Tag Archive: Pensions

Analilia Mejia on Chris Hayes

From last night, this is Analilia Mejia of NJ Working Families, killing it on Chris Hayes. A segment called Pension reform made Gov. Christie a star. Until now.

Pension ‘reform’ made the guy famous, a bipartisan star. And as his propaganda advertised, a new kind of politician who was better than his predecessors of both parties – those saps that snagged pension money to close their own budget shortfalls. But that was then. Now, Christie’s sinking under his own budget mismanagement and unrealistic revenue projections, with policies based on corpo-loopholes, coddling the wealthy and telling regular people if they just pay in more and get less out, he’d keep a promise to fully fund the pension payments. Christie was supposed to be some new kinda politician. The darling of the Wall Street donor class, somebody they could get behind for 2016. Nope.  

Short ad. Just deal with it.

Below the fold, bonus video also from last night, on how Matt Mowers testimony might answer the question of Why was it suddenly time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee?

“Gov. Christie has officially driven New Jersey into a ditch.” Reaction Roundup to Christie

Response from around the state to Gov. Christie’s announcement today that he intends to remedy a budget shortfall in large part of his own making, by drastically reducing two pension payments that NJ owes – see Bill Orr’s post

Christie’s Terrible Budget Solution to Meet the Shortfall
.

“Someone needs to call 911. Gov. Christie has officially driven New Jersey into a ditch.

“Gov. Christie’s reckless policies have left him with no viable solution to his budget crisis. Gov. Christie’s plan will make our fiscal situation even bleaker, with more credit downgrades likely and future deficits worsened. Gov. Christie built a house of cards that is now collapsing upon New Jersey’s taxpayers.

“It’s notable that Gov. Christie is once again targeting the middle-class by delaying pension payments, while continuing to protect millionaires. It’s time for Gov. Christie to put his catchphrases aside and get a grasp on reality. He has no plan for funding needs such as transportation, education, open space and college affordability, and now he is pushing costs onto future generations while proposing more than 30 tax and fee hikes. Gov. Christie, quite simply, has concocted an economic disaster for New Jersey.”

                  – Lou Greenwald, NJ Assembly Majority Leader

“Governor Christie said he fixed the state pension. He said our economy was the New Jersey Comeback, and he’d stop relying on one-shot gimmicks.  He said record-breaking tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy would create jobs. After five years of Christie at the helm, it turns out every single thing he’s promised has failed miserably – with a record sixth credit-downgrade by Wall Street to show for all his failures. It’s time Christie realizes what everyone else knows: cutting taxes for the super-wealthy, while stealing money from pensions hasn’t worked yet. And it wont work this time. At every turn, Governor Christie has chosen the path of economic instability, due to his wrong priorities and callous actions towards New Jersey’s working families. Since Christie is clearly unwilling to be a responsible actor, we call on the state legislature to step up and be the adults in the room.”

                  – Hetty Rosenstein, CWA NJ State Director

Imagining the Schools We Need

Cross-posted at A New Jersey Farmer

Wondering why American students are not performing at their best? Or why we struggle to solve the problems of children getting adequate resources so they can compete in the global race for knowledge, opportunity and equity?

No need. The answer’s right hereThe answer’s right here and it doesn’t take much to figure it out. We’ve made education a commodity to be traded, cut, neglected and manipulated for the better part of the economic downturn, and even before, and the policy is catching up to us. School districts all over the country had to cut back on teachers, other staff, educational resources and worse, a commitment to enable all children to take part in what should be the world’s premier public school system.

It shouldn’t have worked out that way.

The corporate know-nothings who have wheedled their way into the public policy debate and, worse, have been elected to offices where they’ve had direct experience slashing budgets, blaming public employees and pulling money out of the system because they think it spends too much. Now we’ve reached the crisis point where schools are packing in too many students into classrooms without proper staffing and educational materials. The results are disappointing at best.

But they point to something that’s been underreported, and that is that America’s public school teachers are doing a fabulous job keeping the system afloat and educating our students to the best of their abilities. The shame is imagining just how much better the country would be if we committed to funding and supporting the people who do one of the most important paid jobs in the economy.

Imagine what we could do with class sizes that allow for debate, discussion and hands-on learning in every class. Imagine having enough staff to enable struggling students and those with classifiable learning problems to get the support they both need and are entitled to by law. Imagine having enough money to take students on more than one outside academic trip per year so that they could apply their knowledge to real-world situations.

Imagine a teaching staff that is respected, emboldened and confident that the culture supported its efforts. Imagine governors making full pension payments so the system doesn’t become a political battleground and an excuse to blame teachers and other public employees from being blamed for shortfalls. Remember that the only people making reliable pension contributions are the teachers; every paycheck. Imagine a system where teachers have input into curricular implementation, and where tests are not the end result of every learning task. Imagine a collaborative, supportive environment where veteran educators are respected for their knowledge, not blamed for being too expensive.

If you can imagine such a system, then we have our work cut out for us because if we keep going as we have for the past 10 years, then we will sink further behind countries that don’t need to imagine those school systems–they already have them.

For more please go to:

www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives and Twitter @rigrundfest  

Teaching, Unions and Social Justice

Diary rescue from Sunday night. Promoted by Rosi. Cross-posted at A New Jersey Farmer

Giving of course my humble opinion, I believe we are at the high water mark of the anti-union, pro-market-force, evaluation-by-testing mania that’s gripped education. Or I could be seriously deluded and education is going through a profound change that will see radically different protocols for years to come.

Monday is the National Day of Action, where schools and community organizations are rallying to focus public attention on how to improve schools and promote social justice. There is a set of principles behind this, and it represents a concerted effort to fight back against the corporitization of schools that started on the far right, but has been moving to the center for a few years. Even President Obama supports the principle of more testing and teacher evaluation models that erroneously support it.

Inflation: Letting The Air Out Of Teacher Pay

Cross-posted at A New Jersey Farmer

As if being a teacher isn’t enough of a financial challenge, here’s some worse news, compliments of a front-page article in Sunday’s New York Times about the

Federal Reserve possibly injecting some inflation into the economy. Right now it’s an intellectual argument, and if you’ve ever studied the Great Depression of the 1930s, you know that the real danger to the economy would be deflation. In an effort to combat that, the Fed would look kindly on an inflationary course for these reasons:

The Fed has worked for decades to suppress inflation, but economists, including Janet Yellen, President Obama’s nominee to lead the Fed starting next year, have long argued that a little inflation is particularly valuable when the economy is weak. Rising prices help companies increase profits; rising wages help borrowers repay debts. Inflation also encourages people and businesses to borrow money and spend it more quickly.

The next paragraph, though, shows that not all people would benefit from such an economic course. Read it and weep.

The school board in Anchorage, Alaska, for example, is counting on inflation to keep a lid on teachers’ wages.

But wait; there’s more.

Rising inflation also punishes people living on fixed incomes.

So there you have it. The very same people who caused the financial meltdown,

destroyed the pension system and enacted laws that capped what municipalities and states could pay for social services now want an economic policy that would punish teachers and other public workers while they’re working, and it would keep on giving after they retire and are on a fixed pension and Social Security. Is that the way to continue to attract the best and brightest people to teaching, and to show them how much society respects their contributions? Absolutely not.

(As a side note, I completely reject the notion that we have not already attracted some of our best people to become teachers. America’s teachers put in an extraordinary amount of hours into their jobs and genuinely care about their chosen field. We’ve attended some of the best universities in the land and have studied with world class professors and professionals. So, it bothers me a great deal when others say that we need to get the best and brightest into our classrooms. We’re already there. Pay us what we’re worth, give us the tools to do our jobs and stop nickle and diming the schools in the name of an ideology that disrespects and ultimately wants to destroy a system that gives us the right to bargain collectively, set acceptable work rules and protect our due process rights.)

(Which leads to another side note. The right wing doesn’t know what it’s talking about on education.)

The politicians and think-tank lackeys who are presently influencing the education debate in this country have done a fine job singling out teachers, telling the public that their schools are failing, and blaming us for having pensions and benefits. Now the economists want to manipulate the economy so that it punishes us more. The contradiction is that if you continue to squeeze America’s public workers, then we won’t be able to spend and otherwise contribute to the economy. We won’t be able to afford to send our children to college. And we won’t be able to continue to do what we love.

Yes, I know there’s an old myth in this country that says that teachers don’t teach for money, they teach because they’re committed to their craft. As with most myths, this is not simply false, but dangerous, and society is playing with fire if it believes it can continue to treat us poorly.

For more please go to:

www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives and Twitter @rigrundfest  

Inflation: Letting The Air Out Of Teacher Pay

Cross-posted at A New Jersey Farmer

As if being a teacher isn’t enough of a financial challenge, here’s some worse news, compliments of a front-page article in Sunday’s New York Times about the

Federal Reserve possibly injecting some inflation into the economy. Right now it’s an intellectual argument, and if you’ve ever studied the Great Depression of the 1930s, you know that the real danger to the economy would be deflation. In an effort to combat that, the Fed would look kindly on an inflationary course for these reasons:

The Fed has worked for decades to suppress inflation, but economists, including Janet Yellen, President Obama’s nominee to lead the Fed starting next year, have long argued that a little inflation is particularly valuable when the economy is weak. Rising prices help companies increase profits; rising wages help borrowers repay debts. Inflation also encourages people and businesses to borrow money and spend it more quickly.

The next paragraph, though, shows that not all people would benefit from such an economic course. Read it and weep.

The school board in Anchorage, Alaska, for example, is counting on inflation to keep a lid on teachers’ wages.

But wait; there’s more.

Rising inflation also punishes people living on fixed incomes.

So there you have it. The very same people who caused the financial meltdown,

destroyed the pension system and enacted laws that capped what municipalities and states could pay for social services now want an economic policy that would punish teachers and other public workers while they’re working, and it would keep on giving after they retire and are on a fixed pension and Social Security. Is that the way to continue to attract the best and brightest people to teaching, and to show them how much society respects their contributions? Absolutely not.

(As a side note, I completely reject the notion that we have not already attracted some of our best people to become teachers. America’s teachers put in an extraordinary amount of hours into their jobs and genuinely care about their chosen field. We’ve attended some of the best universities in the land and have studied with world class professors and professionals. So, it bothers me a great deal when others say that we need to get the best and brightest into our classrooms. We’re already there. Pay us what we’re worth, give us the tools to do our jobs and stop nickle and diming the schools in the name of an ideology that disrespects and ultimately wants to destroy a system that gives us the right to bargain collectively, set acceptable work rules and protect our due process rights.)

(Which leads to another side note. The right wing doesn’t know what it’s talking about on education.)

The politicians and think-tank lackeys who are presently influencing the education debate in this country have done a fine job singling out teachers, telling the public that their schools are failing, and blaming us for having pensions and benefits. Now the economists want to manipulate the economy so that it punishes us more. The contradiction is that if you continue to squeeze America’s public workers, then we won’t be able to spend and otherwise contribute to the economy. We won’t be able to afford to send our children to college. And we won’t be able to continue to do what we love.

Yes, I know there’s an old myth in this country that says that teachers don’t teach for money, they teach because they’re committed to their craft. As with most myths, this is not simply false, but dangerous, and society is playing with fire if it believes it can continue to treat us poorly.

For more please go to:

www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives and Twitter @rigrundfest  

Inflation: Letting The Air Out Of Teacher Pay

Cross-posted at A New Jersey Farmer

As if being a teacher isn’t enough of a financial challenge, here’s some worse news, compliments of a front-page article in Sunday’s New York Times about the

Federal Reserve possibly injecting some inflation into the economy. Right now it’s an intellectual argument, and if you’ve ever studied the Great Depression of the 1930s, you know that the real danger to the economy would be deflation. In an effort to combat that, the Fed would look kindly on an inflationary course for these reasons:

The Fed has worked for decades to suppress inflation, but economists, including Janet Yellen, President Obama’s nominee to lead the Fed starting next year, have long argued that a little inflation is particularly valuable when the economy is weak. Rising prices help companies increase profits; rising wages help borrowers repay debts. Inflation also encourages people and businesses to borrow money and spend it more quickly.

The next paragraph, though, shows that not all people would benefit from such an economic course. Read it and weep.

The school board in Anchorage, Alaska, for example, is counting on inflation to keep a lid on teachers’ wages.

But wait; there’s more.

Rising inflation also punishes people living on fixed incomes.

So there you have it. The very same people who caused the financial meltdown,

destroyed the pension system and enacted laws that capped what municipalities and states could pay for social services now want an economic policy that would punish teachers and other public workers while they’re working, and it would keep on giving after they retire and are on a fixed pension and Social Security. Is that the way to continue to attract the best and brightest people to teaching, and to show them how much society respects their contributions? Absolutely not.

(As a side note, I completely reject the notion that we have not already attracted some of our best people to become teachers. America’s teachers put in an extraordinary amount of hours into their jobs and genuinely care about their chosen field. We’ve attended some of the best universities in the land and have studied with world class professors and professionals. So, it bothers me a great deal when others say that we need to get the best and brightest into our classrooms. We’re already there. Pay us what we’re worth, give us the tools to do our jobs and stop nickle and diming the schools in the name of an ideology that disrespects and ultimately wants to destroy a system that gives us the right to bargain collectively, set acceptable work rules and protect our due process rights.)

(Which leads to another side note. The right wing doesn’t know what it’s talking about on education.)

The politicians and think-tank lackeys who are presently influencing the education debate in this country have done a fine job singling out teachers, telling the public that their schools are failing, and blaming us for having pensions and benefits. Now the economists want to manipulate the economy so that it punishes us more. The contradiction is that if you continue to squeeze America’s public workers, then we won’t be able to spend and otherwise contribute to the economy. We won’t be able to afford to send our children to college. And we won’t be able to continue to do what we love.

Yes, I know there’s an old myth in this country that says that teachers don’t teach for money, they teach because they’re committed to their craft. As with most myths, this is not simply false, but dangerous, and society is playing with fire if it believes it can continue to treat us poorly.

For more please go to:

www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives and Twitter @rigrundfest  

The Myth Making of Paul Mulshine

The Star-Ledger’s Paul Mulshine is like a stale cover band: he has a small repertoire of hits he plays over and over and over again. And in today’s column, he pulls out his “Mustang Sally”:

This time around it’s Christie who has the fundraising edge. That means Buono faces the task of reprising Corzine’s role without the money. It’s unlikely she’ll repeat her predecessor’s infamous “Norma Rae” speech, when he proclaimed to a rally of public employees, “We will fight for a fair contract!” But her campaign website features an endorsement from the American Federation of Teachers.

The alleged Corzine speech is always on Mulshine’s set list; but has it ever been confirmed? Do we know the context of Corzine’s alleged remark? Does it stand as proof that Corzine was in the back pockets of the public employee unions?

Two years ago, I wrote about this at my blog; let me reprint the post here, so you can judge for yourself whether Mulshine is singing off-key.

*****

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How Myths Are Created

A lesson in journalism this morning:

One of the New Jersey right’s talking points has been that Jon Corzine was in the pocket of the public workers unions. Christie himself has said Corzine stood on the capitol steps at a rally of public workers and proclaimed solidarity with them back in 2006.

Who or what is the source of this story? According to factcheck.org, it’s “Crazy Uncle” Paul Mulshine:

Lastly, Christie misquotes a statement attributed to Corzine at a state worker rally in 2006.

Christie: My predecessor, Governor Corzine, stood on the front steps of the Capitol at a public sector union rally and said, “I’ll fight to get you a good contract.”

Did Corzine really say that? We could not find that quote in Nexis, the newspaper database, but we found one that was somewhat similar. Paul Mulshine, a conservative columnist for the Star-Ledger, quoted Corzine as saying more than once, “We will fight for a fair contract!”

But promising state workers a “fair contract” is not necessarily the same thing as promising them a “good contract.” After all, fair – as defined by Merriam-Webster – means “marked by impartiality and honesty : free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism,” or “free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice,” as defined by dictionary.com.

Kids Pay For Christie’s Incompetence

Reposted from Jersey Jazzman.

Like so many other denizens of the Garden State, it makes me nuts to watch Governor Chris Christie touted as a fearless leader and maker of tough decisions in the national press. Because the man is really, really bad at his job:

A report submitted this month by the state Department of Education to the Legislature is likely to set the stage for another school-funding debate next year. For many local districts, the outlook is not good.

The Educational Adequacy Report repeats many of the proposals suggested last year by Education Commissioner Chris Cerf. If accepted by the Legislature, they would reduce extra funding districts receive for low-income, bilingual and special-education students.

Advocates for those students already are gearing up to lobby the Legislature in January to reject the report. Lawmakers have 90 days to make a decision, or the proposals take effect.

The report also again recommends eliminating so-called adjustment aid over five years, which would reduce aid to many districts in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Ocean counties. According to state data, adjustment aid for 2012-13 totaled $36 million in Vineland, almost $15 million in Pleasantville, nearly $14 million in Millville, $8 million in Atlantic City and $6.5 million in Lower Cape May Regional. [emphasis mine]

For the last three years, New Jersey has been on a rollercoaster ride when it comes to school financing. After immediately cutting taxes on the rich (yes, he did, stop trying to blame Corzine), Christie started his term by next promising to limit cuts in school aid to districts; he then proceeded to hack and slash at school budgets all across the state, including the suburban towns where his political base sends their kids to school.

Chris Christie: Liar, Fool, or Both?

Cross-posted from Jersey Jazzman.

I got so caught up in Chris Cerf’s coronation yesterday that I never got around to this poignant moment:

Instead of vitriol and venom today, Gov. Chris Christie’s interaction with a teary public school teacher ended with an apology.

Tia McLaughlin invoked the Republican governor’s frequent refrain that it’s “harder to hate up close” in telling him she felt betrayed by his treatment of teachers when he took office two and half years ago.

“You’re right, it is much harder to hate up close because I’m not feeling the hate right now,” she said, standing in the crowd at the boardwalk Music Pier. “I never thought I’d get the opportunity to talk to you up close.”

She made copies of the letter he sent unions during the campaign that promised to leave their pensions alone and distributed them to the 12 schools in her district, but then he did what she called “a complete 180” with pension and benefits reforms that further soured his dealings with the NJEA, the state’s largest teachers union.

Christie said, if he runs for re-election again, he will likely pen another letter to unions explaining his new position.

“When I wrote that letter, I had no idea the pension system was about to go bankrupt,” he said, launching into his usual answer which puts the blame on prior governors for failing to address the problem. “Why are you getting angry at the first guy who’s telling you the truth?” [emphasis mine]

You may remember this famous letter from the fall of 2009:I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. – Chris Christie” So now Christie’s excuse for writing it is that he had “no idea the pension was about to go bankrupt.”

Really? He “had no idea” the pensions were in trouble? Well, he was the only one in the whole damn state that was clueless. [all emphases mine]