Russian Poverty Chickens, Roosting
And that's only the beginning of a teacher's troubles. Because, as we reported last week, consumer price inflation on the basic basket of goods and services that can be purchased by people earning such pathetically low incomes is currently running at 25%. This means that by year's end, if the teacher salary isn't raised, its actual value will have dropped to a measly $225 per month or $1.40 per hour.
The FT quotes Lyudmila Erasova, a university teacher in Voronezh, 500 km south of Moscow: "In Soviet times, we had money but nothing to buy. Now, we have everything, the shops are starting to look good, but no money."
As we report below in an article from the Eurasia Daily Monitor's excellent Russia analyst Jonas Bernstein, these basic facts are rippling throughout Russia and creating a groundswell of discontentment that is little different from what was experienced in Tsarist times and which led to the Bolshevik revolution. In other words, Russia's poverty chickens are coming home to roost.
Now, you tell La Russophobe. If you were a Russian, would you go into the teaching profession? If you wouldn't, just exactly what kind of people do you think would do so, and how well would they perform their task?
Now you tell La Russophobe: What has Vladimir Putin done during his eight-year dictatorship, where he wielded total power over every aspect of Russian life, to address this situation? What has he even said about it? Can you, dear reader, name one single major speech in which Putin had decried the living conditions of Russian teachers and called for a major raise in their salaries? All Russian teachers, except the tiny minority who work in private schools, are direct employees of the Kremlin, and Putin could raise their salaries with the stroke of his pen. He hasn't, the continued to languish in horrifying poverty, and yet the cattle known as Russian "voters" continue to favor Putin with 70% approval ratings, even as he obliterates their children's future.
In Putin's defense, of course, one must acknowledge that the lack of any serious effort at a solution doesn't necessarily indicate he is incompetent. He likely knows the problem exists, but doesn't want to fix it anymore than his Soviet ancestors did. To give Russia a real education system would (a) empower a class of academics who could become regime critics and (b) empower a population to vote using critical thinking and demand a free flow of information. It's so much easier to govern a nation of cattle, and if they are drunken cattle afflicted by drunkenness, smoking and AIDS, so much the better. All that produced a nation of sheep easily led around by a few tough dogs from the KGB.
Recently the investment blog Motley Fool wrote an extensive post extolling the profits being made by Russian steelmaker Mechel over the past year owing to the rising international price of steel. Mechel, of course, can rake in these profits because of the extraordinarily low costs of doing business in a country like Russia where such low wages are paid and individual workers have so few legal rights. But despite all the black ink, the post concluded: "I would advise Fools to think carefully before investing in Mechel, since Russia boldly restricted foreign ownership of certain key industries last week. "
That's Russia in a nutshell! It can't even take advantage of the few areas of its economy where it has a competitiveness advantage because of its frenzied, paranoid xenophobia. And yet, it still expects foreigners to treat Russia "fairly" and with "respect" even as it hates those same foreigners with seething passion. Why, it's almost as if Russians were barbarians educated by "teachers" being paid slave wages and hence without credentials, heedless of their profession, isn't it?
What a country.