It’s Taxpayers Who Are Really Under Assault

Brett McMahon
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Posted: Jan 25, 2011 12:01 AM
It’s Taxpayers Who Are Really Under Assault

This week, the New York Times covered the increasingly alarming story of how states are buried under the debts of public employee pensions. For decades, these taxpayer-provided pensions have grown without restraint, and eventually someone is going to have to pay.

The problem is that politicians, often supported by powerful public sector union bosses, have been making promises that taxpayers will have to cash. They were, depending on one’s view, either working under rosy assumptions or flat-out false beliefs in what the market could return to defined-benefit pension plans. There is simply no way that we can afford to continue down this path.

Some have started to talk about solutions, but don’t hold your breath for union bosses to pitch in. If you would listen to the power brokers at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, it’s the taxpayers who should continue to be the ones to give … and give … and give. And they are spinning the need for a calm, rational discussion and change of strategy at as an attack on public employees. From the NY Times article:

“They are readying a massive assault on us,” said Charles M. Loveless, legislative director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We’re taking this very seriously.”

Interesting that he would use the term “assault” to describe states trying to dig out from a hopeless future. Would “peace” therefore mean doing nothing and slipping into the actuarial abyss?

How did we get to this point in the first place? For years, public sector union bosses have wielded a high level of control over the elected officials they have helped place in power.

How this crisis is handled in the coming months will have dramatic impacts on business owners, like myself. Should the states cave in to the public sector unions it will be on the backs of small business owners. If taxes go up to pay for ever-growing plush retirement funds for DMV workers, we can’t afford to hire more workers in the private sector. It just won’t be worth showing up to work — or creating more work for more employees.

It’s galling to hear union bosses—who could be real leaders and figure out real solutions for their members and for taxpayers—talk about an “assault” or attack by the few elected leaders who are looking to save our budgetary bacon. The real assault needs to be halted, before its too late.