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Wisconsin Lies and Misunderstandings



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My piece last week on “Wisconsin Myths and Facts,” generated a number of intelligent comments. It also incited a response from Jonathan Chait.

A good conversation surrounds teacher compensation. I call it a myth that “Wisconsin teachers live lives of austerity,” and point to their annualized income compared to the average household income in Wisconsin. A couple commenters and e-mailers objected that this was like comparing apples to oranges — every public-school teacher has at least a bachelor’s degrees. True. But, first, as some commenters have pointed out, there’s reason to doubt the actual value added by ed-school degrees. But more importantly, I never sought to determine the absolute economic contribution of a Wisconsin teacher; the point is that Wisconsin teachers aren’t actually struggling for food, as some protesters actually claimed. If their lives are austere, then most Wisconsonites must be starving. Most importantly, teachers have important non-financial compensation — working with children in a universally admired profession, etc. That’s why teachers at private schools — not reputed to be less effective — are willing to work for even less compensation (and way less in benefits). 

Jonathan Chait’s blog post is difficult to answer because it’s not clear where, exactly, the content he objects to is located.

#more#He writes: 

Scott Walker has said that he campaigned on his plan to curtail collective bargaining rights for public employees. Politifact calls this claim false. National Review’s Matthew Shaffer says it’s true, or truthy enough for him:

The main problem with what Chait says is that it is completely false. I never, anywhere in the piece, mention the Scott Walker statement that Politifact quotes — much less do I declare it true. Chait quotes a paragraph from my piece that refutes the claim that Wisconsin unions were blindsided. He manages no objections to my actual words and facts, but continues to a non sequitur

President Obama could claim a mandate from the 2008 election to impose white slavery. There were flyers accusing him of it! He never denied it! He could even say that he ran on a platform of imposing white slavery in 2008, and National Review would have defended him.

I told Chait that he said that I said something that I did not in fact say and then drew a revolting, fallacious analogy. I received very generous advice about a career in journalism. I hope I can take it as a measure of the effectiveness of the piece that it inspires Chait to sarcastic non sequiturs, and a kind interest in my future. 



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