by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
What follows is a letter I wrote to New Jersey’s principal newspaper, which is constantly trying to convince us that the huge pension deficits created by bad public policy decisions (or perhaps by intentional public union busting strategies) can’t be fixed without dismantling the whole system and starting over. All options to do this create great sacrifices by hard working servants of the people who were promised pensions in exchange for lower lifetime wages than the private sector would be paid for comparable work.
“Taxing the rich won’t solve pension problems” claims the Star-Ledger in its editorial. Their point is that the “millionaire’s tax” vetoed by Gov. Christie wouldn’t plug the current pension gap.
Money is fungible. Whenever tax revenue is deleted from the budget, someone’s ox has to be gored. For decades that ox belonged to State employees. Their pensions is part their wage package and the reason their overall compensation is roughly parallel with the private sector. Not funding it was a deliberate choice.
Another fact hidden in plain view is that revenue deleted from the budget doesn’t have a line item to remind us of what’s missing. We end up blindly subsidizing profitable corporations instead of properly compensating ordinary folks who work for us.
It’s disingenuous for politicians (or the Star-Ledger) to speak of pension reform without also discussing the massive tax breaks that created this crisis. If tax cuts for businesses and people who don’t need it were rescinded, there would be plenty of revenue to fund the pensions.