Views in brief

April 4, 2008

John McCain's "second job"

IN A recent speech, John McCain outlined a plan of action for dealing with the foreclosure crisis that's even more anemic and divorced from reality than President Bush's.

Indeed, he suggested that the millions of families losing their homes have mostly themselves to blame, as they were not "doing what is necessary" to pay the bills. Among such "necessities," he included "taking a second job" or "skipping a vacation."

Now according to the General Accounting Office, foreclosures are highly correlated with weak employment prospects; Michigan and Ohio, which had the lowest rates of employment growth, also sported the third- and sixth-largest increases in foreclosures. Which is to say, it's hard to find a second job when you can't find a first--and never mind about skipping vacations.

But there are additional strategies for income enlargement that Senator McCain could tell us about. For example, in the 1980s, McCain raised $112,000 from the fraudster Charles Keating, in addition to enjoying nine expensive trips at Keating's expense, three to his luxury retreat in the Bahamas.

McCain's wife also invested over $350,000 in a Keating strip mall. In exchange for these handsome rewards, McCain took a "second job" as one of the "Keating Five," a group of senators who leaned on federal banking regulators to go easy on Keating.

Keating's S&L was eventually seized, alas, but the delay helped ensure that the taxpayer-funded bailout was the most expensive of the whole vast scandal, coming in at $2.6 billion. Amusingly, despite receiving a firm wrist-slap over the Keating debacle, McCain recently reprised his role by writing letters to the FCC on behalf of the Paxon media group--whose corporate jet had four times doubled as the "Straight Talk Express."

Yes, indeed! When it comes to paying their bills, you can count on our capitalist politicians to "do what is necessary."
Shaun Joseph, Providence, R.I.

Slashing teachers' jobs in California

NEXT YEAR, if Governor Schwarzenegger has his way, 20,000 teachers in California will be out of a job. The new proposed state budget cuts $4.8 billion from K-12 schools, the largest cuts to education in the state since 1978. California's education spending was dismal even before these proposed cuts. The state earned a D+ in education spending from Education Week because it already spends $1,900 less per student than the national average.

Since the governor's proposal, teachers across the state have received pink slips en masse, and have been told to assume that they will not have a job next year. In San Diego Unified School District, the second largest in the state, more than 900 pink slips have been issued, which accounts for nearly 10 percent of the workforce. In the Chula Vista Elementary School District, where I student teach, over 40 percent of teachers have received pink slips--anyone who has worked nine years or less. The fact that these teachers have been told there is a possibility that they will regain their jobs before next year is small consolation as they contemplate how they will feed their families next year without a job.

Naturally, the cuts go far beyond teacher jobs. Cuts will be made in districts across the state to school nurses, teachers' aides, resource teachers, arts, athletics and extracurricular activities. Class sizes will be increased and schools will be shut down.

The hypocrisy of the new budget is obvious. California's prison system is notoriously bloated and receives more and more funding, as thousands and thousands of poor people of color are locked up under three-strikes laws. In addition, as Peter Camejo exposed in his campaign for governor, the poor in California pay a drastically higher tax rate than the rich.

The willingness of California's state government to destroy education is clear. It is going to be up to us to mobilize and demand that they make education a priority, for once.
Rebecca Anshell-Song, San Diego

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