Public employees and one last point

I’m almost done with my ranting. And really, what have I proven? So the private sector sometimes is dumb, too. Big deal, right? It’s not like the private sector costs taxpayers when they screw up.

Except when the banks screw up so badly they tank the economy.

Or back to MF — they’re closing down shop in Medford, apparently. Either the MF branch of GC isn’t making enough money, or they’re just greedy (naahhhhh), but they’re closing down in Medford and most development for the web properties is going to be off-shored or using consultants (who are typically using off-shore development, if GC keeps to their prior trends). This is after they forced many people to pull 60-hour weeks to implement a new system. Yes, forced. It wasn’t called “mandatory overtime” for nothing. And there was no overtime pay and no comp time was accrued except for special circumstances.

How do you think this affects the local economy? IT jobs in the Medford area were already scarce, but with MF moving out, Medford’s tech job market is nearly dead. And now MF is going to make more American dollars flee the country like college graduates will be fleeing the Rogue Valley.

Public employees certainly have a cost to the state, but I hope people can at least see how must more costly corporate greed can be.

In conclusion…

And this is the important part. I believe that some state employees can further share the continued economic burden. People at my pay level can probably afford some extra furlough or even a temporary cut to benefits. There may be some jobs that are legitimately overpaid, I have no idea — based on my initial assessment, I do not believe mine is anywhere near that area ($62k + good benefits for a senior software engineer, people — come on).

But cutting anything across the board is just wrong. Teachers cannot continue to be cut. They are absolutely vital, and we keep overburdening them with worse working conditions and crap for pay. We really need to consider the cost vs. value of some of the public employees and not just cut everybody’s pay or benefits without consideration.

So here are my slightly-informed opinions:

  • Slashing our benefits is the wrong approach — the benefits are all that keep the good employees working for the state. The benefits are the only reason I chose this job over the other offer. Cut them enough and the best employees will go to the private sector. Cut them some more, and the next-best employees take off. See where I’m going here?
  • PERS pensions are not what the right-wing media are making them out to be. The old system that guaranteed a rate of return is not being used anymore. It’s effectively a 401k now. The cost for people who started in the past 15 years or so is the 6% of the employee’s pay. In my case, this is a whopping $3720 a year. This is hardly “big money”. It merely looks big when somebody works in the system for for 50 years, has a moderate rate of return (3.5%), and retires with an “amazing” half-a-million dollars. When you tell the public somebody could get half a million dollars “for free”, it sounds a lot scarier than telling the public the state is picking up about $300 a month for one of the a better-paid public employees.
  • I’m a strong supporter of legalizing and taxing cannabis. This is the perfect time to stop wasting so much money trying to protect people from marijuana. We’ve artificially inflated the price of this plant, making it so valuable it’s worth killing over. Given the state of the economy, and the fact that 1/3 to 1/2 of all adults in the U.S. have tried it already, we have nothing to lose by legalizing and taxing it.
    • A pound of weed sells for anywhere from $2500 to $6000 depending on quality, quantity being sold, etc.
    • Because weed is so easy to grow, that same pound of weed can be grown and harvested for around $400.
    • We could cut its value by regulating and taxing sales, just like when we ended alcohol prohibition
    • Cut down on its value, and you cut down on crime, just like when we ended alcohol prohibition
    • And maybe keeping the money in Oregon (instead of Mexico, for instance) could help the local economy at the same time.
  • I fully believe the corporations need to pitch in more, too. Trying to scrape a few hundred dollars per public employee will not make the kind of impact that could be made by hitting the elite in our country. Even though we’re in a budget crisis, many corporations are posting billions in profits, higher by far than the same quarter last year (Exxon, Ford, JP Morgan, …). We’re cutting teachers all over Oregon, and no amount of penny-pinching will help that. Maybe the ridiculously wealthy should have to “share the burden” you right-wingers are so keen to throw at the working class.

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