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Harbinger

September 10th, 2012 - 3:14 pm

According to the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein the Chicago teachers are not striking over pay. Rahm Emanuel has offered a 16% increase over four years that is acceptable to the union. What they are striking over is whether the teachers may be evaluated strictly, and whether lousy teachers who have already been fired can be rehired. Here’s Klein:

What do the two sides agree on?

Emanuel has proposed that, instead of the rescinded 4 percent pay increase, teachers see a 16 percent pay increase over the next four years. The unions say they’re close to agreement on pay, though they still think higher raises are necessary to make up for rising health costs ….

What do the two sides still disagree on?

The Chicago Public Schools in March unveiled an evaluation system (pdf) in which standardized testing makes up 40 percent of the rubric, a percent that increases by 5 percent every year thereafter (45 percent in year two, 50 percent in year three, etc.), which was designed by panels that included teachers, principals, and teachers’ union officials (including the president). The system goes above and beyond the state requirement that testing make up 20-40 percent of teacher evaluations. The teachers’ unions are resisting this system, calling it too punitive.

Teachers also want laid off teachers to be able to be automatically “recalled” to positions if they open up. Emanuel would allow these teachers to apply to new openings, but given his desire to focus layoffs on worst-performing teachers, does not want automatic recalls.

Klein notes that the “2010-11 annual teacher salaries ranged from $47,268 for teachers with bachelor’s degree with a year’s experience or less, to $88,680 for those with doctorates who have at least 16 years of experience … All told, teachers in Chicago make an average of $74,839 a year.” And a 16% raise is not bad in a recession economy.

But with 80% of Chicago students unable to meet the Department of Education standards in both literacy and mathematics, it not obvious that taxpayers are getting a lot of value for money. All the same, it’s good theater.

Observers are being treated to a glimpse of what might have been called a “rectification campaign,” a term used to designate a struggle within a bureaucratic system for power in the guise of seeking reform. A faction will come out on top; the problem in Chicago will be “fixed’ in some way.  Why, the miserable education that students receive may even be improved somewhat as a byproduct. But the system will remain unchanged; everything will happen — the buildup, the crisis, and the resolution — within the Democratic Party system.

Things need to be tuned up every now and again. Even a basically one-party city like Chicago has occasional need for the law to make sure that things stay within guidelines. This is illustrated elsewhere. Thus, the arrest of Trenton Mayor Tony Mack on charges of corruption and the withdrawal of Democratic Party candidate Wendy Rosen for voting often and early prove that even within the tolerances of the Big Tent excessive liabilities are dumped.

Rectification has its uses.

The argument can be made that given the level to which much of government has sunk, the only chance the public has of improving anything is to set one crook against another crook. Check and balance at least. Who but Rahm Emanuel can take on the Chicago educational unions? Did you think the Boy Scouts of America could? Whom would you choose to go up against 1920s mobster Frankie Yale  except Al Capone? The best argument for electing President Obama is that only he can get away with what it takes to deal with the Democratic Party.

John Hinderaker of Powerline raises the possibility that America has already crossed the line into national Chicago-land. “On paper, given Obama’s record, this election should be a cakewalk for the Republicans. Why isn’t it?”

I am afraid the answer may be that the country is closer to the point of no return than most of us believed. With over 100 million Americans receiving federal welfare benefits, millions more going on Social Security disability, and many millions on top of that living on entitlement programs–not to mention enormous numbers of public employees–we may have gotten to the point where the government economy is more important, in the short term, than the real economy. My father, the least cynical of men, used to quote a political philosopher to the effect that democracy will work until people figure out they can vote themselves money. I fear that time may have come.

Maybe it’s already over. Perhaps the only choices left are the teachers union wins and 85% of the Chicago students are left illiterate and innumerate, or Rahm wins and maybe only 75% of the students are doomed to ignorance.  Capone or Frankie Yale. This meme has already acquired wide credence.  Jerry Brown was partly elected on the idea that only a Democrat could reduce the California deficit in the same way that “only Nixon could go to China.” It might not be true, but it sounds plausible.

The real fallout of Scott Walker’s successful standoff with the Wisconsin unions is that it raised the hope that another path exists. The Eliot Ness path in contrast to just finding another gang to displace the current one. That increases the pressure on Rahm to pull a Scott Walker, though doubtless his methods will be different.

But does anyone have the guts to pull an Eliot Ness? Dick Morris, who was himself a longtime counselor to the pols, describes the rigors of the Chicago Way. If you can’t hack it, then go back to Bulgaria. Morris describes what Gallup went through when they showed the Boss losing in the polls.

The Obama Administration’s Justice Department announced, on August 22nd, that it was joining a lawsuit by a former Gallup employee and whistleblower against the Gallup Corporation for allegedly overcharging the government on polling work.

The announcement comes on the heels of a confrontation between Gallup staffers and Obama strategist David Axelrod in which he accused the company of using out of date sampling methods which, he said, generated polling data negative to the president.

The whistleblower’s lawsuit has been kicking around since 2009, but the Justice Department joined the suit only after the run-in between Axelrod and Gallup in April of this year.

In a scene right out of a typical authoritarian regime, Fox News reports that “employees at the venerable Gallup polling firm suggested they felt threatened by Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod when he questioned the methodology of a mid-April poll showing Mitt Romney leading the president – according to internal emails published Thursday.”

That poll that sent Axelrod ballistic showed Romney leading Obama 48-43 percent.

The Daily Caller published e mails that started when Axelrod sent a tweet to Gallup saying the tracking poll was “saddled with some methodological problems” and directing followers to a National Journal story in which a professor suggested outdated sampling.

According to the email chain titled “Axelrod vs. Gallup,” the White House in addition asked that a Gallup staffer “come over and explain our methodology,” which was apparently perceived as a subtle threat.

Fox News reported that “a Gallup official said in an email he thought Axelrod’s pressure ‘sounds a little like a Godfather situation.’”

Recently the news stories are filled with reports of how the president is “pulling away” from Mitt Romney. That may or may not be true. But what is likely is that they intend to send the message that the establishment has decided that the pretense and fencing must stop. Everyone must accept that President Obama will have four more years.

Do conservatives have what it takes to compete in the Godfather world? The Telegraph reports that there are T-shirts on sale at the British Trades Unions Congress rejoicing over Margaret Thatcher’s prospective death. The T-shirts, costing ten pounds and emblazoned with “hey ho, the witch is dead!” are just the thing to wear for those who literally plan to dance on her grave.  “Last night outraged Conservative MPs called for Labour leader Ed Miliband to disassociate himself with the TUC and for the police to investigate.” Do you think Rahm would just write a letter to someone complaining? Maybe not. But Republicans would.

Politics is a rough world. That’s just a fact. Why is it so? Perhaps Mammon has something to do with it. The Bible — that two-thousand year old book of delusions — observes that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Ironically, many in DNC agree that money is the problem, especially when somebody else has it.  Peter Schiff, interviewing delegates during the Democratic convention, noted that disdain for money was so great that many were eager to ban profits altogether, the better to transfer it to themselves.

This is not to say that the Republicans represent the Ted Trueheart path to governance, just that they may be a little less Dick Dastardly. Politics may after all be a choice of lesser evils. So what’s going to happen? Someone — either the unions or Rahm — is going to win. But whatever happens, it is unlikely to be the public school students of Chicago. It’s not about them. It never was.

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Related: Chicago’s Striking Teachers Frighten Children — For the Children!


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