NO, THIS IS DIFFERENT

Posted in Rants on June 18th, 2013 by Ed

I owe my upbringing to the taxpayer. Both of my parents owe essentially their entire lifetime of earnings to the taxpayer. With only brief exceptions, my mother has spent her entire working life as what used to be called a secretary for several different public school districts, and my father is entering his 30th year as, at various times, a prosecutor, elected official, and judge in a county in the southwest Chicago suburbs.

Accordingly, most of their friends are similarly employed. Some of dad's friends are people I have known (and vice-versa) since 1980, which is impressive since I didn't master the art of speaking until mid-1981. As these people have watched me grow from a baby to a 34 year old adult of considerable facial hair and minimal life accomplishments, I've watched them transition from young adults to…well, seniors on the verge of retirement.

Like most people who work for the government for their entire lives, their ability to retire relies on a public pension. Those pensions will provide them in most cases with something that approximates their working salary plus health care benefits. One of the great ironies in my mind as I began becoming politically aware was how much some of these people could bitch about taxes when every penny they earned and would continue to earn was someone else's tax dollar. And now that states are in austerity overdrive – Illinois being more strapped for cash than most – some of them are all aboard the "It's all the fault of the public unions and their goddamn retirement benefits."

As I became an adult (of sorts) I became bolder about questioning this sort of logic. And I came to believe, having had this conversation numerous times over the years, that the explanation is quite simple: individuals believe that they deserve the benefits they'll get (usually because they Worked Very Hard or Worked Their Whole Life for them) while the horde-like Others do not. And no matter what they do – double-dipping, etc. – they've earned what's coming to them. It's all those other people who haven't.

At a previous public university, I worked with a textbook public pension double-dipper. She "retired" at 52 having put in the 30 years of service necessary to draw her pension, then she continued to work in a different university position that would eventually give her a second pension (and currently gave her a state salary on top of the pension). Of course she was the office's resident Teabagger, and her laziness was such that I wondered if the EPA would re-classify her as some sort of lumber. And that's one of the most amazing things about being among those employed by the government – occasionally you run into these examples who scam the system in every way possible, do no actual work, and manage to piss and moan about taxes, the gub'mint, and the usual right-wing nonsense. Their pension(s) is different because they worked very hard for it, meaning they were physically present for the mandated amount of time on most days.

It turns out that double-dipping is for pussies, though, and triple-dipping is where it's at – at least according to John Cornyn. He's being paid his Senate salary in addition to three different State/county pensions totaling $66,000 annually from previous positions held in Texas. What's amazing is how much he receives for how briefly he worked – $6000 every year for the rest of his life for four years on a county court. $48,000/yr for six years on the State Supreme Court. And so on.

So, just to recap, a teacher or postal worker who puts in 30 years is greedy and entitled, but the John Cornyns of the world spends five fuckin' minutes on a county court and gets $6000 in the mail every year until death. I wish there was a more complex psychological explanation to offer here beyond simple hypocrisy and the belief – in the face of mountains of contradictory evidence – that "Everyone is lazy except me." Based on my experience throughout my career and indeed throughout my life, the excuses are rarely more complex than that.