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    Cheese

    My favorite comment on the Wisconsin flap to date, from one of the posters on the strangely addictive College Misery:

    I do not mind paying a fair share. Neither does anyone I work with. However, we do mind being professors on food stamps (at least 3 of my colleagues are the sole income for their families, and because our salaries are so low in the first place, they will qualify). I am OK for now–my OH makes less than I do but we don’t own a home, so our expenses can be managed. Thing Two is now two, so his daycare isn’t quite as expensive as it was before. But I am seriously rethinking living in this state if this is how it wants to treat its public sector workers…and I’m not the only one.

    As scarce as jobs in the humanities are, I might have to go back on the market—after finally earning tenure—to try to find a better-paying job. Or I might have to go back to the private sector, where I made better money and I still have connections.

    I do not want to do this.

    Really, princess? You do not want to do this?

    You don’t want to get a job with pay that’s more aligned with what you need in order to support your family, even though you could apparently do so pretty easily? Well, then, we’d better just march right up to that nasty-nasty Governor Walker and tell him you’re going to hold your breath until you turn blue if you don’t get what you want this very minute.

    I also love the flagrant, self-awareness-lacking snobbery of that whole “we do mind being professors on food stamps” thing. Public assistance is good enough for the single mothers et al. whom leftists are constantly haranguing us about helping; shouldn’t they be good enough for academics stuck in less-desirable positions? Surely living in a fashion that’s down with the proles is a good thing…for your, like, consciousness or what have you? (One might also note that every dime these people receive is already public assistance.)

    If full-time teachers are being paid so little that they qualify for food stamps, that sure does sound bizarre. But, as Wisconsin and other states are now learning, that’s what happens when you see every issue as something to be addressed through a funded government program. Keep sucking up wealth without creating any, and you don’t have enough to spend anymore. That it’s the public-sector workers who are being mistreated in this scenario is risible.

    Even better is the way that second paragraph continues:

    None of us gets into this profession for the money, but it’s disgraceful that we’re not going to be able to make decent lives for ourselves (I work in the two-year system, so we’re paid a LOT less than our counterparts in the 4-year schools).

    And if you think I should just shut up and be thankful to have a job, do me a favor and shut the f**k up. I am grateful to be employed, but I’m not going to take a kick in the teeth and ask for another one.

    They can’t live “decent lives”? Note that there’s not even the slightest attempt here to argue that these people are being paid less than the market value of the work they do, or that they’re not getting what leftists love to call a “living wage.” Maybe this writer and her other half really are living hand to mouth, but it certainly sounds as if they’re just strapped for cash like a lot of people right now: making do with a lot less than they’d like to have, but getting by.

    I admit that this kind of thing is a sore spot with me. My (USW member) father was laid off by Bethlehem Steel for an agonizing stretch in the mid-’80s. At one point, he was working night shift at the 7-Eleven, cleaning offices for Service Master, and doing odd jobs to keep us afloat. My mother worked part-time in the cafeterias in our school district. At one school, a certain teacher memorably informed her that she (my mother) should be washing her (Miss Thang the teacher’s) coffee mug because she (Miss Thang the teacher) was “a professional.” Few things play on my sympathies more than stories about overworked people who are treated like crap and have few options.

    People who want more money and have the option of changing jobs to get it? No sympathy. Being forced to choose between satisfaction and compensation is just everyday life for a lot of private-sector workers. You can’t, to coin a phrase, have everything. And if Walker’s move really is an excuse to go after public-employees’ unions, good. There’s no reason they should be able to use the coercive power of the government to wangle deals for themselves that the private-sector employees (whose taxes pay their salaries) cannot.

    If you want a laugh at the expense of the sanctimonious, BTW, read the comments attached to that post at College Misery, in which writer BurntChrome’s fellow travelers haul out every pseudo-insurgent cliche the left has ever dreamed up: “Standing behind you holding a torch and hayfork in spirit,” “speak[ing] truth to power,” “First they came for the communists…,” “Before they went after the welfare mothers and now they are going after the civil servants.” My favorite is the the commenter who claims to be—My sides! My sides!—“[h]umming the Marseillaise in your honor.” Delicious!

    Added later: Sarah also posted today about Marxist (and Marxian) fallacies about labor and value. You should RTWT, but here’s the liver of the fugu:

    To Marx value was raw material plus work. The means of producing that work (machinery, etc) were just sort of there. And he made no allowance for invention. (Which is why though Marxist revolutions often recruit intellectuals they’re the sort of intellectuals who never had an original idea in their life.) Of course in our day and age, invention and original thought are at least as important as machinery in creating product. Also, the raw material fallacy means all the countries who have nothing else to sell feel “exploited” because we’re taking their “value” away. Imbuing raw material itself with value means that it’s sort of like stealing national treasure. This has given rise to an entire colonialist-exploitation-theory of history which has held more people in misery in developing countries than the most brazen robber baron could manage. And no one, NOT ONE seems to realize that their raw materials mean absolutely nothing if not used. If someone doesn’t have an idea to use it. If the finished product is not good for something. In other words, if you’re not producing something that someone else finds useful. (I.e. enough to pay for.) If the relationship isn’t MUTUALLY beneficial.

    I kind of wish she’d used something besides the dog-turd analogy that follows, because it makes it easy for people to shrug and say, “What’s your point? No one’s arguing that people should be wasting their time shining up dog turds. We just think that professors of the arts (say) are as valuable to society as bankers, and that it’s worth using the state to transfer some money to them to recognize that, since the cold, impersonal, inhuman market doesn’t.” Nevertheless, the underlying point she’s making (or one underlying point she’s making) is a sound one: Just because you’re good at what you do and love it, that doesn’t mean you’re going to make a lot of money off it.

    13 Responses to “Cheese”

    1. Kate says:

      You missed a bit in the title of the post, you know.

      It’s Whine and Cheese. With a whole lot more of the former than the latter.

      • Latricia says:

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    2. Sean says:

      LOL, Kate. Should’ve run it by you before publishing.

      • Kiana says:

        hello!,I like your writing so a lot! proportion we communicate extra apeirxomatply your post on AOL? I require an expert on this area to resolve my problem. Maybe that is you! Taking a look ahead to see you.

    3. Lin W says:

      Well, I’m cheesed off at the cottage-cheese for brains teachers, and those Democratic state legislators are enablers. But, when their enablers hit the highway and hide, what are the poor little cheesey-wheesies to do? Throw a temper tantrum, of course! Cheese louise!

    4. Sean says:

      My favorite part is where the writer carps that America is a plutocracy. Uh, yes, dear, and you’re a petty plutocrat, as it were.

    5. Julie says:

      Every time my son’s teacher sent home a note with a grievous misspelling, I concluded that she was grossly overpaid.

      Now I do her work for her and still pay the taxes that pay her salary. What a deal for her.

      My husband and I together make about the starting salary of a WI teacher and don’t have nearly the benefits. That’s not a complaint, just a fact. (It’s not a complaint because there are many things we could do to make more money that we do not do for various reasons). But I am pretty sure that we have a decent life.

    6. Leslie says:

      Hey, Sean, do you believe this woman? That she needs food stamps to live on and is a professor? I have a hard time believing that, unless by “professor” she really means “instructor,” which is just a fancy name for serf in the academic hierarchy. Sounds like her gripe, if true (I’m waaaaayyyyy dubious), is with the school, not the state.

      Sounds like she’s another one of those people who wants to stay in the town she went to school in and feels it’s her right to do so, even though jobs aren’t there. I’m amazed at how unfair people think that is.

    7. Sean says:

      Julie:
      “My husband and I together make about the starting salary of a WI teacher and don’t have nearly the benefits. That’s not a complaint, just a fact. (It’s not a complaint because there are many things we could do to make more money that we do not do for various reasons). But I am pretty sure that we have a decent life.”

      Yeah, unrealistic expectations are a big problem here. I don’t think most people applying to doctoral programs in English have starry-eyed fantasies of taking over Helen Vendler’s endowed chair when she retires; they figure they’ll find a nice second-tier school where they can live a shabby-genteel life thinking high-minded thoughts and patronizing the local museums and theaters. Maybe once they establish themselves through a brilliant book or two, they’ll be courted by a university with serious name recognition and finish their professional lives there.

      Unfortunately, a gajillion other people have been pursuing those same goals over the last few decades, and there aren’t enough places for them. I mean, look, I majored in comp lit and started a PhD program in Japanese; I believe in liberal arts research and education. But how many people whose full-time job is studying and teaching about Jane Austen do we actually need? I don’t blame people for feeling distress when they emerge with their PhDs to discover that they’re interchangeable with a few thousand others and, accordingly, have little market value. But it’s increasingly difficult to accept that they couldn’t have known what they were letting themselves in for when they started their studies. I applied to grad schools in 1994, and my mentors were already telling me not to go anywhere that wouldn’t fully fund me for at least three years and not to go anywhere that wasn’t top three in my field. The market in the humanities was already bad (though lots of Asian Studies departments were expanding).

      Leslie:
      “Hey, Sean, do you believe this woman? That she needs food stamps to live on and is a professor? I have a hard time believing that, unless by ‘professor’ she really means ‘instructor,’ which is just a fancy name for serf in the academic hierarchy.”

      I think she said that her own finances were manageable; it was her colleagues who might have to go on food stamps. If they’re adjuncts teaching less than half-time, I don’t know—maybe they do qualify. She herself refers to having tenure, so I assume she has a full-time position as a professor, rather than just a lecturer or adjunct. If she doesn’t make as much money as she wants to, that’s too bad, but you’re right that it’s not necessarily some sort of workers’-rights issue.

      • Snow says:

        · Recipes for me have mostly always been a guide. Even my own I find hard to follow. But I get this idea of roasting first then cooking and third, I will put into my new Vitamix that I’ve been wanting to try out. I find that even in baking, once someone gets the general science behind it, there is room for exameirentption, but others may disagree. Savory cooking, however should always be a bit of a recipe with room for much creativity (and practicality, thinking that’s how our ancestors had to cook. Roasting some veggies today and enjoying this tonight.

    8. Leslie says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Sean. Great post (as always). Glad to see you blogging a bit more.

    9. Maria says:

      You made some excellent points, Sean! I take issue with the “professor” from the community college as well. If she has the option of returning to the private sector, then she has no excuse for bellyaching. Even if she does not have other “viable” options, at least she has a job. And, since it’s with the state, she probably also has decent benes. The “experts” have been saying for years–at least 15 years–that we should all be prepared to work several CAREERS in our lifetime, not just “jobs.” Grow-up, princess!

      As you know, this is a sore point with me, as well. It was pride that kept me from applying for food stamps when I was working 60 hours/week between two jobs at minimum wage–just to pay my bills. The food stamps idea never even occurred to me. Why would it? I was young (18-21) and full of energy, otherwise invincible. And, yes, Mom and Dad were able to send me some support.

      Though I have to admit, that now 20+ years later, with a bachelor’s degree completed and enough other time and energy spent on schooling that would have earned most people a doctorate by now: if circumstances made it necessary–I would apply (reluctantly and humbly) for an EBT card (food stamps). I just don’t have the mental or physical energy of the person I was that ran herself down running/riding the bus between two jobs. I know many benes go unclaimed, at least in Minnesota that is the case. There’s a lot of people who would qualify for food stamps that don’t even apply for them. I happen to be one of those leftist liberals who actually does know first-hand, to a certain degree, what it is like to be at the bottom–or near to the bottom–of the food chain. To the “professor” I say, “Proletariats unite, Princess!” You’re all ready depending on the state for your salary–if you do actually qualify for foodstamps–go for it! Beggars can’t be choosers.

    10. Sean says:

      Thanks, Leslie

      Maria, I agree: unpalatable as it may sound, people who work in the public sector are already essentially on taxpayer-funded public assistance. In an important sense, they’re just grousing about style rather than substance. I can see not wanting to give up a job that you really enjoy and feel is doing good, but plenty of people have to decide between that and money, and they don’t descend on their state capitals (or capitols) to decry their lot as some sort of rights violation.

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