Ten Holiday Attacks On Public Employees
By Dave Johnson
December 28, 2010 - 2:04pm ET
If you haven't already noticed, there is a
corporate/conservative campaign underway to convince the
public that public employees are living high on the
taxpayer's dime and should have their pay and pensions
cut back. Even during the holidays this attack does not
Background: The Reagan Revolution ended most
"defined-benefit" (they pay you) pensions for working
people in the private sector, replacing them with
"defined-contribution" (you pay Wall Street) pensions.
Now with the Great Recession employers have cracked down
and private-sector workers are afraid and not willing to
risk their jobs by speaking out about abuses. With
private workers sector out under control, conservatives
are targeting public employee pay and pensions. They are
driving resentment of government employees by casting
them as overpaid and receiving good benefits at a time
when everyone else is under the corporate thumb.
Private-sector employees have made sacrifices, so now
government employees should, too, they say.
When you see this kind of coordinated campaign from the
right (and "mainstreamed" by corporate media) you know
it is part of a larger strategic plan. The larger plan
is to weaken public-employee unions, including teacher's
Here is how conservatives turn a strategic narrative
into "conventional wisdom" through repetition. Phony
conservative think tank "studies" show there is a
"crisis," that pensions are "gold-plated," etc. This
campaign claims the crisis is in government employee
pension funds. They also claim public employees are very
highly paid compared to the private sector. Then they
explain how the "average voter" is affected. This time
the claim is high state property and income taxes or an
impending "crisis" that cold force states to go
bankrupt. When specifically attacking teacher's unions
the claim is that schools are not educating kids because
teacher unions block reform.
The news stories follow a conservative template almost
word-for-word. You will see phrases like: "Lavish" or
"luxurious" or "back-breaking" and "gold-plated"
government pensions. You'll hear that "Taxpayers
shoulder the burden" of pensions.
For perspective: Congress just passed tax cuts for the
rich along with a huge cut in the estate tax, Wall
Street bonuses are up, corporate profits are the highest
ever, the top 1% are taking home a higher percentage of
all income, and sales of luxury items are breaking
Here are ten holiday-season media attacks on public
George Will, Don't let states like California seek
federal bailouts on pensions
The nation's menu of crises caused by governmental
malpractice may soon include states coming to Congress
as mendicants, seeking relief from the consequences of
their choices. ...
... under bankruptcy, judges could rewrite union
contracts or give states powers to do so, thereby
reducing existing pension obligations.
Newsday, Reeling in public workers' pensions, insurance,
Civil servants have long prized these benefits as the
payoff for a career yoked to lower-paying jobs, but
their rapidly rising cost has led to growing resentment
in an economy that has forced a relentless tide of
layoffs and givebacks in the private-sector workforce.
Defined-benefit pensions are disappearing from the
private sector. Retiree health coverage is almost
unheard of. On Long Island, even the average
private-sector wage has fallen behind government pay ...
Wall Street Journal, Pensions Push Taxes Higher,
Cities across the nation are raising property taxes,
largely citing rising pension and health-care costs for
their employees and retirees.
Ocean County (NJ) Examiner: Public pensions getting
deeper into the red,
While New Jersey can lessen regulatory loads on
business, lowering tax rates is difficult as this
exacerbates pension deficit problems. The obvious
solution is long term and entails lowering government
worker pension and benefit packages. ... Public sector
unions have demonstrated an unwillingness to forego past
agreements in the interest of promoting fiscally sound
San Diego Union Tribune: Government pay practices must
At a time when there's rising fury over public
employees' generous pensions, the report used official
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' data to show there's
one more big area where the taxpayer-funded public
sector is thriving at a time of private-sector misery.
Here's why property taxes are soaring ...,
The crisis in state pensions is cascading into a
Cities across the nation are raising property taxes,
largely to cover rising pension and health-care costs
for their employees and retirees.
Washington Examiner: America's public pension crisis has
The biggest obstacle to preventing what happened in
Pritchard from happening nationwide might be the public
employees themselves. Public union leaders simply refuse
to believe America is out of money.
Milwaukee, Walker, Barrett seek checks on unions
Walker, who has tangled with Milwaukee County unions as
county executive, is gearing up for a clash with state
workers, seeking wage and benefit cuts and threatening
legislation to weaken or eliminate state unions'
bargaining rights if they won't agree to concessions.
Chicago Sun-Times, 'Sucking the system dry',
Jim Tobin, president of National Taxpayers United of
Illinois, held a news conference at the St. Charles
Public Library to discuss what he called a threat to
every Illinois taxpayer.
... Tobin also released names of retired Kane County
government employees who are receiving what he called
"lavish, gold-plated pensions."
Snyder to start with attack on public-sector spending,
Private-sector companies and workers have made many
sacrifices, he said, "and we all need to share in this.
So it's now the public sector coming into more alignment
with what the private sector has already done."
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