Wednesday, August 29, 2012

New Boogie Man

For a number of years, Republicans blamed federal bureaucrats for airplane delays, slow mail delivery, and just about everything else that they didn't like. At their last convention, Republicans blamed trial lawyers for rising health care costs and high premiums for product liability and worker's compensation insurance, all of which were said to be ruining the business climate in the U.S. In our lifetimes, Republicans have also blamed pointy-headed intellectuals, liberals, gays, women who want equality, and other uppity people for destroying our country.

Last evening, the Republicans rolled out a new boogie-man: teachers' unions. They blamed teachers' unions for under-performing schools, high taxes, big government, and a few other things. I think they said teachers' unions are the reason beer goes flat and car seats get hot in the sun, but I could have imagined that. The Republicans love having a boogie-man to blame for their failures and to frighten their constituents.

Why blame teachers' unions? Teachers unions are just the voice of teachers. Wouldn't it make more sense to blame the teachers themselves? If Republicans think teachers are paid too much, get overly lavish retirement plans, or have too short a school year or work day, why don't they just come out and say that our nation's teachers are lazy and greedy? For that matter, why not blame the school boards who agree to pay the teachers and give them benefits? Why not blame the voters who elected the school board members?

The answer is pretty obvious. The whole purpose of creating a boogie man is to distract people from what is really causing their problems, not to focus attention where it belongs. If the Republican Party really wanted to do something about the national debt, they would have to make large cuts in military spending. And if the Republican Party were to look at what really needs to be changed in order to improve education, they would have to look at what caused it, which to a very large extent is racism.

Inner-city schools aren't inherently bad. But schools tend to suffer in neighborhoods that were abandoned by white people who moved to the suburbs, taking with them their money, influence, jobs, and tax revenue just so that they wouldn't have to live next door to minorities. Republicans aren't any more guilty of white flight than Democrats, so Republicans don't have any reason to avoid the historical truth. But today's Republicans are firmly committed to not spending any money to remedy inner-city school problems, so they blame the problems on the boogie-man, teachers' unions. It doesn't make any sense that teachers' unions would want schools and students to fail, but sense is not what guides Republicans.

There are also problems that were caused by racism in schools that aren't in inner cities. In some rural parts of the country, separate but certainly not equal schools were established and the inequality was never really erased after the courts ordered an end to segregation. Unequal schools were perpetuated by building private academies for whites and by building entire new suburbs which were segregated by income and practice, not by law. There are also problems in schools that were not primarily caused by racism, but the Republican party doesn't want to spend money to solve any of our country's problems, including the problems that schools have, so they need a boogie man.

What would happen if we got rid of teachers' unions? Teachers would be paid less, have to work in more crowded classes, and have no job security. As any Republican free-market capitalist economist will tell you, as pay and work conditions deteriorate, fewer people will be interested in becoming teachers, so the quality of the labor pool from which teachers are chosen will decline. Our nation's students will get lower quality education, so they will learn less. Our industries will have more trouble finding qualified workers, so they will import more workers from abroad and send more jobs overseas, which will lead to higher unemployment in America. All of this will hurt the American economy and the people who the Republicans are trying to convince to vote for them. The Republicans' attack on teachers' unions is really an attack on America. That's why they need a boogie-man.

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