Last week, as the Senate all-but confirmed passage of this administration’s newest “stimulating” legislation – specifically, $26 billion allocated to states to prop up Medicaid and education – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the somewhat ridiculous statement that the US Senate had done the work it was designed to do. “We saved people’s jobs,” he gushed.
That legislation was passed yesterday in The House and quickly signed by President Obama – an effort, incidentally, that violates a campaign promise he made to give the public five days to read new legislation online before it’s signed into law. Interestingly, before it even passed, some State leaders were publicly announcing that this newest effort to help alleviate financial pressure on their state was actually making matters worse. It is such an expensive drain on the tax base in these states, with states scrambling to redesign budgets to meet the bill’s mandates, that where the money is actually going is lost in the shuffle to comply.
The twisted truth here is that Reid and company are pitching the legislation as saving teaching positions that would have been eliminated by states in order to better manage their budgets during recession. Many of those facing unemployment, as a result of the stimulus, were immediately rehired. And, most importantly for Democratic supporters of the legislation, those rehired teachers will be paying their union dues this year.
It’s been reported that, on average, 1% to 1.5% of teachers’ salaries go toward paying union dues. Additionally, and somewhat suspiciously, the Wall Street Journal reports that, according to a Stanford University researcher, student enrollment grew by 22% from 1990 to 2007, but teacher employment grew by 41%. Further, student enrollment has grown by 5% since 2000, but teacher employment has outpaced it by 10%. What this means is that the unions stand to gain an estimated $100 million in fees as a result of the stimulus. More teachers mean more forced dues.
Despite the fact that, by law, teachers are not required to join a union – in fact non-union teachers’ associations such as the Association of American Educators fight to offer an alternative to unions – most teachers are intimidated, if not outright bullied, into joining a union and paying their dues by facing being potentially labeled outcasts or by facing exorbitant insurance costs that the unions tell them can only be mitigated by signing up. Exacerbating the blatant fallacy that this bill is intended to improve education and by extension train a weather eye on the welfare of the nation’s children, advocacy groups are up in arms over the fact that funding for the bill will come in part from the acceleration of the slashing of food stamp programs.
This newest stimulus, like most of the other legislation hurriedly pushed through by the Obama administration, in actuality does little more than protect the revenue stream that flows back to the union coffers. That money will then be used to support Democrat party candidates in Senate and House races come November. Nancy Pelosi has been openly vocal of late about the good union members do by lobbying, “volunteering” their time, and generally supporting efforts at keeping the Democrat party strong.
So when Senate Leader Reid says jobs have been saved, he’s not lying. He’s just talking about the potential job retention on The Hill rather than the jobs saved in the classroom.
Sarah Lee is an Atlanta native and freelance writer living and working in Washington, D.C.