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OUR VIEW: Do public employees 'plunder' us? (vote in poll)

July 21, 2010
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In his final State of the City address, term-limited Mayor Lionel Rivera spoke of the need for city employees to contribute more to their own health insurance benefits and pensions. Colorado’s next governor would do well to echo Rivera’s words. To hear the city’s highest-ranking elected official acknowledge that public employees could absorb some of the burden of a recessed economy, which has resulted in widespread cuts in benefits and pay in the private sector, was encouraging to say the least.

Anyone interested in a comprehensive overview of the disparity between public sector employees and the private sector workers who pay their wages may want to attend a talk Friday by longtime Freedom Communications editorial writer Steven Greenhut, who authored the book “Plunder — How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation.” The book, featured on CSPAN’s show “Booknotes,” explains how public employees have become “the new American elite.”

Greenhut will speak, take questions and sign books at a Limited Government Forum luncheon beginning at 11:30 a.m. Friday at Remington’s II at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort, 3225 Broadmoor Valley Road (must register today).

“These days, government workers not only earn more than other Americans, but they have vastly superior benefits, including pension plans that often allow them to retire as early as age 50 with 100 percent or more of their final year’s salary,” says a summary of the book... Getting a government job and sticking with it is like winning the lottery… Schools don’t attempt to fire incompetent teachers — and union protections make it nearly impossible to even fire ones accused of sexual abuse and other misdeeds. As government gets bigger and more powerful, government officials have more uncontrolled power over the rest of us — to enrich and protect themselves at the expense of the public good. The public’s servants have truly become the public’s masters.”

Taxpayers in Colorado Springs are relatively fortunate. Taxpayer protections, such as the city and state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, have prevented the kind of runaway taxing, spending and government growth that are causing thousands of Californians to flee their state and move here. Still, the disparity here is growing more palpable.

(Please vote in poll to the right in red type. Must vote to see results. Thanks!)

Taxpayers need to decide how much their public servants are paid and what they are paid to do. That is why, in a free society, the wages of public employees are no private matter. They are an intensely public matter. Public employees — people paid with money earned by taxpayers — should have no expectation of privacy regarding their incomes. Anyone who wants a private wage should endure the rigors of private-sector life.

Most public employees are great people doing their best to serve the public good. To keep it that way, taxpayers must pay attention. The book “Plunder” is a great way for anyone to get a quick and easy overview of what’s going on, after decades of neglect by taxpayers who paid little attention to government spending during times of artificial economic booms.

Wayne Laugesen , editorial page editor, for the editorial board. Friend him on Facebook

EVENT : 11:30 a.m. Friday, Remington’s II at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort, 3225 Broadmoor Valley Road (must register today). To see "Plunder" on Amazon click here.

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