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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.

Originally posted to SoberGuy on Mon Dec 02, 2013 at 01:16 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Don't let the bastards get you down (14+ / 0-)

    One option: take a loan out against your 401-k or 403(b).   Buy a $1,000 car off Craig's list.  Drive it 'til it drops.

  •  Too late smart (43+ / 0-)

    I know it does nothing for your current situation, for which I empathize (that and $4.50 will get you a latté), but whenever a business offers to cut you a break on something, look very closely to see what strings are attached. There are always strings attached. But you know that now.

    As for the "lazy public employee" chatter, it helps to respond to that whenever someone gets onto that point. You mentions several of the reasons people go into public employment: A desire to be of service to society; the security of a union job; and the pension benefits, which are the future payoff for present lower wage.

    Not many people will argue with you about the first point (except nitwits who don't think society deserves any service). As to the second point, you'll usually hear it voiced as "It's impossible to fire even the most incompetent government workers!" Yes, it's called union security in other contexts, meaning your boss can't just fire you for no reason and you have appeal rights codified in the civil service statutes. This keeps your job from becoming a political football to be exploited by any corrupt administrator who might temporarily get his mitts on the levers of power.

    But oh, those pension benefits! Usually decried as "I don't get a pension - why should those lazy public employees get one?" I refer back to the first point: A lower present salary in exchange for a benefit paid at retirement. Way back when, I was a state worker in Oregon. The state was in a financial jam, and came to its employees for help. The union traded away a nice raise that had been negotiated in earlier contract talks for a boost to the employee pension, which the state could then fund at a more leisurely pace when times got good again.

    Funny thing, though; when the economy got better, Administrative Services found all kinds of things to spend money on that wasn't employee pensions. When those employees started to age out of their working lives, they came looking for those pensions they'd been promised. The employees had traded present salary for future benefits, and now that the future has arrived, the State has decided that those employees are just a bunch of greedheads.

    The question isn't so much "Why should public employees get a pension?" as it should be "Why don't all working people get a pension?" I don't know where we got caught up in this system where people are supposed to work until they're too old, too infirm, or too sick to work anymore, and then not expect anything for their post-career lives, which should be measured in months, not years. I'm pretty sure I would have voted against that if it had been presented to me.

      •  where in SoCal? (10+ / 0-)

        You might be able to find a fixer-upper on Craigslist. Or the local want-ads. As a single mom, I drove a $300 car for almost a year -- and then sold it for $600.

        Stylin' it was not, and as a 1971/3 Dart Swinger in 1985/6, it was not exactly "good on gas." But it got me from point a to point b and was cheap to insure (another pain if you have a loan on the car, no?). It was old enough and heavy enough newer stuff that ran into me left no damage (yes, I drove it in absolutely rotten weather. Yes, I got hit from behind. Twice in one day). Parts were cheap.

        http://losangeles.craigslist.org/...

        http://losangeles.craigslist.org/...

        http://losangeles.craigslist.org/...

        Stylin'? No. Pristine? Probably not. Get a friend with an inner car guy you trust to go with you if you decide to check out the Jeep -- but it would be the one I'd go with, in your circumstances. Or the Volvo.

        LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

        by BlackSheep1 on Mon Dec 02, 2013 at 03:33:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Appreciate the suggestion! (7+ / 0-)

          I may end up doing something like that.

          •  's called "best you can do where you're at (4+ / 0-)

            with what you got" ... a lot of folks live like that all the time. My parents were late teens/young adults in the Great Depression. The notion of spending $20,000 for a car would completely floor my Dad, if he were still alive.

            And for that money he'd expect a Mercedes. At least.

            ... I'm an old Mopar junkie. That Jeep's knock may be a rod. If so it's not worth a bucket of warm spit.

            LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

            by BlackSheep1 on Mon Dec 02, 2013 at 04:00:46 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Check KBB.com for Pricing (0+ / 0-)

            Check the used car price on the Kelly Blue Book site before you go see it. Most sellers do, expecting the buyer has.

            And spend $50-100 on an honest mechanic to check it out after you test drive it. They're going to be maintaining it for you, so you need an honest one who won't help you buy a cash cow for them.

            "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

            by DocGonzo on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 06:10:52 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  If you got a friend with some automotic knowledge (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JeffW

              When you decide to shop take them along.

              Like Blacksheep said, some knocks are catastrophies in the making and others just annoyances.

              Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

              by GreenMother on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 03:15:42 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  That's how a lot of people live in the 60s and 70s (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          worldlotus, bryduck

          and it's not so bad.

          Those days are coming back, and it's not so bad.

          •  Only by comparison, and only (0+ / 0-)

            if you don't encumber your mind with thoughts of the American Dream, wherein each generation was supposed to be better off than that before (let alone 2 or 3 generations before!)

            "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

            by bryduck on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 09:18:40 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  How about "happier" or "more fulfilled." (0+ / 0-)

              I have no idea if my kids will be better off then we are.  I do hope they are happy and fulfilled.

              I am both happier and better off than my dad, although he was able to pay for more things in cash than I was and he had a nice pension.  He lived in a horrible neighborhood for most of his life, however.  I made a different trade-off.

              •  You will concede, though, that (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JeffW

                being happier and more fulfilled is easier when material needs are more easily met, won't you?
                And in any case, personal feelings of happiness and fulfillment were not usually considered a part of that iconic Dream . . .

                "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

                by bryduck on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 12:04:29 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

    •  Re (0+ / 0-)
      The union traded away a nice raise that had been negotiated in earlier contract talks for a boost to the employee pension, which the state could then fund at a more leisurely pace when times got good again.
      Why on god's green earth would you ever do such a thing?

      The problem with this logic is that today's taxpayers didn't want to pay your salary, but you now expect tomorrow's taxpayers to pay yesterday's salary.

      Tomorrow's taxpayers may be even less capable than today's taxpayers, or they might just vote not to pay anyway, since from their point of view they are paying for nothing. Or just move somewhere else where they get more service for less money.

      So you didn't just agree to money later instead of money now. You decided to take a risk. That's what pensions are in many cases, particularly public pensions. Public pensions can only be paid out of present economic output in the locality/state they were issued.

      I don't know why public employees choose pensions. They are time bombs ready to explode.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Mon Dec 02, 2013 at 05:11:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I see someone got their talking points (15+ / 0-)
        I don't know why public employees choose pensions. They are time bombs ready to explode.
        Maybe they don't want to be a burden on their family or end up living in a shitty apartment eating cat food. Which is where a lot of seniors are ending up these days.

        Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

        by Dirtandiron on Mon Dec 02, 2013 at 06:29:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  See the first point (16+ / 0-)

        Public employees go into civil service to be of service to the society. When the state fell on hard times during the first flush of Laffer Curve trickle down economics in the early 1980s, we were all assured that the downturn was an aberration. Instead, it turned out to be the biggest feature and selling point for the starve-the-government crowd.

        The state kept its end of the bargain for about 20 years, long enough for its civil servants to put in a long career and start thinking about retirement. The state didn't keep its word, and fund the public employees retirement system. By the time that became apparent, it was a smidgen too late for all those workers to climb into a time machine and change the deal.

        Public pensions didn't used to be a time bomb; not until the "small government" whackos began looting those pensions wholesale, sucking up every available dollar to throw at the latest investment bubble, paying themselves handsome commissions until the bubbles burst. You know, the sort of thing that was against the law until Republicans broke down the wall between investment and finance.

      •  Blame the Victim (7+ / 0-)

        The union also helped the current taxpayer to pay lower salaries at the time, when revenues were tight, which was precisely what the employer told everyone the reason was they were offering that deal. They were trusting the employer to manage the pension, not to steal it.

        They do it because pensions were previously very low risk of being lost. They weren't usually invested in anything except the business itself. It was a small risk, for a substantial reward. That's why reasonable people do things.

        It's only recently, in the past generation or two, that stealing pensions has become widespread. Romney's Bain Capital was founded on that practice as a pillar. Since the corporate mass media doesn't report the pension theft crime wave, and always spins for the employer/thieves when it does report it, most people don't realize what a risk it has become. The deals were made years ago when the risk was lower and more unknown, and the thefts come to light now when it's too late.

        But go ahead and blame the public employees. Conservatives like you always have 20/20 hindsight when blaming the victims of corporations. That is the underlying time bomb that is now exploding, letting the corporate thieves get away with everything while you hurry up to say "told you so".

        "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

        by DocGonzo on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 06:17:02 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  DB pensions are a bargain for the public employer (5+ / 0-)

        Lower administrative costs for the plan. It is the equivalent of a 30 year mortgage. The employee (at least in MN) contributes a percentage of salary-matched by the employer.  The funds are invested in a variety of investment vehicles as part of the overall pension fund. The combination of earnings and contributions are used to fund an annuity at the end of the employees working career.

        As a public employee I saved about 25% of salary towards my retirement between MSRS contributions and SS contributions. As a result I will have a secure retirement.

        What always seems to get lost in these discussions is that the sum total of contributions is part of the employees compensation package. As long as the employers make their matching contributions the pension plan should always be ok.  The fix that needs to be made is that local governments should not administer pension plans. They should be administered/funded on a statewide basis.

      •  We didn't "choose" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dirtandiron, JeffW

        You want the job, the retirement benefits ARE part of the deal.

        Hell, they changed those for my job after I'd been working for them for less than five years.

        If you work for ANY government (Fed/State/Local) they can change things at any time.

      •  You many times have no choice, Sparhawk... (0+ / 0-)

        ...when I started with the City of Chicago, I contributed to a pension, along with the City. That was what they did for everyone, even the Mayor, aldermen, and commissioners (the public employees that get the 6-figure+ salaries). I wasn't a member of a union yet, either. Three years later, new hires could contribute to Medicare, but still had to pay into the pension fund, not Social Security. If you wanted to pay into SS, you resigned, and took a job with a consulting firm, and that was only worth it if you had not been vested, working for the City for 10 years. If you're vested, you start to run into the windfall rules, which clip your SS payaments if you've contributed 40 quarters or more.

        I worked for three different consulting firms in the 4 years prior to hiring on with the City, and I did not enjoy it. I'd have only hired on with a consulting firm if that was all there was, but if we needed the money, I would have remained with the City (my last supervisor would have loved for me to stay until he retired, 11 years from now!). I'd get the maximum, 80% of my final salary, if I had retired this year, and that was nowhere near 6 figures.

        Of course, none of that matters to you. All of us current and retired public employees are evil incarnate and a drag on your personal financial life, irregardless.

    •  Vigorously agree with 90% (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bobtmn

      Only thing is the "impossible to fire even the most incompetent government workers" issue.  Civil service protections are critical against arbitrary and politically motivated firings, agreed.  But the reality is that it really is hard to fire incompetent public employees, and unfortunately that makes them all look bad.  In my view, public unions have over emphasized protecting bad employees versus protecting pensions and health benefits.

      •  I have seen people fired. (10+ / 0-)

        It doesn't happen a whole lot,but it does happen. A guy who had nine years in was fired for a political email 2 months ago. People at my parole office have been fired for not supervising a parolee close enough. If your guy hurts someone,rapes someone,or kills someone,you better have your T,s crossed and I's dotted when it comes to his supervision or you will be gone. Someone will be held accountable besides the parolee I can assure you.

        •  Glad to hear it (0+ / 0-)

          Though depending on the circumstances, I'm not wild about someone being fired for a political email, as those rules are very selectively applied.  

          Unfortunately, in many public settings, there is almost no real accountability, as least as far as a real risk of being fired. The 90% of public employees who are capable and do their jobs are contaminated by the 10% who are incompetent or lazy.  Protecting them is helping no one, certainly not their fellow workers or the public.

        •  We had guys lose their jobs... (0+ / 0-)

          ...becuase a disgruntled employee put a bug in the ear of a local investigative reporter, after not getting a promotion. They pulled their titles out of the budget at the end of the year, and then we had no manual counting crews for collecting traffic volumes.

          People can get fired, even when they are doing their jobs.

      •  I'm sorry, but that talking point is straight from (7+ / 0-)

        The union busters' playbook. Just like the tactic of pointing out how some corrupt local official managed to get themselves qualified for a union pension at a ridiculous rate by working three days in a union position in between their stints as school district superintendent, or some such egregious story. We hear that all the time in Illinois from the big business professional head-shakers like Lawrence Mrsall and Tyrone Fahner, and it's succeeded in moving the discourse so far away from support for public employees that even the governor is shaking his head and saying cuts are inevitable (which a progressive income tax would make unnecessary).

        Down this road is what we see in Wisconsin, where "responsible" Scott Walker convinces a surprising number of people that removing collective bargaining rights is the only way to solve the budget problems (caused more by tax breaks to business and the wealthy than by public employee salaries or benefits).

        As they taught me in union steward training, you shouldn't try to protect an inept or misbehaving employee, you should stick to making sure that the contract is carried out fairly and consistently. So the place to curb the purported "protection of bad employees" is in the grievance process and in steward training, just like the place to work out budgetary issues with unions is at the bargaining table, not in the legislature.

        •  Yep. If an incompetent person is (3+ / 0-)

          still employed, it's because of incompetent, apathetic, or lazy management, not the union. If supervisors do their jobs correctly, incompetent people will not survive any environment.

          "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

          by bryduck on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 09:21:16 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The trouble is (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JeffW

            it can practically become the supervisor's sole job to get rid of a crappy employee.  Even when the time is spent, the counseling done, the documentation accumulated, and the forms are completed and submitted, the odds of successfully terminating the lazy or incompetent are still poor.

            After a couple of experiences like this, most managers recognize their time could be better spent.

        •  Union busting talking point? (0+ / 0-)

          No, it's life experience.  Plenty of it.  As a union organizer, unionized employee, supervisor in a government agency, colleague and relative to many, many public employees at all levels, and as an ordinary citizen.

          I don't need rw or lw talking points to interpret reality for me.

          The reality is that many public unionized employees who would have been fired long ago in any other setting are sucking public resources, frustrating and burdening their co-workers, driving the public insane, and spoiling government employees' image everywhere.  I know this, you know this, every reader knows this.

          They usually don't get fired because their is a huge disincentive to do so.  The process is onerous, time consuming, requires lengthy documentation over months or years, and then, if HR finally agrees with the supervisor to proceed, the grievance process starts.  This can last months and months.  Then there are internal department appeals.  Then there is, almost inevitably, involvement of the office of civil rights, if the crappy employee is a member of a group that may have civil rights protection (which covers just about everyone in one circumstance or another).  Then, the threat of a lawsuit.  It seems the strategy of union stewards and reps  is to ensure this process takes as long as possible, that every possible avenue for appeal or challenge is exploited, and that the agency eventually gives up.  Which is why most managers don't even bother.

          Meanwhile, the rest of the workers are doing that person's job while their own pay and benefits are shrinking and public employees' reputation continues to worsen.  

          Public employee unions really need to think about what their priorities should be.  I recognize that some of the obstacles that deter terminating crappy employees are embedded in the contracts, some are civil service protections built into law, some are internal agency policies.  I know it doesn't work this way, but wouldn't it be nice to negotiate a contract agreement in which management would be allowed to fire the 5-10% of employees who are basically parasites in exchange for a 5-10% raise for those who are left?

    •  Pensions Are a Favor to the Employer (5+ / 0-)

      As stated, pensions are accepted by employees in exchange for less pay up front. So the employer keeps that extra money to invest in the business. Possibly by paying more lower paid employees, or in capital, or in the stock market - its choice. Such a deal!

      Later some employers don't pay. They've stolen the money. Maybe they took too big a risk in their investment, which they lost. Maybe they took the risk because it wasn't their money to lose, a risk they wouldn't have taken with their own money. This is so common that the government pays some "lost" pensions, at the public's expense.

      Pensions are a good system when managed properly. They even out ups and downs through a person's career, letting occasional surpluses make up for occasional deficits, instead of the constant full payroll that can force some employers to make other cuts sometimes. They force Americans, who are terrible at saving, to save for the future. But they are now proven to be far too easily mismanaged, and stolen, especially amidst political campaigns that reverse the understanding of who's doing whom a favor.

      Pensions should be required to be fully paid into by the employer on time, without even the corporate liability protection to execs and directors, exactly as are salaries and taxes. If they are spent on anything else, they must also take insurance to cover any risk beyond that of US Treasury bonds, unless perhaps a 2/3 majority of employees vote to waive the insurance. And any profits on the investment must be split with the employees at least 50/50.

      That would all not only be fair, it would finally protect employees from the rampant theft this generation has suffered. And it would make a lot more clear to more people that pensions aren't an employee bonus, but rather an employer bonus. That must be treated with extreme care - or the boss goes to jail.

      "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

      by DocGonzo on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 06:07:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I know where . . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW, Egghead
      I don't know where we got caught up in this system where people are supposed to work until they're too old, too infirm, or too sick to work anymore, and then not expect anything for their post-career lives,
      See Ronald Reagan: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help . . ."
      It all stems from there and then . . .

      "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

      by bryduck on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 09:16:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  That is what Social Security is and what it was (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dirtandiron

      for from the beginning because most small business neither pay enough to save nor are they ever going to pay pension benefits.

      Social Security was Insurance paid by premiums etc not no never entitlements.  Earned benefits which Congress feels it has the right to play with and the American people have bought that!!!!!!!!!!!!

  •  This is a big deal (4+ / 0-)

    I appreciate the commitment you have made to service and fully understand your frustration.  I did that too when I was young.  There were significant satisfactions and real pride in the work I did then, just like satisfaction and pride you take in your work.  However, there were also indications that all was not well with the employment picture and the retirement promises.  Those warning signs are full blown alarms now.  I made the choice to leave, and now facing old age I get to reflect on the many benefits leaving provided.  I know many of those who stayed, well enough to know their financial circumstances now.  Life is cruel, and it is especially cruel to those who are retired or approaching retirement and dropping into poverty.

    As if that were not enough, there are a lot of very smart people trying to figure out how states and local governments can default on those pension benefits their current and former employees earned.  What happens then is not pleasant to contemplate.  I think that eventually, this public perception of public employees will turn around.  But for now, the past is prologue.  I can't say what that means for you, but if you are lucky enough to live to 66 or so, the choice now before you will have a great deal to do with the life you will enjoy then.

  •  I am a retired state worker from PA, (16+ / 0-)

    a former AFSCME Steward and state mental hospital worker. Our jobs were incredibly stressful and at times physically dangerous. The hospital management did its best to increase the stress level and I had heard that our hospital was the worst in the entire state as far as employee/management conflict.

    We NEVER had full staff the entire time I was there. They never hired the people, and those who started soon left in disgust or were fired before their union protection started. We had terrible bitter contract negotiations, the worst in history from Ed Rendell, a "liberal" Democratic governor.

    We were forbidden by state law from engaging in any political activity other than private contributions and voting...even a bumper sticker might get you fired. Of course, we were targets for every idiot politician who felt like using us. We had outdated equipment and facilities, poor vacation and leave and the highest number of lawsuits by workers against the management in the state, and we won most of them.

    I retired the first day it was possible for me to do so and get a minimum pension. I do not regret that at all.

    The main reason I worked there at all was the health insurance and the hope of a small pension.

    I appreciate your diary and I know how you feel. It's amazing how making even a decent, reliable wage becomes a matter of contention for the right. They are so sick, they have no idea they are working against their own interests.

    Anger management class really pissed me off.

    by old mark on Mon Dec 02, 2013 at 04:53:10 PM PST

    •  Geeze old mark, Active Duty Military have more (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW, Dirtandiron

      leeway for political expression than you did.

      That's just insane.

      What was the purpose of that? Other than to make your life a living hell?

      Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

      by GreenMother on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 03:19:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Your experience may have saved me. (8+ / 0-)

    I, too, have a car loan with a "payment vacation" program, through a federal credit union.  I've used it mostly to accumulate money in savings, to make car payments while unemployed (like now).  The wording very strongly suggests that the payment schedule is extended in my case, but there's enough weasel there that a balloon payment is certainly possible.

    It's of cold comfort to someone who's already fallen into this nasty little trap, but posting your experience may have saved my bacon, as I've over a year to plan (and raise money) if my credit union's pulling the same crap as your bank did.

    I will say, though, having owned three junk cars before this one?  Junk cars have their price.  They can fail in catastrophic (and occasionally fatal) ways, sometimes they don't last long at all, and are unlikely to have many working safety features.  They tend to be better deals if you know someone that can do basic auto repair - I did, and he did a lot of work on it pro bono.  Kept my junker running for almost 8 years, when otherwise it would have almost immediately been undriveable after I got it.

  •  No great suggestions but... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron, ladybug53, worldlotus, JeffW

    ...what they said.  Hope it all works out.  I was a state employee and am now a federal employee.  There is hope because I was where you are at now.  

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

    by Kangaroo on Mon Dec 02, 2013 at 05:57:39 PM PST

  •  No bashing please, and no whining. (0+ / 0-)

    I.m sorry about your car, really, and  I don't like to hear people bashing public service.  

    I also don't like to hear public employees complain about how much they suffer, and how much better they would do in the private sector.

    There are disadvantages in every job.  If your job is so bad, go out and get one of those juicy private sector jobs you believe are out there.

    •  We know, we know.... (9+ / 0-)

      whining is only okay when the "Job Creators" do it.

      Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

      by Dirtandiron on Mon Dec 02, 2013 at 07:00:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I agree and I'm sure we can also agree (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lefty Ladig, Dirtandiron

      That the majority of the crying has come from jealous private sector folks that as soon as the recession hit understood the importance of job security over salary and for that I am sorry. Unfortunately that lesson is a little to late for our private sector friends.

    •  Dripping with contempt (0+ / 0-)

      I won't reply directly to the two other replies to my comment.  Both of you are showing contempt for the people who work in the private sector.

      How is that a winning strategy?  

      Don't we deserve your respect?

      You make it very, very hard to be on your side.

      •  i get the feeling you really have no interest (3+ / 0-)

        in being on "our side" so just don't be on it. Thanks.

        Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility (not an original but rather apt)

        by terrypinder on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 07:00:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  straw man (0+ / 0-)
        I won't reply directly to the two other replies to my comment.  Both of you are showing contempt for the people who work in the private sector.
        If you are referring to my post above, first of all I work in the private sector myself. Secondly your argument I quoted is a straw man argument. I was critical of your criticism, not your private sector job. (Remember I work in private industry as well) If you're going to dish out criticism, learn to take some in return.

        Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

        by Dirtandiron on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 05:16:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Sorry you are so upset (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Egghead, Dirtandiron

        Did I say something that wasn't accurate ? Did I say I didn't respect the work of the private sector ? I didn't realize I was in need of people on my side. Listen if the state I work in wants to get rid of Parole,god bless. My benefits are better than yours,but I also work in the city of Camden. I doubt you would be eager to be a Parole Officer in Camden. Enough said. Good evening.

    •  The salary gap for highly skilled workers is real (4+ / 0-)

      As an NP for the federal government I will make almost 30,000 less each year than a comparable private sector position. I am not interested in leaving my federal job but rather post this to reflect that people who work in public service do it for more than the pension and benefits....

      •  What is an NP? Nurse Practioner? n/t (0+ / 0-)
      •  Yes, but only at the PHD and Dr range (0+ / 0-)

        See graph here:
        http://www.cbo.gov/...

        Public sector workers make considerably more for every educuation level from HighSchool through Masters Degree.

        Plus, the jobs are secure with very rare layoffs and displacements compared to people in the private sector.

        •  Only true for fed gov't jobs (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          HM2Viking

          State jobs pay less, and, usually, local jobs pay still less.  Also at the higher end, in addition to doctoral level jobs, jobs for programmers and IT people pay quite a bit less in the public sector.   That makes it hard to recruit competent staff.

        •  The actuality (0+ / 0-)

          Is that employees at the bottom of the pyramid are actually undercompensated. Graphing productivity against wage growth there has been zero real growth in wages since 1982.

          Federal facilities have to be competitive in the labor market for wages/benefits. They cannot be the best paying employer in the market for a locality.    

        •  Its not actually true that Fed jobs (0+ / 0-)

          Pay that better than the private sector.

          Looking at the graph from the CBO report.

          The pay envelopes are essentially the same. Yes the health care benefits may be slightly better. PPACA is going to flatten that difference over time. The FEHBP plans are essentially the silver level plans.

          Working for the federal government is akin to a fortune 500 company. The benefits are about the same across organizations. The vac/sl policies are about the same.

          The only real plus is probably the federal holidays which may add 5 days a year over that usually given the private sector.....

        •  actually no (0+ / 0-)

          If you look at actual salary numbers from the graph they almost directly superimpose at the lower income levels. The only real difference is the value of health insurance benefits.

          With the passage of PPACA and tax credits those benefit cost differences should equalize. The exchange plans are directly comparable to FEHBP silver level plans.

    •  Whoa! Seriously? This may be the only signifant (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dirtandiron, JeffW

      outlet this person has for very real stressors in their life.

      I would rather than air them here, than implode.

      I say rock on public employee. Let her rip! I want everyone who has a job, public sector or private, to have a living wage, affordable healthcare and housing, and guaranteed vacation time.

      Every last one of them.

      Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

      by GreenMother on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 03:21:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Um, I looked, while I was still working... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dirtandiron

      ...and all therr was were consulting jobs. Having experienced that, no thanks! I hung in until I could take early retirement. Wasn't my fault the City didn't hire a young engineer for me to train.

  •  you don't have to fire someone (8+ / 0-)

    in SoCal if you're a large government entity, all you have to do is move them 100 miles from where they live (and used to work) saying that "you work for the government in general, and where we need you, we'll send you." I've known dozens of coworkers who have been moved from a working location near their home to one miles away, some of which end up being a 3 hour commute one way and burn up more gas than they can afford. Upset a higher-up, get punished (for things like paying for professional training on your own dime, or complaining about cockroaches in the staff lounge because if you complain OSHA might show up, etc). The moves can be financially devastating and those people have no choice but to leave public service. I mean, we haven't had a raise in years. It's not like they can afford the increased costs of commuting (not to mention the time away from your family. Being a new mother now commuting 6 hours a day if traffic is bad and working a full day on top of that? Of course you quit).

    As far as I'm concerned, the city and county governments are behaving just like big business, and there's little reason to choose public service over private work. The pay is crap and the bosses refuse to raise it, the lauded benefits are trashed, and pensions? (hahahahahaha yeah right). Administrators where I work tend to take austerity as a role model and constantly talk about saving money, and treat workers and what we do in that light (do more with a lot lot less, no preventative maintenance, just wait for the roof to collapse first). The people you help? I deserve mega more money for putting up with them. The grateful ones are few and far between, and are an absolute delight. Unfortunately, I usually end up getting yelled at far more often for "punishing" the public than for helping them (I have no control over fines. I'm not punishing anyone).  Add in the lack of funding to actually do my job, which means I spend my own coin to purchase what I need, and it becomes a stressful nightmare. For me, there is little reason to stick around, other than finding a new job is hell right now and I need the pay.

    I don't feel proud to be a public servant. I feel depressed and abused.

  •  I'm not a public employee (11+ / 0-)

    But I resent the hell out of the way public employees as a group have been treated in the media and by conservatives.  And for no good fucking reason.  

    I respect public workers and what they do to make our society function and how they make our country, states, counties, and municipalities better.  I know that many of them make significant sacrifices to do what they love and many of them deal with working conditions that are difficult in a variety of ways.  They also deal with the stress of budget fights annually or bi-annually and wonder if they might lose their job, take pay/benefits cuts, or if they might lose their co-workers and have to take on additional workload almost constantly.  Many of them have little control over the policies and systems they have to work within and would change them if they could, so they do the best job they can within the parameters meddling politicians and the uninformed public have put in place for them.

    And screw the right-wing attacks on public worker unions--I fully support those unions.  I would tell anyone who thinks public service is so easy and lucrative that they are free to pursue the appropriate education or training, apply for a public sector job, and give it a go themselves.  

    Political compass: -8.75 / -4.72

    by Mark Mywurtz on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 03:23:10 AM PST

  •  As a former state employee, (0+ / 0-)

    your account of working conditions sounds all too familiar. I spent 15 years in that environment and it damn near broke me mentally and financially. When I was finally able to get out of it, I did a complete career 180 and wound up in real estate. While I would not necessarily recommend that particular path to you or any of your peers, the best advice that I can give you for your own well-being is just to get the fuck out and do something, anything else.

    •  Getting out is easier said than done... n/t (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Egghead, MHB, Dirtandiron
      •  Yes, it is. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dirtandiron

        I know, it took me several years. One major obstacle for a lot of public employees (not necessarily yourself) is that the culture of public employment tends to create the impression in the minds of employees that they don't have what it takes to make it in the public sector, which is allegedly much more competitive and cutthroat. I believed that for a long time, but then when I got out I quickly realized that it was bullshit, that my skills were much better than I realized and that I actually had an advantage in that I was better able to read and react to negative behavioral patterns in the people I dealt with on a daily basis. Plus, the average Joe out there just isn't that smart.

        Anyway, sorry I took so long to read and respond to your comment. I hope you get to read it. And best of luck.

  •  As someone who has interned in public service... (8+ / 0-)

    Most people who are public workers in my county haven't had a raise in over a decade. Meanwhile, living expenses continue to skyrocket because the idiots and hucksters who are elected continue to privatize everything that isn't nailed down.

    Add to that a large segment of the population who just doesn't give a fuck as long as they have theirs and you have a recipe for disaster.

    I write a series called 'My Life as an Aspie', documenting my experiences before and after my A.S. diagnosis as a way to help fellow Aspies and parents of Aspies and spread awareness. If I help just one person by doing this, then I've served a purpose.

    by Homer177 on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 04:44:00 AM PST

  •  from one public employee to another (6+ / 0-)

    I hear ya brother.

    Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility (not an original but rather apt)

    by terrypinder on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 04:51:06 AM PST

  •  And yet the right paints me as the problem. (5+ / 0-)

    Unfortunately, our side has bought into the same framing.

    This leaves only a few voices in the wilderness to point out:

     "Hey!  We wouldn't have dams, railroads, interstate highways, public water and sewer without the government.  Who do you think educates your kids...do you think online universities will do it???"
    ~

  •  Public Jobs Used To Be Good (4+ / 0-)

    In my 30 years benefits have been cut, mostly for new hires and work has gone up.

    There was a time in the 90's when we got like 600 bucks in 8 years. I was making less at the end of that period than I made when I made it thru my probationary period.

    We get no COLAS. Currently we haven't got any raise in 6 years or more. Thank God inflation has been low.

    Based on the amount I made when I became a full time employee nearly 30 years ago, accounting for inflation the kids I work with now when they become full time employees make 3500 less in real terms.

    My job requires a degree and over a year of training. Yet the salary for an employee who makes it thru their year probationary period is 27,000.  Meanwhile the cost of housing and student loans is so much higher for these kids. Than it was for me.

    Based on property values even my wife and I would be unable to buy the house I own and is paid off at our salaries now without severe cutbacks.

    Plus as far as days off pension and health benefits they pay more.

    Despite the employment rate many positions go unfilled because the salaries for state jobs are so low, which makes it hard on all the people working .

    I think we are in the beginning phases of a worker revolt.
    Believe we will see push for min salary, worker rights, and and end or severe curtailing of free trade.

    •  I think a worker revolt will be what it takes (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW, Dirtandiron

      Sadly, services will have to disappear and "inconvenience" the neoCONS before they figure out how far their heads are up their own asses.

      Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

      by GreenMother on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 03:26:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Congress critters, together with their (0+ / 0-)

    henchmen in the financial sector, for whom they have arranged the distribution of free currency as they previously arranged the distribution of free land and access to natural resources, have discovered that they can exercise power which, to be felt has to hurt, by simply rationing and depriving the rest of the population of the currency necessary to transact their enterprise. Whatever they may have feared before it happened, they've discovered since the advent of fiat currency that the economy is theirs to control by rationing and hoarding the currency. What they obviously can't do is make trade and exchange grow. In part, that's because deprivation prompts people to hunker down and try to preserve what they have and, if possible, have recourse to alternatives.
    But, regardless of the verbiage spewed by the denizens of Capitol Hill, deprivation and the injury it inflicts is not actually a bother, especially if they succeed in perpetuating the myth that the whole matter is out of their hands. Market forces are to blame, as if they were magic, or perhaps the victims themselves. The bottom line is that when power is the object, deprivation is a boon.  Every story about additional suffering is welcome as evidence that the power of the petty potentates is growing. And, like Pontius Pilate, who washed his hands, there's no need to worry about revenge because money and the law are such perfect shields.
    That the ravages perpetrated by banks are all entirely legal is not a happenstance. It's how the henchmen are rewarded by the sublime cannibals in the Capitol. They feast on carcases, but it's all bloodless and virtual, though the victims are quite real.
    If your representative in Congress talks about power, he's a cannibal and needs to be replaced so we can liberate the dollar from his clutches.

    Obamacare at your fingertips: 1-800-318-2596; TTY: 1-855-889-4325

    by hannah on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 06:09:21 AM PST

  •  You can get a reliable car for under (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Be Skeptical, leema

    $1000.  I think I paid $600 for my last junker.  A Rabbit with a smashed in passenger door.  Ugly, but ran great.  A one owner boat of a car also a cheap poso.  You do need an honest mechanic to check it out for you but it can be done.  I've never had a car payment in my life and I'm 63.  My latest car was only about four years old when I bought it with a small inheritence.  Figure this little Honda will last till I die.

    Best of luck.

    ps.  Forget Jeep and especially Volvo.  Stick to Honda, Toyota, Nisson.  Or if you go real cheap, some old person's American boat.

  •  I wish they could go without roads, cops, fire, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, Dirtandiron

    and ambulance service for a bit, so that the Far to the WRONG side of the population could remember what taxes pay for.

    They pretend like they earned everything all on their own, but in their hubris they forget that everyone achieves success in this country on the shoulders of their predecessors, on the tax paid infrastructure of roads, hospitals, law enforcement, and fire, and military.

    And so much more.

    Short sighted fools will shoot themselves in the foot after crapping in their own boot before they realize what they are doing to our future.

    Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

    by GreenMother on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 03:10:53 PM PST

  •  Why has no one brought up (0+ / 0-)

    Selling your car before it got reposessed and using those funds to pay off the remaining loan balance plus a down payment on another (cheaper) car?

    Admittedly, I didn't read all of the comments but I searched for "sell" and "sold" but didn't find anything.

    Were you upside down on your car?

  •  Didn't you get your equity back in the car? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron

    So say you had three payments to make at once.  You didn't.  They took the car and sold it.  Once they take what you owe them, they have to give you back the remainder....  

    E.g.: You have a car that is worth $10,000.  You owe them $1500 but can't come up with it.  You surrender the car.  They sell at auction for $7000.  They take the $1500 you owe, and cut you a check for the balance.  

    You should find out from your bank how much they sold your car for.  Anything above what you owed them is YOUR MONEY AND THEY HAVE TO GIVE IT BACK.  

    You can maybe use that to pay cash for a car, or at least make a down payment on a $5000 used car at a used lot.  

    In retrospect the thing to do would have been to sell your car on the street.  Have the buyer cut two checks - one to your bank for the amount you owe them, and another to you.  You then use that money to buy yourself something.  That way, you keep more of your equity without losing it to repo fees and all that bullshit, and you don't take the credit hit.  

    You also could have tried to get a personal loan at the bank.  Tell them what it's for, even offer up the car as collateral.  

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