Friday, July 5, 2013

Greedy public employees are bleeding us dry

In San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) workers went on strike after negotiations between the unions and state mediators broke down.  Commuters were left scrambling for alternative modes of transportation but the unions didn’t care.  Was the dispute over pay?  Not really.  BART had offered an average 2 percent wage increase per year for four years.  The fight was over what most union fights have been about the last few years: pensions and health insurance.

The average train operator and station agent make a base salary of $71,000 and average another $11,000 in overtime.  That’s an average of $82,000 per year.  Before the strike BART employees were contributing a measly $92 per month for their health insurance, a ridiculously low amount given the skyrocketing cost of health insurance.  As for their pensions, they were contributing absolutely nothing, not one dime.  The taxpayers were picking up the entire tab for the pension contributions.

These are the types of deals that are bankrupting cities and states and our federal government.  We simply cannot afford to pay for what should be the responsibilities of individual workers.  Whether or not some BART employee retires with a pension should be the responsibility of that particular BART employee.  It’s certainly been my responsibility.  I have a 401(k).  Some years my employer matches part of it some years they don’t.  I certainly don’t expect them to and when they do I appreciate it.

But that’s the problem with a lot of people in this country, isn’t it?  They’ve come to expect someone else to take care of them.  I try to watch my 401(k) like a hawk.  I contribute as much as I possibly can and I plan for the future.  I’m hoping Social Security will supplement my retirement years but I have my doubts.  If it’s even there when I retire Social Security will, in all likelihood, be subjected to means testing.  Even people like Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky have supported means testing.

Means testing, simply put, means if I do the right thing and have ample money put away for my retirement I won’t be able to draw Social Security even though the government forced me to contribute to it my whole working life.  They told me it was a forced retirement fund and I would be able to draw from it when I retired.  With means testing only those who don’t prepare for retirement will be able to draw from Social Security.  It will only be for those whose retirement funds fall below a certain level.  It turns the entire program into another welfare entitlement.

So much of what the government is doing is discouraging personal responsibility.  The harder you work and the more you earn the bigger chunk of your paycheck they take.  If you haven’t been responsible and provided health insurance for you and your family then the government will step in and take care of your health insurance.  If you don’t plan for your retirement the government will take away part of the retirement from those of us who have and give it to you.

Why on earth should anyone behave responsibly anymore?

The BART strike has been just another reminder of what happens when government officials volunteer the generosity of the taxpayers.  Those on the receiving end of that generosity spit in the face of their benefactors.  They should’ve fired everyone who went on strike and given those jobs to people who might actually appreciate them.  Unions in the private sector are vanishing quickly.  Public sector unions should do the same, while we still have some money left.

Phil Valentine is the host of the award-winning, nationally syndicated talk radio show, The Phil Valentine Show.

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