Archive for August, 2016

Refreshment Opportunity

August 29, 2016

A teaser. Really. But oh, so revealing. “Is city corporate park about to land first user?” (Chad Klimack, Newark Advocate, 8-25-16) reports “on the potential economic development opportunity” of (what the Kasich administration defines as) a “Job Ready Site”. Analysis notes “the “opportunity” apparently concerns the city’s long-vacant Job Ready Site, which covers nearly 300 acres inside the 500-plus-acre corporate park.” Lest, dear reader, one believes that “the city’s…” designates ownership, the article later clearly points out that “Pataskala’s corporate park is privately owned”. Significant for Analysis is that “Pataskala officials and their county counterparts have been bullish on the corporate park ever since the opening of the extended Etna Parkway in 2011. The county used a $3.4 million state Job Ready Site grant — and contributed almost $3 million of its own money — to build the road. Officials argued it would open up the site to development by creating an easier connection between U.S. 40 and Broad Street.” Equally significant for Analysis is the anecdotal narrative (that never was) “City and county officials may be hesitant to comment because they have come close to landing a user before — only to see the company go elsewhere. An unnamed data center sniffed around the park in early 2015. Representatives even submitted a rezoning request for 212 acres inside the park, but they ultimately pulled the request.” Of course, Grow Licking County has a complete array of tax credits, abatements, subsidies and incentives to consummate the art of the deal. Analysis wonders whether 5 years of inactive vacancy is a sign of success or failure (on the part of Grow Licking County)? The tax payers have provided well over six and a half million dollars for some privately owned property to become profitable. This is done with the “hope” of jobs being created. Would they do this for a hot dog vendor who wanted another cart and was willing to hire an employee to man the cart? Restrain your guffaws, please. What of a “mom and pop” (such a thing still exists?) restaurant, garage, or small farm wanting to add another location or expand? Would the county commissioners fund that job creation? No, of course not, it would have to be really big before… That is the “natural” expectation that drives the repetitive behavior (we all recall the definition of insanity and repeating behavior that doesn’t work). How big? What makes it big enough to qualify? Analysis would like to look at this from a more contemporary perspective. To be really big means big wealth. Big wealth can’t be idle, it is supposed to create even more wealth. The power of wealth, also known as capital (from whence comes “capitalism”), is that it can create value. Big wealth (capital)) calls the shots (“only to see the company go elsewhere” So much for some governor or president being credited for creating…). Capital (big wealth) determines value. The “natural” expectation is that the “privately owned” land has some value. The actuality is that capital (big wealth) alone determines value, hence the almost 7 million spent by the tax payers wooing big wealth (naturally described as “opportunity”). Where have we seen this before? Analysis finds this repeatedly playing out in the kabuki of the 2016 presidential contest. Indeed, in recorded interviews, the Republican candidate for president has repeatedly said that his value (net worth) cannot be pinned down because that changes with however it is he feels about his personal worth on any given day. Substantiating his expressed policy position is the adamant refusal by the GOP candidate to release his tax returns. Doing so would assign him a specific value, limiting the “opportunities”. A key component of “opportunity” is such “feeling” toward value. Analysis found this term appeared 6 times in Klimack’s little article. The rival on the DEM side is just too happy to establish her own value, believing such inherent worth justifies “receiving” mega bucks in multiple speaking honorariums. The big wealth (capital) accumulated from these brief speaking stints have helped create the candidate’s value, entitling her to address things from the side of capital (big wealth) while promoting the neo liberal mantra of “opportunity” for all. In 2016 the American electorate has presented itself with the choice of “wealth determines value” or “value determines wealth”. Would the reader prefer a Pepsi or a Coke?

Traditional Values, Traditional Responses

August 24, 2016

NPR’s Morning Edition aired an interview with Congressman Garret Graves of Louisiana’s 6th district. Graves, a Republican, describes himself as a fiscal conservative. When it comes to the catastrophe that has befallen his constituents (a “disaster” he calls it), he differentiates it from others that have visited the gulf coast (like the BP oil spill, the Corps of Engineers flooding of New Orleans, and various hurricanes/flooding). He calls these “traditional disasters” accompanied by “traditional responses”. The current “disaster”, according to him, is exceptional warranting exceptional Federal assistance. When reminded that congress has the power of the purse and of the recent fiscal conservative congress’s response to the Sandy disaster (which did not affect his district) he shrugged it off as a “traditional disaster”. Besides, this 6th district’s fiscal conservative advanced a not-so conservative argument for why the Federal government should foot the bill. Graves said it only makes “fiscal sense” as otherwise these folks would become the recipients of various federal poverty programs, costing the taxpayers of the US even more. Indeed, Analysis finds this to be the same line of reasoning used by rabid liberals in their various pleas for universal pre-school, for investment in schools instead of prisons, for addiction related crimes to be reassessed as illness with the emphasis on rehabilitation funding and not anti crime bills, and inclusion of mental health within the nation’s public/private expenditure on medical care. Analysis also finds that Graves must be suffering from an occurrence of “Rob Portman” syndrome. Rob Portman was staunchly anti-same sex marriage until his own son came out. Mr. Graves is a card carrying “fiscal conservative” until catastrophe, “traditional” or not, found its way into his backyard. Then the party of traditional values’ representative decided there was something not very traditional going on here, in the everyday. Analysis finds all this to be very pertinent in light of the current epidemic of opioid addiction devastating Ohio (where all 3 branches of government are dominated by the party of traditional values). Is this a “traditional” epidemic? Is the GOP giving this scourge a “traditional response”?

Biopolitics Laid Bare

August 13, 2016

Analysis often lists “hegemony” as a tag line for many of its posted essays. Within any conversation, discussion, or exchange of ideas, it is assumed that there will be more than one point of view. Hegemony doesn’t negate this outlook. What it does describe is that one point of view or outlook dominates the exchange by determining format, or prioritization of hierarchy, or the agenda of ideas. Some ideas will be energetically contested while others will be so marginalized as to never find voice. Currently, in Ohio, there is a very contested exchange of ideas over the nature of state sponsored (paid for) education. The state constitution mandates education as a required state concern. The current Department of Education was caught with its pants down regarding charter school oversight, especially in regard to online schooling. The State Auditor has been vocal in advocating for better control, “accounting”. Results range from new legislation “to give an accounting” all the way to Ecot (major online school) being required to account for when its students attended and what they received for this attendance, etc. The “to give an accounting” screw primarily turns on money spent (by the state) and what is received in return (much as a purchase at a big box store is defined). The intricacies of what is learned, how much it costs, and whether it is comparable with brick and mortar educational facilities is what complicates the online analysis (how “to give an accounting”). After all, there is no little teacher on the other end of an online educational program to teach math, history or Spanish. It is only soft ware, 1’s and 0’s. Yet the demand remains for determining (and verifying) a return on money spent per pupil in either pedagogy. What ties the discussion together, makes it possible, is the self righteous predetermination of “performance” as a basis to assess the return on investment. (starts to sound a lot like the marketing of stocks, doesn’t it?). Hegemony reveals itself when one questions the value or worth of the cost of a school nurse, the guidance counselor, individual sports coach, school social worker or psychologist. Just how does one (the legislature) factor in the return on investment via the outcome or “performance” of individual students for these disparate education contributors? The hegemony of the debate, the dominance of the financial mode for determining the benefits of public education, through whatever means, is clarified when one considers other forms of public sponsored or funded interaction akin to education. Public transportation readily comes to mind. Though Licking County’s response to the need of public transportation certainly continues the hegemony of financial return (with service very much established around this priority), large city fixed service mass transit elides this hegemony. Like public education, public transit is considered a given requirement. Yes, bus routes must have limits (starts and ends), and yes, certain frequencies must be established, and stops determined, but after that, there is no channeling of ridership as to who goes where, and how often. Subway systems and light rail are accessible for riders no matter what, unfettered by any requirement of justification for their efficacy. Another example would be public libraries which promote various, often disparate resources for use by any (and all) with few necessities of legitimation by the user. We’re not talking rules here, but giving an accounting for resource availability. The hegemony of performance with financial accountability at the heart of the public education debate is evidence of what theoreticians describe as biopolitics. Black Lives Matter is just one of many responses to the politics of authority, where a monarch, dictator or “police” authority rules through intimidation or overt power (might makes right). Most modern “democratic” states rely on other measures to insure that taxes get paid, the state is secure internally/externally, and that its citizens can live out their lives (raise families, pursue interests, care for themselves and loved ones, etc.). Differing from authoritarianism, biopolitics relies on the biological development of the individual, and hence the citizenry. Through various means, biopolitics determines a pool of soldiers, or medical practitioners, truck drivers and school teachers, etc. to avail itself for the good of the state. The current debate of performance based accounting for the efficacy of any state sponsored schooling reveals the working of biopolitics within the functioning of Ohio’s “real” governance. Although an American democracy where each should be able to determine their own path, the State of Ohio is determining resource allocation only on the basis of how it promotes the aspirations of the state (which currently are totally market driven). Unlike public libraries or public transportation, where the individual user can determine the actual use (or not) of the public resource, the hegemony of “performance” and financial return on educational spending determines the orientation and development of the biological individual public education is meant to serve. Education as a resource for the citizens of Ohio becomes education as a response to the demands of the market. This is biopolitics laid bare.