I’ve been meaning to write a full piece on the Teacher’s Bailouts for awhile now, because of the clarity with which this scenario demonstrates the corruption of our democratic system. Unfortunately, I just haven’t had the time for it. On the other hand, I have found occasional time to debate the issue on the DeviantArt Politics forum, building up my full argument bit-by-bit in a discussion with one forum-goer who frequently finds reason to disagree with me. In the interest of preserving this content at minimum cost of time, I will reprint a transcript (edited for format only) of the debate here.
Tristan 1: I think you need to study systems of incentives a bit more. You complain about the profit motive of businesses, but what do you think the incentives are for career politicians? If you keep a constant flow of money going from your opponent’s constituency to your own constituency, reelection can be quite easy. This is why special interests are so prominent in our political system. Politicians are literally buying votes with taxpayer money. That’s what the “teacher bailout” was about. Teacher employment had barely dropped at all, but union support for the Democrats had been wavering after a number of failed deals at the beginning of the summer. So the Democrats pass a new bailout bill in a sector that’s seen little hurt in this Depression to bribe back the teacher’s union vote.
Doesn’t that sort of bribery offend you? I mean, with corporations, at least they’re only using their own money, acquired through voluntary exchanges, to promote their agendas. With the government, they’re prying that money out of your hands under the threat of violent force. That right there is the difference between legitimate business and organized crime.
JupiterWave 1: You mean…in a democratic system where voters elect someone who they think will support their interests, the elected official will make attempts to promote those interests? I am shocked! Seriously, this is kind of how democracy works, and here you are treating it as some sort of sinister conspiracy. I really don’t know what to tell you. You’re basically arguing that politicians shouldn’t represent the interests of their constituents, except if those interests are ones you find ideologically acceptable, then it’s a crime not to promote those interests. As far as I’m concerned, this is totalitarian thinking. Tell me-you’re always making these criticisms of democracy as leading to corruption. What sort of system do you have in mind that would prevent such “corruption”? I suspect that the answer is something that will elevate your views on public policy above those of others. That’s what I really hate about you libertarians, you know: you claim to be fighting for freedom, but you have no intentions other than seeing a set of very specific and hopefully immutable policy edicts put into place that coincide with your personal views.
An`d beyond that, I think it’s ridiculous to characterize education as a “special interest.” Special interests are things that benefit a small group of people, often at the expense of others. Educating the next generation of leaders to run the country in upcoming years is about as “public” an interest as I can think of. It serves a massive group of people, and it benefits a massive group of people. This is not to say that our education system never needs reform, even radical reform, but we’re talking about a situation where hundreds thousands of teachers could just be out of a job. It won’t help the cause of reform in any way if school districts go bankrupt. They need to be functioning before they can be reformed. But thanks to plutocrats like Charles Koch and his band of useful idiots like you, we’ve gotten to a point in this country where trying to prevent massive job loss in the middle of a recession is a “bailout”, and politicians looking out for the interests of people that elected them is a “bribe.” It’s depressing. I don’t even know why I’m telling you this, you’re so deep into right-wing propaganda. A fish never notices the water he swims in, I guess.
I mean, as far as I can tell, you just hate teachers. You sure bitch about them a lot. In this post, you’re positively angry at the fact that teacher employment hasn’t dropped much. Any rational person would be happy that a group of people isn’t losing their jobs, as that helps the efforts towards recovery, but you’re just resentful and spiteful. See, here’s the thing: public-sector employees aren’t really getting special treatment. Private sector employee are often getting worse treatment from their employers who have cut labor and benefit costs in pursuit of greater profits. The government hasn’t seen a need to do that, so its employees are treated more humanely. And there was a time when lots more jobs in this country were more similar to public sector jobs in terms of benefits, pensions, etc. But the idea of what a middle-class job should consist of has continually been defined down to the point where public jobs merely look better by comparison. Quite frankly, the way you talk, it’s like you’re mad that not everyone is suffering equally. It’s like you’re involved in a capsized ship, and instead of trying to swim to shore, you’re saying we should go around poking holes in people’s life preservers. Who is helped by this blustery nihilism? What are you trying to accomplish? Making people feel miserable about their job status for the sake of fairness? It’s funny how many of these traits are present in the stereotypical success-hating communist you accuse everyone else of being. I think you’re due for some self-reflection.
This “bribery” doesn’t offend me because it’s not bribery, and you’re stupid to characterize it as such. And it’s not “prying” anything, but you’ve proven yourself too stupid to understand what a social contract is and how it operates, so unless you can show me otherwise I don’t have the patience to start that discussion again.
Tristan 2: I suppose I should provide evidence for my suggestion that this latest round of bailouts was completely unnecessary. This should do it. There is no incentive for this beyond bribery.
JupiterWave 2: I’m not going to look at a defense of an idea that I already consider wrongheaded. It’s not bribery, and you’re wrong to call it that.
Tristan 3: Maybe if you look at the evidence, you won’t consider the arguments based in that evidence wrongheaded…
JupiterWave 3: My opinion isn’t hinging on who gave money to who and when. It’s that this action, giving money to school districts in order to prevent mass layoffs, is fundamentally not a bribe, but a sensible economic action and part of what it means to be a democratically-governed society. It’s not a question of facts, but opinions, and my mind is made up.
Tristan 4: …except no mass layoffs were pending, as you’d know if you looked at the evidence I linked to.
JupiterWave 4: Goddamn dude, just do a search on “teacher layoffs”. You’ll find hundreds of stories. I don’t know how Hot Air tried to twist the facts, nor do I care, but teachers are getting laid off all over the place.
Tristan 5: Those “hundreds” apparently add up to very little, considering how little public school employment has changed. And once again, I ask, why are we even so interested in keeping public school employment so high? Does it help the children, or does it help the unions? The graphs here suggest only the latter.
JupiterWave 5: Source? [in reference to the first part of “Tristan 5”]
We as a society are interested in keeping general employment high because it helps the economy, especially during recessionary periods. I really shouldn’t have to explain this. It’s funny how when a billionaire businessman stubbornly stands his ground on what he considers to be his self-interest, you laud him for fighting the evil government, but when working-class Americans do it, you can’t wait to put them down and accuse them of wrongdoing. And don’t tell me it’s because you’re only paying for the second one. In some way, you’re probably paying for both. I think you just hate poor people.
Tristan 6: Source: Figure 3
The cumulative loss in local government education employment since the start of the recession is a stunning…0.5%.
High employment is useful if it creates value. Usually, we don’t have to consider that “if,” because private employment tends to create value. However, government employment is an entirely different story. As I’ve shown with those other charts, the increase in public education employment has failed to improve the efficiency of production of education. Any business would see this as an indication of the need to downsize, or split the company into separate entities. But not the government. Whereas private enterprise creates jobs where jobs will increase value, government just creates jobs. And the jobs that government creates are at the expense of tax-paying investors, meaning a net loss in value-creating investment.
You see, the mistake that demand-side economists (i.e. Keynesians) make in their models is assuming that high consumer spending creates the most economic growth. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consumer spending is usually an indicator of economic growth (in free-market economies), but the extent to which it causes economic growth is minuscule compared to the effects of the supply-side forces of capital investment. Right now, we have a strong demand market, and yet, the demand is being satisfied mostly through imports because our domestic production economy is still in shock over the new regulations and taxes that will go into effect over the next year. This is what happens when we have a national economic policy of “fuck the supply-side to feed the demand-side.” We will not see employment recover until our domestic production recovers- and don’t even try to suggest protectionist tariffs, because that’s just asking for a second Great Depression. If domestic producers aren’t making anything because of the uncertainty of upcoming regulations, and then we go and try to cut off consumers from imports, then all we’re doing is creating a situation with overwhelmingly high levels of unsatisfied demand. Instead, we need to fix the problems at the source, and undo those regulations if we want to get back on the track of economic recovery.