And the Hits Keep Coming….

Well, so far we’ve seen no sign of Donald Trump becoming more “Presidential.” In between his appointments of truly horrifying men to his cabinet, he continues to tweet petulant rejoinders to criticism and to whine about “unfair” media coverage;  those childish behaviors have distracted attention from his equally disastrous policy agenda.

To the (very limited) extent that Trump advanced policy proposals during the campaign, those proposals centered upon privatizing government functions. When you drill down on his promise to address America’s decaying infrastructure, for example, what you find is a scheme to give huge tax write-offs to private contractors, who would be expected to finance and repair our bridges, roads and sewers; essentially, his plan sells infrastructure to private interests.

As Josh Marshall writes at Talking Points Memo, 

There will be a mix of tax giveaways and and corporate welfare to incentivize private sector infrastructure spending. And there is good reason to think that most of those giveaways will simply be pocketed for spending that was already happening. In other words, big giveaways, more budget busting without even getting the benefit of new stuff or spurring demand.

As depressing as that particular “bait and switch” proposal is–after all, America desperately needs a massive infrastructure investment–it pales beside Trump’s promise to spend twenty billion dollars on a school choice initiative.

Twenty billion dollars is a lot of money. Although Trump hasn’t been specific about the source of those dollars (surprise!), it appears he intends to take it from the $15.5 billion currently going to Title I grants for districts and the $12 billion currently going to state grants for special education.

Raiding those two pots of money would be devastating to districts serving poor children and those with special needs, and there are significant practical, political and legal impediments to such a program. Even if those impediments could be overcome, however, a massive new effort to privatize–or more accurately, abandon– the nation’s public schools is exactly the wrong thing to do.

I know I sound like a broken record, but voucher proponents fail to understand both the mission and importance of public education. They see schools as “vendors” providing a consumer product called marketable skills– as places to train the nation’s workforce.

Providing students with marketable skills is important, but it isn’t education. And it most definitely is not preparation for life in a diverse democratic culture. Public schools have a civic mission; as Benjamin Barber once put it, they are constitutive of a public.

Abandoning our public schools and privatizing other essential government functions is tempting to lazy legislators and administrators alike, because it’s easy. It doesn’t require actually knowing enough about the function or mission involved to accurately analyze the problems, marshal the necessary resources, or do the hard work of fixing what’s wrong.

Unfortunately, easy answers are almost never the right answers. It turns out that when  public officials contract out government functions, they are still responsible for the results, and they typically lack the resources and expertise needed to properly monitor the contractor. The ensuing mistakes are costly, both politically and financially.

It also turns out that privatized schools and ill-conceived public-private partnerships have just as many problems and failures as public schools and projects, if not more–and they have the added negative effect of hollowing out government’s ability to function in important dimensions of our communal life.

Having raised children doesn’t equip me to offer child development services. Having run a business doesn’t equip someone to manage–or even understand– government. Trump is proving that point.


  1. The goal of businesses is to make a profit. Private schools do not exist solely for the purpose to educate. Look at the failures of for-profit universities and the abuse of students’ finances. We, the taxpayers, have been paying for those profits that are/were gifts to stockholders.

    Our future under Trump is making me more depressed by the day. Everything I read from economic analysts says that his trade policies will further gut the working class and give tax. Reaks and subsidies to corporations – ultimately increasing our already outsized welfare to corporations.

  2. Congress will have something to say about these schemes. Time for all of us to put our representatives (primarily Republican representatives) on speed dial.

    It occurs to me that just because Trump is walking away from some of his “promises” it doesn’t mean that the majority in the House or Senate will not take up where he left off. Going after Hillary for one thing. And with that rabid evangelical Pence over the Senate the theocrates will push for no separation between church and state.

  3. It is apparent that training workers to do the business of private corporations has become the primary goal of education policies. As I have commented before, a billboard on I70 just outside of Richmond Indiana touts the work benefits available to us in a list of Indiana’s public universities. There is no mention of the need for an informed, educated public to meet the needs of promoting and selecting citizen leaders in the public forum of governance at all levels.

    Corporations now expect the public to build and support the training of their workers to their specific market needs. They are given tax deferments or exemptions, public infrastructure to build and support their enterprises, suspension of environmental protections and now a fully trained workforce all on the public dole. In the meantime, the rapid pace of change in technology will make many of the skills taught to workers/students obsolete very quickly. With no general knowledge of how to think critically, identify and solve problems in the workplace and, most especially, in their private lives and the public square, workers become dispensable numbers to be manipulated for profit.
    The corporations have no loyalty to anything but profit and no ethical qualms about discarding the tools that they no longer need to get to market dominance and obscene profits that give them more access to power.

  4. Theresa; yes, Congress with have something to say about Trump’s schemes but…”Congress” translates to the “Republican party” as we know. They have spent almost eight years upholding all that McConnell, Boehner, now Ryan put before them. Should we even hope the will suddenly gather the courage to uphold the part of their sworn oath to support and protect their constituents? Matthew Tully’s column in the Star today, “Will Bosma keep the Statehouse sane in ’17?”. I wasn’t aware the Indiana Statehouse has been “sane” for years.

    “And the hits keep coming…”
    A banner on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC this morning read, “66% of Americans believe Trump will bring change”. That was a trick questions with a loaded result. I believe we all KNOW Trump will bring change but…what will those changes be and how many Americans will suffer for those changes? His recommended appointees answers my questions and increased my fears for all Americans.

    While I received no response, pro or con, to my request for voters to Google to contact state electors asking them to change their vote on December 19th; I found a response on the front page of the USA Today sample edition in the Star. “Electors say they’re under siege”, and “Republicans bombarded by thousands of pleas by letter, email, phone to switch their vote”. A highlighted quote “It’s bizarre. I don’t dare answer my phone.” by Sharon Geise, elector from Mesa, AZ points to the fact that this entire election year and especially the presidential results have been nothing but “bizarre”. The President-elect and his First Lady are bizarre as are those members of his cabinet appointees. Newt Gingrich recommended reenactment of the House unAmerican Activities Committee; I suggest, if that happens, they begin and the top and work they way down through the Republican administration.

  5. JoAnn,

    It has been one thing for Republicans to stand together to make the BLACK president fail. It will be another thing to stand together when there are spoils to divide.

  6. I must apologize for the typos I missed in my self-editing on my comments. This election has me bamboozled as to how the campaign, let alone the results, happened in this country. I am more and more afraid, loss of appetite and sleep; I posted a comment on Facebook for people sending for the free bumper sticker, “I didn’t vote for Trump” be think before posting it on their vehicles. It could make them targets for the open carry Trump supporters. I have contacted an old friend from Mayor Hudnut’s administration era, asking how to start a grassroots effort in my own neighborhood, beginning with the Blacks who are keeping themselves separate. Now is the time for us to organize, even on our small neighborhood level, to work together. All of those Trump signs, in the yards of many Catholic Republicans, people (with one exception along with my lesbian friends) have rebuffed my efforts of simple neighborly friendship for 11 1/2 years. We have spoken of the importance of “organization” on this blog; hopefully my friend, the former Administrative Assistant at Citizens Multi-Service Center, can help me begin.

  7. Congress has jumped on the train and now all seems to be rosy for even those who were wringing their hands when it was candidate Trump. Suddenly we have come from Trump hijacking the republican party to Trump transforming it – win at any cost is still # 1. However, the problem is that nothing has changed except republican perception and worry has now turned to gloating.

    It’s amusing that Trump is already complaining about the press. Welcome to the presidency and unlike your African-American predecessor, you won’t have to endure the bigotry of congress during your term on top of the press.

  8. Start now for 2018. There will be more Democratic seats up in the Senate than Republican. We need to hold all of those and take some Republican seats. Work on getting better candidates for the House as well. I can guarantee that the new Congress will not do anything to impede Trump’s progress in implementing everything they’ve longed for for years.

  9. So we should turn education over to business? I’m thinking the idea is bankrupt not unlike to many of Trump’s business ventures. Oh well they will be able to write it off on corporate taxes and the public will be left holding the bag. Uneducated future adults who will inherit a big tax burden.

  10. I have blogged for infrastructure repair and renewal along with bullet trains and other improvements to corridors of commerce and transportation and the like for years, wanting such programs so badly that I was willing to deficit finance the projects as investments rather than spending while waiting in good Keynesian and New Deal fashion for the improvements to pay themselves off. (See FDR’s TVA and Ike’s interstate highway programs.) I should have guessed that Trump’s plan on the infrastructure (on which I had advised only selective obstruction) would be another giveaway to the rich and more taxes and/or liability to pay future deficits for the rest of us, including but not limited and albeit indirectly to even paying for the tax credits he proposes to those building and financing the various projects. Such revenues from chosen contractors for the various projects are absolutely essential to repayment of the investments made, without which the deficit (especially with his promise of a general tax reduction) will balloon, which in turn will call for the Republican deficit hawks in Congress to demand cuts and/or other draconian measures in their favorite targets, i.e., social security, Medicare et al. In view of the specifics of his proposal, I now find myself opposed to repair and renewal of our infrastructure (at least via his “plan”),a statement I never thought I would make. I have also now moved my perspective from that of selective obstruction to general obstruction since he apparently wants to treat the American people as an ATM machine to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. I propose that we give him the same treatment McConnell and Ryan gave Obama until he sees the light, if ever. Better gridlock than a failed state. . . .

  11. It’s the end game for capitalism and the end of the Republic. A free people become a slave race, too ignorant to pull themselves out of their misery.

  12. Thank you for saying what many pundits haven’t-the infrastructure plans is for privatizing the work with breaks for the companies and, likely, tolls and tax increases for us.

    A separate rant-I am tired if hearing how Trump and everything he is doing isn’t normal. Of course, it’s not and it’s not going to be! I am clinging to Maya Angelou’s words: When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time.”

  13. As I watched the news report about the horrible loss of life for the children on the bus in Chattanooga, I wondered if that driver was working for a contractor? Sure enough…it’s true. Those poor families lost their children to someone that was irresponsible and hazardous and wasn’t even employed by the school corporation. So now what happens? Those families have a right to sue but it won’t be the school corporation. They will pass off the blame to the company instead. This is just one example of what happens when you off-shore responsibilities to private companies. That reminds me of the contractor that was working at Walmart on Black Friday a couple of years ago where someone got trampled to death and Walmart just walked away from the responsibility because it was not one of their own. I don’t remember hearing the outcome of that case.

  14. Keep in mind that both parties roundly disavowed Trump and declared him completely unfit for any office. Progressives have stayed with that diagnosis but when regressives found out that one can get well paid for sex by votes they put the big smile on and now bear it. Pence has now replaced Malenia as opportunist of the century.

    This will sort out into those who serve him vs those who don’t. He’s now the top hyena on America’s carcass. He get’s first dibs on our bones. Those who serve him get what he leaves behind. We in HRC’s solid majority get to be dinner, not at dinner.

    There will of course be massive consequences for the world. Just like the massive consequences of ignoring climate science we will regret our collective ignorance, but too late to avoid it.

    We have to focus on the rebuilding chapter. That could come as early as in four years but in that time Herr Trump will be consolidating power so elections may not be a strong enough force.

    My hope is that Obama will save us spiritually as he did economically. He will stay in the game. He will lead the resistance. He will help us find the way.

  15. Pete; the Republicans disavowed him, they didn’t support him, many declared him unfit for office but they VOTED for him. A prime example of “Talk is cheap.” It cost them nothing to speak out in public; but their actions at the polls is costing us dearly and – we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet! Prepare for privatization on a national level as we have never seen before with prices forcing us to do without or choosing between necessities to live. Maybe we all need to sit through showings of two movies with major messages, “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Soylent Green” as reminders of what was and what possibly will be.

  16. Well, Hil is now over 2 million popular votes beyond Trump. How very sad that not one of those votes will take her any closer to the Oval Office. Think it’s time to dump Trump and the Electoral College? No real relief right now, but the future could be a lot brighter for all of us. Maya Angelou also said, “When you know better, you do better.” We can hope!

  17. So; while we debate the issues on the blog and check the latest news and gossip on Facebook, Trump is busy bankrupting New York City and planning the privatization of the presidency. Happy Thanksgiving!

  18. “Raiding those two pots of money would be devastating to districts serving poor children and those with special needs, and there are significant practical, political and legal impediments to such a program. Even if those impediments could be overcome, however, a massive new effort to privatize–or more accurately, abandon– the nation’s public schools is exactly the wrong thing to do.”

    Diane Rehm’s show on NPR this morning was about dementia and Alzheimer’s. One of the findings of the latest very large, multi-year study of those between 65 to 100 yrs old showed a link between education and wealth to the development of those conditions. The poor children and those with special needs will have yet another impediment added to their burden if public school funding is gutted for the benefit of those with religious and wealth advantage through the voucher system. That system was always about segregation from its inception. Its aim has always been to allow privilege to be maintained for racial, religious, financial and, now we know, health reasons.

  19. OMG – Betsy Devos from Michigan is the pick for Sec’y of Ed. She is a long-time supporter of vouchers with NO accountability for the private schools or for charter schools either. She spent a million dollars on a campaign to keep the legislature from demanding such accountability. Michigan has one of the worst track records on charter mismanagement, but her agenda is complete privatization of K-12 education.

  20. Nancy Papas; Betsy Devos’ appointment by Trump as Secretary of Education prompted me to send my THIRD E-mail to the Indiana Electoral College members. I will continue sending these messages; I am a stubborn old broad who doesn’t give up easy. The Thanksgiving holiday is no reason NOT to continue fighting to oust Trump from the presidency; in fact, it is a primary reason to continue trying, to keep safe the many reasons to be thankful to be an American.

  21. He’s been running up quite a bill since the election, including all this security at Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago. What is this lavish lifestyle costing us if he is already on our dime? Is the American taxpayer footing this bill already? We can’t afford this guy, but we already knew it, didn’t we?

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