Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fooled Again

President-Elect Barack Obama's pick for Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, received Harriet Mieresque praise from both Republicans and Democrats when he faced senators at his confirmation hearing today.

The Chicago Tribune described it as a "kumbaya moment" as Duncan took tough questions like this one from Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn):

"President-elect Obama has made several distinguished Cabinet appointments. I think you're the best."

Or this one from Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska):

“My first impressions are very strong and very favorable,” Senator Murkowski told Mr. Duncan. “I’m glad to see that your boy is there reading books instead of playing with an electronic gadget.

Duncan didn't actually say anything of import at his hearing other than the usual reform pablum about how NCLB needs to be funded, teachers need to be held accountable for student achievement, charter schools are wonderful things and the high school drop-out rate needs to be decreased at the same time that access to college is expanded.

Duncan, Obama's basketball buddy and the current chief of the Chicago school system, didn't say how he would do any of these things.

But judging by his record in Chicago, you can bet the emphasis on testing won't go away anytime soon.

Heck, how else can teachers be held accountable for their students' achievement?

Ironically, at the same time Uncle Arne was holding hands with Lamar Alexander and Lisa Murkowski and singing "It's A Small World After All", Federal Reserve Chairman Helicopter Ben Bernanke was explaining during a speech at the London School of Economics that the boys running Citigroup, BoA, AIG, J.P. Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and other financial institutions, having already received more than $350 billion dollars in taxpayer funds as part of the TARP program, will need hundreds of billions more to keep them afloat. Of course he didn't say that in English, but here's his quote anyway:

“More capital injections and guarantees may become necessary to ensure stability and the normalization of credit markets."

Though the Fed chairman acknowledged that people in many countries were “understandably concerned” about pumping government money into the financial industry while often turning a cold shoulder to other sectors, he defended the effort as unpleasant but necessary.

“This disparate treatment, unappealing as it is, appears unavoidable,” he said. “Our economic system is critically dependent on the free flow of credit, and the consequences for the broader economy of financial instability are thus powerful and quickly felt.”

Got that now?

Teachers must be held accountable for student achievement, financial CEOs and Wall Street Masters of the Universe must be bailed out because, you know, the world might implode if the boys at AIG didn't get to take taxpayer funded junkets to Arizona spas and the boys at Citigroup didn't get to retire with golden parachutes, even though they were the ones who helped make all the financial mistakes in the first place.

Sigh - meet the new bosses, same as the old bosses.
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