Teachers aren’t alone

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/05/nyregion/with-salary-freeze-more-new-york-judges-are-leaving-the-bench.html

And we gotta do it quick, that’ll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin’ basis. But it’s not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I’ll find him for three, but I’ll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you’ve gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter.

This is the line given by crusty old fisherman Quint played by Robert Shaw in Jaws.  He reminds the people of Amity that there are two options:  pay his salary or deal with the consequences.  Keep in mind that this story takes place during a time of economic recession … but despite the rough times, the public needs to be made aware that not taking care of those who take care of them often times leads to disaster.  The town opts not to pay Quint until the body count goes up a little more.

There has been a great deal of debate about the crisis of people working in the public sector … and how there are now so many of them and that there are fewer people working in the public sector, and how terrible this is.  These debates often neglect that, unlike many western nations that have seen populations plateau or even decrease, the United States continues to have a rising population.  Of the top 10 nations in population, the United States is the only one projected to hold its place over the next 20 years (Russia, for example, is projected to fall outside the top 15!).  No one seems to account that, as the population increases, the need for certain public servants (like teachers) is actually needed more … and in the absence of good morale, salaries and benefits (like retirement benefits), there becomes an amazing shortage, especially of talented people.

Teaching is not alone in this regard.  With more people, there tends to be more crime, and a need for more judges.  Yet, the number of judges retiring and not being replaced is getting to be rather large (and this doesn’t even include federal judgeships not filled because of political shenanigans).

You might also suspect that this is all a result of the recent economic downturn, but as the article points out, New York judges have operated under a salary freeze for 12 years!  The article notes that in the 1970s, state judges in New York were among the best paid in the country.  They now rank 46th.  More and more judges are retiring before their retirement age to join law firms because the money and benefits no longer attracts them.

One consequence of this:  people in the legal profession have options … they can practice privately or join a law firm.  Not that every lawyer has a garbage truck full of money pull up to their mansion every week, but there are those who have that as an option.

Judgeships generally were never paid that much, and making that much was not an option.  A judgeship is a very prestigious position … one that in the past generally went to lawyers with some years of experience, and probably a little money set aside, so taking a pay hit wasn’t too bad.

For what its worth, I was debating between the Robert Shaw quote, or one from Heath Ledger:

If you’re good at something, never do it for free.

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