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Letter from the Editor

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On Monday night, President Obama went on national television to press for a settlement of the nation's debt ceiling "crisis." Dressed in conservative suit and tie, speaking in flat, measured tones, he appealed for "compromise," asking that both parties "put politics aside." He said this with a straight face, though he may have been thinking, "when monkeys fly out my butt." He even quoted Ronald Reagan, pulling out all the stops in an attempt to appear as the last reasonable man in Washington, D.C.

He was followed onto the air by House majority leader John Boehner who, with his orange glow, neon-green tie, upper-lip flop sweat, and basso radio voice, appeared to be channeling Dan Aykroyd selling the Bass-O-Matic on Saturday Night Live.

It's simple, Boehner growled, we can't spend more than we make — conveniently ignoring the fact that the debt ceiling has been routinely raised dozens of times by previous presidents (17 times by Reagan alone) and that failing to raise the debt ceiling would bring economic chaos — and that he'd already agreed to a deal, then backed out under pressure from his Tea Party terriers.

Similar shenanigans were being performed in Memphis by the city school board, which voted to drop its charter in January, thereby eliminating itself and turning city schools operations over to Shelby County. But until that situation is resolved in court, the MCS board is still meeting, still in charge of educating Memphis schoolchildren.

The latest move, in which the board voted 8-1 on July 19th to delay the start of school until the city paid the full court-mandated $55 million it owes the schools, was Kabuki theater, posturing for the camera and for dramatic effect. It worked, as the story got top billing in the local media and spread to the national media, with council members, school board members, and Mayor A C Wharton all making appearances on national news programs.

Nobody really buys the idea that MCS can't afford to start the school year without that $55 million on hand. The school board's annual budget is close to $1 billion, nearly $300 million higher than the entire city of Memphis' budget. It's absurd, like saying we can't go swimming if the pool is only 95 percent full. The school board is playing games, trying to stir up parents, students, teachers, and the media. It's a skit, a farce.

All they lacked was a Bass-O-Matic.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

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