Sanford D. Horn: Of cowards and crybabies

With adult supervision being restored in the governor’s mansions in Madison, Wisc.I, Columbus, Ohio, Richmond, Va. and Trenton, N.J., the GOP is keeping its promises of cutting budgets – and not with a scalpel, but with the necessary hacksaw.

In abject cowardice, Wisconsin’s 14 Democratic state senators fled the Dairy State to shun their jobs, jobs that the voters elected them to perform. As fast as they fled, they should be fired via recall. We will stay away “as long as it takes,” said Democrat Sen. Jon Erpenbach of his party’s unwillingness to conduct their sworn duties, inclusive of which is to participate in the budgetary process. A budget that includes the salaries these scofflaws are still collecting while on the lam.

Similar to Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is calling for a scaled back benefits package for public employees as well as greater contributions for their own healthcare and retirement programs. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is also on record publicly supporting Walker in his quest to rein in the out of control spending and keep the union rapscallions at bay.

There has been an ongoing debate between public and private sectors regarding benefits and tax breaks. Public means their salaries are paid by tax dollars from all employees, public and private. Private companies may set their respective bars as they see fit and workers may opt in or out of such employment. The same is true of public employees.

Wisconsin is in the midst of a $3.6 billion budget shortfall. Gov. Walker proposes public employees raise their healthcare participation from five to 12.4 percent. The public sector average is 20 percent. Additionally, Walker is requesting public employees contribute 5.8 percent of their wages into the Wisconsin pension system – also less than that of the private sector’s average participation in its various retirement funds. And for this Walker is called a “tyrant” and a “dictator.”

There are those objecting to Gov. Walker giving tax breaks to private businesses who have forgotten a basic economic axiom; private business creates jobs which fills the government coffers. Public employee’s largesse comes from those government coffers. Empty coffers equals fewer public employees, thus equaling a reduction in services provided.

The more public employees demand or out-earn what is incoming to the state treasury, the more the level of sustainability drops until a state is bankrupt. This leads to what happened in Oregon a few years ago when public schools were shut down more than a month early as the well had run dry. This creates a danger to society.

Gov. Christie told a group of complaining teachers that if they were not satisfied with his plans, they could quit their jobs, with plenty of people ready to step up and fill those vacancies. These were folks crying poverty for being asked to kick in one percent more for their cushy-tushy benefits package, and with salaries over $80,000 a year.

I will not castigate the teaching profession – as it is an under-respected and underappreciated profession – for making $80,000 a year – those are veteran teachers who have been on the job for decades.

Nor will I join the ignorant who suggest teachers have it easy with summers off and days ending at 3:30 p.m.

Dedicated teachers, and there are many, are often in their classrooms before 7:30 a.m. and required to work through lunch. They are typically still in school at or after 6 p.m. – coaching, tutoring, grading homework and other materials as well as working into the night and on weekends at home to write lesson plans, deal with parents and administrators.

Summers for teachers are typically about six weeks out of the classroom, but that time is needed to recharge their mental batteries, or in many cases for research and furthering their own education. I know, having walked the walk for seven years as a teacher of social studies and American History.

In Wisconsin, it is against the law for teachers to strike. The teacher-protesters are engaged in a massive sick-out. They are being supported by doctors who are writing excuses for the teachers to bring back to their schools – in many cases these activities are taking place on the very streets where the protests are being held amongst total strangers. These doctors are committing fraud and should be sanctioned by their governing body. Perhaps the licenses of the complicit doctors should be suspended for a year with a concomitant loss of wages.

Striking teachers ought to be fired, a la the air traffic controllers in 1981. Supporters of striking teachers say the educators are not subject to dismissal as a work stoppage does not create a danger to society as the striking air traffic controllers did.

I disagree.

Striking teachers keep children out of class and allow them to fall further behind in the learning process. A prolonged strike would necessitate the students completing the school year when the strike is settled. Will the students be subjected to attending school for longer hours during the day and perhaps early evening? What about weekends and summer? What about religious prohibitions preventing students from attending school on their Sabbaths – be it Saturday or Sunday? What about parents whose schedules don’t allow for a longer day or paid vacations in the summer that would need to be forfeited?

Teachers’ union leaders are more to blame than the majority of their rank and file. They are in business to zealously defend their clientele. Failure to do so is demonstrative of their inability to do their jobs, thus making them irrelevant. However, union leaders are paid, strike or no strike, while strikers are literally out in the cold – many wondering how long they can survive without a paycheck.

There are thousands of out of work, qualified, eager teachers ready to step in and give the children what they need – a quality education – thus avoiding danger to our society by keeping them from the classrooms and the knowledge they so desperately need to compete in the ever so challenging global society.

A note to striking public employees, including teachers – perhaps you need to revisit your history textbooks. Just because Governor Walker is asking for greater health care and pension package contributions from workers does not make Walker a “Hitler” as is being depicted by the protesters in Madison. Save that vitriol for the real villains.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and political consultant living in Alexandria.

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