WON'T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK ABOUT DESTROYING THE UNIO... I MEAN, THE CHILDREN? Kevin Drum has an excellent rejoinder to Megan McArdle's offer to support any and all liberal remedies, including "double spending per student" (with, presumably, commensurate tax increases I'm sure McArdle and her conservertarian friends will enthusiastically support!) if liberals will agree to bust teacher's unions. As Kevin says, particularly given the logical problems (where, exactly, is this pool of brilliant teachers willing to teach in badly-performing public schools for non-union wages and with no employment protections going to come from?) and lack of empirical evidence that unionization has a significant effect on educational outcomes, it once again gives away the neoliberal show. Even given conflicts between their purported fiscal principles and their a priori desire to crush unions, they'll pick the latter.

Moreover, there's also the problem of how disconnected this is from actual politics. As Matt says, "were Megan's deal wherein liberals get to get literally everything we want on education policy as long as she gets to bust the unions actually on the table, I'd take it. The reason liberals don't take that deal is it isn't actually on the table." And it's even worse than that, of course; once unions were busted, the political power of the kind of progressives who could get the kind of tax and funding increases to poor schools that McArdle is talking about would essentially vanish. Which is why, of course, it makes sense for conservatives to use school reform as a stalking horse for busting unions -- once you achieve the latter, the chances of enacting other progressive legislation becomes virtually nil. Politicians don't create public policy in a vacuum; they do things because there are countervailing pressures. Unions are still the most important source of external pressure progressives have.

--Scott Lemieux

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