The Overriding Point on Pensions
Retired Cranston police captain Robert Barber feels very strongly that his pension should not be modified one bit:
The mayors are asking the people who sacrificed their bodies, families and health for the service of the community to sacrifice more. Statistically, law-enforcement officers die 10 years earlier than the general population. The mayors are asking me to sacrifice my source of income. I will not collect Social Security because I did not pay into it. In a few short years I will be forced to enroll in Medicare. For 27 years, I was called away from family functions, vacations and holidays, 24/7 to fulfill my contract. I did so proudly and gladly. When the economy was booming, I went without a raise for four years and worked without a contract. At my age, how will I make up the difference the mayors want me to give up?
Counterpoints could be made, line by line. I suspect, for example, that the mortality statistics for law-enforcement officers who reach retirement are not so dramatically different from the average. It is a dangerous job, and every officer who dies young for job-specific reasons skews the numbers. As for being on call, a great many careers, particularly those of business owners, require adjustment to personal activities.
The major hang-up, once again, enters with the question with which Barber ends the paragraph: at his age. According to the bio line at the end of his essay, Mr. Barber is 58 and has been retired for eight years already. In other words, he still has four years to go until he reaches the general population’s average retirement age, at which point he’ll have been retired for 12 years.
It’s important to note that Barber highlights a number of other areas of public expense that also should be trimmed in order to advance our state’s economic health:
The article also lists 37 names [of legislative employees], and the lowest raise was 10 percent. Aren’t the legislators also getting a raise? In the June 26 “PolitFact” acticle, Gary Sasse says Rhode Island spends 52 percent more per capita on human-service programs than the U.S. average. Rhode Island is spending this much more than the rest of the nation on entitlements, mostly for people who don’t work, while taking money away from public servants who served honorably for decades.
Be that as it may, Mr. Barber may have to file his threatened lawsuit, because public sympathy is clearly waning for young retirees from the public sector, and perspectives are not what they once were. Nowhere is this more sharply drawn than his closing words. He writes that he’s “being vilified because [he] worked hard and planned well.” To my knowledge, there’s no reason to question his hard work, but choosing a public-sector job under the protection of the union structure that dominates the state does not amount to a feat of financial planning justifying a near-midlife retirement.