Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Letter of the Law

Yesterday morning I awoke to news about a local teachers strike that has gone into it's fourth day. The teachers were ordered back to work but they have refused to go. Now the union has a $150,000 fine to pay. What is going on in America? First, let me say that it is sad that teachers make so little for the amount of education they have. Most people with a masters degree in greater Boston would make 100K or more... they are not even close. I know I taught school and when offered $16K a year I chose something else.

I am sure you're wondering what is so important to me regarding this situation. Here it is, we have people breaking the law and public support is subsiding quickly as parents scramble to find suitable care for their kids. The law and the court order is being enforced. I remember my mother getting a ride to local pokey after six or seven days after her teacher's union decided to strike. She had a court appearance and a fine. Justice was swift.

The details of this strike seem clear. The teachers received a 4% pay increase and then were asked to pay 10% more in insurance; virtually wiping out the pay raise. Who wouldn't be upset? I know I would. The issue of how we get to a place like this is another story. That fact is they are here, breaking the law. $150K fine is pretty hefty and could have been better spent on health care that they are not getting.

What I find most shocking is that when it comes to immigration, we have a whole different attitude about the law, imposing fines and taking swift action. It is a double-standard, one where "if we like the law" we enforce it and if we don't, we ignore it. The law is not subject to such subjective interpretation at a level where we like or dislike a law. The legal process goes something like this. We elect officials to make and amend laws as well as stipulate punishment for breaking those laws. We expect the police and designated federal agencies to implement the law by arresting lawbreakers and the courts to carry out justice for lawbreakers. And finally we expect the sheriff or warden to make sure that prison sentences, public service , parole and probation is carried out. There are checks and balances to the system to make it fair and occasionally bureaucratic.

The problem is in a few areas. One, we have judges that legislate from the bench with bizarre stretches of the law. Two, we have politicians that want to overlook certain issues and won't enforce them. Immigration is one such instance. We have 12 million illegal aliens here and we are doing virtually nothing to get the mess straightened out. If the laws are wrong, then let's change them. If they are right then let's enforce them. How can we stand by and let them come and break the law. How can we not have a better and more well defined immigration policy? It is not enough to work and pay taxes. Two rights have never changed a wrong. If I work and pay taxes and shoplift, I am still wrong. Conversely we have underpaid teachers being fined and concerned about rising health care costs? Honestly, what are we thinking?

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