There are many implicit rationalizations justifying paying generous government pensions. Here are my nominations for the top ten bogus excuses:
1. “Public employees deserve high pensions because of their low pay.”
FALSE. Perhaps true at one time, but not anymore. In many instances, today’s government employees are earning 10%-30% more than their true private sector counterparts — with far better job guarantees.
2. “Government employees should not have to save for retirement.”
FALSE. They can use retirement accounts to add to their nest eggs — just like the rest of us. They can invest in stocks, real estate, annuities — just like the rest of us.
3. “Government employees deserve to retire earlier than private sector employees.”
FALSE. If they do “need” to retire early, they can get another job to supplement income (as do most military retirees).
4. “Government employees and their families deserve to live and retire comfortably from a single 40 hour a week job.”
FALSE. Today most private sector middle income and upper middle income couples fully expect to generate multiple incomes — working over 40 hours and/or both working.
5. “Government workers deserve guarantees because they are ‘public servants’ not motivated by greed.”
FALSE. As a group, public employees, thanks to their their unions, are as greedy as they come, and they rely on the force of government to get what they want. The REAL “public servants” are the TAXPAYERS.
6. “No matter how many or few years a public employee works for government, their only source of retirement income is (and should be) their government pensions.”
FALSE. Downright ludicrous. Yet government pension apologists will point to a 10 year government worker’s relatively modest pension, bemoaning the worker’s poverty-stricken plight at retirement. They include such workers in their “average government pension” propaganda.
7. “Many government employees don’t get social security.”
LARGELY FALSE — or at least misleading. While many public employees don’t pay into social security, most can qualify for at least a minimum social security income from other jobs.
8. “Without guaranteed pensions, many government employees would retire in poverty.”
LARGELY FALSE — or at least not the fault of taxpayers. This assertion is based on the absurd assumption that, unlike private sector employees, government employees would (and should) otherwise save nothing for their senior years.
9. “Many government employees should be able to retire with essentially the same income they earned on the job.”
FALSE. This is the “90% pension at 30 years” common in public safety jobs — and for too many other government employees (including all San Diego County government employees). Indeed, given that a retired employee no longer pays for pensions, union dues, Medicare, or commuting costs, a 90% pension is actually HIGHER than the net salary received while working.
10. “We have to pay top pensions to attract ‘the best and the brightest’ to government work.”
FALSE — and a bad idea to start with. We DON’T want to attract “the best and the brightest” to government work. We need such folks in PRODUCTIVE employment in the private sector. All that government pensions do is to assure that government employees STAY as government employees – regardless of work quality.
Richard Rider is the chairman of San Diego Tax Fighters, a grassroots pro-taxpayer group. Rider successfully sued the county of San Diego (Rider vs. County of San Diego) to force a rollback of an illegal 1/2-cent jails sales tax, a precedent that saved California taxpayers over 14 billion dollars, including $3.5 billion for San Diego taxpayers. He has written ballot arguments against dozens of county and state tax increase initiatives and in 2009 was named the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association’s “California Tax Fighter of the Year.”