Benefits Race to the Bottom

Benefits Race to the Bottom

Ugh! This again! So earlier this week the story broke that Senate Majority Leader, Arlan Meekhof, and Speaker of the House, Tom Leonard, were making cuts to teacher retirement benefits a top priority in the state budget. Specifically, they want to transfer what is now a state-backed pension into a 401k plan.

The underlying reason is pragmatic enough — the state would pay much less money for public school employee retirement costs.There might be some token matching funds thrown in and a happy, shiny roll-out gleefully touting the empowering opportunities of personal investment. (Oh, boy! I know I love it!) But the real aim is to save the state money through cuts (and not investment).

This, of course, has been the unrelenting game plan for 21st century Michigan — cut our way to prosperity. Now within the context of the recessions we’ve been through (including that Great one), many cuts made sense. Because of revenue drops, they were necessary to meet the requirement of balancing the budget. And in some cases, they were a means to realigning our priorities as we went from a manufacturing state to …whatever it is that we’re becoming.

But now? Really? At some point it would seem reasonable to try to attract talent to professional positions. Instead, the Republican leadership in particular appears to be in a race to the benefits bottom for the average citizen.

Full disclosure: The cartoon is actually a variation on a similar theme I did several years ago — that one was specifically about medical benefits: “We can only be truly happy when we all have lousy medical benefits.” *Sigh*. I just want to let you guys know that my intention has always been to be a satirist, not a prophet.

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