Problems With Pension Funding? Just Halt the Economy!

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Dec 20, 2005 10:33 AM

Yeah, that's the ticket.

Flip Pidot in NYC has been covering the run-up to the New York transit workers' strike, and has a great list of links to other folks blogging it.

He includes in his list the Tranport Workers Union's strike blog, which apparently has unrestricted comments. Hmmm, giving grumpy, cold New Yorkers who now have to walk to work a platform for airing their grievances? I'm gonna go out on a limb and predict that's not going to be pleasant for the humble blog authors. But fun for us-- there are 400 comments in this thread.

Andy at Club for Growth notes that Bloomberg is being hard-nosed:

"The union must understand there are real and significant consequences to their action. For their own selfish reasons, the T.W.U. has decided that their demands are more important than the law, the city, and the people they serve. This is not only an affront to the concept of public service, it is a cowardly attempt by [union head] Roger Toussaint and the T.W.U. to bring the city to its knees to create leverage for its own bargaining positions."

The fight is over unsustainable pension benefits:

The authority dropped its demand to raise the retirement age for a full pension to 62 for new employees, up from 55 for current employees. But the authority proposed that all future transit workers pay 6 percent of their wages toward their pensions for their first 10 years of employment, up from the 2 percent that current workers pay.

The transportation authority says that it needs to bring its soaring pension costs under control now to stave off future deficits. But union leaders vow that they will not sell out future transit workers by saddling them with lesser benefits.

They will, however, sell out the ENTIRE city and generations of future New Yorkers to maintain a pension system that bleeds everyone dry but them. Seriously, 55? That's the retirement age that absolutely must needs be maintained for everyone in perpetuity despite lightyears of improvement in medical treatments and life expectancy?

Good gracious Lord, people, the money for pensions doesn't come from nowhere. It has to come from somewhere.

Right now, it's coming from the taxpayers who are trudging through the 20-degree weather across the Brooklyn Bridge to work, dropping their bundled babies at daycare, and trying to work without losing a half-day of productivity to the aforementioned bridge-trudging.

Incidentally, the union boss who's bringing these brisk morning walks to the good people of the city has a message for them (and it ain't 'thank you for that whole retire-at-55 thing'):

"We ask that you stand with us," (Roger) Toussaint pleaded with commuters. "We did not want to strike. Evidently, the MTA, governor and mayor did."

Right, and might they pick you up a nice, hot latte and a warm pretzel on the way home, too, Roger? They were walking by the store anyway.

One commuter-- Christian Kerr, 28-- isn't standing with Roger:

"It's a pain in the neck," he said. "I'm very anti-union, especially this time of year. It's ridiculous. If you look what they're asking for, that's 50 years ago. Pensions don't work like that anymore."

This is why I hate these government-funded defined benefit systems. This is why I hate Social Security. They require us to gouge, gouge, gouge each other when we could be providing for ourselves. Wouldn't it be nice for Roger not to have to hold an entire city of Christian Kerrs hostage to get his pension?

As for Social Security, wouldn't it be nice if we didn't have to take a substantial chunk out of our granchildren's paychecks some day when we're perfectly capable of providing for ourselves? I'd like that.

It's not that I don't think we should help each other, although I think doing it outside of government-mandated redistribution of wealth is the way to go.

What I do think is that the pensions of yesterday can and should be the pensions of yesterday. We have to figure out ways to honor the promises we've made to the generations before us without forever hog-tying the earning power of generations to come. If we don't, it won't matter what kind of pension you're supposed to have if there's no money to fund it.

It won't be easy (please see for reference: Social Security reform), but there are ways to work on it.

One thing's for sure. A strike that costs the New York City economy (the economy that makes such pensions possible to any extent) an estimated $400 million a day is so very far away from the way to do it, you'd have to take a two buses and three trains to get there. If they weren't, you know, on strike.

UPDATE: A split between international TWU and the city's union? And, there was a criminal hearing this morning. Did I mention the strike is illegal?