(The Zucchini Brothers (above) Sam, Jack, and Steve. Not clear whether the outfits were purchased back when Jack thought it was cool to shop at WalMart, or after he watched a NYSUT video warning of all the bad things that come from supporting the gigantic retailer.)
A couple of loose-ends from this episode:
-- Yes, yes, yes - food stamps are vouchers and vouchers are indeed risky schemes that divert public money into the pockets of private profiteers who are not accountable to the public, etc. I thought those facts spoke for themselves, by now, but apparently not.
-- NYSUT claims Zucchini earns $70 a day as a substitute teacher and "sometimes he works at a funeral home to make extra money." But if you look closer, you see that his teaching and working with dead people are not his "real jobs." Hopefully, for Mr. Zucchini, the Food Stamp Fraud patrols won't look as closely as some of The Chalkboard's readers. It isn't even entirely clear Mr. Zucchini qualifies for food stamps -- unless, of course, he's doing his "real work" on the down-low. (Which means he's not only as entrepreneurial as WalMart executives, he's flirting with Enron-style business ethics.)
Zucchini, as you probably are aware, is really a guitarist in the band The Zucchini Brothers. And despite the impression you might get from NYSUT, these chaps appear to be WalMart-inspired capitalists!
When Zucchini and his brothers aren't giving interviews to NYSUT about the importance of paying as much as humanly possible for supplies in their personal lives (with or without food stamps,) they are quietly busy working as musical consultants and performers, playing gigs "across the U.S. in schools and festivals, on radio and TV," according to Sam Zucchini's bio page on one of their money-making side-businesses. And they certainly aren't lazy. According to their calendar, they've got three paid gigs in the next five days alone! (That's what the van is for. Since the van is used primarily for business purposes, there is a special asset classification on the food stamp application.)
It looks like an adorable show and I'm sure kids all over the place dig it, but these shows generally aren't free. The crafty entrepreneurs also have a nationally-syndicated satellite and standard radio show, and have produced several albums ($13 each, plus shipping, payable by PayPal.) And like old Sam Walton himself, they understand that good marketing is crucial. So they sell a collection of tee-shirts, bumper stickers, and videos.
The Zucchini guys also run a for-profit, privatized educational program, where they take work away from public school teachers by coming in and allowing students to "explore the craft of songwriting by writing and recording a song that is uniquely their own, based on a theme or curriculum-related topic." (Special pricing and block booking are available. Note the $450 price tag on one of these lessons, linked above.)
Note: This isn't the first completely bizarre news article written about NYSUT's activist teacher of the year. Check out this piece in the Times-Union from a while back. (Yeah, the guy has a real wigwam in his backyard, but this story was about the top-of-the-line, Gary Fisher mountain bike he rides to work every day. It's not every day you read about a teacher on food stamps who rides around on a bicycle that costs a small fortune in its own right.)
But hey, personal finances are personal finances. Next time you see any of the Zucchini's, be sure to buy them a cold one and thank them for bringing WalMart to its knees.
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