As a direct result of Wall Street excesses and corporate abuses, pensions (along with 401Ks) took big hits during the recent market crash that put the American dream of retiring with dignity and security at risk for all workers. The Employee Benefits Research Institute reports that 54 percent of households have less than $25,000 saved toward retirement and 30 percent have less than $1,000 saved. This is the real retirement crisis in our country.
Contrary to what corporate-friendly media and corporate-awestruck politicians say, private sector taxpayers are not the only group feeling the blunt of fiscal crisis hitting our states and local communities. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that since August 2008, state and local governments have both slashed crucial services and eliminated approximately 212,000 jobs. In the past year alone, 45 states have either slashed public employee wages, required furloughs, imposed hiring freezes, or cut state workforce positions.
What it comes down to is this: There's no reason to imagine that "coddled" state workers somehow caused our country's economic crisis or "deserve" to lose their jobs or retirement plans any more than private sector employees.
Unfortunately, it seems evident that the crusade against public employees that masks Wall Street's abuses isn't going to end anytime soon. It's critical to push back and challenge these wrong-headed naysayers--so be sure to visit our fact check refuting attacks on public sector workers' pensions at http://seiu.me/pensionfacts.
Instead of denouncing the public employee pensions that allow some union members to retire with dignity, we should be asking why all Americans aren't guaranteed satisfactory provisions after a lifetime of hard work. A strong, new coalition www.retirement-usa.org is calling for a new retirement system in this country that is available to everyone and delivers an income every retiree can live on.