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Haves, Have Nots are growing further apart

March 27, 2011|By LLOYD WATERS

Don’t get me wrong on this one; I like school teachers.

But I also like plumbers, electricians, carpenters, news reporters, laborers, farmers, landscapers, accountants, florists, switchboard operators, truck drivers, mechanics, gas station attendants, bartenders, preachers, salespeople, fruit pickers and banjo players.

Heck, I even like a few politicians.

What do school teachers, politicians and those other people have in common?

They all would like to have a decent wage and a retirement plan.

Is it going to happen? Not likely.

My father was a carpenter by trade and would travel from job to job to have employment when I was growing up. Although he only attended school through sixth grade, his work ethic was beyond reproach.

I have not encountered anyone throughout my life who would outwork him at his trade. From his days on the farm to working the sawmill, and setting out to perform just about any construction job, he would work very long and demanding hours.

He even sold firewood as a side job to make a few bucks.

I like to think I got my work ethic from him.

Unfortunately, he did not work on many union jobs, and at the end of his career the only thing he could look forward to was a very small Social Security check. Thus, he decided to continue working.

The vast majority of hardworking Americans are not fortunate enough to have a pension deal like those teachers in many states.

Our country seems to be headed further in a direction of those who have and those who have not. The great debate in Wisconsin seemed to be divided along those same lines.

Many teachers in Wisconsin, I’m sure, are deserving people who are working toward some career goals. Whether or not they should draw a pension and health benefits “without substantially contributing” to those same plans is, however, not a logical position to defend.

If the state of Wisconsin cannot afford to pay the pensions of teachers, then who exactly should be forced to foot the bill?

Should it be the average taxpayer, who is burdened with the same economic problems but has no pension plan?

Should the state raise taxes on everyone so a few can have a decent retirement?

Many teachers in Wisconsin would tell you they are concerned about the kids’ education, yet they had little difficulty vacating the classroom to sleep on a floor at the statehouse to protest changes that require them to contribute to their own pension plans.

Wisconsin teachers also would have you believe they’re a bunch of hardworking, honest people, but then you hear stories about bogus sick slips being signed by doctors to cover absences from the classrooms. Surely, the union wouldn’t condone this unethical behavior, would it?

There seems to be something a lot more broken in Wisconsin than just the budget.

It’s understandable that teachers in Wisconsin are concerned about their pensions. And those people without a pension, on the outside looking in, are equally concerned about their future.

The haves and the have nots both would like to arrive at the same destination, but there seems to be an increasing divide between the two.

Many other workers in our society are trying to make ends meet and do not have the same benefits as a school teacher, policeman or firefighter.  

Are the desires of these workers any less than those who will be receiving a pension and benefit at the local, state or federal level?

I think not.

Should those people who do not have a good wage, good retirement plan or good health insurance be required to contribute and help pay for those pension plans gone amuck when the receivers of these plans contribute little?

I think the answer is obvious. Not hardly.

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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