Thursday, June 07, 2012

Teachers make too damn much money... least that is what Wisconsin voters seem to think. And maybe that's all there is to it.

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Scott Walker survived a governor recall election that probably was unwarranted and apparently unpopular.  Hyped as a lead-in to the November presidential stakes, the Democrats could barely muster a lukewarm endorsement of their candidate by Bill Clinton in the final days.

The Democrats were outspent $34 million to $4 million as billionaires stepped up to support Walker-- huge money-- which bespeaks the importance placed on this theme of busting unions put on by national players.  But there is more to this story.

I sense deep voter resentment of teachers who make good salaries-- maybe too good by community standards-- and have generous benefits. Additionally, the teachers' union has negotiated health benefits and directed contracts to the union-owned company, WEA. 

All politics is local and maybe the Wisconsin thing is specific to Wisconsin teachers where grade school teachers can make $70K per year and retire at age 55 with health insurance for life. Maybe it's as simple as that and there is nothing of any national significance to see here.

I admit that this video makes my skin crawl: an evangelical, anti-gay, politician on the ascendancy.  This triggered a visceral comment by me:  
Yes, democracy is defined by huge moneyed interests convincing the unwashed masses that our society is broke while lobbyists and CEO's of companies-- which are the largest recipients of public welfare-- get hefty pay raises and tax cuts. And when Gov Walker is done negotiating away rights in Wisconsin I'm sure he'll have a sweet deal in the private sector as a pay-off for all his "hard work."
Which triggered an eloquent counter-response from someone: 
You are right. Democracy is having unions force all public employees to pay union dues that support candidates or recall elections whether the members agree or not. Democracy is having school districts unable to bid out contracts for health care and force them to buy over-priced plans run by (you guessed it) da' unions . Democracy is having teachers skip school to protest and then use fake doctors notes to get PAID FOR THE TIME OFF!!
I may be one of the unwashed masses but our state is creating jobs, property taxes are down, teachers are getting merit raises (all while still making 22% more than their private business educational counterparts) and our "fake" deficit is now a surplus. I am sure Obama is working on ways to control the Lobbyists. 
So perhaps I'm reading too much into the Wisconsin result. Sure lots of money has been spent by SuperPACs, which seems to have ominous implications, but similar legislation limiting public union influence has been struck down in Ohio and elsewhere, so a national trend Wisconsin does not make.

We are all the unwashed masses, whether we are semi-skilled laborers delivering babies or middle managers keeping the lights turned on, we don't own the means of production and we survive at the whim of the manor lord.  Some, like Mr. Walker, are just more adept at toadying up to the lord by throwing the rest of us to the wolves.

I guess I'd have more sympathy for Act 10 if the teachers hadn't acquiesced to most of the demands of the school boards and legislature, and I'd also be more sympathetic if the underlying game plan of the GOP were not to make "right-to-work" the norm everywhere. 

I understand that the interests of labor unions are not necessarily in the general public interest. A more nuanced view comes from Doug Henwood:

 Despite a massive financial crisis and a dismal job market, approval of unions is close to an all-time low in the 75 years Gallup has been asking the question. A major reason for this is that twice as many people (68%) think that unions help mostly their members as think they help the broader population (34%). Amazingly, in Wisconsin, while only about 30% of union members voted for Walker, nearly half of those living in union households but not themselves union members voted for him (Union voters ≠ union households). In other words, apparently union members aren’t even able to convince their spouses that the things are worth all that much.

A major reason for the perception that unions mostly help insiders is that it’s true. 

Scott Walker is definitely riding the wave of this discontent, but don't think for a minute that it ends with teachers. Inexplicably, other public employees like police and firemen in Wisconsin barely broke a sweat as teachers got their tongues excised. Are teachers really that overpaid and hated? 

If the GOP has their way, the race to the bottom will result in Wisconsin becoming Alabama where you have the "right-to-work'' on a assembly line for 20 years for $10.50 an hour, and when your back is broken the boss will cast you onto the public dole with no pension or health benefits...but we'll have 3% unemployment...yay!

Henwood continues:

 Collective bargaining has mostly disappeared in the private sector, and now looks doomed in the public sector. There are something like 23 states with Republican governors and legislative majorities ready to imitate Walker who will be emboldened by his victory. And there are a lot of Dems ready to do a Walker Lite. If they don’t disappear, public sector unions will soon become powerless.

That means that if unions ever want to turn things around—and I’m old-fashioned enough to believe that we’ll never have a better society without a reborn labor movement—they have to learn to operate in this new reality. Which means learning to act politically, to agitate on behalf of the entire working class and not just a privileged subset with membership cards.

And it's no coincidence that wealth inequality is increasing. 

Maybe we should all work for $10.50 an hour while bank CEO's and lobbyists get pay raises. 

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