I wrote a letter to the editor this evening in response to a letter published in this week’s issue. It’s probably too long to be published, but I kind of like it so I’ll put it here, too. It’s about SB5, but also about general attitudes we harbor towards those we presume possess something we don’t:
In response to the letter published in last week’s edition of the Oxford Press, I would like to personally offer to cut a check to the gentleman “tired of paying 1 percent of my pension and investment income to provide free dental coverage for the teachers, administration, and their families.” I estimate that I personally owe him about 47 cents. I should be able to swing that, and I have three whole months of nothing in the summer to get it to him.
The truth is, I’m tired of arguing this. I don’t want to rehash the fact that teachers pay into and fund their own retirement through a deferred compensation pension that is automatically subtracted from their paychecks and that while we don’t pay into Social Security, we don’t receive it either. Until recently, we have not had the option of paying into Medicare either, and pay 95-100% of our medical costs out of our pensions as well after we retire. I certainly don’t want to ask why the private sector doesn’t do the same, or why everyone thought their 401k was an untouchable commodity when it was never promised to be.
I don’t want to recount how hard our job is, because everyone’s job is hard, and teachers recognize this, and have taken pay cuts and freezes across the state for the past five years. I don’t want to bore everyone with the fact that nobody was overwhelmingly ready to attack or eager to partake of my “cherry,” union-negotiated contract as little as five years ago. I hesitate to recount how most of the teachers in Talawanda (as well as across Ohio) live where they work and pay the same taxes as everyone else in their community. Finally, I don’t want to have to point out that comparing the “average” salary of Talawanda employees (roughly 300 people) to the rest of the living, breathing, employable population of Oxford and its surrounding townships (say 20,000 people) is simply a poor statistical comparison, and I teach English.
What I really want to say is that I cannot, for the life of me, see how undercutting the livelihood of good, hardworking, taxpaying money-spending friends and neighbors makes anyone else’s life easier. You hate unions? Good for you. I hated them myself until I wised up to how important they truly are. But breaking a union will earn nobody anything, save those who already have everything.
Are we willing to trade more dangerous streets, understaffed ERs, poorer and more crowded classrooms, and increasingly decimated/demoralized fire departments for someone’s misguided perception that we should all suffer? Will we legitimately stimulate our economy by putting the squeeze on a sizeable swath of the productive, purchasing middle class? Is demonizing the people who teach, police, nurse, clean, and risk their lives for the good of the community and state due to bitterness and anger how we want to deal with the current economic crisis? Is it more important that we all have a little more–education, health, security–or that you have a couple more coins rattling around your sock drawer?
Is the negligible amount of savings, promised by the people who helped orchestrate the situation that’s brought on this entire debate, worth the grubby feeling?