- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Philip Dine’s argument in “GOP hopefuls’ criticism of public employees unfair” (Page 2, Wednesday) is based partly on a statistic: “The average state or local government employee … retires after a career of service with an annual pension of $19,000, 80 percent of it from his own contributions.”

That statistic is misleading if it includes those states that, on the average, have been acting prudently. They are not the problem.

Also, even though a public employee might have contributed the majority of his pension, the public’s contribution is open-ended. When the employee is retired and no longer contributing anything, where will the subsequent funding come from? That future liability is the responsibility of taxpayers, thanks to politicians who likely have traded political favors for campaign contributions, been voted out of office or retired.

The few large firms shortsighted enough to provide guaranteed retirement plans have probably all failed or else converted their pension plans to contributory retirement programs. Private firms have long since figured out that they cannot afford to make targeted guarantees. An employer annual match plus employee contributions is the best anyone can expect now.

Taxpayers cannot afford to be any more generous in this regard than private firms. The financial liability of guaranteed pensions is unpredictable and no credible CEO would accept such a risk anymore. If this arrangement is not satisfactory to employees, then employers can always offer higher wages to attract good candidates. But that expense - unlike future retirement promises - is now part of the annual budget where employers - and politicians - can be more easily held accountable.

DENIS ABLES

Vienna, Va.


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