"This would never have happened under Mayor Daley. He would have got [sic] everyone around the table and made a deal that was good for the teachers, the parents and the kids."
That is how one Chicago resident put it, and I am convinced that she is right enough in her speculation. Such a teachers strike would not have happened because Mayor Daley and his rubber-stamp city council were living in a fanciful and almost other-worldly era where overtaxing and overspending were a minor blip in the economic growth that the nation was experiencing. The budgetary excesses were perhaps not wanted but could be tolerated for as long as a perception remained that we might eventually grow our way out of the city's, the state's and the nation's deficit problem.
Show of hands. Is there anyone out there who is still Pollyanna enough to trust in that little hope-e-change-ism (which, I'll grant you, isn't an actual word but if Karen Lewis can pretend she's P.T. Barnum, then why can't I be Merriam Webster)…?
Such a bill pileup at all levels of government and they just keep spending even though the nation hovers on the precipice of its first economic depression in 80 years. Do you truly believe that our state's compulsive spenders ever really intended to honor their debt? Actions speak louder than words. The gravy train has rolled out of the state and we are all facing the specter of want and famine. Any sign from any level of government that they plan to slow their consumption levels? Cut back? Reform?
Economic depression is the difference between a Daley Administration and an Emanuel Administration. And truth be told, Daley would never have been able to pull off the passion play we are all witnessing between Emanuel and Lewis because Daley was the one who led Chicago into this original sin of economic catastrophe in the first place.
Daley bowed out just in time if you ask me. Had he proposed a 16% increase for teachers – which they had enough self-esteem to reject while taxpayers are bringing home 2% less than they did last year at this time – Daley would have been run out of town on a rail. Emanuel, however, can play the role of "I didn't create the problem" with all the finesse that it requires and as such, can "make the hard decisions" ostensibly without fear of political repercussions. And in case you're new to Illinois, the term "make the hard decisions" is a euphemism for "raise your taxes."
At this juncture, we have all been treated to the stylish aphorism for Rahm Emanuel…tough guy takes on the teachers union. Followed directly by…teachers union pushes back. Very primal – almost lusty, I must say. And however overly theatrical it may be, this is how Chicago parents found themselves locked out of their overpriced daycare to begin with.
Now, now. Don't worry your pretty heads over this. Rahm Emanuel is going to work harder than any mayor has ever worked to resolve the issue. The CTU is going to fight fiercely for every bloated, bulbous concession they can muster under the auspices of child welfare and when all is said and done, they will walk away with that 16% increase and the citizens of Chicago will be so thankful that they've got their overpriced daycare reinstated, their free lunch program returned and the streets cleared of this red-shirted flash mob that no one will think to complain that they just got soaked with another tax increase. They won't even care if the kids can't read – that is until it's time to renegotiate contracts. The outcome has been all but scripted.
I'll have grounds
More relative than this—the play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King.
Scripted…or at least that was the plan until the story went national – not that such viral exposure is necessarily a bad thing. You play it right and you could have the whole country sitting on the edge of their seats and begging for another gritty installment of the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything starring Rahm and Karen.
Too harsh? Come on. You know these stats. 79% of Chicago's eighth graders can't read at grade level. 80% can't perform at grade level in math. I've said it before; I do believe you could drop the students of Chicago into the nearest forest preserve, have them make crop circles for 6 hours a day and come up with at least the same results. What's up with that? Oh, that's right. Something happens to the brains of k12 students when they enter the Chicago city limits and they suddenly become unteachable. It's all that poverty and dysfunction. Poverty and dysfunction in a city that's been fashioned by every leftist maxim to ever exist for as long as anyone can remember, so would it do any good to ask the members of the unbreakable Chicago Machine whose fault exactly that might be that there's poverty within their city limits?
Of course, if poverty and dysfunction were the criteria by which we measure aptitude, we wouldn't have China or India breathing down our global necks, so I'm not sure how one responds to that particular canard anyway.
But you know, for $75,000 a year on average before benefits, I'll bet there are any number of people around the country…nay, around the globe… that'd be willing to take a crack at teaching the unteachable. I'll bet they'd even be willing to submit to those tougher certification and accountability standards that the CTU is resisting, which is still lower than the national average would demand from most other teachers.
So you see the quandary now? The plan was for Emanuel and the Chicago Teachers Union to control their message and draw out this Punch and Judy show until the people of Chicago were willing to take whatever deal could be struck. That was the plan before the blogosphere and social media and talk radio… and that pesky Fox News got a hold of the story and the narrative went into a tailspin. You know. This is your meme. This is your meme on alternative media. Any questions?
Right. The Teachers Union will get their 16% increase. It's too late to backtrack from that. But how much political capital will be lost over it? While it's true that Illinois has already been given up for lost by the Romney campaign, I'm just wondering if they might be reconsidering that position in light of these recent teachable moments. Since most of the people in Illinois don't work for the CTU, they may find this display of contempt for other people's money a little…distasteful? And how much is this fight worth to the machine if Barack Obama loses his home state?