On June 16, 2017, US President Donald Trump delivered a speech full of hostile anti-Cuban rhetoric reminiscent of the times of open confrontation with our country in a Miami theater. He announced his government’s Cuba policy, which rolls back the progress achieved over the last two years since December 17, 2014, when Presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama announced the decision to re-establish diplomatic relations and engage in a process towards the normalization of bilateral relations.
In what constitutes a setback in the relations between both countries, President Trump, gave a speech and signed a policy directive titled “National Security Presidential Memorandum”, which provides the elimination of private educational “people-to-people” exchanges and greater control over all travelers to Cuba, as well as the prohibition of business, trade and financial transactions between US companies and certain Cuban companies linked to the Armed Revolutionary Forces and the intelligence and security services, under the alleged objective of depriving us from income. The US president justified this policy with alleged concerns over the human rights situation in Cuba and the need to rigorously enforce the US blockade laws, conditioning its lifting, as well as any improvements in US-Cuba bilateral relations to our country’s making changes inherent to its constitutional order.
Trump also abrogated Presidential Policy Directive “Normalization of Relations between the United States and Cuba”, issued by President Obama on October 14, 2016. Although said Directive did not conceal the interventionist character of the US policy nor the fact that its main purpose was to advance US interests in order to bring about changes in the economic, political and social systems of our country, it did recognize Cuba’s independence, sovereignty and self-determination and the Cuban government as a legitimate and equal interlocutor, as well as the benefits that a civilized coexistence would have for both countries and peoples despite the great differences that exist between both governments. The Directive also conceded that the blockade is an obsolete policy and that it should be lifted.
Once again, the US Government resorts to coercive methods of the past when it adopts measures aimed at stepping up the blockade, effective since February 1962, which not only causes harm and deprivations to the Cuban people and is the main obstacle to our economic development, but also affects the sovereignty and interests of other countries, which arouses international rejection.
The measures announced impose additional obstacles to the already very limited opportunities that the US business sector had in order to trade with and invest in Cuba.
Likewise, those measures restrict even more the right of US citizens to visit our country, which was already limited due to the obligation of using discriminatory licenses, at a moment when the US Congress, echoing the feelings of broad sectors of that society, calls not only for an end to the travel ban, but also for the elimination of the restrictions on the trade with Cuba.
The measures announced by President Trump run counter to the majority support of the US public opinion, including the Cuban emigration in that country, to the total lifting of the blockade and the establishment of normal relations between Cuba and the United States.
Instead, the US President, who has been once again ill-advised, is taking decisions that favor the political interests of an irrational minority of Cuban origin in the state of Florida which, out of petty motivations, does not give up its intent to punish Cuba and its people for exercising the legitimate and sovereign right of being free and having taken the reins of their own destiny.
Later on, we shall make a deeper analysis of the scope and implications of the announcement.
The Government of Cuba condemns the new measures to tighten the blockade, which are doomed to failure, as has been repeatedly evidenced in the past, for they will not succeed in their purpose to weaken the Revolution or bend the Cuban people, whose resistance against aggressions of all sorts and origins has been put to the test throughout almost six decades.
The Government of Cuba rejects political manipulation and double standards in human rights. The Cuban people enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms and can proudly show some achievements that are still a chimera for many countries of the world, including the United States, such as the right to health, education and social security; equal pay for equal work, children’s rights as well as the rights to food, peace and development. Cuba, with its modest resources, has also contributed to the improvement of the human rights situation in many countries of the world, despite the limitations inherent to its condition as a blockaded country.
The United States are not in the position to teach us lessons. We have serious concerns about the respect for and guarantees of human rights in that country, where there are numerous cases of murders, brutality and abuses by the police, particularly against the African-American population; the right to life is violated as a result of the deaths caused by fire arms; child labor is exploited and there are serious manifestations of racial discrimination; there is a threat to impose more restrictions on medical services, which will leave 23 million persons without health insurance; there is unequal pay between men and women; migrants and refugees, particularly those who come from Islamic countries, are marginalized; there is an attempt to put up walls that discriminate against and denigrate neighbor countries; and international commitments to preserve the environment and address climate change are abandoned.
Also a source of concern are the human rights violations by the United States in other countries, such as the arbitrary detention of tens of prisoners in the territory illegally occupied by the US Naval Base in Guantánamo, Cuba, where even torture has been applied; extrajudicial executions and the death of civilians caused by drones; as well as the wars unleashed against countries like Iraq, under false pretenses like the possession of weapons of mass destruction, with disastrous consequences for the peace, security and stability in the Middle East.
It should be recalled that Cuba is a State Party to 44 international human rights instruments, while the US is only a State Party to 18. Therefore, we have much to show, say and defend.
Upon confirming the decision to re-establish diplomatic relations, Cuba and the United States ratified their intention to develop respectful and cooperative relations between both peoples and governments, based on the principles and purposes enshrined in the UN Charter. In its Declaration issued on July 1, 2015, the Revolutionary Government of Cuba reaffirmed that “these relations must be founded on absolute respect for our independence and sovereignty; the inalienable right of every State to choose its political, economic, social and cultural system, without interference in any form; and sovereign equality and reciprocity, which constitute inalienable principles of International Law”, as was established in the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed by the Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC), at its second summit held in Havana. Cuba has not renounced these principles, nor will it ever do so.
The Government of Cuba reiterates its will to continue a respectful and cooperative dialogue on topics of mutual interest, as well as the negotiation of outstanding issues with the US Government. During the last two years it has been evidenced that both countries, as was repeatedly expressed by the President of the Councils of State and of Ministers, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, can cooperate and coexist in a civilized manner, respecting the differences and promoting everything that benefits both nations and peoples, but it should not be expected that, in order to achieve that, Cuba would make concessions inherent to its sovereignty and independence, or accept preconditions of any sort.
Any strategy aimed at changing the political, economic and social system in Cuba, either through pressures and impositions or by using more subtle methods, shall be doomed to failure.
The changes that need to be made in Cuba, as those that have been made since 1959 and the ones that we are introducing now as part of the process to update our economic and social system, will continue to be sovereignly determined by the Cuban people.
Just as we have been doing since the triumph of the Revolution on January 1st, 1959, we will take on every risk and shall continue to advance steadfastly and confidently in the construction of a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable nation.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her department have pushed for an expansion of privatized school choice programs in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, particularly in the form of private school vouchers. Now a propagandistic three-part documentary series called School Inc. will help DeVos in her efforts to gain public support for expanded private school choice options. The series has alreadyaired on PBS stations in some markets and will be shown on more this month.
This program is paid propaganda. It does not search for the truth. It does not present opposing points of view. It is an advertisement for the demolition of public education and for an unregulated free market in education. PBS might have aired a program that debates these issues, but “School Inc.” does not.
Why would a public broadcast channel air a documentary that is produced by a right-wing think tank and funded by ultra-conservative donors, and that presents a single point of view without meaningful critique, all the while denigrating public education? PBS responded in part with a statement to the Post, saying, “PBS and local member stations aim to offer programs that reflect diverse viewpoints and promote civic dialogue on important topics affecting local communities.”
However, as Ravitch notes, when a documentary fails to objectively present information about a topic that may not be well understood by the general public, the result is unlikely to “promote civic dialogue.” And when major media outlets uncritically provide a platform to right-wing ideologues, they further misinform and polarize the debate around important issues such as public education.
BuzzFeed News reviewed more than 50 reports of school bullying since the election and found that kids nationwide are using Trump’s words to taunt their classmates. If the president can say those things, why can’t they?
Donald Trump’s campaign and election have added an alarming twist to school bullying, with white students using the president’s words and slogans to bully Latino, Middle Eastern, black, Asian, and Jewish classmates. In the first comprehensive review of post-election bullying, BuzzFeed News has confirmed more than 50 incidents, across 26 states, in which a K-12 student invoked Trump’s name or message in an apparent effort to harass a classmate during the past school year.
In the parking lot of a high school in Shakopee, Minnesota, boys in Donald Trump shirts gathered around a black teenage girl and sang a portion of “The Star Spangled Banner,” replacing the closing line with “and the home of the slaves.” On a playground at an elementary school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, third-graders surrounded a boy and chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!”
On a school bus in San Antonio, Texas, a white eighth-grader said to a Filipino classmate, “You are going to be deported.” In a classroom in Brea, California, a white eighth-grader told a black classmate, “Now that Trump won, you’re going to have to go back to Africa, where you belong.” In the hallway of a high school in San Carlos, California, a white student told two biracial girls to “go back home to whatever country you’re from.” In Louisville, Kentucky, a third-grade boy chased a Latina girl around the classroom shouting “build the wall!” In a stadium parking lot in Jacksonville, Florida, after a high school football game, white students chanted at black students from the opposing school: “Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!”
Today’s high schoolers will be eligible to vote in 2020, and today’s fifth graders will be eligible to vote in 2024.
The first school year of the Donald Trump presidency left educators struggling to navigate a climate where misogyny, religious intolerance, name-calling, and racial exclusion have become part of mainstream political speech.
These budding political beliefs among some students carry consequences beyond the schoolyard. Today’s high schoolers will be eligible to vote in 2020, and today’s fifth-graders will be eligible to vote in 2024. But even if the wave of Trump-related bullying doesn’t reflect some widespread political awakening among young people, it indicates a more troubling reality: the extent to which racial and religious intolerance has shaped how kids talk, joke, and bully.
“It’s unacceptable and it reflects a wider climate of hate that we’re seeing,” Antonio Lopez, an assistant school superintendent in Portland, Oregon, told BuzzFeed News. Lopez in March announced a plan to personally track racist bullying in his district, citing the importance of snubbing out hateful speech as early as possible.
Lopez said the hate incidents in his district were on his mind when he heard that white supremacist Jeremy Joseph Christian had stabbed three people, two of them fatally, on a Portland train after they intervened to stop his racist rant against two teenage girls, one of them a Muslim wearing a headscarf.
While there are no quantitative studies examining the election’s impact on school bullying, BuzzFeed News conducted the first large-scale nationwide analysis of bullying incidents linked to Trump, reviewing hundreds of reports submitted to the Documenting Hate project, a database of tips about hate crimes and bias incidents set up by ProPublica and shared with other news organizations.
BuzzFeed News reviewed every alleged incident, from early October to late May. The reports spanned 149 schools. Of those, BuzzFeed News was able to follow up on 54 cases through interviews, public statements from school officials, and local news reports. (BuzzFeed News has not heard back from the people who filed the other 95 tips.)
For teachers and principals, the first school year of the Trump presidency brought a new test.
“This is my 21st year in education and I’ve never seen a situation like this before,” said Brent Emmons, principal of Hood River Middle School in Oregon. “It’s a delicate tightrope to walk. It’s not my role to tell people how to think about political policies, but it is my role to make sure every kid feels safe at the school.”
At a time of thick political and racial tensions, and of heightened worries among people of color, what is a teacher to say when a student asks: Why can the president say it but I can’t?
Teachers, like everybody else in the United States, realized at some point in 2016 that this election was very different.
Over her 10 years as a middle school English teacher in Spokane Valley, Washington, Amanda Mead liked to shift her curriculum based on current events. She assigned readings from the civil rights era when protests roiled Ferguson in 2014. In 2012 and 2008, her classroom discussions often turned to the presidential election.
“We’d talk about Bush, Obama, McCain, et cetera, and the kids would just nod their heads,” Mead said. “But as the campaign heated up last year, I started to notice a pretty significant change among my kids. They would say things that I have never heard kids in my school district say. Far more vitriolic.”
She caught a group of white students following a Latino student in the hallway, taunting him with chants of “the wall’s coming!” and “Trump! Trump! Trump!” She overheard kids repeating insults Trump had aimed at Hillary Clinton.
For the kids, there was no escaping Trump. His speeches played on television nearly every night. Every adult seemed to be talking about him — at dinner tables, on social media. He was the central figure of the cultural moment, and he talked like a playground bully.
“As the campaign heated up last year, I started to notice a pretty significant change among my kids.”
“It’s a daily occurrence that they hear this language,” said Dorothy Espelage, an education psychology professor at the University of Florida who has researched school bullying. “They’re just parroting back what they hear” — from parents, from Trump, from raucous crowds on televised campaign rallies.
Emmons, the middle school principal in Oregon, didn’t realize how much kids had latched on to Trump’s message until dozens of his students chanted “Build that wall!” during a Halloween assembly after two teachers performing in a skit entered the stage wearing masks of Trump and Clinton. A third of the school’s students are Latino.
“That was the first time that I knew it was going to be a problem at my school,” Emmons said. “Many of our students felt unsafe and disrespected. These words are hateful and scary for them.”
When Emmons talked to some of kids who had chanted, he said he found that “some students had no idea what it meant.” They were simply joining in with the mob. “It’s middle school; it’s what you do because you’re right next to them,” Emmons said. “I really don’t believe that 99% of the kids who were chanting it had any malice or hate in their hearts.”
Recalling an incident he witnessed in which some white students harassed minority students with the usual lines about walls and deportation, Dylan Henderson, a high school sophomore in Atlanta, said, “Maybe a few of them truly were passionate about those beliefs, but the others seemed to just be doing it to incite a response, to see what will happen.”
Kids, like the president, tend to enjoy a good troll.
To Emmons and other educators, activities and discussions that once seemed innocently enriching had suddenly become fraught. Teachers grappled with how to talk to students about the election — or whether to talk about it at all. One fifth-grade teacher in North Carolina, who requested anonymity, said her school told teachers to avoid discussion about the candidates and focus on the political process when talking about the election. “I don’t think anyone has known how to handle it or approach it,” the teacher said.
Parents were similarly caught off guard by the racist bullying, which many had not encountered.
A week before the election, students at a high school in Florien, Louisiana, held a mock election in the lunchroom. Nearly all of the 200 or so students voted for Trump. When the vote count was read out, some students began asking who had voted for Clinton. One boy, a Latino 10th-grader, raised his hand. “Go back home!” somebody shouted. “Do you have your working papers?” somebody else said. A “build a wall!” chant broke out.
“He didn’t want to go back to school,” said the boy’s mother, who requested anonymity. “He said he didn’t feel safe.”
Having lived in the small town all his life, the boy had gone to school with the same classmates since kindergarten. Most of them are white, yet “this was the first time he felt his race was an issue,” his mother said. “I had to explain to him that this is how some people see the world.”
In suburban Dallas, one mother said her sixth-grade son came home from school on Election Day and told her that some classmates had taunted him and two friends on the playground that morning: “Heil Hitlary,” one boy said; another said, “one million of your lives is worth less than 30,000 deleted emails.” After the boy recalled the incident, he asked his mother, “How did they know we’re Jewish?”
The bullying in schools is part of a larger wave of hate speech, vandalism, and violence that has occurred across the country within the past year. In the four months following the election, Jewish cemeteries were defaced in at least three states, and at least three mosques were set on fire. In Kansas and Washington, white men shot brown men because they thought they were Muslim, killing one and wounding two more. In New York City, a white man who fatally stabbed a black man said he was on a mission to kill many more. A BuzzFeed News investigation earlier this year tallied at least 18 hate crimes and bias incidents from November to March in Oregon alone.
“I don’t think anyone has known how to handle it or approach it.”
With so many recent examples of racist beliefs leading to violence, the verbal abuse in schools stands out not just as an example of kids testing boundaries, but as a possible window into a disturbing future.
On Election Day in Silverton, Oregon, around three dozen students gathered in their high school’s parking lot, holding Trump signs and waving American flags. When Latino students passed by, teens in the crowd shouted “Pack your bags, you’re leaving tomorrow!” and “Tell your family goodbye!”
At a Philadelphia prep school, four white students posed for a photo while holding pictures of the Confederate flag and Donald Trump. In the weeks after the election, pro-Trump messages, alongside racist pejoratives and symbols, were spray-painted on walls at schools in Newtown, Pennsylvania; Suwanee, Georgia; and Brookline, Massachusetts.
In Millersburg, Pennsylvania, a Latina high school student broke into tears when more than 30 classmates chanted “Trump!” at her. In York County, Pennsylvania, a group of high school students holding Trump signs marched through the halls; one shouted “white power.” In Coppell, Texas, a Latino high school student found on his desk a goodbye card with a note suggesting he would be deported and ending, “Make America Great Again! Adios!”
On a school bus in a suburb of St. Louis, a white teen said to a black teen, “Are you ready to get back on the boat now that Trump is president?” In a fifth-grade classroom in Greensboro, North Carolina, a Latino boy cried after another student told him, “Donald Trump wants to send you guys away. He doesn’t want you here.” At a high school volleyball game in Archer City, Texas, and at high school basketball games in Jefferson Township, New Jersey, and San Diego, white students chanted “build the wall” at Latino students on the other team. In Nebraska, at baseball games against Schuyler High School, which is 80% Latino, opposing students brought Trump signs and shouted taunts about deportation and building a wall.
The known incidents of Trump-related school harassment form an incomplete list. Missing are the cases that adults never hear about, the ones lost to the closed ecosystem of adolescent social life.
One Los Angeles County seventh-grader begged his mom not to tell the principal about the anti-Semitic harassment he was getting from a Trump supporter in his class. The bully was a popular kid. “My son didn’t want to deal with the social consequences,” his mother said. “He was really adamant that we didn’t out this boy.”
Another mother, from the San Francisco Bay Area, learned of a post-election bullying incident when her teenage daughter mentioned it in passing. “She didn’t want to talk about it,” the mother said. “She didn’t want to make a big deal. I was upset. I wanted to go to the principal. But she didn’t want that.” The girl, a 10th-grader, was new at her school and feared making trouble.
When reports did make it up the chain, many principals and superintendents, including in Archer City and Philadelphia, responded swiftly, with public statements or district-wide emails condemning the bullying — stands that drew praise from parents. In Warrensburg, Missouri, after a white student held a Donald Trump sign at a high school basketball game against a team whose players were mostly black, the superintendent issued an apology, calling the act “inappropriate and insensitive toward our opponents.” The school board in Highland Park, Texas, formed a committee to look into the reports of racist harassment after the election. In San Diego County, the school board passed a resolution vowing to maintain a safe climate for students of all races. In a few cases, such as in Silverton, Oregon, and Millersburg, Pennsylvania, students were suspended.
Often, kids themselves have made efforts to counter hate incidents at their schools. High schoolers in Atlanta started a group aimed at promoting tolerance. Two middle schoolers in Oregon put together a video showing dozens of classmates stating what they “believe in” — “respect” and “equal rights” were among the more popular lines. In New Albany, Ohio, students took to social media to pressure administrators to remove graffiti of racist words and Trump’s name at their high school. When the Latino boy from Florien, Louisiana, returned to school the day after the mock election, “his friends banded around him and the other children who were bullied,” his mother said.
But, at a time when the line between political speech and racist hate seems increasingly faint, responses to bullying sometimes brought a backlash.
After a white third-grade boy chanted “build the wall” at a Latina classmate at a Louisville elementary school, the teacher and principal gathered the class and told them the boy’s actions had been racist. Not everybody was pleased with this lecture.
“Parents got mad that the school said it was racist,” said the mother of another boy in the class.
“Parents got mad that the school said it was racist.”
Indeed, as some educators learned this past school year, “build the wall” is not an easy phrase to police. It is, after all, a campaign slogan of a major party candidate, chanted by millions of Americans at rallies across the country, and a primary policy objective of the person elected president. How does a teacher explain to a student why the phrase is unacceptable in the classroom without being accused of political partisanship?
After the chant at the Hood River Middle School Halloween assembly, Principal Emmons put it this way in a letter to students: “This statement makes many of your fellow students feel badly because it has been used by politicians to threaten deportation of immigrants and threaten Americans of Mexican heritage. Many students at our school are from families of recent immigrants and these words are hurtful and scary for them.”
He called a school-wide assembly to address the incident, ordered a school-wide writing assignment about it, and organized a festival on campus that showcased games and food from around the world.
Several parents complained that the school’s response was heavy-handed. They accused the principal of suppressing political speech. Recalling those meetings, Emmons said, “We discussed whether a public school has the ability to limit speech that’s used in the national arena. Their viewpoint was: If you thought this way, it didn’t make you a bad person; that it was just about improved border security.”
The same argument emerged in May when a high school in North Carolina confiscated yearbooks after administrators discovered that one student’s senior quote was “Build that wall.” A message on the district’s Facebook page called the quote “inappropriate.” Hundreds of people left comments, mostly criticizing the decision:
“This is a violation of the student’s rights!!!”
“What is so ‘racist’ about the quote?”
“Quoting the POTUS is never inappropriate!”
For some families, the end of the school year brings hard choices. One mother from a suburb outside Richmond, Virginia, said that she and her husband, both US citizens born in Mexico, sent their son and daughter to a local Catholic school “thinking we’ll have the same values as the families there.” Things were smooth for years, until November, when their son was 12 and their daughter 14. “After Trump won, we tried to tell our kids not to worry, but then we started hearing a lot of hate,” she said. A classmate at the school, which is predominantly white, called her son a “Mexican churro.” When her son scored a goal at a soccer game at recess, another classmate said, “Don’t worry, he’s going to be deported pretty soon.” There were frequent “build the wall” jokes.
She informed the principal and the parish priest, she said, but they took no action. When she went to the mother of one of the boys who had targeted her son, the woman defended the comments, saying that the boy was merely “expressing his political point of view.”
The mother and father are now considering transferring their kids to a public school. ●
Have you been the victim of a hate crime?Tell usabout it.
Albert Samaha is the criminal justice reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
For 50 years, Noam Chomsky, has been America’s Socrates, our public pest with questions that sting. He speaks not to the city square of Athens but a vast global village in pain and now, it seems, in danger.
The world in trouble today still beats a path to Noam Chomsky’s door, if only because he’s been forthright for so long about a whirlwind coming. Not that the world quite knows what do with Noam Chomsky’s warnings of disaster in the making. Remember the famous faltering of the patrician TV host William F. Buckley Jr., meeting Chomsky’s icy anger about the war in Vietnam, in 1969.
It’s a strange thing about Noam Chomsky: The New York Times calls him “arguably” the most important public thinker alive, though the paper seldom quotes him, or argues with him, and giant pop-media stars on network television almost never do. And yet the man is universally famous and revered in his 89th year: He’s the scientist who taught us to think of human language as something embedded in our biology, not a social acquisition; he’s the humanist who railed against the Vietnam War and other projections of American power, on moral grounds first, ahead of practical considerations. He remains a rock star on college campuses, here and abroad, and he’s become a sort of North Star for the post-Occupy generation that today refuses to feel the Bern-out.
He remains, unfortunately, a figure alien in the places where policy gets made. But on his home ground at MIT, he is a notably accessible old professor who answers his e-mail and receives visitors like us with a twinkle.
Last week, we visited Chomsky with an open-ended mission in mind: We were looking for a nonstandard account of our recent history from a man known for telling the truth. We’d written him that we wanted to hear not what he thinks but how. He’d written back that hard work and an open mind have a lot to do with it, also, in his words, a “Socratic-style willingness to ask whether conventional doctrines are justified.”
Christopher Lydon: All we want you to do is to explain where in the world we are at a time—
Noam Chomsky: That’s easy.
CL: [Laughs]—When so many people were on the edge of something, something historic. Is there a Chomsky summary?
NC: Brief summary?
NC: Well, a brief summary I think is if you take a look at recent history since the Second World War, something really remarkable has happened. First, human intelligence created two huge sledgehammers capable of terminating our existence—or at least organized existence—both from the Second World War. One of them is familiar. In fact, both are by now familiar. The Second World War ended with the use of nuclear weapons. It was immediately obvious on August 6, 1945, a day that I remember very well. It was obvious that soon technology would develop to the point where it would lead to terminal disaster. Scientists certainly understood this.
New York City educator and author Brian Jones examines one section of the Trump administration budget: Betsy DeVos’ frightening plan to gut the department she runs.
May 25, 2017
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (right) alongside Donald Trump at a White House meeting
IN A recent op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wrote: “Every decision I make as secretary of education is considered through a single, focused lens: How does this affect an individual student?”
Based on the new education budget that she and her boss Donald Trump are proposing, though, it appears that there are a few million “individual students” that DeVos has overlooked.
Half of this money is used to make class sizes smaller by paying approximately 9,000 teachers’ salaries, roughly 70 percent of them in the nation’s poorest school districts. I personally have not visited all of these schools, but I am 100 percent certain that individual students go to them, and that many of them benefit from greater individual attention because of the smaller class sizes.
BUT NOT everything in the Education Department budget is being cut with the aim of “Making America Great Again.”
The proposal “places power in the hands of parents and families to choose schools that are best for their children,” the blueprint reads, “by investing an additional $1.4 billion in school choice programs.” That’s $168 million for more charter schools, $250 million for a new private school choice program, plus a $1 billion increase in Title I funding to incentivize districts to let per-pupil funding “follow the students” to the schools of their choice.
With larger class sizes, less teacher training, fewer resources for arts and foreign languages and no affordable after-school programs, parents will have no choice but to “choose” to take their individual children out of public schools and seek alternatives via charter schools and voucher plans.
A lengthy New York Times investigation into New York City’s high school choice program concluded that the hierarchy of wealth and privilege was merely reproduced because, “Ultimately, there just are not enough good schools to go around.” The Trump-DeVos budget, if approved, would make this problem worse.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
JENNIFER BERKSHIRE’S report for Jacobin on the connection between “school choice” and the Christian right suggests that the “individuals” DeVos really has in mind with each decision she makes are her friends who are eager to channel public dollars into the coffers of private schools–especially private religious schools.
But this isn’t just a right-wing conspiracy to promote the schools its ideologues prefer. The latest school privatization moves build logically on the arguments and policies put forward by President Barack Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “[I]t is Democrats who have pushed to redefine public education in one city after another as an individual parent choice to be exercised in a competitive marketplace, rather than a collective, community good,” Berkshire writes.
If the Trump-DeVos budget is devastating news for most students–individually and collectively–there is some good news in the proposal for a few individuals in Washington, D.C.
According to the Washington Post, “Trump is seeking an additional $158 million for salaries and expenses in the Education Department, up 7 percent, money that according to the budget documents would go toward loan-servicing costs, improved information-technology security, auditing and investigations and additional security costs for the secretary. DeVos has contracted with the U.S. Marshals Service to provide security rather than using the in-house security team that guarded previous secretaries.”
Looking out at the education landscape her proposed budget would create, DeVos is apparently worried about the safety of one individual in particular: herself.
The Trump administration will unveil a fiscal year 2018 budget today that includes $1.7 trillion in cuts to major social programs. The plan marks a new stage in a bipartisan social counterrevolution aimed at eviscerating what remains of programs to fight poverty and hunger and provide health care for millions of workers.
The unveiling of the budget underscores the reactionary character of the Democrats’ response to a gangster government headed by a fascistic-minded billionaire and composed of Wall Street bankers, far-right ideologues and generals. The Democratic Party has chosen to base its opposition to Trump not on his assault on working and poor people, his attacks on democratic rights, or his reckless militarism, but on his supposed “softness” toward Russia.
In the political warfare in Washington, the Democrats are aligned with those sections of the intelligence apparatus and the “deep state” that are determined to compel Trump to abandon any notion of easing relations, and instead continue the Obama administration’s policy of escalating confrontation with Russia. As the Democrats and the so-called “liberal” media pursue their anti-Russia campaign, the Trump administration continues to advance its brutal domestic agenda.
Trump’s budget is the opening shot in a stage-managed tussle between the two big business parties over social cuts that will end with the most massive attack on core social programs in US history.
The budget includes a cut of $800 billion over a decade in Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people jointly administered by the federal government and the states. More than 74 million Americans, or one in five, are currently enrolled in Medicaid, including pregnant women, children and seniors with disabilities.
Like the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed earlier this month by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Trump’s budget plan would put an end to Medicaid as a guaranteed benefit based on need, replacing it with per capita funding or block grants to the states.
The AHCA would also end the expansion of Medicaid benefits under Obamacare and allow states to impose work requirements for beneficiaries. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that an earlier version of the Republican plan would result in 10 million people being stripped of Medicaid benefits.
Trump’s budget would also cut $193 billion over a decade from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, a 25 percent reduction to be achieved in part by limiting eligibility and imposing work requirements.
Welfare benefits, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, would be cut by $21 billion. Spending on the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which benefit mainly low- and middle-income families, would be reduced by $40 billion.
The budget reportedly includes changes in funding for Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income program, which provides cash benefits to the poor and disabled.
While gutting social programs, Trump proposes to sharply reduce taxes for the wealthy. In addition to slashing income tax rates for the rich, he is proposing to dramatically cut estate, capital gains and business tax rates. At the same time, he is demanding a huge increase in military spending.
While Democrats will make rhetorical criticisms of the Trump budget, the fact is that the administration is escalating a decades-long assault on the working class overseen by both big business parties.
The outcome can be seen in the reality of social life in America:
More than 13 percent—some 43.1 million Americans—were living in poverty in 2015. Of these, 19.4 million were living in extreme poverty, which means their family’s cash income was less than half of the poverty line, or about $10,000 a year for a family of four. The poverty rate for children under 18 was 19.7 percent.
These are the official poverty rates, based on absurdly low income baselines. In reality, at least half of the population is living in or on the edge of poverty. These are precisely the people targeted by Trump’s proposed cuts to Medicaid, welfare and food stamps.
Almost one in eight US households, 15.8 million, were food insecure in 2015, meaning they had difficulty providing enough food for all their members. Five percent of households had very low food security, meaning the food intake of household members was cut. Three million households were unable to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children.
Lack of health care
In 2016 under Obamacare, 28.6 million people of all ages, or about 9 percent of the US population, remained uninsured. Many of those insured under plans purchased from private insurers on the Obamacare exchanges were unable to use their insurance because of prohibitively high deductibles and co-pays. Many who gained insurance under Obamacare did so as a result of the expansion of Medicaid. Trump plans to reverse this, throwing millions of people back into the ranks of the uninsured.
A bipartisan assault
In the wake of Trump’s budget proposal, the Democrats have responded with their standard empty rhetoric. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer—one of Congress’ biggest recipients of Wall Street campaign money—decried Trump’s “hard-right policies that benefit the ultra-wealthy at the expense of the middle-class.” Just three weeks ago, Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi were hailing the passage of a bipartisan fiscal 2017 budget that cut food stamps by $2.4 billion, slashed funding for education and the environment, and added billions more for the military and border control.
Obamacare paved the way for the present assault on Medicaid and the coming attacks on Medicare and Social Security by further subordinating health care to the profit demands of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries and imposing higher costs for reduced benefits on millions of workers.
Nothing less than a mass movement of the working class will prevent the destruction of Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, food stamps, public education and every other social gain won by the working class. But this movement must be completely independent of the Democratic Party, the historic graveyard of social protest in America. That includes left-talking demagogues like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
It is not a matter of appealing to or seeking to pressure the Democrats or any other section of the political establishment. They are all in the pocket of Wall Street.
The working class needs its own program to secure its basic social rights—a decent-paying job, education, health care, a secure retirement. These rights are not compatible with a capitalist system that is lurching inexorably toward world war and dictatorship.
Workers and youth must intervene in this crisis with a socialist and revolutionary program geared to the needs of the vast majority, not the interests of an obscenely rich and corrupt financial oligarchy.
New research indicates a devastating development amongst the most vulnerable section of society. The number of children and teens ages 5 to 17 hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or self-harm in the United States has doubled since 2008.
The finding are based on a study abstract titled, “Trends in Suicidality and Serious Self-Harm for Children 5-17 Years at 32 U.S. Children’s Hospitals, 2008-2015” prepared for presentation at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco May 7.
Researchers sifted through administrative data from 32 children’s hospitals from around the country. All discharge diagnoses for suicidality or serious self-harm from emergency department and inpatient intakes were indexed between the years 2008 and 2015 for children between ages 5 and 17.
The results are staggering. Researchers tallied a total of 118,363 diagnoses for suicidality or self-harm from the 32 hospitals. They concluded that a doubling of such diagnoses took place over the study period, an increase from 0.67 percent in 2008 of all intakes to 1.79 percent in 2015.
Over half of those tallied, 59,631 patients, were 15- to 17-year-olds, with 43,682 patients, or 36.9 percent, comprising 12- to 14-year-olds. Moreover, 15,050 patients, amounting to 12.7 percent of the total, were children between ages 5 and 11.
The study also noted that the time of year could also affect when children felt suicidal or inflicted self-harm. The lowest occurrences for both diagnoses occurred during the summer months of June through August, with the highest happening during the spring, March through May, and the fall, September through November.
Dr. Gregory Plemmons, a leading researcher of the study and an associate professor of pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, in Nashville, Tennessee, told CNN: “We noticed over the last two, three years that an increasing number of our hospital beds are not being used for kids with pneumonia or diabetes; they were being used for kids awaiting placement because they were suicidal. And it confirmed what we were feeling: that the rates have doubled over the last decade.”
As to why children commit or think about suicide, Plemmons said it was the “million-dollar question,” adding, “Family history of depression or suicide, family violence, child abuse, gay and lesbian youth, history of bullying—those are all risk factors that have been reported. We didn’t look at any of those specific factors in our study.”
While such factors undoubtedly play a significant role in the development of mental illness among America’s youth, they are further exacerbated by the capitalist system, which exploits the working class and savagely tears society apart into the haves and haves-nots.
For today’s youth, having been born in the past two decades means being raised in a world in which war has been waged on a daily basis. The study shows that young people are among the most vulnerable to this social crisis—facing an uncertain educational future and bleak job prospects—and are increasingly expressing their despair through suicidal thoughts and actions.
A CDC report published last fall found that US children ages 10 to 14 are now more likely to die from suicide than from auto accidents.
The desperation felt by youth is pervasive throughout American society. Recent research reveals swaths of the US population are plagued by mental illness and psychological distress. One report from the Psychiatrics Journal found that 3.4 percent of American adults, a total of 8.3 million people, suffer from “severe psychological distress” (SPD).
Another report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that 52,404 people in the US died from drug overdoses in 2015, stemming in part from psychological distress.