David Dayen: Why A Federal Bail Out for Lobbyists?

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David Dayen writes regular reports on the politics of the pandemic for The American Prospect.

He posted this today.


First Response

I read this interview between Ezra Klein and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Pramila Jayapal, and I have to say I’m tiring of what amounts to a bunch of excuses for how progressives have been functionally locked out of policymaking during this crisis. Jayapal sniffs that “it’s a lot easier to be on the outside and to be pure and never having to make compromises,” and says that there aren’t enough progressives willing to use their power to stop legislation outright. She essentially says that, as long as there’s a bone in there, members can be easily picked off.

But the problem isn’t about compromise, it’s about invisibility. Nancy Pelosi has run the House of Representatives by fiat for close to two months, and there hasn’t been a single word of protest as she locks every other member of the Democratic caucus out of policymaking and hands them take-it-or-leave-it legislation to rubber stamp. If Jayapal has ever objected to that you sure wouldn’t know.

As Ezra points out, instead of organizing around one thing, progressives supply 100-item wish lists that everyone knows won’t be fulfilled. This has two consequences: the wish lists show progressives are not completely serious about governing, and the leadership can always pick like 2 of the 100 out of the list and give members something to justify voting for a bad bill.

Read all of our Unsanitized reports

Meanwhile, Pelosi has been talking about what she’ll add to the next bill, and it’s relatively unconstrained by wish lists. One of the elements is changing the eligibility standards for PPP small business loans to include 501(c)(4) and (c)(6) nonprofit organizations. You might know (c)(6) organizations by another name: lobbyists. Unbelievably, K Street has asked for a bailout and is on the road to getting it. I mean lobbyists are good at lobbying, I guess.

As far as I can tell, lobbyists have not stopped lobbying amid the crisis. There’s been a “frenzy” of lobbying around Mitch McConnell’s desire for a corporate liability shield from coronavirus-related lawsuits, for example. Why do high-powered lobby shops need a free $10 million per firm, exactly? Also, PPP will be out of money by the time any bill passes. Does tweaking eligibility signal giving more to this program, in part to just shovel money at lobbying firms?

Meanwhile, Jayapal’s bill to guarantee payroll support from the government for the duration of the crisis was “very worthy of consideration,” said Pelosi. That’s code for “nice work but it’s not getting in the bill.”

The House Democratic slogan is “for the people.” And that’s selectively true. Pelosi listens to some people, powerful people. And she pays lip service to others. She does this because she knows she can get away with it. There’s been essentially no dissent from those on the losing end of that equation. The House still doesn’t even have remote voting in place, and caucuses are doing Zoom calls rather than official hearings. Hundreds of members of Congress representing hundreds of millions of people have been disenfranchised. If there’s state and local government aid in a future bill (if it ever happens), progressives are going to shrug and support something with a lobbyist bailout in it. You can see it now.

If you funnel all lawmaking through one person, you’re going to get things laundered through a certain perspective that has a likelihood of occasionally being myopic. The K Street bailout is the dumbest political maneuver you could possibly make right now. Businesses already have access to insanely generous support at the federal level; the Federal Reserve has propped up their equity and credit markets. Who do you think pays lobbyists? The PPP is an underweighted program that isn’t going to save most small businesses, it’s not even designed to do that. All you’re doing by adding lobbyists to it is stoking public anger. And the anger is well-placed; lobbyists really don’t deserve free money right now.

But when there’s no pressure whatsoever on the one-woman Congress, you stumble into mistakes like this. Surely progressive lawmakers don’t like being alienated from their professional duties in this fashion. Maybe they should say something.

Jared’s Boys

To facilitate sleeping at night, I try really hard to avoid the unavoidable reality that Jared Kushner, someone with about as much policy talent as the agave plant in my front yard, is managing huge sections of the government. But the description of Kushner’s operation to secure medical equipment reflects the farce that our policymaking apparatus has been turned into, a combination of kleptocracy and total ignorance that is hard to even really analyze outside of saying “this is bad.”

But I will highlight the provenance of many of the people working on the Kushner project: his buddies in the private equity industry. Was the whole idea to, I don’t know, knuckle under suppliers and take out management fees and rip off hospitals and states? Then why would PE guys be involved? They “were expected to apply their deal-making experience to quickly weed out good leads from the mountain of bad ones,” according to administration officials. That’s not what PE, especially the inexperienced PE volunteers assigned to this project, do. There are no distressed assets among medical suppliers in high demand. There’s nobody to screw over when the goal is to get masks and gowns quickly to doctors and nurses. And PE paper-pushers probably don’t understand the particular challenges of this task, namely supply chain management.

This Pro Publica story about one fly-by-night contractors private jet trip to find N95 masks is typical of the dysfunction involved here. And here’s a supply company set up by Republican operatives that’s now under criminal investigation. And here are more allegations that the administration prioritized friends of Kushner for contracts. This entire thing was an enormous grift at the expense of national preparedness.

Education Law Center: States Should Reject DeVos’ Proposal to Fund Elite Private Schools

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NEW JERSEY MUST REJECT EDUCATION SECRETARY DEVOS’ ADVICE TO GIVE EMERGENCY COVID-19 FUNDS EVEN TO WEALTHY PRIVATE SCHOOLS

Education Law Center is urging New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy to firmly reject a non-binding directive from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to set aside federal emergency relief funds under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act for all private school students, even the most wealthy.

In a May 11 letter to Governor Murphy, ELC explains that Secretary DeVos’ guidance to New Jersey and other states to allocate CARES Act funds to all private school students, without regard for income level, is based on a patent misreading of the express terms of the CARES Act and the federal Title I statute, which governs the distribution of CARES Act funding to local school districts. ELC further explains that Secretary DeVos’ flawed legal interpretation would also significantly diminish the resources available to New Jersey school districts to provide effective and equitable remote learning opportunities while students are sheltering at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“This erroneous guidance lays bare Secretary DeVos’ personal agenda for reducing federal emergency CARES Act funds to public schools and redirecting as much of that funding as possible to private schools,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “By advising that even the wealthiest students in the most expensive private schools should receive services paid for with CARES Act funds, the guidance would lead New Jersey and other states to divert millions of dollars critically needed by public school students, including access to continuing instruction while their schools are closed.”

Estimates based on 2017 census data show that New Jersey’s high poverty districts will be most impacted by following Secretary DeVos’ directive given the differences between the poverty rates of the district as a whole and those of private school students.

For example, in Jersey City, 12% of the district school-aged population attend private schools, while only 14% of those students are poor. Following DeVos’ directive would mean diverting nearly $1 million more of the CARES Act funds from Jersey City public school students, 30% of whom are poor.

Similarly, in Passaic City, an estimated 16% of students attend private schools, but only 10% of those students are poor. In Passaic public schools, 51% of students are poor. Using Secretary DeVos’ preferred approach would increase the amount of federal CARES Act funds reserved for private school students from $300,000 to $1.4 million.

ELC also underscores that rejecting Secretary DeVos’ directive is compelled by New Jersey’s constitutional obligation to “provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools” for all students. As the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed in the landmark Abbott v. Burke rulings, public school students have a fundamental right to an education that prepares them to be informed citizens and productive members of society and that right “must remain prominent, paramount and fully protected.”

Beyond New Jersey, ELC is calling on governors and education officials to decline Secretary DeVos’ legally improper directives and ensure maximum CARES Act funds to enable school districts across the country to bring an end to the digital divide.

Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
Education Law Center
60 Park Place, Suite 300
Newark, NJ 07102
973-624-1815, ext. 24
skrengel@edlawcenter.org

Lisa Haver: Philadelphia Needs an Elected School Board

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Lisa Haver, a retired teacher and current activist in Philadelphia, wonders why state and city leaders are so fearful of democracy. When state control of the public schools ended—capping a two-decade era of defunding and additional privatization of public assets—it was replaced by mayoral control. She argues that Philadelphia needs an elected school board.

We vote for our leaders in every election.

But not for Philadelphia’s school board.

Unlike voters in every other district in Pennsylvania, those in Philadelphia continue to be disenfranchised when choosing their local school board….

Philadelphia’s new hand-picked Board of Education was sworn in recently, immediately after City Council’s one mandated confirmation. The hearing, confirmation vote and swearing-in created nary a disturbance in the force, without coverage from any major newspaper, radio or television outlet, save the independent Public School Notebook.

In fact, little notice was paid to the nomination process itself. Although many Philadelphians believe that “local control” was restored after the abolition of the School Reform Commission, the District actually operates under mayoral control. Months ago, the mayor selected his nominating panel which, at his direction, held deliberations in closed executive session, arguably violating the state’s Sunshine Act and shutting out those with a heavy stake in the District—parents, educators, students and community members.

The Council hearing on the mayor’s choices offered one brief opportunity for the public to hear from the nominees. For some reason, though, all questions were directed to the incumbents, none to the one new candidate. Ameen Akbar was sworn in without having to explain his philosophy of education, his vision for the future of the District, or his work in the charter sector, in particular his affiliation with the Universal charter network, whose former CEO and chief financial operator were indicted in January on bribery charges, alongside one Councilmember and his wife.

Will this unelected board resist the sales pitches from purveyors of technology? Will they insist on transparency and accountability for charter schools?

Philadelphia needs an elected board.

Chalkbeat: No Current NYC Educators Invited to Cuomo’s “Reimagine Education” Task Force

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Andrew Cuomo has a longstanding dislike for teachers and public schools.

He made his disdain clear when he failed to appoint any current New York City educators to his “reimagine education” task force.

Why should he listen to teachers and principals when he can call Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Eric Schmidt and other billionaires and CEOs to decide what schools should look like when they reopen?

If there is any consolation to this malign neglect, it is important to remember that Cuomo has no role in setting education policy. That job belongs to the New York State Board of Regents. According to the state constitution, the governor does not appoint either the state commissioner or the Board of Regents.

He is a kibitzer.

Laura Chapman: Bad News from Ohio

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Laura Chapman reports on budget cuts to schools in Ohio, which hurt public schools but protect charters and vouchers.

She writes:

Bad news from Ohio again. Not quite Lord of the Flies (fiction or non-fiction truth)

This week, Governor DeWine is proposing $355 million in K-12 education cuts with $300 million coming out of foundation aid to local school districts from the current state budget that expires in July.

While public education accounts for about 42% of state expenditures, it will absorb about 45.8% of the loss.

He has not asked private schools that take public funds to sacrifice anything. This proposed cut will exacerbate the underfunding of public schools in favor of EdChoice vouchers that raid public school dollars for private schools.

In addition public school funds should not be supporting charter schools that are the pet project of billionaires who think they are entitled to raid public dollars for their preferred undemocratic system of education.

This proposed cut will shift a large portion of public school funding from the state to local districts. I have not looked at all of DeWine’s proposed budget cuts but these sure look like they are designed to hit public schools and favor private schools as well as charters schools that have declared they are eligible for small business loans, these likely to be foregiven.

If you are in Ohio, please open the link below and follow-up with emails to the people who are planning for this cut to be passed well before school starts. Start with this link:

https://mailchi.mp/ac594ace4a33/action-alert-355-million-in-education-cuts-in-ohio?e=ba8653e702