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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries tagged "education"

2012 Letelier-Moffitt Awards Uncut

October 19, 2012 ·

Brave activists from Chile and Boston speaking from the heart. A cameo appearance by actor and humanitarian Danny Glover. The former first lady of Costa Rica and hundreds of other fabulous guests. Peruvian wine. Hearty hors d'oeurves. The top U.S. student leader. An elegant venue dedicated to scientific discovery.

The Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards reception and ceremony is always moving and fun. This year was truly terrific. We know some of our supporters had to miss this great event, which we filled to capacity. But you can still watch the whole ceremony right here on our blog, including stellar performances by the DC Youth Slam Team and Patricio Zamorano and his band.

The Institute for Policy Studies has hosted this progressive convergence every year since 1976, when our colleagues Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt were murdered in a car bombing near Washington, D.C.'s Dupont Circle. Along with an opportunity to greet old friends and make new ones, it offers a chance to salute new heroes of social movements who are, as IPS director John Cavanagh put it in his speech, "expanding our imaginations on how to make change happen."

 

Camila Vallejo's Letelier-Moffitt Acceptance Speech

October 17, 2012 ·

I would like to thank the Institute for Policy Studies. I thank IPS not only for this Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award  that you've given the Chilean Students Movement for our struggle to recover the right to an education, but also for what you stand for and your ties to everything that's happening today in Chile.

Camila Vallejo speaksAfter 39 years, it's impossible — even for young people like us who were born after 1988 — to study the history of Orlando Letelier or anyone else who was tortured or assassinated during the dictatorship without feeling paid. We feel the pain of injustice, the pain of that inhumanity, and the pain of a great blow to democracy that hasn't healed to this day.

And although there's been a powerful attempt to erase our collective memory and silence our entire nation, in Chile we won't forget. We can't forget the Pinochet dictactorship's victims, just as we can't forget the aspirations of the movement that gave rise to Salvador Allende's government.

That movement was interrupted by a violent coup and a brutal and bloody dictatorship. But it wasn't defeated, it was interrupted. Its driving force and principles were to defend the interests and dignity of the people.

That movement respected human rights while aspiring to grant all men and women access to a decent education and quality health care. That movement aimed to bring the benefits of our nation's natural wealth to all Chileans. That movement built sovereignty while strengthening democracy.

In that movement, men and women developed the awareness and will to organize for justice and freedom.

I believe that the Institute, through its work, represents women and men like Ronni and Orlando — people who embodied this movement's ideals and gave their lives for their activism.

It is with sorrow, but also with joy and hope that we cherish the ideas and ideals that embody this movement — the defense of human rights and the struggle for social justice.

Many Chileans are now taking back the reins of history, as indicated by today's great social movements. We must recover from the Pinochet dictatorship's terrible consequences if we want to have a true democracy.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights affirmed that even today there still is no justice in Chile because our electoral sytstem guarantees that human rights violators are over-represented in our parliament, relative to their victims.

In our country, there is no justice. Even if we don't have a dictator anymore, we still haven't gotten rid of the political model that his regime imposed upon us — a market-driven dictatorship. This neoliberal model has proven to be incompatible with respect for human rights. When the great wealth of the very few is derived from the life and work of the vast majority, it isn't compatible with democracy.

Our best way to thank you for this award is to carry on with the historic work to which we have dedicated our lives. We will continue to fight for universal, high-quality, and free public education, workers' rights, and excellent health care for all. We will fight to nationalize Chile's natural resources once again. We will continue the struggle for self-determination and respect that our indigenous peoples deserve.

Today, Chile's indigenous people are a shining example of resistance to the repression and militarization they endure at the hands of our government. We should fight for a new Chilean Constitution, which will shed the neoliberal state the dictatorship imposed on us for the  benefit the nation's richest people.

As Allende said, the Chilean people's struggle isn't a fight among generations, and it's certainly not the monopoly of one political party. This must be a struggle by workers, students, professionals, and many social and political movements ready to take on the challenge of joining together despite our differences, because we have grasped the historic challenge that we face.

That is why I would like to dedicate this award not just to all Chilean students, who technically won it, but also to our professors and teachers, as well as the indigenous peoples of Chile.

Appropriately enough, in Chile we celebrate Teachers Day every October 16. Just yesterday, we paid tribute to them.

I am also dedicating this award to the indigenous Mapuche people currently held as political prisoners — including the four who have been on a hunger strike for nearly two months. After hundreds of years of resistance, they are not giving up the fight for their land or their right to their own culture. This award is for everyone who is fighting to make Chile a better place.

Camila Vallejo is the vice-president of the Confederation of Chilean Students (Confederación de Estudiantes de Chile). She and Noam Titelman accepted a 2012 Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award from the Institute for Policy Studies.

SOTU: Use Newfound Corporate Tax Revenue to Invest in America

January 26, 2011 ·

In his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama zeroed in on the ways that corporations have gamed the tax code, saying:

"Over the years, a parade of lobbyists has rigged the tax code to benefit particular companies and industries. Those with accountants or lawyers to work the system can end up paying no taxes at all. But all the rest are hit with one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and it has to change."

It's encouraging that Obama is zeroing in on the myriad abuses in the corporate tax code.

Unfortunately, he repeats the tired canard of anti-tax groups that complain about our "highest in the world" tax rates. It is true that statutorily, the U.S. has a high 35 percent corporate income tax rate. But the effective rate — the percentage of income actually paid in taxes — is considerably lower than in most industrial countries.

How low? According to a Bush administration Treasury Department report from 2007, U.S. corporations paid an effective rate of 13.4 percent of their profits in corporate income taxes during the years 2000-2005. Corporations in OECD countries on average paid 16.1 percent of their profits in corporate income taxes.

President Obama called on lawmakers to simplify the system, eliminate loopholes and level the playing field. He pressed them to "use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years – without adding to our deficit." By broadening the base and eliminating loopholes, Congress could lower the tax rates without reducing deficits. But revenue shouldn't just go back to corporations in the form of a rate cut. Some of this revenue should be used for long overdue investments in education, health care, and energy retrofits. Citizens for Tax Justice, in a report released shortly before Obama's speech, called for "revenue-positive reform of the corporate income tax."

On the positive side, he called for eliminating tax breaks for the oil industry — and shifting incentives to support clean and renewable energy. He was quiet about the overseas tax havens and global tax-dodging that has gotten completely out of hand.

Cracking down on corporate tax dodgers could be a unifying theme in the new Congress.

Education Reform: Waiting for the Super Rich?

October 12, 2010 ·

Everybody’s talking about education these days.  NBC and its various satellite networks recently ended a week-long examination of education, and there’s been much talk of late about the release of Davis Guggenheim’s most recent film, Waiting for Superman, which follows five students in various cities across America as they attempt to win places at local charter schools. 

The education-related headline that probably received the most attention recently, though, was Mark Zuckerberg ‘s announcement that he would be donating $100 million of Facebook stock to the Newark, New Jersey school district.   Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, announced the gift on an episode of The Oprah Winfrey show, and some critics pointed out that Zuckerberg’s gift seemed to coincide with the negative press he’s been receiving lately around the release of The Social Network, a movie about Facebook’s founding that depicts Zuckerberg in an unflattering light.  PR value aside, most have heralded the gift, and some have even drawn connections between Zuckerberg and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, perhaps the most widely renowned philanthropist of the new century.

Lost in all the talk about Zuckerberg’s gift, however, is an examination of why he’s being celebrated in the first place.  One could argue that any celebration of Zuckerberg’s gift is, in fact, a concession to the idea that people with such outsized wealth -- Zuckerberg is worth about four billion dollars according to Forbes  -- should be celebrated for making incredibly important decisions about (in this case, anyway) which public school districts receive such needed money, and which do not.  Zuckerberg apparently decided to give money to Newark Public Schools after a series of discussions with Corey Booker, the charismatic mayor of Newark. What would have happened had he hit it off with, say, the mayor of DC, or of Dallas instead?  

Zuckerberg is allowed to make these decisions, of course; however, we’ve yet to fully understand how the selective beneficence of wealthy folks like Zuckerberg and Gates will play out in the long run, and how those who aren’t lucky enough to capture the attention of Zuckerberg or the Gates Foundation will respond.  For all of their good works, what are the ramifications of folks like Zuckerberg and Gates transferring the wealth and power they’ve gained in business to their philanthropic endeavors?  In other words, does success in one field automatically qualify them for respect and prestige in another?