Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pensions Not the Problem


Last night the local Fox News affiliate here in Philadelphia chose to devote a large portion of their 10:00pm news program spotlighting what they call "The Pension Problem" in Philadelphia, New Jersey and other places. In calling pensions the problem, Fox misled the public and missed an opportunity to highlight the truth for tax-payers.

Once again, the local news media, this time Fox in particular, cow-towed to liberal politicians and let them off the hook for a mess that they singularly have created. But not only that, they also portrayed hard-working city and state employees as the problem, seemed to be trying to pit tax-payers against pensioners, and never once keyed on the real problem.

That real problem? Out of control spending on issues, services, and frankly outright budgetary 'pork' over decades and decades as well as regular, intentional under-funding of employee pensions. All of that going on with little to no outcry from media watchdogs.

Fox missed an opportunity when they once again identified the real problems improperly in stating that "Pensions are at the heart of budget troubles in the state of New Jersey and in the city of Philadelphia."

Pensions are not the problem, politicians are the problem. Politicians who spend money that the city's citizens simply do not have and never did have on programs that make them feel and look better.

No, I am not going to take any time whatsoever to point out any particular program or project that I feel falls into this category. I will make one simple statement, however. If any fiscal conservative individual had been put in charge, this would not have happened.


A critic of my position might call that a copout. Frankly it is a simple acknowledgement that there are far too many such spending debacles. Get yourself a copy of the budget and go through it for yourself. Why are we spending any money on some of the programs at all? What made them Philadelphia's tax-payers responsiblity in the first place? There are many such items in every budget.

And further, Fox tried to blame a part of this on the stock market downturn. I have heard the exact same lament from Mayor Michael Nutter and other politicians. The fact is, the stock market should be almost a non-issue. If the city had funded the pensions fully all along, and invested that money safely, and not used it to cover other expenses, there wouldn't be any problem right now, or those would be minimal.

Further, nothing will change in Philadelphia until the city follows the lead of the citizens of New Jersey and begins to toss the liberal Democrats who have run our town into the ground over decades out onto the streets.

Governor Chris Christie has begun the difficult task of straightening out New Jersey's problems which were created by Democrats and RINO Republicans over decades in our neighbor state. Philadelphia needs exactly the same changes here in order to have any chance at saving itself from ruin.

Pensions are not some burdensome extravagance lavished upon privileged people. Speaking as someone who has been working for two decades with the promise of a city pension at the end of the line, what pensions are instead are a fringe benefit based on a solemn promise.

When I decided to take on the job of a Police Officer and go out onto the streets of Philadelphia day and night to fight crime, that promise of a decent pension at retirement was a huge reason for making that decision. The city gave me it's promise of that pension, and I along with numerous other officers gave them decades of hard work in return.

It's always bemoaned as some obvious fact that police officers "don't get paid enough" for the work that we do. Chasing bad men with guns up dark alleys, searching through dark buildings for wanted criminals, standing in the middle of thousands of vehicles to direct traffic safely are all on the enormous list of dirty, dangerous jobs.

Most of us do this job because we love it, that's true. Many, like me, are part of multiple familial generations of public servants for whom a part of the attraction is that knowledge that we are making a positive difference in our communities.

But we also have traded off that relatively low salary for dangerous, hazardous, and as we have seen highlighted here in Philadelphia over the past few years deadly work in exchange for benefits that are important to us including quality health coverage and secure retirement.

Again, those are things that the city of Philadelphia promised to us when we took this job decades ago. It was a promise the city made to my own father back in 1960 when he began to work for thirty years for this town as a police officer. It is a solemn promise that they owe both realistically and morally.

Now there is a little problem here. The "they" of whom I speak is a city. That means in functional terms it's tax-payers have to share in footing the bill for these services. They also have to share the blame for the problems for continually voting in the same politicians and Party and mentality year after year.

Those fiscal problems can be solved by fully funding all pension obligations, providing basic services, and cutting out the pork entirely. Not a single politician or official working for the city of Philadelphia should have a 'take-home car' for instance. Why should tax-payers be paying for the vehicles themselves as well as costly maintenance, fuel, insurance, and so on? Outrageous on it's face.

If the city of Philadelphia had real fiscal and social conservatives running the show, the budget and services would be slashed and taxes lowered rather than raised. This would make Philly attractive once again for residents and businesses. More businesses here, more jobs. The cycle would reverse.

But no, the liberal socialist mindset is not only alive and well in Philadelphia and most other big cities in America today, it has spread to our national government as well. Tax and spend, spend and tax: the liberal socialist mantra.

No, Fox Philly, pensions are not the problem. The out of control spending of politicians is the problem. And since the vast majority of those politicians and all of the power are liberal Democrats with socialist thought processes, there should be the proper direction for your news features and stories.

When the media begins to challenge the power structure that has been in place in Philadelphia for decades, begins to call a spade a spade in naming specifically the Democratic Party and the liberal spending policies as the true problem, then they might have some integrity and credibility.

Stop pitting citizens against citizens, tax payers against employees, one hard-working Philadelphian against another. Instead, Fox Philly and other media outlets, turn your Constitutionally-mandated and protected power against the powers-that-be who got us into this mess and keep us wallowing in it. That is your job. Go earn your pensions as we earn ours.

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