There was a time once in America when you worked all your life, retired at a proper age and collected Social Security and a pension until you died. Those halcyon days are over. Now, there is a war against the aged in the guise of beating them up to push them out the door instead of giving them gold watches and other incentives to beg off the payroll. The days of lump sum payments to encourage retirement are long gone.
Our mailman was supposed to retire last year, but since the postal workers contract was expiring this year, he wanted to wait a bit and take an anticipated buy out from the government to get out of town. He’s still waiting for that buyout. His retirement date keeps slipping into the indeterminate future.
New York State is currently clubbing retirees using two vicious attacks. The first is to arbitrarily cut the amount of accrued sick day hours allowed from 1,400 to 400 that are used to determine how much a retiree will pay for healthcare in automatic pension deductions. That’s a massive cleaving of goodwill that adds up to losing over two decades of credited sick days with zero sum benefit — and the lesson is clear to current employees: Use your sick days now and don’t bank them for your retirement!
The second angle of attack is even more insidious: New York State is “updating” the actuarial tables that they claim haven’t been updated since 1976 to determine how long they will have to pay pensions. Since people are living longer, and States have to pay for healthcare longer, New York’s point-of-view is that you will have a higher pension deduction for healthcare to offset you expected good health and longevity.
Yikes! Those double-stabs hurt — and these new retirement punishments were pressed through by the governor and Albany without any chance for introspection or measurement if you wanted to retire this year or not. If you’re working, you’re stuck with these new bludgeonings. Only retirees from last year, and before, are protected from this new gashing of benefits and severing of accumulated sick days.
I know some people don’t like unions or collective bargaining, but what must be remembered is that these pensions and benefits are deferred compensation. The worker gives up a higher wage now in exchange for a richer retirement. When the State begins to fiddle around with the end reward, the entire bargain collapses into the current and people have much longer memories and a deeper wistfulness for what was lost than the gears in the government machine ever could and the people will always win back what the machine takes from them; and that is a human threat that stands sharply in a feigned repose — just waiting to strike back at any ripe opportunity.