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Tag Archives: Issue 5

Teachers Do Not Engage In Marketing

Think about the wealthiest people you know, and how they got that way.

I’m thinking of business owners, real estate agents, insurance salesmen, bankers, financial planners, attorneys, and doctors.  Surely I’ve missed some obvious ones, but do you see the pattern there?

They’re all jobs in which you market yourself and expand your customer base.  You have good months and bad months and deep down you know that your income is to a large degree up to you.  So you network and you advertise and you drop off doughnuts and take people out to lunch.  You shmooze.

And if you do it right, it pays off.  You can sell zero houses, or you can sell a house for a hundred thousand dollars, or you can sell ten of them for a half million apiece. 

The more customers you bring in and close, the more money you get.  As it should be – that’s sales.  That’s capitalism.  You’re in control of your own destiny.

People go into lines of work like that for exactly that reason – you can get yourself organized and set goals and the sky’s the limit.  How much do you want to make?

And it’s usually a pretty pervasive attitude.  You can’t go around thinking to yourself that your income is anybody’s problem but your own.  You take responsibility for it, and I admire you.  I really do.

But not all jobs are like that.  Some of them have set incomes that rise gradually – five percent a year if you’re lucky?  Three?  Ten?

Like teachers.  You don’t take a teaching job thinking to yourself, man, I’m going to work this job day and night until I’m making two hundred grand a year and driving a Corvette.  You take a teaching job and what you’re in fact saying is the opposite of that – I’m going to work this job even though it very clearly means that I’m always going to be middle class, that I’m never going to be rich.

In other words, teachers do not have the same control over their income that sales guys do – that’s why they need a union.

It’s not lazy.  It’s a sacrifice. When I hear sales guys cluck their tongues and sneer at teachers and their sweet benefits and mandatory pay raises, that’s where I think they must be confused:  They can’t imagine a job with limits on the income.  They can’t imagine working their whole lives inside a finite financial box.

You don’t see firefighters going around passing out their cards at network groups because they need to be right there at the fire station, ready to jump on the truck and risk their lives if they’re needed.  You don’t see cops pacing around in front of a sales board, thinking, man, I’ve got to pull in three more decent accounts so we can buy that boat.

Cops and teachers and firefighters take their jobs knowing there’s a ceiling to what they’re going to be making, and a rate at which their incomes will climb.

Both types of jobs can represent a sacrifice – the really serious sales guys don’t stop working, ever, and that’s really why they make the big bucks.  But see, they get compensated with those big, big bucks – and it seems kind of stupid to have to point that out.

Meanwhile teachers for example sacrifice any aspirations to real wealth.  You can debate all you want about whether or not they get paid enough, but you have to admit that you’re not at all likely to get rich teaching high school.  Not even close.

They sacrifice the financial aspirations which the other kind of worker values – worships, even.

You might even say that they willfully refrain from taking full advantage of the capitalist system they live in, all so they can provide a service which is socialist in nature.  Yes, socialist systems like public schools, public police departments, public fire departments.

You don’t want to go straight capitalism on that stuff, do you?  You want to write a check to the cops if they respond to your 911 call? 

What if that cop gets shot and killed?  What do you figure that’ll run you?  You think there’s a surcharge for that, or is that on the house, Johnny Sales Guy?

The reason that public employees have been given solid benefits that the average insurance salesman doesn’t have is that they do not have the time or opportunity to beat the streets and drum up more business, a higher paycheck, or more customers.  They are on the production end of our capitalist society, as opposed to the money spigot on the other side.

In fact, frequently they get more customers without any additional compensation at all.  Maybe a little overtime if you’re a cop.  But if nothing burns down on your 24 hour fire station shift, don’t you get paid the same as if you spent all night dragging people out of burning buildings? 

When they keep packing more students into classrooms, does the teacher’s salary go up, the way it would if you sold more widgets?

This is one of the aspects of the current political climate which really disgusts me – when salesmen with open-ended, dynamic incomes act as though teachers want something for nothing, or special treatment.  It’s quite the opposite.

They’ve agreed to take less from the system than you – and someone has to do it.  They’ve decided that instead of going out into the wide, American system and banging together a giant chunk of money, they’re going to sit in a small room and educate children, one lesson at a time, one day at a time.

In exchange, until recently, they could at least expect financial stability, and I would think you’d want them to have that, so they can focus on the very important jobs they have.

This is a sliver of the argument going on right now, a single point that needs addressed.  Teachers and cops and firefighters have different benefits from you because they ARE different from you.  Because they sacrifice the possibilities which you take for granted, all so they can do what you never would or could.

Have a little respect for them please, while you’re driving your Audi to the bank, and try to remember that even if you are as truly and fundamentally awesome as you seem to think you are, that America still needs to support those who are just regular citizens, doing what needs done without a tit-for-tat commission structure.

You get paid more.  They get to worry less.  That’s always been the deal.  You see how you want to hang on to the first one and take the second one away?  And do you see why we’re not going to let you?

 
5 Comments

Posted by on March 6, 2011 in Issue 5, News/Commentary

 

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The I’m-Rich-And-You’re-Not Argument

It’s not really an argument, it’s just a blustering, bullying response that you hear whenever you suggest (or demand) that the tax burden – especially here in the middle of this historic, nationwide financial crisis – ought to be carried by the wealthy. 

I mean, you hear it all the time.  “Oh, so you want ME to pay for it.”

Or, “Ah, so you want to penalize people for being successful.”

The idea is, the rest of us are dipshit kids with our hands out, and the rich are like the grownups.  They roll their eyes as they reach for their wallets – What is it now, Billy?

Even though frequently, I sat there and watched these guys get handed everything in their lives by their moms and dads, from kindergarten right through college, and on into the business world, where their daddies use their connections and resources to get them started.  Then suddenly years later, their business up and running, they delude themselves into believing that they did it all their own selves, those Big Boys, and so the rest of us should, too.

Currently I’m hearing it when we’re talking about teachers.  When I point out, for instance, that we just extended tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, then immediately we added, hey you teachers and cops and firefighters, you need to tighten your belts. 

Usually with a condescending shrug and palms held out wide.  “There’s no money!”

But there’s money.  Sure there is.  That’s the definition of wealthy, and no, I don’t want to penalize you.  Why is it that when we tax you, it’s penalizing you, but when we go after teachers’ benefits, it’s just telling them to tighten their belts?

We’re always worried about financially de-incentivising doctors or giant corporations.  That’s what was so awful about health care, yes?  Nobody will want to be a doctor if their six-digit salaries get too small?

And that’s why we had to cut taxes for the wealthy, yes?  We wouldn’t want them to pay taxes with the money instead of hire people, would we? 

But then when it comes to teachers – oh, screw them, right?  I mean, let’s focus on the ONE financial aspect of being a teacher that is awesome – the benefits – and then let’s pretend that is Teaching In A Nutshell.

Why should they get health care and retirement?!  The unions are spoiling them?

A really backward argument, don’t you think?  We used to ALL get health care and retirement and then slowly over the years, those benefits eroded until suddenly we all think of that as being spoiled. 

“Why don’t I get those benefits?”  That’s what people seem to want to know, and I’ll tell you.  Because you weren’t in a union.

People look at the insurance and retirement and benefits of the average union worker, and they compare them to their own and say “Hey, that’s not fair!”

And they’re right – it’s not fair.  But it doesn’t mean those things should be taken away from anyone.  It means that we should all get those things.  That used to be what America was all about.  Being an American worker used to be something to be proud of, something people around the world envied.  Sure, they still envy us in the Third World – is that the yardstick now?

Suddenly the norm from thirty years ago is characterized as a cushy, undeserved perk.

And the people at the top get the real perks.  If you’re making two hundred fifty grand a year, and you’re comparing your benefits to a teacher’s, and then you’re concluding, “That teacher’s benefits are way better than mine and she needs to tighten her belt!”

Then aren’t you ignoring the salary?  Teachers, it’s no secret, are not paid well.  The benefits are what offset the mediocre pay.  Also, they do get guaranteed raises, but again if you make eighty grand a year and you’re mad at a teacher who gets to look forward to rocking over the forty thousand a year mark, long about Year Ten, then again – apples to apples, please.

And if you’re not making 250K a year, then please stop telling me that I want you to pay for it, because I’m not talking about you.  You’re pretending I’m talking about you.  You’re aspiring to condescension.

You can say, I don’t want you raising taxes on the people whose boots I lick all day, but you don’t get to act like you’re going to be paying for anything I’m talking about, because you’re not.

Equal Representation Regardless Of Wealth

I can’t stress this enough:  You paying more taxes than Bob does not mean that you get more of a say in what is done with the tax revenue than Bob.  That’s not how America works.

Bums and millionaires get the same vote, one apiece.  If you are bringing up your income or financial status in a political debate about this, then all you are trying to do is bully and/or shame the person you are talking to into closing his or her mouth.

And it works for a lot of people.  Being broke, living hand-to-mouth – it’s a bad, shameful feeling.  A favorite, modern rhetorical strategy is to posture as one of the wealthy who’s being taxed – again, whether it’s true or not – and to then apply pressure to that exact feeling of shame and inadequacy, in the person you’re arguing against.

It’s not logical, it’s bullying.  But a lot of people are too passive to respond to it, so it’s an effective argument-ender, minus the logic.  Simply act like the person you’re arguing with wants you to personally pay for their stuff because of their sneakiness and laziness and innate inferiority, and if you can spread out your colorful economic peacock feathers while you’re at it, all the better.

It’s bullshit.  You pay your taxes, and the money stops being yours.  It’s the government’s now – you don’t get to micromanage your share any more than anyone else does.  Where on Earth did you get the idea that you did?

We don’t live in a flat tax society – the wealthy have always paid higher taxes in recognition of the fact that it’s so much easier to make money when you already have a giant stack of it

That’s the basis for taxing the wealthy.  You are at a level where in our system, you can keep on cranking in the money.  You’re doing so in a system occupied and maintained by your fellow taxpayers, many of whom are for instance teachers, who will never reach the level of income you are at, where one can really start slicing through the waves.

So it’s just a question of how much more you’re going to pay.  The Bush tax cuts for example were a 3% slide, but all you hear is how outrageous that would be, penalizing their success by ending that 3% tax cut. 

I guess the Outrageous line is right in there in the middle of that 3%, yes? 

Listen: if the People decide you’re paying more taxes, then you are paying more taxes.  Sit there in your eight-bedroom house bitching about it all you want, the simple fact is, this is what happens when there are more of us than there are of you in a representative democracy.

At least, it’s what happens when corporations do not own the elected officials.

Here’s Why The Rich Don’t Care

Take the most affluent neighborhoods in your city and notice that since schools are funded by local property taxes, those neighborhoods already have the highest paid teachers.  They can already afford it.  I know, they’ll tell you it’s because they earned it – again, they’re rich and we’re not.  But they’ll still have superior schools.  What they won’t have is a monopoly on effective teachers.

And that right there is why it’s so essential to keep the unions.  The affluent neighborhoods will be largely unaffected by this – they can afford to pay teachers more, so they’ll help themselves to the best ones.  The middle class and inner city schools get the leftovers, whoever is willing to teach for mediocre pay and deteriorating benefits.

If you are so interested in people helping themselves and pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, then education is the most important ingredient.

And If the current attack on the public workers’ benefits is successful, then there’s no reason to believe that additional attacks won’t follow.  Soon, there will be very little reason to be a teacher or a cop or a firefighter, anywhere except where the wealthy live.

A great deal for the wealthy, if they’re shortsighted enough to believe that millions of people will sink into poverty, right down the road from them, and that they’ll never rise up and take back their dignity, whether it’s with words or votes or fire bombs.

For my part, my wife will be a teacher next year.  We’re not going to fight anybody, plain and simple.  It’s a big world, and if our own country adopts this disgusting and shameful attitude toward educators, then we will leave, and educate people elsewhere.  And we are not alone.

Why would teachers remain in a place where the people don’t respect them?  Why would firemen and cops risk their lives in a culture where insurance salesmen are valued more than they are?  Why should doctors drive Hummers and teachers ride bikes?

It’s a widespread lack of education funding that has led to this situation, an entire population that is so easily swayed by corporate propaganda and upper class avarice.  It sure looks to me like they’re doing this on purpose, so we won’t know what to do about it when they decide to do more.

And you know what?  If we let them then we’ll get exactly what we deserve.

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Earlier:  How About A Nice Tall Glass Of Socialism?
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And:  Maxwell Harrington: The Best At Being Born

 
13 Comments

Posted by on March 1, 2011 in News/Commentary

 

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How About A Nice Tall Glass Of Socialism?

People like to pretend socialism is like being a werewolf or a leper or something, as if just brushing up against the concept would mean that we’d plunge into some kind of Stalinist nightmare world and never come back.

Of course really, we have lots of socialist programs, and lots of socialist concepts at work here in our perfectly free country – Medicare, Social Security, etc – and yes, we’re still a capitalist society and we’re still a representative democracy. 

Socialism is one end of a political spectrum, and at the other end of the spectrum is fascism, and what we generally agree on in this country is we want to be neither of those things.  We want to be in the middle of them.

And so then a common thing for either political party to do is to note which direction any given program takes us and then declare is to be socialism/fascism, as is appropriate, and then that’s pretty much the end of it.

Bush is a fascist.  Obama is a socialist.  That kind of thing.

In fact, we need to realize that every single thing we do as a nation takes us one direction or the other, and so we’re always taking steps toward or away from fascism, toward or away from socialism.

In other words, if you were screaming “socialism!” at the Health Care Bill, then I hope you were screaming “fascism!” at the Patriot Act.  And yes, vice versa.

Swap out the operative words in that example for a moment, and replace them with “freezing point” and “boiling point.”  That’s another example of a spectrum, a much more easily quantifiable spectrum, too.

Now take a glass of water and place it roughly in the center, say 50 degrees Celsius.  That’s us, politically. 

Now reduce the temperature of that glass of water by three degrees, and you can see that although the temperature of the glass has moved toward the freezing point, it is not, in fact, frozen.  It’s not even close.

So if you staunchly object to frozen liquids, and the House passes a bill which reduces the temperature of the glass of water to 47 degrees Celsius, and you start screaming “That’s ice!  old-fashioned ice!”

Well, you can see how you’d be wrong, yes? 

Now put the words back.  The House passes a bill that moves the country toward socialism, as opposed to moving it toward fascism or refraining from moving it at all.  So if you then scream “That’s socialism!”

Then you can see how you’re wrong again, yes?  Since the exact same logical operation occurred?

Now perhaps your objection is something along the lines of, “Well, I don’t want my country moved toward socialism at all!”

And I mean, this part’s really important – I need you to get three points here:

  1. It doesn’t matter what you want, if more people want something else.  That’s the democracy you selectively value.  In action, yes sir – right there.  Democracy means you don’t always get your way. 
  2. If we never moved toward socialism, then we’d eventually be fascist – unless we didn’t move at all.  Anybody feeling like this is a stable political and ideological place we’re in right now?  Anybody else feeling we ought to stay just like this forever?   Anybody feeling like fascism would be groovy?
  3. We already have some socialist programs, so there’s no need to act like any of this is crazy.  You might want to get rid of them, but again, that’s what elections are for.  The fact that we already have them means it isn’t much of a change.  That’s why I used three degrees in our example, instead of 49.

The reason that I am outlining all of this is that it is incomprehensible to me, how we just extended tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and then shortly afterward said, holy crap we’re so broke we have to go ahead and give those selfish, entitled teachers a pay cut.  Because God knows the wealthy have suffered enough.

Well, they would have, if we hadn’t extended those tax cuts.

It seems to me that when we get to the point that we don’t have much of a middle class anymore, and we’re cutting benefits to our teachers, cops, and firefighters, that’s the point when we need to tap the wealthy and get them to pay up.  Yet so many people act like that’s crazy.

I don’t know how we turned into this sycophantic, wealth-worshiping society, but it’s terrifying and sad.  So many people trot around the feet of the richest in the nation, just absolutely blubbering about how awesome they are and how wrong it would be to tax the shit out of them.

It reminds me of the little cartoon dog that hangs out with the big cartoon dog in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons.

What are we going to do today, Spike?  We going to chase the cat, Spike?

And then Spike smacks the little dog to the ground, and that only makes him kiss Spike’s ass more.

I really wish that more wealthy people were like Les Wexner, who recently gave $100 million to OSU – but I’m afraid he’s not the rule.  He’s the exception.  No, by and large, when we want to take a chunk of wealth from the wealthy, and redistribute it – well, we have to take it from them.  It’s called “taxation,” not “socialism,” but you can call it whatever you like, as long as we get to it.  Now.

That’s how we do it here in America, that’s how we’ve done it before, that’s what our capitalist system allows for, and yet the people who represent us just told these billionaire CEOs, no, don’t worry it.  We’ll just get it from the teachers – they can stay out of the country clubs from now on, won’t kill ’em.

How do you feel about someone elected to represent the people, who votes in this manner?  Please, if you’re not ready to throw up, then please explain to me how your mind works.  I would be creeped out and fascinated at the same time, like if Jeffrey Dahmer were talking to me. 

I’d like a nice, heaping plateful of Wealth Redistribution, right about now, with a tall glass of socialism to wash it down, if that’s what you want to call it.  On down the road, you can bet that I’ll be looking to paddle on the other side of the boat, so we don’t keep spinning around in a circle.  But right now, all the money is in one place.  I vote we redistribute the hell out of it. 

You of course vote how you please – the next election is frighteningly far away.  All I can say is, please use the time you have until then, to watch what your politicians appear to value.  They’re talking loud and clear about that topic, right now.  And please pay attention to the people in the streets, the teachers, the cops, the firefighters, and whoever else is next.

Pay attention to them, because they’re talking to us, too.  

I wonder, how much it will take for us to listen?

 
 

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