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June 13, 2012 at 4:00 PM

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Wisconsin's public sector

Bread and cake

In her letter to editors on June 12 [“Tax distribution,” Northwest Voices], Gerardine Carroll asked “Why private-sector employees do not demand adequate pensions and other benefits for themselves instead of insisting public employees be stripped of theirs?”

In the public sector, the fund comes in the form of tax and it is essentially guaranteed. It is not the same in “most of” the private sector.

Her question sounds a lot like “Let them eat cake, if they can’t afford bread.”

—Tadamasa Ichikawa, Bellevue

An explanation

I’m responding to Gerardine Carroll’s June 12 letter, justifying generous public union contract benefits, and wondering why private sector employees don’t “demand” the same kinds of benefits and pensions.

I can easily answer Carroll’s breathtakingly naive question.

Because, Gerardine, all of us in the private sector work in the free-enterprise system for entities that must control costs to be competitive in pricing goods and services, or customers and clients will go elsewhere and we will go out of business.

In the public sector, the employer (i.e., government) does not have to be competitive, and its costs (i.e., taxes) must be paid or its customers, the citizens, are in violation of the law and will be fined. The government has, essentially, a predictable and guaranteed income stream and can fairly easily increase various kinds of taxes. This results in a more amiable response to union demands for highly enriched benefit and pension plans beyond what the private sector can afford.

In some cases, particularly in some state, county and municipal pension plans in California, the pension plans have led to such a burden of debt and future obligation that there are no viable plans to cover the costs. In every state, we all pay the taxes that support these benefits, and while we are not advocating “stripping” government employees of benefits, as Carroll suggests, there must be more oversight to assure better accountability at the bargaining table for the expenditure of our tax dollars.

— Linda Pederson, Bellevue


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Ms. Pederson, there is nothing naive about Ms. Carroll's question, but I'm surprised at... MORE
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