Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Blood Clots

What Homer Simpson said about beer could also apply to money: ". . . it's the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems." Yes, it's a human invention of great convenience, but it's also the source of much pain and suffering. Whenever I complain in public about money, say to bemoan income inequality or to point out that it is the root of all evil, there is bound to be someone to reply, often smugly, that money is not to blame and to do so is the equivalent of cursing the blood spurting from a puncture wound. Money, they tell me, is meant to flow through the economy like blood does through our bodies, carrying with it the nutrients and oxygen necessary for the health of our economy.

If that's true, and for the sake of this argument I will stipulate to the aptness of the metaphor, then what are billionaires if not blood clots that have formed inside the body of our economy, dramatically slowing or even stopping the flow of "blood" altogether? I mean, our economy is producing billionaires at a rate never before seen, while at the same time creating poverty at near record levels as well. This is why blood clots inside the body, especially in the legs, lungs, or brain, require immediate medical attention.

Of course, billionaires don't tend to see themselves that way. In my life, I've had the opportunity to get to know four of them, and three of those four consider themselves to be humanitarians, people of great ability and even greater intelligence who amassed their hoard by the sweat of their own brows and who are now surveying the world for problems upon which to exercise their brilliance. I did not find any of them to be particularly brilliant, but I did, like the rest of the world, listen attentively to their thoughts and ideas because, being billionaires, they actually have the wherewithal to act upon them. That's why people listen to billionaires: not because of their "genius," but because of their money, and time and again they let us down, because to turn to them to solve our problems is a lot like expecting a blood clot to fix itself.

The example that hits closest to home, of course, is how billionaires continue to muck up public education. I have frequently written about how Bill Gates (second wealthiest American), through his foundation, almost single-handedly inflicted the deeply flawed, doomed-to-fail Common Core federal curriculum on our children, causing trillions in taxpayer money to be diverted into his hobby horse, only to have him finally shrug at his failed "experiment" that has treated a generation of children as drill-and-kill guinea pigs. I recently wrote about Mark Zuckerberg's (third wealthiest American) disastrous "Summit Learning" curriculum that is so de-humanizing that children are walking out of their classes. I've also written the pernicious plans of the Koch brothers (fifth and sixth wealthiest Americans) with regards to privatizing and re-segregating our schools. And now Jeff Bezos (the wealthiest American) is pledging $2 billion to be spent on preschool education, a plan that gives me little hope and lots of anxiety.

I'm not saying their hearts aren't in the right place. I don't think they set out to do evil, but their ignorance combines with their obscene wealth to cause far more problems than they set out to solve. I'm also not saying that public education can't be improved, indeed that is the subject of most of what I've written about here since 2009, but our problems won't be solved by dilettantes no matter how well-intended or wealthy. Professional educators, on the other hand, know exactly what needs to be fixed about our schools, yet appallingly, we are the last ones to which these billionaires, and the policy-makers who they keep within their thrall, listen. So it all continues to be a senseless churn of time and money, destined to fail, with a seemingly endless queue of billionaires waiting to step up to offer the rest of us their brilliance, which is at bottom, the brilliance of a hoarder in a house stacked with magazines. And meanwhile, our children suffer.

With Gates and the Koch brothers in decline, Zuckerberg and Bezos have stepped into the breach, and billions more will be wasted in their cruel experiments. I wish they would just pay their damn taxes, get out of the way, and let the professionals do their jobs.

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