But are right-wingers scarier now than in the past? They certainly seem stranger and fiercer. I’d argue, however, that they’ve been this crazy for a long time. Over the last sixty years or so, I see far more continuities than discontinuities in what the rightward twenty or thirty percent of Americans believe about the world. The crazy things they believed and wanted were obscured by their lack of power, but they were always there – if you knew where to look. What’s changed is that loony conservatives are now the Republican mainstream, the dominant force in the GOP.
- Rick Perlstein, Why Conservatives Are Still Crazy After All These Years
The Texas GOP has no plans of ending it’s assault on working Texans. It started with teachers, public education, health care, etc.., and will continue to other state employees and their pensions. Make no mistake about it, the folks who fund the GOP campaigns do not want to pay an extra penny of taxes. They want to make sure that poor, working, and middle class Texans are the only ones that have to sacrifice in Texas. Now that the primary date is set they’ve started their election year push to warn all Republicans running for the legislature – don’t do anything to help working Texans!
Michael Quinn Sullivan with Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, another coalition member, said failing to heed the call for cuts could jeopardize legislators’ election hopes. “Raising taxes and seeking new revenue sources is off the table for Texas taxpayers and voters, and so it needs to be also for lawmakers,” he said.
That makes clear that corporate think tanks now set the election strategy and policy agenda of the Texas GOP. Yesterday it was reported that a group of right wing, corporate-funded, think tanks want to make sure we know, (and voters must hear this), that they think last session was a beginning – a first step. They think that education cuts should not be restored, even as the budget outlook improves for the next biennium. They believe the budget needs to be pared even more. Here’s what the Illinois think tank, the Heartland Institute, had to say.
Looking to get an early start on shaping budget discussions for the 2013 legislative session, the Texans for a Conservative Budget Coalition recommended Tuesday that lawmakers plan to reduce welfare spending, increase local control for public school districts, and consolidate or eliminate general revenue spending for several state agencies.
“The roadmap is very clear,” said Julie Drenner of the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank and member of the coalition. “Government must prioritize spending on essential government functions only. When lawmakers look at questions, they must ask themselves only two questions: Do I reform it, or do I eliminate it?”
While [former Rep. Talmadge Heflin, R-Houston] is among state retirees who enjoy relatively generous pension and health care benefits, he said Texas needs to move public-sector workers away from traditional, defined-benefit plans and into 401(k)-style retirement savings plans. The so-called defined-contribution plans cap an employer’s financial liability.
Heflin said taxpayers need to be protected, but also young workers, who he said forfeit benefits now if they work only four years and then leave government service, and retirees, who he said face uncertainty because of unfunded obligations.
“They don’t currently own the retirement system they have today,” he said.
There’s “uncertainty” because the Texas GOP has not adequately funded those obligations since taking over our state government.
State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio) had this to say about the harm this right wing plan will do to Texans.
Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, said conservatives ignore the “structural deficit” created in 2006 when lawmakers cut local school property taxes by one-third — a move made possible by shipping more state aid to districts, which left state revenue in short supply.
“The Texas population is growing, the population of school-age students is increasing and the population of baby-boomers retiring is steadily rising,” said McClendon, a member of the House budget panel. “This proposed policy-making agenda is a pending disaster.” Taking note of the proposed pension overhaul, she said that educators and public employees “receive no bonus checks or stock options as part of their compensation.”
The CPPP’s F. Scott McCown had this to say about the GOP scheme.
F. Scott McCown, executive director for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, said the coalition’s proposals don’t serve Texas’ best interests.
“Slashing budgets even deeper than we just did in 2011 is not the path to prosperity in our state,” McCown said. “Instead, increasing our investment in education is the way forward. Between 2000 and 2010, the child population of the United States grew by about 2 million children, and over half of them were Texans. Our economy benefits from having so many young people — if we teach them the skills they need.”
“The ‘real budget solutions’ now proposed by these guardians of the 1 percent would continue to shortchange needed investments in the future of our Texas family. These advocates are like profligate parents who would rather spend money on their own current consumption than provide for the basic needs of their children. They pretend that their solutions are all about efficiency, but their real agenda is to cut spending and disinvest in public education and other essential services. In the wake of deep budget cuts that already have done lasting damage to our schoolchildren’s educational opportunities, their real strategy is more of the same: double down, continue the cutting, continue the status quo, ask even less of the 1 percent. It’s a failed strategy that common-sense Texans who care about the long-term health and prosperity of our Texas family will reject.
“We Texans are all in this together, and we should act like it. If the out-of-state Heartland Institute and its local confederates are really interested in efficiency, we ask them to start by joining us in an effort to close grossly inefficient tax loopholes for big businesses that make our state revenue system look like Swiss cheese. A prime example is the so-called high-cost natural gas exemption, which has long outlived its original justification but continues to leak $1 billion a year from the state’s revenue system.”
Of course, think tanks funded by the likes of Exxon-Mobil and the Koch Brothers, are unlikely to say anything bad about such corporate welfare for their backers.
What Texans – but teachers, state employees and retirees in particular – must realize is that this coalition and their backers are out to get us. And that continuing to elect candidates that are controlled and cowed by these think tanks is voting against our own interests. Gutting and cutting the pay and benefits of working and middle class Texans is not a path to prosperity. We have to remember that these corporate interests will not be happy until they get it all.
A couple of weeks ago it was announce that the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS), who administers retirement, health and other insurance benefits for current and former employees, was changing corporations that administers health insurance. From Blue Cross to United HealthCare, via the ERS web site.
On February 21, 2012, the ERS Board of Trustees agreed to enter into contract negotiations with United HealthCare Services, Inc. to serve as the third party administrator (TPA) for the self-funded HealthSelectSM of Texas health plan starting September 1, 2012. United HealthCare Services, Inc. call center and claims processing unit is located in San Antonio, Texas.
Since that time Paul Burka has been all over this story as a clear sign that “The Perry gravy train is back on the track”. This post shows how the ERS contract is sweet deal for Perry insiders, and not a good deal for state worker and retirees. Burka starts by pointing out the ties to UnitedHealthCare and Gov. Perry.
UnitedHealthCare is a client of … Mike Toomey. What a remarkable coincidence.
I went on to quote from the release:
Chris Cronn, a former Perry staffer, will become Vice-President for state affairs for UnitedHealthCare, and other former Perry staffers are on the gravy train. Their names appear below, following the text of an email that went out on Wednesday:UnitedHealthcare was selected by the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) to be the third party administrator of the HealthSelect of Texas health insurance plan. As the administrator, UnitedHealthcare will process claims, provide customer service and manage the HealthSelect network starting September 1, 2012. We will be working with ERS, and the current administrator, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, to make the transition as easy as possible for all HealthSelect members.
The names that followed included Cronn (as the new vice president for state affairs for UHC); Toomey; Laura Keel; Louis Saenz, a former senior adviser for Perry; and Victoria Ford, a former Perry health care staffer.
This certainly highlights what many refer to as the “revolving door” of politics and the corporate world. Those who leave state government and use their connections in the private sector for personal gain. While there is no evidence of corruption, this certainly looks fortuitous. He then goes on to point out that this will cause “major disruptions”.
First, UnitedHealthcare’s competitors are not going to go quietly into that good night. I am told that ERS will meet tomorrow, and that representatives of the speaker’s office and the lieutenant governor’s office will be present. The switch from Blue Cross to UHC is going to have huge implications, both financial and personal. (Full disclosure: I am covered by Blue Cross through TEXAS MONTHLY’s parent company.) The UHC plan will cause major disruptions in patient care, at least in the beginning, as well as considerable cost-shifting to state employees and retirees.
And ends with this:
I don’t want to rush to judgment here. I haven’t read the contract. I don’t pretend to understand the nuances of health insurance. I haven’t seen a comparison of the two plans. But the combination of possible influence peddling by the governor and his former staffers turned lobbyists, and the potential impact of the plan on thousands of state employees, should motivate the state’s leadership (excluding Perry) to determine whether state employees are getting the best possible deal here. The integrity of TRS has already been compromised by Perry’s appointments–remember the Michael Green whistle-blowing letter–and now ERS is likely to come under scrutiny. Dewhurst and Straus should seek a thorough airing of the differences between the new UnitedHealthcare plan and the Blue Cross Blue Shield plan that is no longer in force and determine whether state employees are well served by the new contract.
And what about ERS’s lawyer — Greg Abbott? He is widely believed to be planning a race for governor. He would benefit significantly if Perry were to step aside. But would Abbott risk a fight with Perry by questioning the process that led to the awarding of a contract to Perry’s friends? Unlikely. This is really ugly, and it is going to get worse before it gets better.
What’s sad about this, especially from what I’ve read thus far, is that there doesn’t seem to be much being said, especially from the ERS board members, about how this will effect their membership. Here’s what the “Get Answers” link says regarding coverage and cost.
The new contract is expected to save the health plan money, while providing quality benefits.
You will not pay more because of this transition. The legislature and/or the ERS Board of Trustees determine the plan design and premium changes.
What that says to me is that, “quality benefits” is not “the same benefits you have now”, and that yes you will pay more in the future but we’ll blame it on something else.
You can enter any of the office buildings of Congress fairly easily. There’s a metal detector manned by guards, obviously not happy with their TSA-like shift. The search is brief, almost fake. You’re then inside a building typically with long, beautiful hallways, onto which the offices of congressmen and senators open. Often the halls are empty. Silent. Almost abandoned. Then, seemingly at random, a single person may enter a hall, or a gaggle of staffers. And sometimes, at the center, is a Member of Congress. Harried, focused, typically reading something as he or she walks, often frowning, unless you catch his or her eye. Then you’re met, whether you know the Member or not, with an “of course I remember you” smile, for a second, until light won’t bend to you, at your angle, anymore. The race then resumes, to a typically meaningless procedural vote, or to a florescent-lit cubicle in an office just next to the Capitol, where Members spend hours cold-call fundraising, the only truly required work of Members of Congress.
It is easy in this mix not to notice the basic bankruptcy that is the First Branch of the Framers’ Constitution: Congress. The obsessively hard work of the staff, the fawning of visiting constituents, the respect of uniformed officers—all that fuels an obliviousness to the basic failure of this the democratic core of our government. Public cynicism about Congress couldn’t be greater; public approval couldn’t be lower. (Rasmussen, for example,recently reported that for the first time, favorable views about the work of Congress fell to single digits—9%.) But most in Congress do their job as if the standing of Congress were simply not their concern. Members are loved locally, and that is enough. That the institution they serve is despised is irrelevant.
Nothing on the political horizon is going to change this. Bush v. Gore notwithstanding, the public still trusts and admires the Supreme Court. No matter whether Obama or McCain wins in November, the public will once again approve and admire the Presidency. But nothing will save Congress. Without fundamental change, the institution will remain despised and increasingly irrelevant. Power will continue to shift—as it has for the past fifty years—to the President and the Court. The core institution of the Framers’ democratic design, the institution that many of them were most proud of, will remain essentially bankrupt.
That’s a strong term. But it predicates well of Congress. If the credit of any public institution is trust and respect, then Congress is, as Websters would define it, “discredited, having forfeited all credit.” Not because of any particular decision, or failed vote. Most couldn’t name one thing Congress did or didn’t do that they object to. Not because anyone believes its Members (or most of its Members) are bribed, or evil people. To the contrary, Congress is filled with souls with an extraordinary commitment to the public. These are good, not evil, people.
Rather, Congress’s “credit” is “forfeit” because of a profoundly deep sense among most that the machine that Congress is is simply bent. Like a rigged slot machine at a casino, or a balance sheet by the Enron accounting department, the vast majority of Americans don’t believe that the answers Congress gives are the right answers for the right reasons. Most believe that they track something else entirely: not sense but dollars. And not the dollars of an illegal bribe (though no doubt, too many believe this too), but the dollars that fund the essential element of congressional tenure—campaign contributions.
America’s view of Congress’s behavior is not likely correct. Political scientists are almost unanimous in their judgment that there is no simple quid-pro-quo to what Congress does. If there is improper influence, it is far less direct, or obvious. Any improper influence is well hidden in the web of relationships that power attracts.
But this is one of those crucial contexts in which perception is reality. Congress is bankrupt because the people see it so. Why America sees as it does is obvious; likewise obvious is what Congress must do to change that belief. Not obvious, however, is how that change gets effected.
Because of the “revolving door” and campaign finance system, now in place, it’s impossible for us to trust our elected, or appointed in the case of ERS, leaders are doing what they believe is best for ERS members and the state of Texas.
What’s going on at Texas A&M will likely happen or be tried at many state universities all over Texas. But it’s all part of the plan. Privatization schemes, like what is being proposed at A&M, are a way to funnel taxpayer money to corporations that fund the campaigns of those who “deregulate”. Here’s what deregulation has done to tuition at public universities, Higher education: Texas state universities to seek tuition hikes.
Legislators in 2003 gave the governing boards of state universities, whose members are appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, the ability to raise tuition after cutting funding for higher education by $181 million to help close a $10 billion state budget shortfall.
Since then, the statewide average total academic charges for a student taking 15 semester credit hours at a public university has increased by 83 percent, according to the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board.
The so-call free market is driving up the price of higher education, no surprise there. But in order to make it look like they’re trying to cut costs, university chancellors will go after the lowest paid workers, (who can’t afford a lobbyist), what they consider to be non-essential employees. As with other privatizations schemes this will likely fail, and only cost taxpayers, and working Texans, more in the long run. With only the corporations and those whose campaigns they bankroll benefitting.
Over the past decade, Texas officials and state contractors and their lobbyists repeatedly have grossly underestimated the costs—and wildly exaggerated the benefits—of social service privatizations. The best of these mismanaged projects have failed to perform as promised; the worst of them have wasted hundreds of millions of tax dollars. As a result, some of the privatization contractors and lobbyists profiled here are among the best-paid and least-deserving welfare recipients in Texas.
It’s not a pretty picture. There’s a considerable amount of backlash against Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp’s plan to outsource the university’s dining services, landscaping, custodial services and building maintenance. In the latest the faculty has written Sharp about this, Faculty challenge Texas A&M proposal to outsource jobs.
“This worrisome trend has escalated over recent years and has, in nearly every case, resulted in outcomes that were detrimental to the university and rarely increased efficiencies or saved money,” stated the letter signed by Faculty Senate Speaker Michael Benedik. “We believe that this current attempt will likewise follow that trend.”
Sharp is taking heat for this and doesn’t seem to like the scrutiny. On a local radio show the Chair or the Brazos County Democratic Party Maggie Charleton was interviewed. She stated, among other things, how this will hurt the workers, the community, and that she wants to make sure that all options are being explored to cut costs. Sharp, in his response, starts with and non-sequitor and by bashing Democrats in Texas.
Sharp has a job to do and this certainly seems like a done-deal barring some sort of backlash against it. But it’s not all his fault. Until Texans realize that this is the result of the decisions we’ve been making on election day, whether by who we vote for or choosing not to vote, then nothing is going to change. If we value our state’s public university system, and a family attitude between faculty, workers, and students then we must elect people that believe that too.
We haven’t been doing that for the better part of the last three decades. The people that have been getting elected in Texas believe that if we sell our government to the highest bidder everything will be better. That is why what is happening at A&M is a microcosm of what’s happening to Texas. And it’s why nothing will change as long as Rick Perry keeps appointing his college buddies to positions of power in Texas.
Worried about the possibility of no longer being Texas A&M employees and having diminished health benefits, more than 700 of Aggieland’s rank-and-file workers packed Rudder Theatre on Friday in an emotional meeting to voice concerns about the plan to outsource much of facilities services and dining services.
One was Raul Rodriguez, a landscape employee who was born at St. Joseph, graduated from Bryan High School and has been an Aggie football fan since childhood. He’s never been to a game at Kyle Field because he spends game days picking up trash at the stadium for extra money to support his wife and three children.
“I wish I could have come here as a student, but I couldn’t, and I’m proud to be here as a worker,” the 26-year-old said. “Texas A&M University lives in my heart, and when I come to work, I give it 100 percent.”
He said he wants to remain a Texas A&M employee.
A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said this week that, in an effort to save money and generate revenue, he plans to put out requests for proposal for private companies to take over campus landscaping, custodial services, building maintenance and dining services. It’s unclear how many jobs would be outsourced, but some 700 employees are in facilities services, and another 200 in dining services.
After the meeting, Sharp announced that the A&M System had issued a request for proposals for a private entity to operate dining services, which includes catering and 34 locations that serve the university’s 50,000 students. Future RFPs will include those for custodial services, building maintenance and landscaping services.
A top Texas A&M administrator, Rodney McClendon, addressed the standing-room only crowd and read a statement from Sharp, who was in Galveston to attend a Chancellor’s Century Council meeting.
“Our employees, their jobs, salaries and benefits will be the key consideration in evaluation of any proposal from the private sector,” Sharp said in the statement. “This evaluation will be led by a multidisciplinary team as part of a careful and deliberate process over the next several months.”
McClendon, the university’s vice president for administration, said that layoffs were not part of the discussion, and that, typically, the companies absorb the entire workforce.
Sharp says he believes that if the jobs are outsourced, the private companies who take over would hire the Texas A&M employees already doing the work, but he also says there are no guarantees.
Sharp says, “There are no guarantees now. This is an at-will state…I would be pretty nervous if I was working for an organization that was losing a million bucks a year…Why would they (the private companies) go through the expense of going to Dallas to bring a bunch of employees down here that don’t know squat about Texas A&M? They’re going to use these employees here and the RFP clearly says you will be judged by that as one of those factors, that we want our existing employees used.”
What Sharp is saying to these employees is that you will no longer work for Texas A&M, you will work for the XYZ corporation of Dallas. You will have a job but at a lower salary, and fewer benefits, in particular health care and a retirement plan. To see what this will look like check out this EOW post from August of last year, which described what happened when outsourcing came to Arizona State University.
BEATRIZ ROMAN: The lady, she comes and she says, oh. I have bad news.
That lady was an ASU administrator.
ROMAN: Everybody lose their job. Everybody’s working only two more weeks.
The university laid off its entire custodial staff. All 191 were offered jobs with private companies that would take over ASU’s cleaning duties.
ROMAN: After this, I’m depressed. I’m very depressed.
Roman is a widow and the mother of a teenager. But she turned down the offer. In fact, only three people took the job. Custodians say the pay and vacation days were less. Health insurance premiums were more expensive. Plus, there were no state retirement benefits, and if Roman accepted the work, she’d lose her university severance package. That pays $1,100 bucks a month, the same as her previous salary after taxes. With a pet parakeet chirping behind her, I ask what happens when the money runs out in November. [Emphasis added]
ROMAN: Good question. Good question. I need find job. Soon.
This is a bad idea and the only party likely to benefit will be the corporation that lands the contract. It’s an attempt to “save” money by screwing workers, and it’s shameful. Remember John Sharp is the one responsible for 2006 tax swap scheme in Texas that has created our state’s structural budget deficit. Enough said.
It seems that every year when the final county budget is approved the thing that gets the headline is what happened with the tax rate. And this year is no different, Williamson County commissioners vote to keep taxes steady. But should the tax rate be the main concern for the county every year during the budget debate? Certainly to those on the right of the political spectrum that is their only concern. But for a growing county like Williamson the level of service, which includes being able to hire and keep quality employees, certainly must be at least an equal part of the equation.
The Wilco Watchdog does a great job of breaking down much of the budget shenanigans, The Wilco 5 Adopt Their Smoke and Mirrors Budget. Their outrage and call for accountable government in Williamson County, (and the traditional media), echoes what we’ve been saying her for years.
It’s doubtful the mainstream media will pick up on this fact, so once again, we will report it. Much of our local media has an “if the commissioners say it, it must be true and we will print it” mentality. The Williamson County Sun’s journalistic integrity is front and center with many in the public in agreement reporting on County issues is favorably written for the Commissioners Court.
The latest from the Sun is their reporter has the County Judge quoted as saying“Alright reporters, I want the headline to be Williamson County lowers tax rate”, and guess what the Suns headline reads?“Commissioners cut budget, tax rate”.
This practice is a great disservice to Williamson County taxpayers, but it also explains the rising popularity of alternative media outlets including the Wilco Watchdog. The grandstanding has begun but at the end of the day, members of the Williamson County Commissioners Court are the only real losers in this game. Besides losing the respect of an entire workforce along with many county citizens, voters can – and hopefully will – express their dissatisfaction in upcoming elections.
March 2012 is fast approaching and we will say it here first. It is time for a change in the Precinct 1 and Precinct 3 County Commissioner positions. The back room secret deal-making policies must stop. So also must the good ole boy cover game played by placing other members of the good ole boys network into positions of power so as to facilitate questionable activities and obstruct attempts for corrective action. This type of governance is costly and has been tolerated for too long in Williamson County. It cannot, it should not continue.
It’s time we the citizens of Williamson County take our county back!
But the reality is that this is a fight, at least the way Williamson County politics are right now, that will only play out in the GOP Primary. Where challengers to incumbents are likely to lose. For real accountability we must have a strong and vibrant two-party system in the county. All incumbents in Williamson County will be vulnerable in 2012, a Presidential general election year where turnout will be high. In 2008 was when Democrat Diana Maldonado won a state House race in Williamson County, and Democrat Mike Grimes came withing 321 votes of knocking off Commissioner Lisa Birkman in Precinct 1. A Democratic campaign run on the issues of education, support for county employees, and support for working and middle class tax payers would do very well in November of 2012.
As we’ve said many times about Republicans, and especially the right-wing one that rule in Williamson County and in Texas, you can’t expect well run government from people that don’t believe government can be run well. Those who currently run our government believe that if everything was privatized it would run better and more efficiently. They’re wrong, but if that was done it would certainly enrich those who donate to their campaigns. (see, Austerity budgeting comes to Williamson County).
Instead of focusing on the almighty “tax rate”, next year when the budget debate rolls around, we should have a discussion of what we would level of service we would like our county government to provide for us, the taxpayers. It’s well-documented that Texas is a low tax, and therefore a low service state. Most of that stems from the fact that Texas does not have income tax, and therefore the wealthy and corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes. (See Who Pays Texas Taxes).
If we want a government that serves us well it can’t happen on the cheap. If we want great public schools, well paid teachers, law enforcement, fire, EMS, and all county employees everyone must pay their fair share. And the only way that is going to happen is if we elect new people. For voters in Williamson County it should be obvious what to expect if Commissioners Birkman and Covey are reelected – more of the same. To keep electing the same people and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.
It’s always interesting how willing the wealthy/corporations, Chamber of Commerce types, are to do away with poor, working and middle class worker’s pensions. Today via the AAS, Battle brewing over Texas public pensions.
Texas could be gearing up for its own Wisconsin-style grudge match over public employee benefits.
A group of high-powered Houston business leaders is starting a statewide campaign to overhaul retirement for future teachers, firefighters, police officers, judges and other state and local government workers.
“I think the state needs to get the hell out of this (pension) business completely,” said lawyer Bill King , who is forming Texans for Public Pension Reform with others from the Greater Houston Partnership, an über-chamber of commerce with business members representing $1.5 trillion in assets.
Taxpayers bear too much risk on behalf of public employees by providing them a guaranteed retirement that most private sector workers don’t get, King said.
But advocates of the public pension system say there are ways to eliminate or reduce risk without doing away with the program.
“They don’t have to destroy a system that works,” said Keith Brainard, research director of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators.
He said government pensions provide retirement security for millions of Texans in a cost-effective manner for taxpayers. Research by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College shows that professionally managed pension funds produce better investment returns than 401(k)s and cost less to administer. [Emphasis added]
Essentially the scheme King is working on will take away the guaranteed money (defined benefit) public retirees were promised and replace it with a risky 401(k) type investment (defined contribution). Essentially it’s the same scheme that was run in Wisconsin they’re just going to a do it a little nicer.
King said the campaign is in its infancy, and its specific goals are still being developed. It’s not clear how the campaign will get involved in next year’s elections or the 2013 legislative session, but King said he is confident the campaign will soon make pensions an issue for lawmakers.
King said he would support a constitutional amendment eliminating public pensions in the state and moving all government employees to retirement accounts akin to 401(k)s. Legislators would have to approve such an amendment on the ballot when they convene in 2013.
With a pension, also known as a “defined benefit” plan, the employee and employer both contribute to a professionally managed pooled investment fund. Upon retirement, the worker draws a monthly check until death. The average annual annuity in the Employees Retirement System of Texas is around $17,500.
The alternative “defined contribution” plan puts the risk on the employee to invest the money. The account is portable for the worker, but there is no guarantee of income throughout the retiree’s lifetime.
King, the son of a union pipefitter, said he was disappointed with the anti-worker tenor of the Wisconsin battle over collective bargaining rights. This campaign, he added, is not intended to bully public employees.[Emphasis added]
The wealthy and corporations likely see a big pot of money that they would like to have. But this scheme has already been seen for what it is, an unnecessary boondoggle.
Pension fund leaders from across the state see no good intentions in the Houston initiative, and earlier this month they created Texans for Secure Retirement to protect the guaranteed retirement benefit for public workers.
“When there are rumblings, you sit up and take notice,” said Bill Miller, a prominent Austin political consultant and lobbyist representing the employee pension groups.
Miller said he doubts that pension reformers will be able to make it a major issue in next year’s legislative elections. But if they do, he said there are 2 million public pension members in Texas who will stand up and take notice.
“I’m not picking a fight, but I’m not backing off from one, either,” Miller said.
They realize that this is unlikely to be a good campaign issue in 2012 and will likely try to keep in under the radar. But with ALEC-funded groups in Texas writing legislation for right wing legislators, they’re likely to pass very destructive public pension legislation next session if this is not made an issue by Democrats in 2012.
Talmadge Heflin, former House appropriations chairman, agreed that it is probably too late for the pension reform group to be a major force in the 2012 elections.
But they could make waves during the 2013 legislative session, said Heflin, who has advocated for similar reforms as director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Fiscal Policy.
“It’s about time that people around the state start paying attention,” Heflin said.
Just like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, public pensions help keep many in our state out of poverty when they retire and/or can no longer take care of themselves. Over the last 40 or so years we have been making bad economic decisions, and that’s why income inequality has been increasing. Giving more money to those with the most in our society, makes everyone else worse off. Until we stop allowing the wealthy and the corporations to get away without paying their fair share it will only get worse.
Heflin was right about one thing, “It’s about time that people around the state start paying attention”. Before it’s too late