As Hillary Clinton cozies up to the teachers unions, Donald Trump seeks to vastly expand school choice opportunities.
In November, 2015, Hillary Clinton gave a speech in South Carolina in which she abandoned her prior support for charter schools. Using language straight from the teachers union fact-free playbook, she claimed that charters “don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them.”
Fast forward to the National Education Association convention this past July. Mrs. Clinton made the terrible mistake of diverting from the teacher union party line by saying, “when schools get it right, whether they are traditional public schools or public charter schools, let’s figure out what’s working … and share it with schools across America.” This innocuous comment didn’t sit well with some of the unionistas in attendance, who made their displeasure known by booing the presidential candidate. Realizing that she strayed from union orthodoxy, Clinton regrouped by acknowledging that there are people on the outside who are pushing “for-profit charter schools on our kids. We will never stand for that. That is not acceptable.”
Later in her talk, she asserted, “There is no time for finger pointing, or arguing over who cares about kids more. It’s time to set one table and sit around it together – all of us – so we can work together to do what’s best for America’s children.” And that table, Clinton promised, will always have “a seat for educators.”
Two weeks later at the American Federation of Teachers convention, she went further, adding that she opposed “vouchers and for-profit schooling,” and repeated her pledge, “…you will always have a seat at the table.”
A seat for educators? No, not really. What she actually meant was a place for union bosses and their fellow travelers. Good to her word – at least in this case – that’s just what she did.
Last week, Mother Jones revealed just who is seated at Clinton’s table. (H/T Antonucci.) Participants include Lily Eskelsen García and Randi Weingarten, leaders of the two national teachers unions. They are joined by Carmel Martin and Catherine Brown, vice-presidents of the Center for American Progress, a leftist think tank that is financially supported by the teachers unions. Also seated is education reformer Chris Edley, president of the Opportunity Institute, a California-based think tank, whose board is a collection of Clinton cronies. And finally there is Richard Riley, who served as Bill Clinton’s education secretary and was the recipient of NEA’s Friend of Education Award.
Well, certainly no one can accuse Clinton of seeking out diverse viewpoints.
At the same time Clinton was doing the teachers unions’ bidding, Donald Trump did the opposite. In fact, he went all in for school choice. Speaking at Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy, a charter school in Ohio, he promised, if elected, that he would redirect $20 billion in federal money to school-choice programs. Trump said he would make it a priority to give 11 million children living in poverty a choice of schools, including traditional public, charters, magnets and private schools. He proclaimed that parents should be able to walk their child to a school they choose to be at, adding that each state would develop its own formula for distributing the $20 billion block-grant money, but that the dollars must follow the student. Trump also had disparaging words for Common Core and promoted merit pay as a way to reward the best teachers.
Not surprisingly teacher union leaders were not exactly enthralled by The Donald’s vision and proceeded to blast his ideas, using tired and wrong-headed union anti-choice talking points. NEA president Lily Eskelsen García snapped: “His silver bullet approach does nothing to help the most-vulnerable students and ignores glaring opportunity gaps while taking away money from public schools to fill private-sector coffers. No matter what you call it, vouchers take dollars away from our public schools to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense with little to no regard for our students.”
AFT president, Clinton BFF and reportedly her favorite candidate for Secretary of Education Randi Weingarten added, “Today’s speech on education repeats the same flawed ideology anti-public education zealots have been shilling for years. He shows his usual obeisance to the idea of making public education a market rather than a public trust, to blaming rather than respecting educators, and to ideas that have failed to help children everywhere they’ve been tried but instead, in their wake, have hurt kids by leaving public schools destabilized and their budgets drained.”
While I applaud Mr. Trump’s general vision, the devil will be in the details. Just how his plan will be implemented, including where the $20 billion for his block-grant plan will come from, is not clear. Also, Trump has been known to change his stance on various issues from week to week so we will have to see what transpires in the coming days. And the fact that he chose to give his speech at a failing charter school is typical of the gaffe-prone Republican nominee for president.
Kevin Chavous, a lifelong Democrat and education reformer, now finds himself in an odd position. After learning of Trump’s plan, he said, “While I do not support Donald Trump, his speech on school choice demonstrates that he is giving serious thought to education issues and I strongly challenge Hillary Clinton to do the same…I urge Hillary Clinton to show more openness and creativity when it comes to embracing school reform, choice and charter schools. So far Mrs. Clinton has largely been a representative of the interests of teachers’ unions and the status quo, which is in opposition to parents and students and will serve to be on the wrong side of history.”
Chavous is absolutely correct, but Hillary won’t change. She has jumped into bed with the teachers unions, which now own her. As such, if elected, she will indeed find herself on the wrong side of history – the children, whom she claims so fervently to care about, and their parents be damned.
Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.
Back in 2012 we published an article entitled “The Forgotten 33%,” which included a graphic entitled “American Voter Breakdown 2012.” It depicted the U.S. electorate as comprised of 46% who pay zero net taxes, 20% who work for the government and are net tax consumers, the 1% “super rich,” and the “forgotten 33%,” who work in the private sector and earn enough to be positive net taxpayers.
The point of the article, then and now, was that people with an intrinsic preference for big government comprise a super-majority of voters in America. But something has changed since 2012…
AMERICAN VOTER BREAKDOWN 2016
The emergence of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders as serious contenders to become president of the U.S. reflects a growing awareness among voters in all of the above categories that things can and should be better. The 33% who constitute America’s beleaguered taxpayers were angry four years ago, and this time around they’re furious. Their ire is the most easily explained: Now more than ever, they work long hours for less wages or lower profits, all while being told by the establishment press, by mainstream academia, and by left-wing politicians that they’re “privileged,” and still aren’t paying their “fair share.” If they’re white, they’re told their success is the undeserved result of their color, when in fact they’ve been the recipients of institutionalized reverse discrimination for nearly two generations. And no matter what their ethnicity, they confront soaring prices for housing, health care, and college tuition for their children.
The 33% who work and make enough to pay taxes are angry. And they should be. But what about the 46% who pay no net taxes?
The anger of the 46% takes various forms, nearly all of it justified. Many of them work, but qualify for the earned income tax credit and subsidized health care, which makes them net tax consumers. Many of them would like to work harder, but the only jobs available are part-time with unpredictable schedules which makes it impossible for them to work two jobs. Many of them would like to get a better education, but they are the products of failing schools where teacher tenure is more important than student achievement. And if they’re people of color and haven’t yet been successful, they’re perpetually told by the establishment press, by mainstream academia, and by left-wing politicians that they are victims of discrimination and their failures are not their responsibility – fueling additional anger.
And what of the 20% who work for the government? They are, for the most part, ensured decent health care and a secure retirement. But they are the targets of relentless propaganda from their unions, who have waged a multi-decade campaign to convince them they are underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked. Many of them succumb to this nonsense. Others, and more than a few, are disgruntled for the opposite reason – they resent working for a unionized government where merit means less than seniority, and innovation is a threat.
But why are taxes consuming the 33%? Why are opportunities for good jobs and education being denied the 46%? And why does government get bigger every year but deliver less?
There’s a simple answer. Government unions. Especially at the state and local level, government unions have destroyed our public schools and driven our public institutions to the brink of bankruptcy. These government unions perpetually lobby for higher taxes, bigger government – more employees with more pay and benefits, more job killing regulations, and more programs ostensibly intended to help the less fortunate – regardless of their cost or actual effectiveness. The government union agenda is to increase their power and influence – a goal that has no connection with the public interest.
Government unions control state and local politicians, who in turn control every scrap of legislation sought after by big business. They encourage and enable cronyism. Their union controlled pension funds and their union backed government bond underwriting make them the biggest players on Wall Street. They ARE the “establishment” that has gotten everyone so agitated this time around.
Donald Trump, for all his hapless gaffes and hideous vitriol, is far too intelligent to identify government unions as the root cause of most of the problems in America. Unions make or break Trump’s development projects. And even if Trump did attack the government unions, he’d risk confusing voters, who by and large still don’t make a distinction between public and private sector unions.
Bernie Sanders, despite his belated attempts to pander to the African American left by challenging police organizations, is unwilling or unable to make the distinction between police personnel, whom we are lucky to have among us, and police unions that protect bad cops and intimidate politicians. And even if Sanders did take on the police unions, he would never take on the teachers unions – despite the fact they’ve practically destroyed public education in America.
Populist anger in America today is justified, and there is a unifying target for the anger – the “establishment” as represented by government unions and their clients; monopolistic corporations, America’s overbuilt financial sector, and the extreme environmentalist lobby that provides a phony moral cover for their iniquitous schemes. If public sector unions were illegal, this entire corrupt establishment would be threatened as never before. As it is, this awakening national dissent has seismic power, diffused in all directions, turning only on itself.
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Ed Ring is the president of the California Policy Center.
Nearly every objection that supporters of presidential candidates Trump and Sanders raise to the establishment are intimately associated with government unions. But neither the people’s voice, or that voice as it is reflected back to them by their populist heroes, articulates this fact.
(1) Do you want to reform Wall Street?
You’ll have to go through the government unions. Their union controlled pension funds are the biggest players on Wall Street. The union controlled cities that issue hundreds of billions in municipal bonds every year are a close second. Government unions benefit from the financialization of the American economy, even as it has wiped out the middle class. Low interest loans elevate prices for homes, which stimulates borrowing and consumer spending, which enriches corporations and the pension funds who invest in their stocks. High home prices raise property tax revenues. Low interest loans mean families can borrow more for college tuition – so unionized professors can continue to make six figure salaries for teaching a few hours a week, a few months a year.
(2) Do you want to restore reasonableness to America’s environmental regulations?
You’ll have to go through the government unions. In California, state and local jobs, from bus drivers to code inspectors, are being redefined to incorporate “global warming mitigation.” This is so they can share in the plunder associated with “carbon emission offset auction proceeds,” billions, soon to be tens of billions, in annual taxes by any other name, hidden in your utility bills and in the cost of manufactured goods – all ran quietly through a Delaware corporation. And why widen a freeway, when you can create thousands of government union jobs in mass transit?
(3) Do you want to reform campaign finance laws?
Forget about it. The government unions are by far the biggest single political spenders. Thanks to their legislated opacity – less disclosure is required for government unions than for private unions, believe it or not – we can only guess, but government unions collect and spend at least a billion dollars per year, just in California. Depending on how you define it, you can argue that ALL of that money is spent on politics. A billion per year – put to very effective use. And by the way, unions have benefit from the supposedly infamous “Citizens United” ruling just as much as corporations and wealthy individuals.
(4) Do you feel that big business exploits consumers?
Do you resent crony capitalists monopolizing entire industries and artificially raising the costs of goods in a market where they’ve used government rules to eliminate emerging competitors? In California, you can blame the government unions. Businesses doing business anywhere in California know that if they adhere to the union’s political agenda, they will get favorable legislation passed, and if they don’t, they will be targeted. Government unions are the brokers and enablers of corporate abuse.
(5) Do you support immigration reform?
Specifically, do you think it is reasonable to limit most immigration to skilled individuals, at a pace that will not challenge the ability of our society to culturally and economically assimilate the newcomers? Do you feel there should at least be a meaningful discussion on this issue? Forget about it. Because you’d have to go through the government unions, who want unlimited immigration; especially those most destitute and unlikely to assimilate. The more dependency there is in America, the more unionized government jobs are created. Police, prison guards, social workers – and an entire crony corporate infrastructure to support them. All paid for by the middle class.
(6) Do you want to rebuild America’s roads and bridges?
Are you even one of those heretics who believes, gasp, that we should develop our energy resources, build more power plants, store more storm runoff, and recycle 100% of our sewage, so that we can have energy and water abundance? Dream on. Government unions want scarcity, because with artificial scarcity there will be more government jobs enforcing what is effectively rationing. And never forget, if we were to spend tax revenue on infrastructure, there would be less money to cover pay and benefit packages for unionized government workers that average, in California, TWICE what the average private sector worker earns.
(7) Do you want to see the next generation properly educated?
Fat chance. Unionized public schools protect incompetent teachers instead of putting children first. And they promote curricula designed to alienate young people from American culture instead of encouraging them to feel proud and privileged to be American. If you want to have any chance to fix America’s public schools, you have to take down the teachers union.
(8) Do you fear America’s federal, state and local governments drifting towards authoritarianism?
You’d better, because not only is that the common thread underlying this entire litany of government dysfunction, but technology is making it easier than ever to enforce authoritarian laws. Where you drive. How far you drive. When you use electricity. How much water you consume. What products you buy. Who you know. And of course, every detail of your interactions with the internet or cable television. It’s all monitored. And who protects the corrupt enforcers, the bad apples? The unions. And who has an inherent interest in bigger, more intrusive government, no matter if it’s good or bad for the public at large? The unions.
If Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump had the courage and the vision to tell that truth, they might ignite a populist uprising that would be utterly bipartisan. But that revolution will have to wait for another day.
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Ed Ring is the president of the California Policy Center.
Government Unions and the Financialization of America, May 24, 2016
Public Safety Unions and the Financial Apocalypse, May 17, 2016
California’s Economically Illiterate Legislature, April 5, 2016
Practical Reforms to “Right-Size” Government Unions, March 29, 2016
The Challenges Facing Conservatives Who Support Public Safety, March 22, 2016
Public Unions ARE the Political “Establishment”, February 23, 2016
The Future of Unions in the Post-Scalia Era, February 16, 2016
In Search of a Legitimate Labor Movement, January 19, 2016
The Alliance Between Wall Street and Public Unions, December 1, 2015
How Government Unions Are Destroying America, September 22, 2015
When Will Unions Fight to Lower the Cost of Living?, October 27, 2015
Moral Values That Underlie Opposition to Government Unions, October 13, 2015
The Abundance Choice, December 23, 2014
An Economic Win-Win For California – Lower the Cost of Living, December 3, 2014
The Challenge Libertarians Face to Win American Hearts, October 14, 2014
Reinventing America’s Unions for the 21st Century, September 2, 2014
California’s Green Bantustans, May 21, 2014
A “Left-Right Alliance” Against Public Sector Unions?. May 20, 2014
Forming a Bipartisan Consensus for Public Sector Union Reform, January 28, 2014
A Policy Agenda for Union Reformers Stuck Inside Unions, November 5, 2013
Why the Democratic Party Cannot Embrace Public Sector Union Reform, October 15, 2013
Exponential Technological Advances and the Role of Unions, July 23, 2013
The Prosperity Agenda, April 2, 2013
Calling for Public Sector Union Reform is Not Anti-Union, January 29, 2013
The Ideology of Public Sector Unions vs. Private Sector Unions, February 20, 2012
America’s Atlas Generation – The Forgotten 33%, January 9, 2012
For Immediate Release
June 2, 2016
California Policy Center
Contact: Will Swaim
SACRAMENTO — Californians may be accustomed to living with the specter of a public pension crisis. But the federal government’s problem with its retirement systems – including Social Security – is far worse, and yet none of the three remaining major-party candidates for president has a plan to do anything about it.
The California Policy Center offers “Comparing Federal and California State Retirement Exposures,” a comparison of California and federal exposure to pension liability. You can read Marc Joffe’s full study here.
Key findings include:
On Social Security
DEBT VS. ASSETS: “Although discussion of Social Security often revolves around the trust fund, this emphasis is misplaced. Unlike CalPERS or CalSTRS, the Social Security trust fund does not contain real assets. Instead, it holds special-issue U.S. Treasury bonds. Total federal assets of $3.2 trillion are easily exceeded by $13.2 trillion of federal debt securities held by the public and $8.2 trillion of other liabilities. So the IOUs held by the Social Security trust fund compete with claims held by many external parties for a relatively small pool of federal assets.”
IMPACT ON FEDERAL DEFICIT: Using projections from the Social Security Actuaries, Joffe reports that the Social Security program is expected to add $371 billion to the annual federal budget deficit (in constant 2015 dollars) by 2040. The Social Security Actuaries say that projecting higher costs (for example, an increase in life expectancy), adds $640 billion (again, in constant dollars) to the annual deficit.
On Federal Employee Retirement Programs
UNFUNDED LIABILITIES: “The Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, paid $81 billion of retirement benefits in fiscal year 2015, or 2.49% of federal revenues. The system reported an Unfunded Actuarial Liability of $804.3 billion and Assets of $858.6 billion, implying a funded ratio of only 51.6%.” The Defense Department also offers pensions, and its system is worse than the Civil Service program with a funded ratio of just 35%.
Washington has Bigger Problems – and More Powerful Financial Tools
Joffe concludes that the federal government has tools to deal with a public pension crisis that the states do not:
Constitutional: “In an emergency, Congress and the president can cut or even terminate benefits to Social Security recipients, federal civilian retirees or veterans. This is not the case for the state of California.”
Currency control: “A central government controlling an international reserve currency does have more fiscal flexibility than a state which is legally obligated to balance its budget each year. So the federal government’s ability to absorb pension obligations is greater than California’s. This is fortunate, because the federal governments exposure is so much greater.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Study author Marc Joffe is the founder of Public Sector Credit Solutions and a policy analyst with the California Policy Center. Joffe founded Public Sector Credit Solutions in 2011 to educate policymakers, investors and citizens about government credit risk. PSCS research has been published by the California State Treasurer’s Office, the Mercatus Center and the Macdonald-Laurier Institute among others. Before starting PSCS, Marc was a senior director at Moody’s Analytics. He earned his MBA from New York University and his MPA from San Francisco State University.
ABOUT THE CALIFORNIA POLICY CENTER
The California Policy Center is a non-partisan public policy think tank providing information that elevates the public dialogue on vital issues facing Californians, with the goal of helping to foster constructive progress towards more equitable and sustainable management of California’s public institutions. Learn more at CaliforniaPolicyCenter.org.