I work for a local government in Southern California. I got into it out of passion for a particular field, and a strong desire to make a difference in this world. You know how we like to dream...
A couple of years ago, reality set in. There isn't much in the way of talk radio here that isn't sports or extreme conservatism. Despite being fairly young, I do prefer AM talk radio, even it means listening to the opposite side. As the economy crumbled in 2008, a common talking point became public employees, their pay, benefits, and pensions. I'd shake my head a lot, but there was a lot of job security at the time. Quite honestly, I was largely unaffected by the mass economic suffering. Or so I thought.
The downturn certainly caused some issues. State funding took a pretty hard hit with the loss of tax revenue, both in wage taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes. But at work, we trudged along. It was harder to fill some positions, and some vacancies were just eliminated. But largely we made do, being demonized by the right for our pay and various benefits.
And then all hell broke lose. With the hiring freezes and elimination of vacant positions came wage freezes. I haven't had an increase in years, and there's no sign of that changing. Our pension investments took a hit, and to make up for that, our contributions have skyrocketed. That results in an effective pay cut. Our health benefits haven't changed, but they did double the amount we have to pay for our contribution. Yet another effective pay cut. Meanwhile, the cost of living isn't going down at all.
And this all came to a head for me. Trying to juggle the bills over the years, I took my financial institution up on their offer to delay a few car payments (one at a time, at various points over three years or so). I was so extremely grateful for their consideration and understanding. If only I had known what their offer meant! You see, what they didn't tell me is that it didn't change the loan maturity date. Those delayed payments had to be made, quite suddenly, at the final month of the original loan term. Talk about quite the surprise. I was stunned and shocked, and did everything I could to reason with them. At the end of the day, there was nothing I could do but surrender the vehicle. I talked to friends and family, and it just wasn't possible to come up with the cash to pay it off.
So here I am, a single dad in Southern California (and in an area with particularly horrible mass transit) and no vehicle. My credit rating has been trashed from the repossession, and I don't have the funds to buy another vehicle, nor any hope of doing so any time soon.
And yet the right paints me as the problem. My salary that doesn't meet my needs are an atrocity to them. The benefits that I have are mediocre at best, and yet they've somehow caused this spending problem (despite the state having a budget surplus, they still rail about the spending). My pension is less than adequate for a decent retirement, and yet they want to take that away, too.
What they don't see is the passion that many of my coworkers have. We know we could leave the public sector and make a decent living in the private workplace. And yet that isn't personally satisfying for many of us. So we walk a line of juggling finances (and in my case with horrible results) and being hated by many. We chose the jobs we have to be able to sleep at night. And now even that is increasingly difficult to do.