Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

SPEAKING OF EDUCATION: Fine Print in the Contract

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

SPEAKING OF EDUCATION: Fine Print in the Contract

Article excerpt

SPEAKING OF EDUCATION: Fine Print In the Contract.

Julianne Malveaux

WASHINGTON, DC -- People who teach political science ought to do more than watch CSPAN to inform themselves about the workings of this 104th Congress. They ought to be here, bring their classes here, watch the way the process has been distorted by the mad rush to push the Contract on America forward in just 100 days.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who made headlines saying he would make the process more open, has worked hard to shut the process down. He holds press conferences every day, but bristles when he is questioned by the press. He has had the critical comments of some members of Congress -- notably, African American member Carrie Meeks (D-FL) -- stricken from the record for being "uncollegial" while at the same time accusing Senatorial colleagues of being "liars." Committee chairs pass out amendments and mark-ups to be discussed minutes after hearings are convened, impairing those who didn't get the early markup (mostly Democrats) from participating fully in conversation.

Witness lists for key hearings are twisted with a skewed partisanship that leaves Democrats and progressives scrambling for a forum for discussion. In one hearing on cleanwater standards, the first four hours were dedicated to industrialists who talked about how much money cleanwater standards cost. As the hour moved to late afternoon, a panel of environmentalists was given a whole 45 minutes to refute the claims. Interest in their message was muted and, as the sun set and the cameras disappeared, it was clear that the timing of their panel had largely determined the way it would be received. Newt apparently opened the doors, but neither the microphones nor the data flowed freely.

That unfairness sets the stage for the discussion about the Balanced Budget Amendment, the provision of the Contract so many Republicans say is a cornerstone of saving the nation's fiscal future. Many economists see a balanced-budgeting amendment as nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Deficit spending is often essential to increasing demand and keeping the economy out of recession. In expansion, it is possible to cut the deficit reduction at the top of his economic agenda in the past two years.

I do not agree with the Clinton budget thrust, but I am absolutely amazed that people have failed to note the extent to which he has moved toward deficit reduction. …

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