Conservatives are acutely aware of the hypocrisies of the Left. They are easily ‘felt’ in the progressive habit of bifurcating discourse on seemingly congruent issues. The lack of outrage from the modern Left in response to the excesses of public employee unions such as the one representing teachers in Chicago gives us a prime example to contrast with their reaction to a somewhat recent excess from the private sector.
When catastrophic mismanagement nudged insurance giant AIG unto the bosom of the taxpayer for a $170 billion bailout in the earliest days of Obama’s presidency, it was talked about by many Democrats as a necessary reaction to save a piece of the country’s fragile econosphere, ‘too big to fail.’
When it was revealed that, despite the epic ability of AIG’s executives to shun all manner of sound business principles, the company would be paying $165 million in contractually-guaranteed bonuses to high-ranking employees after even the bailout had failed to save thousands of lower level workers from getting the axes, Democrats simply came unglued.
Even Pres. Barack Obama – in what would soon become a routine maneuver of rhetorically distancing himself from his own administration’s decisions to continue propping up AIG – talked tough when threatening to block payment of the bonuses saying that the company’s financial woes were due to its own “reckless and greed.”
Obama railed against the excesses of all private sector firms that had gone on the public dole:
“Folks on Wall Street who are asking for help need to show some restraint and show some discipline and show some sense of responsibility,” he said. A few months later, Obama pledged that there would be “no more bonuses for companies that taxpayers are helping out,” calling them a violation of “our fundamental values.”
Aside from his implication that government – not stockholders or the marketplace – should punish companies for sins against Six Sigma, there was surprisingly little to disagree with the President about. AIG executives had muffed it, big time, and the idea that a company would reward the people most accountable for its failure with large bonuses was obscene.
For once, Obama showed at least a limited understanding of what economist and philosopher Adam Smith had written in tomes he almost certainly was required to read at one of the Ivy League schools he attended – poor results should not be rewarded because it begets more poor results.
Back to the present day, 26,000 Chicago unionized public school teachers are poised to keep 350,000 students locked out of classrooms for at least one more day.
What economic reason does the Chicago Teachers Union have for striking? None.
Chicago’s teachers are the nation’s highest-paid teachers working in any major city, earning an average of $76,000 per year before benefits. Though union leaders had initially asked for a 30 percent raise over two years, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel settled for 16 percent over four years. The union accepted the compromise on pay, as well as swallowing a longer school day and year.
So, absent an economic justification for shutting down schools, what moral authority do Chicago teachers have for their disruptive strike action? The answer, again, is none.
Based on nearly every objective measure, Chicago schools are not coming even close to fulfilling their mission of educating children and preparing them for productive futures.
A 2011 Northern Illinois University report on student outcomes shows the dismal performance that may be creating fear among Chicago Public School teachers when facing Emanuel on the bubble issue in negotiations – establishing a new criteria for teacher evaluations that includes standardized test results. On 11th grade college readiness tests only 21 percent of Chicago Public School students were found to read at or above their own grade level, only 19 percent met the benchmark for math, and 11 percent were at grade level competency in science. Most alarming is that scores have been getting worse among minority students who make up the largest percentage of those attending Chicago Public Schools. (Only 9 percent of enrollment is considered White.)
The parents and children of Chicago deserve to hear the same principled rebuke of an illegitimate taking of taxpayers’ money as was heard during the AIG bonus debacle. If Obama’s voice remains mute to their predicament, he should not be surprised if this time he is the one who is asked, “How do you justify this outrage?”
[featured photo credit: Chicago Man]