We saw a clip on the evening news last night in which a group of government workers went to talk to Governor Cuomo about cuts to government pensions and about Tier VI. They asked that the people who tinkered with the stock market be asked to “beef up” these pensions to the tune of what these “players” caused pensions to lose – a perfectly reasonable request if you ask me (although, of course, no one actually did).
Governor Cuomo gave a reply that suggested that if you get involved with the big boys you better be prepared to pay. Traditionally, most middle-class people did not put their money in the stock market, yet in the 80’s and 90’s everyone was advised to put their pension money into the stock market. The fall of the stock market in 2008 got a huge assist from something that is not an organic part of an economic cycle. Our “financial wizards” falsely propped up the market with a “magic” housing bubble based on unscrupulous practices, and when the bottom fell out they said the same thing Governor Cuomo said, “Oh well.” (Say it with a “what did you expect” twist at the end the phrase.)
If the stock brokers and their cohorts didn’t play fast and loose with the housing market, it is possible the market would have begun to droop downwards before it did, but maybe the recession would have been slower and shallower than what we finally experienced.
I don’t think “Oh well” is enough to say to these people who trusted NYS and used their time, energy, and skills on our behalf. Maybe Governor Cuomo is not the people’s governor – perhaps he is the government’s governor. We have done nothing to be punished for. Perhaps he’s acting stern so that when he has to do distasteful things we will somehow assume we deserve it. He may also have to steel himself to do some of the things he may have to do. So it is “tough love” everywhere. It is the fashion right now to blame the unions for being too greedy, but I don’t completely buy it. Closing loopholes that allow people to bulk up their pensions with overtime during their highest earning years might be helpful, but the unions are not to blame for all the changes in employment in America. We all got blind-sided.
Whoever is to blame, “It’s going to be a bumpy ride” (as said by you know who). Our Governor needs to understand that the people of NYS will need to survive, and he needs to try to spread out the pain.
Andrew Cuomo is such a mixed blessing. It is wonderful to feel the wheels of the New York State government grinding onward once again, after some very strange times when our legislators refused to work with weak or flawed leaders. It is refreshing to have a leader who works well with others and who seems to have the respect of our representatives in Albany.
But I have to say Andrew Cuomo is beginning to look just the slightest bit like he is running NYS all alone, without bothering to take into account anything the residents of NY who elected him have to say. He’s out there on his own in a sort of cowboy-rounding-up-the-cattle kind of mode. Our representatives and even our unions are being surprisingly quiet about some decisions that have been quite difficult to swallow. I get the feeling that they are keeping quiet because it is not a good moment for direct confrontation. I can’t even get a grip on what factors tie Andrew Cuomo’s “projects” together so we can perceive an organized political approach. He seems to have no favorites. He turns his stern paternal gaze on all equally and lets the chips fall where they may (no pun intended).
Most recently he has joined a long line of those who have decided that there is no need to honor agreements that were made with workers because a tough economy has made it too difficult. I used to watch with such fear and loathing as one company after another filed bankruptcy and abandoned employee pension plans. What happened to those workers? Some were probably young enough to start their retirement funds over, but many were not. Over and over people who were promised, and who worked and saved for, some security in their senior years were left flapping in the wind. Maybe they found a way to survive on their social security or relatives helped, or they just worked ten to twenty more years. America began to lose some of that bulletproof shine it once had as it allowed these companies to renege on their promises to America’s workers. Isn’t it just possible that when people lose their trust, when they are betrayed by their employers and/or their government they might lose that edge that made American workers great and it might be hard for them to get it back.
Time marches on. The corporations took America’s prosperity with them when they left. We haven’t replaced it yet. It will take time. Our economy is in a period of decline and now our governments (federal, state, and local) want to abandon retirees in much the same way that they corporations did. They feel they have to do it because paying retirees is making our federal, state, and local governments broke. There were some loopholes in the public pension system and some workers took advantage of them (or their supervisors did). Most people in the government pension system get pensions that are quite reasonable in size. Since we don’t have one-size-fits-all pensions we shouldn’t look for a one-size-fits-all solution. For whatever reasons, it seems that once again I am watching America break its promises and abandon its seniors. Once again I am shocked because I never believed this could happen. This time I am one of the seniors who stands to lose some of my security. I am still hopeful that I will squeak through, but I am worried about those who follow me.
So this brings me back to Andrew Cuomo, Governor of NYS who wants to institute a Tier VI for the state employee’s pension funds. The savings from this new pension level will not really affect NYS for many years we are told. It is unclear why we are looking so far down the road when we need so many things done that will help us right now. How will “fixing” the future fix the present? Andrew Cuomo gets what he wants. He seems to expect to get what he wants. He doesn’t ask for our opinions, he doesn’t seem to mind our protests. He is Clint Eastwood, we are the townspeople who may be saved or not; individuals don’t really matter. Why do we need Tier VI? Why are we likely to have hydrofracking whether we want it or not? There is a new sheriff in town and this is the new dust bowl. Governor Cuomo is not the only leader with carte blanche to make budget cuts without our input. Unexpected cuts will also be raining down on us from the federal level also. The American people somehow let themselves be cut out of this budget cutting process. Hunker down!