Saturday, March 5, 2011

Shared sacrifice

In light of current news, I realized today that many in my family, including myself, are employed in controversial jobs. I have two family members that are teachers, two that are air traffic controllers, one that is a city employee and a son that is a Soldier. I am a military retiree.

Excepting myself, since I always wanted to be a career military man, most of my family didn't start out to be a public employee. My brother, an Air Force veteran, became an air traffic controller when President Reagan fired so many, creating an opportunity. My son followed in my footsteps and my niece followed in my brother's. Regardless, as it stands, several of us make a living off of the public dole.

My nephew, a teacher and I have been having a back-and-forth about the protests in Wisconsin. I just wrote a paper for college on the dated nature of tenure in our public schools. His input has been invaluable, and while I understand his passion for the subject, I feel both of us have missed the main issue.

Public employees, by definition, receive all of their pay and benefits courtesy of the taxpaying public. Although it is often glossed over, our military are public employees also.

Collective bargaining, the issue in Wisconsin, has elevated public employees' pay and benefits to a level above what we as communities, states, and a nation can afford. While not all public employees are making exorbitant salaries, union-negotiated contracts have raised the levels of most public employee compensation to an unsustainable height. Due to longevity raises, generous benefit packages, and a great retirement plan, the average salary of our public employees is higher than the non-public employee.

To break it down into easy math, we, the American taxpayer, make $10 an hour, and pay our public employees $12 an hour. It is not necessary to have a degree in math to recognize the incongruity and unsustainability of what we have created.

It is time for all Americans to share in the sacrifices that must be made. From what I have read and heard, the proposals in Wisconsin will have little, if any affect on current public employees. Governor Scott Walker is trying to remove the collective-bargaining provisions for all public employees except First Responders. He has proposed to keep collective-bargaining for salaries.

Is he really asking too much? One of the outcomes of the 1990-1991 recession was that they changed the military retirement system. There was very little outcry against this. As military members, we understood the importance of a strong national economy and its relationship to our national defense. In my case, as a serving Soldier, already on a retirement track, this change led to my retirement being reduced by over 17%. I had several years to plan and prepare, because the changes did not affect those nearer retirement than I.

We need to curb our spending within our state and federal governments. Raising taxes to cover increased spending will take us down the path to serfdom. We must cut spending. We must, as citizens, get involved, contact our legislators and tell them that the rampant and unbridled spending must stop.

In order for us to do this, all must share in the sacrifice. Entitlements like Social Security must be cut, golden parachute retirement plans for public employees must stop, and yes, even our defense spending needs to be cut.

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