Why We Have so Much Trouble Trying to Cut Spending.
So what’s all the fuss over the public schools and teachers being too expensive to afford any longer? It’s nonsense! When I began teaching in the state of New Jersey in 1977 I was substituting at 25 dollars a day or roughly $4.00/hr. In 1978 I was hired to teach English in a Title I program for 35 dollars a day or about $6.00/hr. Then in 1979 I was finally hired to a full time teaching position at $10,490.00/yr which was the equivalent of approximately 5 dollars an hour. I actually took a pay cut in order to teach full time at a high school in Central New Jersey, having moved from northern New Jersey that summer in search of a full time position.
Back in 1979 the average lawyer in the state was probably earning about 200 dollars an hour or 40 times more than I was, but of course I was just a high school teacher and I wasn’t complaining either.
Now fast forward 31 years to the year 2010 when I was earning about $76,000.00/yr., but let’s just say $80,000 to round it off. That would be approximately 40 dollars an hour and in the meantime that lawyer was up to $400/hr. So, if we want to work those pesky percentages we can say that my salary increased 8 times over those 31 years of teaching while the lawyer’s salary only increased 2 times! And as an hourly wage the lawyer was earning 40 times more per hour than I was in 1979 but now in 2010 he’s earning only 10 times more than me per hour. So my question is: How long would I have to work until I was finally making more money than that lawyer?!
See how easy it is to play with statistics and percentages and numbers and make plausible arguments with absolutely ridiculous and misleading conclusions? My point is, or rather the reality is, that the lawyer in 2010 earns as much money in 2 8 hour days as a teacher earns in 1 month! The lawyer will earn up to $64,000.00 in that one month, almost my entire yearly salary, and in 4 more days he will have earned my entire salary. So if we both started work on September 1st he’d have earned my entire teacher’s salary by the second week of October. But on the bright side, I’d have Columbus Day off.
So now that lawyer becomes Governor and decides that the reason New Jersey is in such dire fiscal difficulty is because teachers like me make too much money! And so do policemen and firemen and other public workers. But really, is it our salaries that make us so expensive to the state? How is it possible that what would otherwise be a lawyer’s chump change can make a full time employee too expensive to remain employed?
In reality it’s our benefits, (i.e.: pensions and health and dental care) that make us too expensive, but those are benefits that were negotiated with and had approved by the state, so what’s the real story here? It’s because those costs, namely health and dental care, can’t be controlled by the state because doctors and dentists, like lawyers and politicians, don’t take pay cuts. They don’t cut their prices… ever. Their costs forever spiral upward making health and dental care ever more unaffordable to the middle class workers. Without insurance who can afford the prices they charge? Even doctors, dentists and lawyers don’t want to pay doctors, dentists and lawyers! But their prices keep going up. Have you ever heard of the wealthy taking price cuts or rolling back prices? Of course not. The rich get richer don’t they? In fact the definition and the expectation of what it means to be wealthy are to have everything you want and to always be able to get more of it. It’s what every self respecting and imaginative, poor and middle class worker dreams about in that future when they get wealthy and come into money. Excess! It’s the carrot at the end of the stick of Capitalism.
So, who do we cut? We cut those who are used to having less, who are used to not having everything they want, who get paid with a paycheck that can so easily be reduced: The poor and middle classes. We always cut the lean and not the fat! That’s the problem…
And how do the rich always plan to salve our monetary wounds? Through the promise of their benevolent largess. They will trickle down their excess money to us. Isn’t that nice? That sounds like such a benign and friendly phrase doesn’t it? But any English teacher with a love of vocabulary will recognize the euphemistic properties of that word “trickle”. A trickle is unintentional. It’s a leak, not intended largess! It’s what you get after you take a piss, (excuse my legalese) the leftovers, the spill…the trickle. No doubt some sarcastic, practical joking, rich, political “Prick” (pun intended) had some fun coming up with that phrase. “What do the rich do to the working classes? They piss on em!” So you see, “trickle down economics” is an insult not a financial strategy. It’s an inside joke. “Don’t get on that ship! The secret ingredient is people!”