Braun unleashes on Ledger

Bob Braun, legendary former columnist for the Star-Ledger, didn’t appreciate his former employer’s endorsement this past weekend of Gov. Chris Christie.

Braun, who left his job at The Ledger at the end of June, just short of the 50-year service mark, wrote a scathing reaction piece on his new blog to the editorial page’s support for Christie…

“What is extraordinary about  today’s Star-Ledger editorial endorsing Chris Christie  is that it invites readers to follow an immoral—or, at least, amoral—path: To vote for a man its anonymous author points out is ‘hostile to low income families’ by raising their taxes and ‘sabotaging’  affordable housing. The writer asks us to vote for a man who is a ‘catastrophe’ for the environment and ‘fraudulent’  in his budget. The newspaper concedes he is destroying our independent judiciary.  New Jersey’s largest daily further asks us to embrace someone who is at least borderline corrupt because he made sure a friend won a no-bid state contract.

The newspaper fails to mention other failures, including the loss of $400 million in federal education funds,  the blunder of canceling the tunnel project, his opposition to Obamacare, and his support from the Koch brothers, men who are destroying democracy as we know it.  Typically for this newspaper, it finds Christie’s uncivil and obnoxious behavior ‘entertaining.’ It’s not. It’s beneath the dignity of a great state. Anyone who suggests taking a bat to a woman or calls a critic a ‘jerk’ or ‘numbnuts’ does not deserve serious attention much less high office. He deserves to be sent back to Morris County for another try at the freeholder board.

Most of the argument for Christie—in fact, all of the argument for him—is a rant against Barbara Buono who is guilty of the sin of offering support for, and receiving support from, teachers and their unions. This is typical of The Star-Ledger’s editorial obsession with  school privatization, its invention of ‘studies’ that somehow prove charter schools are better than conventional public schools, and its hero worship of political bosses turned educational entrepreneurs like George Norcross and Steve Adubato.

This is utter nonsense.  Anyone  who knows anything about New Jersey schools—and I wrote about them for nearly 50 years—knows at least two things. The first is that the state’s schools are among the best in the nation. I spent a lot of time writing about selective college admissions. I ran a scholarship program for New Jersey’s best high school graduates. No state has better public schools. Admissions directors at Ivy and similarly selective colleges will say it. Tests prove it.

The second is that the exception to this record of excellence is found in New Jersey’s cities that are severely racially segregated and steeped in cruel poverty.  Teachers alone—no matter what their training, not matter how they are evaluated, no matter what union they belong to—cannot overcome the state’s historic record of shame in locking up the poor and people of color in cities like Newark, Paterson, and Camden. Tenure has nothing to do with the achievement gap between rich and poor and black and white—that is a bald-faced, hypocritical, slanderous lie.

This governor—not Barbara Buono—was responsible for the state-operated urban schools for the last four years; he owns their failure. This governor—not Barbara Buono—is trying to destroy fair housing in New Jersey; he promotes racial isolation. This governor—not Barbara Buono—has done nothing to alleviate the problems of  our cities. This governor—unlike Barbara Buono—cares not a whit about the poor and the minority. He has even all but bragged about how  his family left Newark in a hurry when the nature of the city’s demographics changed.

What charter schools do is exacerbate the segregation of children by race, by wealth, by language,  and by achievement. Those who, like this editorial’s writer, believe charters and voucher schools should replace conventional public schools are this generation’s equivalent of  southern segregationists. Remember this—after Brown vs Board of Education, voucher schools sprung up across the south.  That’s happening in New Jersey, too, but the motive is a greed that is simply too alluring to worry about warehousing the neediest children  in resource-starved public schools.

Privatization makes money for enterpreneurs and those who slop at the trough of foundation money from people like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Eli Broad. Private businessmen are not creating profit-making charter management companies because they want to improve education. They are doing it because that’s where the money is—some $700 billion nationally. Charters and voucher schools are about greed, not learning.

Frankly, in such an atmosphere, public school teachers need more aggressive unions than they have now.  They need stronger, not weaker,  job protections because they are under assault—led by a playground bully of a governor who referred to them as ‘drug mules.’ Zuckerberg, Gates, and Broad are billionaires buying up politicians who run entire states—and I am supposed to care that teacher unions want to protect their members, as they are legally required to do?

Teacher-bashing and union-bashing are in the DNA of Star-Ledger editorial writers and are probably linked to the resentment they felt when teacher unions refused to go along with Christie’s demand for a wage freeze.  At that time, Star-Ledger employees were facing agonizing insecurity. But, damn it—I wish I had a union then that might have protected me from the consequences of pay cuts, furloughs, increased insurance costs, eventual  layoffs, and a pension freeze.

Why is it okay for billionaires to keep their profits and buy politicians but not okay for working people to want to hold on to a salary that helped them get into the middle class? Christie could have raised taxes on millionaires. Instead, he blamed public employees and, with the help of traitorous Democrats like Steve Sweeney—he cut pensions and benefits.And Barbara Buono is ‘deeply flawed’?

The worst of this editorial is the smarmy line about “our duty is to the readers, and our goal is to help them decide which button to push.

No thanks, Mr. Editorial Writer. The ethical, the moral, thing to have done, given the arguments you yourself used, was to say we endorse no one. Otherwise what you are doing is urging  a vote for someone you have proven beyond doubt is, in your words, a fraud and a catastrophe–and unworthy of high office.

Never, in 50 years of newspaper work, have I seen such contorted logic and such  breathtaking cynicism.

Shame on you.” Braun unleashes on Ledger