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The Great Divide…

[ 251 ] September 12, 2012 |

Ugh.  Yggy struggles to understand why progressives support public sector unions:

The most salient difference, completely absent from his armchair psychologizing, is surely that public school teachers work for the government. If AT&T workers get a better deal for themselves, that may well mean a worse deal for people who bought AT&T stock in past years but I’m not going to cry on their behalf. By contrast, if Chicago public school teachers get a better deal for themselves that may well mean a worse deal for Chicago taxpayers.

Indeed, what baffles me about these discussions is the tendency of labor’s alleged friends to simply refuse to look this reality in the face and instead insist that any hostility to specific union asks must secretly reflect the skeptic’s hostility to the existence of the union or its members. If you think that Chicago’s teachers deserve the right to form an association to advocate, lobby, and bargain on behalf of the interests of its members (and why shouldn’t they?) then you have to think that they deserve the right to advocate for ideas that may not be in the public interest. That’s fine, everybody does it. But it really does mean that the policy proposals ought to be examined on the merits. If CTU members get what they want, that’s not coming out of the pocket of “the bosses” it’s coming out of the pocket of the people who work at charter schools or the people who pay taxes in Chicago.

Okay.

  1. All strikes are damaging and inconvenient; it’s the point of having a strike, which is what this controversial Dylan Matthews piece largely misses. Moreover, all strikes are damaging and inconvenient for the general public, regardless of whether workers are paid by the state or by private actors. If a private sector union wins higher wages or other concessions, the costs of those concessions will very often be passed to consumers. It follows that the fact that public union strikes are damaging, inconvenient, and costly to the general public is by no means determinative of how progressives ought to think about the strike.
  2. Unions (public or private sector) contribute to progressive political goals above and beyond the issues at stake in any particular labor dispute. They provide an organizational political counter-weight against actors (corporations, etc.) broadly associated with the capital half of the capital/labor divide. Large, powerful, happy, successful unions are good for progressive politics, again completely apart from the issues of any particular labor dispute. Moreover, unions tend to improve the lot of non-unionized employees in their regions by providing more robust employment options. Conservatives understand this. Consequently, progressives should begin by giving unions (including public sector unions) the benefit of the doubt during disputes.
  3. As Yggy surely knows, the state and the public are different things, often with profoundly divergent ends. Assuming a coherence between state interest and public interest is beyond sloppy; it’s simply wrong. While the focus on Rahm in this particular case probably hasn’t been helpful, union advocates have made a relatively clear case that the city of Chicago is serving the public interest poorly through its spending priorities. This is hardly an unreasonable position; indeed, it is incredibly likely that the city of Chicago (like any other subset of the state) could spend money more effectively in pursuit of the public interest, or (perhaps more to the point) that the city of Chicago should weigh the needs of public workers (who make up a very substantial portion of the public, after all) more heavily in its evaluation of what constitutes the public interest.  Strikes and other labor disturbances are a way of making that point in a very clear, public way. It may nevertheless be true that the taxpayers of Chicago will have to pay higher taxes (or different taxpayers will have to pay different rates) in order to provide for a robust public school system, but again this does not distinguish public sector unions from their private sector counterparts.
  4. “Benefit of the doubt” does not mean “absolute adherence to everything the union says!” This is so obvious as to barely be worth mention, but then Yggy (among others) felt the need to write the “labor’s alleged friends” etc. line. Labor unions, like every other political actor, tend to exaggerate their case. Their memberships may be unreasonable or have a poor understanding of the stakes. Their leaderships may be corrupt, foolish, or misguided, both as to the prospects for the success of any particular action and to the larger economic fundamentals that limit the viability of a state or firm. “Friends of labor” should indeed scrutinize the claims of particular unions. However, this has very little to do with anything that Matt mentions above, which relies on the aforementioned nonsense about taxpayers having to pony up more dough, etc.

ERIK: So Farley wrote this in the middle of me writing my response. A couple of additional points:

1. By Matt’s logic, where he says, ” If CTU members get what they want, that’s not coming out of the pocket of “the bosses” it’s coming out of the pocket of the people who work at charter schools or the people who pay taxes in Chicago” why not just pay the teachers minimum wage? Whatever we pay public sector workers is coming out of the people who pay taxes. This is hardly different than Megan McArdle’s argument against the CTU where she said, “This is why legislators should always think very carefully about extending benefits–to workers, to citizens, to legislators. These committments essentially become non-negotiable, which in times of financial trouble, can mean “disastrous”. If our primary goal is to not have taxpayers pay anything, why pay teachers at all?

And isn’t that basically a Republican argument?

2. Matt also doesn’t articulate well (I know he understands this) how private sector wage gains get passed on to consumers. He says public sector workers are different because the cost gets passed on to the taxpayer rather than the shareholder. But don’t private sector employers tell us if their workplace is unionized they’ll just pass the cost onto the consumer? If wage gains are passed down, they are passed down for both public and private sector workers, just in different ways.

3. Again, this strike is not primarily about wages. Why can’t people get their heads around this!!! But I guess more money for school libraries and music programs will also come out of the taxpayer pocket so we’d better not do that….

4. The shot at “labor’s alleged friends” is absolutely outrageous. Labor’s “real friends” warn the public that anything they gain comes out of taxpayers pockets so we’d better be careful about giving in to them!

5. Finally, the CTU strike began while Slate writers were at a retreat in a baronial mansion somewhere in upstate New York. Jacob Weisberg, the boss over there, took time away from their retreat to tweet, “Rooting for Rahm to make the Chicago Teachers’ Union sorry for this inexcusable strike. Students in class fewest hours of any big city.” It was very John D. Rockefeller, right house and all. I have to wonder what kind of conversations were had at this retreat by the Slate staff, including Yglesias.

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  • commie atheist

    If AT&T workers get a better deal for themselves, that may well mean a worse deal for people who bought AT&T stock in past years but I’m not going to cry on their behalf.

    Isn’t it a hell of a lot more likely that AT&T will raise prices on its services/products before their shareholders suffer any pain? I mean, come ON.

    Also, too, I am constantly amazed at how people who send thier kids off for 5-6 hours a day to be educated by these public sector workers simply don’t care about how much those workers make or how they’re treated.

    • Malaclypse

      If there is any one prediction I feel comfortable making, it is that Iggy’s kids will never see the inside of a public school classroom.

      • DrDick

        Much like Rahm’s kids.

      • Corey

        What makes you think Yglesias is raking it in? He’s a blogger with two poorly-selling books, for Christ’s sake.

        • John

          Family money.

          • Ohio Mom

            Plus his wife is working her way up the school deform movement’s ladder, from one think-tank to another consulting services outfit, so there is her income & reputation as well to consider.

            Whenever Andrea Mitchell says something really wrong about an economic issue, some blogger somewhere is sure to point out that in her off-hours, she’s Mrs. Alan Greenspan, and so not just any old disinterested party. I’m not going to be happy until people start referring to Yggy (though I really like “Yggy”) as Mr. Sara Mead.

            • Corey

              That’s not his wife, dude.

              • John

                Ex-girlfriend, I believe.

            • djw

              Yeah, it’s been pointed out to you at least twice before that Sara Mead is not his wife. I know it illustrates your point nicely and all, but please stop.

              • Ohio Mom

                Oops. In the immortal words of Emily Litella, “Never mind…”

          • Rob

            Family money due heavily to unions. And he currently works in an industry whose salary structure is due to previous union work.

        • Increase Mather

          I recall a long time ago (before his Slate days) Yglesias said he was making around $50k.

          • mark f

            Not exactly:

            [T]he median household income in the United States was $50,233 in 2007. That’s non-trivially less than I earn.

            I assume Slate pays better; weren’t they paying Kaus almost $100k for about three posts a month?

            • Scott Lemieux

              FACTCHECK: The same three posts a month.

              Kaus leaving that sinecure is the most inexplicable decision since Chuck LaMar lost his GM job.

              • mark f

                I bet Mickey Kaus has an interesting take on the CTU strike.

                – Nobody

                • Clive Crook and Glenn Kessler were singing Kaus’ praises for his nuanced take on the fecking “welfare to work” waiver issue a few days before the strike

                  These people aren’t as bad as we imagine. They’re worse.

          • Corey

            I’d be shocked if he made more than $100k. In DC, that gives you a comfortable life but it’s not “send-your-kids-to-private-school money”.

            • Rob

              Ahhh yes. $75K in Chicago makes you rich, $100K in DC means you are doing just OK.

              • Corey

                I never said $75k makes you rich, but DC is a much more expensive city than Chicago.

          • Corey

            Oh, and I remember a post where Mickey Kaus’ salary got out somehow (it was $75k, I believe) and Yglesias did the faux-offer-to-sell-out thing, which made me think he made significantly less than that. Point being, bloggers are bloggers, they’re not the evil 1% or whatever.

            • YankeeFrank

              They just whore for the 1%. And that never winds up paying well.

      • Larry

        Farley writes: “As Yggy surely knows,…”. I beg to differ. I don’t think Yggy knows a goddamned thing about anything of substance, that even his superficial knowledge (his ONLY knowledge) is mistaken. His views regarding CTU and labor, plus most of everything he’s ever written, I think support the proposition that he is a spoiled woke up on second base and made it all the way to third kind of asshole who pulls up the ladder behind him that he pretends real hard was never even there. And Ezra’s pretty much the same way and every bit as much of an asshole as Yggy.

      • Iggy never did. Why should he care?

    • 85.7% of the kids in the Chicago public schools are African-American or Latino.

      The people who send their kids to the Chicago public schools aren’t the ones complaining about how much the teachers make.

      • david mizner

        Speaking of, public service workers are disproportionately people of color — you’d think “liberals” might be more determined to stand with them.

        • fledermaus

          Yggles is pretty much on the record as thinking that city and county government jobs are just a disguised form of welfare.

          • God that is dumb.

            And it’s possible to construe Washington, DC as a kind of urban Saudi Arabia.

            Well done, liberal, well done.

          • But…don’t we like welfare?!

          • Corey

            First, he doesn’t say all city and county government jobs are disguised welfare, but that some of them are, and arguments to preserve this or that government service because of the jobs at stake are inherently flawed. The role of government programs is to provide services first and foremost, not jobs.

            But is the general principle here seriously in question? Have you ever dealt with large-city bureaucracy?

            • Larry

              and how are those services provided without the people to help provide them, jerkoff?

              • DrDick

                The Free Market Fairy ™!

            • Have you ever dealt with a large corporate bureaucracy? I am sure that getting Blue Cross to pay for your medical costs is much better than going to the DMV.

          • thefax

            I seriously don’t get his thinking…don’t he also say that the government should just give poor people money rather than, say, food stamps? Isn’t a government job, which provides a service + gives money to a person, thus a good thing?

            • Corey

              Assuming the employees provide the service, yes.

              That post was written with the specific context of DC in mind, where pre-Fenty (the evil neoliberal who appointed evil “reformer” Rhee), mayors generally treated city services as jobs programs. It’s a real, actual, big deal – particularly for a city growing as fast as the District of Columbia. This ethos drove our public transportation system into the ground and completely destroyed the school system.

              I know it’s “neoliberal” to expect quality services in exchange for tax dollars, but lots of people are neoliberals I guess, and want city services to be services first, employment programs second.

              • DrDick

                I lived in Chicago and would say that I consistently got better service from the public employees (not always great) than from many multinational corporations.

      • Cody

        Yes, I like the articles highlighting how the “urban” neighborhoods are heavily on the Union’s side.

  • Aaron B.

    There’s a distinction to be made re: your #1 between the secondary effects of strikes (inconvenient and damaging in both public and private sector strikes, fine) and the goals of strikes (higher wages, shorter workday, improved working conditions however defined). I think the point Yglesias is making is that public sector strikes are making demands that will be filled out of the public pocketbook, and so are deserving of somewhat more scrutiny than private sector strikes. Which I think is a fair point, although your other cost-benefit response (strong unions are good for progressive causes) does serve as a counterweight against it.

    • david mizner

      I don’t buy it — I think the main reason some liberals don’t like public sector unions is that they’ve internalized the right’s anti-government message, which subsists on widespread disenchantment with public services. For most people, it’s simply a lot easier to sympathize with an autoworker than a postal worker.

      • david mizner

        And lemme add that this is true largely because public service workers provide public services — they directly affect or lives (and our days) in ways the most private employees don’t.

      • Aaron B.

        Maybe. In Yglesias’ case, though, he’s often made the (admittedly neoliberal) argument that the purpose of government services, like education or public transpo, is to provide quality services to the general public, that take advantage of economies of scale (single-payer healthcare) or capturing positive externalities (education increases human capital). What services are not about, in his view, is providing high-paying jobs where the private sector wouldn’t.

        You can feel about that however you like; personally, I think giving the government the opportunity to take advantage of weak labor market conditions undermines their incentives to create a strong labor market. But I have a hard time believing his arguments shouldn’t be taken seriously, at least, because they’re transparently motivated by shallow anti-union contrarianism.

        • DrDick

          You cannot fulfill your first set of goals without fulfilling those that you dismiss. Do you really think you will actually attract workers who can effectively provide you with the services you want if you do not pay them well and provide good working conditions? If so, I have a bridge I would like to sell you.

          • Aaron B.

            No, I don’t. And Yglesias doesn’t either. tt explained it best

            Yglesias said: Policy proposals ought to be examined on the merits. We shouldn’t pay teachers minimum wage because it’s a bad policy on the merits. Do you agree or disagree with this? Yglesias’ great talent is to say completely banal truths that make other progressives apoplectic.

            • DrDick

              I was referencing this:

              he’s often made the (admittedly neoliberal) argument that the purpose of government services, like education or public transpo, is to provide quality services to the general public, that take advantage of economies of scale (single-payer healthcare) or capturing positive externalities (education increases human capital). What services are not about, in his view, is providing high-paying jobs where the private sector wouldn’t

              I am not sure what you are referencing, but based on that alone, you should not take him seriously because because they are transparently motivated by shallow anti-union contrarianism.

          • wengler

            But…but…but teaching is a calling…not an occupation! They can take their vow of poverty when they are hired.

            • solved

              outsource Chicago public schools to the Sisters of Charity

        • Corey

          Maybe. In Yglesias’ case, though, he’s often made the (admittedly neoliberal) argument that the purpose of government services, like education or public transpo, is to provide quality services to the general public

          LOL

    • L2P

      This is Yglesias’s deal with public sector unions:

      “By contrast, if Chicago public school teachers get a better deal for themselves that may well mean a worse deal for Chicago taxpayers.”

      Well, OK then. Why don’t we just extrapolate that out?

      If we pay Chicago police officers more money, that just might mean a worse deal for taxpayers. We wouldn’t want that, would we? We should probably just cut their salary. Why, I bet police officers would be happy to work for minimum wage! After all, the thrill of using guns and turning on that siren should be compensation enough! And if they don’t like it, they can go do some thing else. After all, any higher wage would be a bad deal for Chicago taxpayers.

      There’s really nothing going on here except Yglesias saying government workers should be paid whatever the hell the government decides to pay them. Either you believe that workers have a right to unionize and bargain for higher wages, or you don’t.

      • Aaron B.

        You’re obviously not reading very carefully. Yglesias would be responsive to arguments that a certain policy proposal (large wage cuts, say) might undermine the quality of service being provided. He’s just claiming that higher wages for public sector unions aren’t necessarily worth supporting for their own sake, where private sectors ones might be. But he has, for example, said that higher wages for all teachers might improve the quality of teaching.

        • L2P

          Yes. Of course.

          Just like I wouldn’t support a PRIVATE SECTOR UNION in every one of THEIR DEMANDS. If Verizon workers went on strike to ask for a new Bentley every year, I’d say their crazy. I wouldn’t say they have NO RIGHT TO UNIONIZE.

          We don’t support unions because of their DEMANDS. We support unions because their RIGHT TO MAKE THEIR DEMANDS.

          I read Yglesias perfectly well. He’s an idiot.

          • Aaron B.

            Except apparently you didn’t read him at all, because his piece was advocating for scrutiny on the particular demands they’ve issued, not their illegitimacy as a whole. And there’s a clear difference in standpoint between criticizing Verizon workers (“boy, their demands sure are crazy”) and public sector workers (“as a taxpayer, I think that’s an irresponsible expenditure”).

            • L2P

              In the quoted passage he’s literally making a distinction, right there, between support of public sector unions and support of private sector unions. He would SUPPORT this for a private sector union. He WOULD NOT support this for a public sector union. Based on nothing but the publicy or private nature of the union.

              He IS NOT evaluating this on the merits. Not at all. He’s just saying “public sector unions bad.” That’s it.

              Why is this so confusing for you?

              • Aaron B.

                He’s making the distinction, but the two attitudes he supports are: give private sector demands the benefit of the doubt, and use cost-benefit analysis on public sector demands. Which is decidedly not “blanket support” and “blanket opposition.”

                • Linnaeus

                  I don’t find the point about using cost-benefit to evaluate union demands in of itself an unreasonable one. I can certainly conceive of a hypothetical situation in which a union’s demands, if agreed to, could undermine good public policy.

                  But that of course requires some judgement as to what “good public policy” is, and that’s always going to involve some implicit assumptions about acceptable costs and desirable benefits. I can also conceive of a situation in which costs and benefits are defined such that any objection to a union’s demands looks reasonable because the parameters have been stacked against the union based on underlying assumptions, ideology, etc. When this pattern repeats itself – and I’m not accusing Yglesias or anyone else of doing that, let me add – then you get a kind of anti-unionism by circumstance.

                  Let me offer a parallel story that will, maybe, illustrate better what I’m talking about. When I was involved with a (successful) drive to unionize my workplace, one of the objections I heard was “Well, I’m not necessarily against having a union, I’m against having this union represent us.” One could have legitimate reasons for preferring one union over another. But sometimes when talking with these folks, you found that their objections entailed things that just about any other union would do, i.e., their objection to “this” union could just as well apply to “that” other union as well. And so it became clear that these folks did in fact oppose unionization of our workplace, but just didn’t say it.

                  So it’s not just about having a cost-benefit analysis, but what its underlying values are, who is deemed a valid participant in having a voice in the analysis, etc.

                • and I’m not accusing Yglesias or anyone else of doing that,

                  I am.

  • david mizner

    The mystery is why it took him so long (yes, he’s only 30 or so but he’s been blogging since like fifth grade) to land at Slate, the home of neo-liberal contrarianism.

  • smith

    Yglesias and all his private-school-educated pundit buddies can stuff it. I’ve lived in Chicago for 23 years. On comparing my tax bill with those of friends who live in comparable houses in surrounding suburbs, mine appear to be somewhat lower. I have been getting the schools I pay for, that is, worse than average. I’d be happy to pay more if it would improve the schools.

    That said, when Chicago taxpayers bitch about taxes, one big element of that complaint is the recognition that we pay a really hefty corruption tax — a huge amount of what we pay in is skimmed off for sweetheart contracts for corporate cronies, patronage hiring, and old-fashioned graft. During the Daley years, every few years like clockwork there would be a major scandal and multiple convictions that always included old Daley pals and came almost, but not quite, to the door of the mayor himself. Daley always skated, as Daleys always do, and it’s clear that Emanuel intends to continue in that venerable tradition.

    I support the teachers union and other public employee unions because it’s only through their contracts that I have any way of ensuring that my tax money will actually go to public services and that there is any pressure at all to make those services actually address the needs of the public.

    • it’s clear that Emanuel intends to continue in that venerable tradition.

      Is it?

      I don’t very much about municipal-level issues involving Rahm. Is he keeping the gravy train flowing?

      • Grant

        He’s still mayor, and not dead, so yes.

      • Cody

        The odds are rather good that he’ll end up in jail…

        Only time will tell if he can beat the odds though!

      • Kal

        Well, there’s this.

    • whetstone

      I live in Chicago, and have been looking at buying a house. There’s stuff I can afford in Oak Park, immediately outside the city, but I can’t afford the property taxes.

      Someone should tell Yglesias about tax-increment financing (which covers a vast swath of the city). It diverts property taxes above the level when the TIF is implemented, and fixes them for up to 24 years–not adjusted for inflation!

      Then, to make up for the property taxes that would have otherwise gone to schools, the city raises the levy.

  • ajay

    Large, powerful, happy, successful unions are good for progressive politics, again completely apart from the issues of any particular labor dispute.

    This isn’t always true. If one of those unions overreaches and does something boneheaded, it can destroy progressive politics (see: the UK). Unions would be a lot more popular in London if not for the efforts of the RMT, who have staged a series of very successful strikes the result of which is to make sure that a man who drives a semi-automatic train on the Circle Line is better paid than a man who drives a medevac Chinook over Afghanistan. This is bad for progressive politics in exactly the same way as a bailed-out bank CEO earning £40 million a year is bad for conservative politics.

    • Joshua

      a man who drives a semi-automatic train on the Circle Line is better paid than a man who drives a medevac Chinook over Afghanistan

      I can tell you with certainty that this would not be part of the debate here. For all the talk in this country about “supporting the troops”, people actually care very little about the well-being of the troops or their families.

      Here that train driver would be compared to a non-unionized driver, and people would be incredulous that the unionized driver is paid more. People here seem to believe that whatever salary the “job creator” has set for his minions is inherently the “right one” and any collectively negotiated number above that is theft.

      • ajay

        It’s not really part of the debate here either. But the general point of the high wages is: most people feel that £50k a year for four days a week (doing a job that is so unchallenging that on one line (DLR) it has been automated for the last fifteen years) is a bit much. But because they’re in a position to do immense damage to London, they get it. And public transport in London is thus considerably more expensive than in most other cities.
        And, of course, they’re talking about automating the rest of the network…

        • Bexley

          See working 4 day weeks for decent wages looks like the kind of thing we should be aiming for with greater automation, instead of productivity gains going straight to the guys at the top.

          • mpowell

            50K pounds is at least 80K dollars. If the work is really that easy, I’m surprised it hasn’t been automated already, because that is a pretty substantial salary for work that doesn’t require much training or skill. But I don’t know actually know whether driving these particular trains requires substantial training or not.

            • 507

              Probably the most “overpaid” municipal worker I knew was the guy who use to help turnaround the cable cars at Powell and Market. About every eight minutes he would use a metal hook to pull a lever to release the turntable and occasionally help the conductor and grip turn the car around. That was it In an eight hour day he probably did 90 minutes of physical work.

              It only took him about 40 years working for MUNI including over 20 as a gripman before he could bid for that job. To stand in the rain all day pulling a lever every eight minutes. Not exactly how I would want to spend the final few years before retirement.

        • £50k a year for four days a week (doing a job that is so unchallenging that on one line (DLR) it has been automated for the last fifteen years) is a bit much.

          In one of the most expensive cities in the world. Why is it a bit much? It probably gets them a modest apartment in a neighborhood that you are not terrified to live in, and a modest vacation on the shore every third year. SCANDAL!!!

    • jdkbrown

      This, of course, is an argument for paying the person flying Chinook better, not an argument for paying the person driving the train less.

      • wengler

        Yeah I don’t know if ajay knows this, but here in the US we pay our soldiers shit. So that wasn’t exactly a compelling argument.

        Also 75,000 dollars in the one of the most expensive cities in the world doesn’t sound extravagant.

      • Jay B.

        You know, if ajay thinks the train driver is getting such a sweet deal for doing jacknothing, he could always try and BE a train driver.

        I fucking can’t stand “progressives” who bitch about what other middle class people are making for an occupation that the person bitching about the salary or wage would never dream of doing in a billion years.

        • ajay

          You know, if ajay thinks the train driver is getting such a sweet deal for doing jacknothing, he could always try and BE a train driver.

          Because there are lots of vacancies. Jackass.

    • Ed

      ‘If one of those unions overreaches and does something boneheaded, it can destroy progressive politics (see: the UK).’

      Not really a concern over here. Even at the height of their influence and numbers American unions never enjoyed the power that the unions did in the UK (and it’s true that at times the UK unions abused that power and possibly still do).

      The brouhaha over this strike has more to do with the state of American progressivism and the Democratic Party than the teachers’ unions. No doubt the unions are imperfect, but how public school teachers became the chief villains in a society brought to economic disaster by financial industry chieftains who’ve returned to living high on the hog, with the active aid of Democratic Party honchos, is one of those mysteries of modern life.

      A complicating factor in this case is that the mayor is not a Republican but a particularly unpleasant Democratic hack. It’s not surprising to me that negotiations did not go well. I think the terms “bully” and “liar” have been used, and in view of Emanuel’s standard M.O. they are likely accurate.

      • wengler

        If you want to see abuse of power by unions look at France. I mean 35-hour workweek? Really? It’s almost as if they thought that labor should continue progressing past the 1910s and leisure time was an important thing.

        • I don’t know if this is an abuse of power because it is the only way to keep employment up. They do this to distribute employment to more people.

          • Hob

            Somehow I suspect that “It’s almost as if they thought that labor should continue progressing past the 1910s” indicates the presence of sarcasm in wengler’s comment.

        • Timurid

          …and they somehow fancied that labor surpluses and not labor shortages might be the most serious problem going forward…

    • Marek

      Bad for conservative politics? A bailed out bank CEO earning 40 million is the point of conservative politics!

      Just as a good wage should be the point of progressive politics.

  • Aidan

    I don’t really see anywhere that Yglesias is struggling to understand why progressives support public sector unions, and I think you would need a completely disingenous reading to get there. He argues that there is a completely understandable reason that some progressives don’t support public sector unions as fervently as other progressives (or as they do private sector unions). Henwood and Corey Robin try to explain it through convoluted armchair psychology that makes the issue a lot more complicated than it needs to be. The public often sees issues regarding teachers’ unions and strikes a certain way because it involves their tax dollars and their children’s education. Understanding these realities is essential to maintaining a relevant labor movement that recognizes the current political and economic climate. It weakens public sector unions in both public opinion and influence to ignore these points, and it’s one of the reasons I get so frustrated with kneejerkers like Erik Loomis.

    • L2P

      Why does “tax dollars” make this a magical difference?

      As a progressive, I’m just as concerned that some poor family can’t afford bread because farmworkers get more money as I am that I am paying 2% more in taxes so I get the services I deserve. I’m just as concerned that some poor family can’t get phone service or internet access because telecom workers get paid too much as I am that I pay slightly more in fees to get an addition to my house.

      What kind of “progressives” are you talking about that care more about tax dollars than if a poor family can buy bread? Stupid ones, like Yglesias?

    • commie atheist

      The public often sees issues regarding teachers’ unions and strikes a certain way because it involves their tax dollars and their children’s education.

      And their children’s education is best served by poorly-paid teachers with little incentive to do anything but prepare their students to be excellent test-takers how, exactly?

      • Aaron B.

        Can literally none of you understand how to make distinctions between advocacies? Yglesias isn’t necessarily arguing in support of this particular policy, he’s 1. 0making a point about why some progressives are less supportive of public sector than private sector unions, and 2. advocating for a particular method of evaluating the demands of public sector unions in labor disputes.

        • What particular method is that? I didn’t see it.

          • Hogan

            Cost-benefit analysis, as near as I can tell.

            Of course we could also do that with private sector unions. I believe the main difference is that, while everyone knows how to teach K-12, making cars is difficult, so we don’t feel qualified to evaluate the UAW’s proposals.

            • I hope you are joking when you say “everyone knows how to teach K-12.”

              • Ah, I see you were. Sorry, a little slow…

          • Aaron B.

            Evaluating demands of public sector unions like policy proposals, i.e. on their merits.

            • Aaron B.

              (cost-benefit, like Hogan said)

              • Grant

                You may have missed a nuance in Hogan’s reply, I think.

                • DrDick

                  Much as with every other point in this post.

    • Agreed, but beyond that we keep being told that the strike is not about money but about education policy. Chicago residents, even progressives, have ideas about education policy. I may or may not think demands about compensation made by a public union are fair given the type of job, the economic constraints and cutbacks in the private sector, so on, but I’m even less convinced that the teachers’ unions should be deferred to on policy or that the best way to resolve policy issues is through demands made in a strike.

      The problem, of course, is that Chicago doesn’t seem to have a better way to deal with education policy issues, but that I think education policy is a public matter and not an employment matter is one reason I’m not seeing this strike as a grand liberal cause.

      On the other hand, apart from the strike I think I would support an elected board and some of the other issues the teacher’s support. I just suspect my ideas about improvement aren’t going to be achieved by saying I have to support everything the teachers are for on matters of policy. If the teachers want to make it about policy, that’s more reason to consider the merits and not just kneejerk support them.

      This kind of conflict is also why people buy into the arguments about tenure and bad teachers so easily too. People know that their aims and those of the union aren’t identical. I also wouldn’t agree that the Police Union should decide criminal policy, and no one suggests that is an anti-union position.

      • If the teachers want to make it about policy, that’s more reason to consider the merits and not just kneejerk support them.

        Oh for god’s sake jerk the knee. They’re teachers, it’s nice to pay them; they’re in a union, it’s nice to have those.

        • Yes, it’s nice to have unions. But that doesn’t mean that one must agree with every demand a union makes. That’s the abstract question here.

          And this isn’t about the money, right? So why interpret my comment as about the money.

          • Reread your first paragraph. It’s simply fabulous that you’re even less convinced on the policy business. Go liberal go!

            • Malaclypse

              Look, nothing says “sensible liberal” quite so much as demanding austerity from the public sector during the worst employment crisis in the last 75 years.

              Okay, bombing Iran says “sensible liberal” just as well. Point conceded.

            • I figured I’d get slammed, but I at least thought it would be for what I really said.

              I do believe that one can strongly support the existence of unions and not agree with their demands in all circumstances, even when those demands relate to compensation.

              However, my point here wasn’t about that, it was to agree that the current dispute isn’t really about money and to note that that’s probably why some liberals are having a harder time supporting it. When it’s about policy issues it lends itself particularly well to the Yglesias argument that one has to judge the situation on the actual policy questions and not just support the union because it’s the union.

              One of the policy questions is how we should best make the policy decisions — debates about hiring and firing are management/labor issues in the private context, but become of greater public interest here.

              • However, my point here wasn’t about that, it was to agree that the current dispute isn’t really about money

                Oh bullshit.

              • Linnaeus

                However, my point here wasn’t about that, it was to agree that the current dispute isn’t really about money and to note that that’s probably why some liberals are having a harder time supporting it.

                But that brings to my mind the fact that a common reason given to oppose teachers’ unions is that they care too much about the compensation of their members and not enough about the quality of the education their students get. The CTU’s position on school conditions, teacher evaluation, etc. is meant to not only articulate the genuine concerns of its members, but also to demonstate that as an institution, the CTU is about more than just compensation.

                So if progressive people are inclined to be more skeptical of the union due to its arguments about conditions & policy according to the reasoning you’re suggesting here, then that potentially puts the CTU in a real bind. Make it about money, they’re just greedy and selfish and “don’t care about the kids”. Broaden the issues, and they’re improperly trying to expand the scope of their influence.

                • I don’t think it’s anti-students to care about compensation. To the extent that’s an argument, it’s a bad one.

                  I also think the point made in the initial post about how increasing compensation for unionized workers helps non unionized workers is correct. There are good arguments for generally supporting the union in debates about money, although there are counterweights too in many circumstances — which I was trying to acknowledge — even though I don’t think it’s the issue here.

                  But when it’s about policy, you have to assume people are going to respond based on their ideas about the policy issues, and that includes liberals.

                  On many policy issues that might be a reason to support the teachers — I haven’t really taken a position — but it does take it outside of a labor/management type of argument even more than the claim that the taxpayers are the employers does.

                  One of the reasons I think teachers unions get unfair reactions is that people assume they should act in the public interest, for the students first, so on, and not as a employees’ advocate. It seems sensible to both say it’s good for the teachers to have the support and protection and an organization to fight for the support and protection and also to say that in many cases teachers probably should be fired or compensation should be decided differently or people with alternative backgrounds and training should more easily be able to get jobs.

                  I don’t think we should demand that teachers unions not fight for what they think is in the best interest of current teachers, but I also think this means that we don’t assume that their ideas about policy must be supported by anyone who cares about labor.

      • DrDick

        Given that you acknowledge that there is no other actual way to affect educational policy in Chicago and that the School Board wants to evaluate (and potentially fire) teachers based on criteria strongly impacted by existing policies, why shouldn’t the teachers strike? Your argument, like all the others against this strike, makes no sense except to say all public workers should work for minimum wage and no job security and be grateful. I am sure you would be delighted with the results of that policy.

        • This “anyone who doesn’t support everything about the strike and everything the teachers demand wants teachers to work for minimum wage” makes no sense.

          My point is that the fact it’s supposedly not about money is not necessarily a reason to support it. The argument over how to evaluate teachers and schools and how hard it should be to evaluate teachers is a policy argument. People with ideas about education policy or even just the idea that their interest in having better schools should matter and that they therefore should have a say in education policy are not going to necessarily think that they must agree with any position the teachers’ union takes on a policy issue.

          This may help explain why people with such ideas are torn rather than seeing the issue as clear cut.

          • My point is that the fact it’s supposedly not about money is not necessarily a reason to support it.

            How do you feel about the Democrat party?

            • Right, because anyone who thinks Yglesias has a point here must be a secret Republican troll.

              If you are so convinced of the merits of the argument here, that the policies the union is supporting are the right ones and that a strike is the best way to push those arguments, rather than some kind of democratic approach, then why is Yglesias’ approach so objectionable? Why is it terrible if liberals say “I am not so sure union demands are always correct, I support their right to exist and strike, but I want to be convinced on the merits before agreeing with the results they are seeking”? Why isn’t that a valid and even good debate to be having?

              • Because what you’re saying is utterly trivial. When you’re at the table across from management, you ask for things and they ask for things and it gets worked out, and job action is the tool the teachers have WHICH IS A DEMOCRATIC APPROACH. It’s a truism that this or that in a contract isn’t ideal but it gets written by two parties and you use the excuse to do your hand-wringing over the union.

                • I’m not hand-wringing over the union. I’m saying that it’s ridiculous to claim that liberals must always support the positions taken by the union, especially when what is being discussed is education policy.

                • I’m not hand-wringing over the union.

                  Then feel free to be the union-boosting leftist I know is festering under the “supposedly” and the “rather than some kind of democratic approach” and the “ridiculous to claim that liberals must always support” crap and say “Good for the CTU for exercising their rights!” You can do it! Or is it not good for them to exercise those rights? I wring my hands over this dilemma.

          • DrDick

            So you are arguing that employees should not have any say about policies that adversely affect the things that they are evaluated on for retention, raises, and promotion? Because this is a central issue here. All of the policy recommendations of the teachers are reasonable and necessary and impact on the ability of students to learn and perform to standard, which is what they are evaluated on.

            • No, I’m saying that when liberals consider those policy recommendations they can disagree if they don’t agree on the policy.

              Whether people here want to admit it or not, there’s a difference between thinking unions are valuable, including public unions, and thinking that what they ask for is always worth supporting, especially when it’s about a policy matter.

              In fact, it strikes me as the reverse of the rightwing argument against teachers unions. According to them, because teachers unions occasionally take positions that someone might disagree with, that person should conclude that the union is bad or contrary to the public interest.

              I think Yglesias’ distinction is right — of course the union should exist and of course it will both argue for taxpayer dollars that others (even liberal) might think are better spent in another way or, as is more significant here, might oppose certain reforms that liberals may or may not agree with.

              If your position is that this is not such a case and the teachers’ position here is one that any good liberal should agree with because of the merits of the position, and not just because it’s the position the union has taken, then I think you are arguing in the way Yglesias favors.

              What I’m objecting to is the idea that we must go along with any policy that the union supports because the union supports it. AND that this is an anti union or anti teacher position. It’s not, that’s a strawman.

      • Fake Irishman

        Something to remember, however, is that the process of hiring, discipline and firing are very much employment matters as well as public policy matters. Workers need to have a say in these issues as well. As a member of the graduate student labor movement, this is something we struggle with all the time in trying to get employment standards for grad student instructors and research assistants that are less arbitrary than “whatever your advisor feels like.”

        The question in Chicago is twofold. 1. Do standardized tests truly measure achievement? And 2. How much responsibility to teachers have for student achievement? I know from my own experience that if you put me in a classroom with highly motivated students, I’m an award-winning teacher. If you put me in a classroom with a students who don’t care at all, I’m on a watch list for improvement (This all happened to me in one year at my uni, which is a high-end R1 school that doesn’t have to deal with many of the socioeconomic issues that teachers in the Chicago public school do.)

        Incidentally, I suspect the answers are 1. tests measure some knowledge, but limited types and they don’t measure it equally across social classes and 2. much, if all else is equal, but social factors of students are not equal between schools and school districts.

        • I agree with all that.

          It just seems to me if the problem is with tests as a measure — which I’m inclined to agree is a problem — it’s better to address the issue as a policy debate, in which voters have a say. Like opposing NCLB or some such. The problem in Chicago, of course, is that I’m not sure how a regular person gets a say, but that doesn’t mean that I am comfortable assuming that because I am politically liberal that teachers are going to agree with me on issues relating to how teachers or schools should be evaluated or whether we ought to be more open to alternative routes to educating and hiring teachers.

          I DON’T think there’s anything wrong with teachers’ unions taking the pro current employee view on these things, but just as we (again) don’t say everyone must agree with the Police Union on all issues they might have an opinion on or be a bad liberal, I don’t accept that that’s the case here, especially in the abstract.

          • I also think that the public should have a say on the proper procedures for brain surgery and standard practices for plumbing and electricity. Let’s question the use of a #3 scalpel.

            I’m not saying we need to trust experts exclusively, but recognize that having two advocacy groups arguing (i.e. employer and employee) is one of the best mechanisms for finding a balance there is. By undermining one side consistently (I see relatively little hand wringing by MattY on overreach by the gov here), you undermine the whole system. Let them argue it out and support the union because they are you and me.

            • When the ABA or AMA or, as I pointed out originally, the police unions take a position, we don’t have everyone insisting that all good liberals should fall in line and agree, because obviously they know better.

              So why is it so impossible that liberals might have good policy reasons to occasionally disagree with the preferred policies of the teachers’ unions?

      • Kal

        On the other hand, apart from the strike I think I would support an elected board and some of the other issues the teacher’s support. I just suspect my ideas about improvement aren’t going to be achieved by saying I have to support everything the teachers are for on matters of policy.

        Nobody is saying that you have to support every policy the teachers’ union does. If they go on strike against integration/busing (the NYC union did in the 70s), cross picket lines all day (as did some leftists in the NYC union then). But it sounds like liberal self-parody to say that you agree with their goals, but because they might have the leverage to actually push those goals through, you’re uncomfortable backing them.

        • Hogan

          If you mean Ocean Hill/Brownsville, that was not about integration/busing.

          • Kal

            You’re right: community control. My apologies. I misremembered the details. I only know anything about it through the oral tradition of UFT leftists.

      • wengler

        Your point about police is an interesting one, for the fact that cops make decisions about criminal policy ALL THE DAMN TIME. Where to patrol, when to patrol, what to enforce, what to look the other way from.

  • tt

    Can you point to one particular sentence in the Yglesias post that you think is wrong? Because as far as I can tell everything that you said is consistent with everything that he said.

    • I suspect that it’s a holistic wrongness. It’s really incoherent. Consdier:

      why some people could be generally liberal but “hate” teachers unions.

      This is about hating teachers unions, which, although it’s not spelled out in Henwood (though he starts with, “A lot of otherwise liberal people really hate teachers’ unions.”). Presumably, this means hate regardless of specific individual provocations or excesses.

      Then:

      The most salient difference, completely absent from his armchair psychologizing, is surely that public school teachers work for the government.

      So, uh, some liberals hate teachers unions because teachers work for the government?!?? This is nutsy. It might not be wrong, if there are a lot of stupid liberals (cf Nader threads for some evidence on that :)), but he’s clearly presenting this as reasonable.

      Indeed, what baffles me about these discussions is the tendency of labor’s alleged friends to simply refuse to look this reality in the face and instead insist that any hostility to specific union asks must secretly reflect the skeptic’s hostility to the existence of the union or its members.

      How is this supposed to hook up with Henwood? Does Yggy deny that liberal teacher union hate exists? Does he thing that the teacher union hate phenomenon is significantly overestimated and the “Well, we are just hostile to this particular demand…for every demand!” crowd don’t really hate public teacher unions, just public teachers unions who benefit their members?

      If I had to psychologize, I’d take Yggy’s post as a supporting example of Henwood’s speculation.

      • Aaron B.

        You missed, like, the entire point of the post. The point is that they don’t hate teacher’s unions (i.e they’re not motivated by psychological factors), they make a distinction between public and private sector unions because public sector unions’ demands are paid for out of taxes (i.e. they’re motivated by policy preference factors).

        • You missed, like, the entire point of my comment and at least the last third.

          That definitely is the suggestion of the last paragraph (though that that’s the pivot is not clearly marked). (But note that, as phrased, it’s possible that there is a substantial amount of genuine liberal hate and some amount of “friends of labor” misreading. Matt just doesn’t make it clear.)

        • Btw, as a purported philosophy admirer, it would behoove you to provide textual support for your claims.

        • Kal

          Are you being a little disingenuous maybe? It is, in fact, true, that there are a number of liberals & Democrats who are generally skeptical of teachers’ unions. Yglesias is one of these, and that’s why he recognizes himself as the target of Henwood’s post. He responds by listing some reasons why he thinks progressives ought not to support public sector unions in the same way they do private sector unions.

          • Yglesias’s post is confusing. Both these themes are extractable (i.e., that it’s right to hate them and that liberal critics don’t really hate them, they are just demonized by the Faux Friends of Labor), but how they are supposed to fit together is left unsaid.

            • Oops, and I don’t see that Aaron B. is being disingenuous (I don’t think he’s being deceitful). He’s just being overly charitable. It’s possible to fill in the gaps so that this is Matt’s whole point, but it still would be poorly made and it wouldn’t be remotely plausible.

              • Kal

                And you’re being more charitable than me, which might be right. I just don’t think it’s hard to see that there are well-recognized sides here, and “my side doesn’t say what you claim, but also we’re right” is a very common pattern of political argument.

                • True, but Matt really does have something which isn’t explicitly could be read as a “here’s why it’s correct to hate them” and a something which could be read as “hey, we don’t really hate them but are just demonized”. If you smush the first one a bit with the second one, it becomes all the second (because it’s public money we should care and when we do the faux knights of labor demonize us).

                  Of course, he could have just written something clear and explicit :)

                • Of course, he could have just written something clear and explicit :)

                  LOL

                  I guess there’s a first time for everything.

        • (the other) Davis

          The point is that they don’t hate teacher’s unions (i.e they’re not motivated by psychological factors), they make a distinction between public and private sector unions because public sector unions’ demands are paid for out of taxes (i.e. they’re motivated by policy preference factors).

          Yes, he does make a bald assertion to that end, but does his assertion have any basis in empirical reality? Are either of his claims — they don’t hate teachers’ unions, and they care about the public/private distinction — factual?

          I have a counter-assertion: the most salient differences are that (a) the media is constantly telling us how awful schools are, and how bad teachers are the reason (see Rheeism), and (b) people feel more personally affected by teachers’ unions because many of them have kids.

          Now Yglesias may be describing his own concerns, but I see no reason to think that his explanation is any more correct than mine.

        • Hogan

          Except that they only ever talk about teacher unions, not police unions or firefighter unions or trash collector unions or postal worker unions. So that explanation seems incomplete.

  • mark f

    If you think that Chicago’s teachers deserve the right to form an association to advocate, lobby, and bargain on behalf of the interests of its members (and why shouldn’t they?) then you have to think that they deserve the right to advocate for ideas that may not be in the public interest. That’s fine, everybody does it. But it really does mean that the policy proposals ought to be examined on the merits.

    Right. And one side, some teachers are striking over some relatively esoteric concerns regarding evaluation methods and other strategies directly relating to education. On the other side, “reformers” are shrieking irrelevantly about their average compensation.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Don’t forget about how all teacher’s unions WANT TO MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR EVEN THE MOST OBVIOUSLY INEPT TEACHER TO BE FIRED. I mean, there may not be any evidence that this is true in Chicago, but it must be. Has Michelle Rhee ever lied to you?

      • Fake Irishman

        It would also be nice if some administrators actually took their jobs seriously and tried to use the processes that already exist to fire incompetent teachers instead of merely whining that administrators need more powers to fire teachers.

        • DrDick

          I will take administrative whining seriously when there is accountability for them and there are effective mechanisms to remove incompetent administrators expeditiously.

      • wengler

        If there is anything wrong with our society, it’s that people have too much damn job security.

        • somethingblue

          If there is anything wrong with our society, it’s that people have too much damn job security.

          On behalf of David and Charles Koch, FTFY.

    • david mizner

      Esoteric?

      The issues that teachers are fighting for go to the heart of improving Chicago’s public schools. Chicago has had 15 years of mayoral control, and it hasn’t helped improve our schools. Today, 42% of neighborhood elementary schools are not funded for a full-time art or music teacher; 160 Chicago elementary schools don’t have libraries. Teachers report classes of more than 43 students and not even enough chairs for them all. And teachers often lack textbooks and other materials up to six weeks after the start of school.

      Chicago teachers are calling for a better day, not just a longer day, by investing in art, music and libraries. They are calling for smaller class sizes, investments in neighborhood schools and health care, social workers, meal services and additional services for students.

      They want to focus on teaching and learning, and have legitimately objected to the district’s fixation on high-stakes testing that is narrowing the curriculum and being used to sanction teachers. And they are calling for a fair evaluation process and additional professional development to help all teachers improve.

      http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/story/2012-09-11/Chicago-teachers-Randi-Weingarten/57752140/1

      Feel free to disregard cause she’s a “union boss,” but it does seem odd to me that many liberals are so doubtful that teachers, as opposed to mayors and corporations, have the best interests of students at heart.

      • mark f

        This is an egregious misreading even by your standards.

        • DrDick

          Sounds to me like an excellent reading, unless there is some hidden subtext in invisible ink that I missed.

          • mark f

            Umm,

            1. I quoted Yglesias criticizing pro-labor liberals for not engaging with the controversy on its merits.

            2. I then pointed out that the two sides are
            (a) striking teachers and pro-labor liberals arguing education policy, and
            (b) anti-labor whomevers throwing out unrelated statistics.

            3. I was demonstrating that Yglesias was criticizing the wrong side.

            But what do you call the message or meaning that’s right there on the surface, completely open and obvious? They never talk about that. What do you call what’s above the subtext?

            • Hogan

              The text.

              • mark f

                OK, that’s right, but they never talk about that.

                • Hogan

                  Whit Stillman FTW

            • DrDick

              I, like David, took exception to your characterization of teacher’s interests as “esoteric”, which has implications of obscure and of interest only to experts. As other commenters not downthread it may simply have been a poor word choice on your part that obscured your meaning.

          • Wasn’t mark f’s “esoteric” a bit of snark? He doesn’t think they are actually esoteric. Or am I misreading?

            • mark f

              Well, no, not exactly; I meant it the same way that Hogan meant this:

              everyone knows how to teach K-12, [but] making cars is difficult, so we don’t feel qualified to evaluate the UAW’s proposals.

              His is snark, mine is not. I don’t see what the objection to “esoteric” is; pedagogy is a science, and Chicago’s teachers are defending their livelihoods against politicians and a public who view it simplistically.

              • Fair enough. I took David as reading it as “not of the general interest” rather than “part of specialized knowledge”.

                I, myself, wouldn’t use “esoteric” here. The pedagogical points aren’t particularly abstruse or difficult to grasp.

                But whatever! You clearly weren’t speaking against the teachers.

                • mark f

                  Point taken — the word is defensible but not ideal. How that led to David attacking me for hating unions and teachers is beyond me, though.

                • Oh, well, it is David after all :)

      • DrDick

        A friend’s daughter teaches in an affluent Chicago suburb (Barrington) and has partnered with a Southside Chicago elementary school. She and her students (and her school) every year provide used books to the children in Chicago, because they do not have enough textbooks to go around and no library budget.

        • wengler

          Because eventually every child must learn that the USSR is no longer a country(a problem for the textbooks in the schools I went to even into the early 2000s).

  • Scott Lemieux

    The shot at “labor’s alleged friends” is absolutely outrageous. Labor’s “real friends” warn the public that anything they gain comes out of taxpayers pockets so we’d be careful about giving in to them!

    Labor’s real friends, of course, know that maybe people should have a nominal right to organize, but they certainly shouldn’t ask for anything or stuff like that there. They also know that taxpayers get no benefits from having better public sector workers or stable middle-class jobs in their communities.

  • tt

    If CTU members get what they want, that’s not coming out of the pocket of “the bosses” it’s coming out of the pocket of the people who work at charter schools or the people who pay taxes in Chicago” why not just pay the teachers minimum wage? Whatever we pay public sector workers is coming out of the people who pay taxes.

    Yglesias said: Policy proposals ought to be examined on the merits. We shouldn’t pay teachers minimum wage because it’s a bad policy on the merits. Do you agree or disagree with this? Yglesias’ great talent is to say completely banal truths that make other progressives apoplectic.

    • Aaron B.

      Because he’s trained as a philosopher, and thinks it’s important to clearly explain every step to a conclusion while making background assumptions explicit. Because most peoples’ political beliefs are not clearly laid out or internally consistent, the process of laying out necessary assumptions usually touches on something that enrages somebody.

      • Grant

        He’s not “trained as philosopher,” he got a BA from Harvard. He’s touched the hem of Rawls’ robe, which is nice and all but mean basically fuck. He’s also shitty at philosophy, by they way.

        • Aaron B.

          Philosophy rewires your brain. You also learn how to make distinctions between advocacies, and expect other people to understand that you’re doing so, but it seems to be an extremely uncommon skill.

          • Grant

            Do tell me more about philosophy. I’d love to know more.

            • Aaron B.

              Your snark is so persuasive! Pray continue.

          • PhD in philosophy here. I’m generally not impressed with Matt’s analytical and argumentative skill. See my earlier comment for roughly the comments I’d give if I were grading his piece.

            (It’s not literally a non sequitur, but even if you read it as enthymematic rather than incoherent, filling in the blanks doesn’t hugely help. The first line (it’s PUBLIC MONEY) could be read as primarily conceptual (liberals tend to be hostile to unions because they are pro-government), but it’s pretty shoddy (see Farley’s point 3). But then the second line (er…that the hostile liberals aren’t as hostile as they are made out to be), surely is a couple of empirical questions. An example, or some data, would be helpful.

            (Obviously, Henwood is similarly speculating, but frankly, his speculation seems less incoherent. It does seem to be the case that there’s a notable strain of liberal anti-public-sector feeling (again, though, an empirical question). Whether he’s correct about the cause, eh.

            • Aaron B.

              Well, then what do I know? I’m just some dumb undergraduate.

              • In philosophy? Where?

                (I mention my experience primarily to point out that I am experientially conversant with philosophical training and how it affects your thinking, not as an appeal to my authority. Plus, what Matt’s writing is a blog post and not a philosophy paper. However, I do think it’s a pretty poor example and I’m pretty sure that it would receive a poor grade from most instructors on structural grounds alone.)

          • wengler

            Are you representative of his readership?

        • Grant

          Nice spelling, asshole.

          • Grant

            @me, not Aaron B., whose spelling is an inspiration for us all.

    • Paul Campos

      I think what annoys people is that this is a political battle, or, as Frankie Pentangeli would say, “a street thing,” and that AT THIS PARTICULAR MOMENT what the CTU doesn’t need is more endless neo-liberal musings about how it’s a complex world full of tradeoffs blah blah blah.

      Look, either you support this strike or you don’t. If you don’t support it on the merits then come out and say so, and why. If you do support it, then say so, and why. Don’t go all meta about “the big picture” in the middle of an actual political battle.

      • david mizner

        Yeah, but that way they can say “I told you so” after the side that they didn’t support loses.

      • Aaron B.

        Again, Yglesias is trained as a philosopher. Going “all meta” is what he’s good at. It’s why I read him, anyway. Sometimes I want to read something more thoughtful and general than the latest knife fight. And, doing methodology (or generally just thinking about how to think about politics) can help inform future disputes by giving us the tools to engage more thoughtfully.

        • Grant

          A good philosopher knows when to “go meta” and when not. He is not thoughtful, he is superficially contrarian; as philosophers go his analytical abilities are middling at best; the only thing he is good at is being ignored.

          • Aaron B.

            It’s nice that you feel that way. I feel differently. Given that we’re dealing with basically impossible-to-substantiate vagaries, I’m going to say you’re also excellent at being ignored.

            • Grant

              Feelings? You get a B-.

              • Aaron B.

                I feel comfortable calling an unsubstantiated assertion that somebody is “not thoughtful” and is “superficially contrarian” just a feeling. It doesn’t rise to the level of argument. It’s suited for book reviews, not philosophy.

                • Grant

                  Its not even suited for book reviews, its suited for blog comments.

                  Keep writing “Matt Y.” over and over in your Trapper Keeper, though.

                • dreamy

                  I am no philosopher but
                  wouldn’t that be either Aaron Yglesias or Matt B.?

        • John

          Fuck Yglesias being trained as a philosopher. Having a bachelor’s degree (even from glorious, glorious Harvard) doesn’t train you as anything.

        • DrDick

          If this is the best philosophy can produce (it isn’t), then we are better off without it and need to pay more attention to the empirical disciplines.

          • Like Experimental Philosophy!

            • DrDick

              I did say that this was a bad application of philosophy (even of the non-empirical variety). While I freely admit to a strong empirical bias, there is a lot in philosophy that is worthwhile if only for making you think more deeply about your own assumptions and biases, as well as your actions.

              • Oh no worries! I was just pointing out that there is a fairly recent branch of philosophy called Experimental Philosophy which makes use of empirical methods. :)

                What I find fascinating and new-to-me line that Matt is some sort of super-clear thinker and writer because he has a BA in philosophy. I mean, where the hell did that come from? Aaron B., would you mind explaining why you’re pushing this line?

                I mean, if we’re going to worship people trained in philosophy and give them huge deference to whatever they write on blogs, I’m entirely for this, esp. if the worship is proportion to the length of time spend working on a dissertation. Cause then I win all the threads forever!

                • He’s not even named Bruce. What kind of philosopher could he possibly be?

        • somethingblue

          And, doing methodology (or generally just thinking about how to think about politics) can help inform future disputes by giving us the tools to engage more thoughtfully.

          Yeah, sometimes. And other times it’s just concern trolling.

          This is one of the other times.

      • tt

        Yes, this is exactly the dynamic. Yglesias says something clever and more or less correct but inappropriate to the political context, then the rest of the progressive blogs try to attack the argument logically, and Yglesias, again accurately, complains about being misrepresented.

        Maybe a better response would be “Fuck you, you’re not helping?”

        • Aaron B.

          I’d be comfortable with that response. At least everyone involved would know where they stood instead of having to go through this same bullshit every six weeks.

          • I think he needs more battle rap mixtapes dropping on him. He is constantly graded on the “oh look, he’s so precocious” scale. He has few serious qualifications for anything and is a useless advocate for even things he supposedly believes. Shower time, Yg.

        • wengler

          You know how people here largely see Yglesias(if I may be so bold)? As an entitled asshole who can use his privilege to dicker around in affairs were actual people living paycheck to paycheck have real things at stake.

          This isn’t a fucking vanity strike. These teachers are missing paychecks that they need because they know if they don’t grind this machine to a halt right now it will run right over them.

          • DrDick

            Indeed. They are also fighting to keep Rahm from running over their students by privatizing the whole system and turning it over to his buddies.

        • david mizner

          Yeah, he’s a martyr, a maverick telling tough truths that the less bold among don’t dare accept. That’s why Andrew Sullivan named an award after him.

          • tt

            That’s not actually what I said? Yglesias is a contrarian who obviously enjoys provoking people, including (especially) his own “side.” Nevertheless, Erik Loomis et al are in fact totally misrepresenting what Yglesias said and Robert Farley’s response doesn’t actually address what Yglesias said. Nor is this a unique occurrence, Yglesias vs. the progressives is a battle that happens 5 times a year, always following this same pattern. I just think it would be more productive to address the anger where it really belongs–progressives aren’t angry that Yglesias is making bad logical arguments, but that he’s not taking a stand on the issue they consider important, and instead engaging with abstractions.

            • david mizner

              What Yglesias said isn’t “more or less correct.”

              He claims that liberals — that was the subject of Henwood’s post — don’t support public sector unions because a good deal might mean a bad deal for “taxpayers.” So he conflates “liberals” with taxpayers. And he uses a right-wing, narrow definition of “deal” as if public services themselves don’t help taxpayers.

              The distinction he cites might help explain why public services unions are less popular with the public at large but doesn’t explain why activist liberals, who know better, or should know better, are hostile to public service unions. And as typical with Yglesias, under the guise of standing back and not judging, of merely saying here is the way things are, he, in fact, legitimizes and normalizes odious positions. There’s a creepy, bloodless amoralism there.

              • tt

                I don’t think Yglesias was trying to address the empirical question of why liberals other than himself do not support teacher’s unions. He’s stating his own position, that “policy proposals ought to be examined on the merits.” This is the banal truth he is advancing, which I think most on this thread would agree with if stated in another context.

        • I’m late to the thread, but:

          this.

          • Wow, nesting. What I was “this”-ing was:

            Fuck you, you’re not helping.

      • Corey

        The concept of “tradeoffs” are now neoliberal. Love it.

        • Timurid

          You mean “shared sacrifice?”
          The Yglesias and Friedmans and Zakarias can safely preach about “hard choices” and “shared sacrifices”… knowing that even if their most absurd fantasies became real policy, they would not lose a dime (and might very well turn a profit).

          It gets very tiresome watching the smugtelligentsia play poker with other people’s money…

          • DrDick

            And their lives.

      • Aidan

        Or you might have conflicted feelings about a complicated subject and see the merits of some aspects of one argument and disagree with some aspects of another argument! You might agree with the union on teacher evaluation but see the logic of the opposing view! You might agree on evaluation but disagree on compensation! Imagine that, a budget and public policy issue that allows for some sort of gray area.

        • david mizner

          You can use this kind of sophistry at LGM to sell Obama’s shit sandwiches; harder when he’s not involved.

        • Imagine that, a budget and public policy issue that allows for some sort of gray area.

          If only there were a mechanism for the two sides to work out their differences in a fair negotiation.

      • UserGoogol

        I think a major sticking point is that a big school of liberalism is fundamentally opposed to the idea of political battles. Politics is to be determined by neutrally considering all points of view and trying to find the social arrangements which optimize the general interest. So when you step away from idealized world of abstract contemplation and move to groups fighting for their own particular interests, you’re stepping away from liberalism, at least as many understand it.

        That doesn’t mean that you have to be against unions to be (that kind of) liberal, but it does mean that the alliance between unions and liberals is inherently tenuous, and when they intrude into areas where liberals have other ideas of the general good, then naturally, there’s going to be conflict.

  • calling all toasters

    Exhibit number one million or so of a technocrat who has no sympathy for working people or the children of working people. Exciting.

    • wengler

      I’ve found that technocrats like machines more than people. It’s why they hate the people that do necessary functions in a society.

      • david mizner

        Numbers. Yglesias et al like to make the sex with numbers.

        • wengler

          Robot sex…0s and 1s.

  • Janastas359

    Yglesias’ argument seemed reasonable enough when I first read it, but you guys really changed my mind on this. I would like to say one thing addressing point 3 of both arguments.

    It’s true that when labor unions win against private corporations that those corporations often pass the cost onto consumers. However, those corporations seldom have a monopoly on the product that they’re selling. If ATT raises my cell plan prices because their labor union won concessions, I can switch to Verizon, or Sprint, or whatever, and punish them that way.

    If a public sector union wins in such a way that it increases my tax bill, or causes a program I rely on to get cut, I have much less recourse, other than packing up and moving from the city (or the state, or the country, etc.), which is obviously not very feasible for most people.

    I think it’s worth supporting the strike anyway for the reasons you mention, and as Farley says its’ not immediately clear that the interests of the state and the interests of its’ citizens align here. But, I also don’t think its’ correct to equate public and private sector unions when it comes to passing on of costs.

    • Njorl

      I agree. However, I think this is more than offset by the limited range of public sector unions. AT&T offers nationwide services. When their workers get paid more, prices go up for everyone. Their competitors can afford to inch up prices as well, so even people using Verizon pay more.. The wage gains of Chicago teachers have little effect outside of Chicago. Maybe some minimal upward pressure is put on teacher pay in other districts, but it is barely noticeable.

      Progressives who live in Chicago might have more reason to look less favorably on the Chicago teacher’s unions than on private unions, but the effect should be the opposite for other progressives. Most people don’t lve in Chicago.

      You could generalize the situation to all public unions. But if all public sector workers are experiencing rising wages, that would put upward pressure on private sector wages. Considering the demand crisis our economy is in due to the stagnant wages over the last 30 years, that would be a progressive dream come true.

  • Aaron B.

    1. “If our primary goal is to not have taxpayers pay anything, why pay teachers at all?”

    You reductiod your own argument. The answer is, “because the primary goal is not to have taxpayers pay nothing.” Yglesias is advocating for a particular evaluation method, which is, to evaluate the demands of a public sector union like you’d evaluate any other public policy: by weighing the costs and benefits. The costs of not paying teachers anything would be extremely high: pretty much no teachers, or, what voluteers you had would be of very poor quality. The “primary goal” of the evaluation method is to balance cost and quality, so you get the highest-quality service you are willing to pay for, as a society. This proceeds in the way policy disputes normally do – by arguing that we’re not getting enough for our money and should be cutting costs, or that the gains we’d make if we spent more would be worth the extra cost, etc.

    The point of this is that it differs meaningfully from the common progressive stance towards private sector unions, i.e., giving them the benefit of the doubt.

  • Looks like Matty is drinking the Mcarglebargle kool aid robot created bechamel.

  • Rob in Buffalo

    Remember, there is literally no one to the left of Yglesias — he told us so a while back.

    • John

      It’s not just that there is nobody who is, in practice, to the left of Yglesias. It’s that it is conceptually impossible for anyone to be to the left of Yglesias, even in theory.

    • wengler

      His Soviet stance toward independent public workers’ unions proves it!

    • david mizner

      Was that before or after he advocated crimes against humanity in the Occupied Territories:

      AFTER THE LATEST DEPRESSING news from the Middle East I think we have to start asking just how inhumane it would be for Israel to just expel the Palestinians from the occupied terroritories. The result would probably be out-and-out war with the neighboring Arab states, but Israel could win that.

      http://yglesias.blogspot.com/2002_03_31_archive.html#11339052

      • Corey

        I’m sure you never said anything dumb when you were 20 years old.

        • david mizner

          Dumb?

          How old were you when you last championed ethnic cleansing?

          • Corey

            Evil or not, this is a mainstream view in American politics that lots of people hold uncritically. I doubt he still holds it.

            • tt

              He doesn’t. Yglesias is leftier than mainstream discourse allows on I/P these days, or at least was before he went to Slate.

        • The best part about all that dumb 20 year old stuff is that it doesn’t affect falling upward into the pundit machine. Tough choices and evaluation are for the poors.

          • T. Paine

            This. A thousand times, this.

  • Joseph Slater

    Good post; a few thoughts. First, there are significant differences between some public sector unions and private sector unions: we probably don’t want to allow police or firefighters to strike, e.g. But I’ve been struck over the past year or two by the number of conservatives and neo-liberal types who keep protesting that they really are FINE with private sector unions, but public sector unions are ENTIRELY different — when I’ve never heard the people saying these things ever say anything supportive of *private* sector unions when those unions get into actual conflicts.

    Second, yes, another difference is that some of the things public sector unions want to influence involve public policy, and sometimes that public policy should properly be left to political branches. But we deal with that issue by deciding what is a permissible topic of bargaining for public workers, what has an impact on them as *workers* first and foremost. And unions can only strike over mandatory subjects of bargaining.

    Third, in Illinois and the minority of jurisdictions that permit teachers to strike, strikes are pretty much what must happen when there is a bargaining impasse. Public sector labor laws for other employees in other jurisdictions have other processes — notably, mandatory, binding interest arbitration — but that is not available to Chicago teachers. They are using their only option (other than capitulation).

    Finally, and maybe most importantly, the argument for public sector union action must include an old argument for private sector unions: that the workers themselves have important insights into how the job should be done that managers sometimes lack, and there should be a way to have effective voice for workers at the workplace beyond a suggestion box.

    • Kal

      I’ve been struck over the past year or two by the number of conservatives and neo-liberal types who keep protesting that they really are FINE with private sector unions, but public sector unions are ENTIRELY different — when I’ve never heard the people saying these things ever say anything supportive of *private* sector unions when those unions get into actual conflicts.

      Indeed. I think people sometimes overcomplicate the dynamic here. Public sector unions are the remaining stronghold of the American labor movement. So in the last decade or two the ideologists of the capitalist class have developed a bunch of rationales for why public sector unions are bad.

      Thirty or forty years ago I’m sure the AEI and Slate types of the day had arguments about why manufacturing (eg auto) unions were uniquely bad – unsustainable in the face of foreign competition, etc. People come up with justifications for their animosities; it’s especially easy when they’re part of a milieu with other people who have the same animosities, perhaps because of common material interests. It’s not fundamentally different from the lists of “characteristics of fascism” that periodically float around listservs and always happen to match exactly the policies of whoever happens to be president.

      • Rob

        30 or 40 years? Try 3 or 4. It was Kaus’s entire schtick about how auto union’s forced domestic companies to over invest in SUVs and then go bankrupt. If only they would take $12/hr everything would be great!

  • djw

    The notion that liberals who support unions in practice, not just in theory (sorry, “labors alleged friends”) are unable or unwilling to think about public sector union demands on the merits is insulting and silly. How many of these liberals, for example, are accustomed to line up behind police unions who resist and block any kind of civilian oversight?

    • Indeed. Contrariwise, I often do find that people who oppose a given union action (public or private) really do oppose all union action. (This is just my experience, natch.) I have this argument with my mother all the time. She reflexively opposes all strikes (except the one’s I participate in, because she loves me), but is otherwise very liberal and proworker (weird, eh?)

      I keep trying to convince her that it takes two to tango and that management can stop a strike by, you know, giving in. And that works in each individual case (i.e., to direct us to the merits of the claims) but then it flies out the window on the next one.

      • DrDick

        This!

    • Kal

      This. Also, teachers unions striking against integration, which is a historical phenomenon (fortunately not that recent).

  • Corey

    The Matthews piece is “controversial” because knee-jerk leftier-than-thous misread it. He’s summarizing research, not making a normative argument.

    It’s almost as if the usual suspects are using the strike as a cudgel with which to beat their “neoliberal” strawme…oh, wait.

    • Yes, the Wicked Witch is attempting to burn the brainless scare crow. Au, contraire-crow, if you will.

    • Njorl

      Matt’s point is valid. The problem he faces is that he’s been caught lying about issues concerning teacher evaluation studies, perseverated in those lies and never addressed the fact that he was caught lying.

      I genrally liked Matt’s positions on many topics, but he’s really disgraced himself repeatedly on this issue, to the point where people are justified in assigning malignant, motives to him without any evidence.

    • Linnaeus

      The Matthews piece is “controversial” because knee-jerk leftier-than-thous misread it. He’s summarizing research, not making a normative argument.

      I understood what Matthews was trying to do, and took care not to read too much into it. But I found Doug Henwood’s critique of Matthews’s piece to be very reasonable as well.

  • mpowell

    The problem here is that on the one hand, Yglesias is correct that we should evaluate the claims by public sector unions on their merits. And they probably are different than private sector unions, but probably not to the extend that he claims.

    The problem is that on the merits of the case, there is no significant basis on which to criticize the CTU. If you buy into the bullshit teaching reform movement, sure, the teacher’s union is going to oppose changes you want to see happen. But then you’re nearly as much of an idiot/asshole as the guy with a knee-jerk opposition to public sector unions.

    So this argument really does nothing to justify the alleged liberals coming out against the CTU on this one.

    • DrDick

      Exactly! I lived in Chicago for 12 years and my son attended the public schools there. Pretty much every policy point that the teachers make has been an issue in the schools (as well as deteriorating physical plants in many minority districts) since the 1980s.

    • mds

      If you buy into the bullshit teaching reform movement, sure, the teacher’s union is going to oppose changes you want to see happen.

      And indeed, most of the reason for not giving Yglesias the benefit of the doubt this time is because of his long-established buy-in to the bullshit teaching reform movement, attempts by his defenders here to use the classic tabula rasa maneuver notwithstanding.

      But then you’re nearly as much of an idiot/asshole as the guy with a knee-jerk opposition to public sector unions.

      If A then B. Yglesias is A. Therefore, Yglesias is B. Sorry, but philosophy demands it.

      (Okay, modus ponens demands it. In my defense, symbolic logic class was taught by a philosophy professor.)

  • Increase Mather

    I’m not sure if this is mentioned anywhere above, but Yglesias has a post arguing that we can increase teacher salaries by building more housing in urban areas.

    This is quintessential MY. He thinks it’s a clever new way of looking policy, but doesn’t even bother to walk through the practical details.

    • Corey

      Why is this incorrect?

      Real budget pressures set a lower bound on teacher salaries. More density = more residents = bigger tax base = fewer real budget pressures.

      He writes a blog that people presumably follow or they don’t, he’s probably assuming most people are familiar with his line of thinking on the topic.

      • Malaclypse

        Real budget pressures set a lower bound on teacher salaries. More density = more residents = bigger tax base = fewer real budget pressures.

        1) the bound is an upper bound, not a lower one.

        2) more denity also = more kids = more education expense (which may or may not be outweighed by the larger tax base).

        Re #2, one of the larger, yet rarely mentioned, educational expenses is transportation, and I suspect once you throw that into the mix, the net will indeed work out well. But this is still an empirical question, and I don’t presume to know the answer by simply positing equivalences.

        • wengler

          I would disagree about transportation especially in a city like Chicago where a lot of kids don’t rely on traditional school buses to get to school.

          • Malaclypse

            I’ve done budgets for reasonably-sized places like Worcester, and it held true there (although the rule that the bigger the city, the smaller the percent that went to transport does indeed hold).

            • mark f

              reasonably-sized places like Worcester

              That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said about us.

            • DrDick

              Most kids in Chicago seem to take public transportation, or at least they did when I was there.

        • Corey

          1) thanks for the correction, brain fart

          2) You’re right, but there are fixed costs to education too. And in dense areas like Chicago, presumably transportation isn’t as big of an issue.

      • wengler

        You forgot the TIF to the builder for electing half the city council. You forgot that more residents mean more children mean more schools. Density has no practical effect on costs other than marginally on transportation.

        You forgot that ‘real budget pressures’ are caused by a city’s priorities. In Chicago, the mayor’s office is extremely concerned with giving rich people money to locate their headquarters here. Paying teachers fairly, making sure schools aren’t falling apart, and ensuring that teacher morale isn’t destroyed through an unfair evaluation process isn’t a priority for Rahm Emanuel.

        • Corey

          You’re suggesting that corporate incentives – not a shrinking tax base due to population loss and the economy – are the proximate reason Chicago’s teachers aren’t paid more? (I acknowledge, btw, that this is not the sticking point in these negotiations)

          I dunno. I’ll admit to not having Chicago’s budget handy, but that seems a little just-so to me.

  • Yglesias’ remarks are internally coherent (as opposed to ‘make sense’) if you remember that he opposes most of what the teachers want (less emphasis on value-added testing, smaller classroom sizes, etc.). Once you strip away all of those concerns, then it does reduce to a fight over money (which, as is noted in this LGM post is only one issue).

  • Chicagoan

    Others have pointed this out, but the disconnect between elite ‘liberal’ (myass) pundits and the actual Chicago public is really, um, striking.

    Polls of registered city voters show the strikers are supported by about a 10% margin over management. And you can feel it. I passed a group of demonstrating teachers this morning, and the mood was actually quite upbeat, passing drivers honking and yelling encouragement, teachers responding with waves and cheers. I overheard one teacher excitedly say, “Someone just blew me a kiss!”

    And these are the people who pay the actual city taxes, who send their kids to the actual city schools.

    Yglesias is horrible, and especially after this, really shouldn’t be given any quarter next time he whines about not being considered a man of the left. But thankfully common people here have a bit more decency than our awful elites.

    • UserGoogol

      Matt hasn’t actually taken a side on the strike, he’s just made posts tangentially addressing the issue: why it’s understandable that people might not support them, some vague comments about education in general, and some vague comments about negotiations in general. The practical upshot of his posts would seem to be “I dunno, I guess it depends on the particulars on the ground in Chicago,” not to actually attack unions. And that seems like an eminently liberal position to take.

  • basement cat

    If CTU members get what they want, that’s not coming out of the pocket of “the bosses” it’s coming out of the pocket of the people who work at charter schools or the people who pay taxes in Chicago.

    Another thing to remember is that, particularly at the local government level, there is always a slush fund, and it’s always used to promote reelection of “the bosses,” whether it’s spent on block parties, prioritizing services in a politically significant ward, or hooking up some contractors who are campaign donors. So more money going to teachers doesn’t decrease Rahm’s salary but it might decrease the pool of money he can throw around to get reelected.

  • jeer9

    Anyone who thinks Yglesias suddenly has something noteworthy to say about public education does not know his history. He is atrociously informed, wrong-headed in his assumptions, and endlessly repetitive in peddling such bullshit no matter how many times his better educated readers correct him.

    • scott

      10 out of 10. For Yglesias, bonus points because he gets to help his career by siding with the opinions of the Very Serious People in politics and media, all of whom seem convinced that any problems in American education are solely attributable to crappy teachers who richly deserve their forthcoming immiseration. Having decreed neo-liberalism’s destruction of the private-sector middle and working classes a good thing (for people like him), he’s now prepared to sign off on similarly crappy employment for people in the public sector. Matt Yglesias – loving his role as eager assistant to the making of the modern austerity state. The fact that some people celebrate him as some sort of progressive or liberal is risible – he has no enduring or workable empathy for people outside of his comfortable “creastive class” environs. He is a miserably small man whose instincts are to kick down on people lower than he is on the totem pole rather than champion their interests. Yglesias ought to be ashamed of himself, but instead he’ll be well paid for arguing that teachers don’t deserve all that money; and he will never, never ask himself whether HE deserves that money for destroying another part of the middle classes at the behest of the kind of people who sign his paychecks.

  • TheStone

    1) Matt Yglesias uses the term “non-trivial” a very non-trivial amount of times.

    2) Is Matt Yglesias related to Adam Davidson? The similitude extends beyond appearances and into their worldview, it would seem. Or just brothers from other mothers?

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