Feb 282011

A lot of people have seen this video, showing the self-appointed mascot of the Wisconsin teachers union eloquently stating his position:

[youtube TZ0dJM3h-tE]

A longer clip is viewable HERE.

This screeching goofball has been identified as on Fred Levenhagen, who teaches eighth grade in the Lake County School District.

Better still, apparently he teaches “social studies,” and pulls down a paltry $94,937 in salary and bennies. Plus, he no doubt had a “doctors note” that day, so all his energetic screaming was done while he was clearly quite ill. Either that… or quite possibly he got one of those fraudulent doctors notes. In other words… he lied.

So, the question now becomes… since he feels it’s entirely appropriate for someone to interrupt others and scream repetitively, how is he going to react when one of his students stands up in the middle of class and starts yelling “Fred lies! Fred lies! Fred lies!”

Now, as to the larger topic of a government employee union taking some hits from the government: even FDR, “champion” of the socialist classes, knew that unionizing government workers was a bad idea.

Letter on the Resolution of Federation of Federal Employees Against Strikes in Federal Service

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.

Unions like to cast themselves in the role of fighting against greedy employers. But in this case, the employer is the state government of Wisconsin… which is, when you come right down to it, the people of Wisconsin. So the teachers union is fighting against the people of Wisconsin.

 Posted by at 9:39 am
  • Michael Scott

    What to say ….. WOW. Well, Wisconsins this is what is teaching your children. And of course, it would be Social Studies, which in my experience is one of the most watered down, non-science (maybe even anti-science), politically tainted subjects in most public schools. Care to guess whether he is teaching Social Studies or engaged in political indoctrination in his classroom?

    I do love to see the level of articulation on the left. More confirmation that leftism is yesterday’s news.

    So, $94k + benefits for 9 months work? Based on this guys communication skills I can’t imagine that he’d even be worth half that for 12 months work in the private sector.

    Public sector unions must go. They are incompatible with a democratic/republican (small “r”) government.

  • joe

    Fred makes $57,528 in salary and $37,409 in benefits. has a Masters Degree, and a full time equivalancy of 80%, what ever that is, and I hope it doesn’t mean he only works 80% of the time.

    All the salaries of the Wisconsin teachers are searchable at:


  • R2K

    Compared to those eloquent and well educated tea baggers…

    But seriously it is a mistake to confuse so many issues as if they were one. Unions are generally lazy and corrupt, and they often choke their industry to death. Unions eventually seem to kill union jobs in the long run.

    But getting 57,528 with a master degree is not that much. How much would a private sector chemist with a masters degree make after 10 years on the job? (Note that all jobs with benefits tend to pay out about half of the salary in benefits.)

    Yes they have a hard sell telling the average american, who makes something like 35,000 a year, that they should get more. But teaching is not an easy job (just try it some time), and people with a master degree do get paid pretty well. So 57,000 a year is not out of the question. Do they have the right to strike? I personally think all federal employees should not, if they provide a critical service to the public. If they strike, they should be fired. Just my spin on things. But a great way to turn liberals like me off is to watch people make fun of teachers as if they job is easy and perhaps even unimportant. I can assure you that most Americans could have benefited from more education.

    PS. I love the trick of turning 57,000 into 94,000 by adding benefits. That one was slick 🙂 By that measure I earn 90,000 a year without a masters degree.

  • R2K

    MasterS degree.

  • admin

    > I love the trick of turning 57,000 into 94,000 by adding benefits.

    Yeah, me too. I’d *love* to have a benefits package like that

    > a great way to turn liberals like me off is to watch people make fun of teachers

    People largely wouldn’t be making fun of this guy had he actually been in class. You know, doing his job. Rather than out in public making a damn fool of himself.

  • Brianna

    “Compared to those eloquent and well educated tea baggers…”

    We’re not making fun of him because he’s a teacher. We’re making fun of him because he’s proven himself such an eloquent and capable teacher. Much like you have proven yourself such an eloquent and capable critic through your similar use of gratuitous and baseless insults.

    As Scott pointed out, the point of a union is to protect helpless workers against rapacious and evil private employers. It is therefore ironic to see a mostly-liberal crowd, adherents of a philosophy that always looks to government to shield them from the vile nature of reality, advocate in favor of strong public unions in order to protect themselves against the government they are normally willing to trust with their retirement, health care, and welfare.

  • Jim R.

    R2K… the guy is earning 90K+ when you add his wages and benefits together. Pointing that out is hardly being disceitful.

    I think the guy is an asshat.

  • Michael Scott

    Teacher’s unions have been quite deliberate in pursuing a strategy where they have shifted their compensation away from cash and into benefits. They have consciously done this so that they can poor mouth to the voters that “teachers with a Master’s degree *only* make $57k per year” and then throw out salaries of other professions with Master’s degrees. This makes it look like they are significantly under paid. Of course they leave out:

    1.) That $57k salary is only for 9 months work and would equal $76k on an annualized basis.

    2.) They have a tremendous benefits package that almost no one in the private sector gets. In many cases they are getting health care with little or no contribution from their salary, and their health plans have the lowest co-pays in the country. In my state teachers have a $3.00 co-pay for an office visit and most surgical procedures are covered 100%. Also, they get a defined benefits retirement plan also with little or no contribution from their salary. These benefits are worth a substantial amount of money if you went out and priced them in the market (if you in fact could even find a company that would sell a benefit package such at this). So, that $94k figure is probably either accurate or even understated.

    3.) Consider that this $94k total compensation package value is again, only for 9 months work, that works out to an annualized compensation rate of $125k, for a job that you basically can’t be fired from unless you actually commit a felony of some sort. I say with no reservations, this person is clearly not under compensated.

    4.) Keep in mind, that if you look at almost any education program at any university in the U.S. you will find that entering education majors have simultaneously amongst the lowest scores on entrance exams (SATs and ACTs) *and* the lowest dropout rates. So, it makes little sense to compare a person with a education degree to someone with an engineering or science degree, which have amongst the highest entrance exam scores *and* the highest dropout rates.

  • joe

    Imagine a world where teachers gather outside state capitals to demonstrate in favor of improving the quality of teachers and teaching. Wouldn’t that be something.

  • Sean From Edwards

    Interesting, the guy is clearly not a good representative of teachers, and the talk of his salary is interesting to say the least.

    Now for sake of comparison. I am an aerospace engineer, working for the government at Edwards AFB. Including locality and before taxes I make ~83k a year. Now every paycheck I have about $900 in deductions, taxes, benefits, etc… My employer, the fed gov, then matches me an additional ~$1000 every paycheck on benefits, very good I will admit. So total including benefits I get ~109k a year. But, taking away what I pay for my insurance and taxes (ok that part might be a little unfair) I take home about $59.6k a year, not much more than poor teacher man there. So, to fair it, taxes each paycheck are about $200 (many excemptions for my family), so before taxes and after benefits I make $64.8k. Still not much more than him, and I work all year long. But it gets better. Copays for my family and I are are $20 minimum, more for specialists, and we have deductables and copays for Hx stays Rx, etc…

    Now, don’t come crying to me teacher man, you make better money than me, and I am better educated than you. I’m in the wrong business, though I would never teach in California with how bad the schools are out here. Maybe these teachers ought to work on improving the school system before bitching about loosing their union.

  • Alix

    Looking at the ruckus from outside the US (yes, Wisconsin is becoming internationally famous for things other than “That 70’s Show”), I think peceptions between the US and the EU in what a “government” or a “union” is varies quite a lot. The US, I gather, is not at all unionized (generally <10%) when it comes to the private sector, whereas "Europe" is overwhelmingly so. This alone is such a fundamental difference that even in employing the very same words the meaning in them scarcely translates the "sameness" (?) divide.

    Here the prevailing system (I think, there are variations) is that the employers and the unions attempt to agree on pay and benefits collectively on the macro scale on at least a yearly basis, sometimes for even longer. Governments instruct them of what budgetary constraints the public sector has to work under if the negotiators' plans are realized (effects on tax revenue, budgetary balance, social security, pensions, inflation, etc. adjusted to the political majority's "preferences"), thus generally adopting an instructive and at least nominally impartial mediative role. There's an established, if not absolutely codified, sharing of responsibilities. Sometimes it works, sometimes it's more problematic … the good comes with the bad. Thus I don't want to make direct qualitative arguments between "our" and "your" respective systems.

    What I will state though is that over here the value generated to the economy of those services that public sector workers provide is perhaps more easily quantifiable and recognizable. I see much ado about how much some teacher guy makes, but no grounded arguments if he's worth the money … beyond "it sure sounds like a lot". Real income for anyone middle class in the US, I gather, hasn't gone up for decades adjusted for inflation, something which probably won't get solved by finger pointing solely among said middle classes. Furthermore from our "situation" here it follows that the consideration of the flow of resources extends beyond a single layer of exchanges … more of a kind of "lawn sprinkler" magic than "tricle down" voodoo. (The quandruple entendre absolutely intended …)

    The governor of Wisconsin and the unions both seem quite dug in their positions and I wonder if this doesn't have something to do with them both fearing the immensity of the backlog of the tasks they face. It's not that either side is weak, sadly they're both weak in the face of realities. Both sides have fallen prey to apathy and lack of participation, leaving all sides of the process degraded. The emerging enthusiasm to rebuild a wider sense of ownership of stately affairs isn't very well directed yet, irrespective of the social environments and motivations from whence it stems from. It's intersting to see how those at the foci of issues negotiate the situation now that there's ample popular daylight in the room. They may end up getting singed a bit, figuratively speaking.

    What I do find utterly perplexing is that by recent metrics social (spread, depth and stagnation of income disparities) and even geographical (state to state vs. country to country) mobility is greater in the EU than in the US. This defies simple explanations like "it's the unions" or "government is the problem", doesn't it? I, even as a "non US citizen", do look up to the vision exhibited in your constitution and thus can reflect on and to a degree cojoin in the existential angst that "it's not working". Measurable freedoms in the pursuit of whatever floats one's boat i.e. one's ability to change careers, property or success in upstart business are compromized. I don't have easy answers – and I wish I did – but I do hold that freedoms are not a zero sum game: Someone else's idea of freedom doesn't (at least necessarily) take from mine. It might be the essence of freedom that it's different for everyone.

    Lastly, fully expecting to get all kinds of flak for this, I have to say that the standing of Fox News US is, as seen from "over here", compromized to say the least. Simply that the outfit is majority owned by a subject of the British Commonwealth (… speaking of the historical significance of "tea parties", ahem … and yes I know there are "subsequent citizenships" for all involved) and members of the Saudi royal family and yet it projects a blatant partisan patriotism … well, let's just say that from this vantagepoint we see all kinds of flags flying and they're not "Stars and Stripes" but glaring red ones (and not of a "Republican" hue either). Make what you may of that.

  • Alix

    Ps. I don’t know if the delineation between “private” and “public” sector (and their workers) is very clear either. I mean, if one works for a defense contractor supplying goods or services, or an oil company supplying the Defense Department the motive energy it needs, that’s kind of public irrespective of the conventional organisational labels – “Inc., Co., whatnot, etc.” – isn’t it? That part of the industry being what it is, that part of the budget being what it is, one could argue that if one frets “socialism”, then it’s arrived well before the current administration. Bit of a conundrum, this. Certainly escapes conventional definitions.

  • R2K

    “People largely wouldn’t be making fun of this guy had he actually been in class. You know, doing his job. Rather than out in public making a damn fool of himself.”

    I agree he is a jerkoff who is probably not a great teacher. I am anti-union in general, as I have said above. But I am not anti-teacher, and these debates almost always turn into how teachers have it easy because they only work 9 months out of the year, or how teachers never protest poor learning conditions.

    “They have a tremendous benefits package that almost no one in the private sector gets. ”

    Teachers do very well, that is clear. But most corporations offer similar things, and I personally get half of my salary in benefits working at a non-profit company. So it is hardly out of the ordinary. You can’t tell me that a person at financial companies won’t get 50% of their salary in benefits. Many of them get 50% of their salary in cash bonuses alone!