One thing presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders shares with fellow socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a total misunderstanding of how economics works. Sanders admits as much, albeit unwittingly, in a soundbite his campaign posted to Twitter under the heading “Pay Teachers Adequate Wages.” In it, the Vermont senator argues that if we can afford to pay baseball players hundreds of millions of dollars, then why can’t we pay teachers the “salaries they deserve.”
I will return to the above quoted phrase momentarily, but for now let’s take a deeper look at the claim that we as a nation “pay baseball players millions of dollars.” Who wants to be the one to tell Bernie that we as a nation don’t pay baseball players a penny? Like other professional athletes, baseball players earn their paycheck in the private sector, and their salaries (and endorsements, etc.) are determined by what the free market will bear. Right now and based on the most recent available statistics, the market will bear $3.4 million on average.
If we are a nation that can pay baseball players hundreds of millions of dollars, don't tell me we can't afford to pay teachers the salaries they deserve. pic.twitter.com/pQVix0iX9a
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) May 18, 2019
Now $3.4 million sounds rather paltry as baseball salaries go, but it’s still more than a teacher could ever dream of making. Does that suggest a disparity? Only to Bernie and others who think like him.
What the senator is overlooking is that the vast majority of teachers are public sector employees. There has been a movement afoot to privatize education by means of school vouchers that would permit students attending failing public schools to enroll in charter schools, but Sanders and his fellow Democrats are opposed to school choice. They say they would rather rescue the failing schools, which they think they could do by paying teachers more money — to give them the “salaries they deserve.”
But as the American Enterprise Institute notes, “the average teacher already enjoys market-level wages plus retirement benefits vastly exceeding those of private-sector workers.”
What’s more is that education in the U.S. is hobbled by massive powerful teachers unions, which foster “a system that too often rewards mediocrity and incompetence.” Put somewhat differently, currently teachers are receiving “salaries they deserve.”