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Apocalypse
03-08-2011, 08:21 PM
Anger brews over government workers’ benefits

By Geoff Mulvihill, Associated Press
March 8, 2011

When Erin McFarlane looks at public workers, she sees lucrative pension benefits she doesn’t ever expect to get. And it makes her mad.

"I don’t think that a federal employee or government employee is worth any more than anybody else who does their job and does it well," said the Slinger, Wis., woman. She’s been working a couple of bartending jobs since January, when she was laid off from her job at a Harley Davidson plant after almost a decade.

She’s not alone in seeing public servants as public enemies in some ways. It’s a case of pension envy…

A USA Today/Gallup poll last month found show that Americans largely side with the employees, though about two in five that want government pay and benefits reined in.

Barbara Davis, a retiree from Cherry Hill, N.J., has been watching public workers in rallies in Madison, Wis., as well as Trenton. She says the protesters are wrong about tightening benefits hurting the middle class.

"I'm sorry, but what they're doing is telling off the middle class," said Davis, 76, and a co-chairwoman of the Cherry Hill Area Tea Party. "The middle-class people don't get all the goodies that they do."

At its heart, the issue is this: Some public workers get a sweet deal compared to other workers. And it's taxpayers who pay for it.

That’s set off resentment in a time when economic doldrums have left practically everyone tightening their belts. Many people have found their tax bills rising even if their earnings haven’t…

"It’s the government sector worker who’s the new elite, the highest-paid worker on the block," said David Gregory, who teaches labor and employment law at New York’s St. John’s University.

For instance, most non-uniformed public employees who have worked in New Jersey for 30 years with an ending salary of $85,000 can look forward to retiring at 55 with an annual pension of about $46,000. Working until age 60 and a salary of $90,000 can bring a pension of $57,000. And many of the New Jersey’s public-sector retirees have no or low premiums for their health insurance.

For a private-section worker who retires at 55, relying solely on a 401(k) without an employer match, it would take a $100 contribution to a plan every week for 30 years and getting an annual return over 7 percent to get to the same level of pension benefit as the public worker retiring at that age. Those benefits would run out after 25 years for the 401(k) retiree…

National data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that public-sector workers do better when it comes to pensions and benefits…

The government entities spent 1.7 times as much on health care per employee-hour worked and nearly twice as much on retirement costs. Public-sector workers — who are more often represented by unions — are far more likely to have defined-benefit pensions with promises to pay for the retirees’ whole lives…

Stewart, 36, the director of contemporary worship at a Methodist church in suburban Toledo, says he has a hard time conjuring up sympathy for the government workers he’s seen protesting because of all the time he’s spent working with struggling immigrants.

"These are middle class people who have a house, who have enough food, who are complaining they don’t have enough," he said. "Instead of fighting for their piece of the political pie, they’d be better looking at how to live within their means."

Jeff Nash is a Democrat elected to the county freeholder board in union-heavy Camden County, N.J., who has come to believe that public employees need to sacrifice.

"The days of government workers receiving free benefits and pensions without risk, those days are coming to an end because everyone else who pays for government services is paying more for their health insurance, like myself, and running the risk of a 401(k) as part of their retirement savings. Government is changing to match what the rest of middle-class America is enduring today."

"It’s not a matter of fairness," he said. "It’s a matter of evolution."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110308/ap_on_re_us/us_benefit_envy

Wow, out of the liberal AP. And they quote a Democrat out of NJ that is saying the gravy train is coming to an end like it or not.