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By Phil Piemonte

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Feds need to go viral

We saw a political cartoon lately that boiled down the current benefits debate to its bare bones. In it, a private-sector worker points at a public-sector worker and says: “I don’t have a pension, so you shouldn't have one either!”

In the next panel, he says the same about health care coverage. And so on.

And that is, in fact, the very argument currently being used to wield the ax that is hacking away at the benefits of public-sector employees.

For example, here is the rhetoric meant for public consumption that was used recently by Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) in introducing the Public-Private Employee Retirement Parity Act of 2011 that would end the Federal Employees Retirement System defined benefit pension for new hires:

“We cannot ask taxpayers to continue to foot the bill for public employee benefits that are far more generous than their own.”

That statement is not unique to this bill. It seems to be everywhere these days. PR types call it messaging. And in tough economic times, it’s a message that’s gone viral at every level of government.

Feds obviously need their own messaging. The next time some “taxpayer” uses the “benefits are too generous” line, maybe try this:

First, just to get it out of the way, remind the person that you pay taxes, too. Then remind the person that when you buy a car, purchase insurance, or pick up a gallon of milk, you’re paying for the salary and benefits of the autoworkers who built that car, the agent who sold that insurance and the farmer who milked that cow. And you’re not begrudging them a decent retirement.

And if they say, “but that’s different,” ask them: “How?”

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Mar 23, 2011 at 12:13 PM


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