Saturday, April 11, 2015

10 Years After: 2012 -- Centerville

The 10th blogiversary fundraiser continues with the Presidential Election year of 2012.

It would be fair to say I write about David Brooks frequently.  In fact, it would be fair to say that I an the foremost David Brooks expert/critic in Murrica.

It would also be fair to say that being the foremost David Brooks expert/critic in Murrica plus $2.25 will get you a scenic ride from The Heartland Cafe down to Columbia College on the CTA.

I thought if I just wrote my ass off -- if I poured it on such as this massive compendium of Mr. Brooks' most infamous statements and positions -- I might be able to budge the needle a bit. Influence the public conversation an iota.

Here, for example, is a 3,700 word essay I composed in a day and a half (I can work very fast and in great detail when moved to do so) to take apart some bullshit Mr, Brooks was trying to run on manufacturing (another pet subject of mine.)

I was, of course, wrong.  It made no difference at all.

But I still keep at it.

Which is the definition of insanity.

Today in Centerville -- SOTU UPDATE


UPDATE:  When I wrote this long piece today, I swear I had no idea how perfectly it would tongue-in-groove fit together with the manufacturing and job training sections of Barack Obama's State of the Union speech.  I had  just effing had it with David Brooks (once again) getting away with dropping another steaming load of pernicious Centrist claptrap into the pages of the NYT.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

If I had never written a blog post in my life, I believe the sheer brass of  Mr. Brooks'  calculated malfeasance today would inspire me to learn Blogger or WordPad just so I could publicly detail the cardinal and venial sin he commits against honest journalism this time around.

You see, in a Basic David Brooks Column/Variation #3 (a heartwarming tale of human spirit overcomingness cribbed from somewhere bolted to yet another completely dishonest indictment of "Both Sides") you might have to run a couple of hydrostatic tests on the thing to find the bad weld or the false bottom -- not that hard, but it does require some experience.

But today?  Today was easy because Mr. Brooks pooped a solid ingot of stupid onto the New York Times editorial page with barely a lick of paint to cover the crime --
Free-Market Socialism
The idiocy of our current political debate is that neither side seems capable of talking about the interplay of economic and social forces. Most of the Republican candidates talk as if all that is needed is more capitalism. But lighter regulation and lower taxes won’t, on their own, help the Maddie Parliers of the world get the skills they need to compete.

Democrats, meanwhile, have shifted their emphasis from lifting up the poor to pounding down the rich. Democratic candidates no longer emphasize early childhood education and community-building. Instead they embrace the pseudo-populist Occupy Wall Street hokum — the opiate of the educated classes.

This materialistic ethos emphasizes reducing inequality instead of expanding opportunity. Its policy prescriptions begin (and sometimes end) with raising taxes on the rich. This makes you feel better if you detest all the greed-heads who went into finance. It does nothing to address those social factors, like family breakdown, that help explain why American skills have not kept up with technological change
-- and he did it on a topic I just  happen to know oodles about: labor markets, education and training systems, the huge and ever-growing training gap, manufacturing, etc.
If President Obama is really serious about restoring American economic dynamism, he needs an aggressive two-pronged approach: More economic freedom combined with more social structure; more competition combined with more support.
As a survey of nearly 10,000 Harvard Business School grads by Michael Porter and Jan Rivkin makes clear, to get companies to locate their plants in the U.S., Obama is going to have to simplify the tax code, cut corporate rates, streamline regulations, make immigration policy more flexible and balance the budget over the long term.

To ensure there’s skilled labor for those plants, Obama would have to champion different policies: successful training programs like Job Corps, better coordination between colleges and employers, better treatment for superstar teachers, more child care options and better early childhood education.
Yes, I am forced to confess that in addition to have versed myself thoroughly in things like science fiction (both canonical and arcane), I also own and have actually read such action-packed bodice-rippers as:
"Skill Wars: Winning the Battle for Productivity and Profit" 
"The 2010 Meltdown: Solving the Impending Jobs Crisis" 
"Trying Hard Is Not Good Enough" (on how to correctly measure and make sense of system changes) 
"Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education" 
"Creating Public Value -- Strategic Management in Government"
And so forth. 

("...and I think I've understood them. 
They're about girls, right? 
Just kidding. 
But I have to say my all-time favorite book is Johnny Cash's autobiography "Cash" by Johnny Cash.")*

I have a bookshelf full of the stuff which I am in the process of putting up for adoption because,
  1. I honestly don't know if I will ever again have chance to use in a professional capacity, and 
  2. These aren't the sorts of tomes that any sane person would haul around for recreational reading.
I'm also the sort of wonk who has a dozen board-feet of policy documents quietly oxidizing somewhere in cold storage, along with the regs for various government training  projects and initiatives, reviews of high school and community college curriculum and just an ass-load of material on what are known as "sector-based" programs because they figure out what sectors are most active and long-term viable in the local economy and then concentrate on getting all the players -- labor and management, business and gummint -- to work together to strengthen that sector for everyone's mutual advantage.

And working together on a local level is key, which is why flogging the President of the United State for not being able to force the owners of some metal stamping plant in Peoria to play nice with the members of the local school board is just one of the many, many layers of infantile incomprehension at how the real world really works with which Mr. Brooks' horseshit hoagie is piled high.

For example, does Mr. Brooks have any any idea how many hundreds of thousands of dollars -- sometimes million of dollars -- it costs to set up and maintain a decent manufacturing training program at a community college?  Does the factory Mr. Brooks mentions -- "Standard Motor Products, which makes fuel injectors" -- exist within a cluster of similar plants where the pool of potential trainees who might all need similar training on similar machines makes such a large capital investment makes sense...or would such a facility stand idle most of the time?

Given the high demand for these skills, and the high wages that go along with them, how exactly does Mr. Brooks plan to lure competent machinists off the factory floor and into the classroom to teach his programs?  Will  Mr. Brooks' program(s) offer academic credit, industry certification or will he force the local community college board and business leaders to build a curriculum that will do both?  Will the credit be transferable to the nearest four-year institution, or will a student who want to move onward and upward discover find that his hundreds of hours have been consigned to some non-degree-seeking Adult Ed limbo and have to start over?

Will there be night classes for the locals who already have a job but need to upgrade their skills?

Are you going to drug-screen people?

Oh, and who exactly is paying for all of this?   Because regardless of what Mr. Brooks seems to believe, the President of the United States does not personally stand outside every unemployment office and community college in America asking people what they want to do with the rest of their lives, testing them for aptitude and then handing out vouchers for whatever their school will cost.  That money may come from a lot of different sources , but if you want your local employment and training system to foot any of the bill, then you'd better make damn sure the whole thing is certified by the local workforce board.

Any such system will, of course, have any number of strong advocates for spending all of these scarce resources on entirely different things like training nurses or long-distance truck driver, so I assume Mr. Brooks has figured out a way to set up the hundreds of local governing bodies that will make all these very local decisions in a way that will keep everybody happy, or at least willing to forgo sabotaging the entire enterprise.  Or is assuming that the President will attend to each of these concerns personally?

By the way, the local factors and considerations I have ticked off so far?   These are just the ones I came up off the top of my head after an exhausting trek across the state last night and they barely scratch the surface.  We could, for example, kill a mighty good bottle of scotch and not cover the half of variables involved in hashing out the pros and cons of  "distance-learning" (Will it be permitted?  Encouraged?  Prohibited?)  or putting newbies and experience workers in the same classroom?

And after that, if you then wanted to talk about the horrors of trying to get a community college to risk its financial security to re-calibrate its 20-years-out-of-date degree program (and its 20-years-out-of-date instructors and equipment) in order to graduate students with industry certifications you would also have to agree to make time to solve the problem of getting some pterodactyl in a company's HR department to risk their job security by re-calibrating their 20-years-out-of-date job descriptions, rustic workplace culture and often just-plain-ridiculous expectations, because it ain't just public institutions who have failed us.

We would also need to talk about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka "da stimulus") which Mr. Brooks failed to mention spent hundreds of millions of dollars (while working inside an absurdly constricted 18 month spending window) advancing every one of the issues he is bitching about.

We would also need to talk succession planning, employee buyouts, and a culture that says encouraging a student to take up a trade instead of focusing on college is an insult and possibly racist, because they are all interrelated and all in urgent!urgent!urgent! need of attention.

As I said, if this were my first blog post, I would take my freshly-minted, community college trained, industry-certified blogging skills and write a long, shapely jeremiad encompassing all of this.  I'd spill 10,000 words wondering how Mr. Brooks can keep getting away with dropping such grotesque distortions into the op-ed pages of the New York Times.

Wondering who -- by name -- permits this disgrace to go on and on and interminably on?

Wondering who keeps allowing Mr. Brooks to just wish away ugly reality of the fanatical and united opposition that this President faces on Every. Single.  Fucking.  Issue. so that he can spew his malevolent Centrist lies again and again and again.

But this is not my first blog post. This is, in fact, getting up toward my 3,700th, and I know for sure that I will never get an answer to any of questions no matter how many times I ask them, no matter how often they are email to the people involved, and no matter what font I use.

And yet, if only for the sake of ordering my own thoughts -- and for the sake of a notation made in some future record of this time and place that back in the Bad Old Days when clowns like Mr. Brooks were paid vast sums of money and given virtually unlimited access to the American media, there were at least a few voices pointing out that our media Emperors had been bare-assed nekkid all along -- I feel compelled to carry on.

But rather than wrenching my back carrying more adjectives down from the attic, allow me to restate Mr. Brooks' key paragraph --
To ensure there’s skilled labor for those plants, Obama would have to champion different policies: successful training programs like Job Corps, better coordination between colleges and employers, better treatment for superstar teachers, more child care options and better early childhood education.
-- and use Teh Internet to make my case.

Here is a video of Candidate Obama pointing to an innovative Chicago high school -- Austin Polytechnical Academy -- by name as an example of what his administration wanted to do.   This school was created in one of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods -- a  neighborhood which had been destroyed by decades of deindustrialized, disinvestment and vulture  capitalism.

 A year later, here is Senator Dick Durbin visiting the same school and listening to the kids tell him him about coffee manufacturing


Here is the same school featured on the News Hour. 

Here is a link to President Barack Obama promoting manufacturing in Iowa.

Here is a link to President Barack Obama promoting manufacturing in Michigan.

Here is a link to President Barack Obama announcing his Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.

Here is a link to President Barack Obama calling for big investments in high-tech manufacturing in Pittsburgh.

Here is a link to President Barack Obama calling for big investments in advance manufacturing in the energy sector.

Here is President Barack Obama addressing a joint session of Congress last year and asking for their support for his job's plan:
"Already, we've mobilized business leaders to train 10,000 American engineers a year, by providing company internships and training. Other businesses are covering tuition for workers who learn new skills at community colleges. And we're going to make sure the next generation of manufacturing takes root not in China or Europe, but right here, in the United States of America"

Here is President Barack Obama begging Congress to help him provide the unmployed with temporary assistance and a path to finding permanent employment:

Here is President Barack Obama asking Congress to help him make "America more competitive for the long haul" by doing what is necessary to "out-build and out-educate and out-innovate every other country on Earth"
"As I've argued since I ran for this office, we have to look beyond the immediate crisis and start building an economy that lasts into the future -- an economy that creates good, middle-class jobs that pay well and offer security. We now live in a world where technology has made it possible for companies to take their business anywhere. If we want them to start here and stay here and hire here, we have to be able to out-build and out-educate and out-innovate every other country on Earth."

Here is a link to the Department of Labor's Annual reports page, which is packed with information from all 50 states and every major metroplitan area on the progress that has been made in trying to fix the decade's old problem of getting people into good jobs with a decent future

Here is a link a PDF on the Department of Labor's Annual reports page which shows what the State of Illinois has been up to in running sector-based training and employment programs.

And here is a link to Barack Obama talking to the workers at a Chrysler plant in Toledo, Ohio about the success of his bailout of the America automobile industry, because it turns out that in order to build a bridge between the people who are looking for a decent job and an industry that needs well-trained people, you first have to save that industry from complete annihilation.

I could go on like this for another 100 pages, but I hope I have made my point.

I should also mention that to find these "Obama + manufacturing" videos online, one has to be willing to wade through an ocean of Republican bile, lies and unified, fanatical opposition to Every. Single. Fucking thing President Obama has proposed: a unified, fanatical opposition which Mr. Brooks simply refuses to acknowledge because doing so would screw up the incredibly lucrative Centrist scam off of which he and so many others like him parasitically feed.

But whatever the craven Mr. Brooks chooses to pretend, over in the wingnut universe where most of his Republican jackal pals reside, the auto industry -- that pillar of the manufacturing industry in America and creator of the very jobs Mr. Brooks is talking about -- was not and is not discussed as just another market sector need of "lighter regulation and lower taxes"  but as a massive front group for Evil Union Thugs which should have been allowed to crash and burn (taking all of its second- and third- tier suppliers with it) in a glorious bonfire of pure freedom-luvin' laissez-faire capitalism.

And this truly deranged idea -- that what the American Economy most needed in the depths of the Great Recession was massive, collapse which would have put additional millions out of work -- was not a belief the fringe nutjobs whispered about in quiet rooms: it was a broad, wingnut consensus which virtually the entire Conservative brain caste including GOP candidate and future-David-Brooks-meal-ticket, Willard Romney

was only too happy to shout from the rooftops.

Weird how Mr. Brooks seems to have overlooked or forgotten all of that, isn't it?

Mr. Brooks also seems to have overlooked or forgotten the fact that even modest, non-partisan legislative efforts like the Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success Act -- which was designed to target funding directly at the issue he identifies --
Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success Act of 2011 or SECTORS Act of 2011 - Amends the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 to require the Secretary of Labor to award renewable three-year competitive industry or sector partnership grants to eligible entities to develop strategies that: (1) encourage growth and competitiveness through work with employers within a targeted industry cluster; (2) help workers move toward economic self-sufficiency and ensure that they have access to supportive services; (3) address the needs of firms with limited human resources or in-house training capacity, including small- and medium-sized firms; and (4) coordinate with entities that carry out state and local workforce investment, economic development, and education activities.or workers including, steadier employment with increased earnings and better access to benefits.
-- are doomed to die quiet, cloakroom deaths so long as they face the united and fanatical opposition by the leaders of Mr. Brooks' Republican Party.  And everyone knows it.

Just like he somehow manages to overlook or forget the fact that, in the wingnut universe, the mere suggestion that the United States should maybe have an "industrial policy" so that we can start to catch up with with the rest of the advanced manufacturing countries is spoken of as if Barack Obama was trying to hand the nation's nuclear lauch codes over to Cesar Chavez.

Just like he somehow manages to overlook or forget that over in the wingnut universe the appointment of Ron Bloom to coordinate Administration manufacturing policy was treated as definitive proof of a massive, secret, Maoist plot to destroy America being led by the malicious Communist-in-Chief.

Ah, but Teh Internet remember!

 A random sample finds...

...a clip of wingnut Congressman Allen West calmly explaining that Barack Obama is a Marxist.

...a clip of GOP Party boss and the most popular Conservative radio host in history -- Rush Limbaugh -- explaining that Barack Obama is a Marxist for the 851st time

...a clip of slighty-less popular Conservative radio host Mark Levin explaining that Barack Obama is a Marxist.

...a clip of noted Swiftboat Liar, Birther pimp, Conservative hero and New York Times best-selling author Jerome Corsi explaining that Barack Obama is a Marxist who will probably cancel the 2012 elections.

...and a montage of the most influential Conservative liars in American history explaining that Barack Obama is, as the young people say, everything but a child of God.

If the last seven years and +3,600 posts have taught me one thing about blogging, it is that we pottymouthed Liberals will never be a serious impediment to Mr. Brooks in any way. We will never be able to prevent him from using his national platform to repeat his pernicious lies over and over again. We will never be able to undo all damage he does, or deprogram all the credulous readers who believe every word he says.

Mr. Brooks makes a handsome living tells plutocrat-pleasing lies, and there is nothing we can do about that.

What we can do, as citizens, is tell the truth as we know it, as best we can, in any venue which is available to us and hope it does some good.

And the truth is, while I strongly disagree with many of the specific policy prescription the Obama Administration has offered up to pull us out of the terrible and widening hole our manufacturing economy is in, President Obama inherited a manufacturing education and training system that was not a system at all. It was disaster; a series of make-do patches that had been slapped onto an economic sector which has been in full retreat for 30 years.

Basic childhood education was and is a tragedy.

High schools were and are a catastrophe.

Programs for vocational education which provided exactly the kind of training and direction Mr. Brooks is whining about have been underfunded and understaffed to the point of collapse for decades while their advocates were marginalized and ignored. This happened because up until very recently we were content as country to let our manufacturing base slide into the ocean --  because everyone knew were were all gonna get rich going into computer programming!

As thousands of small, neighborhood companies vanished -- many for no reason other than a lack of succession planning by their owners -- America shrugged because who cared about a lot of old factories in bad neighborhoods anyway when everyone knew were were all gonna get rich in the stock market!

As Reaganomics came into full, horrifying flower -- as we sleepwalked into became an importer/debtor nation instead of an exporter/creditor nation --  the informal but absolutely critical pipeline of skilled workers was permitted to dry up and blow away because everyone knew were were all gonna get rich off of real estate!

And then it all fell apart almost overnight...and suddenly everybody wanted to know why the schools weren't working, why their mortgages were underwater and where all those good factory jobs had gone.

But answering those questions honestly and in full measure -- telling the simple truth about where we are, how we got here, who is working to solve our  problems and who is working to oppose every solution -- would not only fail to stroke a single plutocrat's egos, but would also freak the shit out the Great Wad who still believe in Centrist fairy tales.

Which is is why you will never read about it under Mr. Brooks' byline in the New York Times.

1 comment:

Paul said...

I've really enjoyed these. Thnaks!