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A Bar Story: The Teacher, the Day Trader, and the Scapegoating of Public Employees

November 26th, 2010 · 5 Comments

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By Jude Soto

So a teacher and a day trader walk into a bar….I know what you’re thinking, this is about to be one of those jokes where one of us turns out to be gay. But this isn’t a corny joke, this is a true story. The year was 2005 and I was walking with my Wall St. employee friend into a local drinking establishment, ostensibly with the goal of meeting women. Now, being the better looking friend, I thought I had the advantage. After all, my friend was obese, hairy, and had an obnoxiously loud Long Island accent, not the typical qualities associated with guys who succeed in meeting attractive women. The first woman I approached was the most memorable. After the typical first few questions, the topic turned to occupation. When I told her I was a teacher, her response was “that’s very honorable of you, but I could never do that because you guys don’t make any money.” Just like that, I was dismissed, later to find out that my wealthier friend had gone home with her. It was rough, but that’s just the way things were before the recession.

When meeting new people, intriguing females or otherwise, the theme that I encountered before the recession hit was: you are noble for doing what you do, but I will mock you and lose respect for you because your pay is awful. This happened time after time, among family, friends, and ladies in clubs. I was in a casino in New Orleans, playing blackjack for a few hours, and whenever I would double-down the dealer would ask me if I was sure, because “I know y’all don’t get paid much.” Even when I went on vacation to Bolivia and Chile, the advice given was to introduce myself as “un profesor, not un maestro.”

The fact is, when times are good, public sector jobs just don’t seem that appealing. In my undergraduate classes, I met person after person claiming that teaching as their fall-back option. Everyone had a grand scheme for monetary success, and teaching would only be a worthwhile profession if their dreams of glory faded. For the time being, their plans came to fruition and I had to settle for dating women from a land where working for the government is actually seen as a sign of great success… the Bronx. I shudder.

Fast forward to the year 2010, and times have changed. Real estate speculators and hypnotized home buyers have brought about the biggest national economic meltdown since the Great Depression, the private sector was laying off people in droves, and states and localities are cutting budgets. My neighborhood bar hadn’t closed though. So a teacher and a recently unemployed day trader walk into a bar…instead of approaching a woman, I approach the bartender to discuss the score in the Yankee game. The bartender changes the subject to how teachers have it easy. They work half a year, make tons of money, and can’t get fired. Angry drunks in the bar, along with my jobless friend, brought the same concerns to me. They were losing their jobs or taking cuts in pay or hours, and I was living large off of their tax dollars.

As America climbs out of the recession, public workers, especially teachers, will continue to be the expendable unknowns of countless political speeches. The dedicated and wide-eyed paupers of the Clinton years are the indolent and shifty parasites of the Obama years. I wasn’t one of the guys who stunted the economy, but I will be treated as if I did. My pay will be cut, my tenure will be weakened, and my actions will be derided by countless op-ed pieces. I’ll survive though and at the very least have another bar story for you.

Jude Soto has been a teacher in a low-income public high school in New York City since 2004. A native New Yorker, Soto has an M.A. in history from Brooklyn College. Outside of the academic world, his pursuits include traveling, weightlifting, and long distance running.

Tags: Economics · Education

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 HispanicPundit // Nov 27, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Hahaha. Great story and great writer! Kudos!

  • 2 Bob // Nov 28, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Interesting. So when your wall street friend is getting an 80,000 dollar Christmas Bonus, your the idiot teacher. Now that he’s suffering he wants everyone else to suffer as well. Its pretty unfair.

  • 3 WhatThe.. // Nov 29, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Jude, I don’t get it. You’re saying that being a teacher is demeaning to those around you because you have trouble picking up women in bars because they prefer men with money, and you are gambling a bit to much because the dealer is noticing. Don’t gamble so much and don’t go looking for woman in bars. Teachers have always been high on my list for respectability. Remember, we are also in a deep recession, lower tax revenues mean less money available for government services. Private sector business’s only survive if they can make money.

  • 4 Richie // Nov 30, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Yeah its amazing how people’s point of view can change in such a short period of time. Perhaps at one point being a teacher was seen as a dead-end financial path. Job security was not as important because so many jobs were available. Making a working-middle class salary as a teacher was considered a waste of time because of the opportunities available elseware. Now, those opportunities seem to be vanishing. Suddently the teachers make too much. The bar is a good setting for such an analysis of the economy, because people tend to speak rather honestly in bars, it gives you a good feel for whose going up and whose going down.

  • 5 Bob // Nov 30, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Richie,
    This is a time for scapegoating, thats usually what happens when there are economic problems. In Germany the Jews were the scapegoats during their depression, now in the U.S. we have a mixture of scapegoats. Public employees are definetly on the list. A smart politician will find a way to combine the multiple scapegoats into one big boogey man. Watch out!

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