Fox News’ War on Teachers
Like Fox News, I try to be fair and balanced. However, it is hard-I so badly want to refer to them as the station of lovely little corporate sock puppets. After all, they seem to spew forth the talking points handed down to them by their corporate masters and do not ever seem to waste a second on reflection on whether they are acting in a principled or consistent way. To merely say such mean things would, of course, be unfair. However, to consider the facts would seem to be both fair and balanced.
Fox News’ latest target is the teachers and teachers’ union in Wisconsin. As Jon Stewart nicely showed in the 3/3/2011 Daily Show, the fine folks at Fox News’ attacks seem to clearly violate their own professed principles. To show this, Stewart compared what the Fox folks said about CEOs and other wealthy people with what they said about the teachers.
One point of comparison was the matter of salaries. As Stewart showed via clips from Fox, when a repeal of the Bush tax cuts for those making $250,000 and more was proposed, the Fox pundits asserted that people who make $250,000 a year are not rich. They even made the odd claim that if a family in that income bracket had four kids in college, then they would be close to poverty.
However, when the same pundits considered the average salary of $51,000 for Wisconsin teachers, they regarded it as a rather excessive amount of pay. This seems rather an odd claim from the same folks who claimed that $250,000 could be regarded as being close to poverty. It seems to be a matter of basic math: $250,000 per year (plus) falls into the “not rich” and “close to poverty” zone, then $51,000 per year should certainly not be rich and should probably be in the poverty zone. After all, $51,000 is a lot less than $250,000.
Of course, it was argued that teachers do not deserve this money because they do not work as much as, say, Wall Street executives. As the Fox folks pointed out, teachers only work 9 months a year. They also made a point of claiming that teachers do not work very hard.
The Fox folks do make some reasonable points. After all, someone who works less and works less hard should expect to be paid less. However, even if it is assumed that teachers work 9 months and Wall Street executives work 12, this would only seem to entail that teachers should receive 9/12 of a Wall Street executive’s salary. I somehow suspect that would be a bit more than $51,000.
As far as teachers not working hard, that is simply untrue. Teaching is rather hard. You need to prepare lessons, teach the classes, grade work, handle administrative tasks, deal with parents, deal with discipline, and so on. I teach at the university level, so I actually have less duties than a public school teacher. However, I put in 50-60 hours a week of work, sometimes more. For those who have doubts about how hard teachers work, try a year as a teacher and see how easy it is.
The Fox folks also supported the plan to limit teachers’ benefits and pointed out that teachers are paid with public money. This is, of course, a factor worth considering. However, the Fox folks do not seem to accept the principle that those paid with public money should be subject to limits on their benefits, at least when it comes to CEOs. After all, these folks argued passionately against the federal government limiting CEO compensation for companies that the federal government had bailed out. Their argument was that limiting compensation would harm the industry and would also mean that the best people would not be attracted to the industry.
It would seem that their arguments against limiting CEO compensation for bailed out companies would also apply to teachers: if we want to avoid harming the education system and want to attract top talent, we cannot impose such limits. As such, the folks at Fox seem to be rather inconsistent. At the very least, if they are right now, then they were wrong then. Unless, of course, they think it would be a good idea to harm the education system and drive away the most talented teachers.
The Fox folks also made the point that the state can break the contracts and agreements it has with teachers. Interestingly, these same pundits argued that this should not be done in regards to CEO compensation-after all, they had contracts. One pundit even made the point that breaking contracts would be a rather dire and harmful sort of thing fro society as a whole. This does not, apparently, apply to teachers’ contracts. Perhaps the pundit was crossing his fingers when he made that sweeping statement about contracts.
On the face of it, it would seem that the arguments the Fox folks gave for not changing CEO contracts would apply to teachers as well. After all, if breaking contracts is bad, then breaking teachers’ contracts would also be bad. As such, if they were right about CEO contracts, then they are wrong now about teachers’ contracts.
What is most striking is that the Fox folks’ attacks on teachers is directly inconsistent with their defense of CEOs and Wall Street executives. Of course, they could argue that there are relevant differences between teachers and the CEOs, etc. that justifies the difference in the application of the principles regarding such matters as what defines being rich, limits on compensation, and the sanctity of contracts.
The only difference seems to be that the CEOs and Wall Street executives are top players in the corporate and financial systems while teachers are middle class people whose union often backs Democrats. As such, it would seem that Fox is engaged in class warfare: they rush to the defense of the upper class, and leap to attack the middle class when it seems to threaten the desires of the upper class. This, then, suggests the true principles of Fox News.