Pensions

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Rousing Speech On “Eleven Commandments Of Progressivism”!

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, on a book tour for her recent publication, but also rousing progressives with her inspiring ideas, gave a speech last week at Netroots Nation, the progressive gathering often seen as the alternative to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held annually.

Warren summarized the views of those who are progressives and liberals, including:

The need for regulation of Wall Street.

The belief in science, and its role in preserving our environment.

Neutrality on the internet, not favoring powerful corporations.

Raising the minimum wage, therefore allowing a full time worker to avoid living in poverty.

A livable wage for fast food workers, with public support for them being demonstrated.

The avoidance of crushing college loan debt for students, by arranging realistic debt payments.

Protection of Social Security, Medicare, and pensions, so that retired workers can live in dignity.

Equal pay for equal work for men and women.

Promotion of equality in marriage, including gay marriage.

The need for immigration reform, as immigration is part of the story of American history.

The belief that women should control their own bodies, and corporations should not control the private lives and medical care of any of their workforce.

Also, her conclusion about conservatives is so appropriate, that they will do whatever they need to do to protect their own interests, and would say to all of the rest of us that you are on your own!

War Against The Elderly: The Most Vulnerable In Society!

So now not only has Michigan decided that retired employees in Detroit, who devoted their lives and safety to their work, shall see their pensions cut, but the state of Illinois, governed by Democrats, has enacted legislation to the same effect!

Normally, the power of legal agreements prevents such action as to cast the elderly, on a fixed income, out to the wolves! But no more by the power of courts and legislatures and governors to defy the law and get away with it!

As one retired employee in Detroit said yesterday, he has to decide between eating and his medication come next year.

This is unconscionable, and shows the lack of respect for the elderly, and for life itself!

Already, there has been an attack on poor children, taking food out of their mouths, through cuts in food stamps. But the thought that maybe poor women should have access to birth control and abortion, so that they and future children might avoid poverty and deprivation, never crosses the minds of those who insist all life in the womb, from conception, should be born, but then to hell with what happens after birth!

If Michigan and Illinois can destroy public pensions for the elderly, what will stop many other states from doing so, rather than facing the facts that the wealthy have been ripping America off with the help of conservatives and Republicans, who have no problem subsidizing the wealthy and corporations, but do not give a damn for the poor, the sick, the young, the elderly, women, and workers?

With all of the progress of the progressive movement, the New Deal, and Great Society, we are now witnessing a return to a true Gilded Age, a return to a century and a half ago, effectively wiping out the 20th century movement toward humane, compassionate government!

Now it is back to laissez faire, Social Darwinism, dog eat dog, no concern for those less fortunate, and Democrats are starting to act like Republicans, all so that the wealthy do not have to pay taxes in a fair, honest way!

How can one have any optimism about the future of the “great experiment” known as American democracy?

And imagine with all of the reality described, how much tougher it is if one is African American, Hispanic, Native American, or disabled?

What has happened to our souls, our ethics, our morals, as we honor the almighty dollar, and fight over “things” on Black Friday and even Black Thanksgiving?

The middle class is being ground down to the level of poverty, as a small elite takes all of the wealth of America, and now wants to privatize EVERYTHING, including our national parks, in the almighty quest for profit and MORE MONEY, never enough, a level of materialism enough to make one want to vomit!

Massive Crime Against Public Workers And The Elderly In Detroit Will Be Repeated Elsewhere!

The decision to allow Detroit, Michigan, to declare bankruptcy is a warning sign for the long term future.

It means that public workers, including police officers, fire fighter, teachers, and other municipal workers who devoted their lives to service of their fellow citizens, often at lower wages, will now have their pensions and health care benefits, guaranteed to them by contract and the state constitution of Michigan, cut by at least 40-50 percent, making their old age one of poverty and deprivation!

This is a massive crime against humanity, against the elderly, the poor, and the sick, while the wealthy keep on gaining all of the benefits of their good fortune, because of refusal to accept public responsibility to preserve the pensions of workers.

This is immoral and unethical beyond belief, and the gall of the state to be ready to privatize everything possible in Detroit, including museums and other cultural institutions, will destroy the city of Detroit and any chance for its revival.

We are witnessing the death of Detroit, once the fifth largest city in America, and this abuse of power by the elite wealthy class will soon visit other cities and states, and its effect will be to impoverish America, but benefit the wealthy yet again!

48th Anniversary Of Medicare: Time For Celebration, And Concern About Pension Issue Displayed By Detroit Fiscal Crisis!

Medicare became law on July 30, 1965, 48 years ago, and America has never been the same!

Imagine America without this most significant Lyndon B. Johnson Great Society program, which gave the elderly, those over 65, peace of mind, knowing that they would be able to afford to survive, many on fixed incomes in retirement. without the fear of being unable to have medical treatments, including surgery that could prolong life! Nothing has been as important since the passage of Social Security under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1935!

My own mother had open heart surgery at age 80 in 1987, and lived another four years, due to Medicare, and the number of such situations are in the millions!

Yes, there is a budget crisis involving Medicare now, but that is not a reason to wish to do what Congressman Paul Ryan, head of the House Budget Committee, has proposed, to have a voucher system for future retirees, something that will assure poverty and lack of medical care, and shortening of life span. Such an idea is immoral!

The answer is to raise the percentage of tax paid on Medicare, as an essential to promote security for the senior citizens and prolonging the quality of life, as part of the responsibility of all of us for our parents and grandparents!

And not only should Medicare be protected, but also what has happened in Detroit, the threat of NOT paying pensions to senior citizens who have dedicated their lives to public service, because of a financial crisis, reminds us of the urgency of not only protecting those in Detroit, but ALL public workers who do their years of service, and should be guaranteed payment of their pensions until death, no matter what the cost!

Anything else on Medicare or pensions is unconscionable, immoral, unethical, and ultimately illegal!

This nation cannot afford to do anything else in meeting its obligations to the elderly, and if that requires higher taxation, so be it!

The Tragedy Of Detroit: A Sign Of The Future?

Detroit, the “Motor City”, the fourth largest city in population (1.8 million) in 1950, has declared bankruptcy, and has shrunk to 700,000 population in 2010.

This city, which was the center of industrial expansion, success, and prosperity in the first two thirds of the 20th century, is the largest entity in America ever to declare bankruptcy!

At least $18 billion in debt, the impact of this bankruptcy will likely cause further decline of the once great city, which is now a total disaster in relation to housing abandonment, crime, destruction of education, and the total deterioration of the quality of life for those who remain.

And the idea that those who have devoted their lives to working for the city–as cops, firefighters, teachers, social workers and others–will now be likely to lose their pensions in their old age, is totally unconscionable, totally immoral! Why would anyone ever wish to work another day for a government that will not keep the legal agreements to its employees who devote their lives to service, often at much lower rates than workers in the private sector?

If this can happen in Detroit, is that a warning sign that other cities, and state governments, could also cancel all obligations to their workers, and leave them impoverished in their old age?

Are governments now to become no different than corporations who too often cheat their workers out of a hard earned pension, while the elite at the top continue to enrich themselves in a greedy manner?

If this becomes a trend, it will not be surprising if we see people unwilling to work for government at all levels, and that will lead to chaos and anarchy, as we cannot allow all government workers, or any of them, to be so totally mistreated and disregarded as if they are willing “slaves” who can be kicked around as no better than garbage!

A New Outrage: Public Pensions Under Attack, Despite Legal Guarantees!

The attack on public workers–teachers, nurses, social workers, police officers, fire fighters, prison guards, and others–continues, and it is not only affecting work conditions, but also guarantees by contract on pensions in many states and cities, and not only for future pensioners, but also present pensioners in some locations!

Everyone acknowledges that police officers and fire fighters face more dangerous and stressful work conditions than other public workers, so in many localities around America, they can retire at a younger age and collect pensions for many more years than other public workers.

Now, the police office in Detroit are seeing their pensions cut, and in a small town outside Mobile, Alabama, 150 retired workers stopped getting pensions checks altogether!

This seems like the tip of the iceberg, as it means that many public workers, who have accepted public jobs with lower pay but better benefits, now are endangered by not having a guarantee of their pensions in the future, and in extreme circumstances, could lose all or most of it as economic conditions deteriorate further all across the country!

It used to be thought that if contracts are agreed to by both sides in a negotiation, therefore, there are legal guarantees of enforcement of those contracts. But now it seems clear that what any government gives, it can take away at will and with abuse!

Florida Governor Rick Scott: The “King” Vs. The Legislature And The People!

Today marks the beginning of the Florida legislative session, with more than a two thirds majority of Republicans in both houses, but a new Republican Governor who fought the establishment and won the Governorship, and has acted as if he is a monarch, since he became Governor nine weeks ago!

Despite his involvement in Medicare scams in the 1990s, for which he should have gone to federal prison instead of paying heavy fines, Scott utilized $73 million of his own fortune to win the Governorship by the smallest margin in Florida history, about 50,000 votes. He was the only Governor candidate nationally, and actually the only wealthy person to win public office mostly based on his personal fortune, other than Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson. Like Ron Johnson, he ran as the anti establishment candidate of the Tea Party Movement, and he has already shown evidence that he does not wish to cooperate with his own party leadership, and to act stubborn and inflexible, and ignore the news media as much as he can.

Scott has enraged many, including his own Republican Party, by canceling the bullet train project from Orlando to Tampa, turning down $2.4 billion, which now will go elsewhere, while Florida lags on planning future transportation needs in central Florida.

Scott has refused to allow a prescription data base to keep track of pill mills, which have become endemic in South Florida, and with Florida leading the nation with drug addicts based on illegal pill prescriptions, on the basis of privacy rights, even though 42 other states have such databases. This is insane, with the reality that there are more pill mills in Broward County, Florida, alone than there are McDonalds or Starbucks in that county, with its main center being Fort Lauderdale.

Scott sold two state jet airplanes without legislative permission, and that will lead to increased costs for future Governors when they need to purchase a plane, as Scott is using his own private plane, and not thinking of future costs.

Scott unveiled his two year budget plan before a Tea Party crowd, rather than before Republican colleagues or the mainstream news media. He is calling for more than $3 billion in cuts in education and health care, while drastically decreasing corporate income taxes and property taxes by $1.7 billion, and cutting state regulation of utilities and insurance companies. College tuitions would skyrocket, and Scott has rejected taking federal funds to start implementation of the Obama Health Care Plan, and is fighting in court to repeal it.

Scott also wants to end teacher tenure, force major pension contributions by state workers, cut unemployment benefits and Medicaid, privatize state prisons, and end collective bargaining as is being attempted in Wisconsin and Ohio, and already exists in Indiana.

Scott is a nightmare even to his own party, and although they are very conservative, many of them are upset at his haughty, arrogant, dictatorial approach, as if there is no legislature or courts, and that somehow he expects that everything he wants to do will be done because KING RICK wants it so!

There is, as reported earlier, a move to pass a recall law, and some even wonder if Scott could someday face impeachment if he refuses to recognize the role of compromise, even within his own party in the legislature, let alone considering the opposition.

Florida seems to be on the road to total disaster, with the state, already in the bottom ten in education and other social services, about to face a political, social and economic crisis that will put it front and center, even ahead of Wisconsin and Ohio and other states with “bully” Governors!

The Crisis Over Pensions, Present And Future: The Need For Action!

In the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression 80 years ago, the issue of what happens to pensions, both in the present and the future, arises! πŸ™

The issue of private employment pensions, which already has many victims when workers are dismissed before retirement age, or companies go bankrupt, is part of the controversy!

It is also an issue of public pensions of state and local government workers, who often work for lower pay because of the security of the jobs they hold, and the benefits they offer, including decent pensions!

We are now seeing attempts to cut back on pensions, and to tell younger and newer employees that they can never expect to have the kind of pension plans that older workers have been fortunate to gain! πŸ™

It will make the recruitment of future workers harder to accomplish, and it will make already distressed younger employees, who fear for the loss of their jobs, and the problems of getting ahead in their careers, the problem of how to save on their own in adequate ways to make retirement possible in the future when they reach Social Security age!

Plus, the whole Social Security and Medicare systems are in danger of going bankrupt, and one has to wonder how future workers will be able to count on these programs!

It makes the issue of Social Security and Medicare, and the general issue of pension reform, an urgency that MUST be dealt with by governments at all levels!

But it is hard to forecast and plan ahead when there is so much uncertainty now about the economic future in this nation! It behooves the two political parties to overcome their differences, and help plan for a reasonable set of solutions to these vexing issues! πŸ™