If you are one who is already bored by the 2012 elections and the rhetorical, mind-numbing repetition, here's a little taste of what you can expect all the way into the distant future of 2016. The poodle-for-the-rich governor of New York has determined that his path to the White House in 2016--and, despite the boring typical political dialogue, he is running--is to go after the people who have really destroyed the economy...you know, the teachers, firefighters and other public workers. I admit bias: I've thought this guy is the bottom of the pond for a very long time and nothing will change my mind, polls be damned.
Ah, yes, the great success:
Lawmakers on Thursday morning approved a hard-fought measure to cut the retirement benefits for future public employees in New York City and across the state, dealing a defeat to labor unions at the end of a dramatic all-night session.
“This bold and transformational pension reform plan is a historic win for New York taxpayers and municipalities,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “Without this critical reform, New Yorkers would have seen significant tax increases, as well as layoffs to teachers, firefighters and police.”
Really? Danny Donohue, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, has it right:
“This deal is about politicians standing with the 1 percent — the wealthiest New Yorkers — to give them a better break while telling nurses, bus drivers, teachers, secretaries, and laborers to put up and shut up,” Mr. Donohue said after the vote approving the pension changes.
So, here are some truths and lies--as in in the real world, not the world the poodle-for-the-rich governor inhabits where the only calculation is which rich donor he has to keep happy to oil his political path.
Lie #1: the poodle-for-the-rich governor has said repeatedly "rising state work force costs are unsustainable". Utter nonsense.
Why politicians repeat garbage, from the president on down, is both perplexing and bizarre: the principle reason behind the current budget deficits--federal and state--is the Lesser Depression (if I may borrow Paul Krugman's description of where we are today).
And, as many people, including yours truly have pointed out, taking money out of regular peoples' pockets--as the poodle-for-the-rich governor wants to do--is the exact opposite thing you do in a financial crisis because regular people--the middle class--spend money to buy basic things like groceries.
Austerity does not work.
People need money to spend--which would, then, mean the state had more money from taxes. Duh. Ask California Governor Jerry Brown about that basic economic fact.
It has almost nothing to do with state worker costs. This is a lie, as the actual facts show, courtesy of the Fiscal Policy Institute:
New York State has faced significant and recurring budget gaps since the summer of 2008. These gaps are overwhelmingly attributable to the Great Recession which has had a very negative impact on the finances of state governments throughout the country.[emphasis added]
If you want to know why costs have gone up, as that report, using actual facts, points out:
• The recession pushed New York’s poverty up from 14.2 percent in 2008 to 15.8 percent in 2009. A little over three million New Yorkers are below the federal poverty line. Over the last 30 years, there was only one other year when the poverty rate increased this fast.
• The number of New Yorkers receiving food stamps has grown by over one million (+60 percent) since the recession began.
• A record one million New Yorkers lost employer-provided health insurance in 2009, contributing to a projected 4-year 30 percent increase in Medicaid enrollment. Medicaid now covers 40 percent of New York children.
And, actually, the size of New York State government has been declining.
Lie #2: pensions are too expensive. The average pension is pretty modest in New York--$30,000.
Don't believe me. Listen to what a decent public servant has to say about the pension funds--because Comptroller Tom DiNapoli actually looks at the numbers:
According to The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, pension contributions from state and local employers amount to just 3.8% of state spending, on average. And, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, the number is an even lower 2.9%
In New York, the number is 2.4% of state operating funds.
And it’s important to note that over the past 20 years, 83 cents of every dollar in benefits paid to New York retirees have come from investment returns, not employee or employer contributions.[emphasis added]
Meaning, the costs of pensions are trivial--and paid for by investments.
Another well worn line of attack on public pension funds is that they are bloated with retirees making six figure pensions. Again, in New York State, the facts suggest otherwise.
In FY 2010‐11, the New York State Retirement Fund paid out $8.5 billion in benefits to 385,000 retirees and beneficiaries.
Less than one‐half of 1% of those retirees received pensions exceeding $100,000.
The average annual New York State pension, excluding police and fire, is $19,151.
76% of our retirees receive less than $30,000 a year.
One in five of New York retirees – nearly 70,000 ‐ receive less than $5,000 a year.
So, where did the pension fund money go and why are the funds depleted? Thanks to the financial crisis and Wall Street corruption-incompetence, New York public pension funds lost over $100 billion--with more than $77 billion of those losses coming just in the state teachers' retirement and state-local workers funds.
Exactly. The very people who write checks to the poodle-for-the-rich governor's campaigns are the same people who helped rob the pension funds.
Lie #3. Actually, a different version of Lie #1...budget gaps are due to workers' wages.
The story is simple: over the past 2 decades, a whole bunch of tax cuts have shoveled billions of dollars back into the pockets of the richest people in the state.
From 1990-2007, as this presentation from A Better New York For All points out, the income share of the top one percent of taxpayers doubled to 35.3 percent. And in 2009, 2010 and 2011, the top tax rate in the state was 8.97 percent--which brought in, just from that rate, $13.76 billion--BILLION.
That tax rate expired.
So, the attack against the middle class--the workers who also provide services every day that make a decent society--has absolutely nothing to do with ECONOMICS and everything to do with POLITICS.