Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Public Pensions and the Fight Ahead

Governor Scott Walker, Republican ideologue from Wisconsin has done something that I did not think possible a few months ago. Walker has mobilized unions that will serve as counterweight to any Tea Party movement in this country. Governor Scott has ruined chances for Republican leadership in my estimation. Good for him; keep talking Scott Walker, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, you guys are the best thing to happen to the Democratic Party since Franklin Roosevelt had to step in and clean up the Republican mess left by ideologues like you. Remember Republicans; Democrats won 5 consecutive Presidential elections and they only lost because a moderate for all of the people stepped forward to rescue the ideological bankrupt Republican Party. Dwight was a guy for all of the people.

Walker's attempt to strip employee unions of power has nothing to do with the reality of state financial burdens. Everyone needs to read the current McClatchy Report; Why employee pensions aren't bankrupting states. This is a great report that underscores the true reason why Republicans are trying to gain political capital by scapegoating public employees and attacking their pensions.

In Rhode Island, our new Democratic Treasurer, Gina Raimondo has had the nerve to say that she believes that retirees may not own their pensions nor do state employees. Oh really: Who the hell do you think put the money into the fund? Employees put 8.75% of their income and school teachers put 9.5% into the system over their careers of 30+ years, and the state matches that whenever they feel like it (this is the problem), and now you say that system is taxpayer money? Gina Raimondo, you border on delusional and do not belong in a position to speak for the citizens of a free country! You will not get my vote next time around and never will get my vote unless you apologize to all of the hard working public employees across this state.

Governor Lincoln Chafee will be proposing steps to help secure the state's financial position tomorrow. One recommendation will be to increase state employee and teacher contributions to 11.5% for an interim period until a comprehensive pension overhaul can be achieved. Rhode Island employee contributions are already the highest in the Nation and now the move is to increase that by 2% for teachers and 2.75% for state employees?

At first I was really angry at the idea, then I realized it may well be brilliant. The Congress just reduced contributions to Social Security for workers and employers by 2%. This is something that Obama should never have agreed to do. Republicans will use this loss of revenue to argue for privatization of social security. Chafee's plan will result in little change in take home income for public employees that pay into state retirement as well as social security. Money that formerly was going to the Federal Government will now accrue towards the state's retirement plan.

Union workers do not want their pensions decreased. My guess is that most union workers will see this as a step toward fully funding the promises. I must admit though, until the state of Rhode Island taxes all of the yachts in Narragansett Bay, I find it hard to take money away from the hard working middle class.

One last comment that I have already made a half dozen times before in this blog. Donald Carcieri, our past ideologue governor attacked pensions and attacked public employees every day for eight years. Carcieri took 3000 state employees out of the system and yet his final budget proposal called for a 9% increase (from $7 billion to $7.8 billion). Employees are not the problem as salary, fringe and benefits of all employees account for 17% of the entire budget on an annual basis. Public employee pensions are not bankrupting the system. Republican privatization practices are bankrupting the system (more money to their friends).


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