The Public/Private Disconnect
What takes up 10% of my weekly paycheck? Family health care, that’s what. And that’s just my share. My employer kicks in some, too.
Like so many other employees of small businesses, my company had to health-plan shop again this year to find a way of keeping costs down. In our case, the health care costs went up, just not as much as they would have if we hadn’t switched plans. So now, like so many others, I take home a little less than I used to. That’s just the way it is.
I’m not alone. You see, in the private sector, yearly reassessment of benefits is the norm. There’s no locking in with contracts, no long term “promises.” Be flexible or be out of business. Right now, tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders who work in the private sector are taking the hits, sucking it up and living with a little less. In many cases, it is necessary that employees recognize that they can either make a little sacrifice or say goodbye to their job or that of some of their co-workers and friends. I know of a few cases where people have taken pay cuts to stay employed. Or companies that have instituted mandatory furloughs to keep their doors open and avoid further layoffs. Imagine that? That’s the simple reality in today’s economy.
This is why the compassion meter is just about pegged at “0” when we hear public employees complaining about deals “made in good faith” being broken because they may have to endure reductions in their generous benefit packages or increases in their relatively minuscule co-pays and co-shares. There is no money. And politicians, wisely, are reticent to go to taxpayers asking for more. Everyone else is making sacrifices, now it’s their turn.
Small-business owners and their employees are used to cinching their belts and spreading the hardship amongst themselves. That way, hopefully, we can help keep more people employed. Making a little less is better than none at all. The question we keep asking is, how come the public sector isn’t willing to do the same for their “brothers and sisters” or the communities they serve?