The Plutocrat’s Lament

Writer Joanne Barkan argues that for plutocrats like Bill Gates, democracy is a nuisance…

gates-billionaire.jpg (400×266)Jennifer Berkshire: You’re the author of a recent case study on what you call Bill Gates’ *charitable plutocracy,* his years’ long, and many millions-ed campaign to bring charter schools to Washington State. In the interest of the data to which Gates himself is so committed, can you reduce your argument down to a series of numbers? Oh, and please speak in bullet points.

Joanne Barkan:

  • Number of years required to pass a charter school enabling law in Washington State: 17 (1995-2012).
  • Number of statewide ballot initiatives required: 4 (1996, 2000, 2004, and 2012).
  • Total dollars spent by charter school supporters in the 2000, 2004, and 2012 ballot initiatives: $18.7 million. (Practically no money was spent by either side in 1996.)
  • Total dollars spent by charter school opponents in the 2000, 2004, and 2012 ballot initiatives: $2.04 million.
  • Money spent by the Gates Foundation *to give public charter schools in Washington State a strong start* in 2013-2015: $31 million.

And a few other data points your readers might be interested in:

  • Net worth of Bill Gates in 2015: $76 billion
  • Assets of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2016: $44.3 billion.
  • Total receipts of the National Education Association in 2015: $388.8 million.
  • Total receipts of the American Federation of Teachers in 2015: $327.6 million.
  • Average salary of an elementary public school teacher in Washington state (except in special education) in 2015: $60,140.

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Upper Crust: How Billionaires Are Eating Our Democracy

Darrell West warns that the combination of wealth and secrecy is toxic to democracy…

EduShyster: Your book, Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust, makes the forceful – and might I add *hair-raising* – case that today’s brand of billionaire activism is eating our democracy. Break it down for us.

billionaires

Darrell West: I do think that combination is toxic for democracy because voters care as much about the messenger as the message and they want to know who is behind particular advocacy efforts. It matters to them whether an oil company or some other firm is pushing a position on energy. There’s been a tremendous loss of accountability within our political system over several decades. There are Supreme Court decisions that have eroded public disclosure, and there are lots of lobbying activities and other efforts to exercise influence that take place outside of the public view. People should be aware of this and concerned about how it’s affecting our political process. Continue reading →

John Arnold’s Big Fact Check

The exquisite sensitivity of being a billionaire…

Reader: last time we checked in with the rich they were different from you and me. For one thing, the rich are exquisitely sensitive, which is why the average billionaire sleeps on sheets with a thread count higher than your annual income. But the truly rich also have billions more feelings than a slob like you, which means that their feelings are easily ruffled. Fortunately they also have armies of lawyers at the ready to intervene in the event of such misfortune. And so it is with EduShyster’s favorite young billionaire John Arnold, who recently endured a feelings hurting of unendurable magnitude. Ready the Kleenex reader for this is is a tragic tale indeed… Continue reading →

The Rich R Different

Reader: the rich are different than you and I. For one thing they keep getting richer. But that’s not the only good news. The days when the rich were content to sit around grooming their corgies and watching their portfolios blossom are over. Today’s wealthy want to give back, using their wealth, or at least a small part of it, to address the pressing issues of the day. There’s just one teensy, weensy catch. No messing with the system that put them on the right side of the have/have not equation. Darling—it simply isn’t done! Continue reading →

All About the Benjamins

A retired hedge fund billionaire says that it’s time for teachers to stop living so large

Let’s face it, reader. Most teachers go into the teaching biz for one reason and one reason only: the money. And the only reason they continue to show up, day after day, year after year, is to collect the golden parachutes, otherwise known as pensions, that will make their golden years literally golden. But is there anyone brave enough to look these fat cats in the eye? Meet billionaire and 38-year-old retiree John Arnold who is on a quest to rescue the nation from large-living teachers and at last put students first.  Continue reading →