Category Archives: Economy

Chicago Public Schools admits to ‘overstated’ graduation rate months after Mayor Emanuel’s re-election

Well, what do you know.


The College Fix: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had heralded the improved graduation rate of students in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) during his re-election campaign … right up through his February triumph.

But there’s a problem: It wasn’t true.

Last Thursday, the CPS admitted that the graduation figures were “overstated.” This came after a Better Government Association/WBEZ investigation showed “thousands of students were being counted as transfers when they should have been counted as dropouts.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reports:

CPS previously claimed that 69.4 percent of students who started high school in 2009 graduated by the summer of 2014. But on Thursday, officials revealed that the rate is, in fact, 66.3 percent.

Asked whether the numbers were fudged on purpose, CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson said when she was a principal, she knew how to properly categorize transfers.

Jackson also acknowledged that some principals might feel pressure to boost their graduation rate on paper so their school ranking is better.

CPS also revised the graduation rate for 2013, from 65.4 percent to 62.5 percent; for 2012, from 61.2 percent to 59.3 percent, and for 2011, from 58.3 percent to 56.9 percent.

The BGA and WBEZ reported in June that a review of CPS’ own records showed at least 2,200 students from 25 Chicago high schools were wrongly counted as “transfers” – departing the system for another school district from 2011 to 2014 – when they should have been considered “dropouts.”

CPS officials initially said they had no plans to go back and adjust the numbers. It’s unclear why they changed minds.

Breitbart’s Warner Todd Huston notes that Mayor Emanuel had “repeatedly cited” the inflated stats as “shining examples of the promise of Chicago’s future.”

Huston points out, too, that the CPS Inspector General had “raised the alarm over the falsified stats early this year.”

Read the full Chicago Sun-Times and Breitbart articles.


Seattle VA office lost records; veterans told benefits ending

War on our military.


Seattle Times: Dozens of West Coast military veterans incorrectly received letters indicating they’d lose unemployment benefits after an overworked Department of Veterans Affairs office in Seattle lost track of records the veterans had submitted, according to a VA Inspector General report released this week.

The mail audit stemmed from a complaint that suggested about 1,000 pieces of unread mail from veterans were being stored indefinitely in a yellow bucket without a response from employees assigned to evaluate benefits claims. In some cases, the complaint alleged, veterans were told they’d lose unemployment benefits because they had not returned information to the office in a timely manner, even though they had met their deadlines. The unemployment benefits are given to veterans who can’t hold a job because of a service-connected disability.

Auditors who visited the Seattle office in April did not find a bucket loaded with unread letters, as had been alleged in the complaint. But they took a sampling of 132 employment questionnaires and determined that one-fifth of the veterans had been sent letters indicating a reduction or cancellation of benefits, even though they’d mailed forms that should have allowed them to continue receiving money.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., on Friday wrote a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald asking him to immediately implement reforms recommended in the report, such as increasing training and demanding a high-level corrective-action plan from a VA undersecretary to address broader problems with record management.

“I am shocked by the findings of this report and I hope you will agree this situation is entirely unacceptable. This is exactly the type of mismanagement and negligence that further complicates the benefits process for veterans, leading to unnecessary stress and unacceptably delaying benefits to which these veterans are entitled,” Murray wrote.

The VA Office of Inspector General publishes reports on issues at different VA hospitals almost daily. This week’s report focusing on unread employment questionnaires fits into a series of audits the IG launched last year centered on mismanagement of veteran records.

Others in the set included:

  • A Baltimore supervisor stockpiling 8,000 documents, including 1,500 records with sensitive personal information about veterans.
  • An Oakland, Calif., office that neglected to act on thousands of claims.
  • Employees at different offices who manipulated internal records to falsify reports on the processing of claims.

In Seattle, managers of the regional office that processes veterans benefit claims acknowledged it had fallen behind in processing unemployment records. It hired a dozen more employees in April to catch up on the backlog, the report said.


See also:


UN Introduces New Feudalism Under Guise of Social Activism

Originally posted on Memory Hole:

Global Goals” Is Lavishly-Funded Public Relations Endeavor “We the People” Never Voted For

This month delegates to the United Nations ratified the so-called “Global Goals For Sustainable Development.” This will Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 8.53.44 AMinvolve a radical, far-reaching social and economic transformation of everyday life that has been in the works for decades.

In true Hegelian dialectic style, the program is taking place as various black swans linger on the economic horizon, while some of the very interests involved in the “Global Goals” are likewise putting the finishing touches on the Trans-Pacific trade agreement, designed to (not coincidentally) crush the nation state.

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California economic portrait not pretty

Apparently Californians don’t know the definition of insanity.

lauren bacall

Sacramento Bee: Federal officials released three major economic reports this month and together, they paint a dark picture of California.

Superficially, the monthly employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was good news. California added 36,300 jobs in August, 470,000 in one year and more than 2 million since the recovery began. The unemployment rate, which had topped 12 percent during the recession, dropped to 6.1 percent in August.

Meanwhile, the Census Bureau reported that California’s official poverty rate for 2014 was 16.3 percent, somewhat higher than the national rate of 14.7 percent.

Finally, a Bureau of Economic Analysis report on regional economies revealed that outside the red-hot San Francisco Bay Area, California’s economy trailed national expansion last year, and several rural areas actually saw declines.

Taken together, the voluminous data dumps reveal that those on the upper rungs of the economic ladder, and the communities in which they cluster, particularly in the Bay Area, are doing well. However, very large portions of the state, both geographically and sociologically, are struggling.

Take that 6.1 percent jobless rate. As low as that may seem, it’s still the ninth-highest among the states, a full percentage point higher than the national average and 50 percent higher than Texas’ 4.1 percent. Among the nation’s 387 Bureau of Labor Statistics “metropolitan statistical areas,” nine of the 10 with the highest unemployment rates are in California, topped by 24.2 percent in Imperial County.

Among the nation’s 51 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), the Riverside-San Bernardino region is dead last at 7.1 percent, yet environmental groups want to block a proposed new warehouse complex (and its jobs) in Riverside County.

California fares even worse by a truer measure of underemployment, called U-6, which counts not only workers who are officially unemployed, but those “marginally attached” to the labor force and those involuntarily working part-time. Our U-6 rate is 14 percent, down a bit from the recession but still the nation’s second-highest, topped only by Nevada’s 15.2 percent.

Finally, the true employment picture is affected by the “labor force participation rate,” the percentage of those in the prime working age group (16-64) working or seeking work. Ours is 62.3 percent, the lowest level in 40 years. When more than a third of potential workers sit on the sidelines, the official unemployment rate, or even U-6, look much better than they truly are. The true underemployment rate may be closer to 20 percent.

Back to the poverty rate. It’s not only higher than the national rate, but as the California Budget and Policy Center points out, the data indicate that 22.7 percent of the state’s children are living in poverty, and they are nearly a third of all officially impoverished Californians. As dark as that situation may sound, it’s actually worse. By the Census Bureau’s supplemental poverty measure, which uses broader factors including the cost of living – especially housing – 23.4 percent of Californians are impoverished.

Those data are bolstered by two other factoids. Nearly a third of California’s 39 million residents are enrolled in Medi-Cal, the federal-state health care program for the poor, and nearly 60 percent of K-12 students qualify for reduced-price or free lunches due to low family incomes.

This is not a pretty picture.


Chicago mayor prepares large property tax hike

Take a wild guess as to which party was in charge during all the years the city’s financial troubles piled up.

Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gestures prior to inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama as President of the United States in Washington

Yahoo: After watching for years as their city’s financial troubles piled up, Chicago homeowners will be told this week that it’s time for them to start paying the tab. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to propose a $543 million property tax increase on Tuesday to help eliminate pension debt, along with a schools tax for construction, according to details released late Monday by the administration.

Residents will also face more taxes and fees on garbage collection, ride-sharing services and e-cigarettes, all with the goal of easing a budget hole and repairing low credit ratings.

The steps would help reverse the city’s financial slide but could dent Chicago’s reputation for a relatively affordable cost of living. Median home prices in the nation’s two larger cities, New York and Los Angeles, are double Chicago’s.

“There’s no way around it,” said Alderman George Cardenas of the additional taxes. “If we don’t face the consequences, you pay more (later), your children will pay more and that’s no way to run a city.”

It’s unclear how residents and businesses will respond. Emanuel has faced raucous crowds at public budget hearings, but the political fallout for the former chief of staff to President Barack Obama could be delayed because he doesn’t face re-election until 2019.

lauren bacall

Some homeowners, landlords and business owners complain they already pay more than other cities in gasoline prices, sales taxes and parking. Chicago’s sales tax rate is 10.25 percent, the nation’s highest.

“Paying for picking up garbage? That’s ridiculous. That’s what my taxes are for,” said homeowner James Young, 48, who works for a textile company. “Your pay check doesn’t increase every time the taxes increase.”

However, there have been few signs the proposal would fail in the City Council, which has largely been a rubber stamp for the mayor.

Chicago’s property tax rates rank 12th nationwide, higher than Los Angeles and New York, but higher property values in those cities mean property owners pay thousands more a year, according to a Lincoln Institute of Land Policy study.

Laurence Msall, executive director of the Civic Federation, a tax and policy research organization, said the key will be persuading Chicago residents that the additional revenue will be used correctly.


“One of the biggest problems is not the tax increase but the reaction to the tax increase,” Msall said. “If people don’t think we’re going to solve things, they will leave.”

The city’s financial problems have been mounting because of inadequate contributions to the pension system and questionable borrowing, mostly under former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Chicago has the worst-funded public pension system of any major American city and a budget shortfall of at least $750 million. Illinois’ governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, has even suggested that the city school district — which credit rating agencies have rated at “junk” status — declare bankruptcy.

Emanuel has cut government costs and sought other ways to raise revenues, such as a bringing casino gambling to the city, but without success. Emanuel’s office announced ahead of Tuesday’s budget speech that the property tax will be phased in through 2019 and put toward police and fire pensions. Emanuel’s aides estimated that it would cost a resident with a $250,000 home roughly $540 more a year. Chicago saw property taxes rise in 2008, but the last major increase was in 1987.

Emanuel also plans to ask council members to approve a $45 million tax for Chicago Public Schools, along with a $9.50 per-dwelling garbage collection fee, higher costs for ride-sharing services and taxis, and a tax for e-cigarette liquid.

The revenue push comes as Emanuel attempts to strike a softer image, conceding during his re-election campaign earlier this year that his bullish style turned off some people. The mayor dropped hints that he’ll seek property tax exemptions for low income and elderly residents. But state approval is needed for the tax hike and exemptions.

“We are going to address our challenges, and I think when the governor looks at the whole budget he will see that we didn’t leave any stone unturned,” Emanuel said. “It is fair, it is equitable. It’s progressive.”



Parent makes a point about how ridiculous Common Core Math is by using it to write a check

Good man!

comon core check If you are a teacher or parent or friends with teachers or parents, you’ve probably heard about Common Core. It’s a new teaching method that’s been implemented in 46 states with the intention of helping kids not just solve problems, but understand them. When applied to math classes, Common Core has all but abolished tricks – like remembering the “less than” sign looks like an alligator – that make math easier. As someone who still uses the Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally mnemonic device when calculating a tip in a restaurant, the Common Core math standards look crazy complicated.

This new system doesn’t just affect kids and teachers – it’s driving parents nuts. It makes sense: Moms and dads who want to help their kids with homework are suddenly finding the methods undoable. Even Louis C.K., who sets aside time to help his daughters with homework, took to Twitter to express his rage at the Common Core curriculum. “My kids used to love math,” he wrote. “Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!” Yikes!

One very smart dad in Ohio decided to give the school system a taste of its own medicine, and the Internet is applauding him for his efforts. When he made out a donation check to Melridge Elementary School, he wrote the number according to Common Core standards. It kind of looks like a game of Connect Four next to some “hugs and kisses.” Obviously, no Wells Fargo employees are going to be able to decipher these hieroglyphics.

common core letter

Douglas is one of thousands of parents frustrated by the new Common Core standards. Another parent hijacked their child’s math homework to send a message to the school system. “In the real world,” the message says, “simplification is valued over complication.”

So true. One has to wonder, though: How many more hilarious yet totally on-point complaints from families have to go viral before those in charge of educating America’s youth reevaluates Common Core?


Deep State: Who really rules America

The term “deep state” refers to a secret government that operates as a state within a state. The term originated in reference to the politics of Turkey — that the country actually is ruled by a group of influential anti-democratic coalitions within the Turkish political system, composed of élites of the intelligence services (domestic and foreign), military, security, judiciary, and mafia.

In other words, deep state is The Powers That Be.

The Powers That Be - deep state

What follows are excerpts from a July 30, 2015 article by Philip Giraldi for The American Conservative. Giraldi is a former CIA officer and currently the executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

As all governments—sometimes for good reasons—engage in concealment of their more questionable activities, or even resort to out and out deception, one must ask how the deep state differs. While an elected government might sometimes engage in activity that is legally questionable, there is normally some plausible pretext employed to cover up or explain the act.

But for players in the deep state, there is no accountability and no legal limit. Everything is based on self-interest, justified through an assertion of patriotism and the national interest. […]

First of all, one should note that for the deep state to be effective, it must be intimately associated with the development or pre-existence of a national security state. There must also be a perception that the nation is in peril, justifying extraordinary measures undertaken by brave patriots to preserve life and property of the citizenry. Those measures are generically conservative in nature, intended to protect the status quo with the implication that change is dangerous.

Those requirements certainly prevail in post 9/11 America, and also feed the other essential component of the deep state: that the intervening should work secretly or at least under the radar. Consider for a moment how Washington operates. There is gridlock in Congress and the legislature opposes nearly everything that the White House supports. Nevertheless, certain things happen seemingly without any discussion: Banks are bailed out and corporate interests are protected by law. Huge multi-year defense contracts are approved. Citizens are assassinated by drones, the public is routinely surveilled, people are imprisoned without be charged, military action against “rogue” regimes is authorized, and whistleblowers are punished with prison. The war crimes committed by U.S. troops and contractors on far-flung battlefields, as well as torture and rendition, are rarely investigated and punishment of any kind is rare. America, the warlike predatory capitalist, might be considered a virtual definition of deep state.

One critic describesdeep state as driven by the “Washington Consensus,” a subset of the “American exceptionalism” meme. It is plausible to consider it a post-World War II creation, the end result of the “military industrial complex” that Dwight Eisenhower warned about, but some believe its infrastructure was actually put in place through the passage of the Federal Reserve Act prior to the First World War. Several years after signing the bill, Woodrow Wilson reportedly lamented, “We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the civilized world, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.

In truth America’s deep state is, not unlike Turkey’s, a hybrid creature that operates along a New York to Washington axis. Where the Turks engage in criminal activity to fund themselves, the Washington elite instead turns to banksters, lobbyists, and defense contractors, operating much more in the open and, ostensibly, legally. U.S.-style deep state includes all the obvious parties, both public and private, who benefit from the status quo: including key players in the police and intelligence agencies, the military, the treasury and justice departments, and the judiciary. It is structured to materially reward those who play along with the charade, and the glue to accomplish that ultimately comes from Wall Street. “Financial services” might well be considered the epicenter of the entire process. Even though government is needed to implement desired policies, the banksters comprise the truly essential element, capable of providing genuine rewards for compliance. As corporate interests increasingly own the media, little dissent comes from the Fourth Estate as the process plays out, while many of the proliferating Washington think tanks that provide deep state “intellectual” credibility are similarly funded by defense contractors.

revolving door

The cross fertilization that is essential to making the system work takes place through the famous revolving door whereby senior government officials enter the private sector at a high level. In some cases the door revolves a number of times, with officials leaving government before returning to an even more elevated position. Along the way, those select individuals are protected, promoted, and groomed for bigger things. And bigger things do occur that justify the considerable costs, to include bank bailouts, tax breaks, and resistance to legislation that would regulate Wall Street, political donors, and lobbyists. The senior government officials, ex-generals, and high level intelligence operatives who participate find themselves with multi-million dollar homes in which to spend their retirement years, cushioned by a tidy pile of investments.

America’s deep state is completely corrupt: it exists to sell out the public interest, and includes both major political parties as well as government officials. Politicians like the Clintons who leave the White House “broke” and accumulate $100 million in a few years exemplify how it rewards. A bloated Pentagon churns out hundreds of unneeded flag officers who receive munificent pensions and benefits for the rest of their lives. And no one is punished, ever. Disgraced former general and CIA Director David Petraeus is now a partner at the KKR private equity firm, even though he knows nothing about financial services. More recently, former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell has become a Senior Counselor at Beacon Global Strategies. Both are being rewarded for their loyalty to the system and for providing current access to their replacements in government.

What makes the deep state so successful? It wins no matter who is in power, by creating bipartisan-supported money pits within the system. Monetizing the completely unnecessary and hideously expensive global war on terror benefits the senior government officials, beltway industries, and financial services that feed off it. Because it is essential to keep the money flowing, the deep state persists in promoting policies that make no sense, to include the unwinnable wars currently enjoying marquee status in Iraq/Syria and Afghanistan. The deep state knows that a fearful public will buy its product and does not even have to make much of an effort to sell it.

Of course I know that the United States of America is not Turkey. But there are lessons to be learned from its example of how a democracy can be subverted by particular interests hiding behind the mask of patriotism. Ordinary Americans frequently ask why politicians and government officials appear to be so obtuse, rarely recognizing what is actually occurring in the country. That is partly due to the fact that the political class lives in a bubble of its own creation, but it might also be because many of America’s leaders actually accept that there is an unelected, unappointed, and unaccountable presence within the system that actually manages what is taking place behind the scenes. That would be the American deep state.

See also “America’s Bipartisan Ruling Class vs. the People.”