In his latest meandering diatribe, MSNBC left-wing bloviator Ed Schultz yesterday hilariously mischaracterized the Republican Party's position on education reform as a scheme to create a cheap labor force of ignorant Americans by abolishing public education.
"They want us to be just like the folks in Indonesia," fumed Schultz. "They love the cheap labor. They love the 40 cents an hour stuff. So the best thing we can do on the right is what they're saying: let's just eliminate, let's abolish public education."
The incensed host of "The Ed Show" pressed on, invoking identity politics:
And you know what, the blacks in America, the Latinos, Hispanics in America, they're poor anyway, they're not going to be able to afford public schools because we're going to abolish them. And they're not going to be able to afford private schools with their income level. Hey, we'll have our own little China workforce right here in America.
David Harmer, Republican candidate for Congress in California, provided the initial spark for Schultz's powder keg after writing in the San Francisco Chronicle that "government should exit the business of running and funding schools." Naturally, Schultz omitted the full context of Harmer's remarks, which reveal a more nuanced and pragmatic position on education policy.
"Of course, not all private schools excel, and not all public schools lag," observed Harmer, who noted in the piece that he is a father who wants the best for his children. "On balance, however, the public school system does more to interfere with learning than to promote it."
Sensitive to cost concerns for low-income families, Harmer reasoned, "As a transitional measure, the needy could receive means-tested vouchers (school stamps, like food stamps) or a refundable tax credit for tuition and other educational expenses (like the earned income tax credit)." Means-tested vouchers and tuition assistance sure sound like effective ways to create a rigid caste system in America.
At the end of the piece, Harmer advocated passage of Proposition 38, which in 2000 was a state ballot initiative that would not have abolished public schools in California, but would have awarded vouchers worth $4,000 per year for qualifying private schools. Prop 38 would have empowered parents with choice and generated competition in education, but the measure failed.
Despite this context, an indignant Schultz asked the viewers of his October 14 program: "Are you with these nut jobs or against them? This is what the Republican Party has become."
Of course, even if Harmer's position was as simplistic as the caricature Schultz drew rather boorishly, one California congressional candidate does not represent every Republican, in every district, across the entire country. But that's precisely the connection Schultz tried to make: "I mean, I cannot believe how many Republicans openly are against and basically hate public education and are on a mission to destroy it."
Which Republicans, Ed? The ones who supported former DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee's efforts to reform one of the worst performing public school systems in the country? Or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's crusade against the entrenched interests in Trenton that jeopardize the public school system by running the state budget into the ground? Schultz's demagoguery is not just devoid of fact, but is an unscrupulous attempt to vilify those interested in meaningful education reform.
Nevertheless, Schultz prattled on about the conservative "nut jobs" who "have no focus for the people" and who only care "about the money" before turning to Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), who parroted the rancorous cable host.
"It's astonishing to me, because, you know, there certainly were pro-education Republicans in the past," explained Courtney, in a considerably more reasonable manner than Schultz. "What will the middle class do?" lamented the two-term congressman who sits on the House Education Committee. "I mean, the fact is, is that that is a strategy for failure for America."
Schultz wrapped up the segment by claiming that Republicans would create a "two-class society" if they regained control of Congress, while Courtney fretted about his Republican colleagues's "very distressing" stance on education. Intellectual dishonesty from a divisive cable host like Schultz is nothing new, but a sitting member of congress should be ashamed for participating in and furthering such vacuous dialogue.
A full transcript of the segment can be found below:
October 14, 2010
6:00 P.M. EDT
ED SCHULTZ: Good evening Americans, and welcome to The Ed Show tonight from New York. These stories on the table and hitting "My Hot Buttons" at this hour. Folks, you just can`t make this stuff up. A Tea Party candidate out there in California wants to end the public school system in America? Now, this is the choice in this election. Are you with these nut jobs or against them? This is what the Republican Party has become. My commentary on that in just a moment.
In Vegas tonight, well, it's fight night. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will get his one and only chance to beat up on Sharron Angle in a heated debate. This is the event that could decide the election. More on that. Plus, Angle`s own mayor says she`s wild. I`ll show you the tape. And the guy who shot – or was shot by Dick Cheney right in the face says, "you know, he`s never gotten an apology." I mean, it`s only been five years. The guy`s still loaded up with lead and he can`t get an "I`m sorry" out of the former vice president? The shooting victim is spilling the beans. His unbelievable story in the "Playbook" tonight.
But this is the story that does have me fired up tonight. If you`re an advocate and a believer and a product of public education, I think you should pay attention to this. I mean, I cannot believe how many Republicans openly are against and basically hate public education and are on a mission to destroy it. Why? First, it was our friend New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, across the river, cutting $800 million from public schools and then beating up on the teachers in a town hall. Then it was Tea Party godfather Jim DeMint objecting to gay people and single, sexually active women teaching the schools. If you`re pregnant, you can`t be there, but you guys are okay. Now a Tea Party darling running for Congress in California wants to abolish – not advocate or eliminate – abolish, be done with public schools just all together. Now, the guy`s name is David Harmer. He`s the Republican nominee for California`s 11th District. He is trying to knock off two-term Democratic Congressman Jerry McNerney.
All right. Now, Harmer is trying to hide his radical past, but "Mother Jones" has uncovered an op-ed he wrote in "The San Francisco Chronicle" titled "Abolish the Public Schools." Harmer wrote, "Government should exit" – the word is "exit" – "the business of running and funding schools." That he wanted to go back to "the way things worked through the first century of American nationhood." Wow! I mean, out of their own material they want to take us back in time. Harmer and other Tea Party faithful, well, you see, they want to roll the country back to the 1800s. Folks, this is not the fringe of the Republican Party. This is now the Republican Party. See, back in the `90s, Harmer worked on the education issues for the Heritage Foundation. How interesting. And just today, the Heritage Foundation proudly announced that they`re united behind the Tea Party. Well, the Heritage Foundation President, Ed Feulner, co-writer of a column with Senator Jim DeMint titled "The Tea Party is the Conscience of the Nation." Well, Heritage Foundation, you know they`re the right-wing think tank which every elected official on the right has to stop through and has stopped through since 1973. Today`s marriage of convenience must mean they officially endorse the Tea Party ideas. Better this – what do you say we abolish minimum wage? Let`s eliminate unemployment benefits. Let`s phase out Social Security and privatize it. Let`s repeal this damn health care bill. Undoing the 14th Amendment, not a problem. And, of course, now we`ve got, let`s abolish public education. This is the Tea Party being adopted by the Heritage Foundation and a lot of righties out there. Tea Party mouthpiece Glenn Beck has his own plan for America`s 80 million schoolchildren.
GLENN BECK, Fox News host: I`m asking the seniors, I`m asking you if you`re retired, what the hell are you doing on a golf course? What are you doing? Will you consider home-schooling your grandchildren, picking it up as a project? It will give you purpose and new life.
SCHULTZ: Yes! After 40 years of working and saving up for retirement, why don`t you just do a little bit more and have some purpose in life? And by the way, if do you this, grandparents, I won`t have to pay any more taxes in New Jersey, or Connecticut, or wherever that nut job lives, for public education. Is it a deal? Do you hear that, grandparents? Get off of the golf course. Quit being lazy and teach your grandkids advanced biology. Or maybe you could try calculus. You see, conservatives, they flat-out don`t give a damn if you`re professionally trained because they like it as long as you`re free. The only result of that would be social engineering of America`s children. Are you for that? Resulting in a less educated, overworked society. Think about that – less educated, overworked society. They want us to be just like the folks in Indonesia. They love the cheap labor. They love the 40 cents an hour stuff. So the best thing we can do on the right is what they`re saying: let`s just eliminate, let`s abolish public education. Hell, we don`t have to pay any more taxes. We`ll float that money right to the top two percent. We`ll keep the working man down in America. And you know what, the blacks in America, the Latinos, Hispanics in America, they`re poor anyway, they`re not going to be able to afford public schools because we`re going to abolish them. And they`re not going to be able to afford private schools with their income level. Hey, we`ll have our own little China workforce right here in America.
That`s what this election is about, which brings me back to the California congressional candidate, David Harmer. Now, if the Heritage – the former Heritage Foundation education expert has his way, the school you went to, well, is going to close its doors. And I have to ask a town that I worked in for 30 years, Fargo, North Dakota. And I know there`s a lot of Tea Partiers up there on the northern plains. Can I just ask you this one question? Do you want to close Lincoln Elementary School on the south side? Do you want Fargo North and Fargo South to shut her down? Let`s go across the river to Moorhead High School, one of the best hockey programs in the country. Let`s get rid of that, too. Hell, let`s get rid of everything that costs money. The conservatives have turned into nothing but a bunch of nut jobs. They have no focus for the people, they have no plan for jobs. All they are is about the money. And they will be so brash in this midterm because they`ve got nothing to lose. If they pick up some seats great, they`ll come back the party of no. But they really have nothing to lose, so let`s take some real extreme positions and make sure that we really get our base out there, and let`s just say, the hell with public education, let`s abolish it. Notice how it`s all the Tea Partiers that are coming out and saying this? But then, of course, you get some Republicans in there saying, "well, you know, really, maybe we should do that, it is about the money."
No, it`s about America`s future. And you see, in the last – ever since we`ve invaded Iraq, no one has asked Americans to sacrifice. I`m a top two percenter. Nobody`s asked me to sacrifice anything. It`s all take, take, take. But now all of a sudden we`re supposed to get public education to serve it up and sacrifice it. More of our infrastructure that would be lost in this country. This is the Republican Party. And, Mr. President, I thought you were a little bit light today with these young voters, because these righties are getting in the minds of young voters right now thinking that this is really how America should be run, when it wasn`t the way America was built. Yes, Mr. President, I agree. I think that you have to talk to young voters in this country, whether they vote or not, whether they`re motivated or not, because the stuff that`s filling into their ears from the right wing is dangerous to America.
Let`s get to our telephone survey tonight. The number to dial is 1- 877-ED-MSNBC. My question tonight is: are you in favor of abolishing the public school system? Are you in favor of abolishing the public school system? Because this is what the righties want to do. Press 1 for yes, press 2 for no. And I`ll bring you the results later on in the show. Joining me now is Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney. He sits on the House Education Committee. Congressman, good to have you with us tonight.
Rep. JOE COURTNEY (D-Conn.): Absolutely, Ed. Great to be on the show.
Do you really – am I over the top here?
COURTNEY: No. No.
SCHULTZ: Do the Republicans want to get rid of public education?
COURTNEY: No. You know, your point about this is about America`s future. It was underscored in July when the National College Board issued its report for America`s college completion rate. We were number one in the world in 1986. Today we are number 12 in the world. This is literally, as you said, about America`s future. And the causes of why we`ve slid so badly is really not because of kids in their last year of high school, or even those kids who are in college. It starts at preschool through grade 12. And the abandonment in terms of the commitment of this country which really goes back to President Lincoln, you know, is really hurting.
SCHULTZ: But why, Congressman, why are the Republicans all of a sudden down the stretch in this election cycle so focused on public education and making it the boogeyman, as if it has no value whatsoever?
COURTNEY: It`s astonishing to me, because, you know, there certainly were pro-education Republicans in the past. And I think that the business community certainly understands that our competitive ranking in the world will really depend on whether we have a workforce that`s capable of facing the challenges of the future.
SCHULTZ: I mean, this is beyond attacking the New Deal. This is new territory, isn`t it?
COURTNEY: It is. And as I said, I mean, you would sort of almost view it as outlandish. But if groups like Heritage, which definitely is a very powerful force in Washington, are staking out these kinds of positions, then, again, it is a real threat in terms of the ability of this country to move forward.
SCHULTZ: Well, that was my next question. Are you surprised that the Heritage Foundation has moved even further to the right, or have they been a wolf in sheep`s clothing all along?
COURTNEY: You know, this really is, in my opinion, a new low. And we`ve done hearings on education reform, which is an issue that will be front and center of the next Congress. So, frankly, there isn`t, in my opinion, just a coincidence here, if this issue is coming up. You know, the business community understands we have got to get a system that is ready to face the challenges. Our country is really slipping and falling behind, as the College Board demonstrated in July.
SCHULTZ: Well, if you get rid of the public school system the way the Republicans want to do it –
COURTNEY: Can`t do it.
SCHULTZ: You know, I know I`m not qualified to do any home-schooling. Way back when, those days are past me. But the point is, is they`re operating under the assumption that, hey, you just have to go to private school and you`ve got to pay for it. That, of course, will give us a two-class society. What are the minorities in this country, what are the economically challenged people in this country going to do if they have to pay to go to school? I mean, that`s what the Republicans want. Isn`t it?
COURTNEY: What will the middle class do? I mean, the fact is, is that that is a strategy for failure for America. And that really should be the bottom line here, is that, at a time when the baby boomers are going to be retiring in big numbers from, you know, high-skill essential jobs, I mean, we need to have a system that`s ready to replace that change.
SCHULTZ: Yes. You know, and I don`t want our viewers to think that I don`t believe that there have to be some upgrades and we have to refine our education system. One of the reasons why we have problems in public education is because everybody`s welcome. And every problem comes through the door, every asset comes through the door.
COURTNEY: That`s right.
SCHULTZ: That is the bottom line. It`s public. You`re going to have all kinds of issues. But it just seems to me that the conservatives, the Republicans, have put a target on the back of public education and vilified it to the max, thinking that it`s going to be some popular position going into the midterms. And I appreciate you speaking up. But I can just imagine what Senator Ted Kennedy would be saying right now with this kind of garbage being pushed out there by some candidates.
COURTNEY: No, it`s very distressing, because, you know, there really was some consensus even about 10 years ago about the fact that, you know, we`ve got a real problem here in terms of our country`s future. And there was, I think, real dialogue going on, you know, both in terms of business community, labor, teachers, and now it`s just become, again, another one of these hyper-partisan, poisonous debates which, at the end of the day, is just going to hurt us as a country.
SCHULTZ: Congressman, good to have you with us tonight.
COURTNEY: Okay, Ed. Always a pleasure.
SCHULTZ: Joe Courtney, thank you so much. You bet.