Tag Archives: Trump

Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation

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James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing this month.CreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

The documentation of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. Late Tuesday, Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded that the F.B.I. turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” of discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey.

Such documents, Mr. Chaffetz wrote, would “raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede” the F.B.I.

Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. It was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong, according to the memo.

Mr. Comey did not say anything to Mr. Trump about curtailing the investigation, replying only: “I agree he is a good guy.”

In a statement, the White House denied the version of events in the memo.

“While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the statement said. “The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”

Mr. Chaffetz’s letter, sent to the acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, set a May 24 deadline for the internal documents to be delivered to the House committee. The congressman, a Republican, was criticized in recent months for showing little of the appetite he demonstrated in pursuing Hillary Clinton to pursue investigations into Mr. Trump’s associates.

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The Events That Led to Comey’s Firing, and How the White House’s Story Changed

New disclosures on Tuesday allege that in February, President Trump asked James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, to shut down an investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.

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But since announcing in April that he will not seek re-election in 2018, Mr. Chaffetz has shown more interest in the Russia investigation, and held out the potential for a subpoena on Tuesday, a notably aggressive move as most Republicans have tried to stay out of the fray.

In testimony to the Senate last week, Mr. McCabe said, “There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.” Mr. McCabe was referring to the broad investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. The investigation into Mr. Flynn is separate.

A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment.

Mr. Comey created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president, the two people said. It is unclear whether Mr. Comey told the Justice Department about the conversation or his memos.

Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey last week. Trump administration officials have provided multiple, conflicting accounts of the reasoning behind Mr. Comey’s dismissal. Mr. Trump said in a television interview that one of the reasons was because he believed “this Russia thing” was a “made-up story.”

The Feb. 14 meeting took place just a day after Mr. Flynn was forced out of his job after it was revealed he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of phone conversations he had had with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Despite the conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey, the investigation of Mr. Flynn has proceeded. In Virginia, a federal grand jury has issued subpoenas in recent weeks for records related to Mr. Flynn. Part of the Flynn investigation is centered on his financial links to Russia and Turkey.

Mr. Comey had been in the Oval Office that day with other senior national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. When the meeting ended, Mr. Trump told those present — including Mr. Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — to leave the room except for Mr. Comey.

Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

Mr. Trump then turned the discussion to Mr. Flynn.

After writing up a memo that outlined the meeting, Mr. Comey shared it with senior F.B.I. officials. Mr. Comey and his aides perceived Mr. Trump’s comments as an effort to influence the investigation, but they decided that they would try to keep the conversation secret — even from the F.B.I. agents working on the Russia investigation — so the details of the conversation would not affect the investigation.

Mr. Comey was known among his closest advisers to document conversations that he believed would later be called into question, according to two former confidants, who said Mr. Comey was uncomfortable at times with his relationship with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Comey’s recollection has been bolstered in the past by F.B.I. notes. In 2007, he told Congress about a now-famous showdown with senior White House officials over the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. The White House disputed Mr. Comey’s account, but the F.B.I. director at the time, Robert S. Mueller III, kept notes that backed up Mr. Comey’s story.

The White House has repeatedly crossed lines that other administrations have been reluctant to cross when discussing politically charged criminal investigations. Mr. Trump has disparaged the continuing F.B.I. investigation as a hoax and called for an inquiry into his political rivals. His representatives have taken the unusual step of declaring no need for a special prosecutor to investigate the president’s associates.

The Oval Office meeting occurred a little over two weeks after Mr. Trump summoned Mr. Comey to the White House for a lengthy, one-on-one dinner at the residence. At that dinner, on Jan. 27, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey at least two times for a pledge of loyalty — which Mr. Comey declined, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

In a Twitter post on Friday, Mr. Trump said that “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

After the meeting, Mr. Comey’s associates did not believe there was any way to corroborate Mr. Trump’s statements. But Mr. Trump’s suggestion last week that he was keeping tapes has made them wonder whether there are tapes that back up Mr. Comey’s account.

The Jan. 27 dinner came a day after White House officials learned that Mr. Flynn had been interviewed by F.B.I. agents about his phone calls with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak. On Jan. 26, the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, told the White House counsel about the interview, and said Mr. Flynn could be subject to blackmail by the Russians because they knew he had lied about the content of the calls.

Trump Creates a ‘Voter Fraud’ Commission, Taps a White Supremacist to Lead It

President Trump has signed an executive order to create a commission to address voter fraud. This is a nonexistent issue tied to Trump’s fallacious, unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election and cost him the popular vote. The measure is part of a larger effort at voter suppression, to deny Black people and others the franchise and to deprive them of their voting rights — a cause of concern among civil rights and civil liberties groups. One of the leaders of this newly created body is a driving force behind voter suppression and anti-immigration laws across the nation and a figure with white supremacist sentiments and ties to white nationalist groups.

On May 11, Trump established a “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity,” which is charged with identifying the following:

(a) those laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices that enhance the American people’s confidence in the integrity of the voting processes used in Federal elections;

(b) those laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices that undermine the American people’s confidence in the integrity of the voting processes used in Federal elections; and

(c) those vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices used for Federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting, including fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.

The election integrity commission will have a staff to carry out its mission and will engage with federal, state and local officials and election law experts. Vice President Mike Pence is the chair of the commission, while Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is the vice chair. The selection of Kobach raises red flags and speaks to the insidious motives of the commission.

Kobach, who was once considered a contender to head the Department of Homeland Security, according to Politico, has gained a reputation for his controversial anti-immigration stance and for supporting draconian voter suppression laws that federal courts have struck down for discriminating against nonwhite voters. According to civil rights advocacy groups, Kobach is a racial extremist with white supremacist ties. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Yale-trained lawyer who also has degrees from Harvard and Oxford is a “central figure” in the nativist movement and the author of Arizona’s “papers please” law, SB 1070, which amounted to a racial profiling law for Latinos. The U.S. Supreme Court found most of the measure unconstitutional in 2012. Kobach also played a key role in enacting similar legislation in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

Since 2004, Kobach has served as counsel to the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). FAIR, according to SPLC, has “historical ties to white supremacists and eugenicists” and has received $1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund, an organization founded by Nazi sympathizers. Kobach was a supporter of birtherism during his run for Kansas secretary of state, and called for President Obama to release his “long-form” birth certificate to answer questions about his birthplace. SPLC reported that in 2014, Kobach also led an effort to purge voter rolls known as Interstate Crosscheck. The program compiled a master list of the names of one-seventh of all Black voters in 27 states, people who officials alleged were suspected of voting twice in the same election, as Al Jazeera America reported. In 2015, Kobach also gave himself the power to prosecute voter fraud, making Kansas the only state allowing its secretary of state with such authority. Kobach has urged states to require not only photo identification as a requirement to vote, but proof of citizenship, including a birth certificate or passport. This draconian measure had its impact in Kansas in 2015, where 37,000 people who attempted to register to vote were placed on a “suspense list” barring them from voting unless they provided documentation, as The Washington Post reported.  That year, Kobach was a featured speaker at The Social Contract Press, a white nationalist writers’ workshop created by FAIR.

Kobach’s ties to the organization led to his defeat in a 2004 race for Congress.  In a statement opposing Kobach and calling him unfit to serve and his appointment “nothing less than an outrage,” SPLC said Kobach “is a longtime lawyer for far-right extremist groups with ties to white nationalists” and “a leader in the movement to suppress the votes of minorities.” The statement added that voter suppression is the real threat to democracy.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Trump claimed the election was rigged, and that if he lost, his defeat would be attributed to rampant, nonexistent voter fraud and so-called illegal immigrants voting. After he won the Electoral College in November, he then said the margin of his deficit in the popular vote was due to voter fraud. Without providing a shred of proof of his allegation, Trump tweeted on November 27 that “in addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” As FiveThirtyEight reported, Trump misused research from an Old Dominion University study to falsely claim that 14 percent of noncitizens were registered to vote.

I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and….

even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!

Last week, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Vice President’s office demanding evidence to back up Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2016 election. Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said the commission is a “boondoggle” and part of Trump’s plan to “spread his own fake news about election integrity” as The Hill reported.

“The president … has alleged that ‘millions of votes’ were ‘illegally’ cast ‘for the other side.’ No concrete evidence has been provided thus far to support the president’s serious indictment against American democracy. Yet the president’s allegations are the basis of an executive order … to establish a ‘Commission on Election Integrity,’” the FOIA request from the ACLU read. “This FOIA demands that the government release the factual basis and evidence supporting the president’s allegations.”

In its FOIA request, the ACLU noted that Trump has suggested he will enact new voting restrictions based on a Department of Justice investigation. The civil liberties group stated that for 150 years since the ratification of the 15th Amendment in 1870 to today, “politicians have consistently perpetuated unsupported claims of widespread voter fraud to justify discriminatory restrictions on the right to vote.” The request added that if federal and state governments plan to rely on the Department of Justice investigation to justify voting discrimination, “then the health of our democracy urgently demands that the public know the bases for such potential discrimination immediately.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, has noted that the issue has been studied and widespread voter fraud does not exist in the U.S. “But there is no evidence that millions, thousands or even hundreds of instances of in-person voter fraud occur in the United States,” she wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in February. “One of the most reliable studies found only 31 instances of fraud in more than 1 billion votes cast over nearly 15 years. A person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud.”

Trump’s executive order comes as the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will not reinstate North Carolina’s draconian voter ID law, which was regarded as one of the most restrictive in the nation and designed to discriminate against African-Americans.

By David Love/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

When the World Is Led by a Child

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President Trump in Washington on Monday. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

At certain times Donald Trump has seemed like a budding authoritarian, a corrupt Nixon, a rabble-rousing populist or a big business corporatist.

But as Trump has settled into his White House role, he has given a series of long interviews, and when you study the transcripts it becomes clear that fundamentally he is none of these things.

At base, Trump is an infantalist. There are three tasks that most mature adults have sort of figured out by the time they hit 25. Trump has mastered none of them. Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency, lack of self-control his leitmotif.

First, most adults have learned to sit still. But mentally, Trump is still a 7-year-old boy who is bouncing around the classroom. Trump’s answers in these interviews are not very long — 200 words at the high end — but he will typically flit through four or five topics before ending up with how unfair the press is to him.

His inability to focus his attention makes it hard for him to learn and master facts. He is ill informed about his own policies and tramples his own talking points. It makes it hard to control his mouth. On an impulse, he will promise a tax reform when his staff has done little of the actual work.

Second, most people of drinking age have achieved some accurate sense of themselves, some internal criteria to measure their own merits and demerits. But Trump seems to need perpetual outside approval to stabilize his sense of self, so he is perpetually desperate for approval, telling heroic fabulist tales about himself.

“In a short period of time I understood everything there was to know about health care,” he told Time. “A lot of the people have said that, some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber,” he told The Associated Press, referring to his joint session speech.

By Trump’s own account, he knows more about aircraft carrier technology than the Navy. According to his interview with The Economist, he invented the phrase “priming the pump” (even though it was famous by 1933). Trump is not only trying to deceive others. His falsehoods are attempts to build a world in which he can feel good for an instant and comfortably deceive himself.

He is thus the all-time record-holder of the Dunning-Kruger effect, the phenomenon in which the incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence. Trump thought he’d be celebrated for firing James Comey. He thought his press coverage would grow wildly positive once he won the nomination. He is perpetually surprised because reality does not comport with his fantasies.

Third, by adulthood most people can perceive how others are thinking. For example, they learn subtle arts such as false modesty so they won’t be perceived as obnoxious.

But Trump seems to have not yet developed a theory of mind. Other people are black boxes that supply either affirmation or disapproval. As a result, he is weirdly transparent. He wants people to love him, so he is constantly telling interviewers that he is widely loved. In Trump’s telling, every meeting was scheduled for 15 minutes but his guests stayed two hours because they liked him so much.

Which brings us to the reports that Trump betrayed an intelligence source and leaked secrets to his Russian visitors. From all we know so far, Trump didn’t do it because he is a Russian agent, or for any malevolent intent. He did it because he is sloppy, because he lacks all impulse control, and above all because he is a 7-year-old boy desperate for the approval of those he admires.

The Russian leak story reveals one other thing, the dangerousness of a hollow man.

Our institutions depend on people who have enough engraved character traits to fulfill their assigned duties. But there is perpetually less to Trump than it appears. When we analyze a president’s utterances we tend to assume that there is some substantive process behind the words, that it’s part of some strategic intent.

But Trump’s statements don’t necessarily come from anywhere, lead anywhere or have a permanent reality beyond his wish to be liked at any given instant.

We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.

“We badly want to understand Trump, to grasp him,” David Roberts writes in Vox. “It might give us some sense of control, or at least an ability to predict what he will do next. But what if there’s nothing to understand? What if there is no there there?”

And out of that void comes a carelessness that quite possibly betrayed an intelligence source, and endangered a country.

By David Brooks/NYTimes

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Maintaining American Imperialism May Help Explain James Comey’s Firing

In a very short amount of time, it’s become something of cliche to talk about Donald Trump’s firing of James Comey as the equivalent of Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre,” when Nixon fired anyone at the Department of Justice unwilling to fire the Watergate independent prosecutor.

If that does turn out to be an apt analogy, it’s hardly surprising that this is happening in many respects.

The crimes of Watergate came out of the Vietnam War, though this is poorly understood. The Watergate “plumbers” were originally set up to plug the leaks about the Vietnam War.

And so, with the rise of the imperial presidency, it was hardly surprising that someone like Nixon would use the mechanisms of empire—the capacity for secrecy, surveillance and violence—for his own political purposes. Indeed, J. Edgar Hoover, atop the FBI, had been doing so for decades.

The late Watergate historian Stanley Kutler writes in his book “Abuse of Power” that Nixon railed to his aides about papers regarding the Vietnam War that he thought were at the then-liberal Brookings Institution.

“I want it implemented. … Goddamn it, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.”

The documents Nixon apparently wanted to get hold of allegedly showed that Lyndon Johnson curtailed the bombing of Vietnam in 1968 to boost the Democrats’ election prospects of winning the election that year.

A great irony now is that the establishment Democrats are going after Trump in a number of personal ways, but collude in others, and indeed stiffen up his use of violence. When Trump uses military violence in Yemen or Syria, he is lauded as presidential by presumed liberals like Van Jones and Fareed Zakaria.

Johnson was thought to curtail bombing for political gain. Trump now gains politically when he engages in bombing.

The U.S. establishment seems to want an emperor who will go around the world spying on people and killing them as he sees fit, while ensuring he abides by legal niceties.

The obsessiveness over secrecy and the intense “principle-less” partisanship give us a situation where the political factions spew allegations to the public that are, at best, difficult to discern, even if you follow politics full-time, much less if you’re trying to hold down a regular honest job.

This leads to a political culture based on loving or hating various political figures, or just checking out of politics, which much of the political establishment may want for large sectors of the public.

The secrecy and the surveillance are sold to the public as necessary for their own protection, but the opposite is true. The little known Katharine Gun case highlights how the actual target of surveillance is frequently not “terrorism,” but the threat of peace.

So, the Trump administration’s ridiculous claims about the reasons for the Comey firing are fairly similar to the lying pretexts that U.S. officialdom used to justify the Iraq invasion. Empire is compatible with democracy only with a series of dehumanizing triple standards. It’s fine there, just don’t do it here.

After all, the main victims of the Iraq invasion were the Iraqi people, and they are off screen and the officials who inflicted horrors on them have all walked away nice and clear.

The mechanisms of empire are tolerated, until someone like Trump seems to be using them for his own personal ends.

In terms of Trump’s own crimes, he is quite impeachable on the domestic emoluments clause, but the establishment Democrats seem quite uninterested in pursuing that.

They have focused on his apparent ties to Russia. There may well be something there. Trump is a corrupt figure, and it’s well within his capacities to engage in a massive, if at times possibly buffoonish, cover-up. But it is incredibly dangerous that the establishment Democrats seem intent on risking escalations with the other major nuclear power on the planet so they can beat Trump over the head.

By Sam Husseini/Truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

America’s Great Leap Backwards From Richard Nixon to Donald Trump

For almost 50 years, the US economy and society has taken a great leap backward — accelerating during the past three Presidencies. Not only have we experienced the reversal of past socio-economic legislation, but also our presidents and Congress have dragged us into multiple aggressive wars. Now, the threat of a nuclear attack against our ‘declared enemies’ is ‘on the table’.

Since the end of the Viet Nam war, US military ‘interventions’ have become wars of long duration. These have cost millions of lives overseas, tens of millions of refugees and scores of thousands of American soldier deaths, permanent injury and serious mental and neuropsychiatric damage. There is no ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, to quote the US General William Westmoreland.

In retrospect, and after 50 years of decline, the much-maligned Presidency of Richard Milhous Nixon now stands out as a golden age of social, environmental and inter-racial advances, as well as an era of successful peace negotiations and diplomacy. President Nixon, never an ideologue, accepted the reality of a multi-polar world.

Of course, the Nixon Presidency was characterized by serious crimes against humanity, such as the CIA-sponsored coup d’état against the democratically elected Chilean President Allende, the bombing of Cambodia and the genocidal invasion of the newly independent country of East Timor.

Today, he is best known for the far-less consequential events around the ‘Watergate’ scandal and related domestic civil rights abuses and corruption. It was the mass media and Democratic Party politicos who have grossly inflated the election campaign chicanery, leading up to the bungled break-in of the Watergate Hotel headquarters of the Democratic Party, which led to Nixon’s impeachment and resignation. To today’s media spin-masters, Watergate was the defining event of President Nixon’s Presidency.

Ironically, after Nixon resigned from office even greater disasters occurred. This paper will enumerate these and compare them with the Nixon presidency.

Far from pursuing diplomacy and peace, subsequent presidents, both ‘liberal’ Democrats and ‘conservative’ Republicans, invaded Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Panama, Grenada, and Angola and initiated a dozen other highly destructive and economically devastating wars. The two oligarchic parties took turns in shredding Nixon’s comparatively peaceful legacy.

President Nixon, under the advice of National Security adviser, Henry Kissinger, supported Israel’s invasion of the Arab countries in 1973 as well as the bloody Chilean military coup in 1973.

President Nixon cynically designed the ‘Southern Strategy’, which transformed the Democratic Party-controlled racist fiefdoms of the US South into racist Republican-controlled states.

Progressives, liberals and self-styled democratic-socialists have played a leading role in ignoring Nixon’s ‘golden years’ in terms of domestic and international policy achievements. Instead they focused on inane and infantile name-calling, like “Tricky Dick”, to describe the man. By doing so, they have failed miserably to discuss national and international issues of historic importance. They have deliberately fabricated a distorted picture of the Nixon era to cover-up for the gross failures of subsequent Democratic Party controlled Congresses and Democratic Presidents.

In this essay, we will briefly outline Richard Nixon’s policies and executive initiatives, which justify our designation of the Nixon’s ‘golden years’, especially in comparison to what has followed his era.

President Nixon: The Great Leap Forward

In the sphere of political, economic and social life, President Nixon pursued policies, which ultimately advanced peace in the world and social welfare in the United States.

In foreign policy and diplomacy, Richard Nixon ended both the draft of young Americans into the armed forces, as well as the decade-long US military occupation of Indo-China, effectively ending the war – and acknowledging the hard victory of the Vietnamese National Liberation Front. The war had cost millions of Southeast Asian lives.

Nixon visited Beijing and recognized the ‘existence’ of the People’s Republic of China, effectively ending a quarter century of economic blockades and military threats against the billion-plus population of the PRC under three Democratic (Truman, Kennedy and Johnson) and one Republican (Eisenhower) Presidential Administrations. He established full diplomatic relations with China.

Nixon initiated the Security Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) agreements with the USSR and developed diplomatic policies, which recognized the possibility and necessity of peaceful co-existence between different social systems.

On the domestic front, President Nixon established the Clean Water Act and established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with a Federal Government mandate to fight polluters and hold them accountable for the ‘cleanup’ of the environment.

Nixon proposed a National Health Insurance Program – an expansion of Medicare to cover the health needs of all Americans. This radical proposal (a version of ‘single payer’) was attacked and defeated by the Democratic Party, led by Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy who was backed by ‘Big Pharma’, the AMA and the growing corporate ‘health’ industry.

Nixon imposed price and wage controls that constrained inflation and price gouging and actively punished commodity ‘hoarding’. This was a time of rapid inflation and shortages due to the ‘Oil Embargo’. With these measures, he incurred the wrath of Wall Street, big business and the financial press.

Nixon promoted consumer rights, supplemental legislation to expand Social Security, especially for the handicapped, while defending the retirement age for pension eligibility.

Under Nixon, union membership rose to 30% of the workforce – its high point before its precipitous decline to 12% under subsequent US Presidents.

Nixon increased salaries of federal employees and real wages rose. In the following half-century real wages have declined to only 10% of their Nixon era value!

Nixon indexed Social Security to the real rate of inflation.

The Nixon Presidency initiated the Affirmative Action program and used the Federal Government to push for the desegregation of schools, leading to the first large-scale integration of public education in the South. President Nixon created the Office of Minority Business Enterprises (OMBE); the Occupation Safety and Health Agency (OSHA); and the Legacy of Parks Programs.

Nixon proposed a guaranteed annual wage for American workers, which both Democrats and Republicans rejected and defeated! He promoted Keynesian industrial policies against the financial elites with their mania for speculation.

President Nixon appointed four Supreme Court Justices during his term. Three of his appointees supported the groundbreaking ‘Roe versus Wade’ decision protecting women’s reproductive rights.

Under Nixon the voting age was reduced from twenty-one to eighteen years – giving millions of young Americans a greater political voice.

When Nixon spoke in favor of gun control, both the Republican and Democratic Parties opposed his proposals.

President Nixon supported the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and the Endangered Species Act, which have remained critical to social and environmental justice.

Richard Nixon was not a ‘single issue’ President. The span and depth of his progressive agenda, included fundamental changes in favor of environmental and racial justice, working class economic security and broad-ranging health issues, peace and co-operation with China and the USSR, women’s rights through Supreme Court decisions; pensioners’ rights, and animal rights advocacy. He reduced economic inequalities between the richest 1% of capitalists and the working class. Under President Nixon inequality and the concentration of wealth in the US were far less than they became with subsequent US Presidents and especially during the Obama Administration.

No President, with the possible exception of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Great Depression Era legislation, even remotely achieved Nixon’s domestic socio-economic successes. President Roosevelt, one must not forget, operated under the immense pressure of massive working class strikes and in preparation for World War II, while President Nixon achieved his policy advances during a time of relative ‘peace’.

The Post-Nixon Bi-Partisan Regression

In the 41 years since Nixon’s resignation (1976-2017) there has been a systematic rollback of virtually all of the Nixon agenda. Congress, the liberals, the mass media and Wall Street immediately switched from denigrating Nixon, to praising Democratic President ‘Jimmy’ Carter’s reversal of Nixon’s foreign policy achievements.

Contrary to his media-polished image as a ‘Bible-thumping champion of human rights’, President Carter dismantled Nixon’s policies promoting peace with the USSR and China, especially when he appointed the rabidly anti-Russian, anti-communist Zbigniew Brzezinski for National Security Adviser. The duet created the public image of Carter mouthing human rights rhetoric while Brzezinski formulated a policy of backing dictators and funding Islamist (jihadi) terrorists to undermine Soviet allies. The two-faced ‘Evangelical Christian’ Carter sent confidential letters of US support for the brutal dictator Somoza to prevent the Sandinista victory in Nicaragua, while issuing platitudes about peace in Central America.

Carter worked closely with the military dictatorship in Pakistan and the ‘head chopping’ monarchs in Saudi Arabia to launch the bloody forty-year war in Afghanistan, a Soviet Ally. The Carter-Brzezinski-promoted mujahideen war against secularism in Afghanistan led directly to the rise of Islamist terrorism, the Taliban and al Qaeda. Carter’s ‘freedom fighters’ systematically massacred secular schoolteachers for ‘the crime’ of educating Afghan girls in the countryside.

In order to undermine the USSR and other socialist or independent secular countries with Muslim populations, the Carter-Brzezinski duet financed and trained the Saudi-indoctrinated Al-Qaeda terrorists. They were delighted when it spread its poison across the Middle East, Asia, Africa, the Balkans and the Soviet Union promoting separatism and ethnic cleansing. Their cheers ceased somewhat on 9/11/2001.

Domestically, Carter’s deregulation of price controls led to double-digit inflation and set in motion the long-term decline in wages and salaries, which still plagues the American lower middle and working classes.

Carter appointed Chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker, who implemented draconian anti-inflationary ‘austerity’ policies reducing domestic consumption and opening the way for the de-industrialization of the economy.

The seismic change in the US, the ‘financialization’ of the domestic economy started under Jimmy Carter and was deepened and expanded under the subsequent Presidents Ronald Regan, George H W Bush, Sr., ‘Bill’ Clinton, George W. Bush (Jr) and Barack Obama. Poverty and permanent unemployment followed.

With deindustrialization, labor union membership declined from 30% of the private labor force under Nixon to less than 7% today. Organizing workers was no longer a priority: The AFL-CIO leaders were too busy chasing after the Democrats for handouts (and get-out-of jail passes).

After Carter, the Republican President Ronald Reagan doubled military spending, brutally broke the strike of the Air Controller’s union by jailing its leaders, whipped up the revival of US interventionism by invading Grenada and sending Special Forces to join the death squads murdering tens of thousands of peasant activists in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

President Reagan’s ‘free market’ polices encouraged US multinational corporations to relocate their factories overseas to Mexico, the Caribbean and Asia, costing millions of US workers well-paying jobs and reducing the number of unionized jobs. The stock markets and profits rose while the ‘American Dream’ of lifetime stable employment in industry began to fade.

Reagan’s threats and his huge military build-up forced the USSR to overspend in arms and strangle its growing domestic consumer economy.

The Reagan-Thatcher (British PM) era marked the demise of social welfare. They imposed the doctrine of ‘globalization’ – in essence, the bellicose revival of Anglo-American imperialism and the end of domestic industrial prosperity.

George HW Bush ‘negotiated’ with Russian President Gorbachev the break-up of the USSR. Despite Bush’s promises not to place US-NATO forces in former Soviet-allied countries, the following period saw the huge US-NATO expansion into Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Baltic states. President Bush (Sr.) invaded and savaged both Panama and Iraq, restarting the epoch of permanent US wars.

President George HW Bush promulgated the unipolar doctrine of US world domination, known as the ‘Bush Doctrine’.

The Reagan-Bush regimes emptied the content of the Nixon-era progressive agencies in terms of civil rights, consumer and environmental protection, and wage protection. Unionization declined by over a third.

After ‘war-monger’ President ‘Papa’ Bush, the Saxophone-playing President ‘Bill’ Clinton was elected. While crooning the words, ‘I feel your pain’ ,to American workers and racial minorities, Clinton unleashed Wall Street, ending regulation of banks and investment houses. He re-appointed Alan Greenspan to head the Federal Reserve, a proven master of grotesque financial speculation and the godfather of economic crisis (2007-2009).

President Clinton, passions aroused by the animal spirits on Wall Street (and inside his White House office), launched a vicious assault on the social welfare state, and in particular, low-income working families, single parents and African-Americans. Clinton’s promotion of “Workfare” forced single mothers to accept unsustainable minimum wage jobs under the threat of ending any welfare support, while not providing any mechanism for child care! This one policy savaged hundreds of thousands of vulnerable families. Under Clinton, the prison industry exploded as a multi-billion dollar business.

During the 1990s, Clinton backed the most retrograde pro-business, debt-ridden regimes in Latin America. Hundreds of billions of dollars of Latin American wealth was transferred to the US. Clinton’s ‘Golden Years for Wall Street’ were a decade of infamy for Latin Americans and led directly to major leftist revolts by the end of the Clinton era.

President Clinton deepened and widened the US military drive for domination in Europe and the Middle East. Clinton bombed and invaded Yugoslavia, especially Serbia – destroying large parts of its capital Belgrade. He bombed Iraq on a daily basis and increased the starvation blockade of that nation. He invaded Somalia and backed Israeli land grabbing-settlement expansion in Palestine. He supported the Israeli savaging of Lebanon. He committed treason by submitting to Israeli blackmail over his sex-capers with Monica Lewinsky and trying to release Israeli spy-US Naval analyst Jonathan Pollard. It was only after an open threat of wholesale resignations by the CIA and other security agencies that Clinton withdrew his proposal to free the traitor Pollard.

Finance capital flourished as Clinton repealed the venerable Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 against bank speculation. He promoted the hugely unpopular NAFTA, (North American Free Trade Agreement) leading to the loss of over two million industrial jobs, as US multinationals absconded to Mexico, where wages were less than one-fifth of the US. NAFTA’s savaging of the Mexican agricultural sector and massive bankruptcies of small producers led directly to the flood of desperate Mexican migrants looking for work in the US.

The Georgetown-Harvard-Oxford trained ‘Bill’ Clinton was the grand wizard of talking like a ‘black preacher’ in southern churches while smoothly pursuing the ‘big bucks’ on Wall Street.

After Clinton, regressive policies increased sharply: President George W Bush (Jr), ‘First Black President’ Barack Obama and ‘First Billionaire President’ Donald Trump all supported the most virulent imperial war policies.

The two terms of President George (Jr) Bush (2001-2008) saw unending multi-trillion dollar-wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have destabilized two continents. Junior Bush presided over the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. His anti-Muslim ‘global wars on terror (GWOT)’ was launched under the influence of ‘Israel-First’ militarists who had inundated the Defense Department, National Security staff and Middle East policy and advisory staff in the State Department. Meanwhile, GW Bush deepened unemployment and allowed the mortgage foreclosure on millions of homeowners. The domestic economy was in severe crisis.

By the end of the George W. Bush Presidency, reinvigorated anti-war and social justice movements were gaining strength throughout the country. Arriving on the scene of growing social unrest and with perfect timing, the ‘community organizer’ presidential candidate Barack Obama won the presidency by promising a progressive agenda to undermine the mass popular radicalization against Bush’s unpopular wars, growing inequalities, endless bank swindles, foreclosures and blatant racist policies against Afro-Americans and Hispanics.

Once elected, the ‘First Black’ US President Obama immediately increased Bush’s militarism and handed the criminals on Wall Street a record two-trillion-dollar bailout, ripped out of what remained of public social programs. Elected on a pledge to overhaul the ridiculously inefficient, pro-profit, private health care system, Obama gave the electorate a program of greater complexity and rapidly increasing insurance premiums (‘Obama Care’ or the ‘Affordable Care Act’), which ended with a negative impact on the nation’s health.

Under Obama, life expectancy, as well as, the income gaps between the rich and the poor grew at an alarming rate. Inequalities increased with a historic shift of national wealth to the top 1%. The class and health apartheid sharpened in the US. The transfer of jobs abroad accelerated. Multinational corporate tax evasion rose by hundreds of billions of dollars. The gap between African-American wages and white workers increased. Obama deported more immigrants, especially workers from Mexico and Central America, than all four previous presidents combined!

Elected on a pledge to ‘bring the troops home’, President Obama broke the record for waging simultaneous wars of all previous presidents! Obama launched or backed US wars and coups (‘regime changes’) in Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Honduras and Somalia. After receiving the Nobel ‘Peace’ Prize, President Obama provided advanced weapons to Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt. Obama financed and armed tens of thousands of mercenary terrorists who savaged the secular multiethnic Syrian republic. Furthermore, his administration cynically backed the separatist Kurds occupying Northern Iraq.

Hawaii born and bred, Harvard-educated President Obama had mastered the deep-voiced Southern preacher rhetoric to corrupt the leadership of the social justice and anti-war movements. He coopted the leaders of the mass popular movements to their eternal shame and the movements died. Even the short-lived anti-Wall Street ‘Occupy Movement’ received Obama’s expressions of ‘sympathy’ as he backed the unleashing of police dogs and tear gas on the activists!

Obama’s reactionary military encirclement of Russia and China influenced the foreign policy views of a majority of US liberals as well as the mass media – turning them into ‘humanitarian interventionists’ and tools for empire.

Ever duplicitous, Obama signed a ‘unilateral nuclear disarmament agreement with Iran’ and then immediately broke the agreement by imposing new sanctions on Tehran’s banking and oil transactions.

There was great media fanfare when Obama re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba. This move facilitated the entry and funding of pro-imperialist NGO’s committed to ‘regime change’ along the same line as other ‘color revolutions’. Despite the photo-ops with the Cuban leadership, the US trade embargo against the Cuban people remained in place.

Obama’s State Department and Treasury were tasked with sabotaging and overthrowing the elected Chavez-Maduro governments in Venezuela promoting acts of violence, which have thrown the country into chaos. His Secretary of State Clinton orchestrated the violent removal of the presidents of Libya and Honduras and the installation of rabidly reactionary governments whose policies have created hundreds of thousands of refugees and the assassinations of tens of thousands of citizens, human rights and environmental activists.

Obama’s much-promoted corporate for-profit health program brought some degree of insurance coverage to just half of the uninsured poor within its first year. However, after the first year health premiums rose by 25% while deductibles increased beyond the capacity of many working families. Since then, premiums have risen astronomically and coverage is unaffordable or unavailable in many areas of the country. The debt burden of ill health or a sudden medical emergency has increased for the middle and working class under Wall Street’s ‘First Black’ President. No demographic measures of improvement, in terms of life expectancy or life quality, have been documented since the implementation of ‘Obama Care’. Indeed, these public health measures have deteriorated with an epidemic of suicides, opioid-related deaths and premature deaths of all types among the working and rural classes.

After 8 years, the core of the nation, the so-called ‘Flyover States’, where the downwardly mobile working and lower middle class white majority live, was fed up with Obama’s cant and blatantly elitist policies. In was in this context that the distasteful billionaire buffoon Donald Trump capitalized on mass popular discontent and rallied a populace in revolt against the previous ‘war and bankers’ presidents, by promising to end corporate export of jobs, Wall Street corruption, ‘Obamacare’, competition for jobs with undocumented cheap labor and endless overseas wars. Trump hit a raw nerve among scores of millions of voters when he accused the earlier Bush Administration of fabricating the pretexts for the invasion of Iraq as well as for security failures in the 9/11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.

Within weeks after taking office President Trump gracefully performed an Obama-style ‘about-face’ and emerged a re-anointed warmonger of the Hillary Clinton variety: He celebrated his transformation by bombing Syria, Afghanistan and the defenseless, starving people of Yemen. He sent warships off the coast of North Korea, placed advanced missile installations in South Korea and threatened nuclear war in Asia.

Trump miserably failed to ‘reform’ the corporate health plan concocted by his smirking predecessor. He shed his promise to seek peaceful relations with Moscow and embraced the policies of the worst anti-Russian liberal warmongers groomed by Clinton and Obama. Obama’s overt war posturing had so deeply influenced African-American politicians that they loudly accused Trump of being ‘too soft on Russia’! Former civil rights leaders-turned politicians were calling for greater US military interventions – a spectacle what would have made our sacred civil rights martyrs rolling in their graves.

Trump, building on the immense power already entrenched in Washington, reinforced and expanded the role of finance capital and the Pentagon in determining US policy. Trump pledged to exceed Obama’s arrest and expulsion of immigrants – from 2.5 million workers in eight years to an additional 5 million in his first four-year term.

The US corporate mass media and the liberal left have been pushing the pro-business President Trump even further to the right – demanding the US escalate its nuclear threat against North Korea, mount a full invasion of Syria (for its ‘crimes against humanity’) and, above all, ‘tighten the military noose’ around Russia and China.

Conclusion

By any measure, the policies of President Richard Milhous Nixon were more socially progressive, less militarist and less servile to Wall Street than any and all of the subsequent US Presidents. This assessment is heresy to the current historical narratives promoted by both political parties and the corporate media-academic nexus.

But even during the Nixon Presidency there were already signs of an allied liberal-rightist attack on his progressive ‘conservative’ agenda. Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy blocked Nixon’s proposal for a universal national health system built on an expansion of the highly successful ‘Medicare Program’. Nixon’s proposal (a ‘Medicare For All’) would have been far more comprehensive, effective and affordable than the corporate boondoggles cooked up by the Clinton and Obama Administrations.

What accounts for the dramatic shift from the center left to the far right among US Presidents after the 1970’s? What explains the rise and demise of ‘Nixonian’ progressivism and the great leap backward in the subsequent four and half decades?

Personality and personal background are not irrelevant: Nixon’s class and work background and personal experience with the Great Depression framed some of his outlook despite his ‘conservative’ credentials. However, the social and political balance of forces played the decisive role. Richard Nixon came to national attention as a rightwing militarist and aggressive attack dog for Senator Joesph McCarthy during the 1950s and at the beginning of his Presidential term in the late 1960’s. However, the reality of the multi-million-person anti-war movement challenged American society and influenced the armed forces from within. Even sectors of the mass media became highly critical of the permanent war state. This movement filled the streets, divided families and influenced the institutions and communities leading to a dramatic change in Nixon’s politics toward peace and even toward social and racial justice. Nixon truly became a ‘realist’.

In those days, the industrial trade unions were powerful. Manufacturing formed the basis of the economy and determined the direction of the banking-finance sector. Wall Street played ‘second fiddle’ to production.

Fed up with the lack of social progress and opportunity in their communities, African American revolts in the streets were far more effective than the tame black Democratic Party politicos in Congress.

The decline of the social movements and militant labor unions, as well as the retreat to electoral politics among the African American and anti-war movements, ended the independent popular pressure and facilitated the rising power of the pro-war, Wall Street-controlled parties linked to money and speculation. Labor unions became the fiefdoms of corrupt millionaire union bosses who bought protection from prosecution with multi-million dollar campaign donations to both Democrats and Republican politicians. They discarded the Nixon’s social agenda, using the ‘Watergate Scandal’ as a pretext to dismantle his advanced programs.

Presidents and Congresses became beholden to the bankers. The rise, dominance and deep corruption of the Wall Street speculators realigned the economy away from domestic manufacturing to international finance – leading to the great relocation of US factories abroad and the permanent marginalization of the once-organized American working class.

Voters were marginalized as active participants in their own public affairs. They alternated their disaffection between parties and candidates, between big and small spenders, indicted and unindicted swindlers, and exposed and unpunished perverts.

The domestic changes in the economy and social structure were the direct outcome of these shifts in the social and political struggles and organizations.

There is a dialectical relationship between socio-economic changes and the rise and fall of socio-political struggles.

These domestic shifts of power and policy were influenced by the major changes in global power, namely the demise of the USSR, the decline of secular-nationalist regimes in the Middle East, the defeat of the left in Latin America and, above all, the rise of the US imperial doctrines of unipolar power and the globalization. The ‘changing times’ explains everything and nothing! While the objective world determines politics, so do the subjective responses of Presidents.

President Richard Nixon could have escalated the Vietnam War up to a nuclear attack on Hanoi: This is what the current Obama-Trump militarist advisors now recommend for the North Koreans. Nixon could have followed the rightwing ‘free market’ ideology of the Republican-Goldwater faction. However, Nixon took a pragmatic, peace and social reformist position – which have brought us some of our most cherished programs – EPA, OSHA, SALT disarmament, relations with China, even Roe versus Wade, and an end to the military draft.

Subsequent Presidents, faced with the shifts in political, social and economic power, chose to re-direct the nation toward greater militarism and the domination of finance capital. They have systematically attacked and dismantled the social welfare programs, environmental protection, pro-industry legislation, diplomacy and peace pacts initiated by Nixon.

The aphorism, ‘man makes history but not of his own doing’, is central to our discussion of the Nixon legacy. The process of regression is a cumulative process, of leaps and steps. In recent years, regression has accelerated with devastating results for the domestic and world populations. Social power, concentrated at the top, weakens but also alienates power at the bottom and middle. The current configuration of power and policies cannot be permanent, even if the trajectory so far has favored the elite. Social classes and groups are not fixed in their orientations.

Twice in recent years, significant majorities voted for jobs, justice and peace (Obama and Trump) and instead got charlatans bringing greater inequality, injustice and endless wars.

Deception and deep commitments to reactionary politics have penetrated widely among the ‘discontented classes’. African-American political leaders and pundits now demand war against Russia following the pronouncements of their ‘Black President’, Barack Obama. Poor marginalized white workers still support their billionaire leader Donald Trump as he waltzes down Wall Street and into possible nuclear war.

The dialectic of discontent and resentment can lead to progressive or reactionary political and social alignments, even, or especially, in the face of history’s great leap backwards!

By James Petras/DissedentVoice

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Study Shows School Vouchers Hurt Students—but Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos Could Not Care Less

  President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos with students at Saint Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Fla. (Shealah Craighead / Wikimedia Commons)

 

The nation’s only federally funded private school voucher program, foisted on the overwhelming Black student population of Washington, D.C., by the George Bush administration in 2004, inflicts negative effects on student achievement levels, according to a new study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education. Low-income students who were selected by lottery to receive the taxpayer-funded “scholarships” performed 7.3 percent worse on math and 4.9 percent lower in reading than students from similar backgrounds who remained in public schools because they did not make the lottery pick. Parents of voucher kids seemed oblivious to their children’s relative underachievement, but believed the private schools they attended were “very safe, compared with the parents of students not selected for the scholarship offer” – confirming ample anecdotal evidence that safety concerns are at the root of much pro “school choice” sentiment in the Black community.

If President Trump gets his budget passed, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the billionaire school privatizer who was rescued from rejection by the Senate by only one vote, will have an additional $250 million to fund private school voucher programs in Washington and, she hopes, the 13 states that currently finance their own voucher schemes. Trump proposes an overall increase of $1.4 billion for school voucher and charter programs, with the goal of ramping it up to $20 billion—while immediately cutting the total federal education budget by $9 billion, or 13 percent.

Neither facts nor democracy have been allowed to stand in the way of the school privatizers. Polls showed 85 percent of Black residents and three-quarters of D.C. voters of all ethnicities opposed vouchers in late 2002, as did most local elected officials. The exception was Mayor Anthony Williams, whose avowed mission was to draw more “middle class” residents to the nation’s capital through “quality education.” (When Williams declared that Washington could easily accommodate 200,000 new residents, everyone knew he wasn’t talking about additional Black people. By the 2010 Census, D.C. had lost its Black majority.) In 2004, Williams endorsed the Republican plan to impose an “experimental,” five-year private school vouchers program on Washington, using Congress’s unique powers over the District to make it the only federally funded vouchers scheme in the nation. “We had never had a locally elected black official, a Democrat from a city like D.C., asking for something like this before,” said Shokraii Rees, an operative for George Bush’s Department of Education. “That’s the single strongest factor that got people’s attention.”

Most of the nation’s Black Democrats opposed vouchers, as did large majorities of the Black rank-and-file, because of the scheme’s roots in Jim Crow-era white “segregation academies.” Never in history have Black Americans marched, rallied or petitioned for private school vouchers. Therefore, the corporate privatizers had to create a Black pro-voucher “movement” out of thin air—or rather, through the political “astro-turfing” power of their checkbooks. In 1999, some of the most right-wing foundations and fat cats in the nation spent millions to found the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), which then tapped into additional millions in direct federal funding once George Bush won the presidency. Among the BAEO’s founders was the first-term Newark, New Jersey, city councilman, Cory Booker, a true believer in privatized education who helped operate two private schools and evangelized about forming a national movement to spread the “choice” gospel. (See “Fruit of the Poisoned Tree,” The Black Commentator, April 5, 2002.)

While rising steadily in Black Democratic politics, Cory Booker was also a star in the right-wing corporate political firmament, serving for ten years with the American Federation for Children, a leading school voucher and charter advocacy outfit founded by Betsy DeVos, and chaired by her until last year.

Booker joined all of the Senate’s Democrats in voting against Devos’ confirmation, claiming he had problems with her positions on school safety issues. It is surely true that Booker’s efforts to distance himself from his private school voucher roots have a lot do with his presidential ambitions. But, much more importantly, vouchers have long been eclipsed by charters as the most effective means of wholesale privatization of public education. As two-term mayor of Newark, Cory Booker was largely responsible for boosting charters to one-third of total school enrollment. Charters now account for 44 percent of Washington, D.C., public school enrollment, while voucher schools serve only a small fraction of the city’s students.

Corporate America, the real force behind school privatization, found its education champion in Barack Obama, whose “Race to the Top” program coerced states across the nation to create a “market” for charter schools, which tap directly into the public school funding money-stream.

A true troglodyte from the “segregation academy” school of politics, Donald Trump wants to throw billions of dollars at private voucher schools. He and DeVos will doubtless do a lot of damage with their voucher schemes, but the main thrust of privatization will continue to be the methodical construction of an alternative—and, in much of Black America, dominant—charter school system that is accountable only to its managers and corporate service providers.

Voucher schools are small-scale privatization. Charters are the corporate Mother Lode.

By Glenn Ford/BlackAgendaReport/Truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Trump questions whether key funding source for historically black colleges is constitutional


President Trump talks with leaders of historically black colleges and universities before posing for a group photo in the Oval Office in February. (Brendan Smialowski/Agence-France Presse via Getty Images)

In February, President Trump invited leaders from historically black colleges and universities to the White House, a move they hoped signaled his support for the institutions and showed an effort to give them more clout in his administration. But critics had a more cynical description of the Oval Office meeting: a photo op.

Those naysayers got more ammunition Friday after the White House released a signing statement connected to the recently approved federal funding measure. Tucked away in the last paragraph, the White House announced that it would treat a program that helps HBCUs get low-cost construction loans “in a manner consistent with the (Constitutional) requirement to afford equal protection of the laws.”

People in higher education circles worried that the statement meant that the president was planning to get rid of a capital financing program that helps historically black colleges repair, renovate and build new facilities. Congress approved the program in 1992 after finding that “HBCUs often face significant challenges in accessing traditional funding resources at reasonable rates,” according to the Education Department.

“I would rather have Trump do nothing with HBCUs — not even know they exist,” Marybeth Gasman, a University of Pennsylvania professor who has researched HBCU history, told The Washington Post. “He will see them as a handout. He doesn’t understand that he was given a leg up by his rich father. He doesn’t see that other people need help from programs because of past discrimination and inequity.”

Trump’s signing statement was blasted by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“Trump’s statement is not only misinformed factually, it is not grounded in any serious constitutional analysis,” their joint statement said. “For a President who pledged to reach out to African Americans and other minorities, this statement is stunningly careless and divisive. We urge him to reconsider immediately.”

The White House said on Saturday that none of the objections cited in Trump’s signing statement signaled immediate policy changes, but were intended to preserve the president’s legal options down the line.

Trump meets with Congressional Black Caucus

 President Trump on March 22 met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus at the White House. “African American citizens have given so much to this country,” Trump said. (The Washington Post)

Then, late Sunday, the president himself tried to clarify the signing statement, saying it “does not affect my unwavering support for HBCUs and their critical education missions.”

“In February of this year, I signed an Executive Order pledging to strengthen the capacity of HBCUs to provide the highest-quality education; to ensure equitable opportunities for HBCUs to participate in Federal programs; and to increase the number of college-educated Americans who feel empowered and able to advance the common good at home and abroad,” Trump said in a statement. “My commitment to the above-stated goals remains unchanged.”

The signing statement was noticed by the United Negro College Fund, which told The Post it had an informal conversation with administration officials about the HBCU loan program. The takeaway: It’s too soon to worry.

“We’re not overly alarmed at this point, based on informal reassurances and just our own knowledge of how these funding statement get put together,” Cheryl L. Smith, UNCF senior vice president of public policy and government affairs, told The Post.

She called the White House’s statement part of a “mixed record” from the administration toward HBCUs since Trump took office in January.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s first visit to a school was to Howard University, the federally chartered historically black college in the District.

And in February, after the Oval Office meeting with HBCU leaders, Vice President Pence told them, “The president and I admire the contributions of historically black colleges and universities.” He also said the Trump administration is committed to ensuring that HBCUs “get the credit and attention they deserve.”

The origins of HBCUs and why they are now struggling

Historically black colleges and universities were created before the 1960s. Many of them are now struggling financially, and the Trump administration says they will help.(Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)

But many were offended when DeVos issued a statement after the meeting that praised historically black colleges as pioneers of school choice. The schools were founded at a time of racial segregation. DeVos clarified her remarks the next day, making clear that African Americans had very limited educational opportunities at the time HBCUs were started.

At that meeting, Republican lawmakers met with nearly all the HBCU presidents, listening to their concerns and priorities. The outreach from Republican leaders, however, did not translate into increased funding for the schools in the president’s budget proposal.

Historically black colleges have often looked to Democrats as natural allies, but over the past 50 years or so, HBCUs have had bipartisan support, with relatively steady funding over that time.

Student and parent debt and low graduation rates have long been concerns for many historically black colleges, but their proponents say they are essential in educating black leaders.

According to the Education Department, three-quarters of all doctorates awarded to black people, three-quarters of all black officers in the U.S. military and 80 percent of black federal judges got their undergraduate degrees at an HBCU.

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., the president and chief executive of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, praised the budget proposal in a written statement Friday. “Let me be clear: flat spending for HBCUs in a president’s budget that calls for a 13 percent funding decrease to the Department of Education is a win!

“… Not everyone is happy though — some are critical of President Trump because they believe he should have significantly increased the budget for HBCUs.

“Such notions are naive in the current political environment in Washington, now run by Republicans who’ve vowed to reduce the size of government.”

In a public statement Saturday, Taylor responded to the signing provision, saying the fund had spoken to the administration and was assured there was “absolutely no plan to eliminate or challenge this program.

“We have shared with the White House our assertion that the HBCU program is not at all a race-based government effort and therefore doesn’t raise any equal protection or due process concerns because participation in the program is limited to HBCUs. HBCUs serve some of the most diverse populations in this nation and three TMCF member-schools enroll more white students than black students: West Virginia State University, Bluefield State College, and Lincoln University of Missouri.”

The United Negro College Fund, in a statement, said that they had sought clarification from the White House, as well, about the statement, and received informal assurance from White House officials that the paragraph is not intended to indicate any policy change toward HBCUs and that the Administration intends to implement the HBCU Capital Financing Program.

“Nonetheless, UNCF urges the White House to issue an official clarification of its policy to the HBCU community, as the HBCU Capital Financing program has provided tremendous value to HBCUs and the students they serve over the past 25 years.”

They gave examples of how the capital financing program has benefited such schools, allowing Bethune-Cookman University to renovate a student center and provide new student housing, Johnson C. Smith University to build a new science and technology center and so on. The program, they wrote, by statute bases eligibility not on race but on “mission, accreditation status and year the institution was established. Today, 101 HBCUs qualify for this assistance, many of which have a racially diverse student enrollment, faculty and staff.”

For example, they noted, Bluefield State College in West Virginia is designated as an HBCU, but enrolls a population that is 85 percent white and only 9 percent African American.

“The provision in President Trump’s signing statement regarding this critical HBCU program may simply be lawyers at the Office of Management and Budget being overly cautious and perhaps not fully understanding the legal basis for federal HBCU programs,” the UNCF statement continued.

“However, these programs have been thoroughly vetted by the Congress and prior Administrations, and the new Administration must eliminate any doubt as to their Constitutionality. UNCF looks forward to working with the White House and the U.S. Department of Education to continue to communicate the importance of this program and others that positively impact HBCUs and the students they have served for more than 150 years.”

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Susan Svrluga/WashingtonPost

Posted by The NON-Conformist