Squeezing the Middle Class Turnip

The recent events in Wisconsin are, on one level, baffling. Somehow the GOP has convinced voters that the best way to balace state budgets is to squeeze the wages of middle class families –in this case public sector workers– while keeping taxes low for the wealthy. Today, a story on school property taxes in the New York Times sheds more light on this peculiar direction our country has taken. The article focuses on the decidedly upper crust community of Bronxville, New York, and the desire of its residents to maintain high academic standards and good schools, but not have to actually pay for them:

Most family incomes in Bronxville, about 15 miles north of Midtown Manhattan, are in the six and seven figures, ranking the village among the wealthiest enclaves in America. But even an additional $100 to $200 tacked on, in a village where the typical homeowner already pays $43,000 in annual property taxes, has met enough resistance to make town officials think twice.

Some residents argue that the town should be more businesslike, cutting other costs to offset the outlay for smaller classes. Peter P. Pulkkinen is one. A 40-year-old investment banker, he and his wife, Sarah, moved here in 2004 from the Upper East Side and their two oldest children are now in the first and third grades. He wants small classes for them. But rather than raise taxes, he would restrict teacher compensation— particularly their benefits.

So here we have a wealthy investment banker looking to slash middle-income teacher salaries rather than pay a dime more in taxes. Meanwhile, hedge fund mangers still pay taxes on million dollar incomes at a mere 15% rate. Class warfare is not dead in America, my friends. Far from it. It’s just that at the moment, it’s a very one-sided war.

In re-reading the Times piece I’ve noticed a statistical peculiarity: in citing the cost of property taxes in Bronxville, the New York Times provides the figure of $46,000.00 as the property tax burden of the typical (average?) resident. Undoubtedly, many residents pay less than that. However, in discussing teacher salaries the piece references only the $118,000.00 salary of a teacher “with 30 years experience.” Would it not be a more fair comparison to speak of a typical (that is, average) teacher salary also? Surely it is a good ldeal less. Instead, the Times piece leaves the impression that all residents of Bronxville pay $46,000 in property taxes while all teachers are taking home a six figure income. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, anti-public worker bias seems to inform this piece as well.

(Read more on this theme in an excellent Salon piece by Robert Reich.)


Whoops, sorry Serolf, I was working on a post while yours must have gone live. Sorry about the slam of mine five minutes after yours. Will reschedule mine for later in the a.m.


No problem, SanFran. The tsunami thing is kind of a breaking news thing, so don’t feel you need to put it off too long. Post it when you think is best. I won’t take offense. :)

@Serolf Divad: It’ll go live at 10 am EDT, which is about an hour before the tsunami will hit the US mainland. thx.
And your post script on the article sums it all up. Kind of how the teacher with 30 years of experience has her salary compared to the “average” American worker – who has only a H.S. diploma.

“he would restrict teacher compensation— particularly their benefits.”

As I pointed out, I hate paying bank fees. Rather than see them go up, I’d like to restrict PPP’s salary instead. In fact I’d like to drop it to zero.


To be honest, I missed the “30 years experience” part the first time I read the article. However, I stand by my initial assessment of the Bronxville whiners, given that the HIGHEST property tax rate there was 6.9%. Even at that rate, paying 46k a year means you’re sitting on a 600k+ house, and using the rough median of the distribution (on page 8) that same whining shitbag paying 46k in taxes now has a 2.3 MILLION-FUCK-DOLLAR house. Certainly not anything remotely accessible on even a 118k starting salary…

The Teabagger meme has replaced “public servant” with “public serf”.

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