Defunding education, funding the prison-industrial complex

 

Prison in Coalinga, California

October 12, 2010, SF Bayview

 

Tim Young

Americans are facing the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression. States like California have responded by pulling the plug on public education. Other options exist, but policy makers are faint to trim any fat from their coveted war chest, or from the criminal justice system.

Has public education been thrown under the bus? According to a recent poll in Time magazine: 67 percent of respondents said public schools are in a crisis, and 76 percent said that teaching doesn’t pay enough. With a base income of only $32,000, teachers are definitely underpaid and unappreciated. Adding insult to injury, many have been terminated due to budget cuts.

Students, parents and educators have begun protesting: NO MORE JOB CUTS! NO MORE TUITION HIKES! In spite of these passionate pleas, public education has taken a back seat to the prison industry. Case in point, the California Department of Corrections is projected to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new Death Row. Meanwhile, schools all across the state have been forced to close.

The defunding of public education can be attributed to globalization. In 1994 Democratic President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into existence. “Cha Ching!” The ruling class had hit the jackpot! To them this was the next best thing to slavery (slave wages).

Faster than you could say “unemployed,” American companies fled south of the border, setting up shop in places like Tijuana, Mexico. Companies such as Nike and Pepsi no longer had to pay American workers a living wage. And why would they? They now had international sweatshops to profit from, and they could slave drive their “international workers” for less than $2.00 a day! Continue reading

Mexico: Oaxaca as a ‘Laboratory of Repression’– Interview with Human Rights Defender Alba Cruz


Written by Peter Watt and Alba Cruz, Upside Down World, 11 November 2010
Following the 2006 uprising in the city of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, the official crackdown on dissidents, social movements and human rights defenders reached unprecedented proportions. Human rights organizations note with alarm that the presence of around 50,000 military and police personnel patrolling the streets and controlling much of civilian life – often under the pretext of a war on narcotrafficking – has made Oaxaca and the rest of Mexico increasingly dangerous.

 

Alba Cruz, a human rights lawyer working with the Comité de Liberación 25 de Noviembre de Oaxaca, has experienced the climate of fear and intimidation first-hand. Since taking on over 100 cases relating to human rights violations in Oaxaca, which include the murder, torture and forced disappearance of activists, continual threats have been made to her personal safety. She represented Juan Manuel Martínez Moreno, the man wrongly convicted (and subsequently released in February 2010) of the murder of US independent journalist and political activist, Brad Will. Eyewitness accounts suggest that Will was shot by police dressed in civilian clothing.

Outside the Middle East, Mexico is now the recipient of the United States’ largest foreign aid program. After numerous declarations from civic and human rights groups that the program – the Mérida Initiative – closely emulates Plan Colombia, an aid program which allowed Colombia to become the most flagrant violator of human rights in the Western Hemisphere, US Congress blocked release of the funds to Mexico unless the administration of Felipe Calderón could prove it was committed to protecting human rights and investigating alleged violations. The prosecution of Martínez, who was released this year after Cruz and the Comité de Liberación 25 de Noviembre de Oaxaca presented evidence which demonstrated that he could not have murdered fellow activist, Brad Will, was a particularly cynical attempt to secure the funds of the Mérida Initiative, while justice for the real killers remains elusive.  Continue reading

Tied Tightly to the U.S., Mexico’s Economy Turns Downward

 

 

North American Congress on Latin America

Jul 27 2010
James Martín Cypher

The year 2009 was arguably the worst year of economic downturn in Mexico since the onset of the Great Depression of the 1930s. The downturn came with great forewarning, had anyone in the political and economic elite been willing to take a serious look. As the core of Mexico’s economy was collapsing at a frightening pace in late 2008, Secretary of the Treasury Agustín Carstens, Mexico’s top economic policy maker at the time, tried to laugh it off, unforgettably terming the downturn a “little cough.” Then in January 2009 came the illustrious World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where President Felipe Calderón assured one and all that Mexico had “one of the best teams of economic advisers in the world.”

All this was occurring at the very moment when the most trite cliché about Mexico and the United States had never been more true: When Uncle Sam sneezes, Mexico gets pneumonia. In this case, however, it appeared that Tío Sam had a very serious disease and that Mexico was sliding toward its deathbed. In the end, U.S. GDP slumped in 2009 by 2.4% (on an annual average basis), while Mexico’s fell by an estimated 6.5% (in inflation-adjusted terms).1 When Calderón asserts, as he often does, that the crisis was caused by “external” forces and factors, he is dead wrong: As the great recession of 2009 showed so clearly, Mexico has become an appendage of the U.S. economy.

This state of profound economic dependency was consciously constructed by the Mexican business elite, which—through the workings of the powerful Business Coordinating Council (CCE)—orchestrated the details of Mexico’s asymmetrical economic integration with U.S. capital through the NAFTA negotiations of the early 1990s. The old idea of the “external” and the “internal” makes no sense when we analyze the new relation of dependency that Mexico chose because of its faith in neoliberal salvation by way of a so-called free trade agreement. In reality the mumbo jumbo about increasing trade was really a smokescreen to open up Mexico as completely as possible to U.S. foreign investment. Continue reading