On the EDge: More to entitlements than benefits

OPINION – There was a very interesting and informative blog on the Huffington Post the other day by Robert Reich, chancellor’s professor of public policy, University of California, Berkeley, and former secretary of labor during the Clinton administration.

Reich takes on the topic of entitlements and the galvanized conservative position that we are creating great debt by continuing to pay people money they have put into the system in good faith for Social Security, Medicare, and other benefits that are rightfully theirs.

If you listen to the far right’s position on such affairs, you come to the conclusion that we darned baby boomers are to blame because we are living so much longer than preceding generations.

If we would all just die off at an earlier age like so many of our antecedents, the Treasury would be just fine.

Or, perhaps, if we worked until we reach the age of 70, it would leave us with fewer years on the dole and the Treasury would be just fine.

Reich points out that just because we are living longer does not mean we are heartier and able to withstand the 40–60-hour work weeks expected by employers these days.

The body still starts slowing down and, well, the effects of age do catch up, no matter how much your brain tries tricking you into believing that 60 is the new 40. What I’m getting at here is that if, indeed, we were retaining our physical youth beyond our calendar age, there would be a lot more 40-year-old quarterbacks in the NFL. In fact, last time I checked, the oldest guy in the NFL this season was Detroit Lions kicker Jason Hanson. He made good on 32 of 36 field goal attempts and kicked a couple of punts at the ripe old age of 42.

We’ve seen a lot of elder statesmen like Sir Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and, of course, the venerable Willie Nelson still out there performing at an age when a lot of their contemporaries are home rocking their grandchildren instead of rocking the house; but, they are also a lot wiser about how and when they tour. Instead of a string of 30 one-nighters a month, they spread their shows out, doing three or, maybe, four shows a week, with plenty of rest between gigs. It’s called pacing. Try talking your boss into you working three or four days a week.

In fact, apart from Reich’s cogent thoughts about how the debt can be eased by cutting a bloated military budget, limiting the cost of health care, and eliminating the tax breaks and subsidies given to corporate America, there are other considerations that must enter the equation.

The most obvious, of course, is to simply take a look around your workplace.

What is the average age?

How many people with 10, 15, or 20 years experience with the company are at their workstations?

How many have been offered early-out packages to rid the corporation or company of a salary and benefits accrued by a longtime employee?

The corporate culture is to make things even leaner than before and that means not only reducing the number of jobs, but slashing payrolls and benefits and offering minimal wage increases. The old-timers, who have worked long enough to make a fairly reasonable wage, are the first ones eyed when it comes time for cuts while the kids, fresh from school, are willing to work for a fraction of the money.

The product, of course, suffers, but it doesn’t matter because it helps bolster the bottom line.

There was a time when the American worker could believe that if he or she truly applied himself or herself, they would be rewarded for their hard work and dedication, that they would receive raises commensurate with their performance, that they could earn a bonus if their work so merited, that they could advance their careers.

Now, that is reserved for a lucky few.

As a result, not many workers are retiring from the job with a gold watch and nice pension. Their bosses — mostly the CEOs and corporate managers and executives — are, instead, on the receiving end of such lovely parting gifts. I know of a corporate CEO who took early retirement because of medical reasons—he has a bum hip and back problems — and walked away with a $32 million package.

Was this some wunderkind who filled corporate coffers and kept the business on an upward track?


During his six years as CEO, the stock price plunged from $72.69 to $10.45. Revenue plunged from $5.2 billion in 2005 to $2.5 billion in 2011.

Still, this guy won’t need to wait at the mailbox for his monthly Social Security check, even though his performance was dismal. Those who worked under him and were either bought out with an early retirement package or were simply let go as part of a workforce reduction are not as fortunate.

The thing is that this is not an isolated example as our captains of industry have instituted an “every man for himself” culture in the work place and decided that it is so much more advantageous to their livelihoods to ensure that investors are better protected than those who draw a paycheck and will have to rely on those nickels and dimes they put into those entitlement programs to which they are, for lack of a better word, entitled.

No bad days!

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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