Naming the Civic Illness
Veronique de Rugy gives a name to the political ploy, whose success is indicative of a civic illness, in which Rhode Island school committees, town councils, and state-level politicians specialize:
President Obama’s recent plea for another $50 billion… to save the jobs of teachers and firefighters in the states is a great example of the “Washington Monument Syndrome.” This refers to the bureaucratic practice of threatening to close down the most popular and vital programs in response to prospective budget cuts; it gets its name from the U.S. Department of the Interior, which always threatens it will have to close the Washington Monument if its budget is cut.
de Rugy goes on to describe some of the ways that governments might close their gaping budget deficits without gutting school systems and fire departments — including the obvious step of decreasing teacher salaries, assuming that “teachers have an incentive to accept a salary cut rather than to lose their jobs all together.” Of course, teachers also have an incentive to fund union activists and stack committees and legislatures with people who don’t mind watching well-paid adults soak up resources that might otherwise go to, say, books and programs for students and who see increases in taxation as a Dickensian pickpocket saw his trade: a legitimate means of taking money that is only made questionable to the extent that it is so overt as to alert the victim to the process.
The linked post also presents a chart showing that teachers were the big winners of the federal government’s “stimulus” program, which (as I’ve said several times in the past) wasn’t about “stimulus” at all, but about insulating the nation’s various governments from the effects of the recession. Some day, when I’ve time, I’ll work that idea into a poem, à la Lewis Carroll, about a bureaucrat who endeavors to explain that his own girth contributes to the health of his starving neighbor.