Wednesday, June 09, 2010


by Dick Mac

I am 100% pro-worker. My experience as a worker, an American, a consumer, and a taxpayer is that big business wants to not just make a lot of money (with which I agree), but they want to continually expand profits by eliminating benefits for their greatest resource: their staff.

In bad economic times, as we have had specifically since the Bush II years and generally since the Reagan years, companies are able to squeeze their employees with the loss of jobs due to a downturn in the economy. Workers are then willing to sacrifice a little now (even if it's a lot in the long-run) in order to keep their jobs going forward. I am one of those people.

My position in the company was eliminated and I was moved into a different position lower down the totem pole, and I happily accepted it so that I could remain employed. Benefits at my job have been reduced, and I am happy for the reduction in order to keep my job.

There are just times when workers have to cooperate with bosses in order to keep jobs, and American has a history of success with this.

Although I disagree with conservatives in most analyses of workplace relations, I completely agree that there are times when workers have to give back for the good of the company. The fact that the company rarely gives these things back when times improve is a different discussion, and one I am not addressing here.

Government jobs are generally the easiest to criticize during bad economic times. Some government employees are set for life, while those of us who pay them (even those of us making a good salary) live in fear of the future because we are not guaranteed any type of pension as some government workers are promised. I do not begrudge government workers their pension, in fact I believe private industry can be remarkably profitable for its shareholders and provide a better future for its employees.

After 20 or 25 years of service in a government position, a person can retire and when they reach a certain age (generally 65) they can start drawing the pension they earned as a clerk or a cop or any other government job. I know folks who retired form the government at fifty, started a second career in a field they love and will start collecting a pension when they are in their late-50s.

I think this is a wonderful thing. These people worked hard, earned their pension, are no working in a field they love and know they will be able to pay their bills when they are no longer employable.

Some people work in private industry for many years, build a nest egg, then move into government service (often electoral politics) in their later years. I am also impressed by this.

Both of these groups seem to be living the American Dream in a way that seems so right and so perfect. Work hard, earn money, do what you love, have safety in retirement.

Today I was presented with a third scenario and I am disquieted to realize I agree with the wrong-wingers on this one.

That is people who put in 25 years of service in a government position, retire, then take another government position. So, they are collecting a pension from their first job and collecting a salary from their second job. I don't like this.

If a worker spends 20-plus years in public employment, collects a pension, and then moves into the private sector and earns a salary, I applaud them for their industriousness. Also, if a person works some number of decades in private industry and earns enough money to live off a retirement fund, then takes a paying job with the government later in life to earn more money, I similarly applaud them. Truly one example of the American Dream coming true for a hard-working person.

There is something untoward, though, about somebody taking a pension and a salary from the government. If you put in your time with the government and earned your pension and want to move on, that's great. To take another government job that pays you a salary while you collect a government pension just doesn't sit right with me. It feels like somebody has learned how to game the system and it is untoward, at best.

I applaud hard work. I have had a job if one kind or another since I was 8-years-old and I am proud of it. I have not fared particularly well in the retirement game and will have to work until I drop dead; so, I am impressed by those who have managed to secure a pension or viable retirement fund.

I applaud government workers. I am not opposed to the government being a large bureaucracy with a huge employment role (freedom is complicated and expensive and a great big people have a great big government).

I think that in many ways government agencies are the employer of last resort for many people who can't make it in the private sector. Better to employ those people in the government than have them trying to serve me at a bank or diner. (In fact, one of the bad effects of reducing government is that those incompetent people enter the work place and we have to deal with them everyday.) That is not to say that everyone in the government is unemployable in the private sector, far from it! I know many bright, hard-working people who are employed by the government. But, I digress . . .

I am embarrassed to have these feelings about double-dipping, about collecting a pension from the government and taking a new paying job with the government. Something just doesn't sit right with me. I guess I think the government should only pay one citizen one check to be in its employ, and if a person is already collecting a government check as a pension, then they should not also draw a salary.

A retied government employee who still has earning power should move into private industry, or retire. Make room for another person who needs a job.

I think I can say that I officially oppose double-dipping.

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