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Rhetoric to Challenge California’s Statist Elites

California’s ruling elites have enacted policies that make it impossible for middle class citizens to live here. They have artificially elevated the cost of living, nearly destroyed public education, decimated public services, neglected public infrastructure, and declared war on small business. To deflect criticism, they’ve convinced a critical mass of voters that any attempts to roll back these abominable policies are being engineered by racist, sexist plutocrats, and their willing puppets in the Republican party.

Exposing this diabolical, conniving scam won’t be easy. The ruling elites are a powerful coalition, comprised of left wing oligarchs including most of Silicon Valley’s billionaires, California’s public sector unions armed with the billion dollars (or more) they collect every year in forced dues, and the environmentalist lobby and their powerful trial lawyer cohorts.

Defeating California’s ruling elite requires a new coalition, comprised of the private sector middle class, enlightened members of the public sector middle class, and members of disadvantaged communities that aspire to the middle class. Attracting members of these communities, especially California’s Latinos, Asians, and African Americans, requires convincing them that current policies actually harm their interests.

To do this, there are two moral arguments the elites make that have to be debunked, because they underlie all of the intrusive, statist policies that are destroying California’s middle class. The first is the argument that capitalism is inherently evil and must be strictly curbed if not completely replaced by socialism. The second is the argument that unprecedented sacrifices must be made in order to save the planet from an environmental catastrophe.

Corrupt Capitalism vs Competitive Capitalism

Here are examples of two very different ways to critique wealth. In each example, the first phrase is employed by the ruling elites. It feeds on resentment and ignorance. The second phrase is offered as a counter argument. It appeals to the aspiring middle class family, or the small businessperson. It is designed to extol the positive virtues of capitalism and expose the opportunistic cynicism of the statist elites.

(1) “Tax the corporations” vs “make corporations compete.”

(2) “Capitalism is inherently evil” vs “no economic system in history has delivered more individual freedom and prosperity.”

(3) “Wealth is usually the result of privilege” vs “Wealth is usually the result of hard work in a free society.”

(4) “Government needs to regulate corporations” vs “corrupt corporations use regulations to destroy their smaller competitors.”

(5) “We have to redistribute wealth so people can afford to live” vs “we have to nurture capitalist competition to lower the cost of living.”

These arguments shine a spotlight on the great con job promulgated by the elites: The ruling class does not care about you, but we do. Because like you, we have to try to make payments on a half-million or even a million dollar mortgage, just to own a small house. Like you, we have to pay more for gasoline and electricity than any other citizens in any other state in America. Like you, we have to send our children to failing K-12 schools, then sink further into debt to pay tuition for them to attend colleges and universities where they don’t get a good education.

Extreme Environmentalism vs Practical Environmentalism

Apart from the distraction of race and gender, environmentalism provides the moral argument used as cover for policies that have imposed a punitive cost of living on Californians. It is important to make the distinction between attacks that discredit environmentalism in its entirety, and environmentalist reform that exposes the hidden agendas and inherent futility of California’s extremist environmental policies. Here are examples of two very different ways to apply environmentalist values.

(1) “Stop urban sprawl” vs “California has 163,000 square miles of land and is nearly empty, adding 10 million more people on quarter acre lots (even including new roads and new commercial/industrial centers) would consume less than 2,000 square miles!”

(2) “People need to live in multi-family dwellings” vs “detached single family homes are cheaper per unit to build than multi-family dwellings, and are more popular among buyers.”

(3) “There isn’t enough water for people to have detached homes and yards” vs “for less than $20 billion, we could build enough desalination capacity to provide water to every home and business in Los Angeles County; farming consumes 80% of all water diversions in California, we are exporting water intensive crops like alfalfa, grown using massively subsidized water, in the Imperial Valley (desert)!”

(4) “The government needs to discourage further development of fossil fuels such as clean natural gas” vs “Californians are paying as much as ten times what energy consumers pay for electricity in low cost states, and that California’s CO2 emissions are a minute fraction of those from other nations such as China and India.”

(5) “We have to get people out of their cars and build passenger rail” vs “cars, trucks and buses offer far more convenience and versatility, and are on the verge of becoming 100% clean and sustainable modes of transportation.”

(6) “No new mines and quarries should be allowed within California, and existing ones should be phased out” vs “developing in-state natural resources creates in-state jobs and costs less than importing materials from elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada.”

When the elites demand “environmental justice” for people of color, ask them (using the San Francisco Bay Area as an example) what any of that has to do with why we can’t build homes on the eastern slopes of the Mt. Hamilton Range, or in San Jose’s Coyote Valley, or along the I-280 corridor in the Santa Cruz mountains. Ask them why they’re paying 60% of their income for rent or a mortgage, when California has 163,000 square miles of land and is nearly empty. Ask why money that is being spent on high speed rail, using imported materials, isn’t instead being used to create high paying jobs in road and infrastructure projects that will actually improve lives. Ask why thousands of people aren’t working in high paying jobs in mining and quarrying, so building materials can cost less.

For aggressive reformers, good questions are plentiful. What have California’s elites done for working families? Have they gotten you better jobs? Have they nurtured robust and competitive housing markets to lower the price of a home? Have they widened the freeways? Have they enabled competition to drive down the cost-of-living? Have they made your communities safe and prosperous and affordable? Have they done anything other than bribe your so-called leaders with campaign contributions so they’ll do what they’re told?

It comes down to this: These purported spokespersons for true environmentalist values have become personally successful by fomenting environmentalist panic, but they do not represent the best interests of ordinary Californians, and they do not articulate a realistic or practical vision of environmentalism.

California’s elite has declared war on the working class. They have used race as a distraction, and extreme environmentalism as the phony moral justification for their self-serving policies. They must be exposed.

The Moral High Ground

This fact – that the rhetoric of California’s elite does not translate into a better quality of life for the people they govern – is the core moral argument against current policies. Across virtually every issue, the policies of the elites are failing ordinary Californians. Pouring money into public schools has not helped students. Raising taxes has not improved services. Expanding college curricula that replace academic rigor with what amounts to political indoctrination has not improved employment opportunities for graduates. And creating artificial scarcity in the name of saving the planet has not helped the planet, but it has impoverished millions of California’s most economically vulnerable residents.

In claiming the moral high ground, reformers can use the same rhetoric the elites have employed for decades, and by doing so will find the elites have already done much of their work for them. The seditious goal of making California friendlier to small businesses, with more affordable housing, more affordable energy, better jobs and better schools is furthered by reminding Californians what the elites have done. They have engaged in one of the biggest cons of all time, enriching themselves at the expense of the average worker.

Once the issues of race and environmentalism are exposed as overstated issues, overemphasized in order to manipulate the electorate, then the resentment the elites have inculcated in their constituents can be turned against them.

Pro-growth policies don’t have to rely on terminology that has been tainted by the status-quo elites. “Free market,” “Libertarian,” “Conservative,” “Classical liberal,” etc. have seductive appeal for many ideologically driven reformers, but they have limited value in California politics. Reformers have to supplement their vocabulary, borrowing more from the left than from the right. The values and slogans that the ruling class has invested decades in inculcating in the minds of Californians can be used against them, because these elites have engaged in rank hypocrisy. Terms such as “social justice” and “equity” now have tremendous value to reformers, because reform policies will further those goals, whereas the policies implemented by California’s elite have condemned ordinary people to poverty.

Examples of using terms popular with the left to advance reformer causes:
Social justice – charter schools, teacher accountability
Civil Rights – the right to a quality education in a school chosen by parents
Equity – competitive land development to create affordable housing
Micro-aggression – countless taxes, hidden taxes, fees and regulations
Fairness – prices for energy and water competitive with other states
Progressive – pension benefits with lower percentage formulas for highly paid public employees
Diversity – college curricula that embrace conservative as well as liberal values
Anti-Discrimination – merit based, color blind criteria for hiring and college admissions

A pragmatic, centrist ideology that co-opts the rhetoric of the status-quo elites to attack the ruling class can resist being pigeonholed as left or right, or conservative or socialist. We are pragmatists. We are pro-growth, pro-job Californians and our policies will lead to prosperity, affordable housing, affordable utilities, affordable education, and social justice and equity for all Californians, and not just the elites.

The NEA’s Koch Obsession

The teachers union is determined to purge the Koch brothers from our college campuses.

The National Education Association’s mission to drive Charles and David Koch, the two wealthy philanthropist brothers from Kansas, into the sea is showing no signs of slowing down. According to its latest Labor Department filing, the nation’s biggest union gifted $150,000 (up from a mere $100,000 the year before) to the American Bridge, a leftist hit-PAC whose mission is to annihilate every politico whose politics run to the right of the late Joe Stalin. (Nothing new here: Over the years, NEA has lavished gifts on such leftist stalwarts as MALDEF, People for the American Way, Media Matters, ACORN, Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and Occupy Wall Street.)

The American Bridge’s latest gambit is to remove the Koch brothers’ influence from 250 campuses where they support educational initiatives in economics, philosophy, entrepreneurship, criminal justice and other disciplines. A recent case in point: Mississippi State will soon launch the Institute for Market Studies, which was made possible in part by a $365,000 grant from the Charles Koch Foundation. But before its launch, American Bridge filed an open-records request seeking emails between professors, and between the school’s faculty and the Koch foundation. This is nothing more than an intimidation tactic to discourage the faculty from participating in the venture.

Sadly the above is hardly an isolated incident. “UnKoch My Campus,” another group of NEA fellow travelers, is busy all over the country trying rid our schools of the dreaded brothers. From the NEA website,

Between 2005 and 2013, the billionaire Koch brothers spent at least $68 million on college and university campuses — to fund faculty, research and publications, and to spread their anti-worker gospel to generations of students.

Last week, NEA Higher Ed faculty and staff leaders sat down in a windowless room in Orlando, Fla., and pledged to shine a light on those Koch campus investments — as well as the pernicious effects of the broad ‘corporatization’ of public higher education.

This is about corporate interests trying to control higher education. The Koch brothers are just one of those interests,’ said Theresa Montano, president of NEA’s National Council for Higher Education, who called for greater transparency of where that money goes and what exactly it buys.

After reading the above, one would think that the Kochs want to exploit and corporatize the schools they donate to, and run them as right wing monoliths. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Kochs are libertarians which pretty much rules out the dictator angle. But in another post on the NEA website, we learn the real reason for the NEA’s enmity toward the brothers – the Kochs want to “… limit the rights of teachers, firefighters, police and other public workers through ‘right to work’ legislation and the elimination of fair share.”

There it is! The union dreads the Kochs, not because they want to rule the world but because they have the audacity to want to free workers from being forced to join a union if they don’t choose to. And freedom to the unions is like a crucifix to Dracula. Lindsey Berger, the co-founder of UnKoch My Campus, pretty much admits this. Quoted on the NEA website, she says, “Every dollar spent by Koch in academics is there for a reason.” And then, quoting Charles Koch, “There are basically four ways in which we can fight for free enterprise. Through education, through the media, by legal challenge, and by political action…I do maintain however that the educational route is the most vital and most neglected.”

So in addition to worker freedom, we can add “fighting for free enterprise” as a reason why the union loathes the brothers.

Are the NEA and friends’ attempts at capitalism-bashing effective? It has worked on college campuses where many students are taught that capitalism is the root of all evil (while they enjoy their  many toys and comfy lifestyle that were created by it.) They are also not taught that a competitive market and freedom of speech are inexorably tied, or that the most successful countries in the world employ free markets, or that global poverty has been cut in half in the last 20 years primarily due to capitalism.

As the battles rage on our college campuses, the anti-Koch strategy may not be working so well in the political realm, however. In fact, several Democratic officials have blamed their party’s poor showing in the 2014 election on its obsession with the brothers. “[Attacking the Koch brothers] raises money for sure. But is it good to motivate a voter? No,” said one anonymous state party executive director. Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party chairman Ken Martin said, “Americans are focused on bread and butter issues and could care less about who is funding the campaigns.”

No matter. The NEA won’t stop its assault on the Kochs. The union’s leaders are obsessed to the point of derangement, as worker freedom and free markets are anathema to their existence. The Kochs scare them to death. As well they should.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

CTA in Bed with the Occupy Crowd? LOL!

The California Teachers Association is seeking cover in the Occupy Wall Street movement. The OWS crowd doesn’t understand that CTA and other public employee unions are a major part of the problem.

Last week, part of my post concerned itself with the March 5th “Occupy the Capitol” protest being promoted by the California Teachers Association. I wrote,

“Not only is CTA inviting the OWS rabble, they are calling for teachers to attend, even though it is a school day, thus costing taxpayers all over the state untold thousands in costs for subs and robbing children of a productive school day.”

Little did I know, March 5th was just the tip of the iceberg. The CTA website is now touting a “Week of Action” covering the first seven days of March. Many activities are planned and will be led by various “Occupy” groups that have sprung up like weeds. The result is a grand mishmash of radical organizations coming together to vent their spleen over various and sundry issues, and all links to their activities are available through the CTA website.

Right on the CTA homepage you can access the MarchFirst DayofAction Facebook page which whines about the evils of corporations and privatization.

Then there is March 1 National Day of Action for Education website which blasts,

“We call on all students, teachers, workers, and parents from all levels of education —pre-K-12 through higher education in public and private institutions— and all Occupy assemblies, labor unions, and organizations of oppressed communities, to mobilize on March 1st, 2012 across the country to tell those in power: The resources exist for high-quality education for all.” If we make the rich and the corporations pay we can reverse the budget cuts, tuition hikes, and attacks on job security, and fully fund public education and social services.”

This site, with its clenched fist logo, also has a list of supporting organizations. The roster consists of a motley collection of radical retreads — SDS and MEChA and latter day acolytes – By Any Means Necessary and Occupy groups from all over the country.

Occupy Education California has a list of accomplices on their home page – American Federation of Teachers, California Federation of Teachers, Berkeley Faculty Association, Codepink, La Raza, SDS, Socialist Organizer and Old Lesbians Organizing for Change.

There is even a meet-up page online, so that if you are an OWSer and think that you must “do something,” you can find an event here. (Amazingly, there is a group in Beverly Hills. So I guess after stuffing yourself at Trader Vics, you can go out and rail at the
rich.)

All these groups’ messages are a thinly veiled attack on capitalism and can be summarized as such:

Corporations and rich people bad.
Big government good. They take money from corporations and rich people and give it to us.

Clearly there is a 1960s flavor to all this – a pastiche of angry student groups and serious radicals, but with a new wrinkle, especially in CA – teachers unions and college faculty associations are involved. During the 60s, most unions of any kind wouldn’t be caught dead at protest rallies, but these are different times and different unions. The irony here is palpable. The teachers unions and other public employee unions, barely existent in the 60s, are claiming victimhood, but in reality are a big part of the problem.

One of the mantras of the Occupy crowd is that corporations should pay their fair share.

Do the OWSers know that the California Teachers Association and other teachers unions are corporations with a special 501(c)(5) tax status which means that they pay no tax? Yes, CTA is a corporation that brings in nearly $200 million a year and pays no taxes. Yet, CTA is promoting events that call for corporations to pay their fair share??!! (If anyone reading this blog has the misfortune to get caught up in an Occupy event, why not ask one of the protesters if they think it’s fair that CTA should pay nothing in taxes. Please post their response in the “comments” area below.)

Do the OWSers know that private corporations in the U.S. have a 35 percent tax rate which is the second highest corporate tax rate of all industrialized countries?

Do the OWSers know that many the leaders of the unions they are partnering with make in the neighborhood of $500,000 a year which makes them one percenters?

Do the OWSers understand that corporations are behind their beloved revolutionary accoutrements – smart phones, lap tops, social media websites, etc?

Do the OWSers understand that CA is in deep financial trouble in large part due to overly generous public employee union pension funds and that these funds invest in the stock market (a collection of corporations) to make up for the shortfall?

Do the OWSers and their new best friends in the teachers unions have a clue as to how many teachers have money tied up in 403(b)s? These tax sheltered annuities provide a way for teachers to invest in stocks (corporations) and defer any tax payments on capital gains until after they retire?

The anti-corporate hysteria has spread like wildfire, but corporations are not the problem. CTA and other public employee unions, with their privileged tax exempt status and endless demands on the private sector, are the real greed mongers. Yet CTA et al have the cojones to join forces with the OWSers. And the OWSers are either too uninformed or too brainwashed to realize the irony.

About the author: Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

Steve Jobs vs. Wall St. Whiners and Teachers Unions

Steve Jobs knew how to create wealth. The parasitic Wall Street protesters and teachers unions want to destroy it.

There are many theories as to who is orchestrating the “Occupy Wall Street” protests – known in some circles as “Kamp Alinsky” and “Kamp Kvetch” – in lower Manhattan and elsewhere throughout our country. George Soros? President Obama? Could they possibly be spontaneous?

No matter. The protesters and their message of social justice, socialism and general hatred of all things corporate will not affect the great majority of Americans. The average Joe and Jill are just trying to pay their bills, raise a family and live a decent life. Hence the Wall Street rabble, a motley combination of bored teenagers, old guard lefties and hard core partiers, many armed with iPhones, digital cameras and many other luxuries produced by corporations, are badly missing the mark. As usual, the protesters’ signs tell the story – none more so than the one that says, “A job is a right. Capitalism doesn’t work.” Could any serious types associate with this fringe mentality?

Enter Michael Mulgrew – the United Federation of Teachers president. Speaking “truth to power,” his tax-the-rich talk at a Wall St. rally fit right in with the angry mob that thinks wealth is evil and that if A has more money than B, A owes B some of it. It’s the mentality that thinks that there is no moral difference between Bernie Madoff and Bill Gates.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten couldn’t miss the opportunity to throw in her two cents. As always, beating the victim drum, she whined about our country being on the wrong track and bemoaned the country’s “long term structural inequalities.” Whatever.

What the teachers unions really want is to make sure that every human being walking the planet who wants to be a teacher becomes one. Swelling the roles of the profession – competency be damned – makes the unions as rich and powerful as the corporations they hate for being rich and powerful.

In highly ironic counterpoint, there is the much-too-early passing of the legendary Steve Jobs. One of the visionary founders of Apple Computers, the 56 year old Jobs succumbed to a long bout with pancreatic cancer last week. Jobs and Apple are perfect examples of capitalism at its best. The products Jobs was responsible for added quality and joy to the lives of millions of people around the world. Jobs was also responsible for helping to make many people wealthy – whether they were employees of Apple or just owned stock in the wildly successful company.

What is not known to many is that Jobs, who donated many thousands of computers to schools all over the country, had very pointed views about the American way of not educating our young. Here are just a few –

“I remember seeing a bumper sticker when the telephone company was all one. I remember seeing a bumper sticker with the Bell Logo on it and it said “We don’t care. We don’t have to.” And that’s what a monopoly is. That’s what IBM was in their day. And that’s certainly what the public school system is. They don’t have to care.”

“I believe very strongly that if the country gave each parent a voucher for forty-four hundred dollars that they could only spend at any accredited school, several things would happen. Number one, schools would start marketing themselves like crazy to get students. Secondly, I think you’d see a lot of new schools starting.”

(Referring to education reform) “The problem there of course is the unions. The unions are the worst thing that ever happened to education because it’s not a meritocracy. It turns into a bureaucracy, which is exactly what has happened. The teachers can’t teach and administrators run the place and nobody can be fired. It’s terrible.”

It is terrible. The above comments could come out of a modern day education reformer’s handbook. However, Mr. Jobs uttered these wise words in April, 1995 – and the past 16 years have done nothing to invalidate them. The unions are still the worst thing that ever happened to education and we definitely need more school choice.

Mr. Jobs understood that competition and capitalism make the world a better place. The teachers unions are a special interest whose narrow focus benefits the few at the expense of the many. Is it any wonder then that Mulgrew, Weingarten and other union bosses associate themselves with the anti-capitalist freeloaders, socialists and losers who have nothing better to do with their time than to spew hatred at Wall Street?

About the author: Larry Sand is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.