Public Servants Are Scapegoats for Private Sector’s Greed

by Christopher Paslay

 

“The economic and political landscape for public education, and for the people who work in our public schools, is as dangerous as I have ever seen.  In the guise of ‘reform,’ ‘efficiency,’ ‘shared sacrifice,’ and ‘belt tightening,’ efforts are under way in a number of states to gut collective bargaining, weaken public employees’ pensions, and offload public schools and services to the private sector.  It could take years—if not generations—to recover from the deep and continuing cuts to public education.  And many so-called reforms gaining traction will eliminate teacher voice and move us away from the goal of ensuring that all children have access to the excellent education they need to succeed in life.”

 

These are the words of Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, in her recent article “Your voice is essential to combat this crisis,” published in this month’s issue of American Teacher.  Weingarten goes on to call on AFT members and their allies at the national, state, and local levels to combat these threats through political action and promoting ideas for constructive change.

 

Weingarten’s focus on the threats against public employees is not new.  All across America, the fight to defend public services is being waged on many different fronts.  Interestingly, though, not much is being said about what actually caused the collapse of the nation’s economy and set in motion the circumstances that are wrongfully being pinned on schoolteachers, police, fire fighters, and public servants in general.   

 

National polls show the majority of Americans think public employees make too much money.  These polls also reveal that many Americans think public workers are greedy—that they are unfairly enjoying health benefits and pensions at the expense of overextended taxpayers.  Although there is no denying that many states are facing legitimate budget deficits, the notion that schoolteachers are greedy and overpaid—and a root cause of our nation’s financial woes—is absurd to say the least.

 

Public workers and their unions are not responsible for our country’s current economic recession.  To the contrary, it is the private sector that is largely to blame.  Accountants on Wall Street did their fair share to “cook the books” and disrupt the American stock exchange something awful.  Overinflated assets and underreported liabilities—not union greed—set the stage for the collapse of public pensions, hedge funds that had been stable for decades because millions of hard working public employees had been paying into them their whole careers.    

 

In addition to corrupt Wall Street accountants, both the real estate market and mortgage industry gamed the system and literally brought the American banking system to the brink of total collapse.  Phil Gramm, the ex-Texas senator and economic advisory to John McCain, was a major architect of the legislation that was a true catalyst to our country’s financial meltdown. 

 

In July of 2008, right before John McCain fired Gramm as his economic advisor for calling Americans “whiners” and denying the existence of an American recession, I wrote about Gramm’s sordid economic past and the need for McCain to cut ties with Gramm in a Philadelphia Daily News commentary:

 

“The collapse of the real-estate bubble, also known as the ‘sub-prime mortgage meltdown,’ has clear ties to Gramm. In December 2000, at the urging of lobbyists from Enron, Gramm pushed through Congress the Commodity Futures Modernization Act.

 

Known as the ‘Enron loophole,’ this law protected financial institutions from overregulation by the government. In essence, it opened the door for something called ‘credit default swaps,’ and allowed many Americans with bad credit and no money to get mortgages they had no right receiving. Of course, when these same Americans defaulted on their mortgages, the result was billions of dollars in foreclosures.

 

The Commodity Futures Modernization Act is also associated with rising gas prices. Critics argue that this legislation is responsible for driving up the price of oil because it exempts energy speculators, who make trades electronically, from the regulation of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. In other words, big banks are free to manipulate the price of oil by buying huge blocks of energy futures and driving up demand.

 

Not to mention that the ‘Enron loophole’ was a major factor in the Enron scandal, which wrecked the California electricity market and cost consumers billions. . . .”

 

Of course, Americans have short-term memories.  Amazingly, in the span of several years, we’ve forgotten all about Enron, Phil Gramm, credit default swaps, and the sub-prime mortgage meltdown.  Somehow, in our out-of-sight-out-of-mind society, we’ve been duped into believing that public employees—schoolteachers, police, fire fighters and their greedy unions—are primarily to blame for the continuing mess that is known as today’s economy. 

 

Through clever politics, the corruptions of the private sector have been transformed into the sins of public servants. 

 

As Randi Weingarten suggests, these kinds of accusations are indeed dangerous.  Although public servants must make some sacrifices and do their part to help revive the economy, schoolteachers should not be attacked and manipulated by government officials in an effort to forward political agendas.         

 

And as the title of Weingarten’s article states, the voices of public servants are essential to combat this crisis.   

                 

Christopher Paslay is a Philadelphia schoolteacher and the author of “The Village Proposal,” to be published this fall.

 

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4 Comments

Filed under Teacher Bashing

4 responses to “Public Servants Are Scapegoats for Private Sector’s Greed

  1. Bert Lancaster

    Regarding the “manipulation of oil prices” or any other stock/commodity for that matter, speculators also have the abitlity to “sell short”. Which means they can make money by betting on the fact that prices will go down. The prices can be manipulated in both directions. Therefore, they balance each other out and the market actually dictates a fair price.

    Also, this financial deregulation was under the Clinton Administration. In an attempt to extend home-ownership to everyone in America, credit was extended to those who “normally” wouldn’t qualify. This was definitely abused by banks and other financial institutions. However, everyone was to blame. I didn’t see too many people who made, let’s say, $100,000 on the sale of a home they bought 7 years earlier, asking where the money came from, or if the buyers qualified under “normal” circumstances. Combine that with the irresponsibilty of the consumer who gets a mortgage that they can’t afford and you have the crisis we are in today.

    Finally, I don’t think anyone blames public servants for the current state of the economy, I think people blame the unions for our current budget shortfalls.

  2. Bonnie B

    Just in case anyone hasn’t noticed, it is only the newly Republican Governors who are trying to destroy the public sector unions. This is a silent campaign backed by the Republican National Committee because the public sector unions provide campaign financing to the Democratic Party. It is these banks, and other large corporations that provide large campaign financing to the Republican party. Between the destruction of public sector unions, and the recent supreme court decision to allow unlimited anonymous funding for campaign donations to any party, that we can ensure the corruption of democracy as we once knew it. It’s a huge risk that these new governors are taking because they are isolating themselves from their own people, but who knows what types of kickbacks they might be getting for doing this from the RNC. If you don’t believe me, go listen to the Wisconsin Governor’s fake conversation with one of the Koke brothers. The bottom line is if people continue to vote Republican (because they don’t know what’s really going on and only watch FOX news), then we will all suffer because of it. Dollar for dollar, the money being cut from teacher’s benefits is going as tax breaks to large corporations in these same states with these new GOP Governors. It is happening in PA too. Please get out and vote in the primaries in April and change your party! :-)

  3. Ron Whitehorne

    On the Mark!

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