One of the phrases that comes up during the conversation is teachers who are viewed as “Welfare Queens” in terms of how the corporate reformers have framed the debate on the value of professional, qualified teachers.
Here is that part of the transcript:
BILL MOYERS: How did you get a start? What were your– who were your parents? What did they do?
HEATHER McGHEE: I’m the descendent of American slaves. I’m from the South — Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana. My grandparents and great-grandparents moved up to work in the steel mills of Chicago.
My grandmother and grandfather both had public sector jobs at a time when there was rampant discrimination in the private sector. They became, you know, leaders in the police force in Chicago, a social worker in the Chicago public schools. And they were able to retire comfortably. And they were able to help my parents out. And my parents were able, in turn, to help me out. But the idea that I’m going to be able to do that for my children, given the amount of debt that I have is something that I think I’ve just had to let go of.
BILL MOYERS: Well, that’s what can happen in the public sector. That the public sector over the last 50 years has created a very large middle class for people who would otherwise never have gotten into it. And now with the assault on public unions and public sector, that ladder’s being taken down, right?
HEATHER McGHEE: Absolutely. It’s been so shocking to see the demonization of public servants. It’s really part of this 40-year attack on the public. And I think the fact that we’re seeing right now that teachers, public janitors, school workers, bus drivers, cops, firefighters are the new welfare queens in our public life.
I mean, really they are. I mean, if you think about the stereotype that’s being trafficked right now. They’re talking about these lazy, you know, bloated pensions that are just, you know, cheating the system. I mean, that’s the welfare queens of the 1980s. And what has been– what’s the same between the welfare queen and this image of the postal worker who doesn’t really deserve the benefits they’re getting? These old shop worn stereotypes of race and gender.
To watch the episode in full, which I would highly recommend doing, go to Economic Malpractice and the Millennials.