Life Experience Answers Loughlin’s Question
A moment’s review of one’s own life will likely provide plenty of basis for answering Rep. John Loughlin’s rhetorical question, by which he argues for preserving the pension scheme for vested employees:
How can we say to a valued teacher or employee that has contributed to a plan for ten, twenty, or nearly thirty years in accordance with the terms the state agreed to, that they now must work a decade longer and receive a reduced retirement?
When I was laid off from my job editing high-tech market research, I was fully vested in my portion of the company’s Employee Stock Ownership Program. Thus, I kept the plan’s current value, and I had the option of holding it or cashing it in, but it would have been ridiculous of me to expect the company to continue making its contributions. Perhaps you’ve known people who invested time and money in education and resources for careers that simply weren’t as lucrative when the hopeful students were ready for them; such people are owed neither jobs nor refunds.
The simple fact that an interest group — such as Rhode Island’s powerful unions — extract a promise from particular politicians cannot be taken as a guarantee that the government will permit general calamity in order to preserve benefits that no longer represent reasonable expectations. If they don’t like the new terms of their employment, they have the same option that the rest of us have: Look elsewhere.
If Rep. Loughlin wishes to do right by the state’s employees, he’d be better off trying to persuade them that making necessary adjustments now is the fair and just path toward honoring commitments as closely as possible while mitigating the suffering that Rhode Island’s policies have imposed on its people.