Finally, They Come For The Teacher Unions—Next, Immigration?
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The Politico's main story today, (The politics of education upended, by Jennifer Epstein, 2/17/11), is about
a convergence that is remaking the politics of education. Teachers unions, historically one of the most powerful interest groups in American politics, are being besieged like never before—under attack from conservative GOP governors with a zeal for budget-cutting even while taking fire from some Democrats, including President Barack Obama, who has suggested he agrees that unions can be an impediment to better schools.
This naturally interests me because I wrote a book in 2004, The Worm In The Apple: How The Teacher Unions Are Destroying American Education (still available in paperback), arguing that the teacher unions constituted a legally-privileged "Teacher Trust" that was messing up education (and the economy) and that it should be busted.

At the time, people seemed to think that taking on the teacher unions was "politically impossible"—as opposed, say, to democratizing the Middle East. I got so fed up with this that I devoted a whole section of Worm to the concept of the politically possible, which I periodically draw on when discussing the equally forbidding issue of patriotic immigration reform—for example here:

I've concluded that nobody knows what's politically possible, least of all professional politicians.(Sorry, Lou!) [Barletta—who was on the podium]

They're like shrews, they have very sensitive noses, they can sense exactly what is in front of them, but they're blind—they don't need to see more than a week out as long as they can do a 360 degree turn and come out facing the right way.

Do you remember price and wage controls? They were seen as “inevitable” by all the right people at the time. They've happened and collapsed and everybody has forgotten about them, and even Obama hasn't proposed them (yet).

Do you remember inflation? That was thought of in the 1970s as irreversible. One amazing thing Reagan did was he stopped inflation—again, for the time being.

Above all, think about the Soviet Union. Nobody expected the Soviet Union to collapse. I was talking to Phyllis about it this morning. Not only those of us who were anticommunists didn't expect it to collapse—because we were constantly being told how powerful it was and we actually began to believe it—but the other side, the Sovietologists, didn't expect it. I interviewed one of the leading Sovietologists in 1987 for Forbes magazine, and he categorically said that the Soviet Union was going to go on from strength to strength.

And yet, where is it now?

Well, actually, we know where it is now—it's in the White House! But we can get it out of there too.

So now it's "politically possible" to attack the Teacher Trust—because elected officials are rats in a fiscal trap, gnawing their way out through whatever is in their way.

But the fiscal costs of immigration are equally unbearable. Both the Teacher Trust and America's post-1965 immigration disaster are subject to Stein's Law: "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop."

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