crossposted at The G Bitch Spot

The solution:


The news racing around the shelter that day was that the Republican Congressman Richard Baker had told a group of lobbyists, “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.” Joseph Canizaro, one of New Orleans’ wealthiest developers, had just expressed a similar sentiment: “I think we have a clean sheet to start again. And with that clean sheet we have some very big opportunities.”


Much of the media interest in the first anniversary of the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina in August fixated on the negative. Sometimes, however, hurricanes have silver linings: when Hurricane Katrina demolished New Orleans’s public school system it gave the city’s educational landscape a much-needed clean slate.

According a New York Times report, New Orleans public schools were “among the most abysmal in the nation before the storm”. In the 2004 Louisiana General Exit Exams (GEE) for high school students, 96 per cent of New Orleans public school students scored below “basic” in English and 94 per cent scored below “basic” in maths. The public school district was corrupt and debt-ridden.

Now New Orleans is at the centre of a different storm, one that education pundits around the world will be watching carefully. Hurricane Katrina has indelibly changed schooling in New Orleans by giving it the opportunity to rebuild, almost from scratch.



I grew up in New Orleans, went to a private school there and have since been acutely aware of how, in almost every American city, there is a two-tiered education system: one for the poor and one for the well-off. That’s why I joined the board of Teach for America, which recruits top college graduates to spend two or three years teaching in poor districts, and why I became a supporter of more competition and choice and charter schools in the public education system. So I was eager to see whether the clean slate offered by post-Katrina New Orleans could be used to create a system better than the one we had before. This time, instead of examining the process as a journalist, I had both the advantage and disadvantage of experiencing it as someone who was emotionally involved.

Labs have to use informed consent with human subjects, I thought.


The MBA students used pure business concepts, referring to the school superintendent as the CEO or chief executive officer. They also suggested a marketing plan to open lines of communication with parents and the community.

Other ideas urged innovation.

“We think that because New Orleans has sort of a clean slate to work with, that they should be pursuing some of the more innovative models in the classroom around creating safe spaces for children to learn how to practice conflict resolution and kind of provide them an environment that helps them heal,” said Paul Tomasiello.

Paul Tomasiello was one of several students with a personal interest in seeing New Orleans make a comeback. He has volunteered twice to help build housing in the crescent city.

11/1/08: Clean slate: New Orleans has become the nation’s lab for school reform

The lab metaphor is unfortunate.

2011 [PDF]:

Only 16 New Orleans public schools emerged from the storm relatively unharmed leaving many displaced students, parents and teachers wondering where to go and what to do next.2 In many ways, this offered a clean slate for education reformers who desperately wanted to transform the already failing public school system.

A current problem:


The top 1 percent of households took a bigger share of overall income in 2007 than they did at any time since 1928.”


But as recent research shows, intense inequality actually stunts growth, making it more difficult for countries to sustain the sort of long economic expansions that have characterized the more prosperous nations of the world.

The first chart, based on research by Andrew Berg and Jonathan Ostry, economists at the International Monetary Fund, reveals the link between inequality and the sustainability of economic growth. Igniting growth is easier than maintaining it. They found that in high-inequality nations spurts of growth ended more quickly, and often in painful contractions.

The chart reports inequality with the so-called Gini index, which is 0 when all households have the same income and 100 when all the income goes to only one household. It shows that regions with high inequality, like sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, have recorded shorter periods of sustained economic growth since 1950 than regions with lower inequality like East Asia. The average stretch of robust growth among relatively equitable industrial countries lasted more than 24 years. In Africa the average was less than 14 years.

The economists found that income distribution contributes more to the sustainability of economic growth than does the quality of a country’s political institutions, its foreign debt and openness to trade, the level of foreign investment in the economy and whether its exchange rate is competitive. It’s not too hard to see why. Extreme inequality blocks opportunity for the poor. It can breed resentment and political instability — discouraging investment — and lead to political polarization and gridlock, splitting the political system into haves and have-nots. And it can make it harder for governments to address economic imbalances and brewing crises.

Republicans might be tempted to dismiss such analysis as irrelevant to the United States, which is already highly developed. But as the second chart shows, inequality in America has soared over the last 30 years, approaching and even surpassing that in many poor countries. Today, America is an outlier among industrial nations. Its distribution of income looks closer to that of Argentina than, say, Germany.

[links in original]


Extravagant levels of consumption helped draw attention to them: private jets, multiple 50,000 square-foot mansions, $25,000 chocolate desserts embellished with gold dust. But as long as the middle class could still muster the credit for college tuition and occasional home improvements, it seemed churlish to complain. Then came the financial crash of 2007-08, followed by the Great Recession, and the 1 percent to whom we had entrusted our pensions, our economy, and our political system stood revealed as a band of feckless, greedy narcissists, and possibly sociopaths.


This data doesn’t include income from capital gains and dividends. “If you include these income sources, the top 1 percent of U.S. income earners received 23.5 percent of the nation’s income in 2007, up 9.2 percentage points from 1990, and the top 0.1 percent received 12.3 percent, up 6.5 percentage points from 1990,” the OECD reports.

[emphasis added for crack-over-the-head specificity and obviousness]

That money did not create jobs either if you look at unemployment rates from 1990-2008.

Solution + problem = Clean Slate the Rich

Let’s just start over—hijack x, take down r, move in on s, return to 1967 tax rates [the top tax rate = 70% married filing jointly at and above $1,424,633, single at and above $713,316]. You can say it is to save capitalism—if inequality gets too obvious or onerous, there will be change that does not benefit the current status quos or there will be violence or there will be both at once or in alternating waves.

Clean Slate the Rich.

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