Why do I say that about the debate (excellent Sound of Ideas show this morning on the topic – listen here) that is in the news (Plain Dealer) again? (Read also this Regina Brett column on the topic. She hosted the SOI.)
Because Ohio’s public employment system, with its retirement structure, reflects numerous values we’ve come to accept (loyalty to a job, earning seniority as well as acumen, dedication, sacrifice for public service, reward for that sacrifice) that conflict with what we we’re being told to think doesn’t sound quite right (going back to work for the same entity after one has already worked there long enough to earn the pension into which you and your employer paid) and, for many, doesn’t in fact sound right or feel right or constitute something that is right.
Like any other system anywhere – public or private, for private citizens or elected officials, the the different versions of Ohio retirement pensions can be abused. But categorically reviling the Ohioans who serve their fellow Ohioans is not the answer. And, it must be noted, not all the systems in Ohio are the same or serve the same people, and the rolling into one of the people and the systems is not only inaccurate but unfair to the systems with less abuse.
My biggest unanswered question, which is not addressed anywhere in the PD article or Ms. Brett’s column is: what do those who oppose the current situation suggest should happen when a person reaches the point at which they could retire but knows that they want to continue to work? Does the system allow them to not retire but still get what they would have if they had retired once they do retire? Or would the person be penalized by switching jobs after 30 years and therefore the system provides an incentive to abuse it?
There has got to be a way to make the system flexible enough to give people what they’ve earned and deserved and expect, while also eliminating the potential for perceived abuse of the system.
Because I have to tell you, I’m not exactly sure, even though I’ve read Ms. Brett’s column, as to why it is an abuse, per se. I want to better understand why we’re labeling it abuse if the folks have earned it. I do understand the concern about the retired folks who go back to work taking on jobs that others might be able to do, others who would otherwise leave Ohio. But do we have numbers on that or any statistics at all as to just how often that’s happening? Anecdotes would be fine for starters.