Obama doesn’t want to save teachers

August 25, 2010

WHEN I read Lee Sustar's article "Stealing the money to save teachers?" claiming that "Your President wants you to save teachers job," I nearly fell out of my chair from surprise.

Is this the same president that helped fire 75 teachers in Rhode Island? Is this the same president who crafted the "Race To The Top" agenda which is pushing charter schools and merit pay across the country to both eviscerate public schools and the unionized workforce within it? Is this the same president who hired Arne Duncan to push his education agenda, the same Arne Duncan who designed the blueprint for destroying public education in Chicago? Is this the same president who is dangling $4 billion under the nose of starving school districts as long as they are willing to make the changes that read like a wish-list to friends of the working people like Bill Gates, Eli Broad and Sam Walton?

I believe it is.

Sustar is right when he says that $10 billion has been voted on by Congress (and pushed by Barack Obama) to ostensibly lessen the blow to the hundreds of teachers laid off across the country as a result of state budget crises and the state's unwillingness to make the rich pay for their decades of excess. Sustar is also right to say that our unions must fight to make sure that states actually spend the money on what it was intended.

But the idea that Obama is actually doing this to help teachers is laughable. Barack Obama doesn't want to save our jobs. Barack Obama wants to save two things. He wants to save the flagging fortunes of the do-nothing Democratic Party this November, and he wants to save the flagging fortunes of U.S. imperialism in Afghanistan.

Let's remember where this money came from. The money for education was $10 billion attached to a larger bill that raised over $30 billion for the U.S. adventure in Afghanistan. Teachers' unions across the country didn't want to mention this when they celebrated the money being made available, but the fact is the money teachers "may" be getting this fall is soaked in the blood of a U.S. empire-building in the Middle East.

Secondly, Obama photo-op with laid-off teachers shouldn't fool us into believing that Obama has suddenly become a friend of the working people or even teachers. Obama's photo op is about reviving the disillusioned base of the Democratic Party in the run-up to November's election.

After nearly two solid years of disappointment on health care, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Employee Free Choice Act, immigration and LGBT rights, Obama and the Democrats finally make an 11th hour bid to raise a little money for working people (with strings tied to their bloody war in Afghanistan, of course). This is about votes, not jobs.

LOOK. I get it. Sustar and Socialist Worker are trying to use the words and deeds of our president to spur a quiescent working class into action. Just as the Communist Party did in the 1930s. There's a problem, though. The ISO is not the CP (in either size or level of implantation in the working class). Obama is not FDR. The U.S. ruling class is united in being dedicated to a plan of economic austerity that seeks to make the working class pay for the economic crisis. There is no real "split at the top" that radicals can exploit at this moment.

At a time when the working class is still at a historically low level of class struggle, at a time when virtually every social movement seems politically captive to the Democratic Party, at a time when we are entering an election season in which working-class voters across the country will be asked to identify any of sliver of difference between the Democrats and Republicans to capture working-class votes and an entire trade union apparatus is going into motion to move union membership away from struggle and towards the ballot box--at such a time, the real beneficiary of such an analogy (when so inaccurately applied) is not the working class, but the Democratic Party itself.

Obama isn't trying to save us. He's trying to save his party and his war. And we're not the only ones who believe that. Millions of people across the across the country are becoming increasingly aware of just how bad Obama and the Democrats have been for education, for immigrants and for working people in general. Two years ago, millions expected change from Obama, but frankly, that ship has sailed. No point in calling it back into the harbor. Let it sail away. Let's hope it sinks. Let's do what we can to help sink it.

Should unions fight to make sure the $10 billion is spent on actually saving teachers' jobs? Hell yes! Should we give Obama or the Democrats an ounce of credit for finally throwing us a bone? Hell no! After November, you can bet the Democrats will be grabbing that bone from us and using it to club us with more pro-business, pro-war and anti-worker initiatives.
Andy Libson, San Francisco

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