Plain Talk

Plain Talk

Posted: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 8:01 pm
By: Nicolle Gallagher, Guest Columnist

A pizza-shop owner in Upper Darby, Pa. was arrested last week when he was caught trying to sabotage two competing pizza shops. He climbed up on the commode in the restroom so he could reach the drop ceiling and released mice he had just purchased at a nearby pet store.  

The shop owner heard a rumble in the men’s room and investigated as soon as the man left. Luckily, two police officers were having lunch in the shop and were notified right away. The officers followed the pizza man to the second local shop. He must have been tuckered from his first adventure because this time he just dropped a bag full of mice in the competition’s trash can.  

When I heard this story I  thought, “Doesn’t that just about sum up everything that is wrong with this country right now? Don’t bother trying to be better than the other guy, instead spend your energy trying to  sabotage him (or her).”

We saw it during the Savings & Loan scandal back in the 80s, during the Enron scandal in the 90s and during the AIG scandal in 2008. There are plenty of scandals to go around in corporate America, all you have to do is pick a year.  It all stems from laziness and greed. It’s easier to cheat than to compete. 

It’s not just isolated to pizza shops and corporate America. Politicians are not immune to it. From Nixon to Tom Delay we have a long history of politicians whose ambitions are so far out of touch with reality that they end up doing themselves in. 

Take Scott Walker in Wisconsin. The entire country is watching his every move but we are now learning that this is not just about teachers – it’s about rigging the system. 

No matter what you feel about tenure, teachers’ pay and health insurance we should all agree that rigging the system in your favor instead of making a better pizza is offensive to everything we stand for as Americans. 

Three thousand teachers and supporters showed up in Nashville to protect their right to collective bargaining and one of the best signs that I read was “Teachers’ Working Conditions are Students’ Learning Conditions.” There’s really no disputing that. From what I hear, the unreasonable demands of the teachers over the years have included smaller class sizes, equal pay for equal work and anti-discrimination rules.

So unless you think its O.K. to cram 100 students in a classroom and pay some county commissioner’s  unemployed son more than a qualified and certified teacher, let’s put this ridiculous notion that unions are the death of this country and the root cause of every problem we have to rest. 

There is no single holy grail that if we just crush everything will go back to the way it was in 1955. There are corrupt union bosses, there are corrupt CEO’s and most definitely, there are corrupt politicians. We continually look for one group to pin all of our failures on  instead of trying to fix the actual problems. 

Why is that? Well, if you demonize the unions, or the liberals or the Tea Party enough – then rigging the system to make them irrelevant goes unnoticed. You can release as many mice as you want because the public believes that the successful pizza shop “deserved it.” 

Of course, if you rig the system too much, next thing you know it’s unrecognizable. 

Ask yourself – if teachers are not allowed to negotiate as a profession – what is the alternative? In Wisconsin, the bills are very specific. The local school boards negotiate with the teachers after the state  cuts over a billion dollars from education funding. I wonder what would happen to Weakley County if we cut 9 percent from education, 8.8 percent from cities, and 24 percent from counties. How much would that leave us to run our schools and pay our teachers?

But here’s the real kicker about the Wisconsin bill that we must assume is a nation-wide strategy since we’re seeing similar types legislation in Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee. The governor has proposed that even after all of those cuts – the individual counties are not allowed to increase property taxes to pay for their schools. 

Now, if there is any small government conservative out there who can explain how that is not a complete overreach of the state then I have a bridge for you in Brooklyn.  Imagine if the people of Weakley County lost 40 percent of what we currently have and we wouldn’t even be allowed to increase taxes if we all volunteered to do it! 

It all seems so illogical that it’s hard to believe that anyone would even suggest it, let alone the governor of a state. But let’s dig a little bit deeper. 

Everyone has a motivation and now that Governor Walker has made the national spotlight, journalists are investigating every move he’s ever made in his career and it turns out that prior to becoming governor, Walker left  quite a mess in the Milwaukee county he came from. 

He fired all of the public security guards for the courts and replaced them  with a private company – a foreign private company called Wackenhut who, in turn, hired a sex offender who had just been released from jail to oversee all security at the courthouse – including juvenile and family court. 

Walker’s previous failures in Milwaukee County have since been rectified  – but now the county is paying double for security because they are stuck in the contract he got them into. 

I could go on. There are donations from Wackenhut to Walker, and of course, the no-bid contracts that are part of his budget bill now look quite suspicious. But the important point is not the individual corruption – it’s the subtle change to the system to favor just one group. Private industry over public adminstration. 

Wackenhut doesn’t make a better pizza. They hire people who would not otherwise pass the standards of the state,  pay them barely anything to do an inferior job and pocket the rest. 

Our politicians have welcomed them with open arms into the private prison system and I have to wonder if they aren’t now after a different captive audience – the students of Tennessee’s public schools. 

If you have any comments please email me at

wcp 3/08/11

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