We’re about to witness an incredible feat of obfuscation and misdirection. The Republican party is a few months into a massive, nationwide campaign to discredit the very people who they hope to court for the Senate and White House in 2012: the American people. It’s fascinating that not only do they think this is a winning strategy, but that it might actually work, and that so many people will be once again battered into voting against their own self interest.
As so many entertainers have pointed out and journalists have ignored wholesale, the folks pushing this agenda to delegitimize nearly one-hundred years of collective bargaining by public sector employees and the work they provide for our society are taking advantage of a recession caused by the financial industry to slash the standard of living for all Americans. Rather than hold the banks and Wall Street responsible for this problem and taking steps (like *shock* raising taxes on corporate income and the massive cash reserves they’re hoarding to the detriment of employment everywhere), they are targeting crucial public services for massive cuts, assaulting the character of educators and public safety workers, and convincing taxpayers that they are the victims of a left-wing conspiracy to hold back our children’s education while draining the lifeblood of America. And it’s working.
They are close to convincing us that teacher’s benefits, like pensions and healthcare, are some how ‘extras’ that are ‘subsidized by tax-payers’ as if every dollar of a person’s compensation isn’t earned by them, to be spent, how they want. It does not matter if you are employed by the public, if you get benefits or pay union dues through deferred compensation, that is a part of your earnings and is not ‘extra.’ Anti-unionists point to the private sector and the ‘free’ market to show how ‘NONE of us have healthcare, dude,’ as if that’s the normal and not a major problem in our economy and healthcare systems are structured. Why would we look at teachers, who have chosen through collective bargaining to forgo pay in lieu of retirement and healthcare (which all of us would gladly do, if we had the balls to demand it) and say ‘FUCK you, you get paid too much.’ Really? Teachers get paid too much?
They get paid more than the average worker, it’s true. The vast swaths of the population who work at Wal-Mart (and aren’t allowed to unionize) would love a job where they have all these benefits, and aren’t kept to 39 hours a week so their company can avoid giving them a decent wage. Too bad most of those people aren’t trained, educated, experienced professional teachers. When did the Republican party suddenly become obsessed with equal outcomes instead of equal opportunities? Do they really want to hire the ‘average American’ to teach their kids just to save money, but they can’t fathom a high-income bracket tax rate of 39% instead of 36%?
There are obvious problems with tenure and merit pay in the union system. Unions should take an active role in reforming their seniority systems to encourage innovation. But that doesn’ t mean deprofessionalizing our public schools, and it doesn’t mean slashing working teachers’ pay to compensate for pension funds whose stock value decreased due to woeful mismanagement on Wall Street.
The only hope for the working class and America’s educators is that the wealthy class will misfire like Mike Huckabee did this week, in calling Natalie Portman, the most glamorous and admired woman of the moment, essentially a poor role-model of a slut for getting pregnant without the sanction of a major church. We’ve seen conservatives self-destruct by running their mouths about what they actually think of the rest of us, and I hope we see it again. Because they have captured the debate on economic issues in a way that I cannot fathom. They’ve completely pulled the tablecloth out from under the working class, protected the banks and institutional shareholders has the true antagonists of wage-earners and everyday American life, and pointed at unions, teachers, cops and firefithers and said ‘they’re the problem! they’re the problem! Don’t work on lowering healthcare costs, just STOP GIVING HEALTHCARE TO WORKERS!’ Great solution.
Electricity’s too expensive? Just stop paying the bill! The kids can eat garbage because that’s what the market allows. Doctors too expensive? Hire a janitor to do your surgery, he’ll clean up good afterwards at least. Teachers want a living wage? Fuck them! Hire some clowns to teach the Bible and kick out the girls who get pregnant. God forbid you negotiate a lower salary (which the Wisconsin unions have conceded). Destroy their unions, destroy public services. The market will provide. The market will provide. Just not for most of us, and them’s the breaks.