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Monday, March 7, 2011

The United States of McAmerica

My last article covered a few of the “acts” that ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council; a special interest conservative right leaning organization) has helped our legislators to write and implement across the country. What I outlined previously were merely a few examples of their good works put out by their Criminal Justice/Homeland Security task forces. While I focus on ALEC in much of my writing, please keep in mind that ALEC is but one of a hundred or so groups who work behind the scenes in D.C. to buy off our politicians and force policies that meet their own political and profit driven agendas. I tend to single out ALEC only because they are one of the most prominent groups and there are numerous connections between ALEC, private prison corporations, declining education and our ever tightening and restrictive ‘tough on crime’ laws…but I cannot emphasize enough that they are just one of the players and takers of the big profit pie that our lawmakers gorge themselves on.

For this article, I am going to highlight some of the ways ALEC (and other outside influences) has helped our educational system along. Since there seems to be a direct connection between education and incarceration, this is an important piece of how politicians and CEOs are legislating profits for prison industry. Let’s face it, very few ‘hardened criminals’ have college degrees and if our government wanted high achievements from our schools, we’d damn well have high achieving schools, don’t you think?  

From ALEC’s webpage on their education task force:

Each year, the Task Force releases an annual Report Card on American Education. One of ALEC's flagship publications, the Report Card takes a comprehensive look at the state of public education all across our country. Based on a variety of indicators, the Report Card consistently shows no direct correlation between conventional measures of education inputs, such as expenditures per pupil and teacher salaries, and educational outputs, such as average scores on standardized tests.

As always, the Task Force will continue to focus on those policies that hold teachers accountable for the education they are providing as well as developing new ideas on how businesses can become partners in educating the next generations of our children.
We’ve already seen the wonders of bringing businesses into our prisons, now they want to do the same to our schools? Pardon me if I don’t jump up and down in excitement over this idea.

Here is more from ALEC’s page:

“Our Model Legislation
Resolution Supporting the Principles of No Child Left Behind”

Apparently NCLB has been a smashing success for those who profit from filling up cellblocks. Pink said it best with, “No child gets left behind, we’re not dumb and we’re not blind; they’re all sitting in your cells, while you pave the road to hell…”

When you read more closely into parts of NCLB here is what is written into the fine print, and again, this is straight off of ALEC’s page:

“Focus on Achievement: NCLB not only promotes—and fully funds—innovative reforms in public education, but the law also holds schools accountable for their own success. For the first time in history, states must prove that they are yielding academic results before the federal government hands over the money. When achievement is not up to standard, the federal and state governments expect them to focus on how they can improve public education standards.”

Back the hell up. Schools that are doing poorly get cut off from federal aid.

How in the world was this supposed to help schools improve? There must be some sort of complicated economic theory here that I just don’t understand. Take poor schools that are not doing well, most likely due to lack of resources, decent teacher salaries, etc. and give them less money for resources… then they will improve and bring test scores up and then they’ll qualify for federal funding again. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

Obama’s new initiative, Race To The Top, is nothing more than a fluffed up version of NCLB and the only difference in policies is that conservative corporate profiteers helped to draft NCLB while liberal corporate profiteers helped draft RTTT. Please note that both Al Sharpton AND Newt Gingrich support RTTT; if that unholy alliance doesn’t make it obvious that what is happening in our country has less to do with right vs. left ideology than it does the rich creating ways to get richer while pissing on the heads of the poor citizens below them, I don’t think anything will.

ALEC also promotes tax credits for sending your kids to private schools. Another fine idea - in theory; wouldn’t you first have to have the money to afford the private school before you qualify for a tax break?  I bet that works out swell for the impoverished parents struggling to provide things like shelter and food for their families and having nothing left over paycheck to paycheck.  Obviously, they’ll have no problem coming up with the thousands it costs to keep their kids in private schools just so they can get a tax break once a year.

We, the people, are the ones being sold out, and sold cheaply. The poor uneducated masses are an ever multiplying commodity for the powers that be to sell. It isn't going to end, it is going to keep getting worse and corporations are going to keep selling us to line their own pockets. Of this, I am 100% sure.

There is no other reason for the laws that they have passed to cut funding for schools other than to guarantee the supply of uneducated and poor masses. Now, with the so-called financial crisis and mess we’re in, even more funding is being cut from our education system.

An article from the NYTimes on 11-10-08 stated, ““When regular legislative sessions resume in many states in January, other states will be more likely to look to rainy-day funds, when they are available, and deeper cuts to services, most notably to K-12 education, which is generally a last-resort option among lawmakers.”We’ve cut universities, we’ve cut our infrastructure spending, we’ve prorated schools and asked employees for concessions twice,” said Leslee Fritz, the spokeswoman for the Michigan State Budget Office.”

That was in 2008, mind you. State governments across the country have sliced into educational funding and budgets even more in the time since this recession began. ALEC must be jumping up and down in glee. Public schooling is going to take another nosedive, prison populations will increase and, as a bonus, more people will begin to accept letting schools become privatized. The school voucher program ALEC and other corporate-political special interest groups have long pushed for will gain acceptance.

If we look deeper into the school voucher/privatization push though, it is easy to see that ALEC will not be the only ones jumping for joy over the dismal failure of our public education system: The Family Research Council will also be rather pleased and I’m sure that The Center for Reclaiming America will be spitting happy all over the place, too.

These are more special interest political groups that happen to share a common connection as a woman named Betsy DeVos serves on the board of directors for both groups. She’s also involved with -
CEO America. (Children’s Educational Opportunity Fund; promotes vouchers)
She’s founder of National Right to Life.
She’s on the advisory committee for Susan B Anthony List, yet another right to life group.
Oh yes…let’s not forget that she was also chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and finance chairwoman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Busy lady, Mrs. DeVos; a real philanthropist, I suppose. Let’s don’t overlook her integrity and honesty, either: In a 1997 op-ed she wrote for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, Betsy DeVos was brutally candid about her views on money in politics: "My family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican party…. I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now, I simply concede the point. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment; we expect a good and honest government. Furthermore, we expect the Republican party to use the money to promote these policies, and yes, to win elections."

She says her family is “the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican party” …so who is her family? Well, the DeVos family would be none other than the founders of Amway Corporation, you know, the nice folks who put out all those ‘down home, we love the planet, use our products’ commercials and creators of the largest pyramid scam in the country. Betsy’s maiden name however, is Prince; she is the sister of Blackwater/Xe founder and military privatization promoter, Erik Prince.

One branch of the family is looking to privatize our schools; the other wants to privatize our military. Both make money from contracts with prisons for profit. Both wish to push our government out of the hands of the people and into the hands of the corporations and both spend enormous amounts of money making it happen.  This family is only one of hundreds that push their personal and financial agendas; they are likely not even the most influential; they only get mention here because their names kept turning up in searches I while I was looking into ALEC/prison corporation and school privatization activities.

They’re succeeding, by the way. On all counts, they are winning victory after victory and come November, regardless of the overall outcome of the elections, they will be another step closer to making their goal an actual reality. ALEC and their corporate interests have spent billions on campaigns nationwide to ensure that friendly (re: owned) politicians are in place to further promote their profiteering agendas.

Here in NM, ALEC contributed more to our democratic governor than to any other single politician in the country. Why spend so much on Bill Richardson and NM? Easy to answer: Private prison and nursing home contracts worth millions. No sooner was Richardson re-elected than CCA was handed the contract to build and manage a new facility to replace the very same nursing home contract they lost after they were sued and found responsible for multiple deaths. They donated $49,000 to his campaign (in obvious donations, the amount is higher once CEO and personal donations are traced) in one cycle alone… and in return, they got a several year multi-million dollar return on their investment.

This election cycle they are going all out and funding the campaign to put an unknown, inexperienced woman in office here as a republican governor. One of her first campaign soundbytes was in support of school vouchers for NM schools but that goes largely unheard as she drives home her platform of being ‘tough on crime’ and ‘a defender of our border’ and mortal enemy of the drug cartels. We have more private prison contracts pending; piss poor schools & education along with miles of empty and untapped oil country… but sadly, too few of our voters will see the bigger picture or question the outrageous contributions from a Houston oil company before pushing the button and casting their vote for the candidate who is playing on fear and who promises more government protection from crime and evil.

It’s likely this scene will play out across the country while voters remain blind to the fact that the only interest politicians have in immigration is to build more private facilities to push illegals through them for profit and there is no real interest in protecting our borders or shoring up the gaping holes where thousands of people continue to cross over.

The connections that surfaced briefly in the media about CCA staff members working for Jan Brewer’s office in AZ will be forgotten; no one will remember that CCA/ALEC had a hand in drafting AZ’s immigration bill. With legislation like what ALEC drafted for AZ, politicians can show their concern for national safety in public while stuffing their back pockets with the benefits of ill gotten gains behind the scenes.

No one will notice here in NM or in other states as more federal money gets shifted from public schools in need of improvement over to new and untested privately owned charter schools under the “Race To The Top”. It will take years for the negative impact to be noticed and by the time it is, it will be too late. There won’t be enough educated voters to change a damn thing while we slide ever closer to becoming the Incarcerated States of McAmerica…

R. McFarland

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