Can Parents Stay Home, With Kids in School?

29 12 2010

One of my administrative responsibilities for the large southern school system I served in the 80s (as a paid professional, not as a volunteer!) was “parent and community involvement.” I supervised a fulltime coordinator with a small office staff helping 40 schools and centers with volunteer issues.

But is it volunteering when it’s systematically coerced or even mandatory?

As local and state economies continue to struggle, budget cuts to rich and poor school systems are increasing the reliance on unpaid parent help. . .

Many parents are happy to volunteer uncoerced, and most everyone recognizes the worthiness of the cause. But the heightened need and expectations are coming at a time when many parents have less and less time to give.

America’s public school systems are funded by all taxpayers just as America’s military and justice systems are funded by all, regardless of individual use or personal involvement. And the collective’s claim on individual citizens isn’t limited to our money. The dormant military draft remains the law; registration still is required, and it still could reactivate its public claim to your literal life. Jury duty is not voluntary now; under force of legal penalty, you come when called and stay until dismissed, for involuntary hours, days, months or — if it turns into an OJ Simpson trial — even years of your real life, away from your real life.

The public schools certainly do tax us, heavily compared to other public “goods” imo, but our law so far hasn’t empowered schools to draft parents (much less the general citizenry) into direct service, too. School donations and personal volunteering have actually been “voluntary.”

Maybe not for long.

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76 responses

29 12 2010
Lynn

“the collective’s claim on individual citizens isn’t limited to our money.”

Uh, oh. I just consulted my crystal ball and see an onslaught of spunky Obama-haters in your future. <:D

29 12 2010
JJ

Maybe. But check this out, considering that same cohort tend to be big Israel cheerleaders:
Some Israelis Question Benefits for Ultra-Religious

The ultra-Orthodox, known in Hebrew as haredim, or those in awe of God, make up 10 percent of Israel’s population of 7.5 million, but are increasing rapidly. In addition to the men, more than 50 percent of haredi women do not work, compared with 21 percent among mainstream Jewish women. About 75 percent of Arab women do not work.

But while the Arab fertility rate has been dropping, the haredim still marry young and favor large families with eight children or more. Enrollment in ultra-Orthodox primary schools has increased by more than 50 percent over the last decade.

“We have a few years to get our act together,” warned Dan Ben-David, an economist and director of the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, an independent research institute.

“If not, there will be a point of no return.”

Several months ago the center issued a report that caused widespread alarm: If current trends continue, it said, 78 percent of primary school children in Israel by 2040 will be either ultra-Orthodox or Arab.

29 12 2010
JJ

Young Son and I heard Thom Hartmann on the car’s pay-radio yesterday, when he happened into a cogent description of what business has done for (to) America. He said it might not be by conspiracy and could be just a bunch of rational self-interested choices but the result is the same: Business has decided that America is a lost cause, not coming back, and so they’ve been raiding the coffers and strip-mining the natural resources.

There won’t be transformative or restorative investment here, for us. GOP rhetoric rising up in our own defense, is all a big head fake to keep us from revolting until they can get the last of it.

I couldn’t find the transcript of what we heard but check this out, with video:

GOP Plan to Force State Bankruptcy to Cripple Public Employee Unions (Video)

Monday 27 December 2010
News Analysis

James Pethokoukis, Money and politics columnist for Reuters talks about apparent Republican support for allowing states to declare bankruptcy as a means of undermining unions.

“Republicans appear to be quietly and methodically executing a plan that would …cripple public employee unions by pushing cash-strapped states like California and Illinois to declare bankruptcy. This may be the biggest political battle … of 2011.”

29 12 2010
Lynn

That’s such an interesting article.

Come to think of it, America needs a Rabbi Amsellem. Think of all the money that We The People pay in welfare subsidies to “clergy” who feed from the public trough when they could and should be working. So, off to the trash heap with the Horatio Alger self-delusions of American Christianity. It can keep the other Religious Right fake memes – like “Compassionate Conservatism” – company.

29 12 2010
JJ

Tax-subsidized religion really does skew the economy thus our culture, politics and policy. I wonder if we’ve already passed that “point of no return?”

30 12 2010
Crimson Wife

The schools wouldn’t need to rely so heavily on parental volunteers if they had better fiscal management. A huge portion of my district’s budget goes towards paying cushy pensions to retired staff. If they had switched all the employees from a defined benefit plan to a 401k-style plan 25 years ago when the private sector did, the schools would actually have the money to hire a real librarian rather than relying on parental volunteers to do the job.

30 12 2010
Crimson Wife

How ironic that the very first district profiled in that Seattle Times article is where we lived up until last year (Foster City-San Mateo). The schools there are so poorly managed that a grand jury was called to investigate them a few years back…

30 12 2010
JJ

Defined benefit public sector pensions equal “poorly managed” in your view? Do I understand your meaning?

30 12 2010
Crimson Wife

Spending a large portion of one’s budget on “legacy” costs is poor fiscal management IMHO. Private schools by and large don’t do it.

My FIL is a retired Catholic school teacher. He was eligible to retire at 62, and got a lump sum via something that was essentially a 401k plan but had a different name because the school was a non-profit. My MIL, by contrast, taught in the government-run schools and was eligible to retire after 25 years of service (which worked out to be age 56 for her, though she kept working until she was 60) at 75% of final year’s salary plus guaranteed cost-of-living increases and retiree health benefits until she was eligible for Medicare. All the taxpayer money that goes to pay her cushy retirement benefits and those of her fellow retirees aren’t available to spend on current operating costs.

I’m particularly up in arms about cushy civil servant pensions today because several fatcats in the UC system have the chutzpah to sue to lift the salary cap on their pensions. Seems $183k per year guaranteed for life isn’t enough for them…

30 12 2010
Nance Confer

So between the two of them, your MIL and FIL live on 75% of her previous salary plus Social Security and Medicare. Or were they expected to go out and get new jobs?

30 12 2010
Nance Confer

And, no, it’s not voluntary when it is coerced. When every honking day Dear Nephew’s backpack has another “fundraiser” we are asked to buy into. Want your kid to be able to wear PJs like all the other kids on the last day before the holiday break? Send a dollar. Want him to get popcorn at snack time like the other kids? Send money. Etc.

31 12 2010
JJ

Social security is a defined benefits program, although there was a conservative push to change that definition, and let it float free and undefined in the private sector under the supposedly expert financial managers. That was right before we all learned the hard way, who is “actually responsible” as Sarah Palin would say, for the kind of financial mismanagement that lets the mismanagers live the good life all cushy at the general public’s expense.

Which is why I’m asking, is that really what you mean to say? That social security too, is mismanaged by definition, because it’s a defined benefit program?

31 12 2010
JJ

Military pensions — public and defined benefits, yes? But is the military therefore mismanaged and cushy, compared to say, Halliburton or Blackwater pay and pensions and perks? (And I believe military professionals qualify for full retirement at only 20 years, not 25. Is that mismanagement by definition?)

If there’s a glut now of retirees collecting and actives are stretched thin, and if it’s happening in all sectors, surely that reflects national demographic facts of life rather than poor financial management in one particular public sector?

And if there’s a glut of school retirees now, then schools had money to hire all those faculty (including librarians and even school nurses!) at shabby-chic middle-class salaries 25 and 30 years ago. What was different then was demographics, not the defined benefits pension model. So was THAT when the egregious mismanagement occurred, back when all those folks were put on the payroll in the 1970s? And if that’s so, how would hiring librarians now not blow up in our faces the same way in another couple of decades, unless you mean we should just cheat them of their pensions both now and later?

And if university finances are the real beef, not public K-12 teachers, then why wouldn’t you take on the athletic budgets and bonding first, or the endowment billions that don’t get spent on actual teaching and learning, or how grad students are exploited to do most of the real work in ways public schools could never get away with — instead of singling out the traditional defined benefits pension structure?

AND it occurs to me that K-12 Catholic schools are funded (not through obscene private tuition amounts that no one but corporate money mismanagers can afford to pay with THEIR tax-favored dollars for their own kids but) largely through tax-favored religious monies, that is, distributed by church government bureaucracy pretty much the same way secular government funds public K-12 schools– so how is that not mismanagement too, unless the key difference is that Catholic schools don’t offer defined benefit pensions?

This doesn’t make sense to me any way I look at it.

31 12 2010
JJ

And wait — wasn’t CW the one arguing that $187K annually was far from rich or even cushy, back when the topic was tax breaks for everyone except the rich? Then $250K was just working hard and scraping by . . .

OTOH, here’s a suggestion about managing public funds so education spending won’t have to be slashed. Florida for example, “could save $51 million per year.”

31 12 2010
JJ

Politico reported the other day that Wall Street is upset at the Obama administration. It seems to me as if the hurt feelings of this tiny (albeit very rich) segment of society has received enormous attention in the media.

After all, there are a lot of groups in this country at least as numerous as CEOs and with no less cause for grievance, and yet we hear about their wounded egos far less often.

31 12 2010
NanceConfer

“. . .unless you mean we should just cheat them of their pensions both now and later?”

Ding! Ding! Ding!

This is the “right” answer. No pension, no SS, work until you die. You paid into these programs — including pension programs and health insurance? You took less salary at the time based on this promised package of deferred benefits? Too bad. We “need” the money now. (“Need” being defined as wanting more.) “Everyone” has to sacrifice. (“Everyone” meaning you.)

Nance

31 12 2010
Lynn

JJ: ” . .unless you mean we should just cheat them of their pensions both now and later?”

Nance: This is the “right” answer

— and, according to the article linked by JJ above, facilitated by “Republicans who appear to be quietly and methodically executing a plan” to allow states to declare bankruptcy and reneg on pension commitments.

Nance: “Everyone” has to sacrifice. (“Everyone” meaning you.)

Is this also a Jan Brewer death panel quote?

31 12 2010
JJ

I do remember being privately disdainful of social security and pensions (and paying taxes) when I was young and the economy was flying high. Just let me opt out now and keep my own money, leave me alone. Hey, I studied, worked hard and am well-paid for it, so I can take care of myself! You go take care of YOURself — not my problem. And of course I’m gonna conquer the world and live forever.

Susan Jacoby does a good job debunking that mismanagement of reality in her latest beyond-belief mythbuster of a fact-based book on the reason and logic of life and death as we age.

31 12 2010
JJ

And I’ve learned a good bit from life (and the death of loved ones) as I’ve aged. If I had waited to learn all this only from my experience, and relied only on my own cocky stock picks and what I thought were valuable public policy skills, I would be destitute and/or dead already, instead of just much further down that path than Young JJ ever could have believed.

31 12 2010
Crimson Wife

When Social Security was implemented back during the Depression, the average life expectancy was 63. It was never intended to be received for decades, just a few short years at the end of life. It would be the equivalent today of having it only kick in at age 80 or so.

And there’s a big difference between working hard, likely 60+ hours per week, and earning a salary of $250k for one’s efforts and receiving a guaranteed $183k for doing nothing. The current salaries of the UC officials suing don’t particularly bother me because the university is gaining something for the expense (their labor). But once those guys (and it is almost exclusively men) retire, the pension costs are just a dead weight. They’re earning over $245k per year and they can’t afford to save for their own retirement? Give me a freakin’ break.

31 12 2010
JJ

Young JJ also quoted Ayn Rand, considered herself a libertarian and campaigned for Nixon. Part of Older-and-Wiser JJ’s analysis of Michelle Rhee comes from seeing in her some unattractive and indefensible similarities to Young JJ.

31 12 2010
JJ

But once those guys (and it is almost exclusively men) retire, the pension costs are just a dead weight. They’re earning over $245k per year and they can’t afford to save for their own retirement? Give me a freakin’ break.

LOL! Again, why pick on education then, if that’s the point? Let’s start with Congress and elected officials at all levels. Why do we pay them for not doing anything useful for us while IN office, much less guarantee them cushy pensions for not working later?

That’s not rhetorical btw. There is a reason and it’s not a bad one, philosophically or economically. It makes social sense for the public to compensate officials and civil servants well enough both now and in the future to demand their services exclusively instead of having them do what Palin does to cash in at every (ethically challenged) opportunity for herself and her own family.

We can’t afford to do that since the corporate world so far outstripped the public sector’s compensation models. California tried to keep up and look at the near-bankruptcy that resulted. But the answer isn’t to blame what’s left of the public sector for not being ruthless enough soon enough to have outchiseled the corporate pirates.

If America and her people have been stripped of our individual and community and national wealth by clever “financial managers” , then let’s follow all that money as evidence of the criminals who took it, and indict whoever is sitting on the biggest piles of bread sneering “let em eat cake.” Never heard a teacher say that in my life.

31 12 2010
JJ

Good place to invoke my pre-recession Hell is Not Working? — all about work and not-work, and getting paid or not, for either one. Particularly at school.

31 12 2010
NanceConfer

“When Social Security was implemented back during the Depression, the average life expectancy was 63. It was never intended to be received for decades, just a few short years at the end of life. It would be the equivalent today of having it only kick in at age 80 or so. ”

If the SS payments workers make had stayed at Depression-era levels, this would make some kind of sense, I guess. In reality, the contributions we make and the payments have been adjusted over the life of the program.

For more info: http://www.ssa.gov/history/hfaq.html

Or see Primary Insurance Amount here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Security_%28United_States%29#Primary_Insurance_Amount for info on how payments are calculated based on a worker’s lifetime earnings.

This, along with all the other changes and additions to SS, make any comparison to the “good old days” when SS was started irrelevant.

Nance

31 12 2010
NanceConfer

And pension costs are not dead weight. They are deferred payments to the worker.

31 12 2010
JJ

And pension costs are not dead weight. They are deferred payments to the worker.

True. I was thinking about life insurance earlier, which really is death insurance for the primary individual or perhaps you could say it’s so others can live on, without public assistance? (We have defined benefit insurance, not whole life which is considered less prudent and conservative btw.) You pay in so much per year so that if you die, your family members will get a big payment but in CW’s terms, they get it for “doing nothing.” Same as a portion of salary is paid in per year so if the individual LIVES beyond the specified term of work, then s/he is paid a living allowance each subsequent year until death. Are they both equally immoral?

And I was thinking about lottery winners who do nothing now OR later but still get a defined benefit, either a reduced lump sum now or an annual allowance like a pension over 20 years, although they don’t work to earn it. Is THAT why fundamentalists consider lotteries immoral btw? I always thought it was because it cost the poor money they couldn’t afford to lose, but maybe the real affront is if they WIN and get paid for doing nothing? LOL!

1 01 2011
NanceConfer

Poor people (read: lazy good-for-nuthins) spend money they can’t afford and get more than me? That has to be wrong!

The fact that the whole program is marketed as a get-rich-quick scheme to poor people by a state that doesn’t tax the wealthy enough to pay for education and claims the lottery proceeds go to support education? Ignore that part.

See, it’s easy to be Republican! Ignore inconvenient facts and harden your heart.

1 01 2011
JJ

This whole underlying construct of school retirees “doing nothing” because they aren’t actively laboring and being paid and taxed directly in return, is a problem. Parents are not paid for parenting and students aren’t paid for studying. Does that make parenting, studying and learning “doing nothing?”

Homeschooling moms for instance, would count as flaming do-nothings in this scheme, therefore socially undeserving of any income, insurance, support or benefits — and so would their children and teens. Only the working parent if any, would be defined as of benefit (pun intended.) And only as long as s/he continued on the job.

Reading, writing, researching, thinking too. The life of the mind. Doing something when paid but doing nothing when not paid? Doesn’t that fly directly in the face of Alfie Kohn’s books — oh, hey, authors are paid royalties long after they finish writing a book and are doing nothing, look at JK Rowling raking in the billions. Do-nothing slacker!

1 01 2011
JJ

Ignore inconvenient facts and harden your heart.

Reminds me of what happens to the “liberal” arts at universities, because some subjects are “hard” and not afraid to use it against their fellows, from a Christopher Newfield essay (pdf):

First we must understand that though the humanities in general and literary studies in particular are poor and struggling, we are not naturally poor and struggling. We are not on a permanent austerity budget because we don’t have the intrinsic earning power of the science and engineering fields and aren’t fit enough to survive in the modern university.

I suggest, on the basis of a case study, that the humanities fields are poor and struggling because they are being milked like cash cows by their university administrations. The money that departments generate through teaching enrollments that the humanists do not spend on their almost completely unfunded research is routinely skimmed and sent elsewhere in the university. . . .Furthermore, humanities and social sciences students receive a cheap education—that is, they get back less than they put in. Making matters worse, university officials have historically perpetuated the myth that the science and engineering fields are the generous subsidizers of the “soft” humanities and social science fields.

This concealment of the humanities’ contribution to the progress of science fed the vicious cycle of the culture wars: underfunded humanities fields cannot buy respectability through the media, think tanks, or prominent science agencies, a limitation that gives free rein to assertions that the humanities produce only pseudo-knowledge.

This belief has lowered the humanities’ status, which in turn has justified flat or declining funding, which further lowers the humanities’ status, which encourages further cuts.

1 01 2011
NanceConfer

And all that fancy lurnin’ in general — we don’t need to fund any of that decently. Kids coming to school hungry and not learning enough to pass the standardized piece of crap test? Cut food stamps to fund a child nutrition bill. http://www.thenation.com/blog/155177/congress-wants-cut-food-stamps-fund-school-lunches

Before this, food stamps funding was on the table to fund anything that needed done. At a time when more and more people need this help: http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/content/view/print/346655

It’s all cockeyed. Poor people fighting over scraps to get by in an economy rigged to benefit the rich.

This poster is more optimistic: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/12/29/931913/-Poverty,-Health-Care,-Corporatism,-Class,-PragmatismHOPE!

Happy 2011??

1 01 2011
JJ

Well, Beijing (China) just raised the minimum wage 21 percent — yes, that’s 21, not two point one — and it’s automatic for the same work already being done, not for more work than they were doing to earn the lower minimum.

“Other cities and provinces, including the manufacturing hub of Guangdong, are eyeing more increases in the New Year.”

Why? Silly economic engine China (where all the American corporate tax breaks are being invested, despite the pandering and pleading and bailouts to big business) seems to see money in working class pockets as the ticket to general prosperity.

P.S. It’s also the second increase in six months. totaling 41%, and this is my favorite part: “amid rising inflationary pressures and growing concern over China’s widening wealth gap. . .”

1 01 2011
JJ

Boomers may have bolted for the door at 18 and been off their parents’ payroll after college, but their offspring are taking longer to reach traditional milestones of adulthood. Marriage and children come later. Certainly with the bad economy, some are taking longer to establish careers. Growing numbers of 20-somethings have been moving back in with their boomer parents . . .

Alicia Munnell, of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, says the problem goes beyond that.

“We are having a contraction in all aspects of the retirement income system,” she says, “so boomers are going to face a much tougher time than their parents faced.”

A 2009 study by the center found that 51 percent of working households today will be unable to maintain their standard of living once they retire . . . because of the rising retirement age and the tax structure, Social Security is replacing less and less of a beneficiary’s earnings. Traditional pensions are disappearing, replaced by riskier 401(k)s.

Then there’s the exploding cost of health care and the shrinking value of homes. . .

1 01 2011
Crimson Wife

I don’t get the analogies with lotteries or life insurance. Lottery prizes aren’t funded by the taxpayers but rather by those who voluntarily purchase tickets. Whoever wins that $290M Mega Millions jackpot will get the money without having worked for it, but it only comes out of the pockets of those who chose to pay into the system.

Life insurance is also voluntary- the payments (which I pray my family will never receive) come from the premiums that the policy holders choose to pay.

Civil servants’ pensions, by contrast, come out of the money that we all are forced to pay in taxes. I don’t have a problem with using a modest amount of tax dollars to fund employees’ retirement accounts. Perhaps offering a dollar-per-dollar match on employee contributions in a 401k-type account up to 5% of salary and then a $0.50 per dollar match on the next 5%. But none of this guaranteed $X per year for the rest of the retiree’s life. If the individual wants to take the lump sum upon retirement and use it to purchase an annuity, that’s his/her prerogative. But the taxpayers shouldn’t be the ones on the hook for guaranteeing a particular annual payment as currently happens.

1 01 2011
JJ

CW, so the financial model of defined benefit payments (whether social security, pensions, insurance, or lottery winnings) is NOT what you object to as financially irresponsible? And you’re not really objecting that people aren’t “doing something” actively to work for such payments as they are received? And you don’t object to anything however unfair or corrupt as long as your taxes are not paying for it?

You object specifically to any publicly funded pension that is, how did you put it, cushy?

1 01 2011
JJ,

So you must object to the cadillac health insurance and pensions that members of Congress award themselves, funded with our tax dollars?

1 01 2011
JJ

And you probably object specifically to all publicly paid salaries that exceed — how much?

1 01 2011
NanceConfer

So it’s not really the principle of being “forced” to pay taxes but how much. As long as others don’t get too much, specifics can be negotiated. But once the beneficiary might be comfortable, not so much. No matter how much they contributed over their working life or went without in the near term, no matter what assurances were made. As long as their betters are not forced to pay more than a modest amount.

Is there ever any thought given to incentives to hire the next generation of workers? Teachers or anyone else — what sort of quality do we expect to get if we renege on promises made and let old people suffer for no other reason than to promote the comfort of the comfortable?

1 01 2011
JJ

Doesn’t strike me as sound financial management! 😉
Not to mention sound human resource management . . .

2 01 2011
JJ

We’re all on the front page of the Sunday New York Times this morning, each frustrated, angry faction of victims unable to help ourselves or anyone else as the strip-mining of the American Dream by amoral corporate puppetmasters pretending this is all a tea party, continues unabated. Read it and weep.

. . .this battle comes woven with complications. Across the nation in the last two years, public workers have experienced furloughs and pay cuts. Local governments shed 212,000 jobs last year.

A raft of recent studies found that public salaries, even with benefits included, are equivalent to or lag slightly behind those of private sector workers. The Manhattan Institute, which is not terribly sympathetic to unions, studied New Jersey and concluded that teachers earned wages roughly comparable to people in the private sector with a similar education.

Benefits tend to be the sorest point. From Illinois to New Jersey, politicians have refused to pay into pension funds, creating deeper and deeper shortfalls. . .

2 01 2011
NanceConfer

So the deal is negotiated in good faith and management fails to live up to their side of the bargain? Shocking!

2 01 2011
JJ

Also in today’s NYT:

“Inequality is divisive, and even small differences seem to make an important difference,” Professors Wilkinson and Pickett note. They suggest that it is not just the poor who benefit from the social cohesion that comes with equality, but the entire society.

2 01 2011
JJ

CW, you are drawing on the Well-Trained Mind in your homeschooling, I think I remember? Even though your oldest is still in the grammar stage, not yet to the logic stage and therefore even farther from the rhetoric stage of arguing for one’s own conclusions, surely you are looking ahead and want to be prepared to use issues like this to good effect.

Have you any formal proposition we could discuss, on the subject of taxes, social justice and economic equity, the common welfare, perhaps? Or at least, can we all agree to stand by the principles underlying classical education rather than using whatever the Tea Party tax rebels are on about in a given week to cover up their resentments, greed and lack of classical sensibilities?

Systematic study also allows the student to join what Mortimer Adler calls the “Great Conversation” — the ongoing conversation of great minds down through the ages. Much modern education is so eclectic that the student has little opportunity to make connections between past events and the flood of current information.

“The beauty of the classical curriculum,” writes classical schoolmaster David Hicks, “is that it dwells on one problem, one author, or one epoch long enough to allow even the youngest student a chance to exercise his mind in a scholarly way: to make connections and to trace developments, lines of reasoning, patterns of action, recurring symbolisms, plots, and motifs.”

2 01 2011
Crimson Wife

If I had my druthers, members of Congress and their families would be forced to use the exact same healthcare as members of the U.S. military and their families. Maybe that would actually motivate them to fix it…

2 01 2011
Crimson Wife

I don’t object to civil service salaries that do not exceed what similarly qualified workers performing the same types of jobs in the private sector receive. I do object to seniority-based pay schedules and layoffs. If a school is going to lay off a teacher because of declining enrollment, it should be the lowest performer not the most recently hired individual.

Retirement benefits should be similar to what is provided in the corporate world, which for the past 25 or so years has been defined-contribution rather than defined-benefit plans. Obviously, current retirees should continue to receive their promised pensions, but all those who have not yet retired should be converted to a cash-balance plan. New hires should be eligible for a 401k-style plan only. This should have been done decades ago, but better late than never.

2 01 2011
JJ

Retirement benefits should be similar to what is provided in the corporate world . . .

Oh, c’mon! Complete with bonuses and stock options and perks from jets to furnished homes and club memberships and sports tickets and and and . . .?

2 01 2011
JJ

And it’s not teachers but police and firefighters who get the “cushiest” pensions, according to everything I’ve seen. Who is comparable in the private sector or even in the public sector — the military maybe? So then for teachers etc. to be like that, they’d all get their public health care free from government, like Medicare or even more directly, the VA, except I suppose we’d call it the TA?

2 01 2011
JJ

I am a recently retired educator by the way. I only had 15 years in Florida’s defined benefit system and I’m still in my 50s but do you know how much I’ll get annually? — less than $10,000. And that is only because I was a highly paid administrator at the end, earning at the very top. Not working at a teacher’s salary, which wouldn’t be worth bothering to collect at my rate.

Oh but don’t let me leave out the special health insurance subsidy they send on top of that! — $75 per month. (My Blue Cross policy for me and the two kids costs ten times that every month.)

And do you know why I retired at this cushy juncture? Because Florida has just elected people who think and talk like CW except they actually DO want to take away all the pensions including existing ones and that fabulous health insurance benefit too (and then close the schools, calling it “privatization”) and I thought if I were already retired instead of in-waiting, it would be a little harder for them to get away with it.

But probably not much.

3 01 2011
Nance Confer

I keep thinking of all the people who lost their retirement savings in 401Ks recently.

3 01 2011
Lynn

Thanks, Nance. I’ve been following this thread and thinking the same thing.

JJ,
Regarding corporate business benefits, “complete with bonuses and stock options and perks from jets to furnished homes and club memberships and sports tickets and and and . . .?,” can I pick up where you left off?

and first-class travel, team-building get-aways at luxury resorts, feather-top beds with 400-thread count bed linens and 100% goose down pillows, panoramic ocean views from suite balconies, private dining at the Chef’s Table (hosted by the Executive Chef himself and dedicated sommeliers who present wines carefully selected to complement each course), white truffles (at $2,000.00/lb.) and and and…? All business tax deductions, you know. The ” comfort of the comfortable,” at the expense of others, as Nance put it. (Hm, I wonder if sommeliers are Republicans…)

3 01 2011
NanceConfer

But how does the average worker — say someone making $25,000 a year as some cog in the corporate machine — not someone in the top tier — do? Way back when, when I had paying work, health insurance was included as a benefit, nothing out of my paycheck and no/very small co-pay. Now employees pay more and more of the cost of health insurance as corporations pass the increasing cost (no, not due to anything Obama has done) along to employees. Or more employers simply don’t offer health insurance.

Etc.

The vast majority of corporate employees aren’t in that $250K+ salary range either. Just like the rest of us, they have been making do with less as the well-off condescend to advise on how to save for retirement. Riiiight — with all that extra money they have.

Nance

4 01 2011
JJ

Don’t pay those union dues, don’t buy houses or health insurance or send your kids to college, that’s the advice. Oh, and you’d better like it or at least smile while you suck it up.

Strained States Turning to Laws to Curb Labor Unions:

. . .mostly in states with Republican governors and Republican statehouse majorities — officials are seeking more far-reaching, structural changes that would weaken the bargaining power and political influence of unions, including private sector ones. . .

“In the long run, if these measures deprive unions of resources, it will cut them off at their knees. They’ll melt away,” said Charles E. Wilson, a law professor at Ohio State University.

Of all the new governors, John Kasich, Republican of Ohio, appears to be planning the most comprehensive assault against unions. He is proposing to take away the right of 14,000 state-financed child care and home care workers to unionize. He also wants to ban strikes by teachers, much the way some states bar strikes by the police and firefighters.

“If they want to strike, they should be fired,” Mr. Kasich said in a speech. “They’ve got good jobs, they’ve got high pay, they get good benefits, a great retirement. What are they striking for?”

Yeah! Who do they think they are, trying to stand up for themselves against, wait a minute — the government politicians trying to cut their pensions and paychecks if not fire them and leave them with no recourse individually or as a class?? But I thought the party line was down on government and politicians, all FOR protecting the working people so they can keep paying taxes?

5 01 2011
Crimson Wife

“complete with bonuses and stock options and perks from jets to furnished homes and club memberships and sports tickets and and and . . .?,” can I pick up where you left off?

…and first-class travel, team-building get-aways at luxury resorts, feather-top beds with 400-thread count bed linens and 100% goose down pillows, panoramic ocean views from suite balconies, private dining at the Chef’s Table (hosted by the Executive Chef himself and dedicated sommeliers who present wines carefully selected to complement each course), white truffles (at $2,000.00/lb.) and and and…?”

Obviously, my DH is working the wrong kind of jobs. The only things out of that list that he’s received are the bonus (and that is more like a sales commission because it makes up for a relatively low base salary) and first-class travel on flights over 500 miles (which doesn’t actually cost that much more than full-fare coach). Oh, and one time his then-boss was able to get the department into the firm’s luxury box for a Giants game (normally it was used by the stockbrokers to woo their VIP clients but it was free that day).

I’ve never met anyone who receives those kinds of perks. Maybe the very most senior level executives at the investment bank for which he briefly worked did, but certainly not the regular folks.

6 01 2011
JJ

So if you’re wrong about most educators and unionized workers and retirees and public employees generally including bureaucrats, and I’m wrong about most rank-and-file corporate workers, then . . .hmmm.

Aha! Maybe we both should consider that there isn’t much moral or functional difference between “public” and “private” as brandished in rhetoric, and when it comes to most Americans we’re still really “we the people” but we’ve been set upon each other on purpose, so we wouldn’t all notice instead the real plutocrat villains of this piece and revolt against them (the Koch brothers, the Family and their ilk) . . .

The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them. In fact, their lack of embarrassment when it comes to collecting government largesse is key to understanding what this movement is all about . . .

So how does a group of billionaire businessmen and corporations get a bunch of broke Middle American white people to lobby for lower taxes for the rich and deregulation of Wall Street? That turns out to be easy.

. . . A loose definition of the Tea Party might be millions of pissed-off white people sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid by the handful of banks and investment firms who advertise on Fox and CNBC.

6 01 2011
JJ

Nance got there before CW and me, asking: But how does the average worker — say someone making $25,000 a year as some cog in the corporate machine — not someone in the top tier — do?

What Nance might not have seen yet, is the defense of a corporate-paid family with a quarter-million of income per year — the top three percent! — as just average and not rich enough to pay any more in taxes. I read hundreds of comments about that piece and now I feel much better about the American people and what we understand about what’s really going on here.

Down and Out on $250,000 a Year?

COD’s metafilter comment section re: above

Of course, some aren’t smart enough to see what’s being done and so they defend the poor little rich family. Somewhere Wormwood and Screwtape rub their hands with glee:
“Wormwood and Screwtape live in a peculiarly morally reversed world, where individual benefit and greed are seen as the greatest good . .”
and bring out the next logical step. Poor little rich megacorporations, thwarted in their god-given constitutional right to buy not just elections but whole nations and populations outright, when the market and competitive advantage considerations dictate.

Somewhere we might hope the gods laugh and weep and wonder if they can write a better story next time — maybe with better humans? — using what they’ve learned from our miseries.

6 01 2011
JJ

CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION (subscription only)
“The Future of Free Speech”
By Tim Wu

Tim Wu is a professor of law at Columbia Law School. His new book, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, was just published by Knopf.

The American Constitution was written to control abuses of power, but it didn’t account for the heavy concentration of private power that we see today.

And in the end, power is power, whether in private or public hands.

From JJ’s classic (old!) “What Color is Choice?

It’s time to trim some of the biggest branches thrusting out from private enclaves and obscuring our vision and safe transit along the public’s right-of-way. . .

6 01 2011
JJ

Public and private from JJ’s anthropomorphic animal essays:

Pups and Cubs Learn From Play — not from canine curriculum, prepared by commercial contract with puppy mills and sold to some Dog-Eat-Dog Congress as profitable education.

. . .If we really expect public education to help save every dog and a happy world for us all to share, then public support of private exploration and play in every pup’s home environment would come much closer to creating the reality, than ridiculous resort surfing lessons for the elite, while the nation’s puppy mill overruns are left to scrounge kibble off the floor of society’s dog-pound schools. . .

6 01 2011
Lynn

CW: “I’ve never met anyone who receives those kinds of perks. Maybe the very most senior level executives at the investment bank for which he briefly worked did, but certainly not the regular folks.”

I guess that’s where I was going. The senior level executives who enjoy these business lifestyles – afforded partly at taxpayer expense as deductions – seem to fly under the radar while others, especially public employees, bear the full brunt of taxpayer ire. The luxury resort example I gave was actually a two-day company meeting that my husband and I attended. (We didn’t stay overnight at the hotel (a 15-minute drive from our homes!), but we did see and hear about a lot of extravagance. We were at the dinner, however, which was surreal — especially when the chef brought out the truffle, which he traveled to Europe to buy at auction, if I’m remembering correctly.) And, there have been other trips; but, this one was the most lavish – and one which spouses were expected to attend.

The weekend was a real eye-opener for us into the way many live. We’re not wealthy, but, occasionally, through my husband’s work, we find ourselves in the company of people who are (a handful are even multi-millionaires). I can’t imagine that these individuals and businesses need more tax cuts/breaks – especially at a time when so many others are being nickled-and-dimed, losing promised, essential benefits and being insulted as “freeloaders.”

6 01 2011
JJ

CW said: The only things out of that list that he’s received are the bonus (and that is more like a sales commission because it makes up for a relatively low base salary)

which I want to reflect back, hoping to get her to hear it as exactly the same thing Nance and I were saying about public pensions making up for a relatively low salary, btw with no upside opportunity for bonuses and commissions no matter how well you serve or how hard you work.

And what Lynn is saying makes the point better than I did about public versus private not being a real dichotomy. Most everything is both all at the same time.

And it’s not just that corporations (like churches and “schools” and fabulously wealthy individuals btw) enjoy all sorts of tax deductions and other tax-favored treatment from subsidies to bailouts by the government, that makes some or most of their money “public” as well as “private.” (Take my new governor — please!)

Big or small, most have public clients and customers and contracts too, thus obligations and regulations to that public and to their employees as a group past, present and future — not just as powerless interchangeable individuals but as a workforce (unionized or not.)

We each constitute both a private individual and a member of the public. We each have both private and public interests. There can be no public or government or corporation if all its individuals are removed.

6 01 2011
Lynn

JJ, your comment further up about taxpayer supported American companies “creating jobs” in China rather than the U.S. reminded me of this article that I read recently.

Vietnam is replacing China as a more popular place for U.S. companies to outsource

“Vietnam is probably where China was 15 years ago.”

Vietnam offers U.S. manufacturers a strong work force, according to Source Vietnam.

“There is a very young and intelligent work force. More than 90 percent of the country is literate,” Stevens says.

“It’s also a lower labor rate than in China.”

and

(N)early all of the companies have declined to talk to the media about the moves due to the political controversy over outsourcing and because they don’t want competitors to follow their strategy.

6 01 2011
JJ

Exactly my concern, thanks Lynn. Of course they don’t want to comment, can’t have us knowing what they’re really doing to us. And we can’t compel them to do anything or not do anything or disclose any of it — they’re “private” you know.

6 01 2011
Crimson Wife

JJ- can I pretty please trade you Moonbeam for Rick Scott? Neither one would be my ideal choice for governor, but Scott seems the lesser of two evils if the media coverage of his policies are accurate.

6 01 2011
JJ

Sold! ;D

7 01 2011
Lynn

Not so fast, you two. I get to cancel the trade since I am (most likely) the only Californian here that was actually *alive* when Jerry Brown was nicknamed “Moonbeam.” 😉

And, if we’re going to start calling each other by our nicknames back in 1976, then I want you all to start referring to me as “Foxy.” 😉

7 01 2011
JJ

Short for Foxy Loxy of Chicken Little fame, no doubt? How literate! 😉

Jerry Brown has a lifetime of ACTUAL experience with governing responsibilities. Rick Scott is just another rich and sleazy mergers and acquisitions lawyer . . .who is already firing very good public servants I know and love. (Not political hacks, professionals working very hard for hacks.)

7 01 2011
Lynn

Okay, I lied. My real nickname was Lynnerd (as in Lynyrd Skynyrd). My best friend thought it was clever – and I went along with it to be nice.

As for Jerry Brown, while he has been governing (and evolving politically) over the years, Meg Whitman wasn’t even registered to vote (until she was 46 years old).

Hopefully nothing unflattering will be said about my girl, Barbara Boxer. Then I’ll have to bring up Carly Fiorina, who, as a CEO, raked in millions (in salary, benefits, bonuses… and rare white truffles?) as a reward for shipping thousands of American jobs overseas to India and China.

7 01 2011
JJ

I LIKE Lynnerd!

I had a ridiculous junior high nickname that a girlfriend similarly bestowed and thought was clever: She was sitting next to me in one of those teaching auditorium set-ups with fixed chairdesks very close together, while we filled out a test form with little boxes for the letters of one’s name.

So I wrote “Jennifer” which took up all eight boxes, running right into the middle initial box, which for me back then was “L” — thus making the word JENNIFERL.

She called me Ferl for about ten seconds before it became the easier-to-roll-off-the-tongue “Fril.” I had club jerseys with that on the back as my nickname . . .

7 01 2011
JJ

Scott seems the lesser of two evils if the media coverage of his policies are accurate.

But what’s in the word “policies?” Only what you say, even as you do the opposite? The media covered his inauguration day, when he shut reporters out of a public meeting in the people’s capital building — to announce his new Open Government policy of transparency as he “gets to work!” A meeting to which he walked on a tacky, temporary red carpet laid on the stairs just for his royal feet to tread, on his way to proclaiming budget austerity as he humbly helps the working folks. (The red carpet was seen heaped in a basement parking garage dumpster that evening. Imo his policies were in there too, underneath.)

7 01 2011
JJ

Oh, and he’s abolishing jobs, not creating them. He’s on a firing spree in fact.

7 01 2011
Lynn

I LIKE Lynnerd!

Fitting too since I was a marching band nerd. And have I mentioned that, apparently, my then-boyfriend is a former winning contestant on Jeopardy? Nerds R Us. If only Lynnerd had known then what she knows now. [sigh]

In these insane times – and especially when I think about you folks in Florida – it is such a comfort to know that, at least here in California, we have Brown, Boxer, Feinstein, and Pelosi. (What’s that sound? Is it someone gagging on their lunch? Sorry, CW.)

7 01 2011
Crimson Wife

I am (most likely) the only Californian here that was actually *alive* when Jerry Brown was nicknamed “Moonbeam.”

I’m not *that* young, LOL! The “Moonbeam” nickname dates from ’78 and I was, in fact, a California resident at that time.

8 01 2011
Lynn

Sorry, for some reason I thought you were younger. Okay, in ’78 we were both California residents — and too young to vote. 🙂 Somehow I feel younger now. 🙂

8 01 2011
Nance Confer

CW, I will personally pay the postage to ship Scott out to you. 🙂

Ah, for the good old days — when Christ was our Governor and at least you knew he wasn’t completely insane. A Republican, true. But not one likely to run completely off the rails.

Is Florida on the gold standard yet? Are we all required to carry our birth certificates at all times yet? Are tin foil hats the Florida uniform yet?

Heck, who can afford tin foil. . .

Nance

8 01 2011
JJ

Hey, some of us WERE old enough to vote in ’78!

8 01 2011
JJ

They’re in the news every day, but it’s not actually them. It’s people talking about them. Politicians, pundits and propagandists targeted them for cuts and layoffs.

But public workers themselves are barely in the conversation.

We’re having a huge national debate about cutting public workers’ jobs and pay — without talking to most of the players. . . . we’re letting a few decide who gets paid and who doesn’t, and Americans who are neither public workers nor politicians are in a fix: we’re supposed to decide which wars, or budgets, or taxes to support, without ever hearing from and getting to know the people who are most affected by our decisions.

. . . in 2007, FAIR found that over the previous three years, there had only been 58 stories total on poverty on all the major networks combined — and only 76 sources out of 46,000 were actually personally in poverty.

. . .American history is filled with people that have to fight to be seen and heard. Now the great mass of working people are being muted and made invisible. Anyone want to create a new channel?

8 01 2011
JJ

Another casual casualty just noted this morning, from my friends’ FaceBook feed here in Tallahassee where Scott’s “get to work” mantra means putting people OUT of work, from a nice middle-aged woman who does a great deal of low-level (true grassroots!) charity and community service work like walkathons and donating quilts for raffles, loves musical theatre and works hard at low-compensation jobs to make enough to keep doing those things:

So I find out yesterday that my department at work is going private, thanks to our new governor. Time frame unknown. My supervisor tells me today that I maybe should be pursuing other options job wise, as clerical staff will surely be cut and I am still on probation!

21 01 2011
JJ

More about parents being treated as students subject to school rules:

FL Lawmaker Proposes Teachers Should Grade Parents for the Record

More about public pensions, particularly school retirement, under attack from conservative parents and politicians, this time from the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

“Misunderstandings Regarding State Debt, Pensions, and Retiree Health Costs Create Unnecessary Alarm:
Misconceptions Also Divert Attention from Needed Structural Reforms”

A spate of recent articles regarding the fiscal situation of states and localities have lumped together their current fiscal problems, stemming largely from the recession, with longer-term issues relating to debt, pension obligations, and retiree health costs, to create the mistaken impression that drastic and immediate measures are needed to avoid an imminent fiscal meltdown.

. . . At the same time that revenues have declined, the need for public services has increased due to the rise in poverty and unemployment. . . While these deficits have caused severe problems and states and localities are struggling to maintain needed services, this is a cyclical problem that ultimately will ease as the economy recovers.

. . . longer-term issues related to bond indebtedness, pension obligations, and retiree health insurance — discussed more fully below — can be addressed over the next several decades. It is not appropriate to add these longer-term costs to projected operating deficits. Nor should the size and implications of these longer-term costs be exaggerated, as some recent discussions have done.

Such mistakes can lead to inappropriate policy prescriptions.

[no kidding]

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