I will post a new entry every few weeks. Some will be new writing and some will be past work that has relevance today. The writing will deal in some way with the themes that have been part of my teaching and writing life for decades:
•teaching and learning; •educational opportunity; •the importance of public education in a democracy; •definitions of intelligence and the many manifestations of intelligence in school, work, and everyday life; and •the creation of a robust and humane philosophy of education.
If I had to sum up the philosophical thread that runs through my work, it would be this: A deep belief in the ability of the common person, a commitment to educational, occupational, and cultural opportunity to develop that ability, and an affirmation of public institutions and the public sphere as vehicles for nurturing and expressing that ability.
My hope is that this blog will foster an online community that brings people together to continue the discussion.
the last week or so, the cost of President Trump’s frequent trips to his Palm
Beach resort Mar-a-Lago has been making the news. On the campaign trail,
candidate Trump repeatedly said to great applause that once elected he wouldn’t
be taking vacations or playing all that golf that Obama plays. He would stay in
the White House “making deals.” But since assuming the presidency, Mr. Trump
has, to date, gone to Mar-a-Lago seven times. While two of those visits
involved meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President
Xi Jinping, others have not been for affairs of state. The Secret Service does
not make available the costs for security, but estimates range from $1 million
to $3 million per trip. These estimates do not include a number of associated
costs, such as $60,000 in overtime pay each day for the Palm Beach Sheriff’s
Department. President Obama spent around $97 million on travel during his two
terms in office. Reports by CNN and The Hill suggest that President
Trump could spend close to that amount in his first year alone.
more thing, Mr. Trump’s use of Mar-a-Lago (or any other of his major
properties) contributes to the brand of these places, so taxpayers subsidize
brand enhancement. Right after the beginning of Mr. Trump’s presidency, the
yearly dues for Mar-a-Lago doubled, from $100,000 to $200,000. Value-added.
the President is vacating the White House, the First Lady is avoiding it
altogether. Melania Trump has said that she maintains residence at Trump Tower
on Fifth Avenue because she wants to keep her son, Barron, in his current
school. The cost for protecting Trump Tower is $500,000 per day, according to The
Guardian. I could not determine how much of this cost is for New York
police officers vs. Secret Service personnel or if the federal government
reimburses the city of New York. Over one year, the cost for the First Lady and
her son to stay in New York could be as much as $183 million. I wanted to
compare the yearly cost of protection for President Obama’s two daughters to
attend Sidwell Friends School in D.C., but could not find any numbers.
expense associated with Donald Trump is the tax-payer supported cost for
security for Eric Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. whenever they travel for Trump
family business. Again, the Secret Service does not release expenditures, but The
Washington Post, CBS, and The Guardian were able to get some
figures. A trip to Dubai to open a Trump-branded golf course resulted in a
$16,000 hotel bill for Secret Service agents and a trip to a Trump-branded
condominium in Uruguay resulted in a $88,320 hotel bill for Secret Service
agents and other federal employees. These expenses are only for lodging (and
possibly food); they do not include salaries, travel, equipment, and other
expenses. The two Trump sons are the managers of the Trump estate, so these
trips will occur with some frequency and have nothing to do with the United
States government and do not benefit taxpayers in any way.
Trump administration recently released its proposed budget, and it contained
cuts to a long and wide list of programs and initiatives. A budget is not only
an economic document but also a moral document, a statement of values. There
are the predictable GOP targets: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The
National Endowment for the Arts, and so on. But let us look at four less
visible programs targeted for elimination—programs that directly affect the
less fortunate—and compare their budgets to the Trump expenditures I just
Delta Regional Authority and The Appalachian Regional Commission are two
wide-ranging agencies that foster economic and workforce development,
infrastructure improvement, and education and health programs. The Delta
Regional Authority will lose $45 million in federal funding; The Appalachian
Regional Commission will lose three times that amount. Both of these agencies
cover parts of the country that are in great need—and that voted for Donald
Trump in strong numbers. The president’s trips to Mar-a-Lago, Trump Tower, and
his New Jersey country club—all lavishly developed—could over several years
provide the budget for these agencies committed to fostering economic
development in regions that desperately need it.
Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program is targeted toward students
with disabilities or limited English proficiency, many of whom come from
low-income backgrounds. The cut here would be $190 million, which is just about
the projected annual expense for Melania Trump to maintain residence at Trump
Tower and continue to send her son to the Trumps’ chosen school. The trade-off:
one child with every educational resource and option imaginable versus many
thousands of children with few options or resources.
U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness has a small budget of $3.5 million and
coordinates federal and state agencies that deal with homelessness and also
serves to connect local agencies with available resources. It wouldn’t take
many of Donald Jr. and Eric’s business trips to promote luxury properties to
supplant this budget cut aimed at people who have no property at all.
writing this post, I found that the Center for American Progress Action Fund
has just launched a website to track “time and taxpayer money the president
expends at his South Florida Estate.” http://istrumpatmaralago.org/
This site will help you keep up with the Trumps in real time.
conservative commentator Kevin Williamson has a point when he writes in National
Review that the criticism about presidential travel expenses—Bush’s,
Obama's, or Trump's—is overdone and overwrought, for the problem lies in the presidential
entourage itself, which is "bloated and monarchical" and, in the
scheme of things, travel "is small beans in the context of federal
spending." OK, fair enough—though it should be said that what is small
beans to one person is a whole bean field to another. Still, when travel and
residential spending hits the levels it is hitting now, beyond the bloated norm
with no sign of abating, and when that spending is connected to a president who
pledged his allegiance to the Little Guy, and when that same president's budget
includes substantial cuts to programs to aid the less fortunate, well… then the
excesses are worthy of condemnation, for they represent not just a case of very
bad optics, to use that tiresome buzzword, but a case of moral blindness.
I’ll close with a
question that kept coming to mind as I was writing this post, a question from
another time and place in our history and from quite a different context: The
Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954. It was the Cold War and Wisconsin Senator
Joseph McCarthy had been conducting increasingly assaultive and unprincipled
investigations on the infiltration of communists into various government
departments and agencies, including the U.S. Army. After a particularly nasty
exchange, Joseph Welch, the lead counsel for the Army, asked McCarthy in
exasperation, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left
no sense of decency?” I certainly thought of that question many times as
candidate Trump insulted everyone from Mexican immigrants to a reporter with a
disability. But the question seems fitting here as well, perhaps even more so,
posed to President Trump and the entire Trump enterprise: Where is the decency
here? At long last, where is your decency?
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