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

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Democrats: Branding and Hypocrisy on the Minimum Wage

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

President Obama and national Democratic party spokespeople now agree that the minimum wage ought to be raised, and the mighty executive pen of the White House will soon force federal contractors to pay workers at least $10.10 an hour. Though this only applies to federal contractors, and can be rolled back if Republicans win the White House in 2016 it IS better than a sharp stick in the eye. It's also something the president could have done five years ago, during his first hours in office.

Back in 2007 and 2008, when President Obama was candidate Obama he campaigned on a promise to put legislation through Congress to raise the minimum wage, and to reform labor law so as to make it easier for workers to organize unions and fight for their rights on the job. Both those cynical promises were immediately forgotten when Barack Obama assumed the presidency, and during the two years his party held a thumping majority in the House with a narrower one in the Senate. The administration has never mentioned easing the restrictions on union organizing again, but once in a while, when their poll numbers get low enough, and as long as Republicans are safely in control of the House of Representatives, they dust off their rhetoric on the minimum wage. This is one of those times.

To tell the truth, $10.10 an hour isn't much, it's such a low floor that it probably can pass the House if leaders ever allow a floor vote. But it's far from a wage that will lift people out of poverty.

The elite bipartisan consensus – that's the president and his spokespeople and Republicans too, agree that the “solution” is not so much raising the wage for what people already DO as “training” which will make them fit for better jobs. But that's a joke as well. The US economy isn't producing “better jobs.” Starbucks is full of baristas with M.A. degrees, and most college teachers are now “adjuncts” which means their advanced degrees enable them to work for poverty wages and few or no benefits. PhD incomes have fallen off a cliff the last ten years as colleges and universities re-organize themselves more to resemble the corporations who rule our society.

Early in his presidency, Barack Obama proposed recalculating social security benefits to lower them, and late last year he signed off on the reduction of unemployment benefits he now wants immoral Republicans to take all the blame for.

It's not hard to see that Democrats only take up the cause of the minimum wage when Republicans are in office, to reinforce their fake brand as champions of the oppressed. When they're in power, and raising that wage is a sure thing, their attention is somewhere else. But once Republicans get the House or the Senate, they talk about “passing a jobs bill”, about “universal pre-K” and about raising the minimum wage, more to embarrass Republicans than with a view to actually accomplishing any of these things.

They are all branding slogans, blatant and shallow hypocrisy, but so far they have worked to reinforce the Democrats' brand as the party of the oppressed. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and serves on the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be contacted via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20140115_bd_hypocrisy_on_minimum_wage.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:06pm EDT

Cory Booker Hits Senate Just in Time to Vote for Private School Vouchers

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Booker has never turned his back on the private school hucksters that launched his political career.”

Cory Booker, the new U.S. Senator from New Jersey and the darling of corporate executives, everywhere, may have an early chance to show Capitol Hill his true colors on vouchers for private schools. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, of Tennessee, has introduced a bill to transfer about 41 percent of federal public school moneys to the states, which could then turn the funds into vouchers. Parents would be allowed to use the vouchers to pay for private schools, or charter schools, or a public school outside their district. It is a formula designed to hasten the already rapid dissolution of public education in America.

Cory Booker began his public career as an advocate of private school vouchers. Along with two prominent Republican soul mates, Booker founded a local New Jersey outfit called Educational Excellence for Everyone. That’s how he first became embedded in the universe of rightwing foundations and think tanks whose pet project at the turn of the 21st century was private school vouchers. They bankrolled Booker’s rise to mayor of Newark and used their media machine to make him a nationally known politician while still in his early 30s. If Booker had not narrowly lost his first bid for mayor, in 2002, he – not Barack Obama – might have had the inside track on becoming the first Black President. As it turned out, both Booker and Obama represent the most corporate elements of the Democratic Party – and the most hostile to public education.

Once he had secured a national spotlight, Booker founded another group, called Democrats for Education Reform. By that time, the term “reform” had become a code word for charter schools and busting the teachers unions. Democrats for Education Reform morphed into a political action committee fueled by contributions from Wall Street fat cats who wanted to get a piece of the school privatization action. As always, Cory Booker was their man.

By 2016, thanks to both Booker and Christie, charter schools will account for more than a third of Newark’s student enrollment.”

Booker and Republican New Jersey governor Chris Christie worked hand-in-hand as preachers of the school charter gospel. Both took credit for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to Newark schools, and, both made sure that charter schools got more than their fair share of the money. By 2016, thanks to both Booker and Christie, charter schools will account for more than a third of Newark’s student enrollment.

Wall Street is betting on charter schools, because that’s where the most profits can be made. How can a speculator lose, when the public foots the bill while the education corporations reap the rewards? That’s why President Obama, the consummate corporate politician, has acted as chief national booster and bully for charter schools. However, most Democrats draw the line at private school vouchers. Cory Booker would very much like to appear to be a mainstream Democrat – the kind that can win presidential primaries or be tapped as vice presidential running mate. But Booker has never turned his back on the private school hucksters that launched his political career. He will have little choice but to vote in favor of Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander’s school vouchers bill, thus putting himself at odds with most of the Democratic Caucus in the Senate. Booker is likely to start his tenure as Senator in the same place he began his political career – in bed with the most reactionary rich white people in America.

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: 20140129_gf_BookerVouchers.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:33pm EDT