Two high-profile local double-dippers have generated lots of buzz and heat about collecting retirement while earning a second salary--in one case for the same job, no less. In an editorial with the sarcastic title "Thanks, Voters," the local paper chastised the county sheriff and suggested that his behavior was, in the end, no surprise, presumably because he was a politician--"Sure enough, within a week of winning election to an unprecedented fifth term, Walsh filed his retirement papers." (And this after just endorsing him over two challengers for that fifth term.) With the citizens sufficiently ginned up, angry letters to the editor poured in.
Now it turns out that the deputy mayor did not get the necessary approval from the state to earn a full salary while on retirement from the fire department.
Granted, both of these cases are problematic, and the context for much of the anger is of course the difficult economy.
But it bears noting that the country is awash in people who have put in their 20 years in the public sector and then used that experience to jump-start a second career in the private and non-profit sectors, or in other public sector jobs--while still enjoying their "retirements". Perhaps the single biggest pool of these folks is the former military, especially retired officers. Washington is chock-full of consultants, analysts, and managers from these ranks. Private contract defense analysis is in large part an extension of the military retirement program. And for some folks, not making full colonel was the best thing that ever happened to them financially.
Is this system right? I think the central question here is whether the shorter time to full retirement is fair. A lot of these jobs are high-stress, some are quite dangerous, and a lot of people in these jobs probably could have made more money in the private sector. On the other hand, those contributing significant chunks of their income to defined contribution (versus benefit) plans, and waiting until 67 or beyond to even think about anything we would recognize as "retirement," have some reason to be miffed.
Note: This blog draws in part on my experiences and observations interviewing political figures, writers, and analysts for "The Campbell Conversations" on WRVO. To hear past interviews I refer to in these posts, please go to the show's website. The views expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent Syracuse University, the Campbell Institute, or the WRVO Stations.
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