The people of Santa Monica have a wonderful opportunity to effect great change on their little part of the world without spending more money.
My father was involved in a union at AT&T, and was a big advocate back in the day. I really understand why unions have a place in America but I also see the harm in some of their views. My liberal-leaning neighbors believe they should pay more taxes so teachers and government workers can be paid more. I agree with them, but disagree on how to reach that goal.
The benefit programs unions force on taxpayers are not fair to anyone. All pension systems offer the retiree a large percentage of their pay for the rest of their lives after they work for many years for lower than market wages. This is where the scam comes in. When you look at how long people are living today, you realize that most pension programs do not have enough money, so they need to tax the current workers to make up the shortfall from the past.
Take our Social Security program. It started out requiring people to pay into the program only 1 percent of their wages. It wasn’t until the 1980s that it came up to 15 percent of the first $100,000 earned. If you do the math, the program would have paid back most people retiring today with interest in less than 10 years. That means if they live past 75 years of age, we have to pay back the shortfall. Every decade the administration has to go to Congress and ask for more money to bail out Social Security, which turns into taxes for you and me. The problem is going to get worse when the baby boomers start to retire in the next 10 years.
What really chaps my behind is when I hear that my generation is not saving enough. We pay a much higher percentage of our income in taxes then previous generations. This means we have less savings from which to come up with a down payment for our first homes. It also means we end up with less investment as well when we retire. Pensions are a game that allows workers to be paid less today, while others have to foot the bill at a later date. Pension systems are unfair to everyone involved. They short-pay people for what they are worth, while at the same time, they move the burden to others in the community.
General Motors vehicles sold required $1,800 in cost to be added to the price tag in order to keep the pension fund running. General Motors filed for bankruptcy because they could not sell a car at a profit, partially due to the pension system in place. The BMW Spartanburg, S.C. plant builds the X and Z cars and boasts one of the highest quality and worker output rates in the world. BMW offered American workers competitive wages today and not pensions paid tomorrow.
We in Santa Monica can learn from that lesson. How about we give all of our new teachers and city workers wages that are on par with private industry and phase out the pension program that will bankrupt our children? Maybe instead of giving the state community college our city money, why not give that same $295 million from a recently approved bond to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District so they have the money they need to raise our teacher-to-student ratio and at the same time raise the wages for our teachers?
Single parents have to spend money for after-school programs because classes end at 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon. Why not have classes end at 5 p.m., with time to study at the school during the day? The students will have time to study in a safe environment, and teachers will have time to grade papers. When teachers work the same hours that the rest of us do, and get paid fair wages for their work, we’ll get better teachers, and not ones stuck in the job waiting to retire.
Our children will have to compete in a global economy against students that have more education. Today, a German student will graduate high school with one more year of instruction over the American student. If you look at the math and reading skills of the American student versus other countries, one less year of schooling has a negative effect. The German student will also know more than one language, because they teach children other languages before high school, when the brain has the ability to learn it. Children that learn languages before the age of 10 are less likely to have an accent, yet we still keep wasting our children’s time with language when it is mentally the hardest time to learn. Half of Los Angeles County can speak Spanish, yet our high school students with four years of Spanish cannot carry on a conversation with a Spanish speaker.
We must do more with the money we have.
David Alsabery is a high-performance driving instructor and all around nice guy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.