))

The issue of charter school funding can be deceptive and intentionally so. The Education Policy Studies Laboratory notes that for charter schools, there is a much greater concern that no charter school will have much of a chance to succeed unless it has substantial extra outside funding from either for profit or non-profit sources; funding that goes beyond per-pupil state financial limits. This, in turn, means that certain sorts of charter school initiators are far more likely to survive than others, with local grass roots groups most likely to be in the ‘worse off’ category. Why is this? Simple, competition creates winners and losers and any economist will be quick to report. And that is what we are seeing now, the weeding out of charter school providers with the big guns, Green Dot, KIPP, Alliance Schools and others beating out the competition in the neo-liberal market they have created. Competition, or slugging it out in the marketplace, is the last thing these charter companies want, they full-spectrum dominance over the charter school market and they cannot get it without the help of the government which they so dearly lambast while going through its pockets. The perfidy is truly astonishing to watch for the kleptocracy takes place in broad daylight. In fact, these financiers and charter turnaround artists need the government in a big way, not just to deregulate and pass laws favorable to their agendas, but to bestow on them the necessary stimulus funds they so eagerly wish to get their jeweled hands on.

In light of the new experiment in charters the funding for facilities for charter schools by profit, non profit and public sectors has grown exponentially with the surge in the growth and development of charter schools beginning in 1991. In the 2007 edition of the Landscape, in a study entitled “2007 Charter School Facility Finance, Landscape”, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a national nonprofit dedicated to helping nonprofit community development organizations transform distressed neighborhoods noted:

Due in part to support from the U.S. Department of Education (ED), the facility financing sector for charter schools has grown rapidly over the last few years. Today, 25 private, nonprofit organizations provide financing to charter schools for their facilities, collectively providing over $600 million in direct financial support to date… In addition to unrated charter school facility debt, there are now roughly 70 rated charter school bond issuances totaling over $1 billion. See Appendix A for Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service ratings on 67 of these issuances. While the financing opportunities available to charter schools for their facilities are increasing, the sector remains fragmented, with individual providers having different eligibility requirements, financial products and geographic markets. Obtaining access to financing is still difficult for smaller schools and those earlier in the charter school life cycle, with start-up schools facing the greatest challenges… Only 11 jurisdictions provide a per pupil funding stream specifically for charter school facilities. Of those 11, only eight provide such funding at a level of $500 or more, and only three provide $1,000 or more on a per pupil basis. Recognizing these obstacles, the federal government has sought to stimulate private sector investment and increase state per pupil funding for facilities through two U.S. Department of Education programs: the Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities Program and the State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grants Program. However, while receiving appropriations over the past several years, both programs have faced challenges garnering Congressional support for funding at levels requested by the Administration. ((“Local Initiatives Support Corporation,” 2008.))

Not anymore. The Second Great American Depression now has assured that billions will be available to ‘help-out’ with the efforts and of course this means more ‘distressed areas’ they can move into.

As the study notes, in the private sector there are 25 nonprofit organizations that provide significant facilities assistance to charter schools in the form of grants, loans, guarantees, real estate development and technical assistance. There are currently two public-private partnerships that help provide facilities financing for charter schools, the Indianapolis Charter Schools Facilities Fund and the Massachusetts Charter School Loan Guarantee Fund. Six federal programs provide varying types of assistance to, or on behalf of, charter schools for their facilities. The U.S. Department of Education provides grant funds through two programs administered by the Office of Innovation and Improvement: the Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities Program and the State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grants Program. The Department of Education has made credit enhancement grant awards totaling $160 million that have helped attract private capital to the sector and state incentive grant awards totaling $50 million to spur states to share in the public funding of charter school facilities. In addition, there are four other federal programs administered by diverse federal agencies that charter schools can access for their facilities needs, including the Public Assistance Grant Program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the New Markets Tax Credit Program and the Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) Program administered by the Department of the Treasury, and Community Programs administered by the Department of Agriculture. Descriptions of these six programs are provided in “Public Initiatives—Federal Programs.” “Non-profit” is the new face of the charter charlatans for they see this as both a way to legitimize their efforts in the face of public opposition to –for profit schools, but also as a way to shovel out for-profit contracts through the back door, buying commercialized curriculum, contracting out security, clerical work, and administrative duties. Now, with the stimulus monies, the sky’s the limit.

Philanthro-Capitalists and Charters Schools

Private philanthropy has been aggressively recruited in the struggle to fund charters, for deep pockets must rocket the movement into institutional permanency and what better way to do this than to go to the pirates of industry who are flush with the surplus labor of their workers and an eager eye on investment opportunities. For example, in New Orleans where charters are a national experiment and springboard for efforts in Washington D.C., Los Angeles and New York, three philanthropic groups will give $17.5 million to “public schools” in New Orleans. It is the largest donation by private groups since the school system was reorganized after Hurricane Katrina. The grants, from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Doris and Donald Fisher Fund and the Broad Foundation, will be given over a three year period. They will go to three nonprofits, New Schools for New Orleans, New Leaders for New Schools and Teach for America-Greater New Orleans. New Schools for New Orleans will get $10 million, mainly to support and bolster charter schools. New Leaders for New Schools will get $1 million to train and support 40 principals. Teach for America, the reserve labor army for the charterists (the pair recent college graduates and professionals with urban or rural schools deemed in need for two years) will get $6.5 million to attract teachers for the city. ((NY Times, December 14, 2007. )) This is how they cement their real agenda of destroying public education in favor of their own tightfisted educational reform efforts that go under names such as Diverse Provider Strategy, Portfolio Schools, Charter Management Organizations and the like.

Or take for example the issue of long waiting lists for charter school students who wish to enroll in successful charter schools. In Texas, Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) co-founder Mike Feinberg lamented when he found out that KIPP run charter schools in Houston, Texas had long waiting lists for its charter schools. No problem. A group of philanthropists decided a super-expansion of both the Houston-based KIPP schools and another charter group, the YES Prep Public Schools was in order. In two years these philanthropists raised more than $90 million for a supercharged expansion of KIPP and YES in Houston. That’s a big cookie bake by anybody’s standards. While charter schools openly beg for funds from the same financial hooligans who will one day look to exploit the labor of the children of these schools, they also mouth the same old rhetoric: that ‘competition’ is good for kids and parents, when in fact there is no city, no parent group, nor any public school that could possibly compete with the largess of the guilded few, and they know it.

According to the Philanthropy Round Table:

Within a decade, the two programs expect to use that money to create a school district within the school district. By 2017, they intend to be serving a total of more than 30,000 students annually—roughly 15 percent of all public school students in the Houston Independent School District (HISD). It will require a massive expansion effort. In ten short years, KIPP and YES plan to build, staff, and launch a total of 55 new schools—42 KIPP schools, 13 YES schools-all without diminishing the quality of the education provided. It is a philanthropic initiative never before witnessed in the realm of charter schools, with implications for the growth of charter schools nationwide-and for large urban school districts everywhere.” ((Philanthropy Roundtable 2008.”))

The magazine goes on to note that:

A project of this scale has attracted Texas-sized contributions. So far, five donors have made eight-figure grants to the effort. Houston Endowment Inc. has given $20 million, split evenly between KIPP and YES. From Austin, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation has donated a total of $10.9 million to the two charter school networks. Three more philanthropists have each given $10 million to KIPP. Two are prominent Houston couples: Jeff and Wendy Hines, as well as John and Laura Arnold. The third is the Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In every case, the donors say they decided to make major gifts to KIPP and YES not only because of the schools’ success at raising the academic achievement of inner-city students, but also because the expansion plans present an opportunity to revolutionize urban public education.

The group is not alone. John Arnold and Jeff Hines, both of whom serve on the KIPP:Houston board, were among the first to respond to the call for philanthropy; each gave $10 million to the expansion effort. At age 33, John Arnold was the youngest member of the Forbes 400 in 2007. He was formerly an oil trader at Enron, he now runs the hedge fund Centaurus Energy. ((Philanthropy Roundtable 2008.”))

Many of these same philanthro-capitalists serve as board members with governing responsibilities, including financial decision making. So is the philanthropic gift giving a conflict of interest? You bet it is. These board members will decide how to dole out hefty contracts for privatized services even if their facial front is “non-profit” in form and legalese. As the schools they fund get bigger and the charter school chains get larger, taxpayer money will be recruited like a poor farm boy from Iowa is recruited into the military– with promises of better schools now that these same benefactors have left a decimated public school apocalypse in their wake. But that is what it is all about, replacing regular public schools with the “new age” charters, targeting the subprime kids that come with monies attached and offering up a uniform standardized curriculum, just like KFC offers up golden brown fried chicken with a dose of secret sauce. The Walton Family Foundation through its Public Charter School Initiative aims to increase the number of children who have access to high-quality public charter schools by making grants available – in other words subsidizing the break up of public education.

For many who envisioned that charter schools would be a kind of democratic, local community response to regular public schools, this is likely to be disheartening if not a nauseating calamity. ((“Education Policy Analysis Archives,” Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10 (34), August 9, 2002.))

And these private entrepreneurial fund-centers are just the tip of the huge financial iceberg that is growing, while public education deliquesces. New Schools Venture Fund, created by various venture capitalists and in existence since 1998, “is a national nonprofit venture philanthropy firm that seeks to transform public education – particularly for underserved students – by supporting education entrepreneurs and connecting their work to systems change.” ((“New Schools Venture Fund.” ))

The goal of these venture or better said, “vulture” capitalists is to create and increase the number of charter schools in low-income communities – that is where the bucks are, where the ‘sub-prime’ kids live and thus the federal and state dollars that follow them, school to school. Yet because traditional funding will not cover the myriad costs associated with establishing and maintaining a charter school, this requires cold, hard private cash. The New Schools Venture Fund hosts funding by mega-charities such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Robertson Foundation, Irvine Foundation and Walton Family Foundation and the Walton Family. In their first phase funding, from 1998-2002 New Schools:

supported nine entrepreneurial nonprofit and for-profit ventures. These organizations addressed key leverage areas within the context of standards, accountability and choice. Some of these organizations started systems of public charter schools, while others focused on preparing and supporting teachers and leaders, developing research-based curricula, or providing school performance information that parents and community members need to make effective decisions about education. ((“New Schools Venture Fund.” ))

In the second phase funding, from 2002-2006, New Schools:

raised a second fund, which totaled nearly $50 million. The goal of the fund was ambitious: to help create dozens of new public charter schools and to develop organizations with the capacity to provide thousands of underserved students with an excellent education. Toward this end, the fund supported more than a dozen charter management organizations (CMOs) that today collectively manage more than 100 schools that serve close to 30,000 students. These organizations are tightly managed nonprofit systems of charter schools that bring more consistent quality and greater scale to the growing charter school movement. In addition, the fund invested in a variety of charter school support organizations. These organizations provide charter school operators with the critical infrastructure they need to continue growing with quality, such as facilities development, administrative services and academic support. ((“New Schools Venture Fund.” ))

Charter Schools as an Industry: “They Walk Around in Thousand Dollar Suits”

Unquestionably, the huge increase in charters has included a massive growth in private and philanthropic start-up monies to support them, as well as the growth of a burgeoning educational industry to distribute the grants and sell ‘educational products and services’ while receiving tax dollars for their efforts. Yet for those wondering aabout ‘neo-liberalism’ and what it means in this context the answer is clear. None of this could have been done without the deregulation, favorable legal legislation and govern,ment intervention in the market. What we are seeing is the transfer of public funds into the private troughs of the handwringing elite who clothe their true agendas in the name of “children”. Unfortunately, this is true all over the nation now, and is being fueled by Arne Duncan and the billions of stimulus monies he uses to extort cities and states. All of this is now wrapped up in the noble lie and pious fraud of providing charter school innovation as competitive model that can raise the standards and levels of education. Is it true? Of course not, that is all sophistic rubbish and the alchemists that coin it know it, as do those of us who oppose it.

According to Don Gaetz, a Florida republican freshman senator and former Okaloosa school superintendent: “Charter schools were a movement, but now charter schools are an industry. They have lobbyists — they walk around in thousand-dollar suits, some of them.” ((St. Petersburg Times, 2007.))

The St. Petersburg Times of Florida noted that in the state of Florida:

Those lobbyists, and an embarrassingly compliant state Department of Education, have turned charter education into a $560-million-a-year enterprise that is so immune to oversight that an Escambia school convicted of fraudulently using its students to work on road crews is still receiving tax money. A Pensacola school where not a single student has passed the state’s standardized reading and math tests in four years is still receiving tax money. A Vero Beach school investigated twice for suspicion of cheating on standardized tests is still receiving tax money. ((St. Petersburg Times, 2007.))

It would best be said that the Department of mis-Education is now a wholly supported subsidiary of an elite cabal of financiers and philo-capitalists and that we are truly the ragged-trousered philanthropists whom support them.

Vested Interest dressed up in Drag

Charter benefactors have a vested economic and social interest in seeing the charter experiment work for it is profitable, and for this they will donate tremendous amounts of capital to help establish new charters in their attempt to dismantle traditional public schools. It is called priming the pump and with the government on its knees it is working. It’s a great business opportunity as well as acts as good public personae for the pirates of Wall Street. They understand that charters provide a unique business opportunity for many financial players in the educational entrepreneurial industry, their buddies and cronies, and they also know that left by itself the charter movement would not be able to come up with the seed money, the start-up costs needed due to the way public funding for schools is presently confabulated. Yet ironically, much of the ‘success’ of the charter movement is economic success and comes from both a toxic mixture of government as well as the private sector funds. For this is part and parcel of the new neo-liberal educational disorder that is now pillaging and prevailing over the wholesale dismantlement of public education in the United States. All in the name of the “kids”.

Danny Weil is a junior college teacher at Allan Hancock College in California where he teaches philosophy. He is a former kindergarten, first grade, and second grade teacher who has written a great deal on education. Read other articles by Danny.

63 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Max Shields said on November 25th, 2009 at 9:18am #

    Like so many problems, we frequently fail to define exactly what we’re trying to “correct”. Why not start with what we expect education to be?

    It seems this is the fundamental question that needs answering before deciding on a “system” and payment for that “system”.

    First, I completely agree that privatization of education undermines any solution whatever that be.

    So, what do WE expect should be the outcomes of education? Should it be simply the fundamentals that bring us basic literacy inclusive of today’s “job market”? Or is it to include, as central, those longer terms competencies of critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis of ideas, creative application, and theoretical thinking? Civics? A spectrum of political, cultural and economic understanding. In fact, should it not be consideration for UNDERSTANDING as a means of viewing the world as it unfolds, as actors in that world and not simply spectators passively mesmerized by TV and IPods and Text Messaging and various marketed technological lures away from the world as it is?

    Once we get to these important questions (and many more) than we can discuss what kind of “system” or “non-system” should be this thing we refer to as “education”. Why not deeply engage the young in community in ways that team more than teach/pupil ever could? So the “system” becomes an engaged and engaging community.

    As far as property tax being regressive, I would differ somewhat. It has played a role in creating less funds for the existing educational “system” than because of the gentrification of communities. And it can be an obsticle when the population shifts to elderly for obvious reasons.
    But the property tax is perhaps the most democratic tax there is. If you believe that State and Federal government can provide equity of revenue generation, you are completely off-base (just look at what we have as proof). Income tax (the so-called progressive tax) doesn’t begin to touch the wealthiest. When was the last time you talked to Obama about your income tax or your State’s governor? Can you readily petition for a referendum to vote down the US budget or complain to the IRS? Hardly!!!

    Property tax can be not only the most democratic means of collecting needed local revenue, but if it is shifted to land it become very progressive and re-distributes local wealth hoarded by land speculators. It can reduce significantly the impact on lower and mid-income residents.

    I appreciate the arguments about the worst of property tax, but it really needs to be looked at more objectively. People scream about it BECAUSE there is recourse. They can appeal their property tax, can pull circuit breakers to alleviate hardships for those who have property they cannot afford to pay taxes on and whose income cannot pay for the said taxes – elderly, disabled, etc.).

    As you move governance away from the people who are most affected, you lose democratic control. State and Federal governments can provide shelter for the least capable of a defense…but the Feds are bought by special interests and have significantly lost any (if they ever really did provide such protection) real ability to protect the “little guy”.

  2. Jeremy said on November 25th, 2009 at 9:52am #

    Danny – I appreciate your article for its very in depth coverage on these issues, however you only outline what you think the problem is and offer no solutions at all. I would invite you to get out of stands and actually play the game. When was the last time you taught a 6th grader who wasn’t being served in the traditional system to read? When was the last time you had conversations about homework completion with parents?

    To correct a few problems of perspective, since I suppose you’ve never actually been inside a YES Prep school or talked with anyone that actually works there, we will never pretend that we are the solution to the problem with American education. In fact, when we are fully grown out, we will only serve 10,000 students, a small fraction of the students not currently being served by HISD. We don’t intend to decimate the system. We intend to put enough pressure on them to create some reforms that will serve students better. And, I think we have already done that.

    Additionally, we don’t have some uniform prescribed curriculum that we try to knock every kid over the head with. This is why you shouldn’t say things like this without never having been in a YES Prep school. I would invite you to check out Edutopia’s coverage of our North Central campus on their website. Hopefully that will change some of your thinking.

    I’ve worked at YES Prep for five years now and haven’t seen anyone walk through the halls or in our office with thousand dollar suits. Saying things like that is tantamount to a scare tactic that is used to conjur up an emotional reaction that doesn’t contribute to a healthy conversation.

    We don’t mind being challenged and as we grow out, we know we will have more people out there looking to take us down or qualify our success. In the meantime, we will continue to fight our little fight because there are names, faces and families attached the 480 YES Prep alums that we have sent to college.

    I would love to invite you to Houston to see us in action.

  3. Max Shields said on November 25th, 2009 at 11:20am #

    Mr. Weil, not to be missed, I do agree with your post. But we DO need to re-think our educational process and what we want those outcomes to be.

    We have a mix of illiterate and people charmed into “what’s in it for me” that come into the world…and that’s just not unacceptable.

  4. Danny Weil said on November 25th, 2009 at 1:07pm #

    Yes, Max we sure do. And it is called a public education not a privatized one. Putting profits before people is a scam. We need a federal commitment to education. We know what works. The problem is that the federal dollars are being given wholesale to the privateers who have no interest in your kids or mine. Thus we are harboring the functionally illiterate and when they are done with their charter expeience, we can send them to the for-profit cyber schools that chage 58,000 dollars for a criminal justice degree, thus leaving them in debt and default, which of course we pay.

    The answer is simple: a federal committment to public education with tried and true principles of what work.




  5. Danny Weil said on November 25th, 2009 at 1:21pm #

    depth coverage on these issues, however you only outline what you think the problem is and offer no solutions at all. I would invite you to get out of stands and actually play the game. When was the last time you taught a 6th grader who wasn’t being served in the traditional system to read? When was the last time you had conversations about homework completion with parents?

    Well, Jeremy I taught kindergarten, first grade, and second grade along with high school. the Second grade teaching was in South Central LA for two years. The First and kindergarten was in Guadalupe, CA with migrant working children. The high schools was in the California Yout Association prison system for one year. My wife has taught 17 years.

    You say:

    To correct a few problems of perspective, since I suppose you’ve never actually been inside a YES Prep school or talked with anyone that actually works there, we will never pretend that we are the solution to the problem with American education. In fact, when we are fully grown out, we will only serve 10,000 students, a small fraction of the students not currently being served by HISD. We don’t intend to decimate the system. We intend to put enough pressure on them to create some reforms that will serve students better. And, I think we have already done that.

    Ah, but this is the problem the designers of the charter school movement do wish to decimate the system. See my other writings especially from the Hudson Institute where they come right out and say that they wish to completely take over school systems in the Portfolio Design scheme by Paul T. Hill. Google it, Jeremy. There is no ‘reform’ going on heree, no best practices banks for traditional public schools. Go to dailycensored and read how LA just turned title over the the non-profit providers, that are not non-profit by any means. They just gave them the buildings. Asset stripping.

    You say:

    I’ve worked at YES Prep for five years now and haven’t seen anyone walk through the halls or in our office with thousand dollar suits. Saying things like that is tantamount to a scare tactic that is used to conjur up an emotional reaction that doesn’t contribute to a healthy conversation.

    Oh, but they do, they walk the halls of Congress and the federal government and school district administration offices in their thousand dollar suits. And of course this is not my quote, as you know. They are there to make money, many of them are on the US Stock Exchange and they do one thing: they put profits before kids all the time.

    You say:

    We don’t mind being challenged and as we grow out, we know we will have more people out there looking to take us down or qualify our success. In the meantime, we will continue to fight our little fight because there are names, faces and families attached the 480 YES Prep alums that we have sent to college.

    I would love to invite you to Houston to see us in action.

    Yes, well good, but again, I am talking of a public system of education that has been under attack by privatizers for close to 20 years. They want to develop educational retail chains where students are uniformed and uninformed, not supposed to engage the world, the issues of thre world, culture, economics, democracy etc. Many schools do fine things, don’t get me wrong, but they are usually elite enclaves not available to the urban minority that now faces militarization, prison or charter schools. Green Dot spends $120,000 for security just for Locke HS. These are factories of despair in my judgment, where kids are forced fed curriculum that is aligned with NCLB meaning no education really, at all. Test, tests, and moer tests. Why? For the providers mostly. This way they can go into the marketplace and say, “See how we raised test scores at the ABC School? Well we would like to bid for your schools now.”

    Measureable outcomes while kids learn really nothing abot how their world and their soci-economic system works.

    Thanks, Jeremy


  6. Danny Weil said on November 25th, 2009 at 1:28pm #

    Property tax can be not only the most democratic means of collecting needed local revenue, but if it is shifted to land it become very progressive and re-distributes local wealth hoarded by land speculators. It can reduce significantly the impact on lower and mid-income residents.

    Not under the current regime. for the costs just get passed down under capitalism to the consumer. So, raise taxes on say land held by the XYZ coproration and they will find a way to pass the cost down.

    I appreciate the arguments about the worst of property tax, but it really needs to be looked at more objectively. People scream about it BECAUSE there is recourse. They can appeal their property tax, can pull circuit breakers to alleviate hardships for those who have property they cannot afford to pay taxes on and whose income cannot pay for the said taxes – elderly, disabled, etc.).

    If we continue to support our schools based on regressive propety taxes then we will sureely hae the two class system we have now. I am for raising taxes on say, commercial property even in light of what I said above. But this is not the answer. Only for a system based on private property would it even be entertained.

    As you move governance away from the people who are most affected, you lose democratic control.

    I agree, but the federal government can give Block Grants to cities, states and counties to be used by them for education. Then the money is local, isn’t it?

    State and Federal governments can provide shelter for the least capable of a defense…but the Feds are bought by special interests and have significantly lost any (if they ever really did provide such protection) real ability to protect the “little guy”.

    I agree, but then if this is true, which it is, the capialist system is represented by the federal government, the how would you purport to continue with public education? That is the issue. The fight is local but national in scope. 54 cents of every tax dollar paid to the feds goes to the military. Until this changes there will only be guns and no butter.

    Communities are devasted now, due to unbridled neoliberal politics and the sharpies that have aimed their sights on our schools. Profit centers is whta they want and an educated population is the last thing they want.

    We need to teach kids to think critically, but this is not being done as the chimera they call NCLB assures that they will have no time to learn about their world or their lives. We are creating functionally illiterate people for profit.

    Thanks, Jeremy I got names mixed up with Max


  7. Danny Weil said on November 25th, 2009 at 1:29pm #

    See my articles on and



  8. Robert D. Skeels said on November 25th, 2009 at 8:52pm #

    As always, Dr. Weil provides us with a cogent expose of the nefarious EMO/CMO corporate charter-voucher establishment. In Los Angeles we have the same problem with some of the same players mentioned above, especially Green Dot.

    We can only hope hope the Silver Lake snake oil salesman Steve Barr doesn’t get his wish to make LAUSD look like his failed CMO model. Despite all the sycophantic media hype, Green Dot Public [sic] Schools underperform most of LAUSD in many regards. Green Dot sports three schools in the lowest 100 APIs in the County. They also feature five schools in the lowest 35 average SAT scores in the County (Data courtesy

    Despite having only 139 students, and receiving hundreds of thousand of extra dollars as part of Green Dot’s constant infusion of ideologically charged million dollar donations from the Waltons, Gates, Broads, and others, Green Dot’s Animo Watts II 2009 Academic Performance Index (API) was merely 534 and in terms of No Child Left Behind (AYP) Missed 12 of 18 federal targets for 2009. ( Animo Watts II an example of Steve Barr’s exceedingly arrogant, but obviously erroneous statement “our model should work in any educational context, because the principles are embodied in all high-performing schools?” Instead of bad mouthing organized labor or hard working teachers, why can’t all Green Dot’s six figure salary types like Barr, Petruzzi, and Austin figure out how to fix their own failing schools? Is there no story in that Los Angeles Times?

    More math and mendacity lessons from Green Dot Public Schools. The corporate hacks at Green Dot love to crow about their ability to place their graduates in college. Well, it sure isn’t because of their proficiency levels. There are tables published by the CSU system for all schools available, with a wealth of statistics ( I choose one of Green Dot’s better performing corporate CMO schools, since they recently accused me of just picking on their Animo Watts II campus.

    Let’s look at Animo Venice Charter High School. Of the Green Dot students admitted to the CSU system in 2008 67% WERE NOT PROFICIENT IN MATHEMATICS. This is compared to just 49% of the much maligned LAUSD students. Moreover, only 33% of the children graduating the Green Dot corporate factory school were proficient, while children attending public schools comprised a much more respectable 51%. I’m sure the right wing corporate charter-voucher apologists Jarad Sanchez and Veronica Melvin of the so called Alliance for a Better Community could find a way to spin Green Dot’s abysmal numbers, but maybe instead of listening to washed up businessmen, Wall Street hucksters, and political hacks like Steve Barr et al, we should have educators leading the way for education.

  9. Danny Weil said on November 25th, 2009 at 9:50pm #

    Listen to Robert, he knows what he is talking about!

    If you wish to see other articles on Charter schools please see I have one up regarding Segregation, Sociald Death and Charter Schools.

    Thanks to all that read and write.


  10. Brian said on November 26th, 2009 at 11:21am #

    Obama was just in Wisconsin touting charter schools and Governor Jim Doyle just loves the idea. Doyle is retiring and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who wants to take over MPS, is running as the only Democratic candidate. Barrett is enamored of Obama’s “reform” plans.

  11. Danny Weil said on November 26th, 2009 at 7:01pm #

    Yes, Brian for mayoral control is the new unitary executive of the whole sordid lot. They must take all excecutive control from citizen groups, school baords, etc. to implement their oligarchical plan.

    MPS is in a large fight, I know. You might know Todd Price, he is working arduously to assure democratic control but with disaster shock doctrine economics and a lack of any ideological imagination, let alone progressive coverage or organzing over this matter, things look grim. Public education is now being transported to the privatized zone in all aspects with little or no opposition.

    It’s a Hobbsian battle now. Please see my posts on

    Thank your for writing.


  12. Max Shields said on November 27th, 2009 at 2:06pm #

    Danny Weil

    I do appreciate your words on charter/privatized school. But you don’t know enough – or it is not apparent in your posts – about property tax your case. You’re winging it on the property tax side.

  13. Danny Weil said on November 28th, 2009 at 11:38am #

    I do appreciate your words on charter/privatized school. But you don’t know enough – or it is not apparent in your posts – about property tax your case. You’re winging it on the property tax side.

    Then please enlighten us, Max for we have a private proprety system whereby those with property pay little taxes. This is regressive to fund public schools based on property taxes; it means one person from one side of the railroad tracks gets one kind of education on another a champagen education.
    With prices of property losing trillions, then how can you even propose hitching an education wagon to them? Why are not similar proposals given for the military budget or health care etc?

    Would be happy, as would readers, to hear your arguments. If we value education and health care then one would never hitch them to the value of property tax in a city, suburb or rural area. They would commit federal dollars to be used slocally.


  14. Max Shields said on November 28th, 2009 at 1:03pm #

    Danny Weil “Not under the current regime. for the costs just get passed down under capitalism to the consumer. So, raise taxes on say land held by the XYZ coproration and they will find a way to pass the cost down.”

    First let’s start with your first point about “current regime”. This comment attempts to nullify what I’ve said about property tax by saying it can’t work with the existing regime and yet, Mr. Weil attempts to pose a solution to the same REGIME.

    Response – let’s keep “regime” out of the conversation so we can have a productive “conversation.

    As far as “passing down”, land tax, a rent on land use cannot be “passed down” or over or around. Here I must detour from the topic of schools private/public and to the essence of economics of taxation:

    Most taxes distort economic decisions. If labor, buildings or machinery and plants are taxed, people are dissuaded from constructive and beneficial activities, and enterprise and efficiency are penalized due to the excess burden of taxation. This does not apply to land, which is payable regardless of whether or how well the land is actually used, because the supply of land is inelastic, market land rents depend on what tenants are prepared to pay rather than on the expenses of landlords, and so tax on land cannot be passed on to tenants. The only direct effect on prices is to lower the market price of land. Put another way, taxation on land is often said to be justified for economic reasons because if it is implemented properly, it will not deter production, distort market mechanisms or otherwise create deadweight losses the way other taxes do. Nobel Prize winner William Vickrey believed that “removing almost all business taxes, including property taxes on improvements, excepting only taxes reflecting the marginal social cost of public services rendered to specific activities, and replacing them with taxes on site values, would substantially improve the economic efficiency of the jurisdiction.” A correlation between the use of taxation on land at the expense of traditional property taxes and greater market efficiency is predicted by economic theory, and has been observed in practice.

  15. Max Shields said on November 28th, 2009 at 1:27pm #

    Again, Danny, I don’t want to dicker about your premise – because I agree with it; i.e., that public education (whatever we mean by education) is better than the privatization and quasi privatization of education.

    That said, the revenues required for all public services. Joseph Stiglitz, just to name one of many economists, supports the contention of land as a primary source of revenue.

    Here’s where we really differ Danny. I’m not much for the Federal government’s approach to much of anything. In other words I don’t confuse the “public” with the Federal Government. If we want to talk about a “regime” than the regime is in Washington DC. Let’s just be clear.

    So, why would one want to hand over ANYTHING to the government that has given us endless wars, massive deficits, busted tansit system, collapsed infrastructure, dysfunctional health care and much much more? Why?

    Ok, you say, it is not the Government. It is the corporate interest and the corporate influence. Bing!! It is the Government and the Corporate money that runs the show. You can’t got there for what you’re looking for Danny. Your argument is kind of like the Dem/Repub narrative about issues. They don’t get to the core problem because they argue around it to their advantage. (I’m not implying that you don’t want to get to the core problem, but the core problem is NOT privatization/public education.)

    The real problem is understanding what we want from education and taking it from them. Paying for education is always problematic regardless of where the money comes from.

    China pumps out many many times the numbers of PhDs in physics – applied and theoretical, chemistry, engineering and the like. So, does that make China better educated? Who needs millions of engineers? What is their purpose? Is it fulfilling as a means of caring and providing needs? Is the autombile (a growing Chinese domestic product as well as export) the best use of these millions of engineers? Does it provide a quality of life that builds community and enriches the soul?

    Or, as I suspect, have the Chinese some couple of decades ago, tossed off the notion of egalitarianism for privatization and materialism over anything vaguely resembling a dialectic quality of life? Are there just too many fucking Chinese to even consider something as purposeful and allusive as a quality of life?

    It’s not money that’s the problem. Its know what the hell you really really want.

    And to that point, Danny, you haven’t even come close to addressing the problem. You’ve hit on a relatively surface level problem. Private/Public is almost meaningless unless you know WHAT. Melinda and Bill know what they want and are willing to spend fortunes to get it.

  16. Max Shields said on November 28th, 2009 at 1:28pm #

    By the way, since I didn’t get around to it, I would define “public” as non-governmental. Governments should be agents for the public good. Ours has failed miserably in that regard. Take it local, community and than you’ve got a human scaled public that makes sense.

  17. Deadbeat said on November 28th, 2009 at 1:44pm #

    Max Shields has return to promote his Georgist ideology which he desires to use to supplant Marxist theory. Max’s first fallacies is to exclude politics (regime — read:POWER) from the discussion. By excluding politics Max seeks to create a “bubble” a Utopian assumption in order to force fit is ideas. This is akin to many Economics 101 course that begin every sentence with “assume”.

    Max writes …
    Most taxes distort economic decisions. If labor, buildings or machinery and plants are taxed, people are dissuaded from constructive and beneficial activities, and enterprise and efficiency are penalized due to the excess burden of taxation.

    By saying that most taxes distort economic decisions obviously illustrates how power has been used to shift tax burdens onto those who can least afford it. Also Max ignores the nature of work in a Capitalist society which everyday EXPLOITS workers and transfer wealth to the rich. Therefore only taxing land will not address the system unfairness of the arrangement of work. Also Max ignores the POWER arrangements needed to set land tax rates never addresses the inequalities of land use and allocations.

    Max writes …
    removing almost all business taxes

    I’ll ask Max again a question he never answers … How will a land tax capture the money made from a boiler room operation? A Madoff-like operation can generate millions if not billions in a 1000 sq ft flat. Taxing only the area makes no sense in the FIRE sector economy that today generates 60% of GDP.

    In summary Max’s Georgist ideas suffers from the following flaws:

    [1] it downplays to downright ignores political power.
    [2] it is regressive
    [3] it fails to address labor exploitation
    [4] it is anachronistic and fails to address the FIRE sector.
    [5] it is not grounded in reality and requires an assumptive model for illustration.

    Georgism had it day in the late 19th Century where it should remain.

  18. Deadbeat said on November 28th, 2009 at 1:48pm #

    Max Shields writes …
    By the way, since I didn’t get around to it, I would define “public” as non-governmental. Governments should be agents for the public good. Ours has failed miserably in that regard. Take it local, community and than you’ve got a human scaled public that makes sense.

    Scale has nothing to do whether a community function for the public good. POWER is the determining factor whether or not society functions for the public good.

  19. Max Shields said on November 28th, 2009 at 2:09pm #

    First, I’m not excluding “power”, in general, but responding to the author who seems to want to hand “power” (political) over to those with it (Federal Gov’t) and claim that any tax only serves the powerful. It’s a baseless argument on its face. And Deadbeat you are just arguing for aruments sake – one can only hope that’s the case.

    Most of your statement are not only out of context regarding what I’ve actually stated (regardless of your extractions you present to distort) but they are illogical. In effect you, Deadbeat, are putting “words in my mouth.”

    Now to the question of speculation, land takes speculation out of the equation, the kind that allows the Wallstreeters, Banksters and Madoffs to operate. Unless you understand what is meant by inelastic you have no place to be arguing with me. You clearly don’t understand what I’m saying and so you make this gobbledygook up.

    The Western/US economic system is based on consumption, speculation, and endless resources for material growth (uneconomic growth).

    That is the problem. Marx is not the solution. And I’m not saying that 19th Centuray Georgist are the answer entirely. BUT, classical economics has been corrupted and unless and until we recognize that NO economic problem will be solved; least of all revenues for public services.

    And lastly, for now, Scale is central to the issue of community. Simply put is the necessary condition, if not sufficient, for solving human problems on this planet. I know of no one, other than you, Deadbeat, who disagrees with this assertion.

    Perhaps someone else will worm their way into this “conversation” and raise there hand – “yes, I believe in the tooth fairy, and whatever Deadbeat has to say about economics….(=:

  20. bozh said on November 28th, 2009 at 2:15pm #

    There is difference bwtn a gov’t such as in US which runs on prescription by plutocrats and also based on a constitution written by plutos and a gov’t that wld run on public gasoline and based on constitution that wld be written also by lower classes or written by a mix of asocialists-fascists and socialists.
    And if constitution written by rich people and even slave owners does not cause enormous suffering to many darkies, interpretation of that constitution still worsens that situation for indigenes, blacks, latinos, iraqis, et al.
    All US crimes and iniquities against habitants of US and many aliens rest on US constitution.
    In fact, US constitution is as dead as a door nail; it comes to life solely when plutos via its appointees interpret it.
    Anent slaughter of the indigenes, constitution actually sanctifies an deifes that slaughter as evidenced of giving to ‘god’ thanks for permission to thin native pop, have slaves, and wage some 40-50 major wars of aggression.

    Problem for americans and US’ carefully-chosen enemies is not in US gov’ts but in the fact that there never was such thing as gov’ts in US.
    US gov’ts are just a front for a gangster rule. In US, u have the ‘best’ gangster rule ever developed.
    US constitution appears clear on following: US prez must swear an oath to the service of america; i.e., to do anything to defend US interests.
    Can one get more evil than that? I doubt it!
    And chinese, russians, and many others don’t know this? tnx

  21. Danny Weil said on November 28th, 2009 at 2:27pm #

    Capitalism is a system based on private property. So now you wish to tie the funding of our public institutions to private property and the arbitrary and capriciousness of capitalist ownership? This makes no sensse and the evidence is in California where you see the drastic effects of those with private property not paying much tax.

    As long as there is a system of private propertyd held by an elite few, then all your institutions will resonate this. This is superstructure stuff from basic Marxism and even if one is not a socialist, one can seee the devastating critique of capitalism for we are living in it.

    To tie the funding of schools to capitalist property ownership and righst is why we are where we are today in underfunding education.


  22. bozh said on November 28th, 2009 at 2:41pm #

    Regarding taxing land i think it wld be best we all own all lands and what’s in it and on it.
    It seems to me we derive all our wealth from working and using our lands.
    So, all people wld get more or less same living wages. Excess profits simple go to one trough from which health care, education wld be covered.
    That wld mean there wldn’t be even one millionaire let alone billionaires.
    We wld be much similar in our econo-military-educational-political might.
    Call it by any name, this simplicity cannot be made simpler.

    That’s a goodamn nightmare for one person to have thousand-fold greater econo-military powers than another.
    I have hyphenated economy, military, education [which wld include information], politics because empirically or situationaly one cannot separate any of these entities from one another nor the reality.
    Thus there is no gov’t without cia, fbi, judiciary, constitution, politics, wars of aggressions, taxes, etc., these are mere aspects of a whole.
    I know media and pols say that there are checks and balances; i.e. that judiciary or cia function per se; in total isolation from a prez or congress.
    That is not true. tnx

  23. bozh said on November 28th, 2009 at 2:52pm #

    I wrote my post ab land ownership before reading DB’s and D. Weil’s posts. And after reading their posts i think we are in quite an agreement. I also think danny weil says much what db and i say. I’ve just added some notions which they do not cover! tnx

  24. Don Hawkins said on November 28th, 2009 at 3:36pm #

    Leverage, financial power; the potential to make profits far in excess of the outlay required … strategic advantage; power to act effectively; “relatively small groups can sometimes exert immense political leverage”

    My Son didn’t finish last in his class he didn’t finish at all. At the age of seventeen he couldn’t read or write. Well I said time to go to work. At the ripe old age of thirty now my son has a small farm and is one of the good guy’s. Can he read now yes and like his dad has a problem with spelling. I can still teach him new tricks and next soy beans.

    The mechanical advantage gained by being in a position to use a lever.

  25. Max Shields said on November 28th, 2009 at 3:48pm #

    Danny Weil As a primary tax land is socialized and wealth is redistributed.

    Private land is an issue but until we de-privatize deeds for payment, the next best thing is to tax the land as a means of recapturing community created wealth.

    Remember there are two parts to real property tax – building/improvements and land. Generally, it is the tax on improvement that bears the greatest burden. This is counterproductive under any economic system.

    If you shift away from the tax on capital and labor (building and improvements) to land you change the dynamics of property tax. Again I would add that of all taxes (sales, income and property) taxes on property is the most democratically determined; and it pays for the things that are local – not wars and government subsidies to agribusinesses, and endless roads to nowhere, and corporate welfare, etc.

    Taxing buildings and improvement is the bad property tax. Do you want to live in a blighted neighorhood or in a building run by a slum lord? I’ll guess not. Than why tax these properties on improvements which leads to speculation and to inactive properties that don’t serve, but rather run down, the community.

    Taxes, of any sort, have consequences. This is just fundamental human behavior – and economics.

    How we pay for education, assuming we know what education we’re talking about, needs to be thoroughly debated. Gates – NO. Federal Government – NO. These are false choices if we really care about outcomes and not just getting everyone to pass a test or into a college or with letters after their names.

    What do we have to teach one another? What’s wrong with life-long community learning? What role should professionals have in our education whether paid for by the State or some privatized foundation? Should professional teachers be the main source of education or should they provide very specific lessons, or coaching?

    How you “pay” is really inconsequential when you don’t even know what you’re paying for. In fact it’s worse than inconsequently; it is the reason we have such a mess today (the proverbial cart before the horse). Bill Gates wants software engineers. GE was aerospace workers. Insurance companies need actuarials, etc. They’re call the shots not simply on how you pay, but what we call education.

    I don’t think that’s acceptable.

  26. Don Hawkins said on November 28th, 2009 at 3:56pm #

    Here in rural Georgia many of the young don’t want to farm they will be back and the ones that do and if I meet them well remember the movie the Graduate and that one line where “Mr. McGuire,” a family friend, tells young Ben Braddock the secret of future economic success. He pulls the new college graduate aside and whispers in his ear just one word: “Plastics.” NO no no not plastics soy beans.

  27. Max Shields said on November 28th, 2009 at 4:09pm #

    Danny, introducing Marx doesn’t get us anywhere. First, because there is no Marxism on the planet; and second his critique has little to do with 21st Century corporate capitalism and the planet we see today – though there are apologist for Marx who think he said it all.

    “To tie the funding of schools to capitalist property ownership and righst is why we are where we are today in underfunding education.”

    Danny I hope I answered the above statement from your previous post. I suspect you believe it beyond any rational consideration, but underfunding of education is really not the issue. How much money do you think would suffice before you think education is “fully” funded?

    How about all the money we spend on our colonization around the globe and the endless war machine? Would that provide you with a perfect educational system? And what would that educational system look like – what is your vision?

    I ask because your arguments are porous. They begin with privatization vs public paid education.

    Tell me what is it you really want this education, better still this learning, to look like. Will a trillion dollars pay for it?

    I agree that public payment is better than private because it serves no single master, no neo-capitalist master; and it socializes learning because we are in it together.

    Today we have hollowed urban cores and each municipality has its own schools and budget. The wealthy communities get the best outcomes according to the standard of tests, numbers graduating, and going on to college, etc. While I would argue that these outcomes are suboptimal, they are what the American system holds up as the gold standard of our educational system – the same capitalists you and others rail against, think this Gold Standard is what we need and some are willing (like Gates) to put their money where their mouth is. I disagree with it all!!

    The reason why all of the numbers for the “best” school systems are reversed in urban centers isn’t because of money. Ask any superintendent what the per capita is he/she gets in the urban core vs some lilly-white suburban area. You’ll see that it is not money for education that is lopsided – IT IS POVERTY!! Our inner-cities have been colonized (our rural areas don’t do much better, if at all).

    Poor, hungry people don’t make the best students. But again, we should also be asking “students of what”? Students that can use IPods and text messaging?

  28. Danny Weil said on November 28th, 2009 at 4:36pm #

    Well, let me say this: how we fund education is the issue and if it is privatized education that is funded by philanthro-capitalists and regressive taxation then we have a problem.

    Of course poverty is the problem and capitalism is the main cause of poverty so there is no disagreement there. But poverty is not just an individual problem it is a community problem and yes, ask any superintendent and they will tell you, as I found when I worked in South Central LA as a second grade teacher — we have no supplies, large class sizes, no autonomy over teaching, impoverished buildings,no libraries, textbooks, etc. etc. All of this is due to funding. So yes, the champagne education in the suburbs is tied to poverty in the urban areas for they get more funds. Plain and simple. Their class sizes are thewrefore lower, their teachers fly to these areas due to better pay, more resources etc. This is about a system that is impvoerished not just individuals in it and sure it hits harder in South Central than it does in Woodland Hills, California.

    As to introducing Marx, how can you say it gets us nowhere? His analysis of capitalism is correct. Look around you, the fact that Marx=Soviet Socialism in people’s minds is the fault of both the propagandistic left and right. But to say not to introduce a Marxist analysis of schools, prisons, institions, or economics and politics is simply silly.

    Now, defining what ‘education’ is is the task we face as well. For it is not training. As Dewey said we train animals, we educate human beings. So the Dewey-Lippman debates need to be revived.

    And it is not going to school simply to learn how to earn, but to develop critical thinking abilities that allow people to critically examine the world they live in and themselves.

    Thus, no national standards,of course not.

    What we are seeing, as the public is banished and eventaully vanished, is that a “collection” of individuals does not provide a public interest. So, is there a public interest and if so, who’s? And if not, then we should deal with schools as so many beebees in a bag for what we are seeing, for me it is quite clear, is that there is no society, neoliberalism has actually changed the human psyche. It is a Hobbsian world now, and this does not bode well for any ‘nation’. That is why we are losing public education. See my articles on and I will have a four part series on dissidentvoice starting Tuesday on proprietary colleges — more private pike in a public lake.



  29. Max Shields said on November 28th, 2009 at 5:19pm #

    (While I think you are missing the point on property, I agree with what you’re saying about learning and education…but we need to have a clearer vision – the Corporate Capitalists are crystal clear on their vision.)

    But if Capitalism causes poverty, than what eliminates poverty?

    Let’s stick with poverty for a moment and take a few minutes to watch this Democracy Now segment:

    This addresses poverty at its root. And that root is access to land; recapturing the commons and community wealth. We should make a distinction between what we earn and what is acquired through speculation.

    If we don’t understand poverty, then we don’t understand wealth and without understanding these forget about healthcare, and education, etc.

  30. Don Hawkins said on November 28th, 2009 at 5:24pm #

    Has anybody seen the new’s on Tiger Woods well I don’t know if Tiger knows it yet but golf golf courses are a thing of the past and if I did ever meet him I would have two words for him soy beans. Again at the top of this planet it is only about 7 to 9 degrees F warmer than about two thousand years ago.

    Much debate on climate change has centred on the Mediaeval Warm Period, or Mediaeval Climate Anomaly – a period about 1,000 years ago when, historical records suggest, Vikings colonised Greenland and may have grown grapes in Newfoundland.

    The new analysis shows that temperatures were indeed warmer in this region 1,000 years ago than they were 100 years ago – but not as warm as they are now, or 1,000 years previously. BBC That’s two thousand years and will it get warmer on this present path yes then we must talk one million years.

    Is it two late to slow the warming in the North well for the sea ice yes done deal and the CO 2 we are now today putting into the atmosphere will stay there about 200 years. How long before the sea ice is gone in the summer about ten and then what happens well weather patterns will change just a tad has they are now. Will crops be hard to grow? I would think so and water to grow those crops right now in China about 40% is some what heavy and they still put it on the crops. Golf courses in the coming years probably not as here in the States California, great plains mid west different. Still time maybe with total focus a new way of thinking and either way tuff day’s ahead. Now I know the Texas GOP and James Inshore and the tea party gang and a few more are still living in the Mediaeval well remember we have already gone past that period by about one thousand years the anomaly and in a blink of an eye headed to one million back to the future. Well two weeks to Copenhagen then the climate bill in the States and more Mediaeval thinking that could just work if done right. Everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler and time or lack of it is very important in spacetime it’s one.

    The theory of relativity says that time cannot be treated absolutely separately from space, only in one observer’s relative view. So space and time together describe a four dimensional universe.The Spacetime Continuum.

    In a few weeks in Copenhagen some very good minds will be there and of course James Inhofe said he is going to ask those hard questions like if the ice melts it will come back right. Yes James and we will not be here along with most other life forms. Then when the climate bill comes up in the Senate here in the States we get to see him again and a few more with lawyer talk and I wonder if the Constitution will come up and the little people and the big people hiding behind the curtain but one thing for sure we will see spacecases. In the Senate is it a four dimensional universe no one dimensional from the planet Zenon.

  31. Danny Weil said on November 28th, 2009 at 5:38pm #

    This addresses poverty at its root. And that root is access to land; recapturing the commons and community wealth. We should make a distinction between what we earn and what is acquired through speculation.

    If we don’t understand poverty, then we don’t understand wealth and without understanding these forget about healthcare, and education, etc.

    I could not agree more. Amen to this!


  32. Deadbeat said on November 28th, 2009 at 6:49pm #

    Good discussion once again Max ignore EXPLOITATION in the work place as a cause of poverty. Land in only one form of the means of production. The Democracy Now link posted by Max spoke of how trade agreement like NAFTA displaced people who worked the land. What is needed is collective ownership of not only land but the MEANS of ALL production. That aspect goes missing in Max’s land only tax rhetoric and why his solution will fall far short.

  33. Deadbeat said on November 28th, 2009 at 6:57pm #

    Max writes …

    Danny, introducing Marx doesn’t get us anywhere. First, because there is no Marxism on the planet; and second his critique has little to do with 21st Century corporate capitalism and the planet we see today – though there are apologist for Marx who think he said it all.

    As I stated Max’s Georgism is really his attempt to supplant Marxist THEORY rather than find ways to add or to extend it. Marxism is a TRADITION that encourages the ideas of many people who added and builds upon Marx’s ideas — people like Albert Einstein!

    Marx identifies Capitalist accumulation and its tendencies. We are living today with the effects of that tendency and poverty is an outgrowth of Capitalist accumulation. Max’s land tax rhetoric will not end poverty because he ignores EXPLOITATION.

  34. Danny Weil said on November 28th, 2009 at 7:25pm #

    I can only say I feel privilged to have had an opportunity to post my ideas and also to have such good thinkers respond.

    We all agree: neo-liberalism and the privatization and deregualtion phase of late stage capitalism is abhorrent.

    I hope I have been able to add some investigative journalism to this issue and hope all of you will read the fourt part series that will begin on Tuesday on the untold story of the piracy and predatory colleges.

    Thanks to all of you and let the discussion rage on. Eventually we will all be faced with some ruthless decisions, if we are not now, and this is all good: a learning conversation without dialogue, but at least something.


  35. Max Shields said on November 28th, 2009 at 7:31pm #

    Deadbeat, I am not introducing Georgism – YOU ARE.

    I’m simply talking about land. George certainly made this a central point, but many classical economist have and many economists who have followed have.

    Accumulation is a nebulous term. Accumulation of what? Land and natural resources. Without these there is no material wealth.

    Yours, Deadbeat, is more of a Marxist religion – a belief that has no real rationale. Marx wrote a lot and said a lot. Most use his name and things like socialism in vain. The terms are rarely defined and so its a kind of bullshit that sounds like just uttering the name Marx buys you something – but there’s nothing there.

    It is not MY land tax that will end poverty. Some fundamental principles cannot be denied. It makes it necessary for anything else to work. It may not answer all the issues, but ignoring it means the problem remains unsolved, and probably is exaserbated.

    What this is about is reclaiming the land, and nature. Taxation, or rent to use classical economic term, is a means of justified revenue generation. You pay for the use of the common wealth – you DON’T own it. I would call that socialization of the commons. But it is not socialization of what you make. It is redistribution of wealth, but reclaiming the wealth that nature provides by returning it to the community that makes that wealth possible. But it does not mean that you don’t own your home. You own your home, can sell your home, but you can’t sell the land. The land under a pure land rent belongs to the community. That doesn’t exist in a pure form today. But it does exist variously here and there. And it is this land issue which is central to colonization; as was mentioned in the DN clip I linked to above.

    The word exploitation is just another way of saying that the wealthy privatize the commons and by doing so deprive the rest of us the bounty that is our birthright. I didn’t use the word – exploitation – so what? The point is the same.

  36. Deadbeat said on November 28th, 2009 at 10:42pm #

    Yours, Deadbeat, is more of a Marxist religion – a belief that has no real rationale. Marx wrote a lot and said a lot. Most use his name and things like socialism in vain. The terms are rarely defined and so its a kind of bullshit that sounds like just uttering the name Marx buys you something – but there’s nothing there.

    Max the problem is not my referencing Marx it is your refutation of Marxist theory in your arguments and in the solutions you pretend to offer. Your agenda has been one of obfuscation rather than clarity.

    Also Max your rhetoric has always been to frame Marxist theory as solely coming from one man rather than a tradition of scientific analysis of society that includes a plethora of thinkers that includes who Time Magazine anointed the “Man of the 20th Century” — Albert Einstein. I guess Time Magazine didn’t read Einsteins article “Why Socialism”.

    The problem with your perspective Max is that your focus on land misses exploitation in other parts of society especially work. It also misses rationalization of work as well.

    Land is one form of exploitation within Capitalism. This is from the Democracy Now clip …

    The first resource that we took was the land. And you take land away from people, it clears that you create a slave, because if the person can’t, you know, grow his own food, it means that he has to sell his workforce to survive. And that’s the number one resource we take. After, we take all the other resources—water, timber, mineral, everything.

    Which is only one aspect here is more from the Democracy Now clip…

    We have—today, because of the system we created, we cannot feed billions of people, clearly, when the resources of the planet are well sufficient to feed all these people. But because of our system, this inequality we created by way of the gun, you know, these people will die, you know, million by million.

    At least the author regards INEQUALITY as the source of poverty and the imbalance of POWER which is as aspect that you tend to ignore. A Land Tax with no POWER behind it will not achieve what you advocate. And a land only tax without addressing exploitation will not be redistributive. What needs to happen is a reclamation of all means of production which includes land.

    The problem is Max you NEVER address the exploitation of people you tend to address the exploitation of land and nature as if they defined value which they do not. People define value through their work the problem is that their work and their lives are totally controlled by the Capitalist class which extracts and controls all value.

    Education which began this discussion is defined by the Capitalist system not by land. Also Max you are wrong to imply that there was money for Ghetto dwellers. The fact is that money to urban centers has been dwindling for the past 30 years. Federal spending for education in the urban centers did not keep up with inflation and did not match the needs especially for people of color. Your distortion of the facts doesn’t help your argument. A land tax will not improve education especially if you do nothing to address Capitalism power arrangements. And “localism” is not the answer either.

    Sorry Max this isn’t “religion”. This is called rational analysis.

  37. Danny Weil said on November 29th, 2009 at 12:13pm #

    Take a look at this and you will see the fraud, the junk boands and the other shennagins that cgo into this ‘people’s movmement’ called charter schools. I write about the fraud and abuse on


  38. bozh said on November 29th, 2009 at 1:14pm #

    Socialism subsumes healthcare for all, greater equality; rights to be educated and informed and public ownership that’s in the land and on the land.
    In US, of course, these are taboo topics; thus most people don’t know ab. these basic human rights.
    On the other hand, right to free speech is often mentioned but not the fact that most people have been disinformed to that degree that they dare not say anything that may be labeled unamerican.
    And not the fact that the ruling class has means to do their free speech and a dissenter does not even if s/he speaks the truth.
    Who wldn’t be for unlimited free speech if your the only one talking or writing?
    In short, socialism is well explained but the elucidation is denied to most americans! tnx

  39. Max Shields said on November 29th, 2009 at 2:10pm #

    It’s not what socialism does (or doesn’t do) it’s what people, the human species does.

    Can we structure society in such a way that there is more equality, more democracy, more wealth parity? Perhaps. But if socialism as you describe it had been the dominant narrative, we’d call ourselves some flavor of socialist and be “proud” socialist…do you really think that the problems we face would be different?

    I think not. Subsuming these “good things” under an “ism” only makes it exploitable for an elite of one sort or another. That is why scale is important – again it will not eradicate many of our all too human problems, but it lays the groundwork.

    Showing the shanagins, as Danny describes them, is good. Vigilence is what we need…critical thinking/thinkers is what we must nurture in our young.

    There is a tendency to see “capitalism” as an evil. But it is not, no evil lies in a word, only in an act.

  40. Deadbeat said on November 29th, 2009 at 2:31pm #

    There is a tendency to see “capitalism” as an evil. But it is not, no evil lies in a word, only in an act.

    Max you seem to create your own strawman and then argue from the strawman you create. Capitalism is a descriptor of how a particular politcal economy operates. Studing Capitalism and providing a glossary of terms help people COMMUNICATES the functioning of the system. It helps people learn about the system. Communication is critical. What you’ve been arguing here on DV is the abolution of terminology used to communicate how Capitalism function. Essentially you argue AGAINST the communication and teaching about the source of poverty — Capitalism.

    Socialism provide a shorthand on what people should be striving for. Once again you argue against the use of that term and how do you choose to fill that “vacuum” you desire to create — land tax as if that’s going to alleviate people from their exploitation — a term you refute.

    Showing the shanagins, as Danny describes them, is good. Vigilence is what we need…critical thinking/thinkers is what we must nurture in our young.

    Showing the “shenanigans” without CONTEXT doesn’t provide a complete picture. In fact LIBERAL are master of “outrage” against the “shenanigans”. Just go and read Huffington Post yet Arianna Huffington speaks in the same obfucating language as you and Ron Paul *(read: “It’s not capitalism it is corporatism”).

    Such rhetoric is deliberately designed to confuse and mislead people from REAL solutions. It is designed to maintain Capitalism and your land tax proposal will do the same making people believe that the system can be reformed rather than completely scraped.

    In order to advocate the scraping of Capitalism then it is important to articulate its replacement. Such a vision will inspire people to risk their lives for that vision of change. Unfortunately you would rather censor and divert such discussion with your propagandist rhetoric of “no ideology” and bogus redefinition.

    To repeat what Danny wrote earlier…
    As to introducing Marx, how can you say it gets us nowhere? His analysis of capitalism is correct. Look around you, the fact that Marx=Soviet Socialism in people’s minds is the fault of both the propagandistic left and right. But to say not to introduce a Marxist analysis of schools, prisons, institions, or economics and politics is simply silly.

  41. Max Shields said on November 29th, 2009 at 3:03pm #

    My argument is that harking back to Mills, Smith and Ricardo there is NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, evil about what they wrote, much of it is premised on clear moral and ethical grounds – the likes of which we see none of today. But its simplier for you to see it all in black and white.

    There is an alternative for what we have. It will take a trauma to introduce it across the planet but it will, and is happening here and there.

    But if you think there is a world made of “workers” who will run everything or of a classless society…ask the Chinese what became of their various revolutions and great People’s experiment. What did it bring them…ask the Russians. It’s time to face facts. It’s not simply that Marx was wrong (or right) but that in the hands of mere mortals who seem to yearn for control and expansion through zeal…who seem to see economics as purely material in nature and therefore fraught with expansionism, and empire building; such lofty dialects are bring about great tragedies.

    But if we think that humans are capable of something better, than perhaps there is something we can count, a tally we can look to that says with all that is wrong in the world we humans have made some “progress” with the human condition; and if so to what do we credit?

    If not than what makes you think we can erase humans from the equation and rely on a system – which is devised, fabricated by humans, and sustained by humans…certainly not by nature?

    If you are looking for Marx to provide an analysis, than you really are lost. It doesn’t take a “weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing”. To predict that human systems fail doesn’t take a great mind or deep analysis. Humans have failed at capitalism and socialism. Whose analysis are you looking to to figure out why Marxism is an utter failure in the real practical world, Deadbeat?

    It’s not silly to think that Marxist analysis is silly…make that quaint…no, make it irrelevant…no counterproductive.

  42. bozh said on November 29th, 2009 at 3:47pm #

    u may be right ab some people hating capitalism. I do not because i only have some slight hunches ab how to explain capitalism.
    But however each person wld ‘explain’ [this means it cannot be explained at least to me] his/her capitalism, it still does not exist per se; detatched from people’s needs, what they have been told they need, or what they think they need.
    To me, capitalism means supplying builders, tillers, manufaturers with money and control over interest rates. This can be done two ways: by individuals or all of the people; the latter at least in principle; hopefully in practice.

    Instead of forever enumerating traits of socialism, one simply uses the word socialism rather than to say people have right to live, right to return to one’s home,right to healthcare, right to be informed and educated, etc.

    What we know for certain is that individual capitalists do not honor any of those basic rights. This is most evident in US.
    We do not need marx, engels, lenin, trotsky, nader to tell us ab. or explain to us the right to live, work, be interdependent, etc.
    Work is part of life and freedom. If one is given work, that one is no longer free. Such a simplicity cannot be rendered simpler. Every child wld understand it. Thus this is never said in US.

    In a socialist land like yugoslavia everybody who wanted to work worked. Plants that made no money or lost money did not close. Plants that made money subsisided the plants which lost money.
    True, just after war people did not have enough to eat. But by ’55 yugoslavs faired better that any other communist country.

    Fact is, tho erased by individuals, that there had always been work for all; there is work for all now; there always will be enough work for all.
    One does not even need to call it socialism; it is selfevident; if there is an eternal verity this one is it!
    So instead ad infinitum to list these rights we use the word socialism as shortcut.
    People in US who deride state capitalism do not espy or feign not see that in US you also have state capitalism; state being a bunch of gangsters of ab. several mn people who have an iron grip on it.
    Of course, the gangsters must have hired guns; they cannot rule otherwise. Cia, fbi, generals, private spies and enforcers get paid very well. And the rest is history; tho not mystory! tnx

  43. bozh said on November 29th, 2009 at 4:21pm #

    Max, i am now speaking for self only.
    Actually, teachers, professors, scientists, composers, singers, doctors wld alway be valued and in any society. Thus, i do not want a classless society in an utopian sense.
    And workers wld not run everything in a socialist setup. But with excellent education, who knows, maybethey will. And hurrah for them if they wld be able to.
    You say “ask a russian what happened?” An asocialist-undemocratic or socialist-democratic?
    Russian communists realized that is over for them unless they industrialize the country. Even so, 20mns lost their lives in ww2. Of all countries, Russia was ab leqast suitable for developing socialism.
    West tried desperately to ensure that a socialsit state never develops in USSR or anywhere.
    Even at the time gorbachov called for glasnost, there were just to many fascists there. Compared to US, communists there were a vast minority. Nothing to worry about; it actually being a big + to the ruling class as they cld mount unprecedented witchhunts and scare domestics to death about red menace.
    Gorbachov loved russia. He must have realized that some of those missiles pointed at russia may come. He did the right thing, i believe. I wld have done the same thing.
    As an aside, when tito died in ’80 many women cried. I do not know if women cried when brezhnev or khrushchev died. Is anybody gonna cry when bush dies? tnx

  44. Max Shields said on November 29th, 2009 at 4:22pm #

    So much of what people “hate” could be argued was not begun with this notion of capitalism. Of what we see, how much could be referred back to a kind of feudalism?

    I think there is an emergence which is not ideological. The human condition does not eliminate pain. The emergence I’m talking about is a disequalibrium; not stasis. As such there is no such thing as a classless society if by classless we mean a equity that homogenizes and keeps differentiation null and void.

    That human nature (nature in general) is about disturbance, disequilibrium and differentiation says it is fundamentally against human nature to not differentiate. Creating classes and categorizing is just embedded in the human DNA/Consciousness.

    What the species strives for is emergence (and differentiation) and community (belonging or stability). It is this tension which is our lot. Ignoring human nature and overlaying it with ideological fabricated systems is simply an attempt to suppress the unsuppressable.

  45. bozh said on November 29th, 2009 at 4:55pm #

    Curioso appears we have survived while probably never ever knowing any ism or religion; the latter also being an ism or ideology, ideating, thinking. That’s all all religions are: thinking, but of the worst possible kind.
    Millennia went by and saviors and philosophers arrived. Regarding marx, one cld deduce that he explained capitalism and nobody understood it or he did not explainit but lostsof people understod it.
    And the mess is on. Then we had another savior [besides jesus, another nuthead], adam smith.
    And also smith knew everything and had not been understood or he knew nothing just like kruger, greenspan, stiglitz, bush but they all were understood by their collegues, et al.
    That’s all these godheads do: ideate, think but after priests most wrongly. Then i come along and am still alive. Cia thinks i am the biggest foolhead! tnx

  46. Danny Weil said on November 29th, 2009 at 6:40pm #

    I would ask you all to consider this analysis, made before the ‘crash’ but druing the actual collission. For it says so much, so simply and so laconically.

    Neo-liberalism is only a stage in capitalism, it is not capitalism. Marx’s analysis provided the historical material, dialectical process to understand how economics and societies work, though we continue to learn. Without a method for analysis one only has assumptions with no way to examine them or put them into context.

    I offer you, Monthly Review:


    JANUARY 2008
    Michael D. Yates is associate editor of Monthly Review. He was for many years professor of economics at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. He is most recently the editor of More Unequal: Aspects of Class in the United States (2007) and the author of Cheap Motels and a Hotplate (2006), both published by Monthly Review Press.
    This is adapted from a talk delivered at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst at the end of October 2007.
    The Class-Divided Society
    We live in a complex, divided society. We are divided by wealth, income, education, housing, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation. These divisions are much discussed; in the last two years, there have been entire series in our major newspapers devoted to the growing income divide. The wealth-flaunting of today’s rich was even the subject of a recent Sunday New York Times Magazine article (“City Life in the New Gilded Age,” October 14, 2007).
    What is seldom talked or written about is to me our most fundamental division, one at the center of our economic system, namely the division of our society into a very large class of working men, women, and children, the working class; and a much smaller class of owners that employs the former, the capitalist class. These two great classes make the world go round, so to speak.
    Workers and owners are fundamentally connected and antagonistic along a number of dimensions:
    • It is through the labor of the working class that the goods and services necessary for our survival are produced.
    • It is through the ownership of society’s productive wealth (land, machines, factories, etc.) that the owning class is able to compel that this labor be done. Workers must sell their capacity to work in order to gain access to this productive wealth, since no one can live without such access.
    • In terms of society’s “reproduction” the relationship between labor and capital is essential. So much of what we do presupposes the successful sale of labor power. Without the money from such a sale, nothing appears to exist.
    • The essence of production in capitalism is the ceaseless accumulation of capital, the making of profits and the use of such profits to increase the capital at the owners’ disposal. Competition among capitals both drives accumulation and is driven by it, in a relentless dance.
    • But to accumulate capital, employers must make sure that workers cannot claim possession of all they produce. This means that employers must strive for maximum control of the entire apparatus of production and any and all social forces and institutions that might interfere with this control (for example, the state, schools, and media). At all costs, workers must be prevented from getting the idea that they have rights to the output they produce.
    This organization of capital and labor in our society has negative effects on working people. I want to talk about some of these negative effects. However, before I do, I would like to point out that the whole process of accumulation, beginning with the extraction of a surplus from the labor of the workers, is, especially in the United States, hidden from view, so that workers do not know or are confused about what is happening to them. This is the result in part of the public school system and the tireless promotion of individualism and nationalism at its core.
    As Peter McLaren and Ramin Farahmandpur explain:
    Today urban schools are adroitly organized around the same principles as factory production lines. According to [Jonathan] Kozol “rising test scores,” “social promotion,” “outcome-based objectives,” “time management,” “success for all,” “authentic writing,” “accountable talk,” “active listening,” and “zero noise” constitute part of the dominant discourse in public schools. Most urban public schools have adopted business and market “work related themes” and managerial concepts that have become part of the vocabulary used in classroom lessons and instruction. In the “market-driven classrooms,” students “negotiate,” “sign contracts,” and take “ownership” of their own learning. In many classrooms, students can volunteer as the “pencil manager,” “soap manager,” “door manager,” “line manager,” “time manager,” and “coat room manager.” In some fourth-grade classrooms, teachers record student assignments and homework using “earning charts”….[Jonathan] Kozol writes that in the market-driven model of public education, teachers are viewed as “floor managers” in public schools, “whose job it is to pump some ‘added-value’ into undervalued children.” (“The Pedagogy of Oppression,” Monthly Review, July–August, 2006)
    Racism/sexism, imperialism, media propaganda, and repression further distort the social matrix and hide its class basis:
    • Endless war magnifies and deepens nationalism and promotes both racism and male chauvinism. Wars send workers back to society badly damaged in mind and body.
    • Imperialism does the same thing as war and is, of course, the root cause of it.
    • Constant Orwellian propaganda by the media, think tanks, politicians, and business leaders denies the class polarization of capitalist society. An important element of this misinformation campaign is the mythology surrounding the “free market” economy.
    • As in the earliest stages of capitalism, naked violence ultimately serves to suppress class consciousness and sow seeds of doubt among workers who might otherwise be inclined to mutiny against the system.
    Unveiling the Injuries of Class
    Against this background, let me now talk about the “injuries of class.” Consider first unemployment. The separation of workers from productive wealth creates the possibility that workers will be unemployed, that is, unable to find a buyer for their labor power. In addition, we know from studying the history of capitalist economies that it is not uncommon for them periodically to sink into recession or depression. Such crises are part of the nature of the system. In such circumstances, unemployment rises dramatically. Furthermore, capital is always searching the heavens for sunny skies (higher profits), and if it finds them somewhere other than where it is currently situated, it shuts down one operation and opens another. Plant contractions and closings will therefore be regular occurrences.
    What these things mean for working people is a pervasive sense of insecurity and fear that even what seems to be the most stable employment will “melt into air.” Fear and insecurity not uncommonly produce two responses: a kind of joyless penury or a present-orientation that often takes the self-destructive forms of debt, drinking, and the like. In a recent essay, referring to the workers in the mining town in which I was born, I wrote:
    Mining towns in the United States were typically owned by the mining companies, and the companies exerted a near totalitarian control over the residents. They owned the houses, the only store (the infamous “company store”), all utilities, the schools, the library, everything. They had their own private police (the Coal and Iron Police in Pennsylvania) sanctioned by state law. The climate in such a town is one of perpetual insecurity and fear, emotions compounded by the danger of the work in the mines….It is difficult to overstate the power of fear and poverty in shaping how working men and women think and act. Fear of losing a job. Fear of not finding a job. Fear of being late with bill payments. Fear of the boss’s wrath. Fear your house might burn down. Fear your kids will get hurt. I inherited these emotions. (“Class: A Personal Story,” Monthly Review, July-August 2006)
    Should a person face an extended bout of unemployment or a plant closing, the potential injuries of class are many, as has been amply demonstrated: suicide, homicide, heart attack, hypertension, cirrhosis of the liver, arrest, imprisonment, mental illness.
    The members of the owning class are almost always better situated to withstand the storms of economic crisis or even unemployment, so these are injuries that the system does not inflict on them. Recently Michael Gates Gill, a wealthy former advertising executive who lost his job, was featured in the New York Times in connection with his book, How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else. Gill gets a job in a Starbucks, and in it he learns about ordinary people. By most accounts the book is not very good. But the author had connections, and not only managed to get it published by a trade press (Gotham/Penguin) but reviewed in our premier newspaper. The chances of this happening to “everyone else” is as close to zero as you can get. The stories of job losses are written in the litany of woes that are an everyday reality for most people; such stories are anything but exotic and receive almost no public attention.
    Unemployment in our society is a constant threat to the employed and a torment to those who lose their jobs as many do periodically. To be unemployed is almost to drop out of society; since to have no relation to the market is not to exist.
    I add here that those who do unpaid labor, especially homemakers, must certainly experience something akin to that of the unemployed. Their work is so devalued that an estimate of its value is not included in the Gross Domestic Product. The unpaid labor of poor single women with children is considered so worthless that they have been forced to give it up and seek wage labor, often taking care of the children of others while their own kids are attended haphazardly or not at all.
    Workers comprise the subordinate class. They are normally in the position of having to react to decisions made by others. They are dependent upon employers, and they are at the same time apprehensive of them, since employers hold the power to deny to workers the life-sustaining connection to the means of production. Exploitation, dependence, and insecurity—in a system where workers are bombarded with the message that they and they alone make the decisions that determine their circumstances—make for a toxic brew, which when drunk often enough, creates a personality lacking in self-confidence, afraid to take chances, easily manipulated and shamed (of course, on the bright side, these injuries have given rise to a massive “self-help” industry).
    The very subordination of workers, combined with the market mechanism that ratifies and reinforces it, means that capitalist societies will display ineradicable inequalities in variables of great importance: wealth, income, schooling, health care, housing, child care, and so forth. What is more, the market will, absent powerful countervailing forces, not only reproduce inequalities but deepen them, as we have seen so clearly in the United States over the past thirty years. This inequality itself generates its own class injuries. In my book, Naming the System, I cite research comparing the impact of inequality across the United States. It was discovered that, all else being equal, the greater the inequality of income within a state (as measured by the share of income going to the poorest 50 percent of households in each state), the higher the mortality rate. It appears that the psychological damage done to poor people as they contemplate the gap between themselves and those at the top of the income distribution has an independent effect on a wide variety of individual and social health outcomes. Everything we know about the correlation between health and other social indicators and income (a decent though not perfect proxy for class) tells us that working people will suffer in every way.
    You may have heard it said that the only thing worse than having a job is not having one. This is true, but what does it say about work? Work in capitalism is a traumatic affair. We all have the capacity to conceptualize what we do before we do it. This capability, when applied to work, has allowed human beings to transform the world around them in profound ways: to invent tools and machines and to socially divide our labor so that the riches of the earth can be unlocked and a cornucopia of output produced. As we have done these things, we have also transformed ourselves, becoming ever more conscious of causes and effects and better able to understand the world. Put another way, our capacity to think and to do makes us human. It is integral to our being.
    In capitalism, however, this human mastery of the physical world is reserved for only a few. The capacity to think and to do implies control, and control by workers cannot be contemplated by capitalists. In fact, the essence of management in capitalism is the monopolization of control by the owners, control especially of the labor process—the work—and its denial to the workers.
    We don’t have time today to discuss all the various control tactics used by employers: the herding of workers into factories, the detailed division of labor, mechanization, Taylorism, personnel management, lean production—all of which deny workers their humanity, their capacity to conceptualize and carry out their plans, to actually “own” what they make. However, let us look at a sampling of jobs in modern America:
    Auto workers: There are about 1.1 million auto workers. Not only are they facing rapidly rising insecurity, they are also confronted every day with a work regimen so Taylorized that they must work fifty-seven of every sixty seconds. What must this be like? What does it do to mind and body? In this connection, it is instructive to read Ben Hamper’s Rivethead (1992), a startling account of working in auto plants. Hamper worked in an old plant, where the norm was about forty-five seconds of work each minute. He eventually got a job in a new, “lean production” facility. He called it a “gulag.” In her book, On the Line at Subaru-Isuzu (1995), sociologist Laurie Graham tells us about her work routine in one of these gulags. Below, I have skipped a lot of the steps, because I just want to give readers a sense of the work. Remember as you read it that the line is relentlessly moving while she is working:
    1. Go to the car and take the token card off a wire on the front of the car.
    2. Pick up the 2 VIN (vehicle identification number) plates from the embosser and check the plates to see that they have the same number.
    3. Insert the token card into the token card reader.
    4. While waiting for the computer output, break down the key kit for the car by pulling the 3 lock cylinders and the lock code from the bag.
    5. Copy the vehicle control number and color number onto the appearance check sheet….
    8. Lift the hood and put the hood jig in place so it will hold the hood open while installing the hood stay….
    22. Rivet the large VIN plate to the left-hand center pillar.
    23. Begin with step one on the next car.
    This work is so intense that it is not possible to steal a break much less learn your workmate’s job so that you can double-up, then rest while she does both jobs. Within six months of the plant’s start-up, a majority of the workers had to wear wrist splints for incipient carpal tunnel. Necks and backs ache from bodies being twisted into unnatural positions for eight hours a day. Supervisors recommend exercises and suggest that workers who cannot deal with the pain are sissies.
    What is true for auto workers is true for all who do this type of labor—whether it be in beef processing plants or on chicken disassembly lines where workers labor with slippery blood and gore on the floor and on their bodies. And where cuts lead to infections and disease.
    Clerks: There are about 15 million clerks in the United States. Many years ago I was on a television show with former secretary of labor Robert Reich. In response to my claim that a lot of the jobs being created were not all that desirable, he said that there were a lot of good jobs available, ones in which workers had a real say about their jobs (no doubt referring to the “quality circles” so popular then). One such job was that of “clerk.” I blurted out in a loud and incredulous voice, CLERKS! I suggested that perhaps Mr. Reich had never noticed the splints on the wrists of many clerks, signs of epidemic carpal tunnel syndrome. Since that time, I have actually worked as a clerk, at the Lake Hotel in Yellowstone National Park. I describe the experience and what I learned in my book Cheap Motels and Hot Plate: An Economist’s Travelogue. Clerks work long hours; they are on their feet all day; they take regular abuse from customers; they are exposed in full view of supervisors with no place to hide; they are accorded no respect (think about customers on cell phones in grocery lines); their pay is low; their benefits negligible. After a hard day at the front desk, I only wanted a few drinks and a warm bed. The stress level was extraordinary.
    Restaurant Workers: There are 11 million of these, growing in number every year. Next to personal care and service workers, those who prepare and serve our food are most likely to experience a “major depressive episode.” Restaurant workers in Manhattan’s Chinatown log as many as one hundred hours a week, for less than minimum wage. The pace of the work, the pressure of it are unbelievable. Check out the arms and legs of a kitchen worker. They are full of cuts and burns. Substance abuse is widespread.
    Secretaries, Administrative Assistants, and Office Support: These workers are 23 million strong. They are poorly paid, many in sick buildings, stuck in badly designed chairs, staring at computer screens for hours, taking orders all day long (usually women from men), and often heavily Taylorized. These workers, whose working conditions are satirized so skillfully on the television series The Office, have to contend with daily degradations, including all too prevalent sexual harassment. Here is what my sister said about her work:
    I, too, share some of your fears and anxieties. As one of the administrative assistants you talk about, I can relate to the long days of sitting at the typewriter (in years past) and now at the computer. I am sure that is the cause of my neck and shoulder pain and the many headaches from which I suffer. Although I basically like my job and the people with whom I work, after thirty years I am anxious to move on to something else. I look forward to retirement in about three to four years, moving to the city, maybe working part-time, and finding meaningful things in which to participate.
    Security workers: Three million men and women watch over others in prisons, malls, gated communities, in occupied Iraq, and on our city streets. This is a type of work guaranteed to be stressful and to generate not only an extremely jaundiced and pejorative view of the rest of society but also an extreme, macho personality, prone to violence.
    Custodial workers: There are 4 million building and grounds workers, many of them immigrants, keeping our buildings clean and the grounds swept and manicured. Often they are hired by contractors who are themselves employed by the buildings’ owners. It has taken monumental efforts by the SEIU to organize some of these exploited workers, who must often labor in close proximity to dangerous cleaning fluids, solvents, and chemical fertilizers.
    Medical workers: There are more than 13 million people laboring in our hospitals, surgicare centers, and nursing homes, as well as in individual residences. With the exception of those at the top, including health care administrators and most of the physicians, health care is a minefield of poor working conditions. Even nursing has been degraded and deskilled so much that the nursing shortage could be nearly filled simply by the return of disaffected nurses to their profession. At the request of the California Nurses Association, I spoke this summer to nurses in four Texas cities. I heard many tales of woe: sixteen hour days, two weeks straight of twelve-hour days, insane patient loads, constant cost-cutting that damages patient health, demeaning treatment by administrators, etc. Conditions only worsen as one goes down the health care occupation ladder.
    Working Stiffs
    Work in today’s exploitative society takes its toll on mind and body. It saps our creativity, bores us to death, makes us anxious, encourages us to be manipulative, alienates us in multiple ways (from coworkers, from products, from ourselves), makes us party to the production of debased and dangerous products, subjects us to arbitrary authority, makes us sick, and injures us. I remember my dad saying, when emphysema (the result of too many cigarettes, too much asbestos, and too much silica dust) had sapped his health, that he hadn’t expected retirement to be like this. He and how many hundreds of millions of others? It is not the CEO who suffers depression, hypertension, and heart attacks from being too long on the job; it is instead the assembly line worker, the secretary, the kitchen laborer. Those who cannot control their work hurt the most. And with all of these injuries of class, I haven’t even touched upon the compound misery endured by black workers, Hispanic workers, women workers, gay workers, and workers without the proper national documents. And I have not described some of the worst types of labor: farm labor, domestic work, labor in recycling plants, and many others, which get truly demonic as we move outside the rich nations and into the poor ones. It is no wonder that people do not need much convincing to believe that happiness lies not in the workplace but in the shopping mall.
    The daily debasement heaped upon working men and women breeds anger and rage. Often rage is turned inward and shows itself as depression, addiction, or suicide. Frequently it is directed against children, spouses, lovers, or against some great mass of “others,” like immigrants, women, radical minorities, or gay people. But sometimes it is correctly aimed at the class enemy and takes the form of riots, sabotage, strikes, demonstrations, even revolution. And then the creativity bound and gagged for so long bursts forth as people try to take control of their labor and their lives. This is what I think of as the “miracle of class struggle.”
    I am not going to end by talking at length about how important it is to keep the struggles of the past fresh in the present, how it is necessary to educate the working class, of how it is essential to build a working-class movement and not just to organize workers into unions, about how there are any number of hopeful signs that such a movement can be built, of why we must always fan the flames of dissent and revolution. You have heard all this before.
    Instead I am going to say something different. The injuries of class are deep and long lasting. The poor education that is the lot of most working-class children leaves lasting scars that will not be healed by a picket line. The love lost when the factory-working father spent too much time in bars does not come back after a demonstration. I have been a radical, highly educated and articulate, but the fears and anxieties of my working-class parents are like indelible tattoos on my psyche. The dullness of mind and weariness of body produced by assembly line, store, and office do not go away after the union comes to town. The prisoner might be freed but the horror of the prison cell lives on.
    Wilhelm Reich, the German psychoanalyst, was kicked out of the psychoanalytic society because he was a communist. Ironically he was also expelled from the Communist Party because he was a therapist who believed that the minds of working people, ravaged by the injuries of class, would have to be healed. It would take real effort to help workers regain their humanity. I think Reich was right. We ignore the injuries of class at our peril.
    My friend Sam Gindin, former chief economist for the Canadian Auto Workers, has argued for years that all labor organizing and all union and labor movement activities, in fact, all efforts to transform societies, must aim at developing the capacities of working men and women, their ability to take control of their lives and the larger society. This means, for example, that inside a union, there has to be as much rank-and-file democracy and control as possible, and inside workplaces there has to be an active network of shop stewards. The union must have a vibrant and empowering education program. Politically unions and all working-class organizations must aim to promote a working-class way of thinking about the world and must fight for any and all public programs that empower workers, from national health care to paid vacations and leaves for all to free adult education programs. Reducing hours of work must become central to labor’s agenda as must the nature of work itself. The idea that our labor power is just another commodity must be rejected. Finally, all movements for radical social change must address aggressively the prison-industrial and military-industrial complexes. Imperialism, war, and a domestic police state are an unholy triad that magnify enormously the injuries of class.

  47. Max Shields said on November 29th, 2009 at 7:27pm #


    You can layout all the pseudo-Marxists explanations, but the issue remains. Call this capitalism, call it classism, call it elitism, call it neo-classical economics, call it neo-liberal (I don’t recall Marx using the term btw). This theme of domination, is not unique to what we call capital(ism) and knowing that it has a historical trajectory that pre-dates the authors of what we consider to be the capitalist “manifesto” says this is really more about organizing principles than economic ones. The hierarchical organizing principle that gives you the employer/worker relationship/ dominator/deminated dichotomies is at play, and is hardly the creation of capitalism.

    Yes, we have a failure, but it is not one of capitalism, but of the very organizing principles that take hold and run their course – regardless.

    War predates capitalism. Imperialism pre-dates capitalism. Privatization pre-dates capitalism and the list can go on and on.

    There is a unique emerging entity – the Corporation that superceded the role of monarchy in bankrolling and ruling a sprawling imperial empire. But I don’t think Marx targets the Corporate entity, certainly not like what we have today for his “analysis”.

    Knowing, Danny, that the corporate elite want to bankroll our education is all well and good. Marx adds nothing to that analysis.

  48. Christophe said on November 29th, 2009 at 7:41pm #

    Are you trying to communicate something?

  49. Christophe said on November 29th, 2009 at 7:44pm #

    I understand that you are more the Bourgeois -Marxist? Weberian, perhaps? Man, you have got to do something about that obscurantist- sophistry of yours!

  50. Christophe said on November 29th, 2009 at 8:06pm #

    Finally, all movements for radical social change must address aggressively the prison-industrial and military-industrial complexes

    Prison-industrial and psychiatric- therapeutic state, the latter, certainly in its institutional presence, is a most coercive and oppressive system for countless non-criminals. Any social reform will have to address those institutions, and hold personally accountable, those individual bureaucrats, politicians, and Mental Health careerists, for the injustices to others, and the complicity of actors in depriving millions, yearly, of civil rights, and self-determination. Unless a culture can honestly face such a miscarriage of justice and personal liberty, principles that inform any meaningful democracy, I fear that such will serve only to erode our “collective” moral resolve. Nothing is more important than Liberty. It is more important than security, and certainly more important than the any notion of the “social good”. For, without the inviolability of the individual, there is no social good.

  51. Max Shields said on November 29th, 2009 at 8:35pm #

    Christophe when in doubt, best to “say” nothing.

    N-O-T-H-I-N-G. Is that clear Chrissy?

  52. Danny Weil said on November 29th, 2009 at 9:25pm #

    Max, tou make a very good point with this last sttement.


  53. Danny Weil said on November 29th, 2009 at 9:29pm #

    I certainly do not wish to be pedantic but ad hominem attacks are fallacies of relevance. Let us stick to claims, subject them to the critical thinking and evidentiary threshholds we ennunciate and in this way model the education we would like our children to have.


  54. Danny Weil said on November 29th, 2009 at 9:57pm #

    On human nature which some use as a term as if they know anything about it!

    The principle of historical specificity holds for psychology as well as the social sciences. Even quite intimate features of man’s inner life are best formulated as problems within historical contexts. To realize that this is an entirely reasonable assumption, one has only to reflect for a moment upon the wide variety of men and women that is displayed in the course of human history … The human variety is such that no ‘elemental’ psychologies, no theory of ‘instincts,’ no principles of ‘basic human nature’ of which we know, enable us to account for the enormous human variety of types and individuals…. The very idea of some ‘human nature’ common to man as man is a violation of the social and historical specificity that careful work in the human studies requires; at the very least, it is abstraction that social students have not earned the right to make. Surely we ought to occasionally remember that in truth we do not know much about man, and that all the knowledge we do have does not entirely remove the element of mystery that surrounds his variety as it is revealed in history and in biography.
    —– C. Wright Mills, “Psychology and Social Science,” Monthly Review, October 1958

  55. Christophe said on November 30th, 2009 at 12:10pm #

    History as an entity? The struggle of selves, and the inexorable force of selves define historical moments, not the other way around. The emphasis on class struggle is also, arguably, a moot point, certainly today.

  56. Deadbeat said on November 30th, 2009 at 12:16pm #

    The emphasis on class struggle is also, arguably, a moot point, certainly today.

    Why would you say class struggle is moot when clearly the ruling class is still engaging a class war against everyone.

  57. Max Shields said on November 30th, 2009 at 1:30pm #

    But of course there is a nature which makes one human and not something else. A fork is a fork. A donkey is a donkey. A rose is a rose is a rose… Perhaps the mystery is that we know what these are. We classify. We categorize. We observe.

    From a purely cognitive and biological perspective (a phenomonological experience) human nature emerges. As I said it is not static and it differentiates (varies). And yet not much of what human’s do surprise – even it also frustrates.

    Danny do you know the philosophical paradox – Ship of Theseus? It is a clever excercise in identify and is relevent to this issue of human nature.

    Knowing anything is a puzzle, but human nature is not without parameters. For those who are sick of the politics of Chomsky, it’s interesting to understand his linguistic theories – how we understand language when it is generative in nature and yet we can figure out what is being said.

  58. b99 said on November 30th, 2009 at 1:50pm #

    Its not a question of whether war or imperialism or privatization predates capitalism. It’s a question of how these things manifest themselves in a capitalist society.

    Yates analyses is fine in so far as it goes. He neglects race in America and its use in the capitalist system. From knowing a professor who used to teach at Johnstown – the city used to be known as a ‘Sundown town’, that is, blacks literally had to be out of town before sundown – we are talking just a few decades ago – and Johnstown is not the South. Yates would do well to analyze how race relations (such as they were) played a roll in establishing capitalist relations in such Sundown towns as Johnstown. It would render his Marxist ( certainly not pseudo-Marxist) analysis more complete.

  59. bozh said on November 30th, 2009 at 3:01pm #

    Is it case of all of u having elucidated capitalism and i understood nothing?
    Since ca 10-15 k yrs ago people began abusing-exploiting-disenpowering majority of people who at that time were mostly hunting, fishing and tilling land.
    This continues to this day in all lands i know of, save in lands now developing socialism.
    Some people may [?deliberately] confuse btwn an undeveloped socialism with a developed one.
    Such as one inUSSR. Socialism there was very bad to all facists and asocialists. Not, of course, to many socialists. To them it had been worth dying for to keep it and see it get better.
    That made all fascists salivate with anger! This had to be destroyed no matter what.
    To change an idyllic society sans nobles, priests, kings, other warlords into one with abusers of all kind, millennia may have passed.
    And yet people expect that developing socialism shld take a decade or less.
    To eradicate fascism, which by now may be geneticaly enbedded, may take centuries or even millennia.

    In short, we had cropsharing a millennium ago and we have it today. tnx

  60. Max Shields said on November 30th, 2009 at 3:38pm #

    If war, privatization, slavery, domination by elites all predate capitalism than a simple conclusion is that capitalism does not cause this.

    That seems like a simple logical conclusion.

    On the other hand, what exists or has existed over say the last millenium that veers away from these outcomes?

    I simply answer that there are historical moments, of tribal egalitarianism, but the civilizations created during that same time frame are essential fashioned around a hierarchical model with ruling classes taking on slightly different labels and forms, but essential the same.

    It is fair to say that capitalism does not change this. Is it purely an economical problem? Is it structural? Is it driven by a set of governing principles that would twist any economic system to its advantage. I say it is primarily the latter.

    If we don’t change the way we view the world, and establish a different set of governing principles it seems we will end up with more or less the same results.

    (Just read your post bozh and I think you’re alluding to the same thing.)

    It is loose talk and lazy thinking that brings us to use Marx as some kind of crutch for real thinking.

  61. Deadbeat said on November 30th, 2009 at 5:21pm #

    It is loose talk and lazy thinking that brings us to use Marx as some kind of crutch for real thinking.

    So understanding Marxist theory Max now disparges as a “crutch” because oppression predates Capitalism. So thus since Feudalism predates Capitalism we should struggle against this ancient arrangement and ignore how oppression has morphed these past 50o years or so. The fact that Capitalism has changed since its inception according to the Sheilds theory of struggle we should ignore its changes. He says it himself …

    a simple conclusion is that capitalism does not cause this.

    His logic unfortunatly is circular and BTW I agree with B99 regarding racism. Racism is a huge component of Capitalism and racism especially chattle slavery did not PREDATE Capitalism but was INTEGRAL in the RISE of Capitalism. Obviously using the Shields theory we should ignore racism since …

    a simple conclusion is that capitalism does not cause this.

    The Shields “theoretcial” insistence that we ignore Marxist theory is a real cause for study and analysis.

  62. Max Shields said on November 30th, 2009 at 5:46pm #

    The point Deadbeat is to understand the problem we face if we are to really and sincerely change it.

    When people throw out Marx as if the simple raising of his name is sufficient they will be called it. It is not “analysis” to mention Marx as a antidote to capitalism.

    If someone wishes to make a case, fine, but a limp use of Marx is hardly a real case. It is easy to critique, but to posit, to make a case FOR is much more challenging because it leaves open counterarguments. To simply say “Capitalism” and “Marx” as if these two words are embued with some kind of clarity of the problem and the solution, is a weak (at the very best) argument. To say, Marx “understood” and “explained” capitalism is your opinion. It is not a fact. You can look through Marx and the world becomes a Marxist critique. What have we gained? The elite who rule go scott free while we’re off with Marx’s explanation of how the “world works”.

    Look at the word Socialism. It is filled with half-understandings and multiple applications. And yet there are those who toss it out as if it is a solution…to what? Capitalism? to oligarchies? to plutocrats? to empire? to imperialism? Show me where this is the case – in some little flea of a nation-city state nestled on a hillside – in the Alps?

  63. B99 said on November 30th, 2009 at 6:18pm #

    What Marx brings to the table is not mere hierarchy and oppression but a description of a systematic exploitation of labor and a process of capital accumulation whereby the profits are funneled back into the enterprise to increase capital assets or labor in an endless loop – and the loop is necessary if one is to remain competitive (the alternative being bankruptcy). This system required the cooperation of the state, so what we witness in Europe of past centuries is the slow diminution of the crown and the landed gentry to the benefit of the merchant class, which also pressed for defined state borders, a stable currency, and national armies to protect profit. Accompanying this is the installation of nationalist sentiment, to help peasants (now proles) see their existence in terms other than class – the rise of patriotism and eventually ultra-nationalism.

    That Marx explained capitalism is fact. That’s precisely his intent. Whether he explained it correctly or adequately is another story. But that’s why there have been scads of Marxists and volumes of Marxian analysis. I can’t think of any other analytical approach that begins to compare with a Marxist analysis in terms of wholeness yet still be open to development.