Posted by: Doug Henwood | September 12, 2012

Matt Yglesias is not one of those union-hating liberals, he swears!

Matt Yglesias does not like my analysis of why liberals hate teachers unions (“Why teachers unions are different”). It’s all about the taxpayers, he says—and the folks who work in charter schools.

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.

But the CTU strike isn’t mainly about wages—it’s about education policy. The city of Chicago is spending buckets of money on creating new schools, like charters, even though there’s no evidence that they produce better results than traditional public schools (The charter school scam). The union has made it very clear, in this fine policy paper (“The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve”), that it’s fighting over the whole testing and privatization agenda beloved of Rahm Emanuel and the rest of the American elite, and for better funding of the city’s public schools.

The “what about the taxpayers?” lament is straight out of the Reagan playbook—from which it’s clear that a lot of Democrats are taking instruction these days.

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Responses

  1. Charter Schools – the (liberal) gift that keeps on giving. Tell Yglesias to look over the big water and read Melissa Benn’s ‘School Wars’

  2. People who pay taxes in Chicago? How about the ones that should be paying taxes, like Hyatt owner and Chicago Board of Ed member Penny Pritzker and family, who UNITE HERE has tagged for endlessly appealing their property tax bills? http://www.unitehere.org/detail.php?start_row=10&ID=3532. There’s a report at the link.

  3. You tell em, Doug!

  4. I’m a little frustrated with’s Matt’s less than enthusiastic support of the strike, but I think we do have to engage the fact that public union dynamics are different than private. Public services are monopolistic. We can’t take our business to another police department or dept. of streets and san. When we support a strike of hotel workers we can say, yeah, the hotel owners/stockholders should pay more in salary or improvements to working conditions. For public unions we are implicitly saying, yeah, we should be paying them more. So why didn’t we vote for that last tax increase?

    CTU demands are going to cost money one way or the other, even if salaries don’t go up a single penny. Adding libraries and nurses and air conditioners and art classes and thoughtful evaluation policies all cost a lot of money, and even if we pumped all the TIF money back into CPS it wouldn’t make up the difference. Shutting down all the charter schools might do the trick, but it hardly seems likely in the short term.

    It seems to me CTU demands are unmeetable given present fiscal realities in Chicago, so the best outcome of the strike will have to be be on a PR level, making it clear that Charter Schools (and Race To The Top, generally) is just Union Busting plain and simple, costing more money for worse outcomes. But Karen Lewis is going to have to play it just right.

  5. “But the CTU strike isn’t mainly about wages—it’s about education policy.”

    I’m willing to believe that, but… speaking as a non-union-hating liberal (I swears) if that’s the case… I’ve got to say that they’re badly, badly losing the messaging war.

  6. Yglesias admittedly voted for Romney back when He (Matt) was a “leftist!”

  7. Bourgeois democracy is fantastic and the liberals barely need to apologize for it. Since every citizen is formally equal under the law (underlying economic inequality making zero difference), then the outcome of the existing political process is a fortiori the direct and unquestionable expression of the will of the masses, by (voting) action or omission. That is the supreme principle that turns Rahm Emanuel into the legit representative of taxpayers’ interest (let alone the children’s interest) and any response of the union against Emanuel’s policies into defiance of the public will. We need to question Yglesias’ deeper assumptions.

  8. The conservative will always point to workers demanding better wages and working conditions as being selfish. The underlying assumption of their argument is that wealth for (whatever) is limited to that already being distributed to the working class via the sale of labour power in the wage system. What’s missing from the equation is the wealth which the capitalist and landlord classes have appropriated i.e. the lion’s share of the collective product of labour. Of course, even the most socially liberal of the liberals are conservatives when it comes to conserving the wage system so, they buy into the argument that there’s only a very limited slice of pie for the working class to share. Workers should ignore the ‘taxpayer’ argument and realise that, as a class, they produce all wealth not found in nature. Orienting workers’ consciousness in that direction might upset the complacency and illusions about ‘fairness’ implied in measures designed to maintain the wages system of servility.

  9. And yet again, I’m forced to ask: Why respond to (or for that matter pay any attention at all to) the near-constant stream of refuse coming out of Matt Yglesias?  
    I don’t mean this more generally, as of course there are those who don’t know any better, those who are cynics, “policy wonks,” Very Serious People, or those who fit into the broader category of what Benjamin Kunkel recently referred to as Neurotocrats.  More specifically I mean people of the left who have principles, e.g. Doug, or Corey Robin, or Seth Ackerman, etc.  Even Noam Chomsky once felt compelled to gratify his slop with a response.  I also don’t mean this question rhetorically: I’ve yet to find anyone who can/will answer it for me.

  10. Another liberal responds:

    http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/09/why-teachers-unions-arent-always-public-friend-1

  11. Public charter schools do receive taxpayer dollars to operate, but not the same amounts per public as traditional public schools. This is why in part some public charter schools operate from office buildings next to diners and other businesses. More on this issue is in my Z Magazine article of May 2012: http://www.zcommunications.org/growing-opposition-to-charter-schools-by-seth-sandronsky

  12. With elite pundits maybe. Not with the Chicago public.

  13. I wrote an essay regarding Yglesias’ ideological alignment with The Heartland Institute on education issues a year or so ago.

    http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2011/06/opineregress-matthew-yglesias.html

    Nothing has changed. If anything, he, like the administration, has tacked even further right on education.


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