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The New Odd Couple: Rachel and Virg Spin Michigan Conspiracy Theories Together (True Twit, Part 20)

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Posted on May 5 2011 3:35 pm
David Forsmark is the owner and president of Winning Strategies, a full service political consulting firm in Michigan. David has been a regular columnist for Frontpage Magazine since 2006. For 20 years before that, he wrote book, movie and concert reviews as a stringer for the Flint Journal, a midsize daily newspaper.

At least when he lost, Alan Grayson basically slunk away.  Now, Rachel Maddow is trying to make Lansing Mayor– and soundly thrashed gubernatorial Democrat candidate– Virg Bernero into Michigan’s Alan Grayson, someone who can be counted on to come on MSNBC and say anything.

Together, they have created a myth that is permeating the left-fringe blogosphere and now has made it to the New York Times.  Remember the good old days when it was the other way around?

So while Rachel continues to throw out the racially charged term “overseer” toward black financial managers who are trying their damnedest to offer hope and change to black-run cities and school districts that have squandered taxpayers’ money to the point where they cannot come close to keeping their citizens safe or educating them she finds Virg Bernero to spin even wilder conspiracy theories,though couched in unusually weasely language:

BERNERO:  You‘ve got it.  It‘s one of the most insidious parts of it.  In fact, I understand there may be a movement to try to repeal this law, and I hope it happens.  Yes.  And this has happened in other cases already.  I think that this happened in Detroit.

So, you don‘t know really what the influence is that they‘re under.  The guy that you had on there for Benton Harbor, I think he‘s making from the state about $11,000 a month.  Far more than what the mayor or council maybe combined were making.  And so, it‘s a real boon for him.  I can see why he likes it.  And for these other folks who may be our unemployed folks in Michigan who can get a great gig and have all this authoritarian power and really answer to no one, ride roughshod over the citizens, it‘s a sad day again, sad for democracy.

You “THINK?”  First, how about some evidence of that, Virg.

Second, I “think” Rachel is using you because you are from Michigan, and supposedly have some kind of on-the-ground insight.  More knowledge than an observer reading SEIU press releases in New York (like Rachel).  So you slander a guy respected on both sides of the aisle and by everyone not in the Detroit AFT, with “I think”?

Virg also seems to equate charter schools with privatization, even though they are public schools, and says that Wall Street is raiding bankrupt school systems for… billions?  He doesn’t give any examples, doesn’t know of any… but then since this is a blog post and not a book, I can’t list all the things that Virg Bernero doesn’t know that a candidate for Michigan governor should.


MADDOW:  Did you see that the Benton Harbor story made the front page of “The New York Times” yesterday?  Hmmmm! (DF—Yes, that IS how fall the “newspaper of record” has fallen.  They are taking cues from a talk show that can get taken apart by the Kalamzoo Gazette, and has about a .03% audience share—but has fired up readers of the Daily Kos.)

…The Republican governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, gave a statewide speech yesterday.  He said he wants to abolish the minimum number of hours that kids are in school in Michigan.  He also said he wants to give school districts all the autonomy they require.  (Why that DICTATOR!!!) That said, some of the school districts in Michigan he thinks don‘t require any autonomy at all, none. (Because they can’t seem to get by on 7 or 8 thousand dollars per student, and lobby the state for extra money each year, then call oversight racism and slavery…)

He announced that he is targeting 23 districts for government takeover by state appointed unilateral executives to override all local decision-making and locally elected officials and dismiss them if they feel like it.  Nineteen of those 23 districts have a majority of kids in them poor enough to qualify for free school lunch.  Almost all of the districts are in the metro Detroit area

And every single one of those places has just been told that them having local elections, having locally elected officials, (elected by around 5% of the people in low turnout special elections run by the school system) that‘s a problem, that that democracy is in the way of making things more efficient in Michigan.  That democracy is not the way we fix problems in America, but that it is a problem.  It needs to be sidestepped for efficiency‘s sake, for our own good—at least in poor towns, it does. (Maybe because in the “poor town” of Detroit, while the pension system is underfunding, this woman took a $20,000 junket on the pension system’s dime to Dubai for a “pension conference.”   Or that another Detroit City Council member, Monica [Mrs. John] Conyers, a congressman’s wife who also makes north of $75k, asked taxpayers to pay for her attorney in her corruption trial because she was “indigent.”)

Joining us now is the mayor of Lansing, Michigan, Virg Bernero.  Mr.  Bernero ran against Governor Snyder in Michigan‘s last gubernatorial election. Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

MAYOR VIRG BERNERO (D), LANSING, MICHIGAN:  My pleasure, Rachel.  As usual, you have done a wonderful job of highlighting what‘s at stake here in terms of our democracy.  In terms of the education, this is education as an entrepreneurial enterprise.  (… when it should be for the sole benefit of its unions.)

We talked about this before—the corporatization, the privatization, the profitization.  (Not one public school has been privatized in Michigan, not one.  Charter schools are public schools!) You know, when we talk about folks that are elected promising to run government as a business, and it sounds good to people sometimes, that‘s really what‘s happening.  I mean, when you run it as a business, you don‘t have to worry about mayors and councils and democratic issues.  That‘s no longer an issue. (But businesses have competition, and that’s what the unions dread.  That is far more accountability than the volunteer school board of local busybodies who wanted a change in the Booster Club and are now in charge of a multi-million dollar budget.  Business don’t have around 1/3 of their budget going to administrative costs with mediocrities making over $100,000 a year.  Not if they want to stay in business.  Oh, and they have to put out a product that works.)

We‘re running it like a business, and business at a profit.  (We “are”??) And the next bastion, the next frontier, is our school system.  Billions of dollars at stake, billions of dollars being spent, and Wall Street can‘t wait to sink their fangs into it.  They couldn‘t get a hold of Social Security, but by gosh, they have got a way to get in.  (Seriously?  “Wall Street” is dying to get their hands on unfunded liabilities of billions of dollars with no actuarial solution in sight?)

And really, even maybe a president (Barack Obama, Unionbuster!) and a secretary of education under the guise of “Waiting for Superman,” they can come in and look like a savior, but dig right into those piles of cash.  And at the same time, help wipe out the public unions that are a part of the school system.  (Yes, the only way to keep democratic accountability in education is to preserve the monopoly!  Wait, did Virg just admit they have “piles of cash?”  I thought they were being starved out of existence…)

MADDOW:  You said, Mr. Mayor, last time you were here, that this emergency powers law was going to be sort of camel‘s nose under the tent.  It was going to start off with a few places that were in trouble and then it would be radically expanded to take over as much of Michigan as possible.  Not just a few emergency cases. The governor said last night he‘s got 23 school districts in the crosshairs right now.  (23 out of over 700 is not a small number?  That’s 1/3 of 1%… oh wait.  That’s coincidentally THE SAME PERCENTAGE OF AMERICIANS WHO WATCH THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW!  I guess you have an interest in maintaining that is a significant number…!) Is this how it goes from here on out?

BERNERO:  Absolutely.  (Not, “I think?”) And you were one of the first on it, if not the first, and I commend you for it. (Read that “only” and for good reason.  Michigan based non-political business magazines and even liberal blogs and newspapers are even speaking out on Rachel’s fact-free “reporting. ” More on that later.)

Look, what his budget does, he just came out with his education address.  And I say, Rachel, you know, it‘s interesting to listen to what people say, but it‘s better to look what they do.  And, in particular, budgets—budgets are a reflection of our true priorities.  His budget calls for cutting per pupil spending by about $500 a head even though there‘s a surplus in the school aide fund.  He raided that fund to provide tax cuts for business.  (Yes, Rick Snyder has the unreasonable assumption that the highest business tax rate in the nation has something to so with the consistently highest unemployment and lowest business growth rate in the nation.)

And so, now, he‘s putting cuts on the public school system.  He‘s essentially, Rachel, he is starving the public school systems into financial and academic anemia and then giving them emergency managers.  So, he is kicking them when they are down, and then saying, by the way, if you‘re a failing school district—meaning if you have one school in the district that doesn‘t meet standards—we‘ll take it over.  (Are they starving or sitting on a surplus of billions?  Make up your “mind,” Virg!)

And now—and he‘s taken the cap off charter schools and invited in the for-profit charter schools.  He is inviting them to Michigan.  (Where they will still have to compete from WITHIN the monopoly, horror of horrors!) And, of course, that‘s all part of the game.  That‘s part of what‘s going on here is, again, the corporatization of our school system.  There are billions of dollars.  Why would Wall Street allow that to just sit there, when they can come in, raid and pillage our public school system?

And I‘m not convinced they care about quality education because the charters that we have aren‘t performing any better than our public school system.  (Something only you and MEA president Iris Salter believe) We all know there‘s no silver bullet.  But part of what the governor‘s plan did is it perpetuates the myth of the Superman principle, the Superman teacher who can come in and solve all the problems.

We know that‘s not a reality.  My wife is a lifelong educator.  (She started as an infant?) God love her as I do.  (Say what?) She does a phenomenal job.

But one person can‘t make a difference.  (Wow, I hope you aren’t invited to speak at many graduations.  How inspiring!) It does take a community. It‘s a community school model.  It‘s about parenting.  And when the parents don‘t do their job, it takes many others of to us come in and try to fill in the gap.  There‘s no one teacher or one principal.  We are setting the public school system up for failure so they can be privatized, profitized (Not actually a word) and corporatized (ditto).

MADDOW:  When you talk about privatization, corporatization, essentially setting up public education as another stream of government funding that can be raided for public profit, (Like green energy?) there is one detail about the emergency manager law that always struck me that seemed important but I didn‘t quite get why.  And that was that these emergency managers with this unilateral authority, they are allowed to take outside sources of income from other private companies, from other entities, while they are getting paid by the state to unilateral overseer.  So, conceivably, you can have people running the schools on behalf of the state with unilateral authority who are also getting paid to take over the schools by private companies that could profit from them.  (Please, please PLEASE name a case.  Just one.)

BERNERO:  You‘ve got it.  It‘s one of the most insidious parts of it.  In fact, I understand there may be a movement to try to repeal this law, and I hope it happens.  Yes.  And this has happened in other cases already.  I think that this happened in Detroit.  (You think?  EFM Robert Bobb of the Detroit School System is one of the most examined men in the state.  You “think” it’s actually possible this could be the case without being splashed across the state media?)

So, you don‘t know really what the influence is that they‘re under.  (We aren’t going to list the things you don’t know, are we?  Life is too short.) The guy that you had on there for Benton Harbor, (“the guy”?  Really?) I think (Good lord, make a definitive statement, you two-bit demagogue!) he‘s making from the state about $11,000 a month.  Far more than what the mayor or council maybe combined were making.  And so, it‘s a real boon for him.  I can see why he likes it. (You think…)

And for these other folks who may be (“May” be?) our unemployed folks in Michigan who can get a great gig and have all this authoritarian power and really answer to no one, ride roughshod over the citizens, (This is just too stupid to comment on.) it‘s a sad day again, sad for democracy.  (You being popularly elected mayor was hardly a red-letter day for it…) But I hope folks will pay particular attention to what‘s happening with our school system because up to this point, it‘s always been about what‘s good for kids and how do we improve our school system. (Always?  So test scores must be rising…)

I‘m afraid we‘re turning to what can Wall Street take out of main street, out of our school system.  And I‘m not sure, I‘m not convinced that they care that much about the educational process because most of the jobs that Wall Street is creating is overseas in Asia anyway.  So, if they can pull money out of the school systems, so much the better for them.  (Well, the people of Michigan have been getting bored with Michael Moore for some time, so submitted for your wild-conspiracy-without-a-shred-of-proof entertainment—Virg Bernero, ladies and gentlemen!)

Do tinfoil hats come in His and Hers sets?

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