An article in the New York Times this week entitled “When ALEC Takes Over Your Town” examines the financial problems of a town in Rhode Island. This town could be just about any town in the United States.
The article discusses the demise of a proposal to increase taxes to boost the local economy in the town and highlights the fact that one of the two legislators in the House of Representatives who blocked the proposed increase is on the on the national board of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.
While ALEC is a blog post topic for another day, anyone who is unfamiliar with this group should simply know that this is a highly conservative lobbying group posing as a non-profit, which promotes some of the most mean-spirited state legislation you can possibly imagine.
One of their pieces of model legislation, which they shop around to state legislators around the country, is the infamous Stand Your Ground Law that was the subject of much conversation in the Trayvon Martin case.
ALEC also devotes significant energy to working to shrink the size of government. But again, I have no doubt that I will write a post another day on ALEC.
But what interested me in this article is something that also came up in the comments section from yesterday’s post about the European Financial Crisis. The issue that I would like to explore today is the issue of what many call “bloated” pensions and what impact these pensions are having on budgets around the world.
As one of my brilliant readers noted yesterday, many say that pensions play a significant role in the financial problems in Europe today. We know that this is also an issue here in the United States, especially on the state and local level.
But it is important to remember what we are talking about here – the people who will be receiving these pensions are people who have served their country in one way or another, be it as a teacher, a fire-fighter, a police officer or some other sort of public servant. These are not people with golden parachutes and corporate bonuses.
I would imagine that firefighters and teachers plan for their financial future just like the rest of us. So, what happens when the legislature or local government slashes these benefits? What is the human impact on the people who depend on these benefits?
I understand that the math is complicated when it comes to talking about pensions. And I also understand that we have an aging population which creates complications on a number of levels, with significant fiscal consequences.
But shouldn’t we be focused on finding solutions to the problems that arise with an aging population? And why are the pensions of hard working individuals the first thing on the chopping block?
What do you think? Why do you think there is so much attention right now on pensions? Do you see other ways that a government could address the aging population that could actually help save money? What do you think people do when their pensions are slashed? Are there other areas of the budget where you think states and localities could find savings? Have you, personally experienced a reduction in the benefits you were expecting to receive? How has that impacted you and your family?
I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading