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The Big Picture: A 40-Year Scan of the Right-Wing Corporate Takeover of America

Author and public intellectual Colin Greer tells us how we got where we are today. It's not a pretty picture, but hope is on the way.

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It's a way of government supporting the expenditure of money, but it has been organized so that it stays in private control. And in private control it's become increasingly privileged in how the decisions are made. So you've got hedge fund people now funding charter schools -- they are the largest engine behind charter schools. And so they care about education. Some of them even believe public schools are so bad we need this alternative.

But there's not a lot of thinking about about whether profit is compatible with learning. If profit is the major goal and keeping costs down is the major goal, then how do you have learning be the major goal? That's exactly the contradiction. If you're going to have learning be the major goal, you have to invest in it like you would a war. You don't in a war say the major goal is how to make profit and we'll only fight the war according to the profit. 

DH: With the enormous investment in military arms, and more recently mercenaries, it seems like we are headed there.

CH: Well, that is one reason we have more war. But in the end hopefully you can't sell to the public that the measure of our success here is profit. And in education, were saying basically you can trust profit. The market will give you better results. There's no reason to believe that. The public hasn't accepted it, although it's getting pushed on them because of the power that's established in the state houses. Also, what's not well understood, is there are three kinds of charters. So the privatization has three identities and they're being merged. One is public school experiments with the charter system. The second is not-for-profit charters run by not-for-profit organizations are closer to the base. The third is the for-profit charter. 

The first two models are perfectly fine. We have private schools and parochial schools which have tax exemptions so they're only quasi private. Those two forms are part of the American education fabric, so having another thing called charters wouldn't be a problem. It's nice to experiment with different forms of government organization and curriculum. But the for-profit charter is a very different entity and to allow it to be conflated with the other two is basically to let the Trojan horse in. 

DH: As a longtime foundation executive, how has philanthropy exacerbated the progressive weakness? 

CG: Foundations mostly gave money according to sociology or class, so people gave money to organizations led by people most like them, or slowly there was entry of people who were not like them but were being identified by people like them, and also very little money when you think about it. If you take the most successful community based organization in philanthropy at community based building level, it's probably SCOPE in Los Angeles.

And they went from a $5,000 grant to its founder from New World Foundation to a $3 million, maybe a $4 million budget, which took 25 years to get to. We have a number of very strong local and state organizations that have built powerful bases to influence local politics, pioneering such inventions as “living wage,” and “community benefits.” But to date this is a record of policy reform and some electoral victories for local leaders, all of which is very important. It is, however, not yet a coherent, comprehensive and compelling base for challenging the structural realignment of capitalism in our time. 

DH: What are the consequences of that lack of a base to challenge the excesses of capitalism? 

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