Central Falls, R.I., is the latest American city to try to get out of paying the pensions it spent decades promising its workers. The city says it’s broke, but it won’t raise taxes and, according to The New York Times, it’s still finding the money to pay all its bond holders and other creditors.
Central Falls, R.I., is the latest American city to try to get out of paying the pensions it spent decades promising its workers.
The city says it’s broke, but it won’t raise taxes and, according to The New York Times, it’s still finding the money to pay all its bond holders and other creditors.
It’s only its citizens — its employees and retirees — to whom Central Falls officials have decided to break a legal promise. After all, they’re only people. And in a country where corporations can be people, people who aren’t corporations don’t stand a chance.
So I’m wondering why this doesn’t work the other way. If the government can pick and choose which citizens it gets to break its legal contracts with, do those citizens get to pick and choose which laws to obey?
I mean, if you’ve spent 30 years working for the government, being promised a pension and planning your life accordingly only to have the government say, “Just kidding! We don’t have to honor that contract,” it just seems like you should not have to obey the speed limit.
I know, I know. This is a terrible idea. Of course, we can’t just encourage people to disobey laws. But still, doesn’t it seem only fair that if someone has been playing by the rules their whole life and then has the government cut them out of what they were promised that they should get to break a politician’s windshield or something?
Because, obviously, the rules don’t apply. Obviously, the laws that were passed to protect you don’t protect you. Obviously, private property doesn’t mean much if a legally promised pension can just be revoked without adequate compensation. Obviously, the right against unreasonable search and seizure doesn’t mean much if your retirement can be taken away — legal contracts be damned — and your security upended because there are more important “classes” of creditors to protect.
And if the rules don’t apply, well, they don’t apply. Or do they just not apply to ordinary Americans?
When did “ordinary Americans” become second-class citizens? Don’t second-class citizens have a right, even an obligation, to protest? But how?
If a lot of people decide the laws don’t apply to them, then we don’t have a country anymore; we have anarchy. That can be the worst of all worlds. We really can’t have people start picking and choosing which laws to obey.
But by taking their pensions away and assuming that they’d never disrupt the social order, we’re once again calling upon ordinary Americans to hurt themselves in order to preserve an America that is increasingly turning its back on them. Isn’t the whole problem in America today that playing by the rules doesn’t get you anywhere?
There have been too many bailouts already. If cities and counties and states can’t pay their legal obligations off without raising taxes, then they have to raise taxes. The idea that they can pay off their bond holders but not their citizens is one more bailout on the backs of the American people.
The biggest question for working Americans today is how do you most effectively protest a system that has lost its conscience?
The first step, surely, is not to let pensioners get screwed just because you don’t have a pension. It’s increasingly apparent that if we don’t demand justice for all citizens, we’ll get it for none. To protest a system that has lost its conscience, we ordinary people must develop one.
Benjamin Wachs writes for Messenger Post Media in New York, and is the editor of Fiction365.com. Email him at Benjamin@Fiction365.com.