Sunday, December 13, 2020

President Snowflake

All you need to know about Donald Trump has been on display since the presidential election. Yes, I know that the previous three years plus have been pretty bad, but he's gone above himself since November. It's obvious that he doesn't at all understand how our elections work and why, given the characteristics of the vote this year, he could be winning in the PM, but losing come the AM. 

And I'm not saying that this is some political ploy by a savvy operator who'e just trying to rile up his supporters. It's clear he's just oblivious to how our system works, how votes are counted, how a democracy operates, why even Republican politicians don't support his lawsuits, and, most important, to the fact that he's just not that popular. Polls consistently put his approval ratings under 50% for almost every day of his presidency. He won 46% of the vote in 2016 and 47% in 2020. So mush has been made of the fact that he's won 74 million votes so far. Joe Biden's won 81 million. He wins.

Even more than that, though, is Trump's sense that all Republicans and conservative judges must be on his side rather than on the side of the Constitution. This is obviously the most dangerous aspect of his actions. It's one thing to be transnational about policy; it's quite another to fervently believe that since you appointed a judge, that the judge will side with you simply because you...appointed them. I was heartened when the Supreme Court ruled rather curtly that Texas had no standing or evidence to prove anything other than the president thinks he's entitled to win. I was also not surprised that the two justices who said the case could go forward were Alito and Thomas. They've been out of the mainstream for as long as they've been on the court.

Then there are the Republican legislators and governors who also backed the president. I understand party unity and making sure you win your next election, but supporting what is essentially a coup by trying to enable state legislatures to appoint Trump electors despite having no evidence of fraud or chicanery, is madness. And dangerous. 

If you need to upend an election in order to sate the Republican base, then the problem is the base and all people who believe that Republicans and Democrats, legislators and governors, election workers, all media outlets except the ones you determine to be truthful, technology companies, foreign agents, and government workers worked night and day to deny Donald Trump what he, in fact, lost. The election. The popular vote. Enough states for Joe Biden to win 306 electoral votes.

I am still hoping that the president will invite Joe Biden to the White House sometime next week, after the Electoral College has made Biden's win official, but of course I would not be surprised if it didn't happen. Most likely, Donald Trump will make a graceless exit, not attend the Inauguration, and continue to complain endlessly about how unfairly he was treated. As the ultimate snowflake, who couldn't handle the judgement of the people, he will go down in history as just another impeached one-term president. Let's move on to brighter days.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Larger Transition Is Upon Us

For Democrats, it could have been worse. The Senate seats that seemed within reach probably never were, despite what the polling said. The expanded House majority did not materialize as Republican candidates ran hard on painting Democrats as socialists and soft on support of the police. State legislatures that started to move leftward in 2018 snapped back to the right, which means that Republicans will draw gerrymandered maps in many of the states that stand to gain representatives and electoral votes in 2022 and 2024. And the Supreme Court? know.

Why, then, am I feeling pretty good about the direction of the country?

Because the biggest loser was Donald Trump, who lost because he alienated enough suburban women and moderate Republicans that they voted for Joe Biden for president and, it seems, their local and state Republicans because they are...wait for it...Republicans. And Donald Trump is no Republican. He belongs to his own reality, and that reality was too dangerous or anti-science or anti-democratic or racist or misogynist or all of the above for the mainstream GOP. Add in many voters, especially white men who came back to the Democrats in the upper Midwest and Pennsylvania, and there's Biden's victory. Georgia and Arizona were added bonuses that were on the cusp of becoming bluer in past elections. This year, it happened. 

The biggest slap in the president's face was that he might have given wavering conservatives and moderate Republicans enough reason to switch to the Democrats this year. After all, conservatives have a solid majority on the court, and the Senate will likely stay Republican, but even if it doesn't, Republicans can filibuster and block progressive legislation. Also, Democrats like Joe Manchin are not voting for tax hikes on the wealthy or court packing. Further, taxes will stay low and the economy will probably rebound once there's a vaccine. We don't need the drama anymore. It's the perfect environment for gridlock and stability.

We have, though, taken the first step toward the political center and are on our way leftward, no matter what other pundits will say. Democrats who believed that there would be a blue wave and a landslide this year were fooling themselves. First of all, Donald Trump is far more popular than many Democrats wanted to give him credit for. His approval ratings since he took office were around 45-47%. He won 47% of the popular vote. It shouldn't have been a surprise. And in the United States, we do not generally swing wildly from one political extreme to another. We are in a conservative era that took 40 years to mature. We will eventually be in a more liberal era, but that will take time and hard political ground work.

Still, the election of 2020 is an improvement over what could have been, and it should serve as one building block toward a more inclusive, prosperous future. Most important is that the climate will finally be at the top of the policy agenda. Coal is dead. Oil and natural gas are the fuels of the present, but Joe Biden was absolutely correct when he said they were bridge fuels to the future. The decision by Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, to abandon the Justice Department's case meant to force California to give up its more stringent environmental laws is a huge win for climate policy. Electric cars and cleaner energy are in our future. If the oil and fracking companies want to be a part of that, then they better change their direction now, or they will be in the Kodak, U.S. Steel, Compaq, Blockbuster, and Pan Am wing of the Bankruptcy Hall of Fame.

Democrats have a tough road ahead trying to cement a new coalition, given that many more Latinos and Black men voted Republican than in past elections. They need to make the case that government can work if given proper resources, and that they can enable people to get affordable health care, child care, better roads, airports and schools, and support when things get bad. If Republicans get in the way, then Democrats need to play hardball, and blame when necessary, Joe Biden wants to be a healer and a uniter, but he also needs to send a message that is clear and unambiguous for those who will stand in the way.

Donald Trump has demonstrated since the election, that he cares only about himself and is uninterested in helping the country through the pandemic. It's time to move on from him.

To a brighter future.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Real Fraud

 I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't know why anyone, and I mean anyone, listens to anything, and I mean anything, Donald Trump says. 

He won the election? No. 

He's going to get states to appoint alternate electoral college voters who will undo the will of the people? No.

He's the best Republican president since Lincoln? No.

It's clear that he doesn't care at all about the country or democracy or unity, but only about himself and how history will see him as a minor, failed, one term president who lost because he couldn't adequately meet the most serious challenge of his presidency. In fact, history will remember him as the president who refused to wear a mask, told the country to take unproven medicine and bleach to fight Covid, and victimized responsible politicians who followed science and common sense rather than worrying about how the pandemic was going to effect Donald Trump.

He's also going to be remembered as the president who couldn't even consider that he might lose the election to a more qualified, less hyperactive candidate who spoke sensibly and genuinely to the American people. Donald Trump could have easily won this election, but his strategy in the first debate was a debacle, and his reliance on conspiracy theories regarding Joe Biden's son and mail-in ballots, and that darn virus likely did him in.

And it's not like Donald Trump is in any way a popular president. He lost the popular vote in 2016 with 46% of people voting for him and 48% for Hillary Clinton. During his presidency, his approval ratings rarely rose above 46% and only in the pandemic's early days did it rise above 50% before moving back down into the 40s. In the 2020 election he improved his share of the vote from 46% to...47%. In an election where more Americans than ever took part. In every case, he claimed fraud, illegal voters, and other plots robbed him of his rightful majority. The only thing he didn't claim was the truth; that he didn't, never did, and doesn't now, have the approval of a majority of this country.

Joe Biden has so far won 51% of the popular vote, and more votes are being counted. Joe Biden got more votes than any other presidential candidate in the history of this country. Joe Biden won the election. I just don't see where Donald Trump can claim anything other than he lost the election. Period.

But rather than show any grace or respect for the country, its democratic institutions, and its people, Donald Trump has to drag us through a process that has seen him lose in court after court because he has no case and no facts. He certainly has his supporters and spineless Republican officeholders who fear that if they tell him the truth he'll have them defeated in primaries, but, again, there's no case for anything other than helping to transition the country from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration. 

Anything else does damage to the country.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Return of Hope Runs Into the Reality of Politics

Well, that was exciting. And in the end, most gratifying. Joe Biden will be the next president and Kamala Harris will be the first female vice president in the nation's history. The Democrats will hold the House of Representatives and have two chances to take nominal control of the Senate, if they can win both runoff elections in Georgia. Which all of a sudden seems eminently achievable. 

I know that many Democrats were surprised and rather annoyed that this was not a landslide election and that Republicans won back some House seats and held off Democratic challenges in the Senate. Most of all, they wonder why Biden didn't win with 58% of the popular vote, given how they feel about Donald Trump. The reason is that this country is divided by party, and that most Republicans voted...Republican, just as most Democrats voted for their party, and it was naive to think that 10 or 20% of Republican voters would vote Democratic when they had a president who gave them pretty much all they wanted in terms of ideology. The tweets? We ignore them. The outbursts and personal affronts? No politician is perfect. The Supreme Court? Ours. For years.

The truth is that Joe Biden won this election because enough voters, including a swath of Republicans, rejected Donald Trump. His tweets and speeches were just too vile. His grasp of basic facts was too loose. His undermining of basic and cherished American values and norms was too deep. His uncompromising ignorance on the issues was too great. His inability to make deals the result of his being politically inept. I understand that to a great number of Americans, these were actually his strengths, and they supported him because he promised to shake the system to its core so it finally served those who thought the country was becoming untethered from its rightful course.

Those people are in the minority, and have been since 2016, and you can't have a functioning democracy when a minority of voters determine who wins the highest office in the land. Further, Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections. And now the Supreme Court reflects that minority's view. It's no wonder that the country is angry. The will of the majority has been thwarted. Again; that's no way to run a democracy.

What really defeated Donald Trump, though, was Covid-19. Last January, I truly believed that Trump would be reelected because the economy was in great shape. People had jobs, the poverty rate was falling, and in a presidential election year, it is the economy that generally determines the fate of the incumbent. Then came February, and the beginning of the end. The president decided that he was going to fight the virus on his terms. Bad decision. 

Yes, Trump tried to seal the border, but he also tried to minimize the virus, and worse, tried to manage the number of reported cases so the numbers looked better than they were. He dismissed the science, sidelined the country's experts on infectious diseases, and promoted dubious, and deadly, remedies. 

And of course, there was the issue of masks. Right wing groups who believed their fundamental rights were being denied because governors and mayors wanted to keep people healthy and alive became prominent. Those who actually believed a real estate developer when he said they should go shopping and dining, as opposed to the scientists who said these were bad ideas, spread the disease. The vaccine he promised was never going to be ready on his political schedule. 

To be blunt; most things the president said about the virus and its effects were incorrect or untrue, and most everything the scientists said turned out, at some point in the argument, to be accurate. The more the virus spread, the more the president tried to ignore it. Then, he just ignored it. Now the virus breaks records day by day, and the winter hasn't even begun. Both Trump and Mike Pence said during the debates that the prediction was that if we did nothing, over 2 million people would die. We're on course for about 500,000. Does that make anyone feel good about the administration's response? So far, about 70 million people have said no.

For many Democrats and Independents, the virus was just one more excuse to vote against Donald Trump. He wallowed in conspiracy theories, didn't condemn right wing terrorists loudly enough, if at all, and made it clear from the beginning of his term that he was not going to make any effort to widen his appeal or attempt to govern for the good of all the people of this country. 

He had no health care plan, and his administration is arguing to end the protection for people who have preexisting medical conditions before the Supreme Court in a few weeks. He has eviscerated environmental laws in favor of placating the coal, oil, and gas industries that pollute and warm the planet. His administration's policy was to actually separate children from their parents at the southern border. He is using his Justice Department as a personal attorney service to investigate his enemies and those who have not been sufficiently supportive of his policies. He did nothing to address the deep seated racism woven into the fabric of American society. He tried, and was impeached for, leaning on the President of Ukraine to find dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

And in what I found to be one of the more confounding practices of the Trump Administration, he never really used his office to promote his policies by speaking to the American people. Yes, he tweeted, but there is nothing like the president speaking to the country through television. In many instances, Trump stepped on his own good news by constantly using social media to comment on events as they unfolded, rather than using the media to tell a coherent story and to promote legislation. I get that he wanted to be a disruptive president, but rather than constantly calling the media fake, he should have copied the Reagan and Clinton playbooks and used the media for his own ends and forced them to report on what he wanted. Too many stories per day just muddied the waters.

Now Joe Biden is asking the country to unite and put aside its vast differences, but that will be almost impossible in the short term and difficult in the long term. We are too divided. We sometimes believe in two wildly different realities. We rely on separate systems of fact. We blame the other side for being dangerous. Many Democrats hashtagged NotMyPresident onto their social media identities in 2017. The president is doing the same thing now by questioning the legitimacy of the election and of Joe Biden's presidency.

Trump's supporters love what he's done on immigration and taxes and the courts and political correctness and trade and foreign affairs. They are afraid of the disturbances and riots in the cities and are repelled by the ideas that were a major part of the far left wing of the Democratic party. I'm fairly sure an analysis of voting will show that many Republicans and Independents voted Biden for president, but voted Republican for Congress and state/local offices. This is not uncommon, and quite honestly, I understand this sentiment. Trump was too much, but giving free reign to the Democrats was beyond what many people wanted to happen. That's why there was no landslide.

The next few days and weeks will be rocky. Donald Trump cried fraud when he won in 2016, and he spent the majority of his campaign saying that the only way he could lose was because of voter fraud. Unfortunately, many people believed him. What did you think was going to happen when he's losing? He will eventually have to concede, but this is a man who believes firmly in his own propaganda. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that he goes away mad, but that he does go away.

The Republicans spent the past four years playing hardball politics. It's time for the Democrats to do the same for the next four. That means promoting their agenda and reminding people why they voted for Joe Biden. This will not be a progressive's dream, and many Democrats will be frustrated by the slow, perhaps glacial, pace of change. Joe Biden's election will slow the train, but it will not reverse it. It took the conservatives 40 years to get to this point. Democrats have to understand that this  election represents the beginning of the process.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Campaign's Final Days

Presidential campaigns always last too long. I think we can nominate, debate, scare, insult, propagandize, and raise obscene amounts of cash in two months and then be done with it. Start in September. Done by November.

Of course, this campaign is different from most others because of the virus and because of the candidates and because of the virus. President Trump did not help himself by catching Covid-19 by flouting every bit of science we have about how the virus spreads, and then telling the country not to be afraid of it. I've been trying to find some rationality in the man, but I can only conclude that he really doesn't have a whole lot of empathy in his personality and that he is tone deaf to the fact that we're on the way to 250,000 dead and countless millions affected by this scourge.

And Joe Biden? Solid debate performances, but nothing really special, but then again, he doesn't need to do much other than act presidential and appeal to the more rational among us who see the value in not gathering with thousands of other unmasked people at a political rally, football game, biker confab, or mass pig roast. In addition, this is exactly the type of campaign that Biden needed; no big rallies, few occasions to say something mystifying, odd, offensive or wrong, and against an opponent who wallows in conspiracy theories and personal vendettas. 

The Trump Administration can say all it wants about how it handled the initial outbreak of the virus, but the fundamental error was the president's decision to fight the numbers associated with Covid-19. By trying to minimize the number of people infected and to control how many cases were reported, the administration missed an opportunity. What they should have done was embrace what was going to happen and set up the president as leading the fight against it. I know he said he was trying to calm the situation, but he only ended up telling us that it would be over soon, which is something that he never should have said because he couldn't make it happen. Banking on a vaccine is not a bad idea, but again, hyping a vaccine every few weeks when clearly we weren't going to get one for at least six to eight months does not enhance his credibility.

Yes, I know that the millions of Americans who support President Trump have assigned him a credibility that has a wide, no, yawning gap in it that's enough for two or three jumbo jets to pass through, so his saying that the virus is nothing to fear and that a cure is just around the corner are comforting rather than irresponsible. What troubles me is that so many people are willing to listen to him over experienced, professional scientists. This is why we are in the midst of a terrible new wave of the virus in exactly the states and localities where the president has so much support. Thankfully, not as many people are dying, but they still getting sick. Wear a mask. Please.

As for the issues, well, we certainly haven't had a robust debate over health care and taxes and foreign affairs and anything else related to how we should be moving forward as a country. That's a shame, but if the president wants to rehash conspiracy theories and falsehoods about how terrible the country will be if the Democrats win, then that's his choice. I prefer facts and science. Call me naive.

The president has tried to question the validity of the vote, which is a shame. Instead of creating problems, he should be working to solve them by making voting more accessible and fair. Undermining democracy is no way to run a...democracy. Of course, when your party has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, I can see where you might question allowing more people to vote. Perhaps the Republicans could change their message to, let's see, expanding health care, protecting Dreamers, making wealthy corporations pay their fair share of taxes, allowing women to make choices regarding their own bodies, and other issues upon which most of the country agrees.

Just a suggestion.

If you waited until Tuesday to vote, please make sure you do. 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Finally Leading...The Second Wave

Every day, children as young as three years old wear masks. For hours at a time. Teenagers, who are famous for being oppositional, confrontational and irrational, wear masks and wipe down school desks to ward off Covid-19.

Why is it, then, that national leaders from the president to his advisors, senators, former governors, even Supreme Court nominees, can't see the value in wearing a mask and social distancing? 

Why, indeed.

The media universe is full of people, including me, who say that they hope the president recovers, and that they're praying for him and the other leaders who have tested positive for the virus to return to their jobs quickly. 

But we shouldn't have to be doing this. We as a nation should not have to worry about grown adults who have ignored, ridiculed, and undermined every scientific and medical argument and all of the evidence we have about this virus that points crystal clearly in one direction: Wear a mask. Stay six feet apart from other people. Respect the virus. Be safe and smart.

In other words, if you're going to play in traffic, eventually the odds say you're going to get hit.

It's unconscionable for the President of the United States to mock those of us who see the danger, and want him to be a role model for the country. There is no shame in wearing a mask or doing other things that keep you distanced from the virus unless, as is clear from his behavior, you either want the virus to stop infecting people and making you look bad for not doing more to mitigate its spread, or you see yourself as weak by succumbing to common sense.

And the manner in which these government officials and advisors caught the virus is just as irresponsible. The president held large campaign rallies in Minnesota and New Jersey where attendees went unmasked, and the president's entourage was completely mask-free during the debate last Tuesday when the president might have spread the disease even more. Perhaps his overactive performance was a result of his not feeling well.

Even Chris Christie finds new ways to lose our trust and respect. Here is a man who I believed respected science, when in fact he was also unmasked when prepping the president for the debate. Now Christie is going to have to quarantine in his chair alone on the beach with his family. Finally, that photograph makes sense.

There really is no other way to look at this administration's response to the virus than anything other than an abject failure. Over 207,000 Americans have died of it. My sense is that the president is terrified that he's contracted it. The more the fever rises and the symptoms escalate, the greater the sense of panic. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had a bad case, and those around him say that he's still not back to his physically normal self. This thing kills overweight men. And there's no cure.

At least he has his government-funded health care to help him with what will now be a pre-existing condition. Remember, when he gets better, he and his administration will resume trying to take that away from others.

Perhaps this will finally lead those who actually believe the president when he says that the virus will miraculously go away to take it more seriously. Meanwhile, the second wave of the virus is beginning to gain some momentum. Two NFL games have been postponed because of outbreaks. Many state cases are beginning to rise. More people will begin to be inside with others as the weather cools. At the very least, all governors must issue orders for all citizens to wear a mask. It's not a violation of your rights. It's what will keep you alive so you can exercise them.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Need More Motivation? Be Like RBG.

We live in a strange political world where liberals are now clinging even more tightly to Chief Justice John Roberts as the last, best hope for common sense on the Supreme Court. With the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the days seem dark indeed. It doesn't even matter that Mitch McConnell shows absolutely no shame in saying that of course we're going to seat another justice in an election year just four terribly long years after the exact same scenario prompted him to defer to the good judgement of the American people and wait until after the presidential election. 

That's politics. 

It goes without saying that the president's pick will be absolutely unacceptable to the left. What gives me hope, though, is that the court can only do so much damage before it damages itself. This court reflects the rightward movement of the country and will very quickly be out of step with the emerging Democratic majority that will soon be in power. The court might strike down some laws, but Congress will eventually win out. We will have a health insurance program that works. We will have climate legislation. We will have higher taxes on the wealthy. We will have affordable housing. We will have more social justice.

Naive? No, realistic. because if we don't get these things over the next five years, then we will be in worse shape as a country than we are now, and I don't believe that the American people will stand for that. There's really no place for the conservative movement to go except to do nothing with more vigor than ever. 

And it starts with you voting for Democrats. It's clear that the Republicans have run out of ideas and only have political games to while away their time in Washington. They've won some significant victories, or at least prevented the Democrats from winning some of their own. This will only stop with a change in government.

Supreme Court fights remind us that elections do matter. In fact, they're critical. And this next one is more critical than others. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a great jurist and she demands to be a catalyst for change. We have that power.

Use it.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Back to School 2020

Most New Jersey public schools are scheduled to open this week, and like much of the rest of the country, districts are generally hoping that cases don't spike and that students follow the health guidelines that the adults have set for them.

In reality, this is all one big science experiment.

To our credit, and to Governor Phil Murphy's, New Jersey is in fairly good shape as far as the virus is concerned. Our transmission rate is low, cases numbers are dropping, and although we are tragically seeing deaths from Covid-19, we are in an environment that is far different from the carnage of March and April. Much of this occurred because we distanced ourselves, wore masks, and generally stayed home. Now that's going to change.

There has been copious and wide-ranging news coverage of the debate between those who called for opening schools for student and faculty attendance, and those who wanted them closed and for education to be delivered remotely. Each district has made their own call. Now we'll see what happens.

It's inevitable that we will see more cases in districts where students attend schools, either as a cohort on certain days or five days per week. The major issue will be the number of cases a district will tolerate before they go to all remote teaching. I'm thinking that we'll get through September, but with a 14 day lag time between virus and symptoms, the end of the month and the beginning of October will guide us.

For teachers, this has been nothing less than a summer filled with anxiety and stress. News reports citing research that showed that students need to be in school for their own learning, and for parents to be able to go back to work, minimized arguments that it is the teachers, the adults, who will be more negatively impacted by the virus. We were told to be like the medical workers who put their lives on the line for their patients. We were told, finally, that we are essential, but far many wrong reasons. Add in a national administration tilted heavily against public schools and a president who wants normalcy but does nothing to support it, and even threatens to withhold funds in the face of rising cases in many states if schools don't fully open, and you are guaranteed to have a school opening that is both chaotic and dangerous. And education becomes null and void when conditions are chaotic and dangerous.

What to do? In a word, teach. Do your best. Engage students in the curriculum. Keep in touch with parents. Be available for extra help. But more important, be safe, and if you believe you are not safe, say something. New Jersey, among too few states, has a robust association in the NJEA and its local affiliates. If you are not safe, then you need to say something to your local leadership, and they need to either address the issue or escalate it to the county or state level. 

If you believe that the district is not following the health protocols or if students are not wearing masks or distancing or coming to school sick, then you must say something. If you have been denied an accommodation because of your health or the potential for you infecting a vulnerable member of your family, then say something. Get a doctor's note. Push the district on health grounds. There is no other way.

I understand that teachers without tenure are fearful that they will lose their jobs if they push too hard. Speak with your leadership and find the most effective strategy to overcome that. Unfortunately, some districts are more punitive than others.

This pandemic has shone a bright light on the failings of the nation's education system. We need more money to implement new teaching and learning techniques. Every child should have a computer and a functioning Internet connection. Every school building should have adequate ventilation and physical supports. If teachers are being asked to put our lives on the line like medical professionals, then we must have the same up-to-date equipment that they do. New technology. Modern facilities. Desks that are comfortable. Air conditioning (!). Books. Training. Respect from the political system. 

And that leads us to the more disgraceful of the reasons to reopen schools. Schools should not be the last refuge for children needing food, shelter, protection from physical harm, health care, and emotional support. Those should come from a society that values children and families rather than one that blames them or discriminates against them or demonizes them based on their ethnicity, gender, race, beliefs, economic status or any other metric.

Perhaps this pandemic will be the catalyst for change. I hope so. That change, though, is going to have to come from teachers. We will need to speak out, and to agitate, agitate, agitate. No, this will not be an easy year or even a year that is kind to personal fulfillment. It will be a year of difficult choices,  imperfect solutions, improvisation, and mistakes made twice. It will also be another year where the country's teachers again lead the way, educating our students, advocating for children, and fighting for social justice.

After all, that's what we really signed up for.

Have the best year you can.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Friday, August 28, 2020

The Trump Riots

Let's face facts: Americans are protesting because, in part, the Trump administration and the president himself refuse to acknowledge the racial problems that are wracking the country. Even worse, the president continues to make baldly racial appeals to suburban voters by opposing and demonizing affordable housing plans. This is in addition to his dismissive attitude towards Blacks, and the Black Lives Matter movement, who have been killed or wounded by police officers and calls for racial justice from all corners of American society.

The resulting responses are what we have now: The Trump Riots. He owns them. He owns the response. He owns the neglect. He owns the feeble response. He owns the divisiveness.

Of course, the president is not one to see the reality of what's going on, so he's trying to say that terrible things will happen if Joe Biden is elected president. The problem is that terrible things are happening because Donald Trump is president and because of Donald Trump's racist domestic policies. Worse, the disorder and divisiveness will continue as long as Donald Trump is in the White House. The president is uninterested in actually solving the racial problems, which means that things might get worse before they get better.

The best action this country can make is to elect Joe Biden as president, because he will actually do something to address the concerns of those who are protesting, making it less likely that we will have more violence. Make sure you register and vote.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Real Voter Fraud

We have come to the point in the conservative movement that began in 1980, where all of the mainstream ideas have been exhausted. Only the fringe ideas are left. That's why we're seeing slavish adulation of tax cuts that mainly benefit the wealthy and the administration slashing government regulations simply because they are government regulations. This is why it's now easier for companies to pollute, require anyone with a dispute to endure arbitration, which is administered by the companies themselves, instead of being able to go to court, and for huge corporations to essentially pay zero income tax.

And now come the conspiracy theories, the biggest one being the amount of voter fraud that takes place during elections. The real fact is that there is no voter fraud problem, only a problem of those who are afraid of losing power to non-whites or who see that a majority of Americans do not support the Republican agenda, so they need to protect their tiny Electoral College advantage in presidential elections.

Add in a president who only understands issues that relate directly to him and who is still freakishly focused on the idea that he did not win the popular vote because of illegal voting, and whose policies, or lack thereof, are responsible for the country's chaotic and deadly approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, and what you get is a big smelly mess.

It would be really nice if the president would work toward a solution to the challenges of voting by mail. Making sure that all voters have access to their ballot, perhaps asking states to allow voting to begin two weeks prior to election day, funding the post office and stations where people can drop off their ballots rather than mailing them would be a wonderful start. But the president is actively working against those improvements even as he and his family continue to vote by mail. The upside down world must be a beautiful place, because so many people are willing to live there.

In the end, it's up to people to require changes in their local communities and states, because that's who has jurisdiction over elections. Organize with other voters and make sure that your town or county has a plan that will enable people to vote in a manner that safeguards their health and safety. The federal government can't tell states how to run elections or that they can't send out mail-in ballots to all voters.

But above all, make sure that you are registered to vote and that you do so. That's the only way we can safeguard our democracy.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Education Revolution Will Not Be Zoomed

So much of the debate about how to open K-12 schools next month is based on the effects that having remote school will have on children.

The newest C.D.C. guidance, released on Friday is, quite honestly, another example of this country thinking small, thinking politically, thinking  that teachers will somehow avoid the virus, and thinking that it can get back to some semblance of normal, when it is clear that we need new thinking and new ideas. Of course, none of that will come from either the president or the Secretary of Education, so we're on our own here.

What's so disappointing about what the C.D.C. said was that it assumes that very little will change about American society and education before school opens. Indeed, much of the assumptions that other writers have discussed say that children need to go back to school because they might not have food or computers or the Internet or parental support or emotional and physical safety if they are home. And that, in and of itself, is the indictment of where we are as a country right now.

The decision to open schools full-time, then, must put adults and older students in jeopardy for their lives and force defunded school districts and devastated state budgets to endure more pressure in order to mitigate, not solve, this immoral dilemma that four decades of blame have produced. The simple fact that conservative members of Congress are actually against an economic package that might begin to help schools and states tells you everything you need to know about why we're facing this peril. And it's exactly why many teachers are considering retiring or asking to teach remotely or taking bold actions against their state legislators and governors rather than putting their lives at risk so that we can open the economy.

What the CDC and every other person in this country should be doing is agitating for Congress to make Internet access a regulated utility like the lights and heat so that everybody in this country has access to it. All students should also be given a computer they can use at home. They should make sure that we are spending our money wisely on community programs, public schools, health care, food security, and effective counseling, and stop spending money on military grade weapons to local police forces. That will create instances where the police are protecting more literate, more secure, more educated, more healthy, and more politically and socially involved communities which will be of tremendous help because those are the communities that have the lowest crime rates.

Much of the guidance the CDC recommends is also predicated on the idea that distance learning will look the same as it did in the spring. Much of that was considered a failure, but this lack of imagination is disturbing. Where is Betsy DeVos when we need her to mobilize the country's educational establishment to address the deficiencies of remote instruction? Where is the training and experimenting and exchange of ideas that will lead to more effective classroom methods? Where is the emergency money to support the children that all Americans see as desperately needing to learn? Where is the support for areas of this country--urban, suburban and rural--that are not wealthy enough to obtain these resources?

Where indeed?

Unfortunately, the answers we are getting are full of threats to withhold the very funds schools need if they don't open, which will result in even more desperate conditions for the children the administration and its supporters says they care so much about. Teachers are also being blamed for not carrying their weight as heroes in the same way that medical professionals have been lauded. I applaud and support our medical professionals, but nowhere in my training was there anything about giving my life for my profession. It's unconscionable that every teacher has to withstand Code Blue drills where students have to hide in a classroom as preparation in case someone wants to shoot up the school, then go back to the supportive, protective learning environment when the principal announces the end of the drill. Two years ago, proposals for arming teachers were actually taken seriously by a wide swath of the public. As if there was money to buy guns for teachers while school lunch programs and technology were seemingly intractable political problems.

This pandemic has uncovered what has always been hidden in plain sight about American society and its education system. It is underfunded, it is in many ways ineffectual, it excludes not only based on finances but also in the curricular choices communities make, focusing on an America that exists for Whites, but not for Blacks, it is the last refuge for many children who are starved nutritionally and emotionally, and it is not reflective of the promise and opportunity that form the bedrock of what it should mean to be an American.

We need change and we need it now. For the C.D.C. to base its recommendations on the notion that the country will not change is nearsighted and dangerous. Let's use this opportunity to make our education system responsive to all people.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Reopening School

What to make of the debate on how to open schools?

On the one hand, we have the president and Betsy DeVos, who seem to be ignoring most of the health information contained in a report, which was marked "For Internal Use Only", that had more sensible guidance for schools and even urged districts in communities where the virus was spreading more rapidly to have classes conducted entirely online, who are urging all schools to open five days per week with all students in the building.

On the other hand, we have education and health professionals who are urging caution because,well, we are still in the midst of the first wave of a global pandemic and conditions in the United States are getting worse, much worse, by the day.

Every teacher in this country understands that students need to be in school. It is key for a child's social, educational and emotional development. We all know that. The issue is not that we need to open, but how to open safely and create an environment where every child can learn. The evidence does suggest that younger people are not impacted to the same degree as older people and that they don't spread it at the same rate. We get that too.

What we also know, though, is that enclosed, poorly-ventilated spaces in which people are talking are prime breeding grounds for the virus. Yes, the guidelines call for students to wear masks, but students do not always do what they are told to do, and since they won't be mandatory for the children, there's little a teacher can do if a child refuses to wear one or puts the mask below their nose or chews a hole in it where their mouth is. And parents who need to work might give their feverish child a fever reducer and send them on their way so the parent can go to work. Hallways are crowded places. Teenagers like to hug, and more, in various areas of school buildings.

This is why teachers are pushing back against reopening plans that do not take into account their concerns about workplace safety. Many teachers have complicated health issues or are worried about bringing the virus back to their homes where their children, elderly parents or other adults with health concerns live. Teachers are also concerned that cash-strapped school districts will not be able to fully meet the guidelines that are meant to insure that schools open safely, or to invest in distance-learning software or protocols that will enable all students to thrive whether they are in the classroom or at home. Federal and state governments have been defunding education for decades. We are now seeing a literal struggle over the life and death of schools and their staff.

In short, this is a far more complicated answer than what the president and Secretary DeVos want to hear. The president is concerned about his reelection prospects given that adults can't go back to work if they have to stay home and take care of children who are on alternate day schedules or have decided that their child will stay home rather than go into schools where the danger is real. Secretary DeVos is supporting the president's proposal to strip already cash-starved public school districts of federal funds if they don't fully open, despite the health risks.

America's public school teachers already know that they are not as valued as they should be, are not paid commensurate with their educational levels and value to society, and are seen as union saps who slavishly toe the NEA/UFT line. The president went so far as saying that history teachers especially seek to propagandize students and teach them to hate America. None of this is in any way accurate
but, there is a sizable chunk of people in this country who believe it.

The difference now is that teachers are being asked to put their health and lives at risk. Even in districts that will have students alternate days or weeks, teachers are expected to be in classrooms every day. The best science we have now says that the virus thrives in poorly ventilated, enclosed rooms where people are exposed to each other for lengthy periods of time while talking, coughing, sneezing, or singing. In short, your child's classroom. This is the part of the discussion that the president and Secretary DeVos have ignored or minimized. Yes, school is about student learning, but it's also about teachers who make sure that the classroom is safe and secure.

For all of the planning, my sense is that schools will be shut down again because this virus is not going away. Students will test positive. Teachers will test positive (is this the point at which the lawsuits begin?). Communities will be justifiably angry and scared. Maybe this happens in October or maybe it happens when the flu starts to mingle in around November or December.

We have one chance to get this reopening right. Let's make sure we do just that.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Reopening NJ Schools

New Jersey has finally released its long-awaited school reopening plan and the reaction has been...mixed at best.

The main takeaway is that all school buildings must be open for at least some in-person instruction, but since students will be required to be at least six feet apart in classrooms, the cafeteria and on buses, and if they can't then they have to wear a mask, this new plan will require some serious reconfiguration of people and materials. The main question is whether opening buildings and requiring stringent rules will result in greater educational outcomes than the remote learning experiment most of the nation conducted in the spring.


Releasing the new guidelines was necessary now because school districts and parents will need time to adjust their procedures in time for the late August/early September resumption of the education calendar. Schools will be required to buy barriers for between desks and maybe cafeteria tables. They will need to buy sanitizer and dispensers and enact a plan to disinfect bathrooms, playgrounds and classrooms after almost every use. Parents will need to plan their schedules around schools that will require students to be in school on some days/weeks and at home on others.

But all of this will be dependent on the least predictable variable of all: how the spread of Covid-19 will affect us. Right now, New Jersey is seeing a great, and welcome, reduction in cases, hospitalizations and fatalities. As we reopen, will we see a spike in cases, as other states have seen? My guess is that we will. And we haven't even opened indoor dining and businesses to the extent that we will in coming weeks. I just hope that everyone wears a mask, but that's unrealistic.

The most pressing problem, though, is the continued education of our students. The state budget is bound to be depleted by the economic downturn and, the expected loss of tax revenue, and the federal government doesn't seem keen to offer help. How will districts pay for the virus mitigation protocols listed in the state guidance? And what will they have to give up in order to do so? How will they also pay for the computers and software we'll need if  (when) we experience a second wave of infections in October or November and we need to shut down again?

New schedules might allow for more social distancing, but it will still require students to alternate in-class instruction with remote learning. This will mean that teachers in middle and high schools will be teaching to two audiences daily, which will require that students have computers and reliable Internet access. How are we supposed to schedule tests, writing, labs? Some of this can be done on the web, but students at home will have access to materials that might give them an advantage on an assignment. This we call cheating. What of the health issues for both students and staff? Teachers will be required to wear masks all day, while students will be "guided" to do so. There's also a section in the guidance that says that teachers with health concerns will not be penalized if they can't return to the buildings. If a teacher needs to teach remotely, will the district hire a substitute to sit with the in-school class? All of these will doubtless affect the quality of instruction.

So many concerns and questions. Districts will have until the beginning of August to work out the details, which will then change as conditions change. The result will be a school year unlike any other.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Re-Imagining the Country Begins With Education

Is this the it's-about-time-moment? I am working as best I can to make it happen, but it will take sustained effort and pressure on all parts of our society--the economic, political and social systems--to ensure that real, meaningful, practical, and positive change sticks, and becomes the future of this country.

I find it truly amazing that the Black Lives Matter movement went from being associated with the fringe that all calls for inclusive justice are treated by the white power structure and white society, to being the vanguard of the latest move to once again (!) try and convince society that black people have been treated unjustly and have been killed for no good reason, or for no reason at all. So far, this call seems to be sticking. Protests include faces of all hues, ages, and economic realities, and have continued unabated for almost three weeks. Cities and towns are being forced to recognize that they are supporting systemic racism with many of their actions, and to account for them. Corporations and sports leagues are, at least for now, professing their shortcomings and are promising to do better.

We have seen this before, but public support seems to truly be behind the movement.

But if we are to make real change to American society, it must begin with education. Education is families. Education is economics. Education is morality. Education is our best defense against those who believe that violence and more guns will solve our problems. And, of course, education is our best chance at bringing political change to this country.

Just as systemic racism has always existed, but was uncovered, again, by the killing of George Floyd, so the monstrous inequities in education were uncovered by the Covid-19 lockdowns and the move to virtual schooling. And, as always, black students, and their parents, were the losers. Many schools shut down their school years in March and April, while others maintained educational programs until June, but you didn't have to be a researcher to see that students living in less affluent areas of the country could not get an education, which is their right, because of a lack of Internet access, computer hardware, or physical spaces in which they could study. Add the fact that black workers were more likely to have to physically go to their job during the pandemic, and therefore leave children in a situation that did not readily support learning, and you have the double tragedy that has laid bare the systemic racism that's always been there.

And then there's the issue of policing. It is true that the majority of police officers are good and true and committed and hate bad colleagues. The problem is not what police officers do to earn our respect, as in a social media post that's making its way around extolling the virtue of the officers who gave their efforts and lives in tragedies such as September 11 or Oklahoma City, or during natural disasters. The issue we must address is why, perhaps in the days before and after those heroic deeds, we have examples of officer after officer telling us that it was "Guiliani time," or firing 41 shots into someone in an apartment house vestibule armed with nothing more than a wallet, or shooting a black man in the back while they were running away from the officer. And on and on.

 Let me make myself crystal clear: I support a policing department when they do their jobs, support community programs, and, like umpires, are barely visible when they are making sure that citizens follow the law. But I also support the Black Lives Matter movement because too many black people have been killed, maimed, stopped and frisked, and otherwise harassed in numbers and manners that white people are not. We can all do both. In fact, it's essential that we all do both. Because this is not a matter of a few isolated bad ones. It's a culture that must be changed. An attitude that must be eliminated. A racism that must be uprooted.

That's why we have calls to focus on education, community programs, drug treatment and rehabilitation. If we as a society can help people before they turn, or are forced to turn, to crime, then we will have turned a wide corner towards a more civil society.

And it will take money. The problem, as it's accumulated since the 1980s, is that public agencies and institutions have been made, by deliberate political design, to compete against each other for the ever-more-scarce public dollar. Tax cuts that slathered money on the already-affluent, while middle and working class incomes stagnated worsened the problem. This must stop. We need a massive redistribution of how we spend public money in this country. On the revenue side, taxes on the wealthy must go up, and the unconscionable blasphemy that is the carried interest rule for hedge funds must be repealed. We have for too long acquiesced in the fiction that corporations or wealthy people can't be taxed because they will leave their state or move to another country.


If you are so craven that the prospect of fully funding public institutions to the extent that they can fully meet their mandates and improve our society is prompting you to move, then go. And if you are a corporation that continues to use the tax system to pay no income taxes, then those laws need to be changed. Capitalism has its advantages. Rapacious capitalism, while as American as racism, must go. We need to spend money where it will effect the most public good, not in military hardware for police or walls that shrink our country, or ever more jails to house people who could have a different life if they'd had a chance when they were younger. It's time that we all thought more about the common good.

As for politics, I know that many black citizens are not thrilled by the choices we have for president, and that Joe Biden's support for the 1994 Crime Bill is especially odious. We know, though, what will happen if the president is reelected with a GOP majority in the Senate. More conservative judges and more support for a militarized police force. More racist voices and a backlash against any gains that will have occurred between now and next January. For me, the choice is clear. I hope it will be for you.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Another Virus Is Spreading

Covid-19 has killed hundreds of thousands.

Racism has killed millions.

Only one of them is presently curable, but it looks like we're spending more time and money on the one that isn't, despite the fact that it's only been around for a few months. We are now in the middle of both a pandemic and an epidemic, and there's no national leadership to get us through either one of them.

The death of George Floyd is far more than a reminder of how deeply racism infects the United States. It's an indictment of how some police officers act when allowed and enabled to abuse their power, and how many citizens express their frustrations and anger. I don't want to see any violence or rioting, but when the courts and the police and the power structure and the economy and now the virus clearly demonstrate how prejudiced they are against African-Americans, it's no wonder that many see violence as the only way to get the attention of those who have been willfully and culturally ignorant of their discrimination.

The key will be what happens when the violence ends. Right now it's easy to focus on the immediate events and the terrible images we see hour by hour, but that will eventually stop. That's when the real work begins, and if history is any guide, we are in for a long struggle. The president has spoken to the Floyd family, but at the same time he's sent threatening Twitter messages that hearken back to the bad old days of white resistance to civil rights laws. His past messages and actions have done very little to send a message that he can lead on this issue.

And Joe Biden will need to be more forceful, more specific, and more responsible with his responses and proposed solutions. His record on racial issues is far better than the president's, but Biden has to provide workable policies that move beyond community outreach or complaint review boards, which have shown to be effective when they are given the power they need, but otherwise are forgotten after the tempers cool.

But of course the best solution is for all people who oppose the president's policies to register and vote this November. The first step is to march and let people know that these actions are unacceptable. The second step is to vote. There is no excuse not to.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Pandemic Schools the US

If only the education system would stand up to it. Unfortunately, what we have at the national level is a know-very-little president and an Education Secretary who cares not a whit about anything to do with public education. and who made sure that public money is being funneled to private a religious institutions, to the detriment of neighborhood schools. I certainly understand that parents should have a choice if they don't want to send their child to a public school, but it's their...choice, and public schools should always be the first recipient of public money.

Which makes the public school system the next institution that will need significant reform. As this article says, the very manner in which we fund and organize public schools needs to change. It's been true for a great number of years; the pandemic has simply exposed it. We have too many public school districts in this country, and they all compete for scarce dollars. Worse, though, is the inherent inequality that sits in communities that are side-by-side. There is no reason for this to occur. True, the neighborhood school has been part of American life for more than two centuries, but times have changed and education is a key to future opportunities. To deny anyone a quality education based on artificial lines only serves to exclude children from taking full advantage of what this country has to offer.

What we need to change is the way that we distribute funds. In New Jersey, there are over 550 school districts and each one relies on local tax money for its funding. Districts that include wealthy towns can buy more services. Those that don't have the same resources get less. Many districts get very little. Because of lawsuits aimed at increasing educational equity, many districts receive a great deal of state aid, while others, usually the wealthier ones, have to rely on ever-increasing property taxes for funding. Resentment runs deep when any politician hints at ending this home rule. But to keep it means continued inequities and fewer educational opportunities.

Changing borders and district lines makes sense because then more students will have access to educational resources. Shared services and shared communities might help break down social barriers. There will be pain, too. Some teachers will lose their jobs and some towns might lose schools. It won't be free.

Right now, though, we are living through a time when many children do not have computers or reliable Internet connections. Many are missing meals. Many are not showing up to school because local or state governments can't afford to provide remote services. Parents without reliable, or any, health insurance must continue to physically go to work, facing a choice between their money or their lives. This must stop. This country can afford to provide for its children. We need to political will to actually do that.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Silence on Education

For all of the stories I've read about online schooling and how difficult it is to entertain and engage children of all ages while being quarantined in one's home, I still don't get the sense that we are talking about education, and how profoundly the system must change in a post-pandemic United States.

What this crisis has uncovered is the dire state of education regarding schooling, infrastructure, funding, practice, equity and opportunity. We've always thought of ourselves as a country whose system of public education reflects the democratic values upon which it was founded. Now we can't even guarantee that all students are reporting for the daily or weekly Zoom call that forms the basis of their learning. And it wasn't that before we all went online the education system was running smoothly or meeting the needs of all children. It was not. But now we know that we have gaping holes that will need to be fixed.

The crowd that currently sits in power on Washington will say that education is the realm of the states, and constitutionally, they are right. Education is nowhere to be found in the document and most states were free to create and maintain their own school systems. What that's done, though, is to create 50 separate systems divided into thousands of county and local school systems who are free to set their own policies and to determine what they teach and generally how to teach it. Attempts such as the Common Core Curriculum Standards to tie the states together so they are teaching the same skills and holding students accountable to them lasted for a few years until push-back from the right, because of the loss of state control, and the left, because of the focus on testing to determine student and teacher growth, doomed those standards to irrelevance.

Add in the problem of funding, and you see why we're where we are. Wealthier states and districts can afford to give every student a computer, and generally those towns and suburbs are where the vast majority of homes have an Internet connection. Those wealthier areas can also afford to pay teachers more and to provide them, and their students, with more resources and programs. Those towns also have a higher percentage of parents whose jobs have not been destroyed because of lock downs. They also tend to be whiter.

And so, here we are.

What to do? We need a massive, federal investment in the schools. Every child should be given a computer to use and a reliable Internet connection that will enable them to explore the wider world. Every child should have access to resources such as school trips, enrichment activities, speakers, literacy materials and safe, sustainable buildings. Teachers should be paid a great deal more than they are now so they don't have to worry about getting two jobs to support themselves.

And everybody--everybody--should have affordable, high quality health insurance so they don't have to worry about making a choice between education or food or housing or entertainment and getting medical care.

States cannot do this on their own because they must balance their budgets. Only the federal government can provide the funding and resources to provide what every child, and every family, needs in order to succeed. This is not going to happen under this administration or, I suspect, under any Republican presidency. We need a change.

Are you registered to vote?

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Pandemic's Effects Have Only Just Begun

I've been wondering over the past few years about how this new Gilded Age will end, and I think we have the beginnings of the answer. World War I, and a worldwide influenza epidemic you might have read about, ended the first one. Now it seems that another pandemic will end the current one. It is eminently possible that the economy bounces back quickly and by the fall we are well on our way to a full recovery, but my best guess it that this will not happen and that the economic carnage will be wide and deep.

The effects? 

First and foremost is the idea that most American workers are exposed. Without a job, most people don't have health insurance and most do not have much savings, either for a rainy day or for retirement. Hourly workers are especially vulnerable and those who work for technology-and-app-driven businesses have found that they are expendable. Members of minority groups have not only felt more economic pain than whites, they are also being exposed to Covid-19, and dying, at higher rates. The government did pass huge stimulus bills, but $1,200 isn't going to pay too many bills and many small businesses were shut out by the lack of money and the big banks that controlled who received loans.

My sense is that this will have a profound effect on people's thinking and votes. The United States does not have nearly the safety net that other countries have, and much of that is based on an ideology that says that if you have government programs, then people will not work. This is simply not true. Consider the debate over the stimulus plan. Democrats wanted to increase the amount of money that people could get for unemployment, while Republicans balked because they thought that giving more money would decrease their incentive to work. But there is no work. People need immediate help. And most people would rather work. Ultimately the Democratic version of the bill passed.

The same is true of health insurance. The work-based system we have now has also been exposed as inadequate and unequal. And the Republicans have no plan to fix it. In fact, the administration is backing a suit that will soon be in front of the Supreme Court to declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. What we need is health insurance that is both affordable and portable. A robust public option with low deductibles would fit the bill. Lowering the eligibility age for Medicare to 50 or 55 would also help. If we can pay trillions over the course of a few months to bail out airlines, cruise companies and banks, we can find money to finally give all Americans decent health insurance.

The most shocking aspect of this pandemic, though, has been what it's uncovered about children in American society. Millions of children do not have access to health care because of their parent's job, but now it's no longer possible to ignore the fact that millions do not have access to equal educational programs. They do not have technology in their homes or from their school districts that allows them to learn online. They rely on schools to provide them with a healthy breakfast and/or lunch, and even that is under assault by an administration that wants to relax school nutrition standards. They do not have reliable, fast Internet connections. They live in cities, suburbs, exurbs and rural areas that do not have the money to keep schools open in a pandemic or an economic crisis. And we expect to compete with the rest of the world on standardized tests and economic productivity?

And now we evidently have an administration that is urging on those who would put our health at risk and undermine the safe and orderly reopening that is critical to our country.

This is what the Democrats have to remind the American people about every day for the rest of this campaign. They have to make it personal and immediate and tell people that a rising stock market helps the wealthy, but the rest of the economy is a result of treating workers respectfully and as valued members of their organizations. Health care. Affordable child care. Livable wages. That's the message that will win.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Until It's Safe

Really easy to remember those three words, no? A few syllables and you've spoken volumes. And that's all the president has to say. Until it's safe.

How long do we stay in our homes? Until it's safe.
How long do we have to practice distancing? Until it's safe.
How long do we have to wait until we can see professional sports, cultural events, friends, go to the movies or museums? Until it's safe.

Until it's safe.

Not Easter. Not May 1, Not September when the NFL season is supposed to begin.

Until it's safe. That's the only answer.

The president proved to me long ago that he is a unique study in ignorance, selfishness and egomania basting in a gumbo of misinformation, unverifiable opinion, and dangerous myopia. When he says that something is fake, I know that it's real. When he says it's a hoax, I know it's true. When he says he's doing a great job, I know that he's doing a terrible job. When he says it's a witch hunt, then I am reasonably certain that there are, in fact, witches, and that they are a cornerstone of our economy. When he says that the press is an enemy, then I must be a traitor.

When he does all of this for political reasons, I understand his motives and chalk it up to the system we have. But the Covid-19 pandemic is different. Now his ignorance and instincts for political survival are getting more people sick and dead. And he's sending a message to states that they are on their own for supplies and should stop whining if they don't have enough. After all, he's a wartime president, but true to form, this is not a national war coordinated at the national level to stop a national threat, This is a bathtub naval operation being fought by a president without a clue as to how to use the federal government for the benefit of all, and with his greatest weapon being a soap-on-a-rope.

It's also no wonder that the Impeached One is so threatened by Dr. Anthony Fauci. Here's someone who knows what he's talking about and is not afraid to say what the president won't; that we should be in our homes until it's safe to come out.

And if we're really afraid of what the pandemic is doing to the economy, then let's have some real relief. A check for $1,200 isn't going to cut it for a majority of Americans, and the funds for small business help are actually being given out on a first-come-first-served basis. This is relief? Everybody should get relief that will help them and every business that needs help should get it. You shouldn't have to rely on a faster Internet connection or being able to get/stay up at 4:00 am simply to survive in the marketplace. Other countries have figured this out. Germany got citizens a payment in three days. Some of us won't get a payment until September.

As for the election, the president is still underwater in most polls, and Joe Biden and the Democrats haven't even begun to remind voters that they want to provide everyone with affordable health care, while the president wants to take it away. Or that Democrats want a national program of child care and paid sick days. Or that Democrats want to make sure that corporations can't use any relief money to buy back stock or pay their CEOs more money. Or that Democrats understand that Covid-19 has uncovered the massive gap in realities in education, earnings, job security and wage equity that exists. This pandemic will change this country in more ways than many people think. We're not going back to the way things were in 2019.

Have you registered to vote? And have you made sure that you can get a mail-in ballot if polls are closed or compromised by a repeat pandemic in the fall? Do it now.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Co-(vid) Education

Whither Betsy DeVos?

Here is the Secretary of Education at a crisis point in American education and she is...silent. Don't get me wrong; under normal circumstances I would welcome, indeed pay for, silence from Ms. DeVos. Her disdain for, and ignorance of, public education, will unfortunately become one of the lasting effects of the Trump Administration and the era of conservatism that seems to be unraveling. I certainly understand that public schools are the purview of the states, but it would be nice to have the Secretary of Education deliver an address or a letter that outlines the objectives that all schools need to meet with online education. I guess if you don't educate for money, Ms. DeVos doesn't want to hear from you. This is more than disappointing. It's malpractice.

Of course, we know that this administration as a whole is educationally-challenged, beginning with the president. His history of undermining and ignoring science has finally caught up to him, and us. In the last few days, he's even hyped drugs that people with lupus need to live as a possible remedy for Covid-19 (19, 20, whatever it takes). This bit of irresponsibility could cause severe shortages for a medicine that we don't know will actually address the virus. And that doesn't even take into account the fact that the president says he knew there would be a pandemic, after denying it and blaming the hype on the Democrats. Could they also have White House briefings where people stand six feet apart from each other? Anthony Fauci should know better. I want to see him in a space suit.

And speaking of blaming it on the Democrats (we were and don't you deny it), along comes this parable about conservative FOX-watching Americans who were sure that Covid-19 was a fake until...wait for of their own contracted it. I sincerely hope that the man who is sick gets better soon and I am not in any way engaging in schadenfreude. What gets me is that people actually believe politicians in times of health emergencies. Or in this case, they believe that the Chinese created this disease for the purpose of unleashing it on their people and Americans in order for the Democrats to subvert the president and undermine his leadership. I just don't understand that serpentine illogic. The article also tells of how the conservative media saw the Covid threat as overblown, so the people dismissed the warnings and didn't take the necessary precautions. That's the danger inherent in an administration that blames and vilifies the media.

Finally, what happens when there's a shot for Covid-19 and the anti-vaccinators rebel? I don't have an answer. I just pose the question.

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Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Covidian Epoch Begins


What do you think will happen with this company?

If you eat enough matzoh, you won't need as much toilet paper. I know that it's not Passover just yet and it's forbidden to eat the new matzoh before the first Seder, but these are unique and troubling times. If God has anything to do with Covid-19, how much angrier could he get if we rip open the Yehuda and solve a supply and demand problem? You could add some horseradish for flavor, and after three days you will not need to worry about paper shortages.

Do you still know somebody who denies that the virus is real? Here's a handy guide to articles that you can use to answer them, if indeed you are still on speaking terms with them. I know that it must hurt some people's brains to hear the president and others say that the virus is a foreign weapon or an impeachment grade left-wing terrorist plot one day, then say that it is indeed real and that the president actually had dinner with it last week (as with most things related to Trump, it came back negative). I guess anything can get into Mar-a-Lago if it knows somebody. The worst part, though, is that Brazillians of people could now be exposed. And will the president pass his test? Film at 11.

Not to sound too imperious, intelligent and superior, but this blogger began stocking up on necessities three weeks ago. I bought canned goods, pasta, Tastykakes (Juniors and Kandykakes, peanut butter and chocolate), chicken and paper goods at the warehouse boutique, and filled up the mower gas tank just in case the Russians and/or Saudis got frisky with the world supply. Turns out I overpaid on early gasoline, but the interest on my equity loan is now less than a whole number, so I'm going to let x equal whatever it wants for a while.

And a while it will be before the students and I traipse back through the schoolhouse gate. It's Zoom and Skype and Google Meet and sharing documents across the divide for at least two weeks while we flush out the bad humors from the tony woods of Somerset and Morris Counties. We are still running a timed schedule and do have to meet with our students over the interweb, so it will be an adventure for a while. Of course, if you have younger children in grade school, I'm not sure how that will work. Nap time will now be graded.

If you like good news, you can always take a gander at the daily polls, which, and I know it's early, show that there seem to be more and more citizens out there who don't want the president around the White House after January 20. Even Arizona looks a bit wobbly for the Republicans at this juncture. If the market rebounds and the virus doesn't approach doomsday predictions, the president could make a comeback, but it seems like every time he has what's called a good week, he steps on it with statements or actions that clearly show that he's broken up with facts and science. If they were ever seeing each other.

Stay safe. No high-fives. Six feet apart. Read a book.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Saturday, February 29, 2020

M-M-M-My Corona

When you've been anti-science for most of your administration, then science is going to eventually catch up to you. And when you've based your entire agenda on tweets that say little more than things are great, then when things get not so great, it will catch up to you.

And it has.

The president and his allies have politicized the Coronavirus to the point that he now owns everything about it, including our health, its effect on the stock market, consumer confidence, and his administration's emergency response abilities. So far, the virus has not spread beyond a few cases, but viruses don't belong to political parties, nor are they Democratic Socialists. What is true today could be entirely different tomorrow. I hope that means that things will get better, but like most of the president's efforts, I can't say that I am confident in  his abilities to manage a volatile situation. He creates one heck of a volatile situation, but managing? Prove me wrong.

I can't say that I'm any more secure in the knowledge that Mike Pence is in charge of the anti-virus efforts. Here's a man who, as Governor of Indiana, had to pray for two days before approving a needle exchange program to curb the spread of HIV. Say what you want about my lack of religious faith, but when it comes to saving lives, especially of those who can spread deadly diseases, I don't need more than a few minutes to make my decision. It's part of my heathen charm.

And this is why I'm suspicious of the anti-science, religious crowd. I understand that Pence didn't approve of drug users, but essentially thinking about letting some die because they were leading immoral lives is unacceptable. Remember that even the patron saint of the GOP, Ronald Reagan, waited five years before acknowledging AIDS. Millions of people died while he dithered and refused to listen to his science guy, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, and ignored warnings that this could spread to other populations aside form gay men. And it did.

So you'll excuse me if I do not ultimately trust the instincts of the even-more religious people in the presidents orbit. This is not divine retribution. It's a virus. By all means, pray for its demise and for the health of humans everywhere, but I don't want to hear that Mike Pence or Mick Mulvaney or Mike Pompeo are using anything but science to defeat it.

As for the economy, the stock market is reflecting the seriousness of the outbreak on the global supply chain and corporate profits, but the real story is Mick Mulvaney's plea for more immigrants. It's one thing to control the border; it's quite another to ignore decades of data that shows how much the United States depends upon immigrant labor for the growth of our economy. In many parts of the country, including New York, immigrants have provided the only growth in the population. The president's immigration policies, but more significantly, his rhetoric about the evils of immigration will be his, and our, undoing. The economy is creating jobs, but if there aren't enough employees, then all kinds of nasty things will happen including an inflationary spiral as dollars chase a limited supply of workers.

Economics is a science, no? And we know how this administration loves science.

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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Beg Your Pardon?

And it's only February.

But the Russians are all in for Bernie because they too see him as the perfect foil for the president. And if anyone should know socialism, it's the Russians After all, the whole of the Communist Party is now making billions because of the defender of the faith, Vladimir Putin. Worse, he also knows how to play our president perfectly. All he needs to do is flatter, feign some morality, play hardball with the satellite countries continue to tell the president that, no, he didn't meddle in the 2016 election, and be the bestest autocrat he can be. Oh, and continue to use social media to disrupt those people who are disruptible, which includes our president, by making concrete the story that it wasn't the Russians who interfered, it was the Ukrainians, but that's only if you believe that some country actually interfered in the election, which our president doesn't, because he's convinced that lending any credence to that theory undercuts what he believes to be a false narrative that he didn't actually win the popular vote. And besides; Putin said it didn't happen. So it must not have happened, right?

Yes, I really typed those words. Such times we live in.

Now that said president is feeling much better after being roasted by the Mueller Report and impeached, he's turning on the charm by invoking the constitution, not the United States Constitution of course, and stating that he can pretty much do whatever he wants and can't be touched legally. The Supreme Court will have a decision about this in June. It will be a key test of the separation of powers. And mark my words: When the court rules against the president in any of the cases, he will angrily question why "his Judges" are against him.

As for the pardons, yes, they are within his power and given that other presidents have pardoned some single celled creatures in the past, I'm not going to argue with the power to pardon. The problem is that the president has made this a personal issue. He's pardoning people because they are pretty good people (despite being crooks) and because they were prosecuted by the Justice Department, which the president believes to be full of people who don't like him, or they have ties to the people who looked at evidence and decided that Donald Trump needed to face some consequences. And everybody knows that people who cite Roy Cohn as their guiding star don't ever need to face no stinkin' consequences.

And the campaign? I'm going to reserve any judgments or predictions until after Super Tuesday. Right now, the press is anointing Bernie as the nominee, but we have many more states to go and we'll have some candidates dropping out of the race. The big question is where do their supporters go? Do the lefties all go to Sanders? Do the moderates all go to Klubichar or Biden? Has Bloomberg convinced the voters that despite his record on crime and women, that he is the best to run against the president (who seems to be more frightened of Bloomberg than anyone else)? It's messy. but remember that primary campaigns are usually messy.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest