Saturday, February 26, 2011
I've been watching the events in Wisconsin for the past few weeks, and I am reminded of the fact that we have a long way to go in the fight to fix our educational system. On full display for everyone to see is a broken public school system run by the same people we are supposed to entrust our health care to...our government.
Rather than put my own personal spin on ground that's been well traveled over past couple of weeks by bringing up the cowardly democrats who fled like rats to avoid doing their job, or connecting the dots from President Obama to the labor unions, or whining yet again about the unfair coverage and blatantly bias coverage by the media of Governor Walker's fight to balance his state's budget, I'm simply going to boil this all down to a philosophical discussion. How's that for a run-on sentence?
Ask yourself the following question; Do the rights offered in this country apply to every citizen, or only the well connected? To ask me, you would hear me tell you that our rights apply to everyone, to ask a union representative, you would hear a well worded tap dance designed to distract you from the fact that he/she believes that the rights of a union member overrides and usurps that of an employer or the amount of money that employer has to work with in their budget during any given fiscal year.
Much like the big kid who would threaten "swirlies" unless you forked over your lunch money, unions threaten "strikes" unless you fork over wages and/or benefits that the free market would not otherwise provide under normal circumstances. At this point, the typical union member would proudly say, "Exactly, unions raise the standard of compensation for workers!". OK, but what happens when that artificially inflated level of compensation can no longer be afforded by the employer? Answer: Your employer either shuts it's doors, or bills the tax payer for a bailout as in the case of GM and Chrysler.
Worse yet, the difference between the car industry bailouts and what's happening in Wisconsin is the fact that in the case of the auto industry, the divide is between "labor" and "management". Labor being guilty of bullying their way to compensation packages that would eventually bankrupt the manufacturer while inflating the price of the car, and management being guilty of letting them, and then having the nerve to assume the tax payer should foot the bill. Yet in the case of Wisconsin, the divide is between labor being guilty of bullying their way to compensation packages that would eventually bankrupt the state while harming the quality of the children's education, and the tax payer being guilty of earning a paycheck and trying to provide for their family in the middle of a government induced recession. It's ironic that in both disputes, the tax payer is the one expected to fork over the cash.
As a conservative, I am duty bound to accept the rights of all people, even if the rights of others might not be in my best financial interest. That means I realize that when I pursue a particular job, it is the right of the employer to offer the terms of the job, and it is my right to accept them or not. It is my right to go elsewhere in search of employment, and it is the employer's right to offer an unreasonable compensation package that will result in him/her not being able to find quality employees, ultimately resulting in failure of his/her business. So says the free market.
For me to come to the negotiating table with a third party who's sole purpose is to win me "extras" that this particular job would not usually entitle me to, says a lot about me. It says that I can not stand on my own two feet, and that I have trouble navigating life without some powerfull third party holding my hand. It also says that I am starting from an adversarial position regarding my future relationship with my employer. It also tells you that I am not very forward thinking, because I do not recognize the exponential costs of my demands, and their inevitable result...unemployment. So says liberalism.
Lost in the haze of the Wisconsin debate are thousands of kids who are not being taught, by teachers who routinely claim that they teach because they "love children and love to teach". I guess that's as long as they pull down a salary and benefits package that would be the envy of any truck driver on the interstate.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Last week, while playing with my son, the phone rang. The caller ID read: "PA SENATE". Ever the pessimist, I almost didn't answer it, assuming it was some sort of robo-call, or plea for donations by someone's lower tier staffer. The curiosity got the best of me, so I answered it. As it turns out, it was actually my State Senator Rich Alloway. Still the pessimist, I was waiting for him to ask for a donation, but he didn't. Instead, he just wanted to call me personally to tell me how much he enjoyed reading my book.
You see, some time back, he was speaking at a local fund raiser, and after some coaxing from my wife, I attended the event and gave him a copy of my book. Senator Alloway's call was very sincere and we had a great conversation about the media and general politics. After his call, I could feel my ego inflating. After all, it's not every day that a State Senator calls you for no other purpose than to say he's a fan of your work.
As pure coincidence, Alloway was to be hosting a job fair at an events center here in my home town. I decided to stop by and introduce myself in person. I'm glad I did, because though Alloway recognized me right away and couldn't have been a cooler dude to talk to, the event itself turned out to be worth the frozen/Arctic trip into town on it's own.
I've been to job fairs in the past, but this was easily the biggest one I have ever attended. Being there as an employed truck driver allowed me to observe the event as an outsider. After all, I wasn't there to find a job.
As I watched the variety of people wandering aimlessly throughout the boothes manned by various trade schools, community colleges, and local industries, I realized two things. One, you know unemployment is too high when a job fair in a rural area such as this can draw a crowd this size (1000+people). And two, you could easily split that crowd into two groups; those who want a job, and those who don't.
Those who wanted a job were easy to spot. They were comprised of people who went the extra mile to look their best. Dress pants, and pressed shirts for the men, dresses and heels for the ladies. All carrying some sort of folder containing a portfolio and resume. In this group there was also a sub-strata. Those who wanted a job, but weren't going to get one because they sabotaged themselves before they even left their house.
These were the folks that took the time to wear the right clothes, prepared the right portfolios, but couldn't find a convincing way to hide the "flaming skull with rotting flesh" tattoo etched into their neck. Not to be out done, there was the guy who realized all too late that the giant disks that usually plugged half-dollar sized holes in his earlobes were probably not going to help his employment situation, so he opted to ditch the disks and went with the "I want my earlobes to look like soggy onion rings" look.
Moving on to those who had no intention of finding work. They were easy to spot as well. Many in this group moved in packs. Bringing friends and family and looking like reject extras from a bad rap video, these folks weren't even trying to be discreet about their agenda. They were there to grab job applications so they can fill them out as a requirement for unemployment benefits and welfare.
All in all, braving the elements to experience my town's job fair extravaganza turned out to be not only a great chance to see slackers and go-getters in their full glory, but it was also a good chance to push my son around in his stroller and make fun of people.