The problem with romantic jobs is that many people will always argue, on any margin, that the right thing to do is “support” them. This is on full display in a recent article in the Washington Post discussing the plight of families with public sector workers in Ohio.

Judy and Jim Embree, an operating room nurse and paramedic and firefighter, were attending a rally at the state Capitol when they discovered that everything they thought to be good and right about their lives was, to an alarming number of people, completely wrong.

The people who showed up that day in support of a plan, since adopted, to cut the power and benefits of public-sector unions said that people like them were the problem. That their “high wages” and “exorbitant pensions” were crippling cities and counties across Ohio. Some, even, said their jobs were unnecessary.

It had never occurred to the Embrees that firefighters and nurses could be unnecessary. They thought of themselves as linchpins of the community — and one of the biggest rewards of their jobs was knowing that the rest of the world thought so, too.

One can obviously feel sympathy for these people. But it’s an extremely problematic notion that an occupation that people generally admire should always have more, and that to question whether wages are too high or whether there has been too much hiring is an unimaginable assualt. The shame of this is that the current negative attitude towards public sector workers by some, however unfair, is in part created by a system that has generated obviously inefficient and unsustainable policies, which is in turn enabled by such romanticism in the first place.

On this issue and many other I continue to believe that if you’re angry about radical reforms today, you should be angry at those that fought moderate reform. The unions, legislators, and administators who for so long failed to produce or outright opposed meaningful education and public sector reform have brought us to the point where people are willing to vote for radical reform. With respect to edcuation I particularly blame those from the “all wee need is more money and smaller classrooms” school of education policy.

Part of this has to do with the fact that the Great Recession has magnified these issues, and Republicans have successfully stoked these fires. But they aren’t creating the demand for radical reform, they’re simply catering to it. The lesson, for both left and right, is that there is a danger to preserving the unsustainable by fighting off moderate reforms. Bringing this back to my initial point, I think this problem is most likely in areas where romantic and idealistic beliefs make it easy for vested interests to fight off moderate reforms.

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