Thursday, January 30, 2014

Blaming Teachers (and other Government Employees)

In Paul Krugman's recent post: Hedgies Versus Teachers he notes that the top 40 hedge fund managers and traders took home a combined $16.7 billion—as much as 300,000 school teachers—almost a third of all high school teachers in America. Or, with total compensation (pensions, etc), maybe 200,000 teachers.

"Now look at those supposedly overpaid government employees. According to the BLS, the median high school teacher earns $55,050 per year."

One of Krugman's readers can't stand that government employees (such as teachers) earn a middle-class wage. In response to that commenter (lagunaray) I say this:

You just made Krugman's argument for him...because of unions. If workers in the public sector had belonged to a labor union over the past 30 years, they too would have seen annual cost-of-living adjustments (and pension plans, etc.) just like union workers in the public sector.

When you say, "their salaries are paid with taxpayers hard earned money", so aren't our soldiers, members of Congress, firefighters, and the people inspecting your food, directing your air traffic, policing your neighborhoods, curing horrible diseases—they ALSO work hard, so that people like you can have better lives.

Teachers DO create wealth (people in all real professions create wealth), not people gambling on the stock market or betting $10 billion against the British pound.

When you say "thousands in the financial services industry make less than teachers and live on much smaller amounts in retirement", you must be referring to bank tellers, because they don't belong to a union.

"WE" are the government (because just like corporations, governments are people too). When you say "government is too big", do you mean $650 billion a year spent on defense (to enrich the CEOs at companies like Boeing), or are you talking about the number of government workers (who are less now, than under Bush)? Our population grew from 200 million to over 300 million over the last 40 years (up 33%) — how much less government do you propose? How long do you want to stand in line to renew your drivers license?

You ask the question, "what percentage of a person's income should go to pay for government services?" Let's look at that: 50% of all wager earners take home less than $28,000 a year. Maybe if they were all earning a REAL "living wage", they could pay more in taxes and not need food stamps. If their employers (raking in record profits) offered them a group healthcare plan, maybe they wouldn't need Medicaid (and all your "hard earned taxes").

Yes, if all you low-paid workers without pensions and healthcare didn't belong to a union, you can't blame teachers for just earning a middle-class wage (with benefits) that most of us once enjoyed back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s ---- until union membership peaked in 1979, and when jobs started getting outsourced to places like China and India (why don't you blame the teachers for that too!)

If you think teachers are at fault, and you don't belong to a union, then you only have yourself to blame.

* Full disclosure: I belonged to a union (in the private sector) all my working life, and so I will not have to just rely on Social Security when I retire, because I will also have a pension when I retire (unless some private equity guy like Mitt Romney steals it).

And if you want to know who REALLY creates wealth, see my other post.

So if you want to hate teachers, then you can blame and hate people like me too. I really don't give a d@mn.

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