Milwaukee County employees and tax payers are under assault again.
There is a resolution that the Personnel Committee will be discussing at their next meeting, which is designed to eliminate the current defined benefit pension plan and replace it with a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k). This is a trend that is being carried out across the nation as conservative, corporate-friendly politicians work to benefit their campaign contributors. These dishonest politicians cite the poor economy and artificially inflated numbers to provide their corrupted rationale for this money grab.
But such plans have proved to be disasters in the private sectors, and in the public sector, would not only cause irreparable harm to employees, but also to the tax payers.
For the employees, this could take away any economic security that they had given up wages over the decades to ensure. In an article written by Lee A. Saunders, he points out the problems that private sector workers have had as the economy collapsed versus the relative stability of the current pension plans:
The economy’s collapse in 2008-2009 took its toll on everyone’s retirement savings. But our nation’s public pension systems, which were fully funded before the crash, continue their robust recovery earning their highest returns in decades in fiscal year 2011. Pensions continue to provide irreplaceable retirement security to millions of Americans who provide public services. Yet, the corporate-backed opponents of pensions are creating a myth that the system is falling apart and that state and local governments are going bankrupt because of the $19,000 pensions sanitation workers are earning.
That is simply not true. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the size of the projected state and local government pension funding shortfalls is manageable. In most states, the total shortfall for the pension funds is less than 0.2 percent of projected gross state product during the next 30 years. Even in states with the largest shortfalls, the gap is less than 0.5 percent of projected state product during that period. And, because pension payments are made over generations of workers, funding can remain stable over long periods, and funding challenges managed over decade long periods, despite short-term economic setbacks. These are facts that the opponents of public pensions simply ignore, as they seek to punish workers for Wall Street’s psychopathic behavior.
While pension funds face manageable challenges, the same cannot be said for the failed 401(k) system that Wall Street and the corporate chieftains have forced onto private sector workers. After three decades of experience with it, we know 401(k)s do not meet the one true test of effectiveness: economic security in retirement. Yet instead of devoting their energies to fixing the system they foisted on workers, the right-wing, pension heretics are intent on destroying the retirement security of the remaining Americans who have it.
But not only is it very bad news for the workers, it is equally bad news for the tax payers, since defined contribution plans are so much less inefficient that they are twice as expensive:
And governments are concerned about delivering on the promises that they have made to their citizens and to their employees as tax revenues shrink amid a weakening economy. In this environment, some have proposed replacing traditional defined benefit (DB) pensions with 401(k)-type defined contribution (DC) retirement savings plans in an effort to save money.
But decision-makers would be wise to look before they leap. To deliver the same level of retirement benefits, a DB plan can do the job at almost half the cost of a DC plan. Hence, DB plans should remain an integral part of retirement income security in an increasingly uncertain world because they offer employers and employees the best bang for the buck.
So if it is detrimental to the employees and costs twice as much, why would any honest politician even suggest it? Well, an honest politician wouldn’t, but bad ones would be behind it enthusiastically.
The three supervisors who want to put corporate interests before those of their workers or the tax payers are Joe Sanfelippo, Joe Rice and Paul Cesarz.
Each are bad news in their own right, and have really shown themselves to be less than stellar leaders for the county.
Joe Rice, who for years wanted to shrink the county board, had a hissy fit when they finally did so and it turned out to be his seat that was removed. Apparently he is one of those politicians that feel we all should sacrifice, as long as they aren’t part of the sacrificing part.
Paul Cesarz, who always complains about how the county is supposedly wasting money, has been collecting his full salary, more than $50,ooo, without even showing his face at the courthouse as he worked as a pharmacist at a local Walgreens. Furthermore, Cesarz has shown himself to be incapable of handling his own finances, much less the county’s.
And it has just come out that both Rice and Cesarz are tied in with some possible corrupt pay-for-play scheme concocted by Scott Walker and his campaign.
Sanfelippo is no prize either. He spends a great deal of his time at his cab company and government business had to be delayed because he was more concerned with his private business than with the people’s business.
In the most recent issue of Milwaukee Magazine, there is an investigative report by Marie Rohde that shows that Sanfelippo’s taxi cab company, along with all sorts of unethical treatment of his drivers, made $1.2 million from a contract with the county. It should be noted that it was only in the 2012 budget adoption hearing that Sanfelippo abstained from voting on these contracts, and for a while was even the chair of the committee that made these policy decisions.
It is obvious that even though Scott Walker is no longer county executive, his legacy of corruption lives on with his friends on the county board.
As that the resolution to change over the pension system was brought forth by these three supervisors of questionable repute, would cause needless harm to the workers and be an irresponsible use of tax payer dollars, there is no way it should have even been brought forth, much less be allowed to pass.
It is nothing more than another dishonest money grab from those that would turn Milwaukee County into a plutocracy.