All posts by Attorney At Arms

Dems in Leg: This is your once in a lifetime opportunity

Dems control the legislature with supermajorities. And while this is a tremendous outcome, it is not a stable one. Dems in the legislature must act swiftly and boldly, learning the lessons of the U.S. Congress in 2009, to remake California in the image that we want (and then they can take credit for).

When Democrats achieved supermajorities in the U.S. Congress, they were barely able to achieve their signature accomplishments of Obamacare and Dodd-Frank before fate struck and Ted Kennedy was replaced by Scott Brown. A handful of Democratic state senators are changing jobs and special elections will occur. Are those seats as safe as a Democratic senator in Massachusetts?

This supermajority will not last. Some of the swing-district senators will lose next time around. They should realize that they have the opportunity to do something worth remembering instead of chipping away at real change in order to simply keep their seats. Leaders in the party can facilitate this by making sure those who walk the plank have good jobs later, whatever happens, and a future in the party if they play ball.

Here are some things we need, in no particular order:

(1) A California Public Option. I am an advocate of single-payer. It’s the smartest, most efficient, best system. It would make California a more attractive place for employers. The politics are more complicated than that. If the Dems are willing to go for single payer, great! Assuming they can get the necessary waiver from Washington (that Vermont has been waiting on), I see no problem. Assuming they can’t, or there would be a significant delay, they should open up a public option on the coming exchange. Open up whatever state employees have to all state residents. Whatever.

Regardless of what is done, I strongly encourage the legislature to replace the current workers’ compensation system with a more robust SDI program (including training etc.) and universal healthcare. Doing this would be a major relief to businesses, small and large, and show them that they will benefit from all of this as well.

(2) More polytechnic state colleges. Triple down on Silicon Valley. Open up more colleges modeled on the Cal Poly system with the focus on producing engineers and scientists ready to innovate in Silicon Valley. Cal Poly Silicon Valley sounds like a great school to me. Make sure they are affordable.

(3) Put split roll property tax on the ballot. I personally would suggest three alternatives on the ballot: a full repeal of 13, a split roll, or a schools only 50% requirement. People might feel more “moderate” going for split roll. People are going to want to feel “moderate” in the next election.

(4) Expand family leave and paid sick leave. All employers should be covered. Make it easy for the and make it not just those over 50 employees.

(5) Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure.

It’s Time For A Pundit Reckoning

Nationally, Nate Silver called 51 states and DC. In California, the polls accurately predicted the passage of Proposition 30 despite weeks of gloomy coverage from supposed experts who were apparently basing their entire narrative on a “tightening” of the polls happening after Labor Day-as if that was abnormal.

Or maybe it was that it was a tax measure polling under 50? Well, it was a school measure in the lead. So, the expertise there should have discerned which was a controlling factor, or, failing a conclusion, fallen back on the polling data, especially after premier instate pollster The Field Poll showed it up big last week.

Nope. They wanted to not only write their story about Prop 30 losing-and stories about the contingency plans school districts were making, a sort of fiscal equivalent of “it bleeds it leads”-but they wanted to write the political eulogy of Jerry Brown. They wanted to write the “Dems in disarray” story when Gavin Newsome made a factually accurate but politically selfish statement about the effect of Prop 30’s allegedly impending failure.

And they were almost gleeful early Tuesday night when it was behind in the early returns-again, showing their stupendoes non-expertise on this when they should have known that the result was far from certain with no results in from Alameda, LA, and SF counties.

This is just the “mainstream” and allegedly non-partisan press. The Jarvtards in the remnant formerly known as a political party that is the California GOP must be freaking out. They started the modern anti-tax measure with their self-immolating, selfish, corrupt, and myopic Prop 13. Now they must wonder whether Prop 30 is the beginning of a nationwide trend saying, “we’ve cut enough from our kids, our firefighters, and our future.” Now it’s time for the 1% to have less gold leaf on their yachts so we can train our children to work in the economy they so wildly benefit from.

Propositions have been the bane of California for so long. Proposition 13 spelled the beginning of the Me Generations Randian solipsism. Prop 187 showed the true lack of colors of the pathetic band of deadenders formerly known as a political party that is the California GOP. Proposition 8 was based on terrible slanders and showed just how dangerous direct democracy can be not just to the budget, but even to fundamental rights.

So it is only fitting somehow that it is a Proposition that turns the tide. Prop 13’s game-rigging two-thirds majority rules have one only exception: a statewide vote. And yesterday, Californians took advantage of that, using this terrible system against itself. We might even have made it moot by putting the Democrats beyond the minority blocking veto in the legislature. Just like all Americans, California voters have had enough obstruction.

But Dan Walters and the gang are just going to keep making false equivalencies between unions and corporations, Democratic politicking and Republican obstruction and cheating, between taking $100 from someone making $40,000 a year and someone making $4,000,000 a year because they are so cowardly, so afraid of the right-wing noise machine (assuming they are not part of it) claiming that they aren’t objective (the first commandment of J-school) that they will bend beyond the breaking point to retain a patina of objectivity.

California and the nation as a whole has rejected this approach wholesale and that is the lesson of this election. It wasn’t a statement that we are an entirely liberal state or country, but a statement that we want results and we don’t care much about what approach is used as long as it works. Obstruction gets nothing done, ever.

Field Poll Sticks A Knife In Media’s Prop 30 Narrative

Already leading by a minimum of 4 points in every poll ever conducted, Prop 30 scored a huge win today showing itself up 48-38 in the premier in-state poll, the The Field Poll just 5 days out from the election. Pundits like Dan Walters and the Political blog at the LA Times have been drinking Republican spin about how they plan to help out the Governor if Prop 30 fails. All kinds of stories have been filed about Brown’s “muddled message.”

Perhaps all of this hinges on the conventional wisdom that tax measures polling under 50 lose. Yet, education and school measures are usually successful. And signs are that a wave of voter registration has upped the Democratic-leaning electorate likely to support Gov. Brown’s Prop 30. Even Gavin Newsom bought into this enough to criticize the Governor’s message.

None of that, nor the raw data of every poll taken has stopped the pundits from their attacks. Will any of them say they were wrong?  Nope. They’re pundits. They’re paid to be wrong.

Joe Mathews = Mickey Kaus

For a while, a bunch of liberals in California seemed to have a hard on for Joe Mathews due to his work on California Crackup. But it’s time to end that love affair. It seems that Mathews is intent on claiming the role of Mickey Kaus as the world’s biggest concern troll. (Of course, Mickey will wait until he’s 75 to retire because that’s what he thinks is good for everyone else.)

The best I can figure is that Mathews feels that he needs to attack unions and Democrats in order to get “credibility.” You know, centrism, bipartisanism, all of that good stuff that the press loves but everyone else hates.

Last fall, he fell down the rabbit hole with the L.A. Times’s crusade to blame teachers for the problems in education with its ridiculous lynchmobish publication of teacher scores and then accused a University of Colorado study of being nothing but a piece of union propaganda (remember: in the concern troll world, unions are corrupt, but billionaires’ philanthropies poo smells like roses, and corporations are totally on the up-and-up all the time).

So, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that he penned this editorial that blames our budget woes on teachers’ unions. You see:

Which is why it’s unfair that Republicans get so much blame for protecting the two-thirds vote requirement for taxes.

This brand of tired “pox on both your houses” nonsense is how the GOP constantly escapes with its hide after every disaster they bring about. You see, it’s not the two-thirds threshold for raising taxes that matters. Heck no! It’s the teachers’ unions and their hypocritical love of Prop 98 that’s doing it.

Joe: could it be that public education is the biggest expense because it’s something that virtually everyone uses? or is that just a coincidence?

And, also, Joe: how many times has each Democrat in the California Legislature voted to suspend Prop 98 over the last several years? What’s that you say? They all have every time? And how many Republicans have voted to raise taxes? Wait, say again? The absolute minimum to do anything?

Yes. It’s ridiculous. But it’s what it takes to make your name in the “liberal media” these days.

Your California GOP

Taking their toys and going home.

What outrage to our liberty did the California GOP walk out of the chamber over today?

Why the tyrannical notion of letting our statewide-elected Insurance Commissioner regulate health insurance rates. But, don’t worry, they came right back to sniff jocks:

Democrats shot back by pointing out that their colleagues returned shortly before Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers paid a visit to the floor to be honored by Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda.

“The Republicans walked out on their job and on the consumers of California, but managed to come back to work 30 minutes later when it was time to get autographs from a famous football player,” said Perez spokeswoman Robin Swanson.

They must not have gotten the memo that Aaron Rodgers supports the public workers unions in Wisconsin.

Oh, and the coup de grace?

They’re going to blow up the state budget negotiations.

“I think you just saw the budget explode,” said Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore. “Over the stupidest reasons the Speaker has decided apparently to disrespect the Republican leader and the Republican caucus and I think there’s going to be significant consequences for that.”

In other words, because a party deeply in the minority couldn’t block a law that will help more Californians get health insurance they tried to use a stupid parliamentary trick to kill it, the Dems called bullshit, the GOP threw a two-year-old temper tantrum, walked out, and will now not negotiate on the state budget because they were “disrespect[ed].”

This is somewhere between pre-school and street-gang like behavior.

And they wonder why they got blasted here even when they won everywhere else.

Just wait until SB 810, California OneCare, comes up for a vote.


YADWD: Yet Another Dan Walters Diary

Old Man Walters forgot to eat his Metamucil this morning.

Walters is reacting to what California pundits have already decided is Governor Brown’s strategy. In a nutshell, he is going to submit a “clean” budget in early January and then ask the voters to fill in the gaps in a May Special Election. Walters doesn’t like it.

Were Brown’s doomsday strategy to fall short, he’d be stuck with an even worse budget mess and virtually no option other than following through with deep spending slashes in schools and other public services.

Huh? I’m not sure I understand what Walters means here. If the measures fail, the January budget goes into effect. It won’t be a “budget mess”-a human disaster, maybe, but not a “budget mess.” And, yes, those cuts will come, but what’s the alternative?

Walters doesn’t think it will be so easy for Brown to get a budget through in time.

Even before he could seek new taxes from voters, however, Brown would also have to persuade his fellow Democrats in the Legislature to vote for a slash-and-burn budget. And that could be extraordinarily difficult because Democrats would be getting pressure from their political constituencies, such as public employee unions, and be facing uncertain re-elections in 2012 because of redrawn districts and a new “top-two” primary system.

Maybe he wasn’t paying attention in November when the majority vote budget law was passed. That means there would have to be 13 defectors in the Assembly without picking up a Republican and 4 in the Senate without picking up a Republican. Why do I think there’s a chance some Republicans will sign on? Because it will be the kind of austerity budget they want!

Now, far be it from me to impugn the learning of our own local version of David Broder, but does Walters know anything about the dynamics of legislative bodies? There just aren’t the votes there to buck a new governor who just won a solid majority (and therefore a solid mandate from the voters) without breaking a sweat. Maybe a couple will make protest votes. But 13? Yeah, right.

Brown’s budget will sail through and the campaign will be on. I’m guessing there will be several measures covering a number of different priorities, including education, health and welfare, and so on.

So, what does Walters want him to do? Try and do it the old fashioned way and find 3 Senate Republicans and 2 Assembly Republicans to vote to raise taxes? He must believe that “pox on both your houses” kind of rhetoric that would hold that it is equally tough for Dems to vote against the unions on the one hand and Republicans to vote to increase taxes on the other. Bullshit.

Personally, I think Brown’s strategy is brilliant. The voters have wanted it both ways for too long and the Republicans have been able to pin all of the tax increases on Democrats. They won’t be able to do that if the voters approve (though surely they will still try).

As an aside, I am strongly in favor a ballot measure that would reduce to 55% or to bare majority the ability of school districts to raise parcel taxes. I hope that shows up too, and I plan on doing some work to make sure it does.


Joe Matthews apparently also thinks Dan Walters is being a dick.

Vouchers Again? And the LAUSD Test Data

I want to like Joe Matthews and “Prop Zero.” I know a lot of smart, wonkish people have loved his book. But it seems these days that you can’t keep a job in the media without picking an issue to punch some hippies on. Apparently, Matthews has decided to pick on teachers. Well, at least their unions. You see, teachers unions aren’t allowed to advocate for teachers and do their jobs. They’re supposed to be education policy officials for some reason. (This must have been a “new rule” at some point.) The new ethos in America is to stop anyone from doing well if you can’t too, I guess.


Today’s blog post is entitled, “Teachers Aren’t Secret Agents.” (No linky.) As if the only public scrutiny teachers face is a potential LA Times database. Have these people completely forgotten school boards? There is also data published all the time on the individual schools. It’s also completely ignorant of what goes on in schools right about now: a lot of breaking down of last year’s test score data to work on areas of improvement.  

This is completely leaving aside the question of whether these scores measuring anything or the right things. So, even assuming that’s true now we have “reasonable liberals” like Kevin Drum and Joe Matthews saying that it’s a good idea to publish all of this data about teachers because, umm, they are public employees and data is good. Or something. Except that even public employees still have a right of privacy with respect to their personnel files. Except that there is a virtual certainty that this data will be used to harass, settle personal scores, and for all kinds of shenanigans. There will be a “nobody could have predicted” moment.

I tell teachers (my mom and mother-in-law are teachers, my wife was for 6 years before moving into administration, and I taught in community college about 10 years ago) that they need to accept testing as part of their job now and try to use it to their advantage: it provides a quantitative metric of their job performance (even if it’s not measuring anything you believe in). Many people would love to have something like that to always make sure that they can prove they are performing. It’s not the ideal situation, and the unions that are supposed to improve their working conditions are under no obligation to support it, but that’s the lemonade to be made here.

But that’s a far cry from suggesting that the James O’Keefes of the world should be given all of this information to be used for whatever purpose they want. And, I still am shocked that people think that it’s a good idea to make the teaching profession even tougher. Low wages (especially for the amount of education required), increasing instability, tough working conditions, and now this? And somehow the big evil teachers’ unions are all powerful?

And then there’s a companion piece from Dan Quayle’s lackey on the same blog today (NO linky) rinse and repeating all of the voucher arguments once again. This is another one of those hippie-punching “credibility building” issues for liberals. Even The West Wing flirted with this one. See, it’s clever. Make us feel sorry for those inner-city colored children who will suddenly all magically have access to perfect clean suburban schools if they just have vouchers.

My head is about to explode. Seriously.

I have your solution to the “problems” in schools right here: triple the wages for teachers. You will have young people with Ph.D.’s from the top schools clawing each other’s eyes out to fill almost every position. Competition to get the best test scores will be fierce. Know how I know? This is what big corporations, law firms, banks, etc. had to do in the late 90s to keep each other from stealing each others talent.

But see, this simple “Econ 101” style “supply and demand” fix that is almost Ayn Randian in its oversimplicity never occurs to the free market defenders of the Constitution for some reason. And to me, that completely destroys THEIR credibility on the issue. They want better schools and better teachers but they also want to be able to pay them nothing in crumbling buildings.

It’s a lie, a hoax, it is destroying our future and it gets traction with every attempted hippie punch by fame seeking media whores like the aforementioned.

Update: Add David A. Lehrer of the LA Jewish Journal, whoever he is.

Warning: Fraudulent(?) Mailer

I received the following mailer today endorsing a whole raft of Democrats, but then urging me to vote yes on Prop 14 and 16 from

Californians Vote Green

555 S. Flower St. Ste. 4210

Los Angeles CA 90071

This appears to be a mailbox place for lots of front groups. This committee’s funding information doesn’t appear online yet. Anyone wanna bet PG&E is behind this? Appearance is authorized by each candidate?! This means Hahn, Nava, Jones, Romero, and Brown paid to go out on a mailer to endorse Prop 16?  This is not the same as a real independent group making endorsements that have nothing to do with each other. They created this group and let Prop 16 on board.

Please remind your friends that Proposition 16 has NOTHING to do with “green” and everything to do with exposing even more Californians to Enron “death stars.”

UPDATE: I found this committee’s funding information. [PDF]

This org received $40,000 from Dave Jones, $40,000 from Gloria Romero, $40,000 from Pedro Nava, and smaller amounts from various local communities as of 3/17/2010. No one endorsing any of the Propositions is in the information I could find.

It’s not all that hard to game the filing system to make it difficult for things to be found out right away. I think these candidates have some ‘splainin’ to do.

Prop 14: Politics and Policy

A supposedly noble idea comes from a backroom deal-suddenly the bete noir of today’s populists, though such deals are as old as any committee-yet for many, the stain wears off. Leave to one side the fact that it had nothing to do with the budget-this was a “good government”[1] proposal, a voting reform proposal. Yet unlike the “controversial” statistical census proposal, which good or not would advantage Democrats, this does not appear to advantage any one party. Just one man.

This is the origin-story of Proposition 14. This referendum is on our ballots this primary election because it was one of the conditions extracted by now-Lt. Gov. Abel Maldanado for his vote on one of the 2009 budget deals when he was a mere state senator. Yet those circumstances do not even form the largest irony. That belongs to the fact that it is promoted as a “good government” initiative that will empower the supposed silent majority-“centrists” [2]-yet it arose out of a mathematical situation of distorted power created by a Constitutional demand for 2/3rd supermajorities. In other worlds, one man, wielding a vastly outsized proportion of power with no qualms about that fact chose to force a vote on something claiming to improve democracy. That alone should raise an eyebrow. Shouldn’t the great champion of democracy simply supported the majority on that hallowed ground instead? OK, so take for the sake of the argument it was benevolent dictatorship.

But there’s another ethical problem with it. It was put forward by a politician who has mapped his career on being some kind of uniter: the Mexican Horatio Alger story who grew rich enough to be a Republican.[4] Or something. He’s Joe the Plumber the Rancher.

But this shtick ain’t playing in GOPtown, CA anymore. If his shit-kicking rancher pals in Santa Maria thought that they could control the mayor’s office there or the senate district with someone who was more likely to shoot someone speaking Spanish than responding, “hola,” he wouldn’t be where he is. But they knew better.[4] But now Abel knows better. He knows he won’t win any statewide primaries, mostly because most of his voters will want to apply the Arizona law to him, strip his citizenship and send him “back” to Mexico. For being “Mexican.” Also.

So, he passed this law for his own political advancement to the Governor’s mansion, or, more likely, a senate seat. That also makes this law reek.

What says the other side, the Dems? Many think it’s bad for them. A lot of races would end up being Dem on Dem porn. I have my doubts about that. Pols would adapt. They always do. It’s just that the Dems seem to adapt last and after losing too much.

Forget the ethos-what about the logos? Is it good policy?

I have no idea-and I suspect neither do most people-what this law would really do. I’m not sure I see the problem, in theory, of having a kind of runoff vote between the two largest vote getters. It would force the electorate to take ownership of someone-or it might totally depress participation. Who knows? No one does. This law isn’t even the typically cynical “reform” that distorts election results for one party. It’s simply the Abel for Governor/Senator advantaging law.

What I do know is that I almost never[5] vote ‘yes’ on any Proposition largely because it allows laws like this that aren’t even myopic-they don’t even take a look. I am completely opposed to the process. Money-talks direct democracy is not our system; it is essentially mob rule. Almost all of California’s troubles are linked to them. It wasn’t an accidental or trivial feature of American democracy that it was based on representative government, though the Internet’s lidless eye weakens the distinction to a large degree-even committee votes on procedure draw protests these days. Representative government was by design. Supermajorities only in the most unique cases was by design.

Therefore, the only two propositions I will support are (1) restoring majority rule to the legislature, and (2) abolishing ballot initiatives.

I would consider some form of (2) that had a quorum requirement of 50% turnout, did not permit state Constitutional amendments, and required a second revote 2 years later. But really it would be best to simply ban them.

Prop 14 doesn’t meet those requirements. I cannot say what it will do except serve the ambitions of a person whose political career exists to make a compromise I don’t need; I can simply vote for a real Democrat.

[1] read: a change to the voting system that sounds more “fair” even if it is half-baked, totally advantages one-side, etc.

[2] Accept for the sake of the argument that there is a normal, bell-curve distribution along the political spectrum (I doubt it anymore; I think the distribution is bimodal, but it’s not my conjecture). This is an axiom of the High Broderists, “bipartisan”-advocates, and “centrist” humpers. It is the base of their argument that the majority of voters belong in the middle and that all of the “bipartisan” “compromises” are a tribute to beautiful government. The further away you get from the center, the more “radical” or “ideological” you are. Also, this implies you are less normal and in a small distribution.

But here’s the problem. There are as many different kinds of centrists as there are issues. Do this thought experiment: roll two dice. The higher the score, the more conservative you are. The scale is 2-12, 2 being very liberal and 12 being extremely conservative. 7 is the lionized saintly centrist. What’s the problem? There is only one way to score a 2, only one way to score a 12, but there are 6 ways to score a 7 (1+6, 2+5, 3+4, 4+3, 5+2, 6+1). There are 5 ways to score a 6. (1+5, 2+4, 3+3, 4+2, 5+1.) and 5 ways to score an 8. (2+6, 3+5, 4+4, 5+3, 6+2). So, of the 36 possible results, 16, or 44% are Centrist. This means only 27% are liberal or conservative at all. This seems to bear this view out, doesn’t it?

Not really. Each different combination represents an entirely different centrist. You could get a ‘1’ on abortion and a ‘6’ on gun control, or a ‘5’ on abortion and a ‘2’ on gun control. These two people would both have ‘7’s but would agree about nothing.

Centrists only appear to form a majority because there are so many more possible ways of forming them. It’s an illusion.

[3] People who buy this don’t know Santa Maria. If it weren’t for the housing pressure from San Luis Obispo County and southern Santa Barbara county that produced a strip-mall and cookie-cutter home overlay on the town, it would be a plantation town run by a few intermarried clans of ancient (for white people) origins in the valley who are extremely right wing and get away with it because of their “aww shucks” farmerisms. Abel simply wormed his way into that class with money. He did nothing to elevate the conditions there for other Latinos.

[4] They pulled the same trick in tiny nearby Guadalupe, CA, getting this mostly Spanish speaking, mostly Democratic hamlet to vote GOP for mayor a few years back.

[5] I recall voting yes on exactly 3: indian gaming, indian gaming redux, and medical marijuana.

Teaching Layoffs And The Grand Strategy To Destroy Public Education

(A truly brilliant post worth reading and considering. One of the best overviews of the political background of the education crisis I’ve yet seen. – promoted by Robert Cruickshank)

Note: I am a labor attorney. My wife is a school principal. My mom and mother-in-law are veteran teachers and I was raised on a single teacher’s salary. That is my perspective on this.

There has always been resistance to public education. It was a demand of The Communist Manifesto. And even though it became mainstream in most of the industrialized world, so did universal health care. By way of that example, I mean to suggest it is not something we should take for granted.

But there was no organized political resistance until 1955. No, I’m not trying to write yet another reductionist account of the modern conservative movement that explains everything as a reaction to civil rights (though it does explain a lot). It’s just that’s what we are dealing with now and it’s when a grand strategy was organized. Of course the moneyed interests were always pushing back on certain elements of the New Deal and by 1948 they had achieved a major walk-back of the National Labor Relations Act in the Taft-Hartley amendments. But as much as we have fought back against our capitalist overlords, they aren’t behind this, at least not directly. No, they don’t want to destroy public education-they want to not pay for it and have it produce obedient workers, but they do not want to see it destroyed.

But the Christian right and the Civil Rights resisters (i.e. racists) are. They nearly fomented a rebellion in Little Rock over school integration and launched a political reaction that finally took all of the teeth out of Brown by the early 70s. By then, the Supreme Court had said that busing and tax revenues have to stop at arbitrary district and municipal boundaries drawn by the legislators then in power. This is why 5 years ago we all looked back on the 50th anniversary of Brown wondering what might have been.

But this isn’t an article about civil rights, this is an article about the destruction of teaching as a career and how it fits into that strategy.

In 2009, 30,000 California teachers were laid off. This wasn’t really directly a sinister plot. The dominoes had been stacked years ago, they just needed to be tipped. California school districts have “general funds” and then approximately 50 “categorical” funds that are reserved for special purposes, such as special ed or textbooks. Yet employee salaries-teachers-are paid for out of the general fund, which also must be used to top off categorical mandates that aren’t fully funded by categorical funds. So, when it’s time to cut budgets, legally most of the time the general fund is all that can be cut. And it’s happening again this year. This time, there won’t be as many hired back.

It can’t be topped off without a parcel tax that requires a 66 2/3% vote-that was set up in the 1970s. A regular ad valorem tax on property is capped by Prop 13. By my count exactly three school districts have succeeded in “liberal” California of doing this. Also, this tax is not necessarily enough because some districts (arbitrary lines on a map buttressed by Supreme Court rulings) cover areas where property values are low. You could raise the tax to 5% of the value and it wouldn’t be equivalent to what a 0.1% tax might bring in somewhere else. In order to fix this in the 70s, California (whose courts did not follow the U.S. Supreme Court in drawing the tax lines, but let the legislature get away with doing less than they demanded) began equalizing district funding through Sacramento to the point where almost everything turned into a categorical fund so that legislators could protect whatever they wanted. The textbook company lobbyists made sure that my wife’s district had $2.4m last year for a textbook buy last year that couldn’t go to preventing teacher layoffs.

Then there is the propaganda war. The evil teachers’ unions. The big and powerful teachers’ unions. Yes, yes. How dare the tens of thousands of teachers out there express themselves politically??! In my experience this psychological siege has even sunk into the minds of many teachers who doubt their own union activity. For all the talk about powerful teacher’s unions (maybe the CTA has a lobbyist or two) the actual local teachers unions in dealing with their members’ wages and working conditions are getting rolled all over the state.

And now their power appears to be broken permanently. Why? Because no one graduating today can viably consider teaching a career. Teachers with less than 10 years or so experience either have been laid off ir may be at any time, because that’s how layoffs work, by seniority. The ones with more experience will retire one day, and a cadre of teachers will come and go, many with temporary contracts and little doubt that their job is temporary and with little reason to contribute to or be active in unions. After all, the last generation of teachers (looking back 25 years from now) lost their jobs, never got their wages, etc. I also doubt that the pension system will be what it is now then, either.

Corporate interests want public education that they don’t have to pay for. They also would love to see the entire education sector privatized and paid for through tax revenue-the only way that supposedly anti-socialist entrepreneurs have made any money in the last decade, the way Blackwater made money, the way the banks made their money, the way private prisons have made theirs. Privatized and milked, yes, but not destroyed.

Therefore, we have reached the point where the interests will part between the two sides of the right. The grand strategy to destroy public education by making people hate it achieves a D-Day size victory every year the teachers’ unions are broken-those silly teachers paying money to lobby for actual good education policy while they’re at it! Because there is no one else that wants to make the public schools something worth saving in the public’s eyes. You’ve heard the criticisms. The teachers that can’t be fired for anything. No “God in school.” The assault on science, which both works to antagonize religious parents and the parents of children who want science education. They want to keep pushing it to the tipping point.

Pretty soon, parents start wanting to send their kids to the charter school funded by big corporate money or the private school that teaches that dinosaurs are 5,000 years old. A whole new segregation appears. The grand strategy succeeds.

Big Business has a choice. They can realize that public sector workers are no threat to them since they don’t employ them and they keep the infrastructure running that gives them a country where they can make money and live a big life, or they can watch it burn.

The Democrats in Sacramento and Washington have a choice. They can either figure out that this shit is chess not checkers and devise a grand strategy of their own to provide free lifelong learning to anyone who wants it, so that they can adjust to the global economy and make us all richer, or they can continue to stick their fingers in the dike. Lack of a grand strategy is the symptomatic defect of the left in this country for the last several decades. They simply have no decades-long plan at all. Even the health care bill if it passes only became possible through the dumb luck of the fallout of the Bush catastrophe and not any incremental, patient broad arc since FDR’s time.

The strategic weakness of the enemy at this point in time is that only people whose views are way out of the mainstream will continue to push this, even without teachers’ unions of any consequence in politics. But a noisy minority can do almost anything in this country. Even a weak army will win when not resisted by organized force. A Napoleonic center maneuver is what we need here-to get between the two sides of the right, not the political center, to split them, to get the money power to fight the Christians.

I submit to you that 100 children with 4 teachers in a barn with chalkboards and slates will learn better than 100 children with 2 teachers in a classroom with the latest 3-D textbooks and audiovisual equipment paid for by categorical funds in very fine school buildings paid for by taxes than can pass with only 55% of the vote, but which money cannot be paid to those two missing teachers.