I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Schoolyard Brawl

Christie LOVES teachers:

This is actually very instructive, for several reasons:

1) Christie starts off by talking about the nobility of the profession: teachers are rewarded by the joy that comes from helping children learn. OK, but you can't eat fulfillment. Yes, most teachers like their work and feel the deep satisfaction that comes from doing an important job - but that's not the point. You can't ask educators to be saints. You have to pay them decent salaries and give them good benefits, or they won't be able to stay in the field.

Any time you hear any politician talk about teaching like this, know they are sending a message that the nobility of the teacher allows society to pay them less than they are worth. It's a pernicious argument but it's also a very effective framework - you set up to cut salaries and benefits by applauding the work teachers do.

Teachers need to be upfront about this: yes, we love what we do, but we are entitled to the same middle class existence as any other professional.

2) Christie loves to harp on union dues, but has he said anything publicly about the dues other unionized government employees pay?

What really strikes me, however, is how well Christie has internalized the victimization that defines the modern American conservative movement. He embraces the jujitsu of demonizing his opponents while complaining that they are demonizing him with a zeal that rivals Sarah Palin.

By the way, the notion that teachers can't run their own union, elect their own leaders, and spend their money the way they see fit is patronizing and stupid.

3) "...those salaries comes from your state income taxes." Well, in many districts, that's just not true anymore, is it, Chris? Considering you gutted state aid to suburban districts and all...

4) Then we get the macho bluster - another conservative trait: "You punch them - I punch you." Uh, in your own analogy, Chris, the people on the ground bloodied by the "bully" are policitians. This is who you're standing up for? Wow, how gallant.

5) Consider this (3:36 in):

The fight is about who is going to run public education in NJ. The parents, and the people they elect? Or the mindless, faceless, union leaders, who decide that they're going to be the ones who run it, because they have the money and the authority to bully around school boards and local councils.

This is, in a word, ridiculous. This isn't about "who is going to run public education"; it's about teacher compensation. He sets this up like parents are being shunted aside by the union - what is he talking about? And the NJEA is "bullying" around local school boards? How? By negotiating decent wages for teachers? That's "bullying"?

Demagogues like Christie love to draw people into their fights by pretending that their opponents are everyone else's opponents. So he pretends that the NJEA is somehow disenfranchising parents when they call him out for giving tax breaks to millionaires while slashing school funding across the state. This has never been about parents - it's about the fact that Christie ran on a promise that he would protect teachers interests while reforming education funding, and he hasn't done either.

6) At 4:15, he finally - finally - tells us what he thinks is wrong: "... four and five percent increases; free health insurance for life, ain't about the kids."

Second, the notion that getting health insurance for life is a BAD thing shows you how low the bar has sunk. Why isn't he working to make sure everyone gets health insurance for life - is that such a wild notion?

But he's probably at his most honest right here, and it's well-worth remembering exactly what he is saying:

In Christie's world, the big fight is to make sure teachers never get raises that are even slightly above the historical rate of inflation. The big fight is to make sure retired teachers do not get quality health care for the rest of their lives. These things are outrageous and unacceptable and indicative of greed that harms the children of New Jersey.

I really do think he believes this. Again, you can't compromise with someone who is this far gone. You must discredit him and defeat him.

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