Quote of the Day: Seth Meyers On Betsy DeVos

A snowstorm in the Northeast today caused many schools in the area to close. Said Betsy DeVos, “What? The school closures weren’t supposed to start yet.”  –Seth Meyers

Country Now Evenly Divided On Impeachment Of Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s first three weeks in office have been a disaster, with Trump learning that being president is a hard job which he is not prepared for. Public Policy Polling shows that his support has dropped further from last week, with 46% both favoring and opposing impeachment:

PPP’s new national poll finds that Donald Trump’s popularity as President has declined precipitously just over the last two weeks. On our first poll of his Presidency voters were evenly divided on Trump, with 44% approving of him and 44% also disapproving. Now his approval rating is 43%, while his disapproval has gone all the way up to 53%. If voters could choose they’d rather have both Barack Obama (52/44) or Hillary Clinton (49/45) instead of Trump.

Just three weeks into his administration, voters are already evenly divided on the issue of impeaching Trump with 46% in favor and 46% opposed. Support for impeaching Trump has crept up from 35% 2 weeks ago, to 40% last week, to its 46% standing this week. While Clinton voters initially only supported Trump’s impeachment 65/14, after seeing him in office over the last few weeks that’s gone up already to 83/6.

While I don’t actually see impeachment as anything imminent, Common Dreams reports that, “On Thursday, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) filed a ‘resolution of inquiry’ that amounts to the first legislative step toward impeachment.”

The poll looked at several issues where support for Trump is falling. This includes Obamacare:

47% of voters now say they support the Affordable Care Act to only 39% who are opposed. It just keeps getting more popular. And only 32% think the best course of action to take on health care is repealing the ACA, while 65% would like Congress to keep it and just fix parts that need fixing.

More now oppose Trump’s executive order on immigration than back it. Among those in support, a strong majority see the Bowling Green Massacre as a reason for why it is needed.

Voters think he’s over reaching to make a country safe…that they already consider to be safe. 66% of Americans consider the United States to be a safe country, to only 23% who consider it unsafe. Perhaps as an outgrowth of that sentiment only 45% of voters support Trump’s Executive Order on immigration, to 49% who are opposed to it. Among those who do support it you have to wonder how well thought out their position is- by a 51/23 margin Trump voters say that the Bowling Green Massacre shows why Trump’s immigration policy is needed.

By a 48/43 spread, voters do think that the intent of the Executive Order is to be a Muslim ban. And just 22% support a Muslim ban, to 65% who are opposed. The order has also increasingly raised issues about Trump’s competence in voters’ eyes- only 27% think the Executive Order was well executed, to 66% who think it was poorly executed. The spread on that question was 39/55 when we asked last week.

Another aspect of voters already feeling safe is that they don’t want to pay for the wall with Mexico. Just 32% support a 20% tax on items imported to the United States from Mexico, to 55% who are opposed to that concept. And in general only 37% of voters want the wall if US taxpayers have to front the cost for it, to 56% who are against that.

Betsy DeVos is also unpopular. Protesters were trying to prevent Betsy DeVos from entering a public school. While I totally sympathize with their view of her, I’m not sure this is a good idea. I don’t know if she has ever even seen the inside of a public school before. It might be a good idea for her to see what a public school is like, and that they are not threatened by grizzly bears. If they did want to keep her out they might have dressed up as grizzly bears in burkas. What could be scarier to her? (For those not familiar with her record, see this post.)

Betsy DeVos Joins Donald Trump’s Bizarro World Cabinet

Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Education secretary today, joining Donald Trump’s Bizarro World cabinet despite the lack of any experience in education beyond lobbying against it, along with massive conflicts of interest. I imagine the next step will be to replace public education with vouchers for Trump University.

I have previously posted some background information on Betsy DeVos for the benefit of those who have not been here in Michigan to observe her major contributions towards moving the state towards the right and damaging public education. This includes How Betsy DeVos Used God and Amway to Take Over Michigan Politics from Politico Magazine, and a letter from fellow graduates and students of Calvin College opposing her nomination. In addition, The Washington Post had A sobering look at what Betsy DeVos did to education in Michigan — and what she might do as secretary of education:

President-elect Donald Trump has made a number of controversial cabinet nominations already. But none seems more inappropriate, or more contrary to reason, than his choice of DeVos to lead the Department of Education.

DeVos isn’t an educator, or an education leader. She’s not an expert in pedagogy or curriculum or school governance. In fact, she has no relevant credentials or experience for a job setting standards and guiding dollars for the nation’s public schools.

She is, in essence, a lobbyist — someone who has used her extraordinary wealth to influence the conversation about education reform, and to bend that conversation to her ideological convictions despite the dearth of evidence supporting them…

Largely as a result of the DeVos’ lobbying, Michigan tolerates more low-performing charter schools than just about any other state. And it lacks any effective mechanism for shutting down, or even improving, failing charters.

We’re a laughingstock in national education circles, and a pariah among reputable charter school operators, who have not opened schools in Detroit because of the wild West nature of the educational landscape here…

What Detroit needs are better, high-quality choices — public, charter, whatever.

But DeVos and her family have stood in the way of improving what we have. They’ve stood for the charter industry and its middling results, over our kids.

I’m certain she’ll try to make the nation’s charter landscape look more like the chaos we face here in Detroit, and less like it does in states like Tennessee or Massachusetts or Maryland — all much better performers who have tighter reins on charter creation and proliferation.

Her lobbying hasn’t been good for Detroit, or Michigan.

It won’t be good for the nation.

My prediction about Trump University above is only a slight exaggeration considering the conflicts of interest DeVos has been involved with, including Neurocore, a company with a reputation for using high pressure sales tactics to sell unproven treatments for ADHD. The Hill has posted The ethics case against Betsy DeVos:

As former ethics counsels to Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, we’ve reviewed more than our share of ethics filings for cabinet nominees. Seldom have we seen a worse cabinet-level ethics mess than that presented by Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s choice for education secretary.

Her extensive financial holdings present significant—and unresolved—conflict of interest issues. She also failed to provide the Senate with accurate information about her involvement with outside organizations. We have regretfully come to the conclusion that these concerns disqualify DeVos for that cabinet position.

…DeVos’ failure to meet even minimum standards leaves us with no choice but to speak out.

For example, DeVos intends to maintain the $5 million to $25 million she and her husband have invested in Neurocore, a biotech company that claims to have “helped thousands of children” with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Neurocore is listed with its logo and a link to its website along with several other investments on a website operated by Windquest Group, an investment company owned by DeVos and her husband…

In her hearing, DeVos also made claims than strain credulity. For example, she was asked under oath about tax filings that listed her as vice president of the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. The Prince Foundation, established by her parents in 1989, reportedly made significant contributions to anti-LGBT groups over the years, including at least $5 million to conservative religious groups that support conversion therapy.

DeVos denied that she had that role at the Prince Foundation, and when confronted in her hearing by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) with actual forms indicating she was an officer, DeVos attributed it to a “clerical error”—one that persisted for 17 years.

Betsy DeVos fits in this cabinet purely based upon her opposition to the government programs her department deals with, and a history of massive contributions to Republican candidates. It is certainly not due to any qualifications in education.

Bowling Green Massacre And Nomination of Betsy DeVos Promote Further Protests

After being mocked for her alternative facts in using a Bowling Green Massacre which never existed to justify Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, Kellyanne Conway admitted she was wrong said that, “Honest mistakes abound.” This was after the Bowling Green Massacre became the subject of further demonstrations. The New York Daily News reported:

New Yorkers can be a sentimental — and satirical — bunch.

That’s why it was no surprise that an impromptu vigil was held Friday honoring the Bowling Green massacre victims that never were.

“We’re commemorating the victims of Bowling Green,” said Chris Bauer as he stifled a smile. “It never happened so they were never commemorated.”

Bauer and a handful of others stood near the Lower Manhattan park, holding signs and shouting, “We all are Bowling Green, never remember never forget.”

The protests against Donald Trump’s Muslim ban included the cover of The New Yorker, showing “Liberty’s Flameout.”

The protest was international, including this cover of Der Spiegel:

Fortunately the ban has been temporarily lifted by a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush, promoting Donald Trump to make his own protests on Twitter. While he might not like it, Donald Trump is slowly being forced to learn that there are limitations on his power. In addition, there are reports that he is backing away from the idea floated last week of reopening black site prisons.

Protests against Trump are likely to be commonplace over the next four years (unless impeachment or 25th Amendment solutions make this unnecessary). The Washington Post reports on How protesters plan to get under Trump’s skin wherever he goes:

This is the reality of Trump’s honeymoon-free presidency.

Having sought to create unprecedented disruption in Washington, his critics will now seek to bring unprecedented disruption to his life as president — including demonstrations that follow him when he travels, and protests that will dog his businesses even when he doesn’t.

Already this week, Trump — the most unpopular new president in modern times — canceled a trip to visit Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee, where local groups had planned to protest his appearance; the White House said the protests were not the reason for the cancellation.

And, around the business empire that Trump still owns, his critics treat each location as an avatar for the president.

 

The Muslim ban is not the only reason for protests this weekend. Others are protesting the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Education secretary. Comedian Mike Birbiglia tweeted, “Betsy DeVos teaches us that if you’re born rich, never go to public schools, and hate public schools, someday you can run public schools.” With two Republican Senators saying they will vote against DeVos, supporters of public education are hoping to obtain a third Republican to flip, but the odds do not look good.

Two Republican Senators Express Opposition To The Confirmation Of Betsy DeVos

Living in West Michigan, I opposed the political agenda Betsy DeVos long before she hit the national stage. (I also opposed her husband’s candidacy for governor of Michigan in 2006.) I opposed her even before her nomination hearing where she showed insufficient knowledge of education policy, and stood up for guns in schools for protection against grizzly bears. Therefore, while I fear it will not be enough to block her appointment, I am happy to see that two Republican Senators have announced plans to vote against her. The Hill reports:

GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski in back-to-back speeches on the Senate floor announced Wednesday that they would oppose Betsy DeVos’s nomination to be Education secretary…

“I come to the floor to announce a very difficult decision that I have made, and that is to vote against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos to be our nation’s next secretary of Education,” Collins said from the Senate floor.

Collins specifically pointed to DeVos’s “lack of familiarly” with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, saying she was “troubled and surprised.”

Murkowski, speaking after Collins, said she had too many concerns to back DeVos.

“I have serious concerns about a nominee to be secretary of Education … who has been so immersed in the discussion of vouchers,” Murkowski said.

Politico ran the story under the headline DeVos In Trouble but also reported:

But Republicans said privately that Collins and Murkowski waited to announce their opposition once the rest of the votes for DeVos were locked up. They said that the rest of the GOP is firmly behind DeVos.

“She has the votes and will be confirmed,” said a senior GOP aide.

DeVos needs a simple majority on the Senate floor, and there are 52 Republicans. If there is a tie, Vice President Mike Pence will be the deciding vote. That would make history: According to a list provided by a Democratic aide, a vice president has never broken a tie on a Cabinet confirmation vote.

For further background on Betsy DeVos I recommend the article  How Betsy DeVos Used God and Amway to Take Over Michigan Politics from Politico Magazine. Even here in conservative West Michigan, thinking people realize she is the wrong person for the job–even many of her fellow graduates of Calvin College. MLive recently reported on Why 1,000 Calvin College alumni, students oppose Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary. A letter protesting her appointment included four main points:

1. No background in education

While many of us were inspired by our time at Calvin College to make education a professional commitment, Mrs. DeVos was not. She has never worked in any educational institution as an administrator, nor as an educator. If the position of the Secretary of Education requires the individual to have an intimate knowledge of the tools used by educators, which we believe it does, Mrs. DeVos does not qualify.

2. Lacks commitment to public education

Many of us entered Calvin College directly from Christian high schools and spent our entire elementary and secondary school years in these institutions, as did Mrs. DeVos. While we appreciate the opportunity to thrive and learn, as provided by these educational systems, we recognize that the vast majority of K-12 students are educated in the public school system. Because of this, we believe that any individual who is nominated to be Secretary of Education should have a strong commitment to public education, which Mrs. DeVos does not.

3. Limited to advocacy, campaign contributions

We believe that Mrs. DeVos’s commitment to education is limited to her advocacy of, and financial contributions to, religious and charter schools. Having the financial resources to promote one’s ideological point of view, and endorse elected officials who share that ideology, is not equivalent to the preparation that comes from being an educator or educational administrator.

4. Unwilling to support public school funding

Finally, in the first day of her confirmation hearing, Mrs. DeVos indicated a lack of support for federal policies regarding educational systems that receive public funding. This is especially concerning given that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Title IX, which ensure that all students’ educational experiences are free of discrimination that impedes learning, are not of value to Mrs. DeVos.

“Our undergraduate education prepared us to be engaged and informed citizens who support public servants who seek to serve effectively and competently. This is precisely why we oppose the nomination of our fellow alumna, Betsy DeVos, for the position of United States Secretary of Education,” according to the letter.