The Democratic Party Case for Pension Control — Cool!

9 Jun

The Democratic Mayor of San Jose CA, Chuck Reed,  has made some tough decisions about public employee pensions, in spite of union opposition (and opposition from other Democrats, as well).  His position could be a big winner for Democrats, if more would embrace it.  Here are a few excerpts from a piece in City Journal by Steven Greenhut, along with a link to the full essay.

Excerpts:  [Bolding is mine; also the italics]

Reed numbers among a small but growing group of California Democrats making the “progressive case” for pension reform: if local governments spend so much money on retiree pensions, they won’t have enough left to provide the government services that liberals care so much about. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pension advisor, David Crane, also a Democrat, has told the legislature that one cannot be a progressive without embracing pension reform: ignoring it imperils government services. It’s no surprise, then, that Crane views Reed as the most “courageous” leader in California.

In California and other blue states, serious pension reform cannot happen without Democratic leadership. . . .

“There’s a difference between being a liberal and progressive and being a union Democrat,” Reed explained. “If you drain money out of services and pour them into retirements, people suffer.” He said that San Jose has shut down community centers and libraries and doesn’t have enough police and fire services. He showed me an op-ed by Councilman Sam Liccardo, a liberal Democrat who represents downtown San Jose. Wrote Liccardo: “Although conservatives have long called for pension and arbitration reform, I supported these measures not in spite of my progressive values, but because of them. Progressive advocacy for affordable housing, environmental stewardship, marriage equality and immigrant rights doesn’t preclude the pragmatic pursuit of fiscal reform.”

Reed also is dismayed by how unionization has corrupted public service: “My experience with unions, it’s always about money, not about the public. . . . It’s all about money, about enhancing an already generous retirement. . . . The focus on money is different than a focus on public service.” He argues that the reform issue doesn’t break down across ideological lines, but between unions and everybody else—and he’s right.

[End of excerpts.]

 I consider myself a conservative, and certainly don’t want to gush too much about a liberal reformer, but this guy has it right.  If Democrats would take up the banner of pension control in the cause of being able to provide other services important to the good of the entire public, they would have a killer message.

 Your thoughts?


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