Thursday, October 22, 2009

Public Employee Pensions: People are angry, or are they?

Today, I met with 3 different small groups of businessmen (yes, they were all men). In every meeting, the cost of public employee pensions and salaries was raised as a huge issue. Public safety workers (police, fire, and prison guards) are often singled out. One meeting was at a golf club, and one of the attendees was pointing out retired cops he knew walking to the tee.

This is by far the most common concern that I hear when I talk economics in the community, and it is coming up more and more. Anger and frustration in the business community seems to be growing. I get requests to talk to government officials about the issue with comments like they will listen to you, but not to us/business.

I agree that there is a big problem with public pensions, and would like to see a shift to defined contribution (401k style) plans (with social security particpation like private sector employees). Salaries are less clear, state and local public salaries seem to be very high in some areas and low in others.

Given that background, I was surprised by the numbers in this widely publicized poll. Clearly, my business audiences are not a random sample of California citizens.

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