Govt Workers

Govt Workers

Bob
Bob

February 24th, 2011, 1:49 pm #1

You already know that I am one, and we all know about the furor in some of the states over legislation to take negotiating strength (collective bargaining, the ability to strike) away from those workers.

Yesterday, I attended a day-long retirement seminar. Not that I am comtemplating retirement anytime soon (but there is the feeling amongs those close to retirement that rule changes are coming and that it might be best to retire soon, before those changes penalize them. I thought, "Oh great! Complicate the predicted pension funds shortfalls by prompting more people to retire sooner!" I have co-workers who told me that they are taking a lump sum payout, as they don't rust that the funds will be there over the long haul).

The first speaker began by saying, "We all have heard how we are the problem in this budget deficit crisis", to which the audience sneered and shook their heads. The presenters covered various aspects of retirement, including the "challenges" faced by public pension systems: 1) That people are living longer and are expected to collect retirement pensions for a lot longer -- noted an average of 6 years back in the 1970's, but now might be 25-30 years or longer). 2) The continuing increases in health care costs and the aging of the American population. 3) The decline in returns on pension systems' investments, which are counted on to comprise most of the funds that will be paid to retirees.

Yet, the presenters weren't as down-beat as I expected. They said that anyone who expects to retire within the next 5-10 years (like me) would be grandfathered in under the existing rules -- that it is only the younger workers who would be affected. And, any changes in state laws governing the pension systems wouldn't take effect until 90 days after the governor signs them, allowing pension fund members time to change their retirement plans.

As for me, even if I am not personally affected by such changes, I regret that younger workers will be. Along with the national debt and pending insolvency of Social Security, it pains me that my sons and younger generations will be faced with a terrible burden. I would gladly work longer if it would help, though I don't want to just screw myself while the whole thing still goes down the drain.

This country needs real leadership, at a time when no real leaders appear on the horizon.
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Nat
Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

February 24th, 2011, 2:53 pm #2

Bob, I remember when the thinking was that for job security you couldn't beat government employment. They had the best benefits and all sorts of protections that private sector workers didn't have. There was also a lot of joking(?) about how much loafing that government workers did- how you'd always see a bunch of city workers standing around doing nothing. I have a neighbor who worked for the county school system and said the amount of waste and goofing off he saw was incredible. Like the teachers these days just show videos and let kids play computer games (must be some reason our students rank so poorly with other countries) and at the end of the school year the dumpsters would be full of brand new never-used supplies just thrown away because more would be coming for the fall. No one was concern about waste and mismanagement because unlike a private business- the government can't go bankrupt- if they need more money- they just raise taxes!

Well finally even this gravy train seems to have run off the tracks as voters have put their foot down and said- hell no, we aren't paying any more taxes! Government efficiency was a big theme our new governor ran on- and he seems to be going through with it- just sold two big state-owned jets and canceled a high-speed rail project so I think that government belt-tightening- like the private sector has been doing for years- is the new theme of the future for now. But ironically the initial effect of all this austerity will be making the high unemployment even worse.



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Joined: May 9th, 2005, 12:05 pm

February 24th, 2011, 8:52 pm #3

I can see how living longer would be a serious problem and probably that is the first place to begin looking for a solution to our problems. On the other hand, the government (all governments) has a lot of high maintenance assets that could be sold off to help pay off public debt. Take roads, for instance. Surely there are a lot of interested parties that could buy them and probably turn a profit in the bargin. Already happening in some places, I understand. As an alternative to raising taxes, we could institute higher tariffs on imported goods. In fact, that used to be one of the key points of one of the political parties, only I don't remember which one it was now. They have a way of flipping off on various issues.
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Marseil
Marseil

February 25th, 2011, 7:07 am #4

"I can see how living longer would be a serious problem and probably that is the first place to begin looking for a solution to our problems. "

I love this statement.... But what's your solution??? Kill randomly 5% of the population every year? Try and find a new contagious disease? Stop providing any healthcare services to anyone over 75?

Marseil.
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Joined: May 9th, 2005, 12:05 pm

February 25th, 2011, 11:42 am #5

My posts were not entirely serious and, besides, I don't have any solutions. I only have problems, age being one of them.

However, there is really a trend, at least around where I live, to create more toll roads. Some are private ventures and some are additional lanes for which you have to pay a toll to use. Toll roads are hardly a new thing and have long been accepted, more or less I suppose, as a way to actually pay for the thing. Same with bridges, especially big ones. And believe it or not, there are actually still ferries operating across the Potomac river, too.

The basic problem is the no one likes taxes but politicans like spending money in their own district and no one has any qualms about borrowing money. It's a good thing interest rates aren't what they were 30 years ago, although some people depend on interest income and it is an incentive to save money. At the local and state level, governments have been looking for alternatives to income taxes and finding them in the form of sales taxes, user fees and other less visible taxes.
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Bob
Bob

February 25th, 2011, 6:03 pm #6

"I can see how living longer would be a serious problem and probably that is the first place to begin looking for a solution to our problems. "

I love this statement.... But what's your solution??? Kill randomly 5% of the population every year? Try and find a new contagious disease? Stop providing any healthcare services to anyone over 75?

Marseil.
A couple of days ago, I was watching network news and they spoke of proposed changes in deciding who will get an organ they need for transplant. Of course, there is much greater demand for organs than the supply, so life-and-death decisions are made as to who gets an organ and who must wait. The propsed criteria would favor a younger person over an older person. The reasoning is not only that the younger person might be more hardy and more likely to survive the surgery, but also that they stand to get more use (more years) out of the transplanted organ than would an older recipient. Even an older person who has been waiting years for a transplant might have to wait still longer while a younger person who has not been waiting long gets the organ.

I have long wondered, when seeing medical experts tout the increased longevity of successive generations, why living longer is equated with a better life. I could live to be 100, but if the last 20 years of that existence is spent struggling against infirmity, and/or if I have no one that really cares about me, what is the point? Maybe it would be better if we looked at the quality of life instead of how many years we breath in and out.
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Thumper
Thumper

February 27th, 2011, 9:14 pm #7

You already know that I am one, and we all know about the furor in some of the states over legislation to take negotiating strength (collective bargaining, the ability to strike) away from those workers.

Yesterday, I attended a day-long retirement seminar. Not that I am comtemplating retirement anytime soon (but there is the feeling amongs those close to retirement that rule changes are coming and that it might be best to retire soon, before those changes penalize them. I thought, "Oh great! Complicate the predicted pension funds shortfalls by prompting more people to retire sooner!" I have co-workers who told me that they are taking a lump sum payout, as they don't rust that the funds will be there over the long haul).

The first speaker began by saying, "We all have heard how we are the problem in this budget deficit crisis", to which the audience sneered and shook their heads. The presenters covered various aspects of retirement, including the "challenges" faced by public pension systems: 1) That people are living longer and are expected to collect retirement pensions for a lot longer -- noted an average of 6 years back in the 1970's, but now might be 25-30 years or longer). 2) The continuing increases in health care costs and the aging of the American population. 3) The decline in returns on pension systems' investments, which are counted on to comprise most of the funds that will be paid to retirees.

Yet, the presenters weren't as down-beat as I expected. They said that anyone who expects to retire within the next 5-10 years (like me) would be grandfathered in under the existing rules -- that it is only the younger workers who would be affected. And, any changes in state laws governing the pension systems wouldn't take effect until 90 days after the governor signs them, allowing pension fund members time to change their retirement plans.

As for me, even if I am not personally affected by such changes, I regret that younger workers will be. Along with the national debt and pending insolvency of Social Security, it pains me that my sons and younger generations will be faced with a terrible burden. I would gladly work longer if it would help, though I don't want to just screw myself while the whole thing still goes down the drain.

This country needs real leadership, at a time when no real leaders appear on the horizon.
I am a retired state government worker who retired some 11 years ago. We had to have the magic number of "85" - years of service and age (minimum 55) and then you could retire with "full" retirement. I then had to pay ALL the insurance, but it was cheaper with the group plan. Before, the gov't paid all my insurance.
The negative was that we had NO say if what we got for salary increases (adjustments) and benefits were determined by the state legislature and then signed by the governor to be in effect. This is the third year that NO salary increases will be handed out and benefits are adjusted downward, but I think it is still better than the private sector. Also the governor has proposed a 10 percent cut in all government spending. This includes school, medicade, and all gov't functions, just to get back from being in debt.
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Nat
Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

February 28th, 2011, 4:11 am #8

I think this is a problem with both government and union jobs when salary and benefits are determined by legislators or union contracts rather than performance. A worker doesn't have a incentive to work diligently when he knows he's going to get the same salary & benefits as the next guy regardless.

This is one of the big complaints about teacher's unions which make it difficult to fire bad teachers because there is no penalty for poor performance. I know that by every measure the US public education system has declined greatly since the 1960s and now ranks well behind that of many other countries. I think the rise of teachers unions during this time is a major contributing factor.

I think the financial pinch we are in now may actually be therapeutic in the long run- and weed out many structural problems that have become ingrained in our system over the years, and when we finally get through this, a lot of dead wood will be gone and this is going to be a better country.



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Thumper
Thumper

February 28th, 2011, 5:16 am #9

If work was based on performance, that would be great. We had a merit basis also, but if you "brown nosed" or "buttered up the boss", that is the person that got the merit raise. When the merit system was eliminated, then everyone was more willing to work and do their job instead of cuddling up to the boss.
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Nat
Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

February 28th, 2011, 7:26 am #10

Yes, unfortunately the merit system has it's flaws too- like as you note- brown-nosing the boss. When there is no quantitative way to access performance- like how many sales a salesman makes, then office politics takes over.

I've avoided this by pursuing a career where I can operate autonomously and out of management's purview since they have no way to judge my performance other than the end result which is I keep them on the air which is what matters to them. And they know I would not be easily replaced so they keep me happy.



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