Over at the Fordham Foundation’s Flypaper, Mike Petrilli complains that he is a reasonable guy, and that it could only be a moment of electoral passion that led us to suggest his attacks on teacher pensions and health insurance were demagogic.
The problem, Mike, is that from our vantage point, it is hard to see as reasonable someone with a pattern of attacking teacher unions based on groundless speculation and disinformation that could have easily been identified as incorrect by a single email or phone call. You take a practice that school districts have done on their own all over the United States [it’s called “management prerogative”] — making election day into a professional development day with no student attendance — and decide that it is a teacher union conspiracy to do electioneering at students’ expense. You report a figure for Randi Weingarten’s salary that is almost twice its actual amount, based on the claims of a professional anti-union propagandist. Those sorts of misrepresentations, easily found to be false with the most minimal effort, may be reasonable in the world of Rush Limbaugh, but not among professional educators.
Frankly, your arguments about how expensive and dear it will be to provide teachers and retirees with retirement with dignity and health care are of the same order. Like Bush’s arguments for privatizing social security [imagine the fix we would be in if the nation had not turned down flat his proposal to turn those retirement funds over to Wall Street], your projections are not the simple statement of actuarial developments you would have us believe. [The Bush claims that Social Security was facing imminent insolvency were thoroughly debunked here and here.] Rather, there are part of a corporate push to eliminate pensions that provide a dignified retirement that has included such features as SFAS 87, an accounting change required by the SEC and FASB which have greatly increased the short term costs of defined benefit pension plans — in order to pressure employers to drop such plans. While this corporate offensive has made much headway in the private sector, that beachhead will not be secure so long as public sector employees have decent pensions. Hence, the attacks on public employee pensions which you champion, and the effort to create resentment and fear among working people who do not have such pensions.
But you are right about one thing here: there is a different, post-November 4th world. And those changes are to the benefit of working people.