Thursday, February 17, 2011

TEACHER'S PELT. The big teachers' union fight is on in Wisconsin. The Republican Governor Scott Walker claims the government needs to severely curtail the union's collective bargaining power in order to save money; TPM notices that Walker blew a hole in the budget himself and suggests that he did so in order to create this crisis and break the union.

As the Christian Science Monitor headline demonstrates, the union is aware of the stakes: "We’re fighting for our very existence." Conservatives know it too. They have been full-throated in their denunciations not only of the union but of teachers in general, portraying them as parasites -- like Teamsters, only easier to beat up. National Review's Jay Nordlinger has been particularly obsessive in this regard. First:
Teachers used to be something like a holy caste, practically the most honorable among us. I come from a family of teachers. Everyone thought of it as a noble calling. Teachers earned too little, but that was remedied, over time.

Then everything went screwy. Teachers were not just well paid. (“Best part-time job in America,” Lee Iacocca once quipped, to the howls of many.) They were some of the most petulant, greediest, nastiest unionists around...
In a previous era, long ago, teachers were rather like missionaries. You practically had to take a vow of poverty to be a teacher. Often, a teacher [blah blah, miles in the snow]...

I would never go back to the days of missionary-teachers. They ought to be generously compensated. (Shouldn’t we all.)
Even Grandpa Simpson has his moments of generosity, I guess, but Nordlinger quickly catches himself:
But good grief: These grasping, lying, bullying unionists are enough to give the teaching profession a bad name...
And everything the teachers do, of course, is for the sake of “the children.” I wish the children could talk back, borrowing a phrase from anti-war movements: “Not in my name.”
Instead of playing in the yard and thanking God for their luck.
For decades now, union militancy has dragged the teaching profession through the mud, robbing that profession of its public spirit, even of its professionalism...
And so on. Funny as it is, I don't find the situation cheering. They're trying to turn teachers into a pariah class in order to normalize their removal from the middle class. The whole energy of our rulers seems devoted these days to squeezing that remnant, and if they are not completely successful in this grand opportunity to reduce its number and further weaken union power at the same time, they will keep coming back until they are.

Their cheerleaders ("Look, I am the daughter of union folk; I appreciate why unions were initially formed") spread the story that the rollback is unavoidable, as the morality for collective bargaining died with their parents' need for it, and anyway "the money is not there." Indeed it's not there, because it has been painstakingly relocated.

Though the state of American manufacturing is so parlous even the CIA is worried about it, "economic futurist" Jeff Thredgold is bullish. He explains:
The common wisdom notes that most of these jobs left in search of less-costly havens, initially Mexico and then China. This is certainly true for a share of the jobs.

However, the most important factor leading to lesser employment was major gains in worker productivity. We simply make more goods with fewer bodies. While overall U.S. worker productivity gains have run just under 3 percent annually over the past 10 years, productivity gains in manufacturing have run two to three times higher.
Maybe Thredgold has good reason to feel confident. There's just been an uptick in the mid-Atlantic manufacturing index. The big winner from this, so far, is Mexican stocks, as the uptick "indicated strength in one of Mexico’s most important export sectors," says MarketWatch. I wonder how much of that money is going to be left over for the guy on the line.

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