I like teachers. My three sisters are teachers in the public schools. They are all very good teachers; Teri won teacher of the year in her district. Two of my wonderful brother-in-laws are, or have been, teachers. One of my nephews just got accepted to Teach for America. His brother also wants to teach when he leaves college next year. Just this week, Joy and I went to parent-teacher conferences at our two kid's schools, one elementary and one middle school. We liked every one of the teachers we met and think our boys are lucky to have such good public school teachers. I like teachers.
But what I am learning from conservatives these days, especially the hosts and commentators for Fox News is that public school teachers are greedy. They went into their profession for the money and really only have part-time jobs anyway. Funny, I never noticed before that my sisters, their husbands, and now their kids are going into teaching to get rich and have an easy life. I've even learned, from these shows, that teachers are really the ones responsible for our deficit -- public school teachers like those in Wisconsin who are members of teachers' unions with the right of collective bargaining.
I hope you all will watch the segment of Jon Stewart last night where he talked about all this. He shows amazing clips of FOX News talking heads blasting the teachers for being greedy, only having part-time jobs, making more than their private sector peers, and creating the deficit with their other public employee union friends (watch out for those firefighters and cops too).
Of course, as is often the case, Fox gets its facts wrong. Public-sector employees don't make more than their private-sector counterparts, especially when you account for educational levels. But facts never deter FOX opinions.
Teachers are rich, Fox says, making upwards of $50,000 per year and, adding excessive and undeserved benefits gained by coercive and budget-busting benefits, their packages can go up to $75,000 in some cases! But then Stewart showed some other Fox clips, often from the very same talking heads during the tax cut debate. They were defending those who make over $250,000 per year, saying that they should continue to get the Bush tax cuts. "$250,000 is not rich!" said the same Fox talking heads. These people have families to feed!
One FOX commentator then pointed out the difference between bankers and teachers, by saying the latter get public taxpayer money and the bankers and CEO's make their own private money. But Stewart pointed out a little thing called the bank bailouts of billions of dollars of tax payer money to these people. Whoops. And what did the bankers do with our money? They used it to make themselves even richer during this economic crisis, while most middle-class people (including teachers) are really struggling. Then Stewart showed more clips, again, of the same FOX commentators who are now screaming about teachers, saying just a few months ago that it was even wrong to put salary caps on the CEO's of banks and corporations that we bail out with tax payer dollars. We will lose them! Their companies won't be competitive unless we keep paying those outrageous salaries! At that point, I lost it, and thought of words in my head that preachers are not supposed to say. Good thing I was at home watching Comedy Central and the kids were in bed.
This is sheer hypocrisy. And it is the direct, overt, and shameful favoring of the rich over everyone else. That is exactly the opposite of what the Bible tells us to do. FOX and their friends ignore the public largesse we have and continue to lay out to corporate America, their banks, and their military contractors, for example. It's the poor and the middle class who are responsible for our budget deficits. And the rich get a pass -- even bailouts at their current salaries. And, as few even point out, the cable TV talking heads who aim their wrath at the poor and middle class are now themselves celebrities and are virtually all rich themselves. So we have these telegenic, young, and beautiful media elites attacking people like my family members who spend their whole lives with our kids, trying to educate the next generation. This is simply morally wrong and obnoxious, and every Bible believing Christian, and anybody else with good sense and moral judgment should start saying so.
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at www.godspolitics.com. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.