Friday, April 09, 2010

No Joking Matter

What is it with people these days that they have become so totally unhinged about positions staked out by politicians, whether it is the President, members of Congress, governors, or government in general? This craziness has got to stop. I don't care what side of the political spectrum you're on, talking about violence to solve political problems is just flat out wrong - and may cross the line into criminality.

It's politics - making it personal serves no one and has more than once crossed the line into criminality as people have done more than just talk about violence.

It also means that political leaders bear responsibility too. They've egged on some of the craziness by not speaking out forcefully against the craziness - or even endorsing some of the crazier views by appearing at venues where such talk is openly advocated. This is a completely toxic environment for politics, and with the nation facing serious issues on multiple fronts - makes dealing with the issues even more difficult.

Here in New Jersey, the Bergen County teacher's union passed out a memo joking about the death of Gov. Chris Christie:
The memo is the latest salvo in a war of words between Christie and the union about wage and benefits concessions. The Record obtained the Bergen County Education Association memo that includes a closing prayer:

"Dear Lord this year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and my favorite salesman, Billy Mays. I just wanted to let you know that Chris Christie is my favorite governor."

Association president Joe Coppola says the "prayer" was a joke and was never meant to be made public.
Of course it was never meant to be made public - doing so would disgrace and should have shamed the union (though that is highly unlikely since there is little that can shame such organizations). Christie's office got it right when he said that there was nothing professional about the group.

The unions are busy complaining because Christie has rightfully pointed out that the state is broke and that it cannot pay for the gold-plated level of spending that it has done for years on end. He's trying to change the structural deficits and bring spending more in line with anticipated revenues, which unions across the state are claiming will harm the children (the most common tactic across the board when someone has a pet project/spending initiative that is coming under attack). School districts across the state are being told to hold the line on new spending and to limit pay raises and other measures that private sector jobs have been doing for the past two years to survive.

No pay raises for teachers isn't going to stop teachers from teaching students, but it can reduce the pressure to increase local and state budgets for education necessitating tax hikes.

The NJEA, the teachers union, has issued an apology over the "joke" memo distributed by its Bergen county office:
"NJEA condemns the inappropriate 'prayer' contained in a letter sent by the NJEA Bergen County regional offices and our Bergen County affiliate. Language such as that has no place in civil discourse. It was intended as humor, but it is not funny. Our ongoing discussion with Gov. Christie is centered on serious issues of significant importance to the state, and that must be the focus of all our conversation. We deeply regret that the 'prayer' reference was included in the letter, and we apologize to Gov. Christie for both the content of the 'prayer' and the lack of respect it demonstrated. I will be reaching out to Gov. Christie's office to apologize personally on behalf of all NJEA members."
The union leadership knows that they've got to deal with Christie over the budget and that disrespecting the governor brooks them no favors.

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