Friday, October 23, 2009

Times-Picayune: Let retirees eat cake

It's two months until; Christmas, but the Grinch is already at work at the Times-Picayune. In this editorial, the state's largest newspaper fulminates against public employee retirement pensions as "reckless and unsustainable."

They are not reckless, but come from a carefully devised formula based on an employee's earnings and years of service. And they have been sustainable for generations, surviving even the most recent stock market crash without plunging Louisiana into the bankruptcy predicted by critics.

True, the state is obligated to pony up if there is a shortfall, but that is what any decent employer ought to do in defense of those who spent their working lives on its behalf.

But in siding with Speaker of the House Jim Tucker, the TP is adopting a "let them eat cake" attitude befitting its Brahman heritage.

LFT President Steve Monaghan has responded to the editorial with this letter:

Dear Editor:

The Times-Picayune and Rep. Jim Tucker couldn't have picked a worse time to endorse a scheme that would subject retired state employees, including teachers, to the not-so-tender mercies of the marketplace.

While millions of Americans saw their retirement hopes shrivel along with their 401(k), individuals fortunate enough to have a defined benefit plan – a genuine pension – were spared financial devastation. Rep. Tucker’s plan would eliminate retirement security for future teachers and other public employees and make them targets for the next Ponzi scheme.

The Times-Picayune acknowledges the sad fact that far too many Louisiana workers have little or have no retirement plan. But rather than demanding fair pensions for all workers, the newspaper supports the Tucker proposal.

Here is the flawed logic implicit in the first sentence of your October 20 editorial: If many Louisianans do not have sustainable pensions, then none should. The Times-Picayune and the Speaker of the House are endorsing a great race to the bottom, and seem to be comfortable with a world in which only the privileged few can expect a sustainable post-employment future.

On behalf of the teachers and school employees we represent, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers rejects that vision of the future. We believe that after a lifetime of work, all employees deserve the security of a fair, guaranteed pension. No American's retirement security should be subject to the vagaries of the stock market or the manipulations of a few unscrupulous insiders.

We hope that Speaker Tucker and the Times Picayune rethink their position, and join in a greater struggle for fair, decent retirement security for all workers.

Sincerely yours,
Steve Monaghan, President
Louisiana Federation of Teachers

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