Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Time for progressives to rally...

Why are Americans of every stripe not crying out at the theft of and threat of abrogation of employee pensions by corporate America and conservative Republican politicians? United Airlines employees lose their pension plan and California’s governor threatens to abrogate the state’s public employee and teacher pension plans, and most Americans seem to think none of these employees deserved the pension plan anyway. But, as Jonathan Tasini recently put it in a column in TomPaine.commonsense, pension abrogation violates one of our most basic moral values: “taking someone’s money without their permission is stealing. Except in America, where, if you’re a corporation that takes away someone’s pension, it’s okay.”

Tasini continues that “we are letting corporate America dismantle the private defined-benefit pension system” while, “at the same time, huge salary and pension benefits are lavished on executives.” We seem to have forgotten that “pensions are deferred compensation—people put off getting money in their paychecks today because of a promise that they would receive a specific amount of money (hence, the term “defined benefit”) many years later.” It’s one of the major reasons why I went into teaching back in the 1960s – the pension made it worth a lower salary than I could have earned in the private sector.

So, the wealthy get filthy rich at the expense of the working middle-class, and, at least here in California, the education system is starved because those who can afford to pay for it are unwilling to pay for it. They’d rather listen to their “governator” rail against taxing the wealthy and accuse public servants and unions of being evil special interests, all the while sending his children to the most exclusive and expensive private school in west Los Angeles.

The world doesn’t owe us anything on a silver platter, but we’re fast losing many of the things our forefathers and mothers fought their lives to put on the platter we have. It’s time to stand up to the selfishness and greed of power in these latest pure and unadulterated manifestations. It's time for progressive Americans to be heard again!

2 Comments:

Blogger John said...

Jim...this process began during the Reagan years when the government changed the rules to allow corporate greed to show it's ugly head; several airlines, the worst being TWA had pension funds depleted by unscrupulous thieves while the government stood by. I'm afraid that this process won't change as long as there's a Republican alive anywhere in government; their bed-partners are the leaders of Big Business who hold in contempt normal people and their desire to make a good life. Another word for Republicans is Scrooge (before the ghosts came to visit); the actions that we can contemplate are those of the robber barrons of the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, you're seeing the beginnings of the world according to George Bush and his followers!!!!

12:27 PM  
Blogger james said...

John - another friend noted the experience of Poloroid Corp., the management of which failed miserably in the 90s. Facing a changing marketplace, the company chased one ill-conceived product
after another, until the nationally admired brand-name of "Poloroid," supported by an innovative and effective workforce, was completely squandered by poor judgement, mistakes and a steady sell off of assets. (Much like GM's recent pumping of all of its energy into the SUV market.)

The end result was bankruptcy and a financial restructuring which
yielded an average payout to 6,000 pensioners of $47. No zeros, just 47 bucks. The company was dissassembled and sold off. Chairman Jacques Nasser, who joined Poloroid in November 2002, received $12.8 million for his shares. J. Michael Pocock, who became CEO about two years ago received $8.5 million. He will run Poloroid for the company which bought Poloroid in bankruptcy. "..But the executives deserve it," wrote one observer. "They were the leaders while the ship was sinking. Very dangerous work...."

So, the pension fund itself was foisted off onto the federal PBGC a few years ago after the company realized that they'd underfunded their responsibility by $341M (35%)

Well, you and I know the problem here. It oughta be a crime, but it isn't. And, that's the real crime!

Meanwhile, can you name an effective Democratic voice on the scene today?

Enjoy the Latin sun, my friend.

12:58 PM  

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