Once upon a time in the State of New Jersey, we had a situation where the public workers (of the state) such as teachers, nurses, police, and others were blatantly violating the laws of NJ by not contributing into their pension funds. In fact for 11 of the last 15 years, these irresponsible people paid ZERO DOLLARS into the funds. During this time the State of New Jersey has been paying its full share amount into each pension fund all along. Now the pension system is severely underfunded and it is time for those who have not been paying into the system to pay up. Why should the State/taxpayers have to make up the difference when these people were so irresponsible? Those who have been paying their fair share should not be made to bear the burden for the irresponsibility of those who did not.
In an admirable bipartisan spirit, Governor Chris Christie (Republican) has worked closely with Senate President Stephen Sweeney (Democrat) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (Democrat) to forge a Pension-Benefits Reduction Bill that will restore solvency to the pension system. This bill will hold those who have not paid their fair share responsible for restoring solvency to the system through additional deductions, reduced health care benefits, no cost of living increases for pensioners, the establishment of a board that would offer plans with fewer benefits as well as increased co-pays and prescriptions and most importantly the stripping of the unions’ right to negotiate their health-care insurance coverage and contribution levels.
THE ONLY PROBLEM WITH THE ABOVE PARAGRAPHS IS THAT THE ROLES ARE EXACTLY REVERSED AND IT WAS THE STATE THAT WAS PAYING ZERO FOR 11 OUT OF THE LAST 15 YEARS. THE WORKERS WERE PAYING THEIR FAIR SHARE DURING THIS ENTIRE TIME! Unfortunately it is the workers who have been responsible all along that are now the victims of this bill.
So again, why should those who have been paying their fair share be made to bear the burden of the irresponsibility of those who did not? The pensioners will no longer receive cost-of-living increases until the system is “determined to be solvent”. These are people who paid faithfully into the system their entire professional lives. While this might sound like a reasonable concession on the surface, if you look deeper, it will devastate this group. According to a well respected data site, shadowstats.org, the current annual inflation rate is 12% and is climbing. This means that pensioners will lose half their buying power in 4 years. In 8 to 12 years they will be living in poverty!
During the courtship of Governor Christie, Senator Sweeney and Sheila Oliver failed to strong arm their Democratic Caucuses to support the bill and were not successful at getting a majority to do so. However, in North Jersey (Essex area) and in Southern New Jersey, the very powerful party bosses were able to order enough Democrats to betray their principles, so that when combined with the Republican minority in both houses, the Pension-Benefits Reduction Bill was able to pass.
In a cynical move, to protect themselves from the inevitable backlash for their betrayal, the vote on this Pension-Benefits Reduction Bill was purposely withheld until after the primary elections had been completed and the deadline had passed for adding names to the coming election ballot.
This betrayal of organized labor by the South Jersey Democrats has ignited a firestorm among this core constituent group as well as others who recognize the injustice of making some pay for the irresponsibility of others. Meetings were called and the NJ Progressive Democrats of America (no affiliation to the Democratic Party) charted a strategy. During these meetings the Democratic legislators who betrayed their constituents were renamed “Christiecrats”.
These Christiecrats claim that they are looking to make the fund solvent, but where were they during all the years the Democrats controlled the Senate and Assembly and the state was not making its contributions into the fund? Their silence was deafening.
On Monday, August 8, at the War Memorial in Trenton, the NJ Progressive Democrats of America will be starting a petition drive for the removal of Stephen Sweeney from the Senate Presidency and Sheila Oliver from the Assembly Speakership. The petition will be presented to NJ State Democratic Committee chair John Wisniewski.
In these times when public workers are under increasing attack by the corporate controlled media, it is important to remember that:
1. it was not the public workers who instigated multi $trillion bond fraud on Wall Street
2. it was not the public workers who lobbied for financial deregulation
3. it was not the public workers who gambled in derivatives with other peoples’ money
4. it was not the public workers who accepted $billions in bailouts
5. it was not the public workers who paid themselves huge bonuses
6. it was not the public workers who brought the economy to its knees
Remember, the media will try to redirect your anger away from the Wall Street aristocracy. In a classic case of divide and conquer they will try to turn you against other middle class workers, and then place the question in your mind, “why does the bus mechanic who works for the state have full benefits?” WRONG QUESTION! You should be asking why you do not have them.