Saturday, March 12, 2011

An Appeal to Reason: Who’s to Blame (for Today's State Budget Deficits)

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” --Martin Luther King

Why is it an injustice to break the trust among individuals and the pension systems into which they have elected to participate? And why would someone want to take away a person’s right to bargain for benefits and working conditions?  Surely, we know that the teachers and other State employees should not be held accountable for a State’s budget deficit.  Could it be that a State is in trouble because of the arrogance, incompetence, irresponsibility, corruption, and cronyism of some of its legislators and their benefactors?  Is it because of political opportunism?

Two hundred and twenty-three years ago, the 18th century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, formulated a theory of ethics exemplified by his categorical imperatives.  For example, “Act so that you treat humanity… always as an end and never as a means only.  Act only on that maxim by which you can, at the same time, will that it should become universal law.”  

Might we ask today whether it is an injustice for some legislators and lawyers to change existing laws, especially those laws that compel others to accept them, but are not made compulsory on themselves?   Are State employees allowed a voice regarding the so-called reform laws that will impact only them?  Why are so many people making State employees the scapegoats for today’s financial problems? 

The State’s Retirement Systems are not responsible for a State’s budget deficit or for the underfunding of public sector funds.  State employees have contributed responsibly to their pension funds. Most state employees will not receive Social Security when they retire, and most of them will have worked for lower wages and without bonuses throughout their career for the promise of a guaranteed pension.  So what really contributed to budget deficits across the nation besides its corrupt legislators who did not fully fund the pension plans of their state employees for decades?  

How about corporate America and the financial sector?  Was it because of risks posed by sub-primed mortgage bonds, credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations, and derivatives? In other words, fraudulent accounting and lending/investment practices on Wall Street? Was it because of greedy CEOs from Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, Washington Mutual, Lehman Brothers, Oppenheimer, Capital One, Wachovia and others? Was it because of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae, Household Finance Corporation, AIG, Moody's, and Standard & Poor's, to name a few others?   

Was it because of mortgage lenders, subprime mortgage investors, and greedy bond traders? Was it because of the Securities and Exchange Commission's incompetence? Was it because narcissists such as Bernie Ebbers, Ken Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, Franklin Raines, David Moffett, James Cayne, John Thain, Kerry Killinger, Maurice Greenberg, Martin Sullivan, Robert Willumstad, Dick Fuld, Angelo Mozilo, Al Dunlap, Joseph Cassano, Jack Grubman, Frank Quattrone, Stan O’Neal, Howard Sosin, Bill Aldinger, and Bernie Madoff, and others who stole billions of dollars and ransacked this country out of their sense of entitlement, narcissism, fraud, greed, deceit, and recklessness? 

And what was the Federal Government's role in the making of this economic disaster? Was it because Alan Greenspan, Henry Paulson (TARP), and Ben Bernanke were so incompetent?  Was it because of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, and others who started an unwarranted, trillion-dollar war in Iraq?  Was it because of the massive tax cuts that eradicated the country’s surpluses?  Was it because of the risks posed by deregulation and the overall encouragement of debt? Was it because of the Federal Government’s partnership with and sponsorship of banks, and their millionaire CEOs who were not convicted for the financial collapse and who then paid themselves million-dollar bonuses with OUR multi-trillion-dollar “bailout” tax money? 

Is it also because of today’s consolidation of powerful oligarchic relationships among CEOs and their legislators as evidenced by governors who give a substantial amount of money to their special-interest groups and tax breaks to those who supported their election? How about all of the above?

Does anyone really believe that teachers, policemen, firemen, and other State employees and retirees are to blame for wasteful spending, unemployment, foreclosures, bankruptcy, poverty, and other financial disasters?  So what kind of people believe that the pension benefits and bargaining rights of public employees who have served the public selflessly and without avarice should be diminished and then eliminated? Now you know. 

-Glen Brown

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