I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Benefits "Reform" - What's In It For You?

(Cross-posted at Blue Jersey)

Hey, you. Yeah you, the one reading the Star-Ledger. Do me a favor, would you? Put down the paper, turn off NJ101.5, and come over here for a minute.

Let's talk.

I know you've been following what's happening in Trenton. You seem pretty happy about what might happen to public workers tomorrow: losing health care benefits; losing pension benefits; losing collective bargaining. I was just wondering...

What's in it for you?

Wait, hear me out. I'm asking a simple question: where's the benefit in all of this for you, the average taxpayer in New Jersey. What do you get out of this deal?

Are your property taxes going to go down? No, it's clear at this point they won't. The bill does nothing to contain exploding health care costs or address the past shortfalls in funding the pensions: those are the two biggest drivers of your property taxes by far.

Again: what's in it for you?

Oh, you think since the workers have to kick in more, so you'll get to pay less for their benefits? Well, if health care costs continue to explode, that's a rather short-lived savings. In fact, the Treasury just testified that the bill will save only $5 million for the towns next year: less than a dollar a person throughout the state. Looks like you're still going to be paying plenty.

And as far as the pensions go: liabilities are going up and up and we still have to make up for the pension holiday the entire state took these last 20 years. In fact, the only thing keeping the system afloat are worker contributions; the increases every worker pays will pretty much be used to fund that. We won't get ahead of the debt incurred until more revenue comes in from sources other than public workers.

Again: what's in it for you?

"Fairness"? You think that just because your health care and retirement benefits are increasingly crappy, public workers should have to suffer the same fate?

Well, it's pretty well established that public workers, when you adjust for experience and education, make considerably less than what they would in the private workplace. Teacher wages haven't kept pace with the average NJ wage in over 20 years.

Good benefits were a way to keep wages lower so the taxpayer could save money. If you take those benefits away, you'll either have to raise wages, or lower expectations for the education, experience, and talent public workers bring to their jobs.

Do we want less educated teachers? Less experienced firefighters? Less talented public nurses? Or do we want to pay them more up front? It's not much of a choice.

Again: what's in it for you?

"Shared sacrifice"? You want public workers to pay up with everyone else suffering? Sounds good, except what happens to private wages and benefits when public worker wages and benefits take a dive? Do they get better - or worse? Does it helps the economy - or hurt it?

If you really think about it, you'll realize you already know the answer.

So, I ask once more: what's in this benefit "reform" for you?

Times are tough. People are hurting. We need real help, and we need it now.

But this is not real help (and big parts of it are probably illegal). It's a ruse; a distraction to keep our eyes off the massive income inequity that has resulted from a government that was bought and paid for by our overclass long ago.

If public workers take this hit tomorrow, you'll see a lot of these lackeys of the rich slapping each other on the back and praising themselves for the "boldness" and their "leadership." Don't believe it.

Because there is nothing in this bill for you.

1 comment:

thinker said...

Actually Duke...I beg to differ. There is plenty in this bill for taxpayers. See, here is how the economy works: people work and make money and when they need stuff (or, if they are lucky enough to have some disposable income-when they want something), they buy it. This supports the businesses around NJ...you know, the ones that employ taxpayers? So when a bunch of people (public workers) have less money to spend, they buy less stuff and those businesses now make less money. Thus, those businesses now have less money to pay employees with and those employees get less raises, pay more for benefits (and we all know those aren't going down any time soon), or worse (job loss). I know you know this Duke...it's just those who are clapping their hands at this legislation who don't seem to see it. The middle class drives the economy, the rich never have and never will. Fools.