Monday, May 7, 2012

Newt Gingrich's Real Change 2

In Newt Gingrich's Real Change, I read three chapters: "Chapter Three: The Unreformed Left: Why Democrats Can't Deliver Real Change"; "Chapter Four: Katrina, Michigan, and Beyond: How the Old Order Is Failing America"; and "Chapter Five: Failure in Education: Death Knell of the Old Order".

Newt essentially criticizes public sector unions because of the exorbitant and costly benefits that they bring to public employees.  This includes teachers' unions, which oppose merit pay and school choice.  Newt cites Detroit as an example of a place where the presence of well-paid teachers does not entail positive educational outcomes.  While Newt acknowledges that unions have a valid place in our economy, he also criticizes private-sector unions, for he laments an attempt by unions and their congressional allies to take away the right of workers to vote by secret ballot on whether or not they want to organize, thereby leaving workers vulnerable to "intimidation and extortion".

There is another side to these issues.  Defenders of public sector unions have questioned that the unions are to blame for financial messes, attributing the messes to other causes (i.e., tax cuts for corporations), and they have regarded union-busting as a step in the wrong direction.  Teachers' unions have argued and have attempted to document that areas where teachers are paid well attract good teachers and have positive educational outcomes.  There is also an argument that school choice allows private schools to cherry-pick the richer or better students, while leaving the other students in underfunded and inadequate public schools.  And some have contended that the claim that unions want to eliminate the secret ballot is merely anti-union propaganda, for the goal of the Employee Free Choice Act is to make it easier for unions to organize and to protect workers from management (see here).

I don't dispute that Newt may have a point in his critiques.  As a voter, I'm presented with options, and I have to pick the one that I think is better, even though all of the options presented to me are imperfect.  Overall, I stick with the Left because I believe that it protects the vulnerable.  But a part of me is glad that the Right exists because it points out abuses in the system, and that can encourage Democrats to try to correct those things in an attempt to find common ground with the other side.

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