THE UNION WAY
In response to Jim Grossfeld's profile of new president of the United Auto Workers Bob King ("A New Union Contract"), Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, writes to us about King's support of a new U.S.-Korea trade agreement: "The unions representing workers in the auto supply chain all oppose the pact, as does the AFL-CIO. Senior Michigan Democrats also oppose it. Their opposition is not 'knee jerk,' as Grossfeld suggests, but rather, represents the grim reality that this deal would result in the loss of many U.S. manufacturing jobs.
"The pact could increase U.S. automakers' profits -- but at the cost of U.S. auto-sector jobs. Under this deal, up to 65 percent of a vehicle's value can come from non-U.S. and non-South Korea sources and still obtain duty-free access. Sure, the automakers support this deal; it lets them source parts from low-wage countries like China and Mexico, raising their profit margins while displacing higher-wage U.S. (and Korean) workers.
"The Korea deal would kill American jobs while exposing domestic financial, environmental, and health laws to attack in foreign tribunals. That is why the fight is on to stop this NAFTA-style job-killing trade deal in Congress and make Obama live up to his campaign promises."
At the blog This Week in Education, Alexander Russo takes issue with Dana Goldstein's feature on high-stakes testing in Colorado ("The Test Generation"): "[Goldstein] describes the stresses of testing on students without acknowledging the source of the stress, teachers, and generally blames Washington for things states and districts and schools did of their own volition. My sense is that Goldstein talked to too many teachers who wanted to talk to her, a common mistake in education reporting, and that perhaps she's playing too much to a liberal readership rather than challenging them to think and giving them fresh new insights."
In response, Goldstein took to her blog: "While some teachers amp up testing stress, it seems clear to me that a district where students sit for high-stakes tests 25 days per year or more is going to have a different day-to-day, week-to-week feel than one where kids take just a few standardized tests in the spring. Teachers are not the people who set these policies, so I don't think it's fair to hold them wholly responsible." To Russo's criticism that she unfairly blames Washington, Goldstein responds that districts pursue high-stakes testing partly because of federal incentives: "We need to see how these federal guidelines are playing out on the ground in classrooms, because other-wise, we won't know how to guard against the possible unintended consequences of well-intentioned programs like Race to the Top." And to Russo's final criticism about her reporting methods: "I reported this article with the full cooperation of the Harrison District 2 administration, and I want to commend them for working with me openly and honestly. The vast majority of the teachers I report on in the piece are teachers the administration introduced me to -- people whom they felt would reflect well on the district and even support administration policies."
Other readers weighed in with different reactions. Education blogger Larry Ferlazzo says, "'The Test Generation' Is A Must-Read!" and education writer Diane Ravitch linked to the piece on Twitter, writing, "Saddest story of year: cry for Colorado."
From the Executive Editor
Does President Barack Obama's George Washington University speech on the deficit -- which featured a slam-bang (and utterly accurate) attack on House Republicans' plan to end Medicare and cut taxes for the rich -- signal a shift on Obama's part from ardent (and almost always spurned) bipartisan to Democratic champion of the middle class? This issue of the Prospect features two articles, one by pollster Guy Molyneux and the other by our own Robert Kuttner, that devoutly hope it does. Kuttner examines Obama's personal and political history to find the sources of Obama's above-the-fray theory of presidential power -- a theory that may have worked for Dwight Eisenhower at a time of near consensual support for the American social contract but sure hasn't worked for Obama at a time of economic decline, Republican intransigence, and right-wing chutzpah. Molyneux, like Kuttner, laments how Obama's bipartisan instincts have allowed Republicans to frame the debate on government around its size. Molyneux then examines public-opinion polls to find that when Obama and the Democrats reframe the debate around the purpose of government -- to provide secure retirements or to gut them in favor of tax cuts for the rich -- Obama and the Democrats do very well.
Elsewhere in this issue, Jamelle Bouie looks at the racial realignment of partisan politics in the Deep South, where white Democratic elected officials at any level of government have all but disappeared. Advantage Republicans -- but as the number of Latinos in the South steadily rises, a largely black-brown Democratic Party is growing and could test the Republicans' regional hegemony several elections hence.
The changing South and the (perhaps) changing Obama, in this issue of the Prospect. -- harold meyerson