Sometimes I just can’t avoid a debate, no matter how hard I try to resist. Yesterday was one of those days. I was waiting in line at none other than the Post Office when a woman behind me commented on how slow the service was, and that it was probably because of staff cuts. I politely nodded and almost dodged the fight, but then she went on to tell me how she was forced to retire from teaching after 32 years, and how outrageous it was that she had to do that.
Did I just politely express my sympathies? Of course not, only a polite self-controlled person would do so. Instead, I said “we’ve been going through such things for 15 years in the private sector”. Her absolutely clueless response? Something to the effect of “well my husband and I made a decision to go into civil service professions knowing we wouldn’t get rich, but that we would be positively contributing to society”. Well, how nice.
I then told her that I would bet my house that her salary as a 32 year teacher was probably 20% higher than the average salary of a retiring AT&T employee, and that her retirement plan was probably 5 times better than that of an AT&T employee (because AT&T doesn’t have a retirement plan, it’s only one people save plus a small company match).
Not to mention (I didn’t mention) that she had 65 days vacation a year, plus sick days, vs. the average private sector employee that has only 15. That’s more than 4 times more vacation than average!
Of course she was offended, but being a teacher you would think she would come back with a solid argument. She was speechless. She had no answer. Because there isn’t a good answer. The fact is, she has had total job security (tenure, ugh!) for 32 years, has had guaranteed raises each year unrelated to performance, gold-plated benefits, and now has to retire with great healtchare coverage and a high percentage of her final salary in annual retirement pay. Many (not all) of our public sector employees are totally clueless as to how much many of them are sucking out of the taxpayers, how incongruous their pay is, how great their pay and benefits are compared to the $75,000 a year employee at Microsoft who plugs along day to day, doing everything possible to keep their job, and pays his taxes to subsidize the out-of-touch public sector employee like the one I encountered.
If one good thing could come out of this economic crisis it would be that public sector pay, benefits, and job security became commensurate with that in the private sector. Sadly I think this is unlikely given the public sector unions and their huge contributions to President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi. Oh well.