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There Is no American Left

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In September 2012 Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel attempted to break the Chicago Teachers' Union (CTU) with a bid to privatize Chicago's public schools. The mayor's proposal was based on a plan to subject teachers (and schools) to performance measurement based on students' standardized test scores.

Teachers whose students scored poorly would be fired. Schools whose students scored poorly would be closed. The students would then be farmed out to so-called "charter schools" -- for the most part, for-profit institutions run by corporations like Edison Schools, Rocketship, Victory Schools, and Educational Services of America.

The CTU went out on strike with the goal of maintaining public education in Chicago, America's third largest city. Schools in Philadelphia, America's fifth largest city, have already been largely privatized, and the state of Texas is currently in the process of privatizing its local public-school systems.

Under threat of a court injunction that might force them to return to work without a contract, the CTU ended its strike after just six business days. The negotiated settlement terms included a longer working day (for the same pay), teacher evaluations based 30% on student test scores, and complete mayoral discretion over teacher hiring and firing.

As Reuters reported on September 18, "those were major goals for Emanuel and positive outcomes for any Emanuel financial backers associated with the national education-reform movement." The outcome, however, was widely viewed in the United States as a victory for the teachers, since (amazingly, to most Americans) they retained their pre-strike jobs, salaries, and health-insurance benefits.

Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, is a Democrat.

The Obama administration: Center-Right Democrats

Rahm Emanuel is not just any Democrat. He was Barack Obama's first chief of staff, responsible for hiring many of the Obama administration's key personnel. One of Obama's appointees, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, is a former "Chief Executive Officer" of the Chicago public-school system. In Chicago he had promoted the expansion of for-profit charter schools.

In Washington Secretary Duncan developed the $4.35 billion "Race to the Top" program to encourage states to privatize their schools. The funding was structured as a competition. All 50 states adopted the Race to the Top program in hopes of receiving scarce federal funding during a severe recession; only 12 actually received any grants. The tournament format was designed to ensure maximum institutional impact for the smallest possible investment.

It's not just in education policy that the Obama administration has pursued a broadly neoliberal, center-right agenda. For example, President Obama has taken no action to improve minimum wages or working conditions. The US federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, with no guaranteed sick days, holidays, or vacation time. The last increase was in 2009, under a law passed by the Bush administration in 2007. President Bush actually supported the increase -- in combination with business tax cuts.

The federal minimum wage for restaurant staff (and others who might be expected to receive customer tips) is just $2.13 an hour, against which the value of meals provided by the employer can be deducted.

But of course President Obama's signature program is health-care reform. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 is proudly or derisively (depending which side you're on) known as Obamacare. America has long been the only rich country without universal health insurance. Obamacare is intended to extend health-insurance coverage to all Americans.

What is Obamacare really? At its heart is a requirement that all Americans will have to buy health insurance, mainly from private, for-profit insurance companies. Insurance premiums will remain largely unregulated, subject to the single requirement that insurance companies will have to accept all applicants and not be allowed to turn away those with pre-existing conditions.

People who refuse to buy health insurance will be forced to pay a $695 penalty. Given that the cost of the most basic private health insurance in the United States is far greater than this, many people are likely to remain uninsured even after Obamacare is fully implemented in 2014.

What's more, starting in 2017 states will essentially be able to opt out of Obamacare if they present an alternative plan that is approved by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. This requires no further action by Congress. So if the next US president is a Republican, expect every Republican-controlled state to opt out of universal healthcare as soon as that president is inaugurated.

And then there's foreign policy. The Obama administration foreign policy is slightly to the left of ... Dick Cheney. The Obama administration embraces targeted assassination and maintains a kill list -- sorry, "disposition matrix" -- of people it considers fair game for drone attacks. The Obama administration embraces the use of torture on people in US custody (with the sole specific exclusion of waterboarding). The Obama administration embraces the infliction of national collective punishment to induce civilian populations to overthrow their governments.

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http://salvatorebabones.com

Salvatore Babones is a senior lecturer in sociology and social policy at the University of Sydney in Australia and an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, DC.
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What does it mean to be a progressive when all you... by Salvatore Babones on Thursday, Dec 27, 2012 at 7:53:23 PM
Nice piece, Salvatore.  I especially like the... by Mikhail Lyubansky on Thursday, Dec 27, 2012 at 11:06:11 PM
Thank you!... by Salvatore Babones on Thursday, Dec 27, 2012 at 11:44:56 PM
I find myself saying the same to people who are se... by Michael Collins on Thursday, Dec 27, 2012 at 11:28:18 PM
Agreed on all counts!  Even calling socialism... by Salvatore Babones on Thursday, Dec 27, 2012 at 11:47:07 PM
Right or Left, there is no America left. It is us ... by Steven G. Erickson on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 12:38:50 AM
in recent times is because it offers no real prove... by Matthew Jacobs on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 8:52:02 PM
The KGB developed techniques that are used today b... by Deborah Dills on Thursday, Dec 27, 2012 at 11:45:36 PM
Colonists in America in the 1700's were most upset... by Steven G. Erickson on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 12:23:24 AM
You continue to be a statist/progressive whose phi... by Matthew Jacobs on Saturday, Dec 29, 2012 at 11:13:13 AM
It's not just that the Left has been marginalized,... by Scott Baker on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 1:53:22 AM
 Mr. Baker,  I'm not sure who would be r... by Ad Du on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 9:51:36 AM
 But right-wingers criticize Education in o... by Ad Du on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 9:59:21 AM
 Whom else to blame ? The TV ? The Internet ?... by Ad Du on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 10:14:32 AM
Right prefer Private vs. Public systems of educati... by Matthew Jacobs on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 7:25:00 PM
Until I get an answer (I may be late with my inqui... by Ad Du on Saturday, Dec 29, 2012 at 10:42:11 AM
Layer after layer of rules and regulations passed ... by Matthew Jacobs on Saturday, Dec 29, 2012 at 11:56:08 AM
 all I want is well educated people. If the G... by Matthew Jacobs on Saturday, Dec 29, 2012 at 11:46:15 PM
 Sir,  On the current (public) textbooks... by Ad Du on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 6:21:46 AM
 University professor (a rarity!) calls it as... by Ad Du on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 6:38:35 AM
Pull back and you will see what you have given are... by Matthew Jacobs on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 10:11:14 AM
And, of all people, should I be the one calling fo... by Ad Du on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 10:47:25 AM
But there is a World of difference between Calling... by Matthew Jacobs on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 11:51:48 AM
First of all I don't profess to have all the answe... by Matthew Jacobs on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 9:36:01 AM
 I wouldn't expect anybody to have "all answe... by Ad Du on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 10:06:02 AM
Gone also are vouchers for DC kids. This news rein... by Matthew Jacobs on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 10:54:01 AM
 College degrees (knowledge, as I would say) ... by Ad Du on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 12:19:45 PM
She wanted to spend more time with her family or n... by Matthew Jacobs on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 3:44:17 PM
Op Ed News archives all articles, so even when it ... by Scott Baker on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 12:37:30 PM
Sir,  If my estimate is correct, then an arti... by Ad Du on Saturday, Dec 29, 2012 at 10:57:58 AM
There are many ways to measure education, but one ... by Scott Baker on Saturday, Dec 29, 2012 at 12:36:01 PM
Well and truly said! I think the problem has deep ... by Richard Slatta on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 3:29:46 AM
Thank you ... and if you're writing from London, y... by Salvatore Babones on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 3:48:42 AM
The Korporate elite want to do this to all the mas... by Steven G. Erickson on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 8:00:19 AM
is the worst of all diseases.... by Lester Shepherd on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 9:41:51 AM
  Hyper-Individualismis the worst of all dis... by Matthew Jacobs on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 8:05:14 PM
it is impossible.... by Lester Shepherd on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 9:02:13 PM
You declare that America suffers from "Hyper Extre... by Matthew Jacobs on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 7:36:49 PM
I said it all along: left are invented  by th... by Mark Sashine on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 9:23:12 AM
"Nowhere is the world moving forward. Everywhere t... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 1:42:27 PM
from skeptical, humorous, no-one's fool and activi... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 2:33:19 PM
"Nowhere is the world moving forward. Everywhere t... by Matthew Jacobs on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 8:17:21 PM
You write, "[T]he Obama administration has pursued... by PCM on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 3:44:01 PM
Right. As a result I'm sensing problems on this th... by Matthew Jacobs on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 12:00:17 AM
I'd like to think I am incredulous when it comes t... by PCM on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 12:55:56 AM
what you think defines Left from Right. You merril... by Matthew Jacobs on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 9:55:42 AM
When you claim there is no American left I have to... by Matthew Jacobs on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 7:08:41 PM
There is no American "right" either  Democrat... by Matthew Peters on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 9:13:16 PM
SO WHAT AM I CHOPPED LIVER ?... by Matthew Jacobs on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 5:23:53 PM
rather than 'chopped lever'. But if you insist....... by mhenriday on Monday, Dec 31, 2012 at 2:17:45 PM
Very interesting article___No progress possible as... by jean labrek on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 9:17:44 PM
"Left" and "Right" are meaningful terms, particula... by Dan Mage on Friday, Dec 28, 2012 at 9:43:25 PM
And I'm scratching my head Dan trying to makes sen... by Matthew Jacobs on Saturday, Dec 29, 2012 at 12:28:58 AM
By way of clarification, what I see has all the ab... by Dan Mage on Saturday, Dec 29, 2012 at 11:23:26 PM
Carries a meaning for you that I don't understand.... by Matthew Jacobs on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 12:34:15 AM
At the bottom of the vertical axis is slavery and ... by Dan Mage on Monday, Dec 31, 2012 at 8:57:26 PM
 Professor Babones,  Regretfully, I need... by Ad Du on Saturday, Dec 29, 2012 at 12:39:48 PM
That which Separates Private from Government schoo... by Matthew Jacobs on Saturday, Dec 29, 2012 at 5:30:18 PM
... available to all people in a "democracy", espe... by Ad Du on Saturday, Dec 29, 2012 at 7:21:28 PM
Reply to Matthew Jacobs:  I'm trying to tell... by Matthew Jacobs on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 11:00:38 AM
Education is best (by far!) acquired at an age whe... by Ad Du on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 11:17:08 AM
You want a house take a thirty year loan out on it... by Matthew Jacobs on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 4:32:57 PM
You should have heard W. officials reciting as ins... by Ad Du on Monday, Dec 31, 2012 at 1:07:41 PM
Opps lets just say it's free to the recipient, obv... by Matthew Jacobs on Monday, Dec 31, 2012 at 9:18:13 PM
 Until then, let's point out that the former ... by Ad Du on Sunday, Jan 6, 2013 at 10:32:00 AM
Mr. Babones, wonderful article, filled with valid ... by Bayard Waterbury on Saturday, Dec 29, 2012 at 2:19:00 PM
I wish I understood how the famous "99.99%" (or wh... by Ad Du on Saturday, Dec 29, 2012 at 7:46:35 PM