Most outrageous lie I’ve heard all week (and maybe all year) . . .

is this, from an editorial in The Economist:

no Wall Street financier has done as much damage to American social mobility as the teachers’ unions have.

How is this wrong? Let me count the ways. First of all, there’s the idea that teachers’ unions have a negative impact on student achievement. All too predictably, the Economist lazily does not provide a shred of empirical evidence to back up this claim. In fact the impact of teacher unionization on student achievement ranges from positive (see here and here, for example) to “mixed and inconclusive” (see here).

Secondly, there is no evidence whatsoever that, in and of itself, greater student achievement will magically make our society more equal. Student achievement in the U.S. has actually been making modest gains, but economic inequality continues to skyrocket. Social mobility has also been in decline.

Finally, the idea that the financialization of our economy has had no impact on economic inequality is totally bogus. There is an abundance of evidence out there that clearly demonstrates a strong association between the increasing financialization of our economy and growing inequality. And social mobility is demonstrably positively associated with economic equality.

Honestly, I wish our neoliberal elites who, in the name of “the children,” try to paint teachers’ unions as the root of all evil would just come right out and admit it: they despise unions, because they hate the idea of those grubby nonelite workers making decent money and having any real power in the workplace. At some level, I think these types just don’t like democracy very much. If they were truly interested in improving the lives of children, particularly underprivileged children, they would be ardent supporters of strong unions. Throughout history and across the globe, a powerful labor movement is perhaps the most effective anti-poverty program the world has ever known.

Kathleen Geier

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee