Is Dignity Cost-Effective?

Jun 23, 2011 by

The publisher’s opinions that should, according to Journalism 101, be restricted to the editorial page, infest their reporting, sometimes in ways as subliminal as they are insidious.

The opening paragraph in a June 22 piece concludes that charter schools are “innovative” when it comes to pensions for its teachers. Why? Because “just 28 percent of the state’s charter schools participated in the state or city TRS in 2008-9.”

Being reactionary whilst being creative is a form of innovation too, apparently. It’s a rip to see these moral Luddites turn “progressive” when the concept is skewered to mean “progressing” back to a time before comforts were available to the rabble even if they paid for it with their labor.

But more egregious than this particular specimen of Post bias are two cited paraphrases of remarks allegedly made by city charter-school operators to the Post reporter, who says he was told that charter school “retirement packages aren’t just more effective, but they also better reflect the needs of the current crop of educators, who are less likely to commit to a lifelong teaching career in one city.”

The short piece ends with a direct quotation from the founder and superintendent of charter schools in which he criticizes defined-benefit plans, such as city public school teachers enjoy, for being “back-ended,” meaning that the benefit to members is far greater after they’ve served 20 years than after five years. (No doubt he also deems them morbidly generous to the point of pathological charity.)

His point is that our new crop of teachers doesn’t want to invest in the city for the duration of their careers, but enter the profession already committed to hightailing it out of town as sooner rather than later. The best professionals are transients, he seems to feel.

Even when an argument deserves being pulled apart, as does this one, one must be wary not to do so pettily. Still, I argue that something is not necessarily more “cost-effective” just because in the short term it saves money.

In its purest form we could achieve a high standard of cost-effectiveness by devolving our civilization to circa the Bronze Age, or perhaps they might allow us the perks of early Industrial Revolution workers.

If forced we could adapt and come to survive with equanimity a huge “downsizing” of life’s amenities in areas like shelter, recreation, food intake, transportation conveniences, electronic gear, clothing, and practically every other category associated with tenable existence. It’s amazing how people can survive if they have to. Republicans and their ilk just want to hone our survivalist gifts.

Surely we could manage without pensions altogether. Folks did so for millennia, after all, believe the pious rightists who, if they are consistent to their principles, would be amenable to revisiting ancient systems and see if they could work today. “Old wine in new bottles,” kind of thing.

Yes, slavery is cost-effective except to the enslaved.

When it comes to labor relations, the Red States are just one plantation.

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