Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Public Workers In The Crosshairs

Some of my fellow bloggers have commented that we haven't lived up to the "politics" portion of our tagline, so time to make good on our 1 month anniversary.

It is not surprising that in hard economic times everyone likes to point the finger at the "other guy" as the problem. Last year people were driving by the homes of AIG executives and threatening them, this year everyone wants to fire all their kids teachers. While it is obvious that we need to make some changes, instead of constructive conversations everyone seems to pick the villain of the day and crucify them. Right now, public employees across the board are clearly the target. Do they really deserve all the scorn?

I'll be the first to admit that many people I know with government jobs have a pretty good gig. Not getting laid off unless you stab someone in the face, pensions, and overtime are great perks. Especially compared to what some of us in the private sector have to deal with. Despite that, I'm going to make the argument that for the following two reasons this isn't where we should be focusing our anger:

1) Everything they have was negotiated as part of a contract. It is one thing to change things for those going forward, but if existing employees "out negotiated" the other party it is not fair to go back and say "Ooops, that was a bad deal for us, let's change it up."

2) Call me a Socialist, but public workers aren't the group of the population dominating a high % of the wealth in this country. It is not fair to let the CEO's on Wall Street responsible for the economic collapse get off with tax payer supported golden parachutes and then go crazy over 3% raises for garbage men.


  1. How has Bottle not commented on this yet?

  2. I know I thought this would bait him.

  3. Don't even get me started. I should just move to Canada.

  4. So does that mean you agree that we shouldn't be blaming public workers for all our problems?

  5. Don't get me started either.....

  6. The problem is that local governments over promised on pension benefits. Do you continue with a system that is clearly not working? Of course not, you try to fix it. States can't run on a deficit so the budget has to be balanced. That leaves three options.
    1. Reduce benefits/increase contributions
    2. Tax people more
    3. Declare bankruptcy and default on all your muni bonds. This is the least likely and in a very gray legal area. But everyone would be screwed, most of all public workers as they would have to go to bankruptcy court to get their benefits and it would be pennies on the dollar.

    The crux of the pension reformers argument is that a doomsday financial scenario would occur if "something" is not done. I tend to agree. In NY alone, the pension shortfall is 120 bn. It has increased 10x in the past decade and will double and triple in the next couple of years.