Pension Change: That Sound we Keep Hearing

Lean Blitz

And we’re talking about this…

The mistake that municipal workers and their unions are making today is failing to learn from this debacle. As great as defined-benefit pensions sound, they are only as secure as the finances and political will of the future. (Keith Noughton, P-G)

Given this bloke is a former Republican consultant, what do you say to the reasoning?

It’s not as though this idea is wholly unfamiliar. And it’s not as though the City of Pittsburgh’s recent value-injection and the recently roaring stock market provide any semblance of sustainability.

4 thoughts on “Pension Change: That Sound we Keep Hearing

  1. Jerry

    Given that a pension is basically a promise to pay today's workers with tomorrow's dollars, it's irresponsible. Pay your workers what you can pay them now, with the money you have. Don't kick the can down the road and force some future mayor to figure out how to make ends meet. You don't have to be a Republican consultant to see the sense in that.

  2. Bram Reichbaum

    One could make the same argument about Social Security, but what about the idea that the social contract routinely asks future, more productive generations to provide benefits for their elders who have already earned it?

    If we all had a broad, settled consensus that all workers of every stripe deserve a long, comfortable retirement and that the public is going to consider it a priority in all seasons to provide that for public workers come what may, it'd be no problem. But unfortunately we don't. And since we don't, we (rather, politicians) can't actually deliver it. And the calamity of insisting otherwise (cheating death one and two years at a clip, with gimmicks and limb-eating, until the jig is up) might mean a lot of good things for social revolutionaries — since it will expose a lot of hypocrisies and inequities in the system — but there will be a generation or two of martyr worker elders offered up in order to fulfill that gambit. It would be better to totally avoid that and continue being a city. I think for the workers as well.

  3. Jerry

    But there's a difference. Social Security is a social benefit program, from the government (all of us) to the citizens (all of us, a few years from now). It's a social safety net. Pension is a benefit of employment, from government (again all of us) to a narrow group of people. The idea of Social Security, agree with it or not, is to be a safety net. It would be awkward, I think, to argue that a public workers' pension is also a social safety net; if it provides for a small group of people (namely the lucky, the overachievers, and the well-connected) at the expense of the general population, it sounds a little like Tammany Hall.

    So it's not a safety net, it's a benefit of employment. And any employer willing to mortgage the future and force bills on people not yet born is being irresponsible, gaining favor using other people's money, knowing he'll never be called to account.

    > there will be a generation or two of martyr worker elders offered up

    Yes, OR — we stanch the hemorrhaging, pay what is owed, but stop promising city workers that the next administration will find a way to pay them. Just pay them what we can afford now. I realize this is going to lead to pay cuts and job losses, but that's going to happen anyhow. The decision we have is whether we address the issue head on, or let it linger until it becomes absolutely impossible to continue.


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