Archive for Monday, March 28, 2011

Pension plaint

Public employees should temper their criticism of the kind of 401(k) retirement plans that are the only option for many employees in the private sector.

March 28, 2011


It is understandable that teachers and other state employees want to fight a proposal in the Kansas Legislature to move their retirement system from a pension plan to a 401(k)-style plan.

However, they should be careful not to seem out of touch with current financial realities.

Recent comments surrounding the 401(k) discussion have left some observers questioning whether state employee groups fully understand the challenges facing private sector employers and employees.

For example, a March 8 Associated Press article quoted a lobbyist for the Kansas Organization of State Employees. “Do you really want to take your retirement security and gamble it on the stock market?” the lobbyist asked while opposing the 401(k) plan.

That, of course, is what many private sector workers do each day. It is not that private sector workers necessarily want to take that gamble, but for their employers, traditional pension plans are quickly becoming nothing more than a memory of a different time. In an era when profits are highly unpredictable, especially for small businesses, it is unreasonable to expect a company to offer a pension plan that guarantees a certain retirement income regardless of what else happens in the economy — or in the stock market, where many of those pension funds are invested.

Whether the state should move to a 401(k)-style retirement system is a question that requires more study. The details of how such a switch would be made and how the state would finance it should be carefully examined. It is a complicated and important issue.

We expect the leaders of state employee groups to remain engaged and closely follow the process. But we hope that they will do so in a way that acknowledges that private sector workers already have had to adapt their retirement strategies to new economic realities.

If leaders of state employee groups maintain their current rhetoric, dwindling pension funds won’t be their only concern. Public sympathy will quickly dwindle as well.


deec 6 years, 8 months ago

When I've had jobs that offered 401K retirement plans, I could opt out of contributing. Will government employees be allowed to opt out if this goes through? Just because private employers do it does not mean it is the best way.

Phillbert 6 years, 8 months ago

Why is the solution to declining wages and benefits for private sector workers always that the same should happen in the public sector? In an era of outsized corporate profits and huge executive compensation, why is the solution never that private sector workers should be better compensated?

imastinker 6 years, 8 months ago

What exactly are you suggesting? That the government mandate wages for those in the private sector?

Phillbert 6 years, 8 months ago

No. I am suggesting that private sector workers seek better benefits. The whole "I lost my benefits so you should lose yours" game only makes everyone poor.

imastinker 6 years, 8 months ago

How exactly do you suggest we do this?

What makes everyone poor is paying a large chunk of their money in taxes and then dealing with inflation and stagnant growth.

notanota 6 years, 8 months ago

Well, one way you could do it is to allow the state to offer competitive wages and benefits rather than demanding that their compensation packages remain below that of the private sector.

imastinker 6 years, 8 months ago

Below the private sector??

You've got to be kidding me! Look at my 8:32 post with real salaries and benefits of state workers.

notanota 6 years, 8 months ago

Did you list the years of experience and education and training requirements for the positions? Get back to me when you have an actual apples-to-apples comparison instead of a few cherry-picked examples.

Oh, and LOL at your examples, since you pick out the highest paid employee in the database and imply that all the >30k administrative assistants at KU are somehow overpaid because you found a single example that earned almost $80k.

Out of curiosity, I googled the name and found out that his position was actually assistant director and chief engineer for the Audio-Reader Network. He manages the budget and has designed technical systems. I think that's at least an 80k job, and the private sector salary would likely be higher.

notanota 6 years, 8 months ago

Another way you could do that is to unionize.

Charlie Bannister 6 years, 8 months ago

I am always amazed when I read the comments of many on here who are just out of touch with the way things are. It is not that I necessarily like it, but we have some realities to face, and the article touches on them very well. I am a blue collar worker in the private sector. Always have been. I have never been covered under a defined benefit pension plan. I feel lucky to even have a 401k. High corporate taxation and greedy unions drove jobs out of the country. That is just a fact. Some corporate greed was involved too, to be sure. These public pension plans have unfunded liabilities going way into the trillions of dollars (Federal) and to a lesser extent on the state levels, but still very serious. Grow up people. This is reality. I have been living it all my life. (51 years old)

Phillbert 6 years, 8 months ago

It is not a fact. Actual corporate taxes paid are some of the lowest in the world thanks to loopholes. That's how GE got a tax REFUND despite billions in profits - they game the system and leave us holding the bag. And don't even try to claim that what's left of the unions have even a fraction of the influence that many on the right claim.

As long as Americans feel "lucky" to have benefits rather than expecting them as part of fair compensation then nothing will improve.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 8 months ago

Our economic overlords certainly want you to think that public employees are the problem. Backbiting between workers in the private sector and those in the public sector makes it much easier for them to raid us all for just a little more investment capital for the Wall Street crap game where they make out like bandits, and the rest of us pick up the tab.

imastinker 6 years, 8 months ago

I couldn't agree more. I hear all these government workers complain about their salaries and benefits, but I would gladly work some of these jobs:

Highway Patrol Captain: 70k-90k (in 2007)

Administrative asst @ KU: 80k/yr

Equipment Operator for KDOT: 40k-50k

Keep in mind that these include retirement contributions, ample vacation pay (up to 169 hours/year), sick time (96.2 hours/yr?), holidays (9 days/year), and health insurance. Add up that time off - it's over 10 weeks off per year. Even brand new employees get as much vacation time as sick leave (3.7 hours/biweekly pay period), which is over 2 weeks.

I get five paid holidays and two weeks vacation, and am lucky to get it. Lots of folks only get one week vacation.

Here's the link:

Graczyk 6 years, 8 months ago

The problem is that you just want to take from other people instead of fighting to make a better life for yourself. That's why people organize - so that they can have a voice. Get off your duff and make something positive happen for yourself instead of something negative happen to someone else.

imastinker 6 years, 8 months ago

Who is taking from who? I do the work that pays the salaries of these people. About half my pay goes to the government before I get to spend it.

Add it up sometime:

Federal income tax: 0%-35% marginal rate - probably 15% for most people FICA: 10% State Income Tax: 6% Sales Tax : 9% Property Tax (on houses and personal property) $3000 for a cheap house and misc property

I think we are pretty close to half right there for most people. We're not even including all the hidden taxes we pay, like road tax on gasoline or sin taxes on alcohol or cigarettes, or even fees for things like a drivers license or vehicle registration or speeding tickets and court fees.

notanota 6 years, 8 months ago

Public employees also work and pay taxes on their wages.

Joshua Montgomery 6 years, 8 months ago

Lets add it up for the Koch brothers too, while we are at it:

15% Capital Gains Tax Lets say they spend 10% of their income on items that are subject to sales tax: 10% * 9% sales tax = 0.9%

Lets say 1.5% goes to property taxes.

Kochs total tax rate: 17.4%

Now lets add up mine:

I am in 25% federal income tax bracket. I pay 7.5% in Medicare and Social Security Tax I pay 6% State Income Tax.

Of the 61.5% I keep, I spend around 30% on items subject to sales tax, so that is another 1.6%

I also pay property taxes, so that is around another 1.5%.

My total tax rate: 41.6%

So super rich kids who inherited their money from their dad: 17.4%

Guy who is building an ISP from scratch, creating jobs and enabling other local businesses: 41.6%

Seems fair to me.

Maybe we should fix this disparity FIRST, and talk about benefits for public sector workers, the military, the poor and the elderly AFTER we have implemented a more equitable system.

Gedanken 6 years, 8 months ago

I guess there is nothing stopping you from applying for those jobs? Let's make a deal - you apply for a state job and then report back to use how much you make. I think you are going to be shocked at what you actually make.

Even better - how about your examine those figures a little bit. Notice that they don't list how many years they have worked for the state or break down how much of that pay may be over time or other benefits.

notanota 6 years, 8 months ago

$80k "Administrative assistant" @ KU: is the assistant director and chief engineer for the Audio-Reader Network. As the assistant director, Kincaid's responsibilities include compiling in-house budgets and advising the director on technology decisions. As the chief engineer, he is in charge of all of the audio-visual equipment and is responsible for maintaining the 24-hour, statewide audio-reader signal via a satellite network. Kincaid recently designed a computerized system that enables people to call a number on their touch-tone telephone and hear a recorded voice reading the Kansas City Star. It is the only system worldwide capable of delivering both human and synthesized voices. Kincaid has been as staff member at KU for 10 years.

notanota 6 years, 8 months ago

Actually $22 per hr would be around $44k per year if someone only worked a 40 hour work week. The 80+ work hours were offset with extended time off per the job description.

All I saw was the salary on the KC star listing imastinker posted, so if you've got an actual job description, education level, job hours, and years of experience to go with it along with a comparable private sector job with similar requirements, please do enlighten us.

imastinker 6 years, 8 months ago

You realize you're asking about a $10-$13/hr job in this area, right? That $22/hr job is for relocation to a work camp in an oil field in the middle of nowhere.

You can say what you want, but those positions at our city and state and federal levels all earn about $15-$25/hr. Have you seen how many applications some in for a position to work for a city or government job? It's a lot....

notanota 6 years, 8 months ago

So the exact job description, skills, experience and education level for the employees you think are overcompensated is posted where again?

Here's an opening for the state, and it looks like it pays $10 an hour with chances for promotion based on experience and skills. Hardly seems grossly overpaid to me. But hey, not knowing much of the market, I'm also willing to bet that part of the difference may be that recent declines in construction have depressed wages for new positions while public wages remained stagnant instead of declining.

I'm not surprised there are a lot of applicants for a city or government job. With a 10% unemployment rate, I would imagine there would be applicants for just about any sort of job, especially one that appeared to be stable instead of seasonal.

Care to comment about the supposed 80k admin asst position you tried to pawn off as proof of overpaid labor? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Gedanken 6 years, 8 months ago

High corporate taxation and greedy union jobs didn't drive anything out of the country. Unions may shift the work within the country a bit - take automobile manufacturers like Toyota. Toyota has 5 assembly plants in the U.S. If we use your argument then those plants shouldn't exist!

jafs 6 years, 8 months ago

According to something I just heard this morning on the radio, 2/3 of corporations pay no federal income tax at all.

notanota 6 years, 8 months ago

I think it's actually time for the LJW editorial staff to ask Dolph why they don't have a better retirement package rather than demanding that public employees who sacrificed wages for deferred compensation get a worse deal.

I can do ok on a 401k (to which my contributions are voluntary), but it's not the way I'd prefer to plan my retirement, because I don't like gambling on stock market stability. However, I'm stuck with what I have right now. By the end of 2008, the largest 100 companies underfunded their pensions by $217 billion. And we expect workers to just roll over and take it? Are states supposed to emulate private companies and keep underfunding their obligations, too?

State workers did not get lavish bonuses and compensation from stock options during the best of times, because they sacrificed the pay for stability, and now we foolishly spent that money on other things instead of funding the retirement system we promised to deliver them.

We're also making long-term decisions based on a short-term revenue crunch, unless you believe we're in a permanent jobless recession and will never recover. Do you believe that? If so, teacher pensions are the least of our worries.

average 6 years, 8 months ago

You don't have to gamble on the stock market if you don't want to. I've seen very few 401k's that didn't have an annuity option along with other fixed-income investments. Make your own defined-benefit. Even if it doesn't, when you change jobs you can roll that 401k money to an IRA which can certainly be put in an annuity.

It's just that you'd have to put a whole darned lot of your income into a 401k (and probably deeply shrink your retirement ambitions) if you expect that annuity income will be enough.

notanota 6 years, 8 months ago

I've got an aggressively balanced portfolio, because I'm still young enough and started early enough to have time to recover from downturns. I do the best I can with the choices I'm given, even if it's not how I'd prefer to handle it. Barring longterm unemployment (knock on all available wood) or other reasons I'd need to pull that money out, I should be just fine.

However, I recognize that my neighbor's problem is still my problem. My house still devalues when he can't make the payments. My city still loses businesses when he can't afford to eat more than catfood. I can't fathom why we resent letting retired schoolteachers and firefighters have a pension these days because we ourselves are given crappy choices at the workplace while the CEO works a couple years and gets a golden parachute. Why don't we just demand better choices for ourselves?

notanota 6 years, 8 months ago

We continue to get caught in this trap by thinking the way out is to shortchange our employees. Your sister was screwed. Cutting pensions for other employees will not create a pension for her.

You are absolutely correct that we need to stop buying cheap crap from overseas if we want to keep the cheap crap building jobs in the US. However, is that what we really want? Wouldn't it be better to let China have all the cheap crap jobs and instead compete on high quality and innovative services? The problem with cheap labor is that eventually someone else will have more of it than you.

Our debt does need to be tackled, but it doesn't need to be paid for by those who earn the least. If we'd have let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire instead of turning them into the Obama tax cuts for the rich, there would be a lot less of this debt to complain about.

notanota 6 years, 8 months ago

What we deem beneath us is paying Chinese wages. Even the Chinese don't necessarily pay Chinese wages. They artificially control the price of currency in order to keep their labor costs down relative to other countries. And still they manage to have super low-paying jobs, denied health care benefits, and flagrant work safety hazards. Is that really where we want to go? Do we really want to bottom out our bottom and make sure that the most underpaid workers are paid less?

You mistake my call for quality for some sort of assertion that everyone will be a rocket scientist in the new global economy. There's still room for unskilled labor and on the job training even in a market primarily driven by quality and luxury items, and there will always be room for people with job skills and training in things like construction, electrical work, and plumbing. Those are perhaps the safest jobs of all, because they can't move overseas.

That said, I'd still vote to end overseas tax shelters and stop rewarding companies for outsourcing. That's the least we can do.

jafs 6 years, 8 months ago


In fact, we could reward them for keeping jobs here, and/or punish them for outsourcing them as well.

Or simply require that companies that do x percent of their sales here employ the same percentage of American workers.

optimist 6 years, 8 months ago

Is it just me or is it everywhere that you see a union you see large under funded pension plans. The unions have gotten powerful not by fighting the corporate interests for the betterment of their membership but have rather joined the corporate interests and sold their membership down the river in favor of their own political power.

They weren’t dumb enough to think that these pensions would remain solvent ad infinitum while being under funded. They were so aware of this that many of the pension plans became backed by the federal government (paid for by the rest of us) through the combined lobbying efforts of corporations and unions. Does GM or United Airlines ring a bell? United Airlines defaulted on their pension plan; neither United nor the Air Worker’s Union accepted any responsibility for creating the pension monster or the fall-out when the federal government agency responsible for managing the defaulted pension plan cut pensions to already retired employees by 20-50%.

All of these follies simply defer the cost to future generations. Raising taxes will only further dampen opportunities for our posterity. This is simply put legalized generational theft. Anyone that thinks this is all okay should go into their children’s bedroom pick up their piggy bank and raise it above your head. Now throw it against the floor as hard as you can for effect, collect all of the money and go out and buy yourself that new TV or other material item that you value so much you are willing to steal your children’s future for it.

notanota 6 years, 8 months ago

Yes, clearly the toothless public employee unions in Kansas deliberately spent money that should have been designated for KPERS. It wasn't at all the fault of the politicians in charge of the budget at the time. So glad you found them out, good sir.

sully97 6 years, 8 months ago

Comparing the public to the private sector is a false equivalence and will prove quite damaging over the long run:

1) The public sector's is service-driven mission, not a profit-driven one. If we want our public institutions to be profit-driven, then they will be forced to operate in terms of socializing risk and privatizing gain. They will be driven to provide the least amount of service for the highest attainable cost.

Government agencies must address the entire public, not just paying customers. For example, government agencies must take the capability of all into account. Capabilities and services are often hindered by the lowest common denominator as a result. If we're talking about something like access to government information, we have to think about rural populations without modern access. Granted, this example has little to do with pensions, but if we're going to compare the public and private sectors, we have to ask ourselves why the private sector hasn't connected our rural residents to the internet while government is attempting to? If government is run like a business, it will act like one.

2) Pension programs, benefits, and employment protections provide stability and security for employees, which is exactly what you want when it comes to public service. You want to attract talent and you don't want high turn over. Imagine an emergency management agency with a 50% turn-over rate and a constant flux of new employees during a crisis and you begin to see why steady, secure public-sector jobs are important.

3) A good number of pension programs were already invested in programs similar to 401Ks. That's why they came up short when the market crashed. It was a failure and we are hemorrhaging talent and capability as a result.

4) Those in the private sector took the risks associated with higher gains and, like most gamblers, come up short now and again. We're asking our public sector workers to assume an equal amount of risk without the associated chance of wealth, esp. when we consider the suppression of their wages and bargaining power.

5) Wage suppression and high levels of risk lend themselves to corruption. Without job and retirement security, we will see a growing number of public sector employees make decisions to ensure that security.

We either want a democratic government or we want a corporation, but we can't have both. The two are not the same. Their missions and objectives are different. Their structures are different. The laws governing them are different. Their decision making is different. The expectations of them from the public are different. All of which are reflected in differences in their models of compensation, as they should be.

sully97 6 years, 8 months ago

"Do you honestly think that companies don’t want stability and security in their employment ranks too?"

Yes, they want stability insofar as it enables their business practices. However, most would opt for the efficiency of automation above loyalty to a workforce. They are not bound by any broader obligation to the public than that.

"In 1960, the US military removed wool from its list of strategic materials. However, it was not defunded until 1995. Add to that the fact that the subsidy disproportionately benefited the few largest producers. That is 35 years past the end of the requirement."

This has nothing to do with employee compensation but it does say something about the influence of the market in government.

"If on the other hand you are suggesting that the government take over the telcom industry and thus provide phone service for us in order to make sure rural areas have phone service, do you really think they would be more efficient?"

Depends on the goal of a program. Do we want service or efficiency? If fiscal efficiency, then keep broadband the way it is. If it's a service goal, then [as your post suggests] only government action or intervention of some sort will bring it to them because its simply not efficient for companies to run a wire to every rural house. The main point was simply to illustrate the different outcomes between public and private policies regarding the saem subject.

"Do you have any idea what you are talking about? I didn’t go into the private sector with the idea I would get richer than if I go into the public sector."

Missing the point here. The entire justification of a privatized system is that it's supposed to give people, the individual, the opportunity to ascend without limit based on market principles. Not so in the public sector. It wasn't long ago that most people were appalled at teachers' salaries. Today teachers are demonized for that same salary. That was always the thinking behind public employment: the trade of wealth for security and stability.

"So are you saying that for instance police officers working with drug busts will naturally take the drugs seized and re-sell them since they know that is the only way to make more money than the drug pushers?"

Corruption and abuse take many forms but the motives and forces behind them are usually very similar. There is a statistically significant relationship between compensation, personal security and corruption.

"Even if we took every dime that Bill Gates, the Walton’s, Warren Buffet, Koch’s brothers, etc have we still would have debts."

Yes, under a fairer tax system we would still have debt but not necessarily deficits and degraded services.

sully97 6 years, 8 months ago

These are services. The example you used was of supporting military service. The problem you identified is one of fraud, waste, abuse, corruption or all of the above.

sully97 6 years, 8 months ago

"So you are saying that the government would rather keep its own employed, than have a reduction when automation has replaced the need for some employees? In other words, the public sector has no qualms spending the public’s money even when it no longer makes sense to do so?"

I am simply saying that when there are problems with an economy, it is considered the government's responsibility to respond. If it weren't we wouldn't hold our presidents governors and mayors responsible for economic conditions. Corporations have a responsibility to their share holders but not necessarily to the broader public. They weren't designed to. Government was. The two have vastly different reasons for existing.

Automation is proving a long term problem and will most likely drive a shorter workweek and higher productivity as it did during the industrial revolution. It's the only way to keep enough jobs around to support an economy. However, it was government that ushered in that 40 hour workweek. It was not done voluntarily by business even though it proved to huge economic boon for them later on. Think of it like this: If the workweek were still 70 or more hours per week, given the state of automation today there would not be enough jobs to support the population. There would be no economy to speak of. The shorter workweek was the natural byproduct of rapid automation and population growth.

sully97 6 years, 8 months ago

You are absolutely right. Some have branched out to rural areas, but most are struggling to turn a profit. Few have funds to invest in further expansion. It's not their fault. They're doing what they are designed to do. Nonetheless, there would not be a rural broadband initiative unless there was a need. That need is reflected in rural residents' finding themselves and an increasing competitive disadvantage in business, education, and access to government due to that lack of broadband.

sully97 6 years, 8 months ago

There is no hard and fast rule for fixing corruption but many of the compensation models we have to today were devised as a result of widespread corruption in the past. There will always be personality types that do what Madoff did. The corrupting aspect of that, however, was the regulatory agencies that looked the other way. That particular case was driven by the corruption of politicians who must rely on wealthy donors for campaign financing. They in turn pressure or de-fang the regulatory agencies that were created to prevent the Madoff's of the world from having that type of corrupting effect.

sully97 6 years, 8 months ago

I didn't say we should take everything from the rich. However, when you stop to consider that a person who makes $200,000 is in the exact same tax bracket as someone who makes $200 million or $20 billion the inequities shine through. There is graduate taxation throughout the lower levels of income but not throughout the higher levels. Please look at the following CIA summary of the American economy.

emu 6 years, 8 months ago

A little history: 401(k)s were introduced as a supplement to conventional retirement plans, not a replacement for them. Corporate America very quickly seized on them as a way of getting rid of conventional pension plans. 401(k)s are inherently undependable and unreliable, and were never intended to be the primary retirement plan for working people. Yet that is what they have become. The fact that the non-government work force has mostly lost its pension plans and been forced to accept 401(k) plans in their place may be a trend, but it remains morally wrong. The loss of pension plans will ruin the final years of millions of Americans. 401(k) plans are a craps shoot. If you happen to retire (perhaps are forced to retire) at a time when the stock market is down, too bad. You lose. It's just irresponsible that people are being put in this position by high-level corporate clowns who retire with millions .... often even get millions for being fired.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

Fixed Annuities: These are unequivocally safer than a stock market investment because they offer guaranteed rates. And although even a guaranteed rate can drop 1-2% after the guarantee period ends, a fixed annuity can never lose principle. That's why fixed annuities are ideal for retirement.

Variable Annuities: These are safer than stock market investment too, but aren't as secure as their fixed counterparts. Variable annuities are a collection of different kinds of securities, which could include bonds, stocks, and treasuries. There is risk of principle loss, but less so than with straight-up stock investing. Because a variable annuity disperses your money across a wide range of conservative growth equities, chances for loss are greatly reduced. Compare this to buying stock in a handful of specific companies, which are prone to failure and market volatility.

There’s that other saying: safety in numbers. By having your money in many investments, some may go down, but others will go up. In this way, the overall trend can be upward, and you make a better return and preserve capital if the stock market tumbles.

Managing a handful of volatile stocks is a job unto itself, and should be handled by a professional unless you have time to stay in tune with the market on a daily basis. A fixed or variable annuity, like a CD or 401(k) is relatively hands-off. In the case of a fixed annuity it's invest and forget. In the case of a variable annuity, you have the option to manage your own sub-accounts, but have the insurance company's broker do it for you.

Annuities Benefits Besides having less potential risk, annuities offer many great benefits over stocks and mutual fund investing, especially for retirees.

* Less paperwork
* No tax statements generated from constant selling and buying
* Backed by State reserve pools (in case of insurer insolvency)
* Death benefit options
* Annual withdrawal allowances upwards of 10%

If getting access to your money is important, annuities can oddly be better than stocks. Although annuities are long-term investments, with penalty fees for early withdrawal, many allow for partial withdrawals penalty-free. In contrast, stocks are always liquid, but in reality if the market is down, your cash is committed, and cashing out could be more costly than any withdrawal penalty tied to an annuity.

Managing Retirement Risk

Retirement investing demands a careful, judicious approach. As you get older and amass more and more savings, its wise to scale back on equities (stock market) and place more funds in interest-base vehicles like bonds, treasures, and high-quality mortgages. Annuities are designed to do just that, with tax-deferred growth and many other highly-desirable features for future retirees.

Take a peek:

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

Every sale of stock on the stock market includes the disclaimer: "the return on this investment is not guaranteed and may be negative"--for good reason.

During the 20th century, there were several periods lasting more than 10 years where the return on stocks was negative.

After the Dow Jones stock index went down by over 75% between 1929 and 1933, the Dow did not return to its 1929 level until 1953(24 years).

In claiming that the rate of return on a stock investment is guaranteed to be greater than the return on any other asset would be lying. If an investment-firm broker made this claim to his clients, he would be arrested and charged with stock fraud. Michael Milken went to jail for several years for making just this type of promise about financial investments.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

America owes a debt of gratitude to such insightful Republican governors as Walker of Wisconsin, Kasich of Ohio, Snyder of Michigan, and Christie of New Jersey.

Were it not for them, many Americans – myself included – would still be thinking that today's state budget messes are mainly the product of a national economic crash caused by the reckless greed of Wall Street banksters and rich speculators, as well as the abject failure by political leaders to tax their super-wealthy campaign contributors in order to meet the growing needs in education and other essentials. Luckily, the GOP guvs have set the record straight by explaining that the budget woes are the fault of teachers who have health coverage and firefighters who get pensions.

You see, it's these greedy public employees, pulling down $30,000 to $50,000 a year, who're sapping the economy and draining government treasuries – NOT billionaire casino dealers in Wall Street hedge funds who pay far lower tax rates than a firefighter and contribute far less to our nation than a teacher.

It has literally been incredible to hear these learned governors lecture us that fixing state budgets is simple: deregulate corporate power, cut taxes on the superrich (again), fire tens of thousands of middle-class public employees, eliminate state programs even as the need for them rises, and – just to boost the morale of teachers, firefighters, and others – take away their democratic right to bargain collectively for workplace fairness.

Unfortunately for the governors, the public still doesn't get it. By overwhelming margins, the people oppose these gubernatorial assaults on workers, worker rights, and America's middle-class dream. The governors can flim and flam, deceive and deflect, but they should remember that two and things not long for this world, are dogs that chase cars and politicians who lie to the people.

"Letter to the editor by Robin S. of Austin," Austin American Statesman, March 6, 2011.

"Putting Teacher in the Firing Line," The New York Times," March 8, 201

Jim Hightower

K_Verses_The_World 6 years, 8 months ago

Up in the morning trying to find a job of work Stand in one place till your feet begin to hurt

Ken Hunt 6 years, 8 months ago

The question should not be who gets what....right now it is a race to the bottom for so many workers in our country. Instead of debating whether or not my neighbor earns too much or their benefits are better than mine shouldn't we all want to benefit from increased wages/benefits?

How much are you paying in fees for your 401 or 403b plan? Most workers do not have a clue. Any fee schedule above 1% has not shown to increase yield. Do you have 12b-1 charges? Again, most workers have no clue.

A defined benefit plan worked for previous workers and it still can. Most industrialized countries still use this model.

Be careful when a financial advisor creates an investment plan for your benefit. It is rarely the case.

JHOK32 6 years, 8 months ago

Spoken like a true Republican. Remember when W wanted everyone to sink our social security into the stock market? It would have sank allright. Do we really need to know anymore?

George Lippencott 6 years, 8 months ago

Well, if the cause of our state and national fiscal problems (differs only by deficit spending at the feds not allowed here) is the financial community, what has Mr. Obama done to fix that.

The governors of the many states, mostly required to balance their budgets, have only two choices - raise taxes or reduce benefits. We have already raised taxes.

Private industry (not fat cats) has been experiencing pension declines for decades (you think they traded a defined benefit pension for a 401K).

Now if I were making all these arguments I would suggest the real choice is to expand benefits to all or cut benefits relatively equally for all. Now, here in Lawrence - populated by the last holdouts of the communist revolution - the notion is to cut benefits (not to the wealth donors) but to the people just above us in order to get more money for ourselves. That might work for a while but eventually those who you are being selectively cut will become the majority (if they have not already) and then - well things may not be platonic – remember Reagan.

sully97 6 years, 8 months ago

"...raise taxes or reduce benefits. We have already raised taxes."

Correction: We have already raised taxes on already burdened residents. Large business operations like Plastikon continue to receive tax breaks and incentives that negate the employment value they bring to the city. Those operations enjoy disproportionate amounts of city services and infrastructure, if not influence. If they are going to have large semi-trailers weighing multiple tons driving up and down our roads and destroying them, they should help pay for the repair of those roads in a manner commensurate with the damage they cause. If large box stores like Home Depot and Wal-Mart are going to siphon more wealth away from the community than they inject into it through employment, it's only a manner of time until that well-of-wealth runs dry.

Fair taxation is not part of a communist revolution. It's a moral responsibility of each and every resident, with or without a surname of 'inc.'

George Lippencott 6 years, 8 months ago

But then that was the other part of my note. WE have not chosen to do that even here in Lawrence. Apparently the people of Kansas do not agree with us??

salad 6 years, 8 months ago

Still waiting for all those self-righteous conservatives to charge out there and take all those jobs in education and social welfare; thus changing the system from within. I guess you have to actually give a **** about your fellow man first. At least care about people more than $$$.

George Lippencott 6 years, 8 months ago

$$$ come from people. Do we care about the source?

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