Thursday, December 6, 2012

California Federation of Teachers: telling it like it ain't

Have you seen the new Ed Asner-narrated video yet? It's very well done, very forceful, especially with the added gravitas of Asner's voice. Entitled Tax the Rich: An Animated Fairy Tale, it's on the home page of the California Federation of Teachers (an arm of the American Federation of Teachers). There was a link to the video on the AFT's webpage as well (cached version), but it has been removed. Why? No doubt partly because at one point in the video, the "rich" person is shown urinating on everyone else. Lovely image, that. And true to the title, the video is very much a fairy tale, but let's watch it first before we delve into the nonsense it's propagating:

First, I should note that the video has since been edited by the CFT to remove the stream of urine coming from "rich guy" and "trickling down" on everyone else. That scene was at about the 2:54 mark of the video. If you listen carefully you can still hear the sound of it, though, as that wasn't edited out. Here's a picture of the scene, as originally created:

Again, a lovely image. But let's move on to the actual content of the video, the "fairy tale" it is telling.

The basic story line is simple: once upon a time, everyone paid their fair share, there was plenty of money for services (firefighters, teachers, roads, etc.), and everyone was happy. But all of that changed because rich people got greedy (well, even more greedy) and stopped paying their fair share (via tax cuts and tax loopholes). Thus, there was less money for the services everyone else needed (rich people just paid for private services), meaning fewer teachers, firefighters, policemen, and so on. But--again, according to the video--even that wasn't good enough for the rich people, so they stopped building factories and the like and instead poured their money into Wall Street, where they made even more money. So at this point in time--in the fairy tale--the rich have oodles and oodles more money than even they had in the past, while everyone else is far worse off.

When people begin to question this supposedly vast dichotomy of wealth between the 1% and the 99% (the video is very clear on these numbers), rich people proceed to buy up newspapers and TV stations in order to lie to the rest of the people about how everyone can be rich and about how all that is happening is quite fair.

All of the above happens in the decades before the housing bubble, according to the video. There's no definitive start time, but we can guess things "go bad" at about the time Reagan takes office. The video then proceeds to explain the housing bubble and the financial crisis of 2007-2008 as a result of "falling money" (because it was piled so high). The government's response to the crisis is supposedly to simply print more money for rich people and do nothing for everyone else. And when this response angers the 99%, the 1%--the rich people--blame everyone else (especially teachers, apparently) and use some of their money to get people elected into offices who will repeat their lies.

The tale ends with the 99% realizing how they have been hornswogggled by the rich people all of these years and how the apparent solution to every problem--real or perceived--is to "tax the rich."

It really is an amazing piece of propaganda; almost all of the typical progressive talking points are hit. There's the old "to each according to his needs" theme running throughout, but there are also shots at Reaganomics, Wall Street, FoxNews, and the Tea Party. The only thing missing is the race card.

But of course, it is again a real fairy tale. There are moments of near-truth (like the Bailout and its accompanying fiscal policies) but for the most part, it's not actually reflective of reality in the least. And the fantasy all begins with the 1%-99% dichotomy. One would think--from watching this video--that the 1% is composed mostly of multi-billionaires. It's not. Right now, everyone with a household income higher than $383,000 is a part of the mystical 1%.

How many such households are there in this group? In 2011, there were about 1.4 million. That's over 2 million adults. By far, most of these people are much closer to the floor than to the ceiling, with regard to income. To put it another way, only a small portion of the top 1% are making a million or more a year: 1.1 million of the above households come in under the million dollar threshold. That means there's 300,000 millionaire households (in terms of income). Many of the people who clocked in at $383,000+ may be there for the first time, or perhaps the second or third.

And this group has hardly been shouldering a smaller and smaller share of the tax burden. Exactly the opposite, in fact. Since things supposedly went bad, according to the video, the bottom 40% of taxpayers--the ones who supposedly "gave a little"--have been giving less and less. The top 5%, in contrast, has been actually giving more (in taxes):

In fact, the percentage increases for taxes paid is greater than the the increase in income earned from decade to decade. Yes, they're earning a bigger percentage (of a much bigger pie), but they're also paying even more than what was supposedly a fair share, exactly the opposite of what the video claims.

This video--like President Obama and most Democrats in Congress--gives the very clear impression that the 1% are not only all filthy rich with millions and millions of dollars, but that they have been so for a long time, that the group is--as a whole--more or less static. It likewise suggests that this group is taking more and more of the wealth, while simultaneously paying less and less in taxes (while everyone else is paying more and more).  It's nasty stuff, completely at odds with reality and designed to evoke an emotional response--hatred and anger--from people to be directed at the 1%. Class warfare, nothing more.

What makes this all the worse is that it's coming from a teachers union, from people who are not only supposed to be educated but are also charged with educating others. Despicable. And throughout the video--in deference to its sponsors--a tale is told of how less money is being spent on education, another claim totally at odds with reality. From 1961 to 2009, the dollars spent per pupil has increased every single year.

Cheers, all.


  1. Let's hear it for a primary-school monopoly. These are precisely the sort of people who have been "teaching" for decades, and the audience for this video is precisely those they have been teaching.

    We need an amendment requiring the separation of education and state.

    1. Oh, my. What an interesting idea. :)