Call to action for public employees
Date: January 2, 2011 8:53:47 PM PST
This is my response to a fellow union member who believed that apathy is a growing problem among union members:
One the greatest current obstacles for public employees is the misinformation and monstrous public image created by the ongoing misstatement of the level of our benefits combined with the repeatedly exaggerated dollar amounts of our defined benefit pensions.
As I read reports about how much “we” are costing city, state, and county governments, I see that these reports are being propagated by those groups who wish to defer attention from the need for banking regulations and reforms which could redirect some of the contents of the many deep pockets of undistributed private wealth back into the economy, creating expansion, jobs, and shoring up infrastructure within our cities, counties, and states.
Economists seem to agree that a secure, healthy, and working middle class indicates a strong economy. However, the middle class has been shrinking in even the most robust and wealthy regions, including here in Silicon Valley. This indicates that the Bush and Regan-era’s infamous “trickle-down” theory of wealth is not working, as private wealth is being held, not reinvested in local industry, infrastructure, or jobs.
What can we do?
– Research the facts presented in news articles and check them out using reliable experts. Avoid experts who have all served under conservative administrations, or who are funded by conservative interest groups. Ask your neighborhood librarian (who is also a public employee) for help on this, if needed.
- Rand California Business Statistics (free access in some libraries): http://ca.rand.org/stats/economics/economics.html
- U.S Census Economic Census Data: http://www.census.gov/prod/www/abs/economic.html
- U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis: http://www.bea.gov/
- CIA World Fact Book: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html
– If you discover that the facts are slanted or misstated in a news or opinion piece online, comment or reply online, and add a link to the reliable facts and statistics which you have found online.
From the Orange County Register: http://articles.ocregister.com/2010-09-17/opinion/24639724_1_pension-costs-health-care-retirement
See the factual reply by “Rich” in rebuttal to the article http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/public-employee-pensions-does-the-worst-case-provide-the-best-guidance-for-the-future
– Tell the truth about what employed and retired public employees are receiving, in terms of monthly compensation and benefits, using reliable statistics which don’t lump professional, managerial, and clerical salaries all together in one figure, which skews the data. Ask a public worker if they would mind being profiled, so the story becomes a personal story and puts a public face on a “real” public employee, or a group of retired public employees, some of whom are living below the poverty level in their regions.
- U.S. Census Poverty Level Data: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/poverty.html
- National Poverty Center, University of Michigan: http://www.npc.umich.edu/poverty/
- U.S. Dept. of Health Poverty Guidelines: http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/index.shtml
– Ask politicians, economists, and others, both online and in blog posts, comments, or replies, “to support an economic system where all Americans may have a secure job, a lifetime of paid health care, adequate wages, a reasonable and stable home mortgage, and a guaranteed retirement, since this type of stability keeps money moving through the economy and supports a stable infrastructure for our cities and counties, as well as public health for infants, children, adults, and seniors.”
- A myth busting article from the Boston Globe about European health care systems which work at:http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/07/05/healthy_examples_plenty_of_countries_get_healthcare_right/?page=1
- Advances in the European pension system, as a positive model for workers: http://www.ehealthnews.eu/research/2372-health-care-pensions-social-security-eu-citizens-to-benefit-from-eu-coordination-rules
– Ask politicians, economists and others to report back on the health of 401(k)’s held by private workers, and what happened to these folks and their nest eggs after the mortgage meltdown. Why didn’t trickle down wealth protect these workers, who in many cases, have to defer retirement because they lost their homes and retirement funds due to banking and investment house misstatements of liquid assets? Conservative economists keep telling us that open market competition is the best thing for the American public and our economy. If so, what happened? Why did private workers sustain the $2.0 to $4.0 trillion in losses from their 401(k)s and IRAs, when the competitive market was at its peak in 2008?
Some related articles:
- On 2008 and financial losses in 401(k)’s and IRA’s: http://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/2009/02/12/how-did-your-401k-really-stack-up-in-2008.html andhttp://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/retirement/2008-10-07-retirement-accounts-losses_N.htm and section C in http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:mqsT0B3lsCcJ:www.jmls.edu/directory/KKennedy%25202009%2520Spring%2520Summit.pdf+2008+trillion+losses+401k+ira+site:.edu&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESj5QaB3veKbZ0CNK7PQD4FelrfaVEw-GKODpBLDYtYOG1IqMo_U85BH8GAyQl5T1jIWcUGrQYoZbhotjHzqEWSGAnIQF1z-klF7YwoozrRqPFSMlcenYYo7dm29uSFUHLNW3Doo&sig=AHIEtbRC6qkZBKg2Zfu28oJy60MUYMuayw>
- On Wall Street Bonuses and Profits: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/29/business/29bonus.html and http://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/feb10/022310.htm andhttp://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704518104575546542463746562.html?mod=mktw, just to name a few from a Google search on the topic ( http://www.google.com/search?q=wall+street+bonuses+profits+2008+2009&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7GGLL_en )
– Ask conservative politicians and economists how we can grow a healthy economy after they allowed the US to become indebted to China, moving our production and manufacturing offshore, and allowed us to become dependent on foreign oil by deferring alternate energy vehicles and industries?
- On the level of U.S. debt held by China: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/data-chart-center/tic/Documents/mfh.txt and http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-06-20/china-backs-obama-with-u-s-treasury-securities-rising-3-to-900-billion.html
- Current ramification and implications of U.S. dependence on oil from the Bush years: http://climateprogress.org/2010/10/24/gop-cap-and-trade-flip-flop/ and http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:3WepZLZ-HlcJ:www.bw.edu/resources/dean/fscs/jrcs/Mackall_Article_-_Final_-_25_Jun_10.docx+domestic+oil+production+environment+presidency+bush+reagan+site:.edu&cd=16&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&lr=lang_en>
– Ask conservative politicians and economists if it isn’t time to rewrite NAFTA and reinvest in American goods, products, and services, since tariffs have increased for American goods sold in Mexico and Canada, while we are absorbing Canadian and Mexican workers:
Some facts and figures:
- Impact of NAFTA on the U.S. Economy: Added Tariffs on U.S. goods sold in Mexico: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704554104575435794277342012.html andhttp://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/19/international/americas/19NAFT.html
- NAFTA Immigration details: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1274.html
- Tufts University “Lessons from NAFTA” reports: http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/policy_research/MexicoUnderNafta.html
There are many ways which we can respond to the increasing threats to public employees without leaving our homes. If we all took a moment to reply or comment factually to one story online per day, we could start a groundswell which might deflect the avalanche of misinformation blaming current and projected budget shortfalls on public employees, when it truly belongs with the lack of Bush-era banking regulations on Wall Street. The bankruptcy and demise of Lehman Brothers and the dominoes-like effect created by the resulting banking and mortgage meltdown on Wall Street removed billions of federal dollars from state and local governments, not public employees or their defined benefit pension obligations.
Catherine D. Alexander