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It's Not Raining, We're Getting Peed On (II): The Scam of the Deficit Crisis

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(originally published at Huffington Post)

Yesterday, I kicked off a series of posts about the phony deficit/debt "crisis" with an excerpt from the introduction to my new book, It's Not Raining, We're Getting Peed On: The Scam of the Deficit Crisis. Today, I'll continue with a part from the first chapter called, "Stupid".

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In honor of the mind-boggling decision by the president to single out public employees' pay for attack, I'm actually going to go a bit out of order here.

Stupid Statement #6: Public sector workers get lavish pensions.

The average pension for a transit worker in New York is about $20,000-a year. Living most of your working life under ground--whether you drive a train or walk inside a tunnel to do maintenance--is a job choice that very few of the people who attack transit workers' "generous benefits" would ever make. Other city workers' pensions are in the low 30s. And firefighters' pensions average around $70,000.

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Ask yourself this: How many times have politicians fallen over each other as they rush, to get the maximum PR value for their own careers, to the site of a fire or a shooting, where a cop or firefighter has died. They stand in front of cameras and microphones and spout the words "the ultimate sacrifice"...but now those very politicians are saying that firefighters or policemen, having survived the day-to-day grind and threats on the job, should not get to have a decent pension so they can live out the rest of their lives in some semblance of dignity and respect.

Let's check out teachers' pensions. Most teachers' pensions mix years of service and age; the majority of their pension plans offer full retirement after age 60 or 62--and, if most kids were like you and me in grade school or high school, don't you think they earn every penny? Look at yourself in the mirror: you were not a picnic to deal with in school.

Lavish pensions for teachers? In California, the average pension for a retired teacher with more than 30 years of service is $5,526. That's a "high-end" pension: a bit over $66,000 a year. Shoot across the country to Maryland's Carroll County school district and you'll find this: if a teacher with a Masters degree, who has worked for 25 years at the top salary of $76, 895, decides to call it a career at age 62, the teacher's annual pension would be $28,605 plus Social Security. Yup: totally yacht-buying, Mercedes-driving, private-plane flying retirement, huh?

A teacher in Kentucky? Well, retiring at 62 with 25 years on the job gets you an annual pension of $32,920--but you don't get Social Security (some states have crazy laws that bar a teacher from getting both his or her modest public pension--that goldmine of $32,920--and Social Security).

In the public sector, the crazy propaganda blaming workers for "generous pensions" is covering up the real scam: city and state governments are not facing budget deficits because of "generous pensions". The budget shortfalls come courtesy of the Madoff-Rubin-Mozilo cocktail of financial shenanigans and the politicians who have voted for tax cut after tax cut that allow the richest people in society to escape paying their fair share.

New York, for example, would easily have billions more in revenue to use for basic services if the wealthiest people in the state paid a fairer share of the dues that should be required in a decent society.

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What an irony: the very people who escape paying higher taxes in New York are some of the very people who were at the helm of the financial industry which, with its spectacular collapse, wiped trillions of dollars in wealth held by regular people who believed, in the absence of a real pension, that their 401(k)s would provide a decent retirement.

Oh, those "free marketeers" are so clever with their bait-and-switch strategy. They whip up a frenzy in the press about "generous" public employee benefits, making people just go wild with anger--and then the regular people forget that their own pensions in the private sector are evaporating or went "poof" thanks to the Bernie Madoff crowd.

Again, here we go again, back to the classic Henry Ford strategy that divides one half of the working class against the other half. People are blinded and distracted--they just forget about the transit worker who gets them to work, the firefighter down the street who their kids look up to, the teacher who taught a high-school freshman geometry, and the rest of the army of people who make our society run.

Stupid Statement #2: Out-of-control government spending caused the deficit and the debt to explode in the past couple of years because we've had a socialist president.

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Jonathan Tasini is the executive director of Labor Research Association. Tasini ran for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in New York. For the past 25 years, Jonathan has been a union leader and organizer, a social activist, and a (more...)

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