21 February 2011

The "Wrong" Fight

In response to the protest against the proposed legislation in Wisconsin that would revoke the right of public employees to collective bargaining, Sarah Palin has insisted in a note shared on her Facebook page that they are "fighting the wrong fight."  Furthermore, the former governor admonishes that the benefits being sought by union bosses are unsustainable and therefore greedy during these economic times.  The highlight of the diatribe, though, is an effort to portray Wisconsin's public workers as less than the selfless, decent people they surely must be to have even taken their jobs in the first place:
Solidarity doesn’t mean making Wisconsin taxpayers pay for benefits that are not sustainable and affordable at a time when many of these taxpayers struggle to hold on to their own jobs and homes.  Real solidarity means everyone being willing to sacrifice and carry our share of the burden.
Keep in mind that the only reason Wisconsin has a state deficit is that its governor, Scott Walker, decided the most prudent thing to do with the state surplus he inherited was to push through three rounds of tax cuts benefiting the big businesses and fat cats of the state.  Governor Walker wasn't even content to reduce the state's revenue to the point of a balanced budget; he kept going with more cuts "even though the state faces a two-year $3 billion budget deficit." (Channel 3000, 25 January 2011).

According to this guy, protesters aren't taxpayers.
Governor Walker declared
The protesters have every right to be heard, but I'm going to make sure the taxpayers are also heard.
See what he did there?  If you're against this legislation, then you're not a decent, hard-working, tax-paying Wisconsinite.  I'm sure this is news to Wisconsin's teachers.  I can't think of a harder working group of people--to say nothing of under-appreciated--than teachers.  These are people who often pay out of their own pocket to see to it that proper materials are introduced into the classroom to educate their students.  They get to work early, stay late, and take their work home with them.  Think you work under a microscope?  Everyone is second-guessed, but teachers are more often than not much more highly qualified in their subject than their detractors.  And teachers can lose their jobs if enough unqualified parents get it into their heads that they know better.

So you know what, Sarah Palin?  The public workers whose careers--and lives--will be impacted by this legislation are already carrying their fair share and then some of the economic burden.  These people took these jobs knowing it would often be thankless, and that they would stand to make a hell of a lot more money in another job.  Do not mistake their claim on collective bargaining for greed, nor their selflessness as an invitation for exploitation.

Maybe you should be asking the wealthy whose fat wallets got fatter from Governor Walker's tax cuts to do their fair share to help shoulder Wisconsin's economic burden.  After all, isn't not paying into the system that allowed you to become prosperous in the first place even greedier than asking for the right to collective bargaining?

I'd feel sorry for Wisconsinites, except that they elected Governor Walker and the Republican legislature now conspiring against them.  It's particularly shameful, because Wisconsin was the first state to empower its public workers with collective bargaining.  I fear how many states will follow the example of Wisconsin.  You should, too.  Of the 50 states in the union, five do not have unions for their teachers.  Four of them are dead last for ACT/SAT scores, and the highest performing of these five states ranked just #44.

If we're to continue being a world leader, we cannot do it with poorly educated citizens--despite what Jersey Shore might have you believe.  Ironically, it's the core basic free market principle that explains this: where teachers cannot be reasonably compensated for their time and efforts, they will not seek employment.  I'm sure it's great for private schools--who will properly pay teachers and support them--but the majority of American students attend public schools.  They deserve better than this.

President Harry Truman characterized the Republicans of his day, and it's pretty accurate today:
Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke. They stand four-square for the American home--but not for housing. They are strong for labor--but they are stronger for restricting labor's rights. They favor minimum wage--the smaller the minimum wage the better. They endorse educational opportunity for all--but they won't spend money for teachers or for schools. They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine--for people who can afford them. They consider electrical power a great blessing--but only when the private power companies get their rake-off. They think American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.
President Harry Truman, givin' 'em hell since 1884.

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