Editor's Notes

But somehow, it's all your fault. You are the ones bleeding the resort dry.

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tredmond@sfbg.com

I've been trying to think of a good metaphor for the public-employee pension story, a way to explain what's going on without making it so complicated that it becomes a battle of political slogans. Here's what I've come up with.

Imagine you and your friends all work at a resort hotel, and you've been there a while, and you approach the boss and say it's expensive to live in the area and you want a raise. But your boss isn't handing out any more cash — he wants to hire his girlfriend for a cush job, and he wants a promotion in the resort chain, so he has to keep the bottom line tight.

But he can't afford to lose the group of you, so he offers a deal: no raise, but you and your coworkers can eat lunch free at the resort restaurant. It's a painless offer for him; the restaurant is booming, so much cash coming in that nobody will notice a few free meals. Still, it's a benefit you didn't have, so you accept.

Then a year passes, and resort traffic drops off, and the price of lunch food goes way up, and the guy who handles the books at the restaurant has been skimming and pocketing a big chunk of the proceeds — and suddenly, the free meals aren't so free for your boss. So he starts pointing fingers at you, telling all the other diners that it's unfair you get to eat free. The cry goes out: "No free lunch!" He starts to demand that you pay "your fair share."

Now: you realize like everyone else that the resort is in financial trouble, and you've already accepted unpaid overtime and fewer work days. You also realize that a couple of your greedier friends have been taking extra sandwiches home in their pockets and they need to knock it off.

But the huge chain that owns the resort is still doing fine; the percentage profits off the top never change. No cuts there. And your free lunch isn't "free"; it's part of your pay. And you suspect that at some point, the economy will pick up and the restaurant will be flush again — and if you give up your benefit now, you'll wind up with no raise and no lunch either.

But somehow, it's all your fault. You are the ones bleeding the resort dry.

Look at it that way, and the picture is a little different.

Comments

So,

This priest and rabbi and cowboy come into a gay bar.

Get it?

I don't get your story either.

go Giants!

h.

Posted by Guest h. brown on Mar. 02, 2011 @ 2:29 am

The story suffers from the fact that a government is not a business that mostly has to worry about satisfying paying customers. A government has unlimited demands on its resources and every year has to decide where best to spend those resources. When politicians create a situation where one group is seen as benefiting disproportionately during future budgets, then it's not unreasonable for other affected groups to want a reallocation of the limited government funds.

The fact remains that over the next few years and continuing for next few decades, the retirement and healthcare costs of current and future employees will require massive reductions to all other current government services, including police, fire safety, transportation, parks and libraries.

The much bigger story the Guardian is ignoring while it obsesses over pension reform is the fact that labor leaders across the country seem no different than the self-interested CEO's who are shipping our jobs and profits overseas - "How can 'I' benefit?" "What's in it for 'me'."

The major technological advances over the past 4 years means we just don't need as many workers to produce more and more output. At the rate we're going, we'll only need about 30% of the population to produce the vast majority of goods and services.

Instead of fighting the rear-guard action of pension reform, I'd like to see some of the labor leaders from the 1930's who faced a similar situation. They were smart and demanded shorter work weeks and shorter workdays in order to increase employment. We need the same type of thinking now. 4-day work weeks and maximum 30 hour work weeks will create close to 100% employment, reducing government transfer payments to the unemployed and increasing the demand for labor, which will push up wages and benefits.

The public is demanding "new thinking" from it's government leaders and we need to start demanding "new thinking" from our labor leaders as well.

PS - Thanks for adding the spelling software to your chat function! An editing function would be great, but even better would be an "ignore" button so we can avoid reading the mindless, repetitive and worthless posts by some of your most obsessive and narcissistic posters.

Posted by Robert on Mar. 02, 2011 @ 7:24 am

@Robert, we get it, we get it, you can stop posting the same repetitive blather over and again.

@Tim, The problem here is that wages are falling for all working people, and as long as organized labor does not take steps to work with unorganized workers to move us all forward towards retirement security, labor will remain vulnerable to these kinds of attacks.

The progressive answer is for labor to lead a broad coalition demanding retirement and health care security and to call for strikes to stop the generation of profits until those reasonable demands are met. The economy can afford both.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Mar. 02, 2011 @ 2:03 pm