Closing the Testing Gap the Easy Way

Originally posted on Class Warfare Blog:

The current crop of Education Reformers (Eduformers?) seem to prefer a data-driven approach to student achievement and teacher accountability. So, what do the data tell us? Here are the 2015 SAT scores for U.S. High School seniors broken out by family income group. Note that SAT scores correlate very strongly with family income: the higher the family income, the higher the score, plain and simple.

Income                              Reading        Math         Writing         Total
$0 – $20,000                         433            455            426           1314
$20,000 – $40,000                466            479            454           1399
$40,000 – $60,000                488            597            473           1458
$60,000 – $80,000                503            510            487           1500
$80,000 – $100,000              517            526            501           1544
$100,000 – $120,000            528            539            514           1581
$120,000 – $140,000            531            542            518           1591
$140,000 – $160,000            539            551            526           1616
$160,000 – $200,000            545            557            534           1636
More than $200,000             570            587            563           1720


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Sad State of Allegiance…


The following is an article by John V. Whitbeck, published on Consortiumnews, that discusses the upcoming vote in Congress regarding the Iran nuclear deal.  This country is in such a sad state of affairs that it is nearly painful to read about where the allegiance of these elected officials truly lies. The greater questions (and likely better discussions) come from what happens if the deal is ultimately rejected by 2/3 of Congress.  I like option #3 myself, but read on and let me know what you think…

Congress’ Test of Allegiance: US or Israel?

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has instructed the U.S. Congress to reject an international agreement constraining Iran’s nuclear program and to humiliate the sitting U.S. president, thus testing where the primary allegiance of most members of Congress lies, with the U.S. or Israel, writes John V. Whitbeck.

By John V. Whitbeck

The choice facing members of the U.S. Congress in September’s “disapproval” votes could scarcely be clearer and has little to do with the merits of the international agreement reached on July 14 with respect to Iran’s nuclear program.

Whether one believes that there was a genuine risk of Iran attacking Israel with a nuclear weapon or, more sensibly, that there was a genuine risk of Israel attacking Iran with conventional or nuclear weapons (the real and only rational reason for the mobilization of the European Union, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany on this issue), the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” reached in Vienna should vastly reduce the risk of a catastrophic war involving Iran and Israel.

Since this diplomatic agreement is obviously good news for the world, the UN Security Council has unanimously approved it and only one of the UN’s 193 member states, Israel, is currently opposed to it.

The choice before members of Congress is thus a clear and simple one: Do they owe their primary allegiance and loyalty to the United States of America or to Israel?

The great majority of members of Congress have traditionally seen less personal career risk in favoring Israeli desires over American interests than in favoring American interests over Israeli desires. There has been good empirical evidence to support this self-serving calculation. Several prominent and patriotic American politicians have lost their reelection bids as a result of the perception that they put American interests ahead of Israeli desires, and it has become a truism in American politics that “no one has ever lost an election for being too pro-Israel.”

However, the choice facing members of Congress has never been so clear-cut and consequential as in the imminent “disapproval” votes on the Iran nuclear agreement.

At first glance, it appeared that President Obama had outsmarted the Republican Congressional leadership by getting them to agree that approval of American participation in any Iran nuclear agreement would not require an inconceivable two-thirds majority of the Senate but, rather, only a post-veto one-third minority approval in one of the two houses of Congress.

However, particularly since the influential Democratic Senator from New York Chuck Schumer, poised to become the next Democratic leader in the Senate, has confirmed his personal allegiance to Israel and consequent intention to vote for “disapproval,” it is by no means certain that even one third of one house of Congress will choose the United States over Israel.

What if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does defeat President Barack Obama in the American Congress? How might Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry react to a defeat more crushing and humiliating than any defeat ever suffered by any American president and secretary of state?

In Obama’s case, one can envision three alternatives, one cowardly and two courageous:

1. He could accept his and his country’s humiliation and retreat into irrelevance for the remaining 16 months of his term in office; or

2. He could go before the American people, announce that he has no desire to continue to represent a country in which more than two-thirds of the members of the legislative branch owe their allegiance to a foreign country and resign as president; or

3. He could seek patriotically to restore the independence and dignity of his country (or simply to take personal revenge against Netanyahu) by supporting or not vetoing a new application by the State of Palestine for full member state status at the United Nations and by supporting or not vetoing a UN Security Council resolution imposing meaningful sanctions on Israel until it withdraws fully from the occupied State of Palestine and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

In Kerry’s case, one may hope that he would resign as secretary of state and run again for the Democratic nomination for president, this time with an America-First focus on restoring the independence and dignity of the United States.

Palestinians and those who seek some measure of justice for Palestine and the Palestinian people must view this remarkable spectacle with mixed emotions.

All the signs suggest that, if Obama “wins,” even by a hair’s breadth, he will immediately seek to “compensate” Israel for his unprecedented act of disobedience through a significant increase in the amount of America’s annual tribute payment to Israel, through even deeper military largesse and cooperation and through continuing American diplomatic and political support at the United Nations and elsewhere.

However, if Netanyahu “wins,” Obama just might finally do the right and decent thing for Palestine, the Palestinian people and the United States. To cite the ancient Chinese curse, we are living in interesting times.

John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel.

Thoughts for today, #208 …. “Protect What You Love”!!

Originally posted on It Is What It Is:


~~August 7, 2015~~ 


I will protect you and love you and never depart because my love for you comes from the depth of my Heart.

~Charlie Mard~



Mother Earth’s Bounty

Treasures for all to protect

Preserve Earth’s future

~Carolyn Devonshire~


#ThoughtsForToday #208 #ProtectWhatYoLove # #ProtectAndLoveYou #DepthOfMyHeart #CharlieMard #MotherEarthsBounty #TreasuresToProtect #PreserveEarthsFuture #CarolynDevonshire

#WeAllAreOne #ItIsWhatItIs #DrRex #hrexachwordpress


We ALL are ONE!! 


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Police are killing Native Americans at an alarming rate — so why isn’t anyone talking about?

Featured Image -- 1247

Originally posted on RED POWER MEDIA:


There are 5.1 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in the U.S. as of 2011, significantly fewer than the country’s 45 million black Americans (as of 2013). But like black Americans, indigenous people are killed by law enforcement officers at rates that far outstrip their share of the population.

While #BlackLivesMatter evolved into a national rallying cry for racial justice over the summer, a largely overlooked #NativeLivesMatter movement has been quietly galvanizing activists as well. Few mainstream outlets report on it, but the indigenous blogosphere and Twitterverse abound with horror stories, not the least of which is that six Native men and women were killed by police in November and December alone.

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Income Inequality…Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein is a treasure and if you haven’t read her books, No Logo, The Shock Doctrine, or This Changes Everything, Capitalism vs. the Climate…then, well, you should.


Some Historical Perspective…

Robert Parry is one my favorite investigative reporters and is one who exposed much of the Iran-Contra affair.  His website,, is one of my favorites as he is another who grew tired and frustrated by the narrow scoped and handcuffed mainstream media.  In this column he details and chronicles some history behind the Iran/Israel/U.S triangle.  It is well worth the read if you have ever wondered why things are the way they are with regard to this complex relationship.  His column:

The US-Israel-Iran Triangle’s Tangled History

By Robert Parry

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to accuse Iran’s Islamic State of seeking Israel’s destruction – and U.S. neocons talk openly about bombing Iran – the history of Israel’s cooperative dealings with Iran, including after the ouster of the Shah and the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979, seems to have been forgotten.

Yet, this background is important when evaluating some of Iran’s current political players and their attitudes regarding a possible deal with world powers to limit Iran’s nuclear program to peaceful purposes only. In the United States and Israel – for their own politically sensitive reasons – much of this history remains “lost” or little known.

Ronald Reagan and his 1980 vice-presidential running mate George H.W.  Bush.

The division inside Iran between leading figures who collaborated with the U.S. and Israel behind the scenes and those who resisted those secret dealings took shape in the early 1980s but remains in place, to some degree, to this day.

For instance, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s current Supreme Leader, was more the ideological purist in 1980, apparently opposing any unorthodox strategy involving Israeli and Republican emissaries that went behind President Jimmy Carter’s back to gain promises of weapons from Israel and the future Reagan administration.

Khamenei appears to have favored a more straightforward arrangement with the Carter administration for settling the dispute over the 52 American hostages who were seized from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, by Iranian radicals.

However, other key political figures – including Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mehdi Karoubi – participated in the secret contacts with the Republicans and Israel to get the military supplies needed to fight the war with Iraq, which began in September 1980. They were later joined by Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi.

In 1980, these internal Iranian differences played out against a dramatic backdrop. Iranian radicals still held the 52 hostages; President Carter had imposed an arms embargo while negotiating for the hostages’ release; and he was struggling to fend off a strong campaign challenge from Republican Ronald Reagan.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Likud Prime Minister Menachem Begin was furious at Carter for pushing him into the Camp David peace deal with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat that required Israel returning the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for normalized relations.

Begin also was upset at Carter’s perceived failure to protect the Shah of Iran, who had been an Israeli strategic ally. Begin was worried, too, about the growing influence of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as it massed troops along the Iranian border.

At that time, Saudi Arabia was encouraging Sunni-ruled Iraq to attack Shiite-ruled Iran in a revival of the Sunni-Shiite conflict which dated back to the Seventh Century succession struggle after the death of the Prophet Mohammad. The Saudi prince-playboys were worried about the possible spread of the ascetic revolutionary movement pushed by Iran’s new ruler, Ayatollah Khomeini.

Upsetting Carter

Determined to help Iran counter Iraq – and hopeful about rebuilding at least covert ties to Tehran – Begin’s government cleared the first small shipments of U.S. military supplies to Iran in spring 1980, including 300 tires for Iran’s U.S.-manufactured jet fighters. Soon, Carter learned about the covert shipments and lodged an angry complaint.

“There had been a rather tense discussion between President Carter and Prime Minister Begin in the spring of 1980 in which the President made clear that the Israelis had to stop that, and that we knew that they were doing it, and that we would not allow it to continue, at least not allow it to continue privately and without the knowledge of the American people,” Carter’s press secretary Jody Powell told me in an interview for a PBS documentary.

“And it stopped,” Powell said — at least, it stopped temporarily.

Questioned by congressional investigators a dozen years later, Carter said he felt that by April 1980, “Israel cast their lot with Reagan,” according to notes I found among the unpublished documents in the files of a congressional investigation conducted in 1992. Carter traced the Israeli opposition to his possible reelection in 1980 to a “lingering concern [among] Jewish leaders that I was too friendly with Arabs.”

Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski also recognized the Israeli hostility. Brzezinski said the Carter White House was well aware that the Begin government had “an obvious preference for a Reagan victory.”

Begin’s alarm about a possible Carter second term was described, too, by Israeli intelligence and foreign affairs official David Kimche in his 1991 book, The Last Option. Kimche wrote that Begin’s government believed that Carter was overly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and was conspiring with Arabs to force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank.

“Begin was being set up for diplomatic slaughter by the master butchers in Washington,” Kimche wrote. “They had, moreover, the apparent blessing of the two presidents, Carter and [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat, for this bizarre and clumsy attempt at collusion designed to force Israel to abandon her refusal to withdraw from territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Extensive evidence now exists that Begin’s preference for a Reagan victory led Israelis to join in a covert operation with Republicans to contact Iranian leaders behind Carter’s back and delay release of the 52 American hostages until after Reagan defeated Carter in November 1980.

That controversy, known as the “October Surprise” case, and its sequel, the Iran-Contra scandal in the mid-1980s, involved clandestine ties between leading figures in Iran and U.S. and Israeli officials who supplied Iran with missiles and other weaponry for its war with Iraq. The Iran-Iraq conflict began simmering in spring 1980 and broke into full-scale war in September.

More Straightforward

Khamenei, who was then an influential aide to Ayatollah Khomeini, appears to have been part of a contingent exploring ways to resolve the hostage dispute with Carter.

According to Army Col. Charles Wesley Scott, who was one of the 52 hostages, Khamenei visited him on May 1, 1980, at the old U.S. consulate in Tabriz to ask whether milder demands from Iran to the Carter administration might lead to a resolution of the hostage impasse and allow the resumption of U.S. military supplies, former National Security Council aide Gary Sick reported in his book October Surprise.

“You’re asking the wrong man,” Scott replied, noting that he had been out of touch with his government during his five months of captivity before adding that he doubted the Carter administration would be eager to resume military shipments quickly.

“Frankly, my guess is that it will be a long time before you’ll get any cooperation on spare parts from America, after what you’ve done and continue to do to us,” Scott said he told Khamenei.

But Khamenei’s outreach to a captive U.S. military officer – outlining terms that then became the basis of a near settlement of the crisis with the Carter administration in September 1980 – suggests that Khamenei favored a more traditional approach toward resolving the hostage crisis rather than the parallel channel that soon involved the Israelis and the Republicans.

In that narrow sense, Khamenei was allied with Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, the sitting Iranian president in 1980 who also has said he opposed dealing with Israel and the Republicans behind President Carter’s back. In a little-noticed letter to the U.S. Congress, dated Dec. 17, 1992, Bani-Sadr said he first learned of the Republican hostage initiative in July 1980.

Bani-Sadr said a nephew of Ayatollah Khomeini returned from a meeting with an Iranian banker, Cyrus Hashemi, who had led the Carter administration to believe he was helping broker a hostage release but who had close ties to Reagan’s campaign chief William Casey and to Casey’s business associate, John Shaheen.

Bani-Sadr said the message from the Khomeini emissary was clear: the Reagan campaign was in league with some of the Central Intelligence Agency’s pro-Republican elements in an effort to undermine Carter and wanted Iran’s help. Bani-Sadr said the emissary “told me that if I do not accept this proposal they [the Republicans] would make the same offer to my rivals.”

The emissary added that the Republicans “have enormous influence in the CIA,” Bani-Sadr wrote. “Lastly, he told me my refusal of their offer would result in my elimination.”

Bani-Sadr said he resisted the GOP scheme, but the plan ultimately was accepted by Ayatollah Khomeini, who appears to have made up his mind around the time of Iraq’s invasion in mid-September 1980.

Clearing the Way

Khomeini’s approval meant the end of the initiative that Khamenei had outlined to Col. Scott, which was being pursued with Carter’s representatives in West Germany before Iraq launched its attack. Khomeini’s blessing allowed Rafsanjani, Karoubi and later Mousavi to proceed with secret contacts that involved emissaries from the Reagan camp and the Israeli government.

The Republican-Israeli-Iranian agreement appears to have been sealed through a series of meetings that culminated in discussions in Paris arranged by the right-wing chief of French intelligence Alexandre deMarenches and allegedly involving Casey, vice presidential nominee (and former CIA Director) George H.W. Bush, CIA officer Robert Gates and other U.S. and Israeli representatives on one side and cleric Mehdi Karoubi and a team of Iranian representatives on the other.

Bush, Gates and Karoubi all have denied participating in the meeting (Karoubi did so in an interview with me in Tehran in 1990). But deMarenches admitted arranging the Paris conclave to his biographer, former New York Times correspondent David Andelman.

Andelman said deMarenches ordered that the secret meeting be kept out of his memoir because the story could otherwise damage the reputation of his friends, William Casey and George H.W. Bush. At the time of Andelman’s work on the memoir in 1991, Bush was running for re-election as President of the United States.

Andelman’s sworn testimony in December 1992 to a House task force assigned to examine the October Surprise controversy buttressed longstanding claims from international intelligence operatives about a Paris meeting involving Casey and Bush.

Besides the testimony from intelligence operatives, including Israeli military intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe, there was contemporaneous knowledge of the alleged Bush-to-Paris trip by Chicago Tribune reporter John Maclean, son of author Norman Maclean who wrote A River Runs Through It.

Maclean said a well-placed Republican source told him in mid-October 1980 about Bush’s secret trip to Paris to meet with Iranians on the U.S. hostage issue. Maclean passed on that information to State Department official David Henderson, who recalled the date as Oct. 18, 1980.

Since Maclean had never written a story about the leak and Henderson didn’t mentioned it until Congress started its cursory October Surprise investigation in 1991, the Maclean-Henderson conversation had been locked in a kind of time capsule.

One could not accuse Maclean of concocting the Bush-to-Paris allegation for some ulterior motive, since he hadn’t used it in 1980, nor had he volunteered it a decade later. He only confirmed it, grudgingly, when approached by a researcher working with me on a PBS Frontline documentary and in a subsequent videotaped interview with me.

Also, alibis that were later concocted for Casey and Bush – supposedly to prove they could not have traveled to the alleged overseas meetings – either collapsed under close scrutiny or had serious holes. [For details on the October Surprise case, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Military Shipments

Though the precise details of the October Surprise case remain murky, it is a historic fact that Carter failed to resolve the hostage crisis before losing in a surprising landslide to Reagan and that the hostages were not released until Reagan and Bush were sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981.

It also is clear that U.S. military supplies were soon moving to Iran via Israeli middlemen with the approval of the new Reagan administration.

In a PBS interview, Nicholas Veliotes, Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, said he first discovered the secret arms pipeline to Iran when an Israeli weapons flight was shot down over the Soviet Union on July 18, 1981, after straying off course on its third mission to deliver U.S. military supplies from Israel to Iran via Larnaca, Cyprus.

“It was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment,” Veliotes said.

In checking out the Israeli flight, Veliotes came to believe that the Reagan-Bush camp’s dealings with Iran dated back to before the 1980 election.

“It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration,” Veliotes said. “And I understand some contacts were made at that time.”

In the early 1980s, the players in Iran also experienced a shakeup. Bani-Sadr was ousted in 1981 and fled for his life; he was replaced as president by Khamenei; Mousavi was named prime minister; Rafsanjani consolidated his financial and political power as speaker of the Majlis; and Karoubi became a powerful figure in Iran’s military-and-foreign-policy establishment.

Besides tapping into stockpiles of U.S.-made weaponry, the Israelis arranged shipments from third countries, including Poland, according to Israeli intelligence officer Ben-Menashe, who described his work on the arms pipeline in his 1992 book, Profits of War.

Since representatives of Likud had initiated the arms-middleman role for Iran, the profits flowed into coffers that the right-wing party controlled, a situation that allowed Likud to invest in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and created envy inside the rival Labor Party especially after it gained a share of power in the 1984 elections, said Ben-Menashe, who worked with Likud.

The Iran-Contra Case

According to this analysis, Labor’s desire to open its own arms channel to Iran laid the groundwork for the Iran-Contra scandal, as the government of Prime Minister Shimon Peres tapped into the emerging neoconservative network inside the Reagan administration on one hand and began making his own contacts to Iran’s leadership on the other.

Reagan’s National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, who had close ties to the Israeli leadership, collaborated with Peres’s aide Amiram Nir and with neocon intellectual (and National Security Council consultant) Michael Ledeen in spring 1985 to make contact with the Iranians.

Ledeen’s chief intermediary to Iran was a businessman named Manucher Ghorbanifar, who was held in disdain by the CIA as a fabricator but claimed he represented high-ranking Iranians who favored improved relations with the United States and were eager for American weapons.

Ghorbanifar’s chief contact, as identified in official Iran-Contra records, was Mohsen Kangarlu, who worked as an aide to Prime Minister Mousavi, according to Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman in his 2008 book, The Secret War with Iran.

However, Ghorbanifar’s real backer inside Iran appears to have been Mousavi himself. According to a Time magazine article from January 1987, Ghorbanifar “became a trusted friend and kitchen adviser to Mir Hussein Mousavi, Prime Minister in the Khomeini government.”

In November 1985, at a key moment in the Iran-Contra scandal as one of the early missile shipments via Israel went awry, Ghorbanifar conveyed Mousavi’s anger to the White House.

“On or about November 25, 1985, Ledeen received a frantic phone call from Ghorbanifar, asking him to relay a message from the prime minister of Iran to President Reagan regarding the shipment of the wrong type of HAWKs,” according to Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh’s Final Report.

“Ledeen said the message essentially was ‘we’ve been holding up our part of the bargain, and here you people are now cheating us and tricking us and deceiving us and you had better correct this situation right away.’”

Earlier in the process, Ghorbanifar had dangled the possibility of McFarlane meeting with high-level Iranian officials, including Mousavi and Rafsanjani. Another one of Ghorbanifar’s Iranian contacts was Hassan Karoubi, the brother of Mehdi Karoubi. Hassan Karoubi met with Ghorbanifar and Ledeen in Geneva in late October 1985 regarding missile shipments in exchange for Iranian help in getting a group of U.S. hostages freed in Lebanon, according to Walsh’s report.

A Split Leadership

As Ben-Menashe describes the maneuvering in Tehran, the basic split in the Iranian leadership put then-President Khamenei on the ideologically purist side of rejecting U.S.-Israeli military help and Rafsanjani, Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi in favor of exploiting those openings in a pragmatic way to better fight the war with Iraq.

The key decider during this period – as in the October Surprise phase – was Ayatollah Khomeini, who agreed with the pragmatists on the need to get as much materiel from the Americans and the Israelis as possible, Ben-Menashe told me in a 2009 interview from his home in Canada.

Ben-Menashe said Rafsanjani and most other senior Iranian officials were satisfied dealing with the original (Likud) Israeli channel and were offended by the Reagan administration’s double game of tilting toward Iraq with military and intelligence support while also offering weapons deals to Iran via the second (Labor) channel.

The ex-Israeli intelligence officer said the Iranians were especially thankful in 1985-86 when the Likud channel secured SCUD missiles from Poland so Iran could respond to SCUD attacks that Iraq had launched against Iranian cities.

“After that (transaction), I got access to the highest authorities” in Iran, Ben-Menashe said, including a personal meeting with Mousavi at which Ben-Menashe said he learned that Mousavi knew the history of the Israeli-arranged shipments in the October Surprise deal of 1980.

Ben-Menashe quoted Mousavi as saying, “we did everything you guys wanted. We got rid of the Democrats. We did everything we could, but the Americans aren’t delivering [and] they are dealing with the Iraqis.”

In that account, the Iranian leadership in 1980 viewed its agreement to delay the release of the U.S. Embassy hostages not primarily as a favor to the Republicans, but to the Israelis who were considered the key for Iran to get the necessary military supplies for its war with Iraq.

Israeli attitudes toward Iran soured when the lucrative arms pipelines of the Iran-Iraq War dried up after the conflict finally ended in 1988. Iran’s treasury was depleted as was the treasury of Iraq, where Saddam Hussein lashed out at one of his oil-rich creditors, the Kuwaiti royal family, in 1990, invading the country and setting the stage for a U.S.-led Persian Gulf War that drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait.

With Iraq burdened by post-war sanctions and its military might restricted by weapons inspectors, Israel began to view Iran as its principal regional threat, a view shared by the wealthy Saudis. That common viewpoint gradually created the basis for a de facto Israeli-Saudi alliance which has begun to come out of the shadows in recent years. [See’s “Deciphering the Mideast Chaos.”]

Meanwhile, in Iran, this half-hidden history of double-dealing and back-stabbing remains part of the narrative of distrust that continues to afflict U.S.-Iranian relations. Even 35 years later, some of the same Iranian players are still around.

Though Mousavi and Karoubi fell out of favor when they were associated with the Western-backed Green Movement in 2009, Rafsanjani has remained an influential political figure and Khameini replaced the late Ayatollah Khomeini as Iran’s Supreme Leader. That makes him the most important figure in Iran regarding whether to accept a U.S.-brokered deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program — or not.

Not the Greatest Place to Raise Children…

I saw this article on Alternet today and wanted to share it.  It would be hard to say which one is necessarily the worst with regard to raising a family as all of them contribute significantly.  With that being said, however, I think that privatized healthcare and the massive underfunding of education are the two issues that have effectively kept the U.S. spiraling downward.

9 Reasons Why America Is a Terrible Place to Raise Kids

As the GOP presidential primary heats up and the 2016 election draws closer, Republicans have been pandering to their far-right evangelical base and blaming social liberalism for the decline of “family values” in the United States. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal insists that liberals are declaring war on families and religious liberty [3]; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has been beating the culture war [4] drum and railing against abortion, gay rights, feminism, same-sex marriage and sexy images in pop music. And as usual, Republicans are overlooking the real reason why so many Americans are either delaying or opting out of parenthood [5]: economic stress. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that the average cost of raising a child born in 2013 will exceed $245,000, and birth rates among women in their 20 have reached an historic low in the U.S. (according to the Centers for Disease Control). America’s middle class has been facing a full-fledged economic assault, making it harder and harder to take on the colossal expense of parenthood [6].

Below are 10 major reasons why the U.S., more and more, has become a terrible place to raise a family [7] unless you’re rich.

1. The High Cost of Childcare

American families are facing a variety of rising costs in 2015, from food to housing. But one of the biggest expenses of all is turning out to be childcare. A 2014 report by Child Care Aware of America found that daycare could be as high as $14,508 per year [8] for an infant and $12,280 per year for a four-year-old. And that is, in a sense, more troubling for new parents than the high cost of college tuition: while that expense is 17 or 18 years in the future, daycare is an expense working parents face right away.

2. Stagnant Wages Combined With Ever-Increasing Cost of Living

A 2014 report by the Center for American Progress offered little reason to be optimistic about family life in the U.S. The Center found that “investing in the basic pillars of middle-class security—child care [9], housing and healthcare, as well as setting aside modest savings for retirement and college—cost an alarming $10,600 more in 2012 than it did in 2000.” To make matters worse, the Center reported, incomes for most Americans remained stagnant during that 12-year period.

3. Public Education Is Struggling, and Private Schools Are Unaffordable

The economic meltdown of September 2008 has been bad news for American families on multiple levels. When families are struggling financially and have less money to spend, that harms a variety of businesses. And lower income also means less tax revenue, which harms public education because public education is funded with income taxes as well as sales and property taxes. In 2014, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that at least 35 states had less funding per student than they did before the Great Recession—and 14 of those states had cut per-student funding by over 10% [10]. Some parents will send their kids to private schools, but only if they can afford to: in 2014, the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) found that annual tuition for private high schools [11] in the U.S. ranged from an average of $13,500 in the southern states to $29,000 in the western states to over $30,000 in the northeastern states.

4. Astronomical College Tuition

During the Fathers Knows Best/Leave It to Beaver era Republicans romanticize, a college degree practically guaranteed a middle-class income for families. College was much more affordable in those days, but now, a college education is more expensive than ever [12]—tuition costs have more than doubled since the 1980s, and there is no guarantee that a four-year degree or even a masters will lead to the type of job one needs to support a family. A college degree costs more now but delivers less. In the 1950s and 1960s, college graduates working in low-paying, dead-end service jobs was unheard of; now, it’s common. And someone making $8 or $9 an hour is going to have a very hard time paying off a six-figure student loan debt [13] and starting a family.

5. The High Cost of Healthcare

Healthcare is a colossal expense for families in the U.S. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 has brought about some desperately needed improvements: for example, health insurance companies can no longer deny health insurance to a child who has a preexisting condition, such as Type 1 diabetes. But the ACA, which was greatly influenced by health insurance lobbyists, needs to be expanded considerably before it offers families the types of protections that are the norm in France or Sweden—and Republicans in Congress continue to fight Obamacare every step of the way. Raising a healthy child is still much easier in Europe than in the U.S.

6. The Decline of Organized Labor

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker has been calling for a 20-week abortion ban [14] in his state and reminding anti-abortion groups that he has a history of defunding Planned Parenthood. But if Walker is really concerned about families, he should reconsider his opposition to organized labor. It is no coincidence that when roughly 35% of American private-sector workers belonged to unions in the mid-1950s, it was much easier to start a family: collective bargaining promoted economic stability for the middle class. But in 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the unionization rate in the U.S. was a mere 6.6% for private-sector workers [15] and 11.1% when private-sector and public-sector workers were combined. The BLS also reported that non-union workers were only earning 79% of what unionized workers were earning. At a time when union membership in the U.S. is the lowest it has been in almost 100 years, Walker just made Wisconsin a right-to-work state [16], which will bring union membership down even more.

7. U.S. Still Lags Behind in Paid Maternity Leave

The U.S. is the only country in the developed world that still lacks mandatory paid maternity leave [17]. That is quite a contrast to Europe, where government-mandated paid maternity leave ranges from 81 weeks in Austria to 47 weeks in Italy to 42 weeks in France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the Republic of Ireland. Meanwhile, in the Pacific region, paid maternity leave ranges from 18 weeks in Australia to 58 weeks in Japan. Paid maternity leave is strictly optional in the U.S., where according to the organization Moms Rising, 51% of new mothers have no paid maternity leave at all [18].

8. Stagnant Minimum Wage

If the U.S.’ national minimum wage had kept up with inflation, it would be much higher than its current rate of $7.25 an hour. President Barack Obama has proposed raising it to $10.10 per hour, while economist Robert Reich favors raising it to $15 an hour [19] nationally. Raising the minimum wage would hardly be a panacea for American families, but it would be a step in the right direction. However, even Obama’s proposed $10.10 per hour is unlikely to come about as long as far-right Republicans are dominating both houses of Congress.

9. Outsourcing and the Loss of American Manufacturing Jobs

Thanks to globalization, neoliberal economics and disastrous trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the U.S. has been steadily losing manufacturing jobs for decades. A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that in 2011, globalization had depressed wages for non-college-educated Americans by 5.5%. [20] And now, both Republicans and the Obama administration are pushing for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free-trade deal that opponents have been calling “NAFTA on steroids [21].” Resulting in more manufacturing jobs being outsourced, TPP will make life even worse for blue-collar families in the U.S.



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