Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pensions, Politics and Those Pesky Public Employees Part 1

Gov. Christie gets 4 Pinocchios

Yesterday dozens of NJEA members took to the streets in various communities to engage in and inform our members about the fight to save our pensions. My partner and I canvassed these Trenton neighborhoods:

To be clear, these are not our members' homes, but our members live on these streets...

Yes, these are the Trenton neighborhoods where all those "greedy" and "selfish" public employees with their "Cadillac" benefits and "jobs for life" live—just like another public employee, Gov. Christie: 

And now that he's been reduced to fetching coffee for Donald Trump, his ego bruised, he's back at what he really loves to do. No, not governing NJ. I'm talking about teacher—bashing.

Here's Christie last week stumping for his "Fairness Funding" Apartheid School Funding Formula:

I give this video 4 Pinocchios for the 4 basic lies he tells: 

1. "I love public school teachers." Call me crazy, but I have never seen nor heard any evidence to back up this statement. If you have, please by all means, post a link in the comments.  

2. "There's no way in any profession other than that one you get a job for life after 3 years, 'cause you get tenure after 3 years."
I guess all that time out of state gave Christie a severe case of amnesia because he has completely forgotten that he pushed for and signed the TeachNJ law that extended the time it takes to earn tenure to four years! And as for the "job for life" comment, anybody with half a brain knows that is simply not true. But Christie has never let the facts get in the way of a good talking point. Which leads me to #3... 

3. "And after 20 years, you get pension and health benefits for life." Well... I do pay into my pension every two weeks, just like anyone else pays into their retirement plans (which is way more than the state has done in the last 20 years), so why shouldn't I expect to receive my deferred compensation for the rest of my life when I retire? And he fails to mention that, under Chapter 78, the law he pushed for and signed, public employees now contribute more into our pensions, work more than 20 years before we can retire, and get less when we do. And as for those "health benefits for life"? Wrong again! State employees who were not grandfathered into the Ch. 78 reforms must pay a percentage of their health benefits when they retire.

4. The 4th lie he tells isn't on this video, but it has to do with his proposed $6600 per pupil school funding formula and how it will solve the problems of all high-poverty/high-needs school districts and magically reduce property taxes. Read Jersey Jazzman here and here for all the facts and figures 'cause you won't find them anywhere in Christie's messaging. And PS: before the 2% property tax cap went into effect, property taxes went up an average of 20% in NJ, so don't hold your breath waiting for any big tax breaks to materialize.

No, Christie doesn't want the average taxpayer who doesn't follow politics every waking minute to know that the state unions were forced to accept many concessions in Ch. 78 with the expectation that he would uphold his end of the bargain by making the required pension payments—but didn't. It's so much easier to make stuff up and sell it to unsuspecting taxpayers under the premise of #TellingItLikeItIs (and you know how well that hashtag worked out once we hijacked it).

On Monday, August 1st, the state senate may possibly vote on SCR-2 which, if approved, would put a question on the November ballot to engrave state pension payments into our constitution, and that is driving Christie nuts. Not only does he want to defund public education further, he wants to crush the unions—period. The only thing stopping him from becoming another right-to-work-(for less) governor like Scott Walker or Rick Snyder is the Democratically-controlled state legislature. 

So, the next time someone tries to tell you that state workers have it great, that we have cushy jobs and great benefits, show them this post. Show them the pictures of the neighborhoods in which some of our members live. Tell them that many of our members who are working full time also collect food stamps. Share the stories of your co-workers who have been living on the edge of financial disaster since Ch. 78 was signed into law, whose take home pay has decreased every year since, who have lost (or almost lost) their homes as a result, who were forced to leave the profession to find a higher-paying job in the private sector. Remind them of all the give-backs and concessions we've made and the promises that Gov. Christie has broken. Educate them on how important unions are to a thriving middle class and the New Jersey economy.

Then tell them to vote Yes on the Constitutional Amendment ballot question in November because if it fails, and the pension system goes bust, the sky really will be falling on Chicken Little Gov. Christie.

Part 2: How GOP politicians spin the tale of 'greedy unions' for their political gain.