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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pensions and other scary thoughts.

The L.A. Times Opinion section, yesterday, had an article about pensions, Day of Reckoning on Pensions, quoting the Little Hoover Commission'a  study on the future of pensions and how the cost of providing them will tax every single government agency. 
Scary.
I do not doubt its facts.

I doubt the conclusion that the only solution is to reduce the benefits that current employees are entitled to.

We have become obsessed with the idea that government ought to reduce all services and do as little as possible. Some people want to go back in history and get rid of all programs that we have put in place that support the least able among us, as well as programs such as Medicare and Social Security which are helping a majority of our people who, without these programs, would impose undue burden on their families.

After we just bailed out Wall Street?
After Wall Street took the government money and gave themselves bonuses?

Are we stupid or blind?

I can't talk about all government services, how efficient they are or aren't. The problems with Social Security, however,  would not be there at all. I remember there was a big surplus that was used to support other priorities. A surplus that should have remained in place to continue to grow.

The Republicans insist on Tax Cuts, tax cuts that strip the government from maintaining programs that are necessary and are part of our fabric of life.  We barely have enough regulations to keep us safe.  I do know that education, for all its costs, is not funded adequately. Just go look at how  school buildings have crumbled because there has been no new moneys for school buildings.

In my little town of Port Orford, buildings that were over 30 years old, were finally upgraded last summer, thanks to the stimulus package. Now, with new heating and ventilating system, fewer students will suffer from respiratory and asthma attacks.  And I can't even put a price on the pride factor in that school after the place was renovated.  Children have been forced to attend debilitated and crumbling buildings for decades. No. We do not fund our schools adequately. And the current budget is even scarier.

Yet, we have just extended Tax Cuts for the rich who can afford to send their children to a fancy private school anywhere in the world?  Who have money in Swiss Banks and will invest the same in off-shore business where they will not pay any more income tax?

The public sector are not the greedy ones.  They worked their whole lives, without bonuses, without fancy stock options, without the opportunity to use hundreds of loopholes to shelter their moneys. All they have is  a modest pension that was part of their compensation.  By the way, the pension is taxed!

So, they live longer than anticipated.  Fine, do the math, adjust the columns, and charge what needs to be charged to keep the programs solvent. 

But the government has no money?
It will, if we stop the tax cuts for the rich.
It can, if we demand that every body pays according to their income.
It should, if we want to continue to be a great nation, where all people live and grow old with dignity and respect.

We're are not an autocracy, or a money-grabbing-wild-west lawless desert.

We are a humane democracy, a beacon to people in the world.

Money should not  buy the  conscience of our legislators; working for the people does not mean working for  people that support you. 

Legislators work for all of us, rich and poor, young and old. They should promote and  insure our liberty, our prosperity, and our pursuit of happiness.

If they leave us behind, they have not done their Job.

36 comments:

Rachel Cotterill said...

I know you're on the opposite side of the pond, but so much of this rings true for the UK, too.

Joani said...

Sad but true. The ones working 4 us vote according 2 who pays them the most not the everyday working person. I feel it is not going 2 change without an uprising as is happening in Wisconsin & probably will be in other states. Thank U for bringing up this subject.

LindyLouMac said...

Rachel has already said it for me!

NormalToEatPB said...

It remind's me of Herbert Spencer, social darwinism, and objectivism. It's fine to have the thought that we need to cut back and that people should be entitlted to what they own, without thought for those who are unable. It's okay until you are unable. Does unable=worthless?

I know how I felt when I had to walk into a welfare center myself (I know you read my Enemy of the State entry Rosaria :) )

Thank you for letting me stand on a soap box for a second. . .

NormalToEatPB said...

sorry - that's 'earn' not 'own' (a bit of a fruedian slip i suppose :) )

Brian Miller said...

amen...the rich keep getting richer and soon enough the govt will be as broke as the rest of us...

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Rachel is so right it seems governments worldwide are all the same.
As for a modest pension, mine comes from S. Africa. The Rand exchange rate at the moment is quite good, but by the time it arrives in the UK and the bank takes their cut. I have less than £30 in my pocket per month. Not even enough to buy 1 loaf of bread per day. We have scrimped and saved ever since arriving back in the UK so that my husband will have a better pension from here. His pension from SA will be slightly better than mine but pretty useless!

ellen abbott said...

That's always the way isn't it? The ones who want to cut off all aid to the most vulnerable among us have no intention of refusing their own outrageous health care program and government pensions (for life I might add) or instituting a pay cut for themselves. it would be much easier to accept some of the cuts they want to force on everyone else if they would make a personal sacrifice first.

Grandmother said...

Well put. I get a headache thinking about all this and the benefit system I paid into while working not being available. How can that be just?

Eva Gallant said...

Amen, girl! I've always said that if they took the ceiling off social security, they'd have no problem keeping it funded. But the rich in congress keep voting to have people only pay on the first 80,000 or 90,000 of income. If some one makes 1,000,000, they should pay social security taxes on the full amount!

Donna said...

Agree Rosaria,...and that is why this 60 year old still works....and will need to continue to do so for probably many years to come!

Pseudo said...

Excellent piece of writing and opinions here. Well done.

We are in literature discussions in my 8th grade classroom, following the reading of Fever 1793. One quote we spent a deal of time on was "These are troubling times, they seem to bring out either the best or the worst in people...." The kids thought the store owner who raised his prices during the fever plague was "greedy..." it's interesting when I ask them to question these ideals in light of modern society and what they would or would not to to "get rich."

yaya said...

There are many aspects of retirement, government payouts, taxes and such I truly don't comprehend completely..what I do see in the health care field are many able bodied young people on welfare that do not have insurance, however are rewarded for having more and more children. I have a friend who, at 62, is gleefully receiving social security benefits..she's worked 11yrs. total and has been a housewife most of her married life. That is a fine and noble job, don't get me wrong. I just know that I'll be working until I'm 70 and will only receive a few hundred more a month than her. I must keep working so I can help support those that don't, or won't..it's the ones who truly can't that I have no trouble working harder to support. The bible says that the "poor will always be among us"..and I feel we do need to help all those who cannot help themselves. I do not feel I should have to bail out public employees who's pensions are failing...no one will bail mine out that I lost with the stock market crash...I lost almost half. So I'll continue to work hard as I've done my whole life and hope better days will come...

Journeyin' Lady... said...

I thought your Blog today was very insightful. And, as one of your other comments reads: "sad, but true"

dianefaith said...

Amen!

MerCyn said...

Cutting expenses is important, but the other side of the coin is increasing revenues. Create jobs, provide business incentives - more people working, paying taxes and less people needing assistance goes a long way. How many of us could cut our income, not cut expenses and spend more money? It doesn't make sense for us, and it doesn't work for the government.

SAB said...

Well said!

Retired English Teacher said...

Thank you for your wonderfully articulated, timely, and thoughtful words. I wish others were listening and reading.

quilterliz said...

G'day Rosaria. Much of what you say applies to Australia also. I know that I will be working past retirement age. It's scary what's happening and I can't see it getting better any time soon. Take care...

#1Nana said...

I agree. Where is the leadership that helps us see that we can be better than we are? I'm tired of the bashing of public employees and I'm tired of those who have so much whining about taxes. Although, if I'm truthful, I did a little bit of complaining this weekend as I started my taxes! Yes, I pay taxes on my pension!

Miss Sadie said...

The problem, Rosaria, is that the US has been spending like an inebriated sailor for decades. Huge expenditures on military adventurism and empire building (in the guise of national security) have literally bankrupted the country. If the Chinese start calling the loans they have given the US, there will be disaster.

Fortunately in Canada, we haven't gone as far down the same track, and our fiscal regulations have saved us from some of the major disasters which have hit the US. But with an extreme right-wing government now, I'm not so sure about Canada's future.

rosaria said...

If my memory serves me right, many companies used to have pension plans for their employees.
I remember Boeing, where my husband worked, mid nineties or so, changed the pension policy by converting them to 401k where the employee took all the risks. Look what happened to our 401k with the last recession?

Pensions were raided and disappeared in many cases before the government/the courts stepped in and forced companies to keep their hot little hands off the cookie jars.

Well, the government has not kept its hot little hands off our so called entitlement programs, Medicare, Social Security. They have dipped in, and spent any surplus time after time.

Now, the whining that we cannot afford these programs.
We cannot afford to do without them, to go back to the times when old people ended up in soup lines, or worse.

My point is that saving for retirement needs to be a solid program with lots of safeguards to guarantee that the money is there when people need it the most.

If companies thought as much about the welfare of the people who help them achieve that bottom line, rather than the bottom line, then a matching contribution is not too much to ask for future security.

We think of pensions as a free ride. No. It is earnings distributed at the end of a long career. First, when contracts were negotiated, as part of the yearly compensation agreement, and second, when the employee set aside his/her 8% contribution, usually matched by half by the employer, in the pension fund.

I wonder who is asking to get rid of pensions?

Are they the same people who want to get rid of unions?

Without unions, you would still have children working long hours, no breaks, not even bathroom facilities. You forgot?

Go talk to farm workers and they will educate you on this issue. Many did not get bathroom facilities until our food devoloped ecoli scares. Lo and behold, we had human waste right there in the fields, because those million dollars food industries didn't think of their workers as needing such luxuries.


We should all be demanding more pensions, more profit sharing, more tax breaks as workers. Do you wander why we are so anxious and can't afford our grocery bills? It's not the government that is creating this.

It's greed from those who make their living off your backs and will fight to keep all they make.

potsoc said...

I agree with you Rosaria but have very little hope that the "now" generation will have much sympathy with this discourse.
Our children will not support these measures whatever country we live in. They are faced with unstable employment, are sold around like hockey players or ancient slaves and have to set their own pension fund without state or company help,
We are fast heading back to "me, myself and I" as the golden rule or survival of the fittest.

Arkansas Patti said...

Can not argue with one word. Very well said and observed. Wouldn't hurt to send this post to your congress men and women. Thank you.

Gaston Studio said...

Some people seem to forget that we all worked and contributed money for our social security so that we would have money to live on once retired... that's what the "security" part means to me and I resent anyone trying to take that away. Take away the tax cuts for the rich yes, but I also feel there should be some serious downsizing in the government offices across the nation. Way too many people on their payrolls.

The Broad said...

I did not realize until a few months ago that the largest part of US debt is owed not to foreign countries such as China, but to public pension pots. Over 2 trillion dollars to Social Security. I don't think the powers that be are in a hurry to pay it back either. Better to 'rob' us than tax the rich or rescind tax breaks that were due to expire last December.

the walking man said...

We are rapidly becoming a kleptocracy.

We could pool all our money and still would not be able to outbid a single corporation for a single legislator. So what do we have...We have our feet and our voices and three hundred million souls not counted among the upper class.

So I say first use the voice then use the feet and fight the fight against them who would own us.

People need to get away from talk radio...just because it is easier to have them tell us what our opinions are rather than come to our own conclusions. People have to r4ealize sooner not later that all of them Glen Beck at the head of the pack will say or do anything to protect his own personal fortune including throwing the country he professes to love right in front of the damn train.

You know where I stand on this Rosaria and I will not back down. the school I tutor at is 73 years old for goodness sakes.

Anonymous said...

The "rich" in this country are not only entitled to keep what they earn, they are free to give willingly to help others, which many have always done. It's a concept that is one of the foundation blocks of the USA, and I hope we don't lose sight of that.

becky said...

Excellent words and thoughts. You have MY vote!!!

Forrest Seale said...

There's nothing wrong with most public pensions in this country. http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/pensions-2011-02.pdf Proof that most of the unfunded portions were caused by the 2008 equities crash and most of these liabilities have now been recovered. What is wrong is that corporations and the wealthiest 1% control the media and the media controls our minds. We believe what we are told if you say it often and loud enough. They will get their way. The pensions will be slashed. Then the private union employees will face the chopping block. After them will come everyone else toat works for a living. After the workers of this nation are unable to support themselves the wealthy will wind up in the gillotine. John Steinbeck said it best.

“And the great owners, who must lose their land in an upheaval, the great owners with access to history, with eyes to read history and to know the great fact: when property accumulates in too few hands it is taken away. And that companion fact: when a majority of the people are hungry and cold they will take by force what they need. And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.”

Rob and Trish MacGregor said...

When did we become a society of greedy people who ignore the homeless, the elderly, the infirm, the handicapped? How can we, in good conscience, as a people, a culture, a society, cut these programs?

Why not cut the pentagon budget? Why must we be the world's cop? Why are we sending untold billions to foreign countries where we have oil interests or other business interests? If more countries n the Mideast continue to fall, we will be paying ten bucks a gallon or more for gas. Is that a sufficient reason to support repressive, brutalk dictatorships? Read Naomi Klein. She lays it out, country by country, year by year.

Shock and awe. That's been our policy for decades. It's time for a profound change.

Forrest Seale said...

@ Anon who posted just above me. In the 1950's the highest income bracket was 91%. We did quite well then and if the tax code that was in place under Republican president D. D. Eisenhower were in place now I would agree with you. As it is now I would be concerned with keeping my head attached to my body in the near future with your outlook. Better remain Anon.

Existence said...

Very much Liberal thinking :P Everything you said is relative. There are people with opposing points of view that aren't necessarily bad people with an absence of morals.

yaya said...

Rosaria, Thanks so much for your kind words! Yes, Donna and I are "sort of" related...our hubby's are cousins. We have so much in common that we claim we're the ones closely related! I want to congratulate you on such a great post that has stirred wonderful thoughts, and good info for all of us. Many times I feel so uniformed or ignorant of what's really happening in our country and world that I appreciate the comments here and the thoughts you provide to help us all connect.

rosaria said...

Thanks, everyone.
We each have a unique perspective and we can learn from our insights and experiences.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

I think that everybody, rich or poor, should have to write a check at the end of the year for taxes. Even if it's only a dollar or two. You should have to pay something.
Sam