A Republican Congressman Who isn’t a Wacko!

Who is he?

A few hints: He voted to accept the results of the 2020 vote, AND to impeach Trump.

He also represents the same district that Justin Amash and Gerald Ford used to.

He also is being attacked by the Trumpisters and is resigned to the fact that he may be a one-term Congressman.

He had a long interview at The View. I found reading the transcript somewhat hopeful — perhaps more Republicans will snap out of their craziness. I am cutting and pasting some of the most trenchant paragraphs.

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Peter Meijer (the Congressman): … the rhetoric and the narrative in the public was wildly out of step with what more serious minds were discussing in the halls of Congress. A lot of my colleagues who were planning to object to the Electoral College certification, most of those objections hinged upon an interpretation of Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 of the Constitution, around the time, place and manner of elections, and how state legislatures had primacy in determining electoral processes. Now, it was an argument being made selectively against six states that the president had lost, and not being made in a dozen plus states that he had won. So I had issues on the consistency.

But a lot of the folks who were arguing to not certify the Electoral College results — and specifically, Arizona and Pennsylvania ended up being challenged with a Senator joining, so they were brought to the floor. It wasn’t that this was a massively fraudulent stolen election. It was much more grounded arcane basis, but with the understanding that this is an attempt for us to talk more about the process. That was the feeling inside the chamber. Those were the conversations. And then contrast that with President Trump’s Twitter account, and you see how two worlds of thought emerged. The world that said, this was actually a landslide victory for Donald Trump, that it was all stolen away and changed, and votes were flipped in Dominion Voting Systems.

And then you just go into the fever swamp of conspiracy theories. That’s what a lot of the supporters of the president were told. And that’s where some could argue, oh, when we meant stop the steal, we just meant, again, we don’t like these electoral process modifications. But that’s not how it came across.

Michael Barbaro (interviewer): Well, congressman, you sound like you’re being quite sympathetic toward your Republican colleagues in the House who chose not to certify the results. Do you think that those arguments and sentiments were genuine on their part?

Peter Meijer: I think, for some, absolutely. Again, I have disagreements. I do think some arrived at those conclusions in a genuine way. It’s —

Michael Barbaro: Because I think their support undeniably contributed, along with the president’s claims, to a pretty widespread consensus among Republicans that was baseless, right? That the election had been fraudulent. You really don’t think that they were operating primarily out of fear of their constituents and of the president in making these objections?

Peter Meijer: I’m not going to speak to what’s in their hearts. I know that I was watching the president’s speech on January 6. I was watching the speeches that came before it, the threats from members of the Trump family that if we didn’t object and try to change the results — there was a tremendous amount of political pressure. […]

Going into the Electoral College certification, I thought it would be one of the toughest votes of this term because of how many people were calling in and sharing, oftentimes easily disprovable, Facebook screenshots or sending a report. And I’d say, well, I’ve read this and I’ve looked into these citations, or I’ve actually called that clerk — and just how much got amplified. And it was a kind of a game of factual whack-a-mole. You would push back on one thing, such as, well, 60 of the 61 cases that the Trump campaign brought, they lost. And the one they won was very minor, and I think it was a temporary stay.

And then the pushback is, well, they were dismissed due to a lack of standing. OK, I mean, that’s a response, but that’s also not a good response. Well, here was all the widespread fraud? Well then, how come even the president’s lawyers were not arguing in court that there was fraud?

And you just find me a law enforcement body that has actually substantiated any of this, an investigative body, a court of law, anything that we can point to in a credible manner. But the point is, I mean, a lot of our constituents felt that this had been a stolen election because people they looked to and trusted told them that it was.

Michael Barbaro: Right, including congresspeople.

Peter Meijer: Including members of Congress.

Michael Barbaro: You seem to be nibbling around the edges of this, but I just want to state it really clearly. You saw a distinction in what your Republican colleagues in the House were up to. They were concerned about a process, frankly mail-in voting during a pandemic and whether it was done properly. But the way their concerns were being interpreted by their voters — and alongside the president’s public claims — was that a massive fraud had been perpetrated, Joe Biden’s victory was fraudulent.

And I just have to say it feels to me that many of these colleagues of yours must have known that that would be the impact. You can’t really divorce what they’re doing from what the president is doing and say, oh, they had a higher minded approach to this.

Peter Meijer: There’s a reason why I voted to certify both. There’s a reason why I signed on to a surprisingly cross-ideological letter stating why we believe that the challenge process was unwise. I think the individual arguments — I understand how some could make it. It was when the collective argument became something completely different. The whole was a more dangerous version of the sum of its parts.Michael Barbaro

I’m sensing that very early on, you are already figuring out how to navigate your way in a Republican Party where you and your views are in the minority.Peter Meijer

There was immense pressure. And again, I don’t want this to come across that any one individual’s vote was influenced solely by one thing or the other. But I had colleagues who were resigned to the fact that they may get primaried because they wouldn’t vote to object to Electoral College certification in one state or another, that this would guarantee them they would fall on the wrong side of an out-of-office Donald Trump, who has hundreds of millions of dollars in the campaign account.

I had another colleague who expressed concern about that colleague’s family and their safety if he voted to — how he were to be interpreted if he voted to affirm a stolen election. So I think there was just a ton of pressure from a variety of angles. And myself, I had consigned myself that this would be probably a potentially fatal — I thought I could survive it — but a potentially fatal political vote.

[He describes at some length the horrors of being in the Capitol on January 6, then finding out the Capitol has been breached and then having to hide with the rest of the members of Congress for their very lives. Afterwards:]

Peter Meijer: I had hoped that folks would see, I mean, just the fire that was being played with. And then I think several senators did. I mean, many of the objections that had been raised were withdrawn.

Michael Barbaro: But not many House members.

Peter Meijer: There were a handful. And I get it. I mean, the names were signed. Right? The statements had been put out. They had been talking about it on social media. It wasn’t the easiest thing to undo. But let me put it this way. There were a number of folks who got up on the floor and gave the same speech that night, while there was a crime scene investigation and a dead woman’s blood drying a couple of feet outside the door, they were giving the same speech that evening they had written this morning. Maybe a throwaway line about condemning political violence.

But I mean, just the dissonance, it was staggering.

Michael Barbaro: Right. Let me ask you this. Were you disappointed by the number of House colleagues who, after what had just happened that day, after their own lives had been threatened, went on and voted to object to Biden’s win?

Peter Meijer: I think there was just a disbelief. I get the sense that sometimes, especially if you’re running in a district where winning the primary means you win the general, you get these feedback loops. And where —

Michael Barbaro: But you’re talking — you’re talking politics, and I get that. But I’m asking if you, in your heart of hearts, were disappointed.

Peter Meijer: Yes. Yes. Can I go back to politics?

Democrats Need to Get a Clue About Education!

Peter Greene at Curmudgucation gets it right again, even more when we realize that big business has always been lying about not having enough skilled workers. (see)

Democrats Need A New Theory Of Action
Posted: 28 Dec 2020 07:24 AM PST
For four years, Democrats have had a fairly simple theory of action when it came to education.

Something along the lines of “Good lord, a crazy lady just came into our china shop riding a bull, waving around a flamethrower, and dragging a shark with a head-mounted laser beam; we have to stop her from destroying the place (while pretending that we have a bull and a shark in the back just like hers).” 

Now, of course, that will, thank heavens, no longer fit the circumstances. The Democrats will need a new plan.

Trouble is, the old plan, the one spanning both the Clinton and Obama years, is not a winner. It went, roughly, like this:

The way to fix poverty, racism, injustice, inequity and economic strife is to get a bunch of children to make higher scores on a single narrow standardized test; the best shot at getting this done is to give education amateurs the opportunity to make money doing it.

This was never, ever a good plan.
Ever.
Let me count the ways.
For one thing, education’s ability to fix social injustice is limited. Having a better education will not raise the minimum wage. It will not eradicate poverty. And as we’ve just spent four years having hammered into us, it will not even be sure to make people better thinkers or cleanse them of racism. It will help some people escape the tar pit, but it will not cleanse the pit itself.

And that, of course, is simply talking about education, and that’s not what the Dems theory was about anyway–it was about a mediocre computer-scorable once-a-year test of math and reading. And that was never going to fix a thing. Nobody was going to get a better job because she got a high score on the PARCC. Nobody was ever going to achieve a happier, healthier life just because they’d raised their Big Standardized Test scores by fifty points. Any such score bump was always going to be the result of test prep and test-taker training, and that sort of preparation was always going to come at the expense of real education.

Now, a couple of decades on, all the evidence says that test-centric education didn’t improve society, schools, or the lives of the young humans who passed through the system.

Democrats must also wrestle with the fact that many of the ideas attached to this theory of action were always conservative ideas, always ideas that didn’t belong to traditional Democratic Party stuff at all. 

Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire talk about a “treaty” between Dems and the GOP, and that’s a way to look at how the ed reform movement brought people into each side who weren’t natural fits. The conservative market reform side teamed up with folks who believed choice was a matter of social justice, and that truce held until about four years ago, actually before Trump was elected.

Meanwhile, in Schneider and Berkshire’s telling, Democrats gave up supporting teachers (or at least their unions) while embracing the Thought Leadership of groups like Democrats for Education Reform, a group launched by hedge fund guys who adopted “Democrat” because it seemed like a good way to get the support they needed. Plus (and this seems like it was a thousand years ago) embracing “heroes” like Michelle Rhee, nominally listed as a Democrat, but certainly not acting like one. 

All of this made a perfect soup for feeding neo-liberals. It had the additional effect of seriously muddying the water about what, exactly, Democrats stand for when it comes to public education. The laundry list of ideas now has two problems. One is that they have all been given a long, hard trial, and they’ve failed. The other, which is perhaps worse from a political gamesmanship standpoint, is that they have Trump/DeVos stink all over them. 

But while Dems and the GOP share the problems with the first half of that statement, it’s the Democrats who have to own the second part. The amateur part.

I often complain that the roots of almost all our education woes for the modern reform period come from the empowerment of clueless amateurs, and while it may appear at first glance that both parties are responsible, on closer examination, I’m not so sure.

The GOP position hasn’t been that we need more amateurs and fewer professionals–their stance is that education is being run by the wrong profession. Eli Broad has built his whole edu-brand on the assertion that education doesn’t have education problems, it has business management problems, and that they will best be solved by management professionals.

In some regions, education has been reinterpreted by conservatives as a real estate problem, best solved by real estate professionals. The conservative model calls for education to be properly understood as a business, and as such, run not by elected bozos on a board or by a bunch of teachers, but by visionary CEOs with the power to hire and fire and set the rules and not be tied down by regulations and unions. 

Democrats of the neo-liberal persuasion kind of agree with that last part. And they have taken it a step further by embracing the notion that all it takes to run a school is a vision, with no professional expertise of any sort at all.

I blame Democrats for the whole business of putting un-trained Best and Brightest Ivy Leaguers in classrooms, and the letting them turn around and use their brief classroom visit to establish themselves as “experts” capable of running entire district or even state systems. It takes Democrats to decide that a clueless amateur like David Coleman should be given a chance to impose his vision on the entire nation (and it takes right-tilted folks to see that this is a perfect chance to cash in big time). 

Am I over-simplifying? Sure.

But you get the idea.

Democrats turned their backs on public education and the teaching profession. They decided that virtually every ill in society is caused by teachers with low expectations and lousy standards, and then they jumped on the bandwagon that insisted that somehow all of that could be fixed by making students take a Big Standardized Test and generating a pile of data that could be massaged for any and all purposes (never forget–No Child Left Behind was hailed as a great bi-partisan achievement). I would be far more excited about Biden if at any point in the campaign he had said something along the lines of, “Boy, did we get education policy wrong.”

And I suppose that’s a lot to ask.

But if Democrats are going to launch a new day in education, they have a lot to turn their backs on, along with a pressing need for a new theory of action.
They need to reject the concept of an entire system built on the flawed foundation of a single standardized test. Operating with flawed data is, in fact, worse than no data at all, and for decades ed policy has been driven by folks looking for their car keys under a lamppost hundreds of feet away from where the keys were dropped because “the light’s better over here.”

They need to embrace the notion that teachers are, in fact, the pre-eminent experts in the field of education.

They need to accept that while education can be a powerful engine for pulling against the forces of inequity and injustice, but those forces also shape the environment within which schools must work.

 They need to stop listening to amateurs. Success in other fields does not qualify someone to set education policy. Cruising through a classroom for two years does not make someone an education expert. Everyone who ever went to the doctor is not a medical expert, everyone who ever had their car worked on is not a mechanic, and everyone who ever went to school is not an education expert. Doesn’t mean they can’t add something to the conversation, but they shouldn’t be leading it.

They need to grasp that schools are not businesses. And not only are schools not businesses, but their primary function is not to supply businesses with useful worker bees. If they want to run multiple parallel education systems with charters and vouchers and all the rest, they need to face up to properly funding it. If they won’t do that, then they need to shut up about choicey policies.

“We can run three or four school systems for the cost of one” was always a lie, and it’s time to stop pretending otherwise. Otherwise school choice is just one more unfunded mandate.
They need to accept that privatized school systems have not come up with anything new, revolutionary, or previously undiscovered about education. But they have come up with some clever new ways to waste and make off with taxpayer money.

Listen to teachers. Listen to parents in the community served by the school. Commit to a search for long term solutions instead of quick fixy silver bullets. And maybe become a force for public education slightly more useful than simply fending off a crazy lady with a flamethrower. 



Yet another military cheating scandal

I think this is the money quote from the New York Times article on the latest case of over 70 West Point cadets cheating on a calculus test:

“…cheating is a recurring problem at the academies; decades of surveys suggest most cadets get away with it, and only about 20 percent are caught.”

Think about that when you think about the US military officers who graduated from West Point, Annapolis, or the Coast Guard or Air Force academies.

Don’t Give Employers a COVID Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card!

This is by David Sirota and Julia Rock, published in The Guardian.

“Support from Democratic lawmakers for the liability shield legislation comes after the same healthcare lobby group that drafted New York’s law has poured more than $11m into House and Senate Democratic Super PACs.

“The party, though, doesn’t seem to want its own voters to know the details of the deal it is cutting with the Republican party: in a comically on-the-nose attempt at a bait-and-switch, the Democratic senator Joe Manchin touted the legislation as only financial aid for communities – leaving out the fact that it includes a liability shield for corporations.

“US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been one of the few Democratic lawmakers to spotlight what’s really going on. Last week, she tweeted: “If you want to know why Covid-19 relief is tied up in Congress, one key reason is that Republicans are demanding legal immunity for corporations so they can expose their workers to Covid without repercussions.”

“The bipartisan initiative aims to obscure its Dr Evil level of depravity by superficially depicting the liability shield as merely temporary. But that seems like a ruse, as indicated by private equity mogul and senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who said the federal Covid-19 liability shield provision “provides a temporary suspension of any liability-related lawsuits, state or federal level associated with Covid-19, giving states enough time to put in place their own protections”.

“Though full legislative language has not been released, the goal seems clear: to give state legislatures more time to permanently prevent workers from suing employers who endanger them, and to permanently block their families from mounting such lawsuits when the workers die.”

Notably, lawmakers announcing the proposal did not point to a spate of frivolous wrongful death lawsuits that corporations have been warning about as a rationale for the liability shield. Instead, as the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense recently noted, “of more than 4,100 Covid-19 related lawsuits filed, only 75 are for wrongful death or injury as a result of getting sick at work. Two-thirds fall into three categories – insurance disputes, prison cases and civil rights cases, including challenging shelter-in-place orders.”

Liability shields, laundered as a necessary Covid-19 salve, are really designed to permanently remove the last remaining deterrent to corporate abuse

“The liability shield legislation is not some standalone cause – it should be understood as the culmination of a much larger, long-term campaign to remove countervailing force and give capital supreme power over labor.

“Over the last few decades, the government – through legislation and court rulings – has weakened unions, which have used collective bargaining to protect workers rights; limited class action lawsuits and punitive damages, which are designed to punish corporate misbehavior; and gutted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is supposed to enforce the weak workplace safety laws still on the books.”

How Will We Pay For This?

This question is never really asked about all the extremely expensive surveillance spyware and high-tech munitions. It’s only asked about things that will HELP people and the planet, such as the Green New Deal.

The following essay, from Forbes, argues that ‘we’ can pay for all of the suggested GND infrastructure improvements the old fashioned way: printing money. And that no, it won’t lead to inflation – in fact, we have now had 40 years of DEflation, which is much worse.

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90,142 views|Jan 16, 2019,07:15pm EST

The Green New Deal: How We Will Pay For It Isn’t ‘A Thing’ – And Inflation Isn’t Either

Robert Hockett

Robert HockettContributor

Markets

I cover law, justice, money, finance and economics.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s announcement of an ambitious new Green New Deal Initiative in Congress has brought predictable – and predictably silly – callouts from conservative pundits and scared politicians. ‘How will we pay for it?,’ they ask with pretend-incredulity, and ‘what about debt?’ ‘Won’t we have to raise taxes, and will that not crowd-out the job creators?’

Representative Ocasio-Cortez already has given the best answer possible to such queries, most of which seem to be raised in bad faith. Why is it, she retorts, that these questions arise only in connection with useful ideas, not wasteful ideas? Where were the ‘pay-fors’ for Bush’s $5 trillion wars and tax cuts, or for last year’s $2 trillion tax giveaway to billionaires? Why wasn’t financing those massive throwaways as scary as financing the rescue of our planet and middle class now seems to be to these naysayers?

The short answer to ‘how we will pay for’ the Green New Deal is easy. We’ll pay for it just as we pay for all else: Congress will authorize necessary spending, and Treasury will spend. This is how we do it – always has been, always will be.

The money that’s spent, for its part, is never ‘raised’ first. To the contrary, federal spending is what brings that money into existence.

If years of bad or no economic education make that ring counterintuitive to you, you’re not alone: politicians and pundits who ought to know better are with you. But the problem is readily remedied: just take a look at a dollar (or five dollar, or ten dollar, or … dollar) bill. The face you see is George Washington’s – a public official’s – not yours or some other private sector person’s. The signatures you’ll find, for their part, are those of the Treasurer and the Treasury Secretary, not yours or some other private sector person’s. And the inscription you’ll read across the top is ‘Federal Reserve Note,’ not ‘Private Sector Sally’s Note.’

‘Note’ here, note carefully, means ‘promissory note.’ Money betokens a promise. Hence money’s relation to credit. We’ll come back to this later. The money that Treasury spends is, in any event, jointly Fed- and Treasury-issued, not privately issued. That is to say it’s the citizenry’s issuance, not some single citizen’s issuance. It’s like a promise we make to each other. Hence the term ‘full faith and credit’ you’ll hear about when asking what ‘backs’ our currency and our Treasury securities.

This fact of public finance bears real consequences. Chief among them for present purposes is that ‘raising the money’ is never the relevant question for federal spending, any more than ‘finding the promises’ is a question for people who make and keep promises to one another. The relevant question, rather, is what limits, if any, there are on the promises we can make and fulfill. How many promissory notes, in other words, can Fed and Treasury issue without ‘over-promising’?

This is, effectively, the question of inflation – the question of promises’ outstripping capacity to redeem promises and hence losing credibility as promises. (The ‘cred’ of ‘credibility’ is the ‘cred’ of ‘credit,’ not to mention of ‘credo’ – or ‘faith.’) This is precisely why lawyers, accountants, and economists schooled in the simple mechanics of public finance always tell you the relevant constraint upon spending is not some non-existent ‘fundraising constraint,’ but ‘the inflation constraint,’ also known as ‘the resource constraint.’

The truth of the resource constraint is that money usually can be publicly issued and spent only at a rate commensurate with new goods and services supply. If the money supply grows too rapidly for goods and services to keep up, you get the old problem of ‘too many dollars chasing too few goods’ – inflation. If the money supply grows too slowly to keep up with productive capacity, you get the opposite problem – deflation, a far more serious threat, as we’ve seen since the crash of ‘08.

Over the past four decades or so, inflation in consumer goods markets – so-called ‘Consumer Price Inflation,’ or ‘CPI’ – has been by and large nonexistent in the ‘developed’ world. Our problem has been just the opposite – deflation. That is what slow, ‘anemic,’ and even ‘negative’ growth rates across the ‘mature’ economies in recent decades have been about. What inflation we’ve had has been concentrated in financial markets, where the ever-more rich in our ever-more unequal societies gamble their winnings. Meanwhile those below the top have had to spend less and borrow more, bringing deflation and, worse still, debt-deflations after the financial crashes inevitably brought on by asset price hyperinflations in our financial markets.

Which takes us to the Green New Deal. Representative Ocasio-Cortez, whose educational background is in economics, understands as few leaders seem to do that our problems of late have been problems of deflation, not inflation. She also knows well that both inequality and the loss of our middle class have both caused and been worsened by these deflationary trends, along with their mirror images in the financial markets: our asset price hyperinflations – ‘bubbles’ – and busts. Her Green New Deal aims to do nothing short of reversing this slow-motion national suicide – and end our ongoing ‘planet-cide’ in the process.

Because the Green New Deal aims at reversing undeniable long-term deflationary trends in our national economy, there is reason already to deem inflation fears, sure to be stoked by conservative pundits and scared politicians, a silly canard. But we can go further than this. We can catalogue theoretical, empirical, and policy instrument reasons to laugh such fears off.

The theoretical case against inflation worries is straightforward and comes in two parts. Recall the popular ‘too much money chasing too few goods’ adage above. What this slogan captures is that inflation is always a relational matter. It’s about money supply in relation to goods and services supply.

The Green New Deal aims to stoke massive production of a vast array of new products, from solar panels to windmills to new battery and charging station technologies to green power grids and hydroelectric power generation facilities. The new production and new productivity that renewed infrastructure will bring will be virtually unprecedented in our nation’s history. This will be more than enough to absorb all new money spent into our economy. It will also distinguish the Green New Deal starkly from pseudo-stimulus plans of the recent past, none of which flowed to production or infrastructure and nearly all of which simply inflated financial markets.

The second theoretical reason not to fret about Green New Deal inflation is related to but distinct from the first. It is that our economy now is operating at far below capacity even as is, before the Green New Deal adds to capacity. Labor force participation rates still languish at historic lows, and wages and salaries have yet to catch up even to such little growth as we’ve had since our crash of ten years ago. Indeed they have stagnated for decades. These are classic indicators of slack – slack which by definition is opportunity-squandering, and which the Green New Deal now aims to ‘take up.’

The empirical case against inflation worries corroborates the theoretical case, and can also be made from a number of angles. Note first that billions of dollars in tax cuts flowed into the economy during the Reagan years, while multiple trillions more in both tax cuts and war spending flowed during the George W. Bush years. The tax cuts of December 2017 pumped yet more trillions – two of them – into the economy just a bit over a year ago. And still we have seen nothing – nothing – in the way of undesired price inflation in consumer goods and services markets. Indeed no ‘developed’ economy has seen significant CPI inflation for some forty years. Why do inflation ‘Chicken Littles’ think ‘this time [or place] is different?’

My referring to ‘undesired’ price inflation just now hints at another empirical reason to scoff at inflation scolds. Since 2012, the Fed has formally aimed at a 2% inflation target that it has informally targeted even longer. Yet in only a few quarters during all of these years has

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, and Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., stand together on the House... [+] floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, on the first day of the 116th Congress with Democrats holding the majority. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, and Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., stand together on the House… [+]

 ASSOCIATED PRESS

it managed, just barely, to reach it. If the Fed with its massive balance sheet cannot get our inflation rate up to its very low 2% target even while trying to do so, why does Chicken Little think things will grow scary even should the Fed seek one day to tamp prices down?

The final empirical reason to dismiss the inflation Scaredy Cats comes from investors themselves. For years now the Treasury Department has issued ‘inflation-protected’ securities along with traditional ones. The ‘spread’ between prices of the former and prices of the latter is effectively a measure of investors’ inflationary expectations: if they are willing to pay substantially more for inflation-protected than for ordinary Treasurys, they have substantial inflation fears; otherwise not. So what is that spread? It is virtually nil, and has been for years.

But what if the Green New Deal works so well that inflation comes anyway, Chicken Little now asks, notwithstanding all the theoretical and empirical reasons to discount such worries? Here we find even more reasons for comfort. For the ‘toolbox’ of counter-inflationary policy instruments is filled to near overflowing. Let’s consider a few of them.

We can begin with the familiar. Targeted taxes and bond sales, long familiar to most of us, have long been employed to absorb ‘excess money’ during times of high growth. This is precisely what they are for. Because money is issued by citizenrys rather than citizens as noted above, sovereign taxes and bond sales are never about ‘raising money,’ but about ‘lowering money aggregates.’ If inflation should one day emerge, we shall use them accordingly. Once again: always have, always will.

We should note also that such tools can be targeted at specific sources of inflation. A financial transaction tax such as that favored by Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, would operate on financial market inflation – asset price ‘bubbles’ – of the sort that have plagued us in recent years. A ‘value added tax’ – a ‘VAT’ – on particular items that become objects of speculation would work similarly. Such are the real aims of taxation – to act on incentives and press down on price pressures – not to ‘raise money’ we already issue. We know how to use them, and can use them again should it ever prove necessary.

Similar truths hold of the other familiar anti-inflationary policy instrument just mentioned – sovereign bond sales. Treasury already offers a variety of these instruments, classified by time-to-maturity and yield. Such classification offers the option of soaking up money from different sectors of society, from those seeking short-term yield to those seeking longer-term yield. These sales are swaps of unspendable instruments for spendable instruments – dollars, a.k.a. ‘legal tender.’ The New York Fed trading desk does this daily to fine-tune the money supply – we call its activities ‘open market operations.’ It would do likewise, save in the opposite direction, were inflation ever again to become ‘a thing.’

Turning now to less familiar policy instruments, note next that much of financial regulation both can be and should be deployed in the cause of what I call money modulation – that is, inflation- and deflation-prevention. Banks ‘create’ – they generate – money by lending; any banker will tell you that. So do most other financial institutions – especially those of the so-called ‘shadow banking’ sector. This is the sense in which credit is money, or what smart economists call ‘credit-money.’

Regulations that we impose upon credit-extension are accordingly regulations on money-creation. Require banks to raise more equity capital per dollar’s worth of credit that they extend, and you effectively lessen the amount of dollar-denominated credit, hence money, that they can generate. Place greater limits on what kinds of lending or investing they can do, and you do likewise.

We call these things ‘capital’ (or ‘leverage’) and ‘portfolio’ regulation, respectively. And though we initially developed them to protect individual institutions and their depositors or investors, we now use them also to modulate credit aggregates economy-wide. It’s called ‘macroprudential regulation,’ and its rediscovery post-crash in the last decade is one of the signal achievements of the post-crisis era. But its importance for Green New Deal purposes is that it’s a powerful anti-inflationary as well as anti-deflationary tool, all thanks to money’s relation to credit.

As if these tools were not enough, there are yet others we could use but don’t use as yet, presumably because we’ve not needed to yet. I’ve proposed these in other work. One is for the New York Fed trading desk to buy or sell not only Treasury securities of varying maturities and yields, but also other financial instruments – in order to target specific prices of broad economic significance when they grow too low or too high (what I call ‘systemically important prices’).

During the Fed’s experiments with ‘quantitative easing’ (‘QE’), for example, commodity prices ended up rising in ways that harmed lower income Americans. I therefore proposed the Fed ‘short’ commodities in its open market operations to put downward pressure on their prices. Though I worked at the Fed at the time, the central bank didn’t take me up on my suggestion. But it could have done so. And it can in the future, in as narrowly targeted a manner as necessary, if ever inflation emerges. And with a balance sheet of its size, it can influence prices quite massively.

A final way we might combat inflation, should it ever emerge, is by use of a new infrastructure that I’ve proposed elsewhere. Suppose, for a moment, that the Fed offered what I call interest-bearing ‘Citizen Accounts’ for all citizens, instead of just offering ‘reserve accounts’ to privileged banks as it does now. Were it to do so, we’d not only eliminate our nation’s ‘financial inclusion’ problem in one swoop, we’d also gain a most powerful money modulation tool.

During deflations like that after 2008, for example, the Fed could drop debt-free ‘helicopter money’ directly into Citizen Accounts rather than giving it to banks in the hope that they’ll lend (which they didn’t – hence the notorious ‘pushing on a string’ problem of the post-2008 period). And were inflation ever to emerge, the Fed could likewise simply raise interest rates on Citizen Accounts, thereby inducing more saving and less spending.

I believe that the ‘fintech’ revolution renders something like what I’m proposing here all but inevitable. The point for present purposes, though, is simply that once this thing happens we’ll have yet another quite powerful anti-inflationary and anti-deflationary policy tool – and therefore yet more reason not to be timid about moving ahead energetically with the Green New Deal.

Have I succeeded, then? Have I convinced you both that there isn’t a ‘pay for’ challenge and that there isn’t, thanks to a multitude of theoretical, empirical, and policy lever reasons, an ‘inflation’ challenge either? If you are bold, know finance, and care about our future, you probably didn’t need much convincing. If instead you are frightened, financially untutored, or cavalier about our economy or our planet, please buck up, wise up, and suit up. It is time to say game on for the Green New Deal.

Robert Hockett

Robert Hockett

I teach legal, financial and some philosophical subjects at Cornell University in New York, where I am the Edward Cornell Professor of Law and a Professor of Public Policy. I also am Senior Counsel at Westwood Capital, a socially responsible investment bank in midtown Manhattan, and a Fellow of The Century Foundation, a think tank near Battery Park in lower Manhattan. My principal research, writing, and practical concerns are with the legal and institutional prerequisites to a just, prosperous, and sustainable economic order. I have worked at the International Monetary Fund and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and continue to serve in a consultative capacity for a number of U.S. federal, state, and local legislators and regulators. I grew up mainly in New Orleans, America’s most wonderful city (sorry, New York), and return to it often. I was educated at Yale, Oxford (as a Rhodes Scholar), and the University of Kansas.

 

Warnings from Erich Martel

I am reposting the entirety of a sobering and warning letter from my former DCPS colleague, Erich Martel, about the current political situation, which he posted on the Concerned4DCPS list-serve. I am positive he wants it disseminated. — GFB

==========================================================

ehmartel@starpower.net [concerned4DCPS] <concerned4dcps@yahoogroups.com>UnsubscribeTo:ehmartel@starpower.netSat, Oct 31 at 7:33 PM

FYI – There are links to a number of articles.  Be sure to recommend to friends in Pennsylvania and North Carolina – and other states – to vote in person, if possible. 

Republicans have launched over 300 lawsuits to challenge mail ballots arriving after November 3rd.

The anti-democratic forces that have periodically threatened to tear this country apart. What Pres. Trump is threatening has happened before.  I don’t mean slavery.  I mean the unleashing of white nationalist terror to purge the South of biracial state governments after Reconstruction and the evisceration of the 14th and 15th Amendments by the Supreme Court. 

In 1896, 126,000 Black men were registered to vote in North Carolina; six years later, in 1902, only 6,100 remained registered: https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2020/11/19/wilmington-american-pogrom/  

I hope everyone agrees that every legitimate vote should be counted. I have linked a number of articles, all very unsettling. 

Erich

By now, I hope everyone is aware of and understands the seriousness of President Trump’s threats that, if he loses his re-election bid, he will not accept the results. 

On the other hand, if he wins, he will remove all restraints on autocratic power (think: Orban, Putin, Xi, Kim, Bolsinaro)

I assume everyone shares these concerns:

Trump’s Threats to the Election (as is his pattern, he signals his intentions, in part to test the loyalty of his base):

  1. The potential turmoil threatened by Trump bears some resemblance to the violence during the Election of 1876 and the consequences of the Compromise of 1877:  

Contested election results in 3 states (FL, LA, SC) + a replaced elector from Oregon led to The Compromise of 1877: https://www.270towin.com/1876_Election/ that gave the election to Republican Hayes (Democrat Tilden won the popular vote) in return for ending federal military supervision of those states to protect the biracial Reconstruction governments from White nationalist terror. This led to so-called “Redeemer” (White supremacists Democratic) takeovers and passage of “Jim Crow” laws disenfranchising and segregating Black citizens that lasted until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed.  The spate of voter suppression laws passed after the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision makes clear that voting rights are threatened.

  1. The Barrett nomination:

If Trump loses, he and his allies will attempt to create confusion in order to find a technicality that will open a path to the Supreme Court. Barrett will be the third SC justice (in addition to CJ Roberts & Justice Kavanaugh) who was on the 2000 legal team that oppose a recount of the Florida votes in question:  https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/17/politics/bush-v-gore-barrett-kavanaugh-roberts-supreme-court/index.html .  With all the qualified judges available for SC nomination, even among those who are conservative, how is it possible to have put three veterans of the 2000 election on the SC?  Sen. Whitehouse (D-RI) explains the role of the Federalist Society.

10/13/20 (Senate Judiciary Comm.): Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse explains how Trump and his Senate allies used judicial candidate lists prepared by the Federalist Society, funded by anonymous money, to pack the Supreme Court with reliable right wing allies: https://twitter.com/i/status/1316126029522575363 and 10/14/20: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5-Snk_thAs&feature=emb_rel_end  

https://www.startribune.com/barrett-ads-tied-to-interest-groups-funded-by-unnamed-donors/572873311/

  1. Two Trump comments:
  2. July 30th, Trump tweeted:

“With Universal mail-in voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.  It will be a great embarrassment to the USA.  Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

On August 1st, Brian Williams asked Yale historian Timothy Snyder, specialist on the Holocaust, authoritarianism & fascism, to analyze that tweet (https://twitter.com/TimothyDSnyder):

It is troubling to see the term “fascist” used to describe the behavior, words and actions of an American president.  It shouldn’t; fascism takes many authoritarian forms, all anti-democratic; the Holocaust was the most extreme.  In fact, German Na zi lawyers saw American race laws as a model: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/11/what-america-taught-the-nazis/540630/ and James Q. Whitman, “Hilter’s American Model” (2017).

  1. On Sept 23rd, Trump said,“We’ll want to have — get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very — we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.”

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/trump-peaceful-transition-if-he-loses-get-rid-ballots-there-n1240896

  1. “The Election That Could Break America” by Barton Gellman

The most thorough and dire account of the many ways that Trump and his allies could throw the election into confusion is in The Atlantic:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/11/what-if-trump-refuses-concede/616424/

If the vote is close, Donald Trump could easily throw the election into chaos and subvert the result. Who will stop him?    Excerpt:

Let us not hedge about one thing.

Donald Trump may win or lose,

but he will never concede.

Interview with Gellman: https://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2020/10/15/the-elections-threat-of-political-violence

https://www.salon.com/2020/10/18/historian-timothy-snyder-warns-that-america-is-already-in-its-own-slow-motion-reichstag-fire/

Wash Post columnist E.J. Dionne explains the role of Roe v. Wade in judicial nominations (excerpts):

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/capitulating-to-the-right-wont-end-the-judicial-wars/2020/09/23/5402f378-fdd5-11ea-9ceb-061d646d9c67_story.html

[[Why do President Trump and the Republican majority in the Senate feel empowered to launch a right-wing judicial coup? They can do so because the mainstream media have largely accepted the false terms of the Supreme Court debate set by conservatives — and because progressives and moderates have utterly failed to overturn them.

As a result, we face a crisis moment. The Supreme Court could fall into the hands of activist reactionaries for a generation or more. Preventing a political minority from enjoying indefinite veto power over our democratically elected branches of government requires getting the facts and the history right.

This polarization is the conservatives’ doing. And it did not start with Robert Bork. The current incarnation of Supreme Court warfare began in the early 1960s when the far right launched its “Impeach Earl Warren” campaign against the chief justice who presided over the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision and other liberal victories. /…/

Yes, liberals were very tough on Bork when President Ronald Reagan nominated him. But … Bork got a hearing and a floor vote. In the end, 58 senators, including six Republicans, voted against him. /…/

Conservatives use Roe v. Wade as a decoy. Of course Roe will continue to matter. But conservatives have brilliantly used the abortion question to distract attention from the core of their activist agenda: dismantling regulation, gutting civil rights laws, narrowing voting rights enforcement giving moneyed interests free rein in our politics, strengthening corporate power, weakening unions, undercutting antitrust laws — and, now, tearing apart the Affordable Care Act.

Conservatives would much rather talk about abortion than any of these other questions. Why? Because they don’t want the public to hear about issues related to democracy and economic justice on which the right takes the unpopular side. What they can’t win in Congress, they want to win through the courts. That is the dirty secret of conservative judicial activism that McConnell and his friends would love to keep under wraps.]]

Erich   ehmartel@starpower.net

Further reading:

Before I took leave from Kto16, there was a discussion about the president’s comments on the teaching of American History.  In response, the American Historical Association (AHA) released a statement (46 organizations have signed on as of mid-October):  https://www.historians.org/news-and-advocacy/aha-advocacy/aha-statement-on-the-recent-white-house-conference-on-american-history-(september-2020) 

Fauci  60 minutes  He describes death threats against him.  10-18-20

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S PATTERN OF POLITICAL INTERFERENCE IN THE NATION’S CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE:

“USPS documents link changes behind mail slowdowns to top executives”: 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/09/24/usps-delays-dejoy-documents/

Nancy MacLean, “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America” (2017)

https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/03/08/democracy-chains-interview-author-nancy-maclean

Timothy Snyder, “Not a Normal Election: The ethical meaning of a vote for Donald Trump”:

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/not-normal-election (Commonweal is a Catholic magazine)

Timothy Snyder, “On Tyranny:  20 Lessons from the 20th Century”:

Below are a few of the 20 chapter titles and his commentaries on Trump. Some are relevant right now:

1.       Do not obey in advance

2.       Defend institutions (notice how Trump wants to reduce the federal civil service to personal loyalists)

6.       Be wary of paramilitaries (Where was Trump’s condemnation of “militia” threats in Michigan?)

8.       Stand out

10.     Believe in truth

“To abandon facts is to abandon freedom.  If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.”

11.     Investigate – “Figure things out for yourself. … Subsidize investigative journalism …”

16.      Learn from peers in other countries

17.      Listen for dangerous words__._,_.___


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Suggestions on what to do about the Supreme Court nominee, redux

Remember the list of suggestions by Bill Svelmoe for what to do about Amy Coney Barrett’s illegitimate nomination to the US Supreme Court?

The list went viral, as you may be able to read below.

I hope that Harris and other senators are taking those suggestions seriously.

DA Never Gave Grand Jury the Option of Indicting Cops for Murder

Notoriously corrupt, convicted ex-judge Sol Wachsler once said that he could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, if that’s what the powers that be wanted the DA to do.

But as the case of Breonna Taylor shows, DA’s really, really don’t like indicting cops. As you can see by reading these details in Salon:

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Breonna Taylor case grand juror: We weren’t given the option of indicting the two cops who shot her

Grand juror said AG Daniel Cameron misrepresented the deliberations. Cameron agreed to release grand jury recording

IGOR DERYSH

SEPTEMBER 29, 2020 3:25PM (UTC)

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said he would comply with a judge’s order to release the grand jury recording in the Breonna Taylor case after a grand juror alleged that Cameron had misrepresented the deliberations.

The juror filed a motion calling for the release of the transcripts on Monday so that “the truth may prevail.”

“The Grand Jury is meant to be a secretive body. It’s apparent that the public interest in this case isn’t going to allow that to happen,” a spokesperson for Cameron said in a statement. Despite the concerns over the release, the attorney general’s office said it would comply with the order to release the recording on Wednesday in response to the juror’s complaint.

An attorney for the juror told The New York Times that Cameron “misrepresented” the deliberations and “failed to offer the panel the option of indicting the two officers who fatally shot the young woman.”

The attorney general’s office said it is “confident” in the case they presented but acknowledged that jurors were not given the option of indicting Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove in Taylor’s shooting.

“The evidence supported that Sergeant Mattingly and Detective Cosgrove were justified in their use of force after having been fired upon by Kenneth Walker,” Taylor’s boyfriend, the statement said. “For that reason, the only charge recommended was wanton endangerment.”

Former Det. Brett Hankison, the lone officer fired after the shooting, was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment after some of the bullets he “blindly” fired into Taylor’s home struck a wall adjoining her neighbors’ apartment. None of the three officers who fired their weapons were charged in Taylor’s death, even though the city of Louisville agreed to pay Taylor’s family $12 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit.

Hankison pleaded not guilty on Monday.

Kevin Glogower, the juror’s lawyer, told the Times that the juror approached him after Cameron claimed during a news conference that state law prevented him from charging Mattingly and Cosgrove.

“While there are six possible homicide charges under Kentucky law, these charges are not applicable to the facts before us because our investigation showed — and the grand jury agreed — that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in the return of deadly fire after having been fired upon,” Cameron said during the news conference last week.

Glogower told the outlet that the juror was “unsettled” by the fact that they were only presented with possible charges for Hankison. He said in the petition that it was “patently unjust” that Cameron “attempted to make it very clear that the grand jury alone made the decision.”

“Using the grand jurors as a shield to deflect accountability and responsibility for these decisions only sows more seeds of doubt in the process while leaving a cold chill down the spines of future grand jurors,” the petition said.

According to Walker, the lawsuit filed by Taylor’s family, and more than a dozen neighbors, the officers serving a “no knock” search warrant, part of a narcotics investigation targeting Taylor’s ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover, did not announce themselves. Cameron claimed at the news conference that a lone witness corroborated the officers’ statement that they made an announcement, arguing that it was not a “no knock” warrant.

Walker opened fire on the officers, claiming he believed someone was breaking in. Mattingly and Cosgrove returned fire, hitting Taylor six times. An FBI analysis determined that Cosgrove fired the fatal shot. Hankison ran into a parking lot and shot into Taylor’s home through a sliding door and bedroom window, resulting in charges against him. Unlike the other officers, he was not shot at by Walker.

Cameron claimed at the news conference that ballistics showed that the bullet that struck Mattingly during the gunfire was Walker’s. But Vice News reported last week that the initial ballistics report did not prove the bullet was Walker’s and found that “due to limited markings of comparative value, [the bullet] was neither identified nor eliminated as having been fired from” Walker’s gun.

Vice News also published a video of body camera footage showing Hankison entering Taylor’s apartment as investigators were working the scene in an apparent violation of department protocol.

Ben Crump, an attorney for Taylor’s family, called the grand jury process a “sham proceeding that did nothing to give Breonna Taylor a voice.”

“I never had faith in Daniel Cameron to begin with,” Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, said after the decision. “I was reassured Wednesday of why I have no faith in the legal system, in the police, in the law. They are not made to protect us Black and brown people.”

IGOR DERYSH

Igor Derysh is a staff writer at Salon. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

Tips/Email: iderysh@salon.com Twitter: @IgorDerysh

Who is crazy enough to believe such bullshit?

What this senior Trump hack is alleging is complete, bat-shit crazy nonsense. Apparently a good fraction of the American people believe it, even though Caputo apparently also says that he himself is nuts.

Read for yourself. This is from the NYT.

=========================================================

Trump Health Aide Falsely Alleges Conspiracies and Warns of Armed Revolt

Michael R. Caputo told a Facebook audience without evidence that left-wing hit squads were being trained for insurrection and accused C.D.C. scientists of “sedition.”

Michael Caputo, the top communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services, complained that he was under siege by the news media and said his “mental health has definitely failed.”Credit…Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

By Sharon LaFraniere

  • Sept. 14, 2020Updated 6:35 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — The top communications official at the powerful cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus made outlandish and false accusations on Sunday that career government scientists were engaging in “sedition” in their handling of the pandemic and that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election.

Michael R. Caputo, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of harboring a “resistance unit” determined to undermine President Trump, even if that opposition bolsters the Covid-19 death toll.

Mr. Caputo, who has faced intense criticism for leading efforts to warp C.D.C. weekly bulletins to fit Mr. Trump’s pandemic narrative, suggested that he personally could be in danger from opponents of the administration. “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get,” he urged his followers.

To a certain extent, Mr. Caputo’s comments in a video he hosted live on his personal Facebook page were simply an amplified version of remarks that the president himself has made. Both men have singled out government scientists and health officials as disloyal, suggested that the election will not be fairly decided, and insinuated that left-wing groups are secretly plotting to incite violence across the United States.

But Mr. Caputo’s attacks were more direct, and they came from the official most responsible for shaping communications around the coronavirus.

C.D.C. scientists “haven’t gotten out of their sweatpants except for meetings at coffee shops” to plot “how they’re going to attack Donald Trump next,” Mr. Caputo said. “There are scientists who work for this government who do not want America to get well, not until after Joe Biden is president.”

A longtime Trump loyalist with no background in health care, Mr. Caputo, 58, was appointed by the White House to his post in April, at a time when the president’s aides suspected the health secretary, Alex M. Azar II, of protecting his public image instead of Mr. Trump’s. Mr. Caputo coordinates the messaging of an 80,000-employee department that is the center of the federal public health bureaucracy. The Department of Health and Human Services oversees the Food and Drug Administration, the C.D.C. and the National Institutes of Health., three agencies that are all deeply involved in the pandemic response.

“Mr. Caputo is a critical, integral part of the president’s coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

Mr. Caputo’s Facebook comments were another sign of the administration’s deep antipathy and suspicion for its own scientific experts across the bureaucracy and the growing political pressure on those experts to toe a political line favorable to Mr. Trump.

This weekend, first Politico, then The New York Times and other news media organizations published accounts of how Mr. Caputo and a top aide had routinely worked to revise, delay or even scuttle the core health bulletins of the C.D.C. to paint the administration’s pandemic response in a more positive light. The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports had previously been so thoroughly shielded from political interference that political appointees only saw them just before they were published.

Mr. Caputo’s 26-minute broadside on Facebook against scientists, the news media and Democrats was also another example of a senior administration official stoking conspiracy theories about the “deep state” — the label Mr. Trump often attaches to the federal Civil Service bureaucracy — and public anxiety over the election.

Mr. Caputo predicted that the president would win re-election in November, but that his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., would refuse to concede, leading to violence. “And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” he said. “The drills that you’ve seen are nothing.”

There were no obvious signs from administration officials on Monday that Mr. Caputo’s job was in danger. On the contrary, Mr. Trump again added his voice to the administration’s science denialism. As the president visited California to show solidarity with the fire-ravaged West, he challenged the established science of climate change, declaring, “It will start getting cooler.” He added: “Just watch. I don’t think science knows, actually.”

Mr. Caputo’s remarks also dovetailed in part with those of Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime confidant of both Mr. Caputo and Mr. Trump. Mr. Stone, whose 40-month prison sentence for lying to Congress was commuted by the president in July, told the conspiracy website Infowars on Friday that Democrats were striving to rig the November vote, and that Mr. Trump should consider declaring martial law if he lost re-election.

Mr. Caputo noted with pleasure during his Facebook monologue that Grant Smith, a lawyer for Mr. Stone, was among the followers who had joined his talk on Sunday. Mr. Caputo has 5,000 Facebook friends, and his video was viewed more than 850 times and shared by 44 followers. He has now shut down his account.

Over all, his tone was deeply ominous: He warned, again without evidence, that “there are hit squads being trained all over this country” to mount armed opposition to a second term for Mr. Trump. “You understand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that’s where this is going,” Mr. Caputo added.

He said his physical health was in question, and his “mental health has definitely failed.”

“I don’t like being alone in Washington,” Mr. Caputo said, describing “shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long.” He also said the mounting number of Covid-19 deaths was taking a toll on him, telling his viewers, “You are not waking up every morning and talking about dead Americans.” The United States has lost more than 194,000 people to the virus. Mr. Caputo urged people to attend Trump rallies, but only with masks.

In a statement on Monday, Mr. Caputo told The Times: “Since joining the administration, my family and I have been continually threatened” and harassed by people who have later been prosecuted. “This weighs heavily on us, and we deeply appreciate the friendship and support of President Trump as we address these matters and keep our children safe.”

He insisted on Facebook that he would weather the controversies, saying, “I’m not going anywhere.” And he boasted of the importance of his role, stating that the president had personally put him in charge of a $250 million public service advertising campaign intended to help the United States return to normal.

The Department of Health and Human Services is trying to use that campaign to attract more minority volunteers for clinical trials of potential Covid-19 vaccines and to ask people who have recovered to donate their blood plasma to help other infected patients. Department officials have complained that Democratic members of Congress are obstructing them.

While Mr. Caputo characterized C.D.C. scientists in withering terms, he said the agency’s director, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, was “one of my closest friends in Washington,” adding, “He is such a good man.” Mr. Caputo is partly credited with helping choose Dr. Redfield’s new interim chief of staff.

Critics say Dr. Redfield has left the agency open to so much political interference that career scientists are the verge of resigning. The agency, based in Atlanta, was previously seen as mostly apolitical; its reports were internationally respected for their importance and expertise.

Mr. Caputo charged that scientists “deep in the bowels of the C.D.C. have given up science and become political animals.” He said they “walk around like they are monks” and “holy men” but engaged in “rotten science.”

He fiercely defended his scientific adviser, Dr. Paul Alexander, who was heavily involved in the effort to reshape the C.D.C.’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports. Mr. Caputo described Dr. Alexander, an assistant professor at McMaster University in Canada, as “a genius” and said that public criticism had served only to make his position “permanent” as a watchdog over politically motivated scientists.

“To allow people to die so that you can replace the president is a grievous venial sin, venial sin,” Mr. Caputo said. “And these people are all going to hell.”

A public relations specialist, Mr. Caputo has repeatedly claimed that his family and his business suffered hugely because of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Caputo was a minor figure in that inquiry, but he was of interest partly because he had once lived in Russia, had worked for Russian politicians and was contacted in 2016 by a Russian who claimed to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Caputo referred that person to Mr. Stone and was never charged with any wrongdoing. Mr. Caputo later wrote a book and produced a documentary, both entitled “The Ukraine Hoax,” to undermine the case for Mr. Trump’s impeachment.

Mr. Caputo worked on Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign for a time but was passed over for a job early in the administration. He remained friendly with Dan Scavino, the former campaign aide who is now the deputy chief of staff for White House communications and played a role in reconnecting Mr. Trump and Mr. Caputo.

Some of Mr. Caputo’s most disturbing comments were centered on what he described as a left-wing plot to harm the administration’s supporters. He claimed baselessly that the killing of a Trump supporter in Portland, Ore., in August by an avowed supporter of the left-wing collective known as antifa was part of that effort.

“Remember the Trump supporter who was shot and killed?” Mr. Caputo said. “That was a drill.”

The man suspected in the shooting, Michael Forest Reinoehl, was shot dead this month by officers from a federally led fugitive task force in Washington State. He “went down fighting,” Mr. Caputo said. “Why? Because he couldn’t say what he had inside him.”

Mr. Caputo continued his social media messaging after the Facebook event, retweeting a conspiratorial post that hinted with no evidence that armed camps were being established in Washington, D.C.: “Occupants don’t look like vagrants. Looks like forward basing for militant street ops,” J. Michael Waller, a conservative provocateur, posted on Twitter.

On Monday, Mr. Caputo blocked access to his personal Twitter account.

Part Two: Cheating in DCPS

DC Education Reform Ten Years After, 

Part 2: Test Cheats

Richard P Phelps

Ten years ago, I worked as the Director of Assessments for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). For temporal context, I arrived after the first of the infamous test cheating scandals and left just before the incident that spawned a second. Indeed, I filled a new position created to both manage test security and design an expanded testing program. I departed shortly after Vincent Gray, who opposed an expanded testing program, defeated Adrian Fenty in the September 2010 DC mayoral primary. My tenure coincided with Michelle Rhee’s last nine months as Chancellor. 

The recurring test cheating scandals of the Rhee-Henderson years may seem extraordinary but, in fairness, DCPS was more likely than the average US school district to be caught because it received a much higher degree of scrutiny. Given how tests are typically administered in this country, the incidence of cheating is likely far greater than news accounts suggest, for several reasons: 

·      in most cases, those who administer tests—schoolteachers and administrators—have an interest in their results;

·      test security protocols are numerous and complicated yet, nonetheless, the responsibility of non-expert ordinary school personnel, guaranteeing their inconsistent application across schools and over time; 

·      after-the-fact statistical analyses are not legal proof—the odds of a certain amount of wrong-to-right erasures in a single classroom on a paper-and-pencil test being coincidental may be a thousand to one, but one-in-a-thousand is still legally plausible; and

·      after-the-fact investigations based on interviews are time-consuming, scattershot, and uneven. 

Still, there were measures that the Rhee-Henderson administrations could have adopted to substantially reduce the incidence of cheating, but they chose none that might have been effective. Rather, they dug in their heels, insisted that only a few schools had issues, which they thoroughly resolved, and repeatedly denied any systematic problem.  

Cheating scandals

From 2007 to 2009 rumors percolated of an extraordinary level of wrong-to-right erasures on the test answer sheets at many DCPS schools. “Erasure analysis” is one among several “red flag” indicators that testing contractors calculate to monitor cheating. The testing companies take no responsibility for investigating suspected test cheating, however; that is the customer’s, the local or state education agency. 

In her autobiographical account of her time as DCPS Chancellor, Michelle Johnson (nee Rhee), wrote (p. 197)

“For the first time in the history of DCPS, we brought in an outside expert to examine and audit our system. Caveon Test Security – the leading expert in the field at the time – assessed our tests, results, and security measures. Their investigators interviewed teachers, principals, and administrators.

“Caveon found no evidence of systematic cheating. None.”

Caveon, however, had not looked for “systematic” cheating. All they did was interview a few people at several schools where the statistical anomalies were more extraordinary than at others. As none of those individuals would admit to knowingly cheating, Caveon branded all their excuses as “plausible” explanations. That’s it; that is all that Caveon did. But, Caveon’s statement that they found no evidence of “widespread” cheating—despite not having looked for it—would be frequently invoked by DCPS leaders over the next several years.[1]

Incidentally, prior to the revelation of its infamous decades-long, systematic test cheating, the Atlanta Public Schools had similarly retained Caveon Test Security and was, likewise, granted a clean bill of health. Only later did the Georgia state attorney general swoop in and reveal the truth. 

In its defense, Caveon would note that several cheating prevention measures it had recommended to DCPS were never adopted.[2] None of the cheating prevention measures that I recommended were adopted, either.

The single most effective means for reducing in-classroom cheating would have been to rotate teachers on test days so that no teacher administered a test to his or her own students. It would not have been that difficult to randomly assign teachers to different classrooms on test days.

The single most effective means for reducing school administratorcheating would have been to rotate test administrators on test days so that none managed the test materials for their own schools. The visiting test administrators would have been responsible for keeping test materials away from the school until test day, distributing sealed test booklets to the rotated teachers on test day, and for collecting re-sealed test booklets at the end of testing and immediately removing them from the school. 

Instead of implementing these, or a number of other feasible and effective test security measures, DCPS leaders increased the number of test proctors, assigning each of a few dozen or so central office staff a school to monitor. Those proctors could not reasonably manage the volume of oversight required. A single DC test administration could encompass a hundred schools and a thousand classrooms.

Investigations

So, what effort, if any, did DCPS make to counter test cheating? They hired me, but then rejected all my suggestions for increasing security. Also, they established a telephone tip line. Anyone who suspected cheating could report it, even anonymously, and, allegedly, their tip would be investigated. 

Some forms of cheating are best investigated through interviews. Probably the most frequent forms of cheating at DCPS—teachers helping students during test administrations and school administrators looking at test forms prior to administration—leave no statistical residue. Eyewitness testimony is the only type of legal evidence available in such cases, but it is not just inconsistent, it may be socially destructive. 

I remember two investigations best: one occurred in a relatively well-to-do neighborhood with well-educated parents active in school affairs; the other in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Superficially, the cases were similar—an individual teacher was accused of helping his or her own students with answers during test administrations. Making a case against either elementary school teacher required sworn testimony from eyewitnesses, that is, students—eight-to-ten-year olds. 

My investigations, then, consisted of calling children into the principal’s office one-by-one to be questioned about their teacher’s behavior. We couldn’t hide the reason we were asking the questions. And, even though each student agreed not to tell others what had occurred in their visit to the principal’s office, we knew we had only one shot at an uncorrupted jury pool. 

Though the accusations against the two teachers were similar and the cases against them equally strong, the outcomes could not have been more different. In the high-poverty neighborhood, the students seemed suspicious and said little; none would implicate the teacher, whom they all seemed to like. 

In the more prosperous neighborhood, students were more outgoing, freely divulging what they had witnessed. The students had discussed the alleged coaching with their parents who, in turn, urged them to tell investigators what they knew. During his turn in the principal’s office, the accused teacher denied any wrongdoing. I wrote up each interview, then requested that each student read and sign. 

Thankfully, that accused teacher made a deal and left the school system a few weeks later. Had he not, we would have required the presence in court of the eight-to-ten-year olds to testify under oath against their former teacher, who taught multi-grade classes. Had that prosecution not succeeded, the eyewitness students could have been routinely assigned to his classroom the following school year.

My conclusion? Only in certain schools is the successful prosecution of a cheating teacher through eyewitness testimony even possible. But, even where possible, it consumes inordinate amounts of time and, otherwise, comes at a high price, turning young innocents against authority figures they naturally trusted. 

Cheating blueprints

Arguably the most widespread and persistent testing malfeasance in DCPS received little attention from the press. Moreover, it was directly propagated by District leaders, who published test blueprints on the web. Put simply, test “blueprints” are lists of the curricular standards (e.g., “student shall correctly add two-digit numbers”) and the number of test items included in an upcoming test related to each standard. DC had been advance publishing its blueprints for years.

I argued that the way DC did it was unethical. The head of the Division of Data & Accountability, Erin McGoldrick, however, defended the practice, claimed it was common, and cited its existence in the state of California as precedent. The next time she and I met for a conference call with one of DCPS’s test providers, Discover Education, I asked their sales agent how many of their hundreds of other customers advance-published blueprints. His answer: none.

In the state of California, the location of McGoldrick’s only prior professional experience, blueprints were, indeed, published in advance of test administrations. But their tests were longer than DC’s and all standards were tested. Publication of California’s blueprints served more to remind the populace what the standards were in advance of each test administration. Occasionally, a standard considered to be of unusual importance might be assigned a greater number of test items than the average, and the California blueprints signaled that emphasis. 

In Washington, DC, the tests used in judging teacher performance were shorter, covering only some of each year’s standards. So, DC’s blueprints showed everyone well in advance of the test dates exactly which standards would be tested and which would not. For each teacher, this posed an ethical dilemma: should they “narrow the curriculum” by teaching only that content they knew would be tested? Or, should they do the right thing and teach all the standards, as they were legally and ethically bound to, even though it meant spending less time on the to-be-tested content? It’s quite a conundrum when one risks punishment for behaving ethically.

Monthly meetings convened to discuss issues with the districtwide testing program, the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS)—administered to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. All public schools, both DCPS and charters, administered those tests. At one of these regular meetings, two representatives from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) announced plans to repair the broken blueprint process.[3]

The State Office employees argued thoughtfully and reasonably that it was professionally unethical to advance publish DC test blueprints. Moreover, they had surveyed other US jurisdictions in an effort to find others that followed DC’s practice and found none. I was the highest-ranking DCPS employee at the meeting and I expressed my support, congratulating them for doing the right thing. I assumed that their decision was final.

I mentioned the decision to McGoldrick, who expressed surprise and speculation that it might have not been made at the highest level in the organizational hierarchy. Wasting no time, she met with other DCPS senior managers and the proposed change was forthwith shelved. In that, and other ways, the DCPS tail wagged the OSSE dog. 

* * *

It may be too easy to finger ethical deficits for the recalcitrant attitude toward test security of the Rhee-Henderson era ed reformers. The columnist Peter Greene insists that knowledge deficits among self-appointed education reformers also matter: 

“… the reformistan bubble … has been built from Day One without any actual educators inside it. Instead, the bubble is populated by rich people, people who want rich people’s money, people who think they have great ideas about education, and even people who sincerely want to make education better. The bubble does not include people who can turn to an Arne Duncan or a Betsy DeVos or a Bill Gates and say, ‘Based on my years of experience in a classroom, I’d have to say that idea is ridiculous bullshit.’”

“There are a tiny handful of people within the bubble who will occasionally act as bullshit detectors, but they are not enough. The ed reform movement has gathered power and money and set up a parallel education system even as it has managed to capture leadership roles within public education, but the ed reform movement still lacks what it has always lacked–actual teachers and experienced educators who know what the hell they’re talking about.”

In my twenties, I worked for several years in the research department of a state education agency. My primary political lesson from that experience, consistently reinforced subsequently, is that most education bureaucrats tell the public that the system they manage works just fine, no matter what the reality. They can get away with this because they control most of the evidence and can suppress it or spin it to their advantage.

In this proclivity, the DCPS central office leaders of the Rhee-Henderson era proved themselves to be no different than the traditional public-school educators they so casually demonized. 

US school systems are structured to be opaque and, it seems, both educators and testing contractors like it that way. For their part, and contrary to their rhetoric, Rhee, Henderson, and McGoldrick passed on many opportunities to make their system more transparent and accountable.

Education policy will not improve until control of the evidence is ceded to genuinely independent third parties, hired neither by the public education establishment nor by the education reform club.

The author gratefully acknowledges the fact-checking assistance of Erich Martel and Mary Levy.

Access this testimonial in .pdf format

Citation:  Phelps, R. P. (2020, September). Looking Back on DC Education Reform 10 Years After, Part 2: Test Cheats. Nonpartisan Education Review / Testimonials. https://nonpartisaneducation.org/Review/Testimonials/v16n3.htm


[1] A perusal of Caveon’s website clarifies that their mission is to help their clients–state and local education departments–not get caught. Sometimes this means not cheating in the first place; other times it might mean something else. One might argue that, ironically, Caveon could be helping its clients to cheat in more sophisticated ways and cover their tracks better.

[2] Among them: test booklets should be sealed until the students open them and resealed by the students immediately after; and students should be assigned seats on test day and a seating chart submitted to test coordinators (necessary for verifying cluster patterns in student responses that would suggest answer copying).

[3] Yes, for those new to the area, the District of Columbia has an Office of the “State” Superintendent of Education (OSSE). Its domain of relationships includes not just the regular public schools (i.e., DCPS), but also other public schools (i.e., charters) and private schools. Practically, it primarily serves as a conduit for funneling money from a menagerie of federal education-related grant and aid programs

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