The following article was written by Zephyer Teachout for The Daily Beast.
As Hunger Games-Mockingjay I opens this weekend, some commentators have noted that the hunger, as it were, for Hunger Games derives from our sense that it mimics some of the darker aspects of our politics. The closest parallel I see is in the current politics around schools, where big money, using the language of “reform,” has been tearing out the heart of traditional public education.
The same hedge-fund managers who bought the New York State Senate now want to take over public education in the state and strip it bare, while they celebrate excessive wealth in high style. They’re pushing for a special session in Albany this December to cement the takeover of education policy.
The school wars are about to begin.
In New York’s Hunger Games, just like in the books and movies, those in the Capitol live in a very different reality than the rest of us. In our Capitol, Albany lawmakers enjoy a flood of money, personal accounts, and protection for incumbents against attacks. In the Districts—the cities and towns of New York—the reality is bleaker. Citizens must work to survive and make do with the limited resources afforded to them by the Capitol.
While Governor Andrew Cuomo appears to be orchestrating this show, the truth is that much like Caesar Flickerman, he’s merely a stage manager, doing the bidding of those truly in power: his billionaire hedge-fund donors. The real power lies in a handful of men like Dan Loeb, who personally put up a million dollars to take over the Senate. Loeb owns a $100 million penthouse on Central Park West and a $50 million yacht. Louis Bacon, another big donor, owns land all over the world, including a grouse-hunting estate in Scotland.
Like President Snow, who starves the Districts, tests the residents with the Hunger Games competition, and then sets out to destroy them, the hedge-funders want to take over our schools with the same three steps: Starve, Test, Destroy. Budgets are cut severely, tests reveal “poor performance,” and then public schools, having been thus gutted, are replaced by privately managed charters.