Friday, March 4, 2011

Jon Stewart On Wisconsin/Wall St


HispanicPundit said...

Hahaha. One thing that it's hard for the left to understand is it's not teachers vs the rich. Its really teachers vs the even poorer. State taxes tend to be regressive - its alot easier for the super wealthy to leave a state than it is for them to leave a country. So too high of a tax on the wealthy, and they just leave.

So looked at from a regressive tax structure, these teachers are then "Wall Street" and the taxpayers are then main Street. Teachers are then asking the tax payers, who already pay MORE into their healthcare and retirement accounts than teachers do, to sacrifice even more.

In other words, I could laugh at the video just as well as you can. Its just more ironic to me than it is to you. Given the choice, YES, I'd rather see teachers sacrifice some of their pay then say someone on medicaid to sacrifice some if his healthcare (the real trade-off).

Oh and lets not forget the quality of public schools in this country, of which collective bargaining is a big part of. Personally, thats the real reason I support Walker. Not because of the pay difference (though that is important) but because anybody even remotely familiar with education reform knows what a huge road block the teachers unions are. So weakening their power is good for the kids - the real customers of public education.

Jon said...

That's a never ending argument. Today Warren Buffet pays about 16% of his income in taxes. Less than his secretary. Tomorrow it will be 15%. Then 10%. Then the rich will say I want zero or I'm leaving and there will be no revenue generated due to my spending. That's basically the trajectory we've been going and we can see the result. A disaster for the poor.

Actually Warren Buffet won't leave. It makes no difference to his lifestyle if he pays more in taxes and he understands that paying more will improve infrastructure and culture, making life more pleasant for him here. Less crime. Less overall misery. Lots of rich people feel that way. Some might not, but screw em. Let them leave. We've got to get back to progressive taxes.

The other thing is, have all the states jack up taxes on the rich. Then the rich have to leave country. Some might. Screw em. Let them go.

Have you seen the performance of states where collective bargaining is banned? There are 5 of them. In SAT scores they are ranked 50, 49, 48, 47, and 44.

So no, it's not a choice between cutting Medicaid or cutting teacher pay. 81% of the population prefers raising taxes on those making more than a million dollars. That means the majority of people that call themselves conservative. For you there's only 2 options. Screw Poor Group A or screw Poor Group B. Guess what? There's more money out there than just the little that the poor have.

HispanicPundit said...

Its easy to say, but does it work in practice? Check this out, Maryland followed your advice and raised taxes on the rich, can you guess what happened? See here.

I'm not saying there isn't a sweet spot. Certainly there is a point where you reach equilibrium, where you keep just enough to raise revenue. But thats the thing: most states are already there. Trust me, they WANT to get more revenue. There is a strong incentive there. But many have reached the point where they cant raise it that much more. That is Walkers claim. He may be wrong...but its still a gamble.

Regarding Buffet: You gotta love his boldness. He claims to want to pay more for infrastructure, roads, and education - but then chooses to live in Omaha, Nebraska, a right wing state - with traditionally low taxes (revealed preferences, anyone??). Also, if the rich are really so willing to pay more, why wait til taxes go up? Why not do it now. The tax system allows you to donate more taxes. I don't know why they need everyone else to be FORCED to pay more - they are free to do it now. And their marginal return will be the same.

You write, Have you seen the performance of states where collective bargaining is banned? There are 5 of them. In SAT scores they are ranked 50, 49, 48, 47, and 44.. I went through this debate recently with a public school teacher out in Texas. She claimed that Texas is all fucked up because it outlaws collective bargaining. She kept going on and on about how California is the model to follow. I was suspicious. I went to public schools in both California and Texas, and my experience was always that Texas was superior. So I looked it up. This is what I found:

I looked at the state profiles of California (with its strong unions, large Democrat base) and Texas (with its anti-union, large Republican base). These two should be comparable as they share many of the same demographics (border states, poverty levels, immigration levels etc) and guess what? Texas did better on all three counts:

Texas: Math: 287, California: Math: 270
Texas: Reading: 220, California: Reading: 209
Texas: Writing: 151, California: Writing: 148

See here for the source. And if you think about it, this is even more amazing than at first you may realize. Remember, California is home to some of the worlds best talent - silicon valley, San Diego Pharmaceuticals and Wireless sector, the strong Universities (Stanford, Cal-Tech, Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD, UCSB, etc etc), of which many of the students come from California, etc. What does Texas have in comparison? It pales in comparison. Yet you would expect these natural talents to push up the reading, writing and math scores above those of Texas. Yet even with this disadvantage, you see Texas win (This is why pro-union advocates prefer SAT scores - as they are more IQ based, and of course California would have more "natural" talent than Texas).

Jon said...

Your link on Maryland doesn't prove a lot. The recession reduced capital gains earnings in 2008. One in eight moved out. But people sometimes move. Rich people probably move more regularly since they can afford it. How many people that were millionaires in 2007 moved to Maryland in 2008 and made less than a million because of the recession? That seems hard to gauge based on what you've provided.

Your school performance looks at 4th and 8th graders in 2009. Try SAT scores in 2010. You can get it here.

California beats Texas in every category. And there's plenty of rich people in California, but also a lot of gang members and inner city troubled kids.

But it looks like the source of my original claim was kind of crap. It was 1999 data. So I withdraw that.

Jon said...

But the main point here is the exact same arguments needed to justify CEO pay and Wall St bonuses are turned on their head by the exact same people when it comes to compensation for teachers making $50K. They care about the rich only. But that's not a surprise. That's who owns Fox News and the rest.

HispanicPundit said...

The arguments are not the same: CEO's and Wall Street execs get their salary by voluntary exchanges that people are free to provide or not. Teachers and government workers get their pay by involuntary exchange off the back and sweat of taxpayers.

So the question really becomes: how much more can you get from taxpayers, and at what expense. And then weigh that against the pay the teachers make.

But like I said originally: I care more about the reduced collective bargaining than the wage cuts. Why? Again, because of education reform. Teachers unions always standing in the way of education reform. A reduction in their power is needed if you want to move forward with education reform.

My points on your previous post (SAT Scores vs state tests, etc) still stand. Reader can decide who made the stronger argument.

Jon said...

We're talking about bailed out companies and bailed out investment firms. Their bonuses came from the tax payer. The same arguments that justified CEO pay for BAILED OUT COMPANIES are rejected when it comes to Wisconsin teachers.

Your point stands despite the fact that the data prove you exactly wrong based on SAT scores? Ok.

HispanicPundit said...

Here is another post that directly addresses the SAT score comparison Jon brought up and answers it better than I did. Click here.

Jon said...

Yeah, I think you're right on this one. For once.

HispanicPundit said...

This also matches my expectations. Like I said above, teachers unions are a constant thorn to anybody even remotely involved in education reform. Texas, because it is not burdened with an overarching teachers union, is able to try various things to improve its education system.

Let me give you basic examples of what teachers unions will protest. A) Do you know if a merit based system will work? I dont. Giving extra bonuses and rewards to teachers who do better sounds like a reasonable idea. Maybe it will work, maybe it wont (I can see arguments in both ways). But there is the teachers union, saying we cant even try it. B) What about more pay for science and math teachers relative to english teachers? This probably will dramatically improve our science and math education. Why? Because if you come out of college with say a chemistry degree, you have many lucrative options in the private sector (as opposed to say, English teachers). The only people who would choose teaching as opposed to private sector are the idealists and probably those that didn't get very good grades. In order to change that, you have to close that gap between public pay and private pay - thereby luring more good science teachers into teaching. But there it is, unions insist on pay differences ONLY based on two things: seniority and credentials (degrees - bachelors, masters, in ANYTHING, all the same, so one in education is same as one in say chemistry, etc). So they block the initiative. Can't even be tried.

This is without mentioning the job protection of very bad teachers. Don't even try raising the idea of firing them - it often costs more to fire them than to just keep them on the payroll, and move them around.

This is why your class struggle view of the world is so outdated: on many of these things, it leads you to the wrong conclusions. Teachers unions, for those intimately familiar with their tactics, really are one of the biggest impediments to student achievement in this country. Students who are, in many cases, much poorer and in need of help than teachers.

Read this article from the New Yorker (hardly an anti-union publication) to see some of what I am talking about with regard to teachers unions.

Jon said...

My feeling is actually that the schools are functioning perfectly AS DESIGNED. That is, they are designed to make you stupid. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. I've been reading this book. OK, there's a bit of conspiracy stuff there. But setting that aside, look at the citations from the very people that are trying to introduce compulsory education. Basically what's good for American is what's good for industry. What does industry need? Obedient workers. People that are smart enough to do the various tasks, but not so smart that they would question authority or have too much independent thought. And they need to be comfortable doing menial jobs that don't provide much mental stimulation. So this requires conditioning because it is very unnatural. They need to take orders without questioning. More conditioning. If you want a more mainstream source that's kind of saying this, though maybe tangentially, watch the youtube clip here.

So rather than unions I once again point to profits. To maximize short term profits companies need workers that behave in a certain way. That's what schooling is for.

So think about it. What did you learn in school? I was bored out of my mind. I got mediocre grades until my senior year, when I figured I was taking classes that actually mattered for me in college. In college I worked pretty hard. But not because I loved the subject. I wanted my degree because I wanted a decent job. Most of the stuff I learned I promptly brain dumped as soon as finals were done. Some of it I retained because it was interesting, but most I forgot. When I actually started working I became interested in some engineering subjects and really learned useful things. Very little of what I learned in school mattered.

Some people can't take it. They can't do the stupid things that are required of us to prove to the corporate world that we are obedient workers that don't engage in too much independent thought. I'm speaking broadly here. It's a little different in the sciences where independent thought is encouraged. Generally speaking school is about asking kids to do ridiculous things, be comfortable as automatons, don't be tardy, etc. The bored kids that resist are labeled "stupid." In fact there aren't a lot of stupid people in my view.

K-12 education is doing really badly if your goal is to make people smart and make people that think independently. However if what you want is to make people stupid, but useful to industry, it's working perfectly. And you can throw in the unions as a scapegoat to boot.

HispanicPundit said...

If thats your take, I question the premise. Atleast by looking at pay, what "industry" wants, is creativity, imagination, and somewhat of an outside the mainstream mentality. Atleast when I look at the highest paid workers in the private sector, thats the signal they seem to be sending out.

On the other hand, what does fit your bill perfectly? Government jobs! And its really government workers who are doing most of the teaching. So looked at from THAT perspective, the problem is too much government.

Jon said...

I question your competence at gauging what it is that industry is paying for. Hypothetically if in fact industry was rewarding the yes man, he's moving up the food chain to VP status, saying the right things and pleasing the right people, whereas the actual innovators in the company that made the impressive products that drove the business remained low level technical people, I'm not sure you'd know. A lot of people think management is out of control. There's been new laws passed that essentially allow a board to set the salaries of the CEO, and the CEO selects the members of the board, to the point where you question the value that these CEO's bring.

But anyway, it's not that it's my premise. If you were to check the book I referred to it's basically the expressly stated purpose of the people that were crafting and implementing compulsory education. It's integral to the system.

HispanicPundit said...

It seems obvious to me, but okay, then let me rephrase my response - what "the market" wants, is creativity, imagination, and somewhat of an outside the mainstream mentality.

Who gets the biggest financial rewards in the private sector? Certainly not the "the yes man" but instead the person that thinks outside the box, shows the most creativity and imagination.

On the other hand, where is "the yes man" valued most? Government.

HispanicPundit said...

I just thought of why this might be harder for you to see (the fact that industry rewards creativity, etc)...and it just dawned on me. Don't you work for a company who gets a significant chunk of their revenue from government contracts? That explains it.

Because in my fully privatized company(they may have a contract here and there, but its less than 5% of our revenue) is so fond of creativity, thinking outside the box, and speaking up, that they encourage us to look for that attribute in interviews of new hires and those who perform that way move up the management chain faster.

In other words, it could be the slightly more government culture that distorts your perception. Precisely my point.

HispanicPundit said...

Since I still havent convinced you, I dug around to find examples.

Lets take Google. Usually on the top list of Fortune 500 companies of "Best Place To Work". Its a company in a field (engineering) that is demanding and the pay is relatively higher than most other fields. It's also a company that is held in high regard and alot of people want to work for. So what are some of its advertised benefits? See here.

I quote:

Engineers can spend 20% of time on independent projects.

They encourage independence and curiosity, and creativity, and a go attitude so much so, that a fully 20% of your time can be used on that. Wow. And they ADVERTISE this, knowing it will attract better employees. This is something they want MORE OF.

Have you seen any government agency do something like that? No way.

In other words, I agree with the books general theme - just strongly disagree with its premise. It's the government attributes he is mostly attacking, not the private sector.

Jon said...

Ahh, so now you understand. I work for the government. Except I don't. Not even 5% of our revenue is from the government.

Companies are not a monolith. I'm actually aware of what Google is doing and I think it's great. Regarded as a more progressive company. I'm just saying that you shouldn't just think that because you put your finger in the wind and decided you think companies value innovation and wouldn't value the kinds of things that are conditioned in school, I don't think that matters a whole lot. What matters more in my view is the expressly stated reasons for compulsory education as described by it's proponents. Your company may be better than normal and mine may as well. But that doesn't change the purpose of compulsory education that was believed by the crafters of it. I'm just sharing thoughts though, not so much trying to make an argument. I suspect that's the way it is, but I know I don't understand it all.

HispanicPundit said...

Question: What would you say is more "yes man" style, the private sector or the government?