Demeaning Democracy: We Tossed the Brits, It’s Time to Toss the Plutocrats

During the confirmation hearing for Attorney General designee, William Saxby was asked whether he thought that President Nixon knew about the Watergate “doings.” He responded, “Does the piano player in the brothel know what’s going on upstairs?”

I wonder whether Bloomberg is the piano player across the street from Tweed?

Klein is desperately seeking a philosophical underpinning for the morass he calls Children First, a constantly shifting set of policies and initiatives. His intellectual hero is Sir Michael Barber, formerly Tony Blair’s Minister of Education and now a high priced McKinsey Associates consultant. Barber’s views are expressed in a recent article , flaked by Joel.

Barber has been whispering in Joel’s ear for the last few years … and he rolled him out to “explain” the Brave New World of Empowerment at the Time Warner Center a year ago. The Barber Consultancy Model has been raking in dollars for McKinsey across the country.

The Model has three fatal flaws:

1. The quagmire in Iraq is a product of consultants. According to Bush, and the consultants, the Iraq Consultancy Model, if committed to, and given sufficient time will be a success. Consultancy models, hedge fund-like mathematical models, ignore the widgets, the real live people who are the subject, or, might I say the victims, of the model.

2. Highly effective school systems, i.e., South Korea, Finland, the Netherlands, etc., are antithetical to the Barber model, yet ignored in the Barber/Klein equation.

3. Barber/Klein assume an all-powerful government (i.e., Tony Blair, Mike Bloomberg), weak or absent teacher unions and school boards, and, of course ignores stakeholders.

The Brits have never gotten over our little disagreement with George III, and Joel enamored with the “Sir” that precedes Barbers name. Our forebearers gave a great deal of thought to the question of creating a system of government. Madison avers, Ambition must be made to counteract ambition … If men were angels, no government would be necessary … And, believe me, Mike and Joel are no angels.

We live in a city that is riding the top of a wave: rolling in cash, endlessly declining crime rates, and a weak City Council has produced a popular Mayor who shrugs over debacle after debacle. Somehow or other declining SAT scores don’t make the DOE website.

The opposition to the war in Iraq was slow to build, now two/thirds of American oppose the war. Slowly, the opposition to the Klein/Barber plutocratic view of public sector management is growing. Parents, advocacy organizations, the teacher union and, the elected officials in the State that have the responsibility to make laws are looking askance at the school mess.

We tossed the Brits and their loyalist friends two hundred or so years ago and it’s about time we did it again.


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