It is probably true that most Americans do not begrudge other Americans reaping the benefits of hard work whether it is their possessions, a good job with decent wages, or a secure retirement. However, Republicans and their money-machine, the Koch brothers, begrudge any American having anything and over the past six years in particular they have been on a tear to strip every and anything of value from the people if they can keep it for themselves. In many cases, even when they will not profit from stealing from the people, it appears that the Kochs and Republicans just refuse to allow Americans not in the richest one-percent to have anything and if they cannot have it, no-one can.
Since most Americans are not like the Kochs, Republicans came up with a devious plot to garner support for taking things like good wages, employment benefits, sick leave, overtime pay, and pensions from those that have them. How? By repeating ad nauseum that they are paid for by beleaguered taxpayers and kill other Americans’ opportunities for jobs and prosperity. This is particularly true in terms of retirement benefits and Social Security; even though those are paid for by the people expecting to receive them.
In states with Koch-Republican governors, and nationally as well, the persistent Republican claim is that any kind of pension, whether it is Social Security or a private plan, is welfare funded by other taxpayers. They have succeeded in convincing many Americans that slashing pensions, privatizing Social Security, withholding state pension payments, or cutting employee wages is not only fair, but provides relief for put-upon taxpayers and prevents elderly freeloaders from living on welfare. It is a favorite scheme in states with Republican governors with valuable assistance from the Koch’s State Policy Network (SPN) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC); and they are successful.
First, taxpayers do not pay for public employees’ pensions regardless what the Kochs, Republican governors, or SPN and ALEC say. What taxpayers cannot comprehend, but the Koch-Republicans know is true, is that pension plans are the direct result of deferred compensation packages most public employees participate in. What that means is that the money an employee could have received as part of their regular salary is, instead, placed in the state-operated pension fund; a place where the funds are professionally invested and managed.
Every state’s public employee pension plan is negotiated in good faith between the state and public employees with NO input from the taxpayers because they have no stake one way or the other in how the public employees fund their own retirement or are paid benefits when they retire. The Koch brothers’ two “social charity” tax-exempt organizations, SPN and ALEC, have perpetuated a devious plan to force employees to pay more than they already are into their own pensions that are nothing more a means of forcing employees to take a very substantial wage cut; typically from 9% to over 15%. The employees get nothing extra when they retire and the pension funds are not any better off; it is just a means of cutting wages.
The actual amount of money state taxpayers pay for the “welfare gift” to public employee’s pensions is zero. In fact, “for every dollar a retired public employee draws as part of their pension, they have invested 100 cents.” Still, Republicans claim that it is unfair for the taxpayer to have to pay for public employees’ pensions when they can hardly afford to invest in their own retirement and many Americans fall for the lie.
There is even a more devious plot underway in many Republican states to cut current and future retirees’ pensions that involve providing tax cuts for the rich and corporations. In states like Kansas, and New Jersey, as just two examples, Republicans created revenue shortfalls due to substantial tax cuts for the rich and to fund the tax cuts refuse to make regular payments into the public employee pension funds. Underfunding, or not funding at all, pension funds is a deliberate plot to create ‘pension fund crises’ that gives Republicans a reason to cut retiree benefits under the guise of keeping the retirement fund solvent. It is worth noting again and again, taxpayers do not pay for public employees’ pensions, and the lack of a pension funds’ solvency is not because employees are not paying their fair share.
In fact, something else that is not public or private employees fault, but they paid the price, is that the Bush-Republican 2008 financial crisis caused many, many pension funds to lose trillions of dollars in investments that state administrators used to pay retiree benefits. Like everything Republicans are guilty of, it is the American people who end up suffering the long term consequences for GOP fiscal malfeasance, and in the case of pension funding and retirees benefits, both current and retired public employees are being forced to pay the price in wage cuts and reduced retirement benefits; all to perpetuate tax cuts for the rich that are driving Republican states’ revenue shortfalls.
Every one of the Republican states deliberately-created pension fund crises will affect Americans now and over the long term. It is all to hasten fruition of the Kochs’ vision of an America where the masses suffer poverty to provide more wealth for the one percent. The Kochs have tasked their two state-level organization, SPN and ALEC, to promote what they purport are “local interests to radically remake governments in a way to undermine all public institutions and the rights of workers; particularly public sector workers.”
The executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, Lisa Graves, issued a report last year on the activities and goal of SPN and said their so-called “state interests” belied a larger Koch purpose; to take their operation national and eliminate all public sector workers’ rights to their pensions, sick pay, living wages, and protections at the federal level. It is why Washington Republicans continue warning that unless Social Security is drastically cut now, Americans’ children and grandchildren will “be saddle” with paying for the unwarranted welfare today’s retirees are receiving.
Through their various organizations and the Republican establishment, the Kochs have convinced a fair number of Americans that everything Americans work for and deserve from decent wages, sick leave, overtime pay, Social Security, and pensions are being stolen from other Americans. Republicans claim that sick leave, overtime pay, retirement benefits, and good wages are stealing jobs from other Americans; and many Americans fall for the lies or Republican states would not have right to work laws or successfully cut retirement benefits with substantial support from voters.
Most Americans do not begrudge other Americans from enjoying the fruits of their labor, but most Americans have been bombarded with a carefully scripted narrative that anything other Americans have earned was stolen from them. Although Republicans are primarily to blame, between timid Democrats and conservative media, most Americans will never realize how stupid and greedy they are until Republicans get around to stealing whatever they have left; at the rate this nation is going, there will not be much to take.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.