The Straw Man Strike

Posted: September 11, 2012 in Body Politic

As teachers go on strike in Chicago much of the public struggles to understand exactly why they are striking. After months of negotiations and large concessions made by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) over wages that would grant them potentially 16% pay raises over four years the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) seems to be holding strong into their second day of strikes over teacher evaluation policies.

Most of the press characterizes  this as a conflict between CTU wanting schools to have more local control over both how teachers are evaluated and what teachers can be hired as new positions open up by granting preference to previously laid off teachers regardless of their past performance.

No matter which side of the argument you are on, there is something far more critical at stake in this battle over benefits. According to the CTU’s report entitled, “The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve: Research-based Proposals To Strengthen Elementary and Secondary Education In The Chicago Public Schools)”, a primary conclusion of the report hinges on the argument that, “Corporations do not pay their fair share of taxes”, “Taking public tax-money back from Tax Increment Financing (TIF) programs and into the service of school children must be a top priority.”, and “By implementing taxes on the wealthy, we can reign in reckless speculation, encourage long-term productive investment, and decrease income inequality while bringing needed revenue to services for children and working families.”

Ultimately, they propose nearly $750,000,000 in new expenditures at a time when the current budget faces a $1,000,000,000 shortfall in 2014. How do they propose to not only cover the existing shortfall and fund the massive increase in not only one time expenditures but drastic increases in long-term commitments?

Easy, just tax the wealthy, “aggressively”.

The CTU’s entire “report” is an argument for increasing taxes on the “wealthy”, through direct redistribution of wealth, aggressive progressive taxation at a tax rate of 90% for the upper 5%, an end to corporate subsidies, implementation of a capitol gains tax, implementation of a Financial Transaction Tax on Wall Street reallocation of prison system funds to education. Those are their words, not mine.

While it’s hard to argue that students don’t deserve the educational resources, facilities and support that the CTU proposes, it’s also dishonest for teachers to strike when their very own union is not negotiating in the public trust with an honest message. It is undeniably clear that the CTU does not just believe this is a local Chicago issue as their own website states, “It’s Not Just Chicago” with a “Global Solidarity” blog designed to gain support for the very Democrat party line liberal political objectives.

Given that this is an election year and a highly contentious one at that, it’s difficult not to ask the question of whether Rahm Emanuel, who is President Obama’s former Chief of Staff, is truly negotiating in the interest of public trust or working as an insider to help inflame an issue using a false flag political tactic. All with the result of giving media attention to an issue that lends credence to liberal political arguments as well as President Obama’s reelection campaign, which is only echoed by the CTU’s positions.

Rahm Emanuel makes the perfect “straw man” in this little tale of teachers and taxes with the unique ability to elevate what seems at first to be a local issue to a national debate over progressive taxation, income inequality, social justice, race relations and class warfare. After all, how better could Obama draw both Romney and Ryan into a clear, emotional driven debate over social justice issues than to allow Rahm to put the children on the chopping block.

Government is good at one thing: It knows how to break your legs, hand you a crutch, and say, “See, if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk.” ~ Harry Brown,

I find it hard to believe that Rahm will find himself on the opposite end of this issue from Obama for very long and that in the end it will be very clear that they were never on the opposite side of this argument. In 2004 Bush was accused of “wagging the dog”, it looks like 2012 will be the Straw Man Strike.

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