Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

Chicago Teachers Build a Movement

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

Chicago’s teachers are attempting to build a community fight-back coalition.”

Thousands of Chicago teachers and their community allies marched and rallied for three days in opposition to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his handpicked school board’s plans to close 54 public schools, almost all of them in Black neighborhoods – the biggest round of closings anywhere in the country, to date. Parents and teachers say the plan puts children at greater risk as they cross the boundaries of different gangs’ turf; destabilizes neighborhoods that will lose their schools; and is part of a larger scheme to further decimate the teaching ranks and convert more schools to charters. Teachers Union president Karen Lewis says “study after study” has shown that shuffling children around from school to school accomplishes nothing unless the new schools are significantly better – yet, most of the cross-city movement in the mayor’s plan is from one poor neighborhood to another.

The mayor claims that the closings are necessary cost-cutting measures. But a report by the Chicago Tribune, which is no friend of the teachers, shows that Emanuel’s minions have fudged the numbers. For example, a school was marked for closing because it lacked adequate air conditioning, but students were then slated to be transferred to another school that also lacks sufficient air conditioning. Another school was put on the shut-down list because it would cost almost $10 million to fix. But the students’ new school requires nearly as much money for repairs. The report concludes that it would cost millions more to renovate the schools where the displaced students would be assigned, than to fix the old schools.

The teachers union is engaged in a political battle royal.”

So, this is not about costs; that’s just a cover story. It’s about further privatizing the public schools, destroying the union, and destabilizing neighborhoods full of people that the mayor and his big business cronies would, ultimately, like to expel from the city, entirely. The teachers know it, and so does a growing portion of the community, who have joined in common cause.

The teachers have filed two class action suits against the closings, and the mayor’s school board appointees were set to take a pro-forma vote on the matter, on Wednesday. However, the teachers union fully understands that they are engaged in a political battle royal with forces that are bigger than the mayor’s office. Philadelphia and cities across the country face near-identical assaults on their public schools, part of a full-fledged austerity offensive by corporate America. The Lords of Capital are privatizing, financializing, monetizing and de-unionizing everything.

American racism makes inner city public schools an easier target, and the privatizers have a great ally in President Barack Obama. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is best known as Obama’s former chief of staff, but he also made millions as an investment banker. Wall Street hedge funders and other speculators are betting heavily on school privatization as the next great investment frontier. Chicago’s teachers are attempting to build a community fight-back coalition that can break the stranglehold of corporate rule, and serve as an example to teachers unions and Black and brown communities across the nation. In the fight against austerity, and for community control of schools, the Chicago Teachers Union is on front line.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20130522_gf_ChicagoSchools.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:40pm EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Banks have failed to pay more than half of $5.7 billion owed to homeowners from over 30 settlements since 2008.”

Attorney General Eric Holder won’t lay a hand on the cabal of banks that are “too big to fail” and far too politically powerful to jail, but DC police seemed eager to use their tasers on homeowners and anti-foreclosure demonstrators at Holder’s Justice Department, this week. Five hundred protesters from organizations around the country, including Occupy Minnesota, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, the Home Defenders League, and Occupy Our Homes gathered to demand that banks be held accountable for the massive frauds they’ve committed against homeowners and society at large. Several dozen protesters were arrested, including a number of elderly persons, but Eric Holder and his top lieutenants didn’t even bother to acknowledge their presence.

If the Obama administration has been consistent on any one issue, it is the untouchability of the biggest banks. Attorney General Holder has acted more as the bankers’ bail bondsman than the nation’s top law enforcement official. When confronted with two Scandals of the Century – the massive robo-signing bank fraud and the Libor interest rate fixing scheme – Holder moved to protect the banks. He used the powers of his office to block state criminal prosecutions in favor of financial settlements and fines. Holder, who is relentless in his determination to enforce the letter of the law on marijuana, claims he is helpless to bring criminal charges against banking corporations and their top executives, because it might cause an economic crisis. The real economic catastrophe that Holder and his boss, President Obama, fear is that Wall Street might withdraw its campaign contributions to the Democratic Party.

He used the powers of his office to block state criminal prosecutions.”

Not only does the Attorney General refuse to consider putting bankers in jail, whatever the crime, he allows them to defy the terms of agreed upon financial settlements. According to the Washington Post, banks have failed to pay more than half of $5.7 billion owed to homeowners from over 30 settlements since 2008. These include robo-signing frauds, subprime mortgage entrapments, discrimination in lending to the disabled – a whole universe of criminality for which, in a just world, the offending banks would be dismantled and their top executives imprisoned. Instead, they are allowed to renege on payments to their victims with impunity.

As it has turned out, many of the banksters’ victims have received only a few thousand, or even just a few hundred dollars after years of struggle.

Even as his administration fails to live up to its Constitutional responsibilities to enforce the law, as it applies to Wall Street, Obama preached personal responsibility to the graduating class of Morehouse College, in Atlanta. The President spoke of the importance of “men who refuse to be afraid.” But he and his Attorney General are scared stiff of the power of the banks, to which they are beholden as servants. If there is no law that the banks cannot break with impunity, then this is not a nation of laws.

So, let’s stop pretending.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20130522_gf_DOJDemo.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:29pm EDT