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UCOMM

DeVos and Price are evil

Trump's cabinet selections have their hands in union busting and failing schools

Brian Young's picture
Nov 29, 2016

In the past week, Trump has made two major cabinet appointments filling the Education Secretary position and the Health and Human Services (HHS) role.  In making both appointments, Trump chose two candidates who are far to the right of the mainstream and who will spend their time in office trying to undue most of the work that the previous Education and HHS secretaries have done.

When Trump selected Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary, public education advocates and Teachers unions saw their worst fears come true.  DeVos is a school choice, aka charter school advocate, having served on the boards of several pro charter school organizations. The DeVos family made their money through controversial means with her husband being the former President of Amway and her brother, Erik Prince, is the founder of the controversial security firm Blackwater.  For years Amway has been accused of being a pyramid scheme, while Blackwater has been surrounded by controversy over the last few years for their role as mercenaries in Iraq.  Blackwater, which has now been renamed Academi, has hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with the United States Government. 

The DeVos family has been using this immense wealth to fight unions for years.  Through the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation they have financially supported groups such as the American Federation for Children, the Alliance for School Choice, the American Enterprise Institute, Foundation for Excellence in Education and the Heritage Foundation. These are major conservative groups that fund advocacy for far right political issues like Right to Work (for less) and the expansion of charter schools and voucher programs.

While not as well known as the Koch Brothers, the DeVos are seen as being on the same level.  Since 1970, the family has donated $200 Million to various right wing causes like pushing a Right to Work (for Less) law in Michigan. In Michigan alone, the family has been the main funder of the Republican party donating $44 Million since 1997.  As their donations, have grown, Michigan has slowly moved from a solidly Democratic state to a swing Republican state.

Her hatred of unions has led her to try and break up Teachers Unions across the country. DeVos is a prominent advocate for charter schools and school vouchers.  DeVos has used her position at the American Federation for Children to push for school vouchers at a state-wide level. School vouchers allow students in “failing schools” to choose to go to private and/or religious schools on the states dime.  For many on the religious right, they are a way to get the state to pay for religious education.  Due to her work and financing, 13 states and the District of Columbia now have a voucher program. In Michigan, thanks to the work of DeVos and her allied groups, they have overseen the expansion of charter schools in Detroit.  The city now has the second biggest share of students in charter schools in the country, yet the city has remained the worst school district among major cities. As UCOMM previously reported, the crumbling schools and the school districts lack of funds caused teachers to take part in a sick out. DeVos had successfully lobbied for a bill that made strikes illegal and after the sickout wrote an Op-Ed in the Detroit News calling for a ban on sick-outs.

“She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education,” said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. “By nominating Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration has demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities.” Once again, it is extremely disappointing to know that some union educators voted for Trump.  If you are a teacher and you did just that, the damage you created to your profession and all problems to come in the next four years are self-inflicted and shameful.

In Trump’s second major selection this week, he announced that Georgia Congressman Tom Price would be his choice for HHS secretary.  Price, an orthopedic surgeon, has been a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and in his role as HHS secretary will be tasked with overturning it. While Price was a Congressman, he proposed a law that would make it more difficult to organize a union, silence their voice while in the middle of an organizing campaign, and make it easier for the company to push through a decertification campaign. Currently, Price serves at the House Budget Chair.

 As HHS secretary, he will lead the Federal Agency that oversees Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.  As a House member, Price authored an alternative to ACA called the Empowering Patients First Act.  This plan sought to replace the law with a plan that benefits the young, healthy and rich at the expense of the sick, old and poor, including a full repeal of the Medicaid expansion that provides health insurance to millions of low income Americans.  Many now believe that this will the basis for the new health insurance plan that Trump promised when he said that he would repeal the ACA. For the working people who voted for Trump, this should be a disconcerting selection.  Price is hell bent on taking away the expansions of health insurance that have been pushed through over the last decade.  As a Congressman, he consistently voted against expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a policy that guarantees that all children have access to health insurance, he voted against regulating tobacco as a drug so that the government could help lower costly tobacco related health issues, and voted to repeal the Emergency Mortgage Relief Program which provided funds to help homeowners avoid foreclosures during the Great Recession.

Both DeVos and Price will represent a marked change from the Secretaries that President Obama appointed over the last eight years.  Both will seek to roll back significant advances that were made in favor of putting more money into their rich friends’ pockets. If both have their way, public healthcare and public education may not exist when they are done or will exist in a very different form. 

Make America Great Again.

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