Somewhere in Looterville NY

This may be the saddest thing you’ve so far heard this year, or it may be the most outrageous. Perhaps it is both.

It transcends both sadness and outrage by qualifying as further evidence that Atlas Shrugged wasn’t fiction. Ayn Rand just changed the names of the looters to protect the guilty.

The looter mentality, demonstrated by an employee of a New York State BOCES, has recently been praised by New York Teacher, official publication of New York State United Teachers – “The Union that helps New York to learn.”

The Divided Teachers, “Helping New York to forget the United Teachers”, could not be reached for comment.

BOCES, you will be less than somewhat surprised to learn, is an acronym for Board of Cooperative Educational Services. (I rest my case about names being changed to protect the guilty.)

Mr. Jack Powell, a substitute teaching assistant in the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES, is making a “principled stand;” BOCES substitute makes principled stand – against… WalMart.

[Mr. Powell] works about three days a week as a sub, earning about $70 a day, with no benefits. From March to October, he rides his bike 20 miles to work when work is available.

Sometimes he works for a funeral home to make extra money. The shawl he has wrapped around himself on this winter day, he says simply, doubles as a blanket.

“I do whatever it takes to survive and live a socially conscious life,” said Powell, who has a tepee in his yard.

Part of that survival — or so he thought — included shopping at Wal-Mart to take advantage of cheaper prices for himself, his partner and her two children. Then his discussions about Wal-Mart with Sandra Carner-Shafran, a teaching assistant at BOCES and a member of the Board of Directors of New York State United Teachers, started churning inside him.

… Powell put the brakes on his actions. Shopping at Wal-Mart? This is a place that encourages employees to get social services because it does not provide adequate health insurance or wages; sells goods made in sweatshops; and upsets entire communities by undercutting the downtown stores, then raising its prices when the locals go out of business.

“I don’t like what Wal-Mart stands for,” Powell said, noting the mega-chain’s scanty health insurance for staffers. “Because of all those things they can lower the prices.”

He has a shawl that doubles as a blanket. I would have said all shawls could qualify. I’m just thankful they didn’t further wax hyperbolic by calling it a temporary shroud.

He has a tepee. I have a porch. We both have yards.

I doubt either of us live in our outdoor accommodations when the bicycling weather is sub-optimal, say from November to February. Or when the mosquitoes get serious. Or when we begin to regret the absence of running hot water. I am certain Mr. Powell’s principles do not extend so far, because he would not otherwise own a van upon which to affix bumper stickers:

“The more you know, the less you need.”

“Think globally, act locally.”

These are just two of dozens of bumper stickers that Jack Powell has carefully arranged on his white van. They’ve become stuck in his psyche as well.

Yes. Imagine his psyche. Imagine the other twenty or more Hallmark-for-the-distracted-driver bits of his van’s carefully dispensed wisdom. This is a van with whose rear end you could have a conversation, and it would be like a tête-à-tête with Howard Dean.

We’re told Mr. Powell makes about $210 a week substitute teaching. Calculations based on an eight hour day show that, at the New York state minimum wage of $6.75 per hour, he would make $270 per week if he worked five days at some other job. This is admittedly less than the $350 he would make if he could substitute teach five days a week. Either option might make up for the losses he is incurring by boycotting WalMart.

Neither option would leave time, however, for travelling with the Zucchini Brothers band –

“I’m just trying to live my life. I try to set an example and do what I believe,” said Powell. When he travels across the country to schools, theaters and festivals for the Zucchini Brothers, he sings and strums about health and environmental awareness.

– as is Mr. Powell’s preference.

An average wage for a WalMart worker, according to to the United Food and Commercial Workers – a hostile witness at best – is $8.23 per hour. An average Walmart worker, then, accepting the union calculation of 34 hours per week worked, would be earning $280 per week.

Even if WalMart workers do not get discounts, Mr. Powell’s best play would seem to be to work at WalMart rather than in a job where his Union seems unable to help him earn equivalent pay. Note that whatever Mr. Powell pays in union dues is left to the reader’s imagination, though we can be sure he’s been financing a WalMart boycott long before he decided on the tactic for himself.

One conclusion regarding Mr. Powell’s employment situation is that he is not making full use of his education, assuming a four year degree is a necessity for teaching. Another is that he has made a choice that favors free time, especially since a full-time teaching position would require more than forty hours a week – if one approached it in a principled fashion. It would be interesting to know if Mr. Powell is seeking such a position. We are left to guess.

It seems unlikely that Mr. Powell’s partner and her two children are subsisting on the avails of Mr. Powell’s employment strategy. The article mentions Mr. Powell’s partner and her two children as participants in his decision of “principle” to substitute taxpayer funding food stamps for WalMart savings. Costs are where you find them, I guess.

The article mentions that Mr. Powell does not receive benefits as a substitute teacher. It does not mention Mr. Powell’s partner’s employment or benefits, which would seem germane, since many WalMart employee’s spouses, parents, or significant others may be able to confer such benefits upon their “partners”. It is also silent on what other social services the happy couple may already use.

Mr. Powell’s indulgence of the Zucchini Brothers road schedule, combined with his concern that WalMart workers do not receive important benefits, would suggest either that such benefits are available to him through his partner, or that he finds them unimportant for his family. We are left to guess.

When Mr. Powell became convinced his life choices were immoral because they required living off the labor of Chinese serfs, abetted by an uncaring US corporation, he decided to stop encouraging such behavior: He will no longer shop at WalMart, because though the confluence of productivity may have helped to indulge his unconventional lifestyle, WalMart workers do not have access to those same health care options to which he is advertised not to have access.

His solution (do not ask “to what?”) is to attempt to deny other workers employment at wages comparable to his own, and to depend on taxpayers to make up for the spending deficit his newly minted “principles” incur.

If WalMart employees were granted the same options as Mr. Powell, they would be able to send their children, and their money, to schools that are not hostage to leftist labor unions actively lobbying against them having their jobs. Unfortunately, alternative education systems are not available to most WalMart employees because of people like Mr. Powell.

If all the Bozos on this bus choose a similar course of action, what do we get? Fewer jobs paying above minimum wage and taxpayer indulgence of moral fantasies.

If Mr. Powell doesn’t want to shop at WalMart, fine; but instead of having the taxpayers support him, why doesn’t he instead work an extra day or two a month at the funeral home? Because it would inconvenience his lifestyle with the Zucchini Brothers band? Because it would raise his income above the food stamp qualification limit? Because it might interfere with the philosophical cataloging of his bumperstickers? Because he just doesn’t want to? All these reasons would be fine free choices; minus the sanctimony.

Mr. Powell’s definition of “principled stand,” as endorsed by the WSWHE (Whiz-Whee?) BOCES (Box?), is living off someone else’s labor. So I don’t get why he’s worried about the Chinese, or about the WalMart employees who can make more than he does for working a similar number of hours.

Who does he think is indulging him anyway?

Update. 6:07PM Oops. H/T OpinionJournal. Taranto, March-31.

2 thoughts on “Somewhere in Looterville NY”

  1. And the most aggravating aspect of all of this is that four days a week, Mr. Powell is charged with educating, influencing, and leading children.

  2. Yup… And you wonder why the little rug rats are all brainwashed and can’t add or write – there is your answer… the more I see the more I seriously think that homeschooling is the only answer…