President Obama and Congress sold their latest bailout of America's public employees as an emergency measure needed to prevent the layoffs of 160,000 teachers.
"We can't stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children," the president said Tuesday.
Then news trickled out that the debt-growing legislation was a payday loan, not a charitable donation. Some $10 billion in federal handouts can't be used to fill budget gaps created by recession-driven revenue shortfalls. No, the money must grow stretched education budgets, and as a condition of accepting the money, states must agree to maintain or increase education spending, as a percentage of total state revenues, next fiscal year.
It is, as Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said, a "federal government hijacking" of state budgets that will force lawmakers everywhere to raise taxes or slash spending elsewhere over the next year.
No worries for Nevada, where minor concessions by public education bargaining units and previous action by legislators had averted teacher layoffs long before Washington Democrats set about buying votes in November's midterm election.
But on Thursday, lame duck Gov. Jim Gibbons announced he would accept Nevada's share of the loot -- $83 million -- to hire 1,400 new teachers, about 1,000 of which will work for the Clark County School District.
Gov. Gibbons' spokesman, Dan Burns, said the governor's staff concluded that under the law, the state is not required to guarantee the new teachers jobs beyond the coming school year, which starts Aug. 30. The hires will be used to reduce class sizes and offer more reading and math instruction to students in need of remedial help.
"This at least will give 1,400 teachers a job for a year," Mr. Burns said. "I am not sure what the future holds."
We sure do.
Next year, when the 2011 Legislature is in session and lawmakers are building the two-year budget, the voting public will be subjected to months of moaning that unless taxes are raised through the roof, at least 1,400 teachers will be laid off.
School districts will build those teaching positions into their baseline budgets. Teachers unions will proclaim the positions invaluable to student achievement. The government will grow to a new level of "essential services," even though student enrollment is declining.
Congress provided nothing more than the means to grow government payrolls, expand union membership and boost union dues and donations to the Democratic Party. States will be coerced into hiring workers they can't afford. The wheels will be greased for the tax increases that will allow public employees everywhere to keep their generous salaries and expensive medical and retirement benefits. The tough fiscal decisions states need to make on their own will be delayed again -- until the next federal, strings-attached bailout.
This isn't saving jobs. This isn't permanent job creation. This is coercion. This is bribery. This is wrong.