Monday, January 11, 2010

Bertram de Souza Owes Public Employees an Apology

I read Bertram de Souza's column in Sunday's Vindicator, as I normally do, and couldn't believe how shabbily the public employees of Ohio were treated. de Souza picked a fine topic for discussion, public employee compensation and pensions, but rather than provide a well thought out, reasoned argument, he stuck his finger in the eye of every public employee by referring to them as bloodsuckers in his opening remarks:

How can you tell a retired public employee from a private sector retiree?
The man laughing all the way to the bank is from the ranks of the bloodsuckers.
The man working as a greeter in one of those large box stores had his blood
sucked — by those in government and other public entities.

I'm going to come clean before I wade into the fray. I have friends and relatives who are public employees, working in the criminal justice system and education. I know they work hard, dealing with violent criminals every day, coming home with bruises and stress because fighting is part of their job. They go when called and afterward deal with the offenders when they are locked up. Incidentally, Bertram knows these people are important. In a column from May 2006 he described the feelings of one of his colleagues as his car was swarmed on the North Side:
You sit there, your hands firmly gripping the steering wheel, your eyes
wandering so as not to look directly at them. There is a deep sense of
hopelessness, which, as time passes, is replaced by an anger so intense that
it prompts all kinds of counterattack scenarios. But in reality, there's not
much you can do when they're swarming.

That feeling of hopelessness dissolves when a cruiser pulls up and a cop steps out. That feeling of fear can be safely forgotten when criminals are held away from us, in detention centers and jails, where correction officers deal with them daily, so we don't have to.

And so it goes. We call 911 and fire fighters and police respond as fast as they can, running toward the fire and the danger, and later, they contain the dangerous people so we can feel safe. they clean the streets, fix the broken water mains and teach our children. And they do it all a damn sight cheaper than we would.

The people I know in public service? To a one they hold 4 year degrees in their fields. The teachers hold master's degrees. That means we are being served by educated individuals who planned on entering public service as a career path. Their plan was to protect us and teach our children. They could have entered the private sector, like me, and made more money. They could all be living wealthier lives instead of taking side jobs to grab a few extra dollars.
So yes, they have good medical benefits and a decent pension but they aren't making nearly the same money they would in the private sector.

de Souza needs to compare apples to apples in his argument. If he wants to move their pensions to Social Security they should all be paid what college graduates of their experience are being paid. Can local communities afford that? No, they can't. Public employees forgo larger salaries for the promise of a stable retirement and good medical benefits. That's the deal we make with them.

Yes, changes should be made. The public employees I've spoken with say changes that extend the retirement age should be made and double dipping should be eliminated. And they didn't compare anyone to a leech while saying it.

What Bertram should really be upset about is that our government has trashed our employment opportunities so thoroughly that public employment has become the new gold standard.

Man up, Bertram. You owe an apology.


Anonymous said...

I agree completely!
Perhaps, all police, firefighters,
teachers, county,and city workers
should drop their subscriptions to
the Vindy!

Maybe they should fire deDosa so he can reap the benefits of
his wife who is or was an employee of Youngstown State University!

elecpenciljim said...

Thanks for saying what I was thinking. The Tribune has also been dumping on public employees. I work in education and get beat up every day but autistic kids and kids with behavior problems. I welcome Bert to do my job for a day. I also resent all those workers who have set up two and three tiers at work screwing new employees. The same type also think since they bent over for the company public employees should also. It's a race to the bottom and those who won't fight for anything want to drag everyone down with them.

Anonymous said...

I was FORCED to retire early after watching a deranged psychopath put a shotgun to his 7 year old boys head and pull the trigger before I even had the chance to draw my weapon to defend the child. I have not slept one full night in 10 years and take a handful of pills each morning and night just to make it through one more day on this miserable planet. How about DeSosa try to live with that image every time he (or her) closes it's eyes. My son was the same age as that little boy when that happened and it screwed me up big time. I'm tired of these so called "reporters" trying to make cops, firefighters and EMTs look like they are kicking back and raking in the cash for doing nothing. If these people survived one week on the job I would be surprised as hell. I have lost two good friends who were killed in the line of duty and my Sheriff ate his gun due to the pressure. I have lost 3 good friends to suicide and I myself have tried it twice nearly succeeding at one point. Try living like that if you actually believe what you wrote DeSosa! Each day is a fight just to stay alive for my family and nut jobs that make 3 or 4 times what I do tell me that I am a bloodsucker? And I won't even go into what that job did to my family as a side effect of that wonderful well paid and compensated retirement got me. Every year I go visit that little boy's grave and cry for a week afterwords. I feel guilty every day of my life for his death because I was not fast enough to stop it and I will pay that price as long as I live. Yeah, we sure have one fine and comfy job and benefit package don't we?