So we can hear the wolves howling in the forest now. They begin to circle.

The deliberate devastation by Rick Perry Republicans of public school funding in Texas is probably going to spell the end of the magnet school system and bring horrendous classroom overcrowding to Dallas public schools, along with massive flight from public schools in the fast-growing affluent suburbs.

None of it is an accident. All of it was foreseen and predicted five years ago with uncanny accuracy.

But the assault about to destroy the public school system is only part of the story. We are in the midst of a radical transformation of our entire society, rapidly making America a Second World nation.

Taking data from the CIA World Factbook, the U.S. Department of Labor and a variety of respected mainstream international sources, columnist Charles Blow compiled a sobering graphic, published in The New York Times February 18, demonstrating that the United States, in a list of 33 advanced economies, is now:

•Almost last, exceeded only by Singapore and Hong Kong, in "income disparity"—the gap between rich and middle class.

•Sharing last place with South Korea for "food insecurity"—the percentage of people answering yes when asked if there has been a time in the last 12 months when they couldn't afford to buy food for their families.

•In deep last place in terms of the number of citizens in prison per 100,000 population, with more than twice the ratio of the runner-up, Israel, and 12 times the number in Japan.

Sarah Palin wants everybody to know how "exceptional" America is. Maybe we should keep it under our hats.

Two compelling books have been published in the last three years about these terrible trends—the first, The Predator State, by James K. Galbraith, an economist at the LBJ School of Public Affairs in Austin; the second, Winner-Take-All Politics, by Jacob S. Hacker, a political scientist at Yale, and Paul Pierson, a political scientist at University of California-Berkeley.

Both books paint pictures of a creeping political and economic devastation underway since the 1970s, chewing at the very fabric of post-World War II American democratic prosperity. Both books persuasively debunk the notion that the cause has been in any way natural, accidental or irresistibly market-driven.

The authors chart specific turning points in this process and name names of the people who made it happen. Hacker and Pierson paint them as corporate and financial buccaneers who figured out somewhere between Nixon and Clinton that Democrats in Congress are every bit as feckless and corruptible as Republicans.

Galbraith, the son of John Kenneth Galbraith, describes these new robber barons as predators with "no intrinsic loyalty to any country"—sworn enemies, in fact, of the very concept of community.

"As an ideological matter," he writes, "it is fair to say that the very concept of public purpose is alien to, and denied by, the leaders and the operatives of this coalition."

Both books show how the new predator class has used lobbying power in Washington and the state capitols to divert immense income to their own purses—not only through tax policy but also in the all-important areas of business and financial regulation and union-busting.

Why would we Americans have allowed this to happen? One theory is that we have allowed them to turn us against ourselves. We see the Tea Party, financed by oligarchs like the Koch brothers, choreographed by operatives like Dick Armey, in which pathetic, ordinary, white middle-class Americans have been convinced that their enemy is black socialism.

We see the saga unfolding in Wisconsin, in which private-sector workers, out of work and no longer protected by unions, are persuaded that their enemies are public-sector workers, still working and still in unions.

But one might wonder if the oligarchs even need to divide us in order to conquer. Another new book, The Net Delusion, by Evgeny Morozov, tells a story about research carried out in East Germany after the collapse of the wall. It may be instructive.

The portions of East Germany where people were able to watch two popular American TV series, Dallas and Dynasty, were far more comfortable with communism and the East German regime before the wall came down than more remote areas impenetrable to West German TV signals. Turns out TV was the opiate of the masses, not religion.

Someone might think that's all we Americans need—some good shows, a six-pack, little bit of weed and a La-Z-Boy. I choose to believe that is untrue and that we do care deeply, about our families and about our country.

Yet the warnings of this crisis about to engulf us in our own public school system in Dallas were so uncannily specific. Five years ago when Texas Governor Rick Perry led the way to gut property tax support for schools, then-State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn warned the legislature it was writing "the largest hot check in Texas history."

Strayhorn looked at the amount the Republicans were chopping from property taxes. Then she looked at the amount by which proposed new business taxes were clearly inadequate. She predicted the total state budget shortfall would be $23 billion in five years.

This is five years. The deficit is $27 billion.

Perry managed to paper it over for two years by engaging in ludicrous hypocrisy over the Obama stimulus funds—refusing to dirty his right hand with the money while he palmed the money in the other hand to stave off the inevitable.

The 2010-2011 Dallas school budget is slated at $1.2 billion. But because the state is at least $27 billion in the hole, it won't come close to meeting the existing formula for state aid to local districts. As a result, the Dallas district faces a shortfall in its own budget of at least $168 million and maybe as much as $253 million, or 21 percent of its total budget.

At a February 10 briefing, the school board was presented with options including firing 3,100 teachers from a total of 10,704 now employed, the sacking of 800 other support personnel and deep cuts in contracted services and supplies. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa told the board to be prepared for school closings in 2013, especially of "small schools," which some are taking as code for the entire magnet school system.

Not that the big urban school districts are being singled out. Right now the state plans not to pay districts any new money for new students. Every new student will be a hole in a district's pocket—a savage penalty for growth.

I tried to spend some time last week talking to thoughtful people about education reform—State Senator Florence Shapiro, chair of the education committee, Sandy Kress, a fellow at the Bush Institute, and several activist parents here in the Dallas school system.

Most of them were a little reluctant to be drawn into a big conversation about reform at this moment. I felt like I was strolling the deck of the Titanic on that fateful night, trying to engage people in a chat about possible improvements to navigation—a good way to earn yourself a knuckle sandwich.

There does seem to be broad bipartisan agreement that public education money is spent stupidly and counter-productively under the existing system and culture. Shapiro said the system pays money based almost entirely on attendance—the child's physical presence in a seat—not on mastery or learning. She quoted author Michael Horn, who has said that the current system is set up to "measure and reward the wrong end of the student."

On that score Shapiro, a conservative Republican from Plano, finds herself agreeing with Arne Duncan, Obama's education secretary. "Education is more about the child than it is about a Republican or Democrat perspective," she said.

In Dallas, there are awe-inspiring examples of efforts by parents to fix schools at a grassroots level. But here's the thing. Take, for example, Woodrow Wilson High School in East Dallas, where parents have joined to support an innovative principal in creating the city's first public International Baccalaureate program. If teacher cutbacks this year are anywhere near the levels under discussion right now at school headquarters, that program too will be annihilated.

In a way, discussion of reform is its own kind of blind alley or trick right now—like talking about the need for more civility when you're under aerial bombardment. This is an engineered crisis—a thing that was done on purpose by people who do not mean well for our community, our city, our state or nation.

This country is being subverted by a cabal of ultra-rich-ocrats. They will not be satisfied until they have extinguished all of the democratic communal principles and traditions that made America great.

The lie we are told is that it is "class-resentment" and therefore morally wrong even to point to what has happened already, let alone what looms ahead. Guess what. It's class resentment and morally right. Right as hell.

There's a great story in the February 21 edition of The Nation about a growing Tea-Party-like movement in the United Kingdom. But this one, instead of a ruse to immobilize the middle class by stirring racial animosity and fear, is aimed right at the bull's eye.

"Enraged citizens gather in every city, week after week—to demand the government finally regulate the behavior of corporations and the super-rich, and force them to start paying taxes," the article reports. "The protesters shut down the shops and offices of the companies that have most aggressively ripped off the country.

"The swelling movement is made up of everyone from teenagers to pensioners. They surround branches of the banks that caused this crash and force them to close, with banners saying, 'You caused this crisis. Now YOU pay.'"

We Americans are going to have to rise up from our La-Z-Boys and take to the cobblestones. The cobblestones are where we come from, after all. We won't have to burn anything to put the fear of God in the predators. Just show them our torches.

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68 comments
NONE
NONE

The public school system is a product of the Democratic Party. Year after year of failing school performance has proven beyond ANY doubt that slinging more and more money at a failed enterprise, without any MAJOR total makeover with clear and measurable demands of the venture, does nothing to improve education...in TEXAS or anywhere else.

So blame Perry, blame the GOP, blame God or Allah or Satan....but the kids in schools have NO pre school education from parents, not consistent discipline at home, and they are bored and resistent to being taught anything. So more money, less money, smaller classes, larger classes, new or old buildings...makes no difference. There was a time when all Texas kids went to school, unaircondioned, and with no teacher assistants, no ESL classes, and had a full load of academics....and they did their homework, and if they acted up, they got swift and meaning full discipline....both at school and when they got home.

So stop moaning about money and pretending that that is going to get kids educated. It is NOT the problem....always the media and the slow minded look for a single, simple solution to a huge cultural and societal, complex problem that has been around and unsolved for YEARSA

JAMES
JAMES

BIG BROTHER HAS BEEN TRYING TO DUMB DOWN THE PEOPLE FOR YEARS BY IMPORTING DRUGS AND CUTTING EDUCATION. TEXAS COLLEGES HAVE GRADUATES WHO CAN'T EVEN SPELL. MANY OF OUR SCHOOL TEACHERS DON'T KNOW CORRECT GRAMMAR OR SPELLING.THEY JUST SAT IN CLASS UNTIL THEY GOT THEIR DIPLOMAS.

Fannan2003
Fannan2003

We don't have the intelligence or the cajones to follow Great Britian's example. I don't know what it's going to take to slap the sense back into America. The dismantling of the public schools is not only OK with a lot of my right wing acquaintances, but child labor is a far better use of our children (esp. minority ones) than teaching them to read, write or become human beings. Life is cheap in Texas, esp. if you're not rich, white and male.

M Hagar
M Hagar

One of the best explanations why Texas has such a large deficit when we have followed Rick Perry's economic policy for ten years. We took the bait and took it hook, line and sinker. Perhaps "King" Perry's crown is getting very tarnished.

L. Lee
L. Lee

Thank you for writing this. If you take up with torches and a movement, I'll hand out flyers and get people off their sofas and away from their tvs, Dynasty and Dallas.

Whitman1
Whitman1

Sounds a lot like the pre-modern Roman Empire. As long as the common people got their games (gladiatorial then, March Madness and the Super Bowl now), they were happy and allowed the elites to do what they wanted. Problem is, most of us know what happened to the empire eventually. Because of the American attitude toward education, caused by parents, not teachers, I can't even say that we ALL know what happened to the empire.

Joshua
Joshua

JUDGE BAREFOOT SANDERS TOOK CARE OF THAT, JIM...BACK IN THE EARLY 1970s. What COMMUNITY are YOU talking about? Same as Hilliary's "VILLAGE?"

Sherry Golightly
Sherry Golightly

@do it: I agree that our laws need to be enforced, don't doubt that for a minute. However, what you're bemoaning - bilingual classrooms and textbooks - is just a drop in the bucket. It's also part and parcel of the propaganda that's been used to obscure the real issue. Our real problem isn't illegal aliens or people who are different or who require a little extra help. Our real problems are the wealthy, elitists robber barons, who keep planting that seed and fomenting that fear in the minds of average citizens to distract those same citizens from the fact that they're raping our culture, robbing us all blind and killing our country. We need to focus our angst and animosity on the disease, not the pharmaceutically engineered symptom.

Sherry Golightly
Sherry Golightly

Thank you for writing this article. I hope that people will read it and wake up. I keep hearing that the "wealthy should be exempt from paying taxes because they create jobs." Really? Then why do we still have so much wealth concentrated at the top and near double digit unemployment? How many jobs do Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie create (manicurists,stylists and tanning bed operators are already numbered elsewhere)? If trickle down economics really works, why is there such a pay disparity between CEO's and the average vested employee? If trickle down economics and deregulation are the be-all-end-all answers to all our woes, then how the heck did we end up in this mess? You know, I'd love to see the comprehensive list of companies/individuals who are the engineers on our train ride to hell, published with the correct corresponding numbers. I want to know exactly who all I should be protesting...

Daveryan_08
Daveryan_08

Something to think about. People like to say, "In our days America was great and we (babyboomers) are the backbone of this country that made it what it is today."

To all you babyboomers, you are the ones who left them get away with this. Now we (the youth) have to clean up your mess. I'm not complaining though, it's only karma

Dgg36
Dgg36

Schutze, thanks for confirming what I've been saying for a long time. And yet, people are allowing this nationwide imperialist injustice to slowing swallow us up and to spread globally, administration after administration. We are either/or/all complacent, propagandized or wilfully ignorant masses.

Lonestardjz
Lonestardjz

I been saying this to people for a few months. That our society is being turned into a blue collar mentality. Be happy for what ever some multi-billion corporation gives you in the form of jobs. Work longer for less money. Do not question when out elected Government makes laws that protect and serve corporate interest and not people or the work force. If we have less educated people we transform our country into a nation of laborers and by default uneducated. If our society does not invest in schools. You have to know that jails and prisons will be the future of business. Privatized jails are the sure investments of the future.

yeah, I said that
yeah, I said that

Most likely, all of us have Facebook accounts. We all need to post this great article on our walls and show others around the country that there are a FEW of us left who are concerned and support those who speak up like JS. Come on, let's post!

do it
do it

A fact we can not afford to teach bialingual any more Amnesty has been going on for DECADES the price of paying for these special teachers and books etc.. to much !We cannot afford Henahosa who can't do simple math.BOTTOM LINE THE LAW OF THE LAND NEEDS ENFORCING !

Ann
Ann

If the people in Congress were held to the same standards as the rest of us mere mortals who pay taxes, are forced to buy health care or be penalized, are unemployed or underemployed, worry about how to pay our bills, worry about how our children and grandchildren are going to fare, etc., we wouldn't have the mess we have in this country. The middle class of former times are the people who made this country what it once was in greatness. Now the jobs are farmed out to other countries, the welfare mentality has reared its ugly head to force redistribution of our wealth and resources, and politicians are susceptible to being bribed by lobbyists and entitlements. We need to take America back. Both political parties are corrupt. We need people in Washington who will vote the wishes of the people of America--not feather their own nests and accept bribes and favoritism.

M23
M23

Good luck trying to pry ordinary Americans from their La Z Boys and their American Idol. We are all too complacent and will not act against anything that requires effort. That's the American Way.

Bevoer
Bevoer

Neo-conservatism, the prevailing political theory of the past decade has, as one of its tenants, the stratification of socio economic classes. The book by Douglas Murray IN SUPPORT of NC, is a proponent of cutting access to higher education by way of cutting student funding. He also is a proponent of cutting funding to all but "flagship" universities, and suggests that all others attend trade schools. Access to education is the key to upward mobility (and understanding the fallacy of supply side economics), and that is why it is something that has taken a beating in the last decade.

This is none but the fault of the middle class. Many have been talked into voting against their self interest through the acceptance of a recycled trickle down theory. Some have allowed religious or moral ideology to convince them to vote against their own self interests, and most just don't have the grasp of macroeconomics to understand why their $1000.00 dollars of tax cuts pales in comparison to the income they don't even know they're losing.

Schutze, this is now a soundbite world and if you can't articulate your argument in a short phrase, your message is lost. Unfortunately the right answers usually involve nuance and macro-concepts.

"How does a television work?"

Person A = " vacuum tubes containing an electron gun (a source of electrons) and a fluorescent screen, with internal or external means to accelerate and deflect the electron beam..."

"Next"

Person B = "It works by magic"

"That guy sounds like a decisive leader"

Samchandra
Samchandra

What a shallow, black and white, one dimensional article - causes me to wonder about your mind.

Rivdiv9
Rivdiv9

this writer is a liberal idiot. calling tea party white trash .. your a fucking idiot, and a main part of the problems this country has is because of fools like yourself. but you will never see it. blind hateful fools.

Owen Knapp
Owen Knapp

take the big pay checks out of government give life imprisonment to those who deal with corperations and take thair kikbacks its simple take the big money out of politics and u will have those who want to do good for the people in office

EastDallasite
EastDallasite

Hmmm.... how 'come Catholic Schools can deliver a better education at 1/2 the cost? And I AM talking about un-subsidized cost - NOT paid by the church. Cost divided by students. What I have observed is: parents that are interested and accountable (your kid gets kicked out if they misbehave and you are writing a check every month), and the schools have alot less staff/adminstration/sweetheart construction projects. The money reaches the classrooms.

cactusflinthead
cactusflinthead

Good stuff. Outside the Bidness school down in Austin is the statue of the Nuclear Family, strangely that unit is being dissolved by the very system that it purports to uphold. People are dumb asses and I do not see it getting any better. They will blindly follow Norquist and Dick Armey right into the gaping maw of the Koch brothers. Strayhorn was cut out of the picture because she had the guts to call it right. The SBOE is populated by idiots that want to gut education not improve it. The Lege is full of neanderthals and charlatans that want to see a complete dissolution of public education. The only hope I see is that some judge somewhere will stand up and do something to prevent this from happening. Not likely, but I don't expect the Republicans to ever show any sort of responsibility for what they did five minutes ago much less five years.

Mvictorson
Mvictorson

This is exactly why we need a true Revolution like what happened in France in 1789 - the American "Revolution" was just a playground argument between two groups of oligarchs. It would be so nice to see "Madame Guillotine" back in action - where is a true man of virtue like Robspierre when we citizens need him to exterminate enemies of the state - we need leader like him - a man of true virtue who will compromise nothing to extinguish the Aristocracy and has the moral courage to do the brutal things that must be done to establish a second and true Republic here in the uS

richard schumacher
richard schumacher

The end point of this process is modern feudalism: the US, if not the world, will consist of a few heavily-defended private islands of fantastic wealth and power sticking up here and there from a sea of shit. I wonder whether our overlords will like the smell.

Jimmy Miller
Jimmy Miller

Do more with less. There is a ton of waste at DISD. It's not the tax payers fault that DISD can't run leaner.

Real Estate Dude
Real Estate Dude

If you really want to get the rich to start paying their share, address the issue of taxable values of real estate. Many of the supper rich in Texas live in multi-million dollar homes that are taxed at values WELL below their actual market values, even after the housing meltdown. I'm talking about 5 million dollar homes valued at 2 million on tax rolls. At a 3% overall tax rate that's $90,000 in lost tax revenue from one home. Yet, we are still a non-disclosure state when a home sells. No one has to report the actual sales price to the tax agencies. So they guess and usually guess low, especially on the super-high end homes. Call your folks in Austin and tell them to make Texas a full-disclosure state and you'll be AMAZED at how much money Texas is missing out on that it should be collecting already under existing laws.

RobHogue
RobHogue

Yes, Milton Friedman's corporate theocracy taught us that enriching billionaires by borrowing money from Chinese and Japanese industrialists is the antidote to FDR. Oh, and by the way, say Friedman and his fellow free-marketeers, sign your children and grandchildren to the mortgage -- no sense in paying for it ourselves.

Jimmy Swagger
Jimmy Swagger

The Predator State is a free market trashing book put out by Galbraith to restore his father's work post Milton Friedman. The book is full of so many unprovable assertions that even the NYTimes gave it a bad review. Yawn. I'm so surprised to see it rehashed in the DO.

RobHogue
RobHogue

The stateless corporate cabal is hiding in plain sight. Their ideological champion, Grover Norquist, has openly called for bankrupting government. "Starve the beast," say GOP standardbearers like Norquist and Dick Armey. And so the gargantuan shift of national wealth from the public sector to the private sector, first begun under Reagan, continues unabated. Jim Schutze is right -- the current funding crises are occurring by design, not by accident.

RobHogue
RobHogue

Jim Schutze's best article in years. Robert Reich is saying the same thing. These two commentators get it. A cabal of stateless corporate criminals made up their minds that the U.S. should be like Mexico, rather than like . . . well, the U.S. What the Rick Perrys and the Rupert Murdochs of the world want is fifteen hundred or so billionaires, and everyone else living in a shantytown.

Pipblack
Pipblack

You will need to begin with Barney Franks and his boyfriend.

Joshua
Joshua

You should get a job, help out others, and STFU for starters.

Joshua
Joshua

You can start right after you finish getting your next tattoo, body piercing, playing a round of Doom, taking a nap, meeting your buds for vodka jello shots, doing the nasty with whatever winds up on your bed, bitching about no good job, taking a nap, surfing Facebook and Twittering your homies.....yeah....we COUNT ON YOU REALLY CLEANING UP SOMETHING...like your ROOM....???

Sherry Golightly
Sherry Golightly

@ yeah, I said that: I did exactly that. I also pasted a link into an e-mail message and sent it to everyone on my mailing list.

JimS
JimS

Samchandra: why not offer the missing dimensions instead of an ad hominem rant?

Hthope
Hthope

They educate, by choice, only a portion of the population. They don't educate children with special needs or learning differences, children who don't know English, homeless children, or very many low-income children.

Roadsidecouch
Roadsidecouch

We called that statue "The reason we had to get married".

JimS
JimS

always kind of liked Robespierre. The original scholarship boy.

Montemalone
Montemalone

The Vinaigrette will make a comeback.

Sharon
Sharon

Well if it were just DISD having money problems I might tend to agree with you, but every school district in the state is looking at chopping teachers to make ends meet. Where's the logic in that? Our children are the future of this here screwed up nation and yet we want to cheat them out of a decent education so that they are set up to fail...guess you'd rather be a citizen of China? That's where this nation is headed if we don't change things and fast.

JimS
JimS

JimmY: Roger Lowenstein wrote the review two years ago. Even though he clearly disagreed with Galbraith's basic take on life, he admitted the book had given him pause.In the review, Lowenstein says: "In other words, if it works, it's the residue of Franklin Roosevelt and Galbraith's dad; if it fails, it's the market's fault. That seemed preposterous when I first read it; but in the wake of the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, when all of Wall Street could be headed for a bailout, one wonders."I wonder what the same reviewer would say now.

Leslie
Leslie

like schutz just wrote, you are being manipulated. divided into generational enemies.

Sam
Sam

rant? ad hominem? thanks for attacking me Jim - very helpful

Doug
Doug

Probably because a deconstruction of the foolishness of the basic argument of the article would be at least as long as the article itself. For starters, blaming the current fiscal problem on some Vast Right-wing Conspiracy is a complete fabrication. It was caused by the school funding court decision, the ridiculous school funding system that case caused and a recession. That, and the stupidity of using one-off stimulus money to give teachers raises, which is obviously a recurring expense. I think the teachers deserved the raise, but you need to cover recurring expenses with recurring revenue.

It never ceases to amaze how much those on the left can't simply disagree, but must invent some evil conspiracy to feed their need to hate their opponents.

bdkern
bdkern

DISD is in much worse shape than most of the surrounding communities. That makes it the fault of DISD.

Someone mentioned $12,000/child. If that's the actual amount being spent each year now, then there IS a real problem. My kids started in private school and recently went to public. I was paying in thousands a years via my property taxes and it was being spent on others. I was also paying thousands a year to my private schools, but never even close to $12,000/year. My kids were getting a good education, but I also feel they're getting a good education in RISD now, which spends less than DISD.

DISD spends more than most of the surrounding school systems and yet has one of the highest drop-out rates. First and foremost, parent(s), or lack thereof, are to blame. Teachers have a very tough job when there is no support at home. Unfortunately, the same people who don't support their kids are the first to blame the schools. That is plain ignorance. Next, you blame the schools, and sometimes the teachers, who have forgotten why they got into teaching in the first place and no longer care much about how to better engage the kids. The ones that still care are obvious, because the kids love them.

The bottom line is, the price keeps going up, because its easier to through money at it, and it's obviously NOT working. Next, you get those who care together to brain-storm ideas about what can be fixed and where costs can be cut; likely mostly in Administrative areas.

Time to start the meetings!

JimS
JimS

Oh, Jimmy, almost forgot. What do you intend by, "EVEN the NYT...?"

 
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