A Pensions Debate in Bucks County

Stephen Herzenberg of the Keystone Research Center squared off with Rick Dreyfuss of the Commonwealth Foundation Thursday night on the topic of public employee pensions. As the Bucks County Intelligencer wrote, the audience at the pensions forum in Doylestown was solidly on Steve's side.

Steve made the point that teachers and other public-sector workers should not be punished for decisions made in Harrisburg that have led to the current pension funding challenges. He also explained that the ongoing loss of income from the middle class to the wealthiest households poses a much bigger threat to the bottom lines of most Pennsylvanians.

[Stephen Herzenberg] argued — and earned applause for saying — that the pension debate is a distraction issue to keep people from talking about “a massive shift of income to the top.”

Herzenberg said there has been “a massive redistribution of income since the 1970s. That’s, in some perspectives, a form of theft.”

And, he said, that’s what’s making people struggle financially.

He talked in the terminology of the Occupy Wall Street movement — about the “99 percent” versus the “1 percent” and money going from “Main Street to Wall Street.”

Steve described a pensions plan put forth by the Commonwealth Foundation as an “ideological position not informed by evidence.” He said that the state should address budgetary challenges, including public pension funding, by closing corporate tax loopholes and assessing a tax on natural gas drilling that is in line with other energy-rich states.

The Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) will air the Bucks County pensions debate tonight at 7 p.m. Check your local cable listings for channel information or go to PCN's web site to watch online.

Comments

1 comments posted

My understanding is that many

My understanding is that many in the audiece are classified as "special interest" on this topic, i.e., they are collecting a  PERS pension and/or will benefit from preservation of the current system.  Of course they agree with retaining the status quo including payout enhancements that threw caution to the wind and increased the largesse back when the stock market was over-heated and over-inflated.  Nobody considered the "what if" scenario that became the recession (since 2008) that we don't seem able to pull out of.  Unlike the private sector where retirees and benefit receipients have been forced to adjust to economic reality, PERS recipients' payments are guaranteed by law.  It's property taxpayers--many retirees themselves that are struggling to stay in their homes--that must make up the difference for state workers, lawmakers and teachers to live very comfortable lives. Some make as much as or more in pension payments than their salary while working!  So--as for this meeting--of course that group is in agreement with leaving the system exactly as it is.

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