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

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Christie Radio

More about the guv's radio show last night:

- 4:18, Part II - "... the teachers union demanding raises at 4 to 5 times the rate of inflation..." Teacher pay has grown more slowly than the state average wage - not just more slowly than the average for college educated workers, but more slowly than ALL workers.

Now, in the above link, I point out Michael Drewniak, the Ari Fleischer of the Christie administration, says you have to also take into account that teachers are getting "gold-plated" health benefits. Funny, because in Part I, at 1:20, Christie says that health benefits are NOT a big driver of tax increases. So, health benefits aren't a big enough driver to drive up taxes, but they are big enough to justify that teachers pay grows more than the state average.

I mean, it's so obvious - don't you get it?

- 4:30, Part II - "Do your children learn any better of they know their teachers aren't paying anything for their health care?"[/snark] They learn better when they have well-compensated people teaching them who aren't being bashed over the head by the governor every day. But, again, if the rise in health care costs is so nominal it can be exempted from the cap, why is it so important to have the teachers pay more for their health care?

By the way, the teachers are now playing 1.5% toward their health insurance. Is that enough, Governor? Do you want them to pay more?

- 5:00, Part II - "...we have public sector workers paid more in this state than private sector workers." Is that wrong? Should a teacher make less than a dishwasher at Denny's? Should a cop make less than the guy bagging groceries at the supermarket?

By the way, guv, as Bruce Baker has shown, teachers here make less in NJ - in the same labor market - than teachers in NY. So the notion that teachers make far in excess of what they should is, once again, shown to be a crock.

- 6:12, Part II - He might have to decrease state aid to schools more. Well, for many districts, he couldn't decrease it more, because it's already at zero. But he won't let them explore changing their revenue streams like towns in PA and NY and other states can. And he sure isn't talking about getting rid of unfunded mandates.

- 10:00, Part II - A caller wants to know if Christie is going to support the Home Buyer Tax Credit. Christie says he won't unless the Legislature makes cuts to offset its cost. But aren't Republicans are always saying that tax cuts pay for themselves? Is Christie going against party orthodoxy?

- 2:00, Part III - So here we have it - teachers make too much. To prove his point, he cites Rita Wilson, a teacher who called him out in a press appearance in Rutherford. Wilson cited an email that's been circulating among teachers making the case that, if you paid a teacher $3/hr per kid and they taught 30 kids, they'd make $105,300 a year. She apparently adjusted the figure for the number of kids in her classes and got a salary of $83K.

At the event, Christie told Wilson if she didn't think her salary was fair, she should quit. On the radio, he slammed her for making MORE than $83K - she makes $86K!

First, congratulations to the far-right press for breaking this story wide open. How dare teachers question their betters in a public forum! Remember, plebes, the weight of the right-wing noise machine will come down hard on you if you dare to question authority.

Second, apparently the governor thinks $3/hr per kid is TOO MUCH!

Rather than continue to engage this stupidity, let's look at some facts (again, via Bruce Baker): teachers work 87% of the time of average workers yet make 67% of the wages similarly experienced and degreed workers make. Their wages are declining compared to non-teachers over time. The benefits gap is not very great.

This is academic, peer-reviewed research, not some talking-point garbage spewed by some biased think tank.

By the way, as Bruce points out above, this "teachers only work 184 days" is such nonsense. How many jobs require people to work 365 days a year? Nobody takes the weekend off anymore?

-3:10, Part III - After just saying he wants to "reward" good public servants, the governor tells a library worker making $42K/yr who apparently needs AIDS drugs that he shouldn't complain about losing his house because his $120/month in copays and 1.5% of his salary towards health care in combination with his salary is a "great deal."

But the caller has to understand that Chris Christie has to make "hard choices" just like he does: the caller has to choose between his house and his life-saving medications; Chris Christie needs to choose between funding ADDP to distribute AIDS drugs and tax cut for millionaires. So they're pretty much in the same boat, you see?

- 7:30, Part III - Independent Authorities and Boards. According to Christie, that's where the real waste is. So why's he pushing local governments toward creating more of them?

- 19:15, Part III - No more car safety inspections. We'll have the cops pull people over. Good use of their time, seeing as how we have so many after the budget cuts...

- 0:40, Part IV - An 30-year-old emailer says he makes less than his buddies who are firefighters and cops and pays more for his health care and didn't get a raise and now he wants to work for the government because it's such a sweet deal.

I don't understand why he chose to go into finance and tech and "only" make $87K at the age of 30 with no masters degree (I assume he would have mentioned that). When he was in college only a few years ago, he saw the market - why didn't he act rationally and go into public service if it was so awesome.

Maybe he took a chance on the much, much greater money he could be making if he rose to the top in those fields. Maybe he's impatient, and it will pay off later. Maybe he isn't as good as he thinks he is and is getting what he's worth. I don't know.

I do know he knew the rules heading into the game and that's what he decided. His buddies did as well: go out every day and deal with armed criminals, or run into burning buildings, and you can make six-figures after a decade or two. Or, teach kids every day and after 20 years make maybe what he's making right now.

"But the benefits!" Yeah, Christie says that too - those trade workers he's talking about here paying 25% of their premiums. I'm sure he's going to take it to the health insurers on behalf of the people of this state and stop this runaway health care inflation. Any day, now... just wait...

But, until then, we can not continue the policy of subsidizing the lower wages of public workers by giving them reasonably priced health insurance. The enrichment of the health insurers must continue apace. The pain of those in the private sector is not to be ameliorated; it is to be shared. Shut up and get used to it, and be thankful that Christie's not asking for more from you, even though he is.

One last thought: Christie is always saying he wants good public sector workers to be well-compensated. Would someone please ask him how much a 20-year veteran teacher with good reviews should make? And what their health benefits and pension should be?

Given all the above, it's a very fair question.

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