Conservatives like to argue that state and local budgets are being ravaged by the exorbitant pensions that public employees enjoy, says Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic. The excessively "nice retirement package" of "your local fireman or teacher," they say, exemplifies the "greed of unions" and "inefficiency of government" — two hot-button talking points conservatives often use to "to advance their broader economic agenda." While it's true that some inequality does exist between the public and private sector — especially with "firefighters and police" who "risk their lives to protect the rest of us from lethal threats" — it's not as glaring as some insist. And besides, shouldn't we be "looking for ways to make sure that all workers have a decent living and a stable retirement, rather than taking away the security that some, albeit too few, have already?" Here, an excerpt:
If local and state governments are struggling financially, these conservatives say, they should figure out some way to reduce or revoke those promised benefits, rather than come to Washington and beg for help from the taxpayers.
The Senate Republican Policy Committee sums up the Right’s mantra succinctly: “No state bailouts should be contemplated until the wages and pensions of public sector employees are brought into line.” Translation: You shouldn't have to give up another cent of your taxes until government stops paying its bureaucrats so damn much.
I'm sure that argument resonates with a lot of Americans, particularly those who are struggling themselves. But is the premise of the overpaid public employee valid? That's not so clear.