Last month, San Jose’s Democrat mayor Chuck Reed filed paperwork for a statewide ballot measure that would bring some sense and fairness to California’s crazy public employee pension disaster-in-the-making. His idea, co-endorsed by a half dozen other mayors of large California cities (five of them Democrats), is a simple one: Treat public employee unions like private employee unions.
Specifically, his measure, if approved, would lock in benefits already received but would open the door to negotiate changes moving forward. What we’re stuck with may be enough to sink us – about a half trillion dollars of unfunded liability by some accounts – but Reed’s measure could keep us from heaping more and more debt onto our state’s perilous financial condition.
In a bit of diplomacy, Reed asked the unions to meet to discuss the measure. Maybe he thought they would spare California voters the trouble of petition signing and the pain of listening to millions of dollars worth of distorted union commercials opposing the measure. If he thought for a moment public employee unions were ready to start acting responsibly, he couldn’t have been more wrong. In response to his offer, a letter signed by representatives of 17 public employee unions said:
Meaningful dialog can only occur in an environment of trust and sincerity. Your choice, to first introduce this draconian and flawed measure and then invite dialogue, shows a lack of both.
In other words, “Drop dead, Reed!”
What is so flawed about the measure? Well, let’s see what the unions have to say:
As you are well aware, there is a retirement crisis in California.
Yes, we knew that. Over-generous public pensions and benefits are indeed a crisis. A big, hairy, no-end-in-sight crisis. But that’s not the crisis the unions see.
A study released just this week noted that 42 percent of Americans say that saving money for retirement and paying their bills is not possible; 37 percent say they will never be able to retire, continuing to work until they are sick and die.
Rest assured that not one of those respondents had a CalPERS or CalSTERS pension coming his or her way. No, our public
servants masters will be able to retire at 55 or 60 (younger if they’re cops or fire fighters) with a pension that averages over $60,000 a year. The rest of us may work until we get sick and die, but not public employees. Nearly all of them will work until the day they’re fully vested and not a day more.
The unions’ response to reasonable and much-needed curtailment of their gold-plated gravy train is to say they’d like to see all society as loony as they are. They have no plan for attaining this goal, and they are not likely to present a plan anytime soon. they figure all they need, given their history of being able to dupe California’s millions of low-information voters, is a mere flimsy puff of smokescreen just thick enough to divert attention from their greed.
Hopefully even low-information voters are getting smart enough to understand destructive self-interest when they see it. If you know any who aren’t, please send them a copy of Crazifornia.