The Attack on Pensions and The End of the American Dream

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By Bob Cesca: The debt and deficit are evidently making American voters more insane and more self-defeating than they usually are. Conservatives, conservative financiers, anti-Obama zealots and a ridiculously complicit press corp have tapped into an easily-fooled, low-information population of Americans and convinced them that budgetary issues are way, way, way more dangerous than they really are.

Consequently, voters are helping to destroy the last remaining sliver of the American dream: pensions for government workers.

Not only did Wisconsin voters re-elect Scott Walker this week, hammering the final nail in coffin for government workers there. But in San Jose and San Diego, California, voters passed anti-pension ballot initiatives with landslide margins.

In San Jose, nearly 70% of voters Tuesday approved a plan that gives workers the choice between increasing their pension contribution to 13% of their pay, currently 5% to 11%, or switching to a lower-cost plan with reduced benefits. It also steeply cuts benefits for new hires and tightens rules for disability retirements.

In San Diego, where pension cuts already have been implemented, voters opted to eliminate pensions for new workers. By a 66% to 34% margin, voters Tuesday endorsed Proposition B, which provides newly hired city employees with a 401(k) program, but preserves traditional pensions for new police officers.

And Democratic governor Jerry Brown supports this crapola even though courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of what is right: you simply cannot take away someone's pension if you've already promised it.

The other side of the anti-government-worker issue is that voters have adopted this notion that public sector employees are Borg drones who shuffle aimlessly through their cubes and then plug their heads into a glowy, Spencer Gifts circle thing at night. On the contrary, these are real Americans, with real families, real mortgages, real financial burdens and who work hard all day. They're your neighbors. Your friends down the street. Yes, our tax dollars help to pay their salaries, whether they work at the state, local or federal levels. But our tax dollars also pay for a lot of things that are far worse than a fair wage for a decent job. Start with white phosphorous bombs and go down a list that includes subsidies for Big Oil, defense contracts for outfits like Blackwater and a lot of scary covert things we don't even know about.

And sorry, 401(k) plans just don't cut it. Ask anyone who were due to retire 2008 or 2009. Do we really want our future financial security determined by spazzy white guys in Lower Manhattan?

We really don't effing know which end is up anymore. The climate is kicking our asses, campaign finance is kicking our asses, the economy is an ongoing struggle, and what are voters doing? Taking pensions away from people who earned them -- the last piece of what used to make America great. The ability to raise a family on one salary, the ability to own a car outright, to own an affordable house, to have enough money to put your kids through college and to have a goddamn pension waiting for you when you retire.

Corporations have already killed pensions for private sector workers, and now conservatives are going after the last institution that seems to give a rip about providing a decent retirement for the people who dedicate their lives to making it function properly: government jobs.

You'd think that the conservative half of this country would love to preserve the ideal of the post-war era -- they're so utterly obsessed with 1950s Americana they practically orgasm at the sight of a white picket fence. (Something tells me they simply prefer the "white" part of the 1950s, and not much else.)

All of that is gone. Why? Because people hate deficits. Why? Because they've been told that government should be run like a business.

In fact, government should never be run like a business. Ever. Because it's not a business. Businesses exist to create profit. Government should never run a profit. Businesses come and go all the time. Government should be around forever. Without it, there's no America. It's We The People, after all. Government exists to do things that businesses simply can't do. Fight wars, for example. Government can run high deficits and debt unlike businesses because, for one, government can print money. Businesses are run by a small group of people who decide who else controls the business. Government is composed of people hired and fired by the people.

So this idea of running a government like a business is total nonsense -- obviously invented by doofs like Mitt Romney who are clueless (or pretend to be clueless) about the role of government in society. It's these types of people who are a real threat to America. They're the ones who'd like to drown government in a bathtub and let the wealthiest one percent and increasingly fewer competitive businesses run our lives. When that happens, the idea of We The People dies and is replaced by one or two global corporations and one or two families. All in cahoots to turn a profit without regard to why government exists in the first place.

Eliminating pensions and replacing them with 401(k) plans susceptible to the whims of the stock market is yet another step in that direction. All that's left is Social Security and Medicare, and look out. They're next on the non-reality based chopping block.

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