texshelters

Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

The Problem is Limited Access, not Affirmative Action

In Current Events, Economics, Education, History on February 29, 2012 at 22:07

itshisfault from-talk-onevietnam-org.jpg

Abigail Noel Fisher was too poor a student to be admitted into the University of Texas as one of the top 10% of all high school graduates who are automatically eligible for entrance into the state system. After the first 10% of high school graduates are admitted, students have to compete for the remaining seats. However, Ms. Fisher still didn’t make the cut. Instead of taking up the American tradition of going to community college, she took up the American tradition of suing those she feels aggrieved by, the University of Texas at Austin. The suit accuses the university of racial bias against Ms. Fisher, and if she wins, it could reduce higher education opportunities for minorities in the United States.

The University of Texas has a very limited race preferences, and it is only one of several factors for entrance which includes a review of two essays, high school transcripts, SAT scores, a resume including extracurricular and community activities, and so forth. Only in the area of community activities is the question of race considered. Yet this mediocre student wants to blame the system instead of looking at her own application that kept her out of UT.

President Kennedy signed Executive Order 10925 on March 6, 1961 that called for “affirmative action” to ensure employment and educational opportunities for people of all races.  “The intent of this executive order was to affirm the government’s commitment to equal opportunity for all qualified persons, and to take positive action to strengthen efforts to realize true equal opportunity for all.” Lyndon Johnson added Executive Order 11246 to help enforce “affirmative action” in employment and to add women to the order.

Proponents of  affirmative action say it is one remedy to address the imbalance in educational opportunities for minorities and the poor in our nation. Opponents feel affirmative action takes scholarships and educational opportunities away from more deserving students who happen to be white. Both the discrimination and “reverse” discrimination arguments for and against affirmative action policies miss the fundamental problem with higher education in our nation: limited resources, limited funding, and high costs.

State governments limit access to schooling because of lack of funds and their funding priorities. Most states cut their budgets for higher education in the last two years, “…all but nine states experienced one-year declines from their 2010-11 totals. The 41 states that cut their spending did so by widely varying proportions, from as little as 1 percent (in Indiana and North Carolina) to as much as 41 percent (New Hampshire), with a full third seeing double-digit drops.” According to the Center for the Study of Education Policy, “Overall, spending declined by some $6 billion, or nearly 8 percent, over the past year,…” 

Cost is more important than the issue of what race you are in when applying to the university. The cost for higher education has increased at  twice the rate of medical costs since 1978. Since 2000, tuition costs have doubled.  The cost of higher education makes it harder for poorer students to attend and thus reduces their chance to increase their incomes with an advanced degree.

And the poorest families have it the worst:
Among the poorest families — those with incomes in the lowest 20 percent — the net cost of a year at a public university was 55 percent of median income, up from 39 percent in 1999-2000. At community colleges, long seen as a safety net, that cost was 49 percent of the poorest families’ median income last year, up from 40 percent in 1999-2000. 

While tuition is going up, assistance to students entering universities is going down as is state spending for higher education. This year’s cuts to pell grants will also make it harder for students to attend university, affecting up to 100,000 students.

Sarah Volstad, Director of Legislative Affairs for Student Senate, stated, “It’s definitely not like it was…Ten years ago, the state grants were plentiful … tuition was much lower.”

The federal government’s priorities focus on security, war and tax cuts. Instead of addressing the ever increasing inequity in resource distribution in our nation between the top and lower quintiles, we fight over scraps.

If higher education was available and affordable to all who qualify, and there were more scholarships available, the fight over affirmative action would end for all but the most racist in our society, those who don’t want minorities or the poor to be educated no matter the availability.

No amount of affirmative action will fix the problem of access and costs and an economic system of inequity in our nation that limits access to higher education. If we want to end the debate over affirmative action, we need to make schools more affordable and accessible to all.

Peace,
Tex Shelters

If You’re Reading this, You’re Part of the 99%

In Current Events, Economics, Education, Occupy Movement on February 22, 2012 at 21:47

We are the 99% from ohaflcio.blogspot.com

Many people online, in editorial pages, on television and in the streets are denying their membership in the 99%. Few if any of the people that fight against their membership to this not-so-elite group fully understand the concept of the “99%”.

Those who automatically reject anything they consider “liberal” will reject their membership in the 99% as a way to reject a group they falsely consider lazy, unclean Americans who want to blame corporations for all their troubles. However, Occupy Wall Street is not asking for you to agree with everything every member of their group believes. Admitting that you are part of the 99% does not require you reject your conservative, or other, principles.

What admitting you are part of the 99% requires is that you let go of your denial and acquire a modicum of class consciousness. First, you must let go of the myth that the richest 1% of Americans care about you and are job creators instead of job destroyers. Then you must develop an awareness that you are in the lower classes and the 1% determines, to a large extent, what happens in this nation.

Many people reject this idea because they think it means you have to be an anarchist, socialist, communist or some other ist to belong to the 99%. That’s a misreading of the metaphor. What’s more, they don’t even know it is a metaphor, a number that represents the inequality in our economic and political system but may not be literally accurate.

Even Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, showing how smart he is with numbers, took “99%” as a literal idea and corrected the notion several times in his post:

“Let’s be clear. This isn’t really the 99 percent. If you’re in the 85th percentile, for instance, your household is making more than $100,000, and you’re probably doing okay. If you’re in the 95th percentile, your household is making more than $150,000. But then, these protests really aren’t about Wall Street, either. There’s not a lot of evidence that these people want a class war, or even particularly punitive measures on the rich. The only thing that’s clear from their missives is that they want the economy to start working for them, too.”

Let’s be clear about Mr. Klein’s misreading of OWS: 99% is a metaphor that he takes too literally and thus misses the point that it’s about inequality, not exactitude. And it is about Wall Street. The protests are about Wall Street run amok, about how Wall Street gets a free pass when they break regulatory laws, about a Wall Street that is in large part responsible for our economic disaster we find ourselves in. But, it’s not only about Wall Street. The Occupy Movement is about banks, mega corporations like Monsanto that poison our food supply, BP and other large companies that pollute with impunity, the military industrial complex, and so forth. Just because it’s called “Occupy Wall Street” doesn’t mean Wall Street is their only concern, and it’s willfully ignorant to think that. Read their declaration and educate yourself about their issues.

Klein also echoes sentiments of Republicans and dismisses the movement as self-centered, only concerned about themselves, only wanting the “economy to start working” for them, thus he misses the point again. Sure, members of the occupy movement are concerned about their own welfare, and also their neighbors, their children, their family, their community, their teachers, their public servants, other workers, and all members of the 99% that might have had tough times because of the plutocracy we live under. Otherwise, why would so many employed, retired and financially secure people involve themselves in the movement?

Compassion for others is not a hard thing to understand. It’s too bad Klein’s analysis only skims the surface of what the Occupy Movement is about. If he can’t correctly interpret Occupy, he should stick to writing about the Republican primaries. There, he will see enough lies to write about, and he won’t have to write misinformation about the Occupy Movement.

You’re part of the 99% if:

  • Most of your income comes with a W-2 attached.
  • You have ever, or currently, received food stamps, unemployment, SSI, or other government assistance.
  • You don’t have an offshore bank account.
  • If you are not a financial manager or CEO of a major firm, you are part of the 99%.
  • You are also a member of the 99% if your income is less than $400,000 a year.
  • If you earn less than 25% of your income in rent and dividends, you are part of the 99%.
  • If you are one paycheck from being homeless, you are part of the 99%.
  • If you are not a manager, executive, or supervisor of a large firm, you are likely part of the 99%.
  • You are part of the 1% if you can donate millions to a political campaign.
  • You are part of the 1% if you can write laws for ALEC and thus Congress.
  • And if you’re reading this, you are a member of the 99%.

Here’s a demographic breakdown of the 1%:
https://files.nyu.edu/bps261/public/numbers.html 

Fact: the top 1% in the US control 42% of the nation’s wealth.
http://www.mybudget360.com/top-1-percent-control-42-percent-of-financial-wealth-in-the-us-how-average-americans-are-lured-into-debt-servitude-by-promises-of-mega-wealth/

Rich Versus Poor demographics
http://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/review/97/07/9707jw.pdf  

Peace,
Tex Shelters

Occupy Tucson Day of Solidarity

In Current Events, Economics, Education, Occupy Movement on February 21, 2012 at 02:25

The Raging Grannies performing at Occupy Tucson's 99% Meet Yourself

One thing the Republicans have yet to mention when deriding the Occupy movements and their most visible target, Occupy Wall Street, is that it’s run by a bunch of community organizers. Community organizing was evident at the Occupy Tucson Presents: 99% Meet Yourself event held at the downtown, main library plaza, Saturday Feb. 18th, in Tucson, Arizona.

The event was well organized, with a stage, music and speakers from different community based local and national organizations, tables that had information from these organizations, sign making, and information about the historical struggles of the 99%.

Several hundred people attended the event throughout the day to observe, share, learn and listen to the speakers and music and uncounted others that visit the plaza on weekends sat to witness and partake in the event. The event was also live streamed on the Internet for the world to see. Considering how dangerous the occupy movement has been portrayed in some media outlets, it was surprising that no counter protests occurred and there was little police presence.

The day focused on support and sharing of information regarding mutual and overlapping goals shared by the organizations at the event. As speaker Billy Lolos of Occupy Tucson (OT) pointed out, people ask what we in the occupy movements are about, why we don’t have one issue. The truth is, he said, was that we live in a “target rich environment”, and we will be there to protest and join in solidarity with those that share these concerns.

IT Live Streaming OT's 99% Meet Yourself

He then talked about the foreclosure crisis in the nation and in Tucson. Mr. Lolos urged us to get the Tucson and Pima County governments to use eminent domain to claim foreclosed houses and refinance homes for at risk owners. He also took aim at the banks and their bailouts and how if we let them, they will continue taking bailouts from tax payers to finance their risky ventures.

Steve Valencia, Tucson Chair of Jobs with Justice, thanked the occupy movement for helping change the discourse in this nation from cuts that would harm workers to investment in jobs and a sustainable future. He discussed what a “Job with Justice” means: a livable wage, dignity, benefits, collective bargaining, and so forth. Mr. Valencia also pointed out how the occupy movement is raising awareness for the push back against the dominance of corporations over our politics and the scapegoating of workers.

Joe Bernick, a leading voice in the Communist Party of America, author and director of the Salt of the Earth Labor College, added his voice of support and caution to the proceedings. He  reminded us that change doesn’t happen without social movements working for change. He added that capital and capitalism will prevent needed change unless we overturn the faulty capitalist paradigm.

Sal Baldenegro, Sr, a preeminent voice in the Chicano Movement and defender of ethnic studies, more accurately “Mexican American Studies”, echoed the sentiment in his presentation. He pointed out that every time laws were passed to exclude Mexicans and others from participation as members of the United States, those efforts have been defeated. When the U.S. tried to keep Mexicans from owning property, it failed. When governments tried to exclude Mexicans from certain neighborhoods, it failed. When people tried to keep Mexicans segregated and out of their businesses, Mexicans opened their own businesses and over time, segregation became less of an issue. And this happened because of the work of people to overcome those obstacles. And the ban of Mexican American Studies will also fail, he pointed out, because of the efforts of the people.

Sign making at OT's 99% Meet Yourself

David Yerkey of the KXCI show “A View from Slightly off Center”  talked about the media’s role in censorship and promoting the corporate agenda and the way marginalized groups are kept out of the national debate. One striking example he mentioned was how Wikileaks was kept out of the UNESCO debate on Wikileaks by the U.S., and how the U.S. state department filled the meeting with Wikileaks detractors. With public media and the Internet, we can get the news out about these forms of political censorship.

Gayle Hartmann, director of “Saved the Scenic Santa Ritas“, thanked the support OT has given their cause. She added that the letter writing campaign to the U.S. Forest Service against the mine in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson, specifically those questioning the water quality effects of the Rosemont project, were having an impact on the Forest Service’s support for open pit mine. And she made it clear that the mine “would create only a few jobs” and that mining jobs were already available in Arizona.

The music of the day was rousing, lively, socially relevant, and uplifting. The headline band, Relic Soup, played classic songs from Stevie Wonder to Pearl Jam. Ted Warmbrand entertained us with his folk songs and traditional sing-a-longs while local favorites The Raging Grannies sang traditional songs with new updated lyrics about the 99%. Arianna Solare played her politic songs while accompanying herself on guitar while singing in English and Spanish. Guest musicians Ron Pandy entertained us with his down-home folk originals while local character known only as “Iggy” entertained us with his improvised piano and scat style a cappella rapping.

Tabling at the event were groups as diverse as a local solar power company, Move to Amend, the National Writers Union, and Occupy Tucson working groups such as the Yoga and meditation working group, PR/Outreach (the main organizers of the event), among others. Occupy Phoenix also had a table at the event to present information and invite Tucsonans to their events in the coming month.

Tabling at 99% Meet Yourself

More than all the learning, teaching, an networking, the event demonstrated that Occupy Tucson is organized, issue oriented, talented and well spoken members of a community that cares deeply about what happens in our city, state, and nation.

Peace,
Tex Shelters

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