No, not Standard Operating Procedures.
Okay, any of you who have trouble with keeping promises, leave now. Ditto anyone who believes that pensions are ANYTHING but deferred compensation. Ditto anyone who thinks that pensions and pensioners are one sided, for those folks forget that those pensioners ALLOWED their employers to USE employees' money for at least a quarter-century in most cases, money that those employers either invested to their profit or spent on improvements.
Now, with all of the prejudiced people gone (or driven underground to lurk!), let me address all of those who had the discipline to stick to a job long enough to get vested in a defined-benefit pension, and lived long enough to start collecting it.
An audience of maybe enough to fill a bridge table in the old-folks' home?
I'll relate my case, because I'm a pensioner. My case is NOT typical, because I held down two careers, both offering defined-benefit pensions, and I completed both careers, so I am what is derisively known to many as a "double-dipper". Make that triple dipper, because I have lived and paid into Sociable Seguridad long enough to collect THAT as well.
(waits for the audible level of derision, apoplexy and just plain retching to subside)
First, let's look at my military pension: I am a retired USAF Reserve Major, and my pension is about $25K/year. While on Active Duty in the USAF, I fought in a foreign war, getting shot at in the unfriendly skies of Vietnam in I-Corps, the DMZ and on 20 occasions, over North Vietnam. I flew as a crew member in the ancient but honorable B-52D and later, the B-52H. Long days, physical danger, some hardship, but I stayed with my Reserve career and retired from it in 1995 with 22 years served, thereby earning a pension which I had to wait until 2003 to begin collecting.
Then there is my Public Service pension. Yes, I am one of those oft-reviled Oregon Public Employee Retirement System "hogs at the trough". We OPERS people seem to have targets on our backs, or so it would seem by the way our right to our defined-benefit pensions keeps getting eroded to pay for OTHER "hogs at the trough", namely the HUGE load that illegal aliens and their offspring put on our State, particularly our school systems (roughly 20% of the entire K-12 budget is provided for schooling the children of illegal immigrants who are not even legal to be in the country).
Following the rules set down as State Law in my employment as a Patrol Deputy Sheriff for 25 years, I earned and paid into the OPERS system enough to retire with around $50K/year in OPERS pension. My pension's base level is 50%, but pension accrues on overtime pay, and I worked a lot of overtime (12,500 hours or so over my career), so I retired with 89% of my base salary, also equal to 67% of my Final Average Salary.
With Sociable Seguridad, according to my final annual statement, I had worked 47 years of full-time credit, but I didn't get the maximum because I elected to take my payments at age 62 instead of waiting until 65. SSA gives me about $18.7K/year, so I total $93.7 in deferred compensation per annum.
That's me. The gudwife had to retire medically 20 years ago, and her SSA is far less than mine, but taking it all together, we're comfortable enough, WHICH IS WHAT I INTENDED TO HAPPEN ALL ALONG!
Yes, Sweetpea, I did my retirement planning back when I was still in my teens, pushed in that direction by my wise father and mother, didn't YOU? Oh, I'm sorry you didn't, here, let me educate you with one simple parable. It is known as the Fable of the Grasshopper and the Ant.
Into the present.
Nowadays, defined-benefit pensions are rare, most "pensions" amount to nothing more than savings accounts which your employer may or may not contribute to, but 55 years ago, when I started working, defined-benefit pensions were the rule, and anything past casual day labor earned a pension. My reading tells me that in the Nation's struggle to pull out of the bad recession of the late 70's (the Carter Recession or "stag-flation" or whatever you want to call it), most companies started to cut down on pension contributions. Those companies with strong Unions and the States with their strong public-employee unions were the last employers to begin to chop up their defined-benefit pension systems. This was done in most cases by phasing new employees onto the new, more thrifty systems, and who can argue with that? Perfectly legal, and even moral, that.
Where it gets dicey is when employers start to cut back payments to those already retired and on payments from the older defined-benefit systems. This brings on the legal issue of "what does that contract really say", and that will all have to be decided by the courts, which of course, are led by judges with lots of conflicting interests (Oregon Appellate Judges are in OPERS, just as I am). Just recently, military retirees were told that their COLA payments ("inflation-proofing"*) were being cut by 1%, or over half. We OPERS retirees also had our COLA payments cut this year.
Oh well, the Judges will sort it all out. We're a Nation of Laws, right?
The thing that gravels my butt and motivated me to spend a couple of hours writing this morning was the moral issue here. What does it mean when our leaders can't keep their promises?
What it means is that if they can't keep their promises to pensioners, they will not keep them to their Nation insofar as the Constitution requires them to in other cases. The same mindset that trashes the pensioners trashes the entire Constitution, and then what do we have?
None dare call it Liberty anymore.
Note: In Part Two, we will look at the only thing that will save the present older generation, which the Dear Leaders and the youth seem hell-bent on tossing into the dustbin. That thing is civic activism, and it can be brought into action in time to affect next year's elections, and those of 2016 as well.
* today's COLA does little in the way of "inflation-proofing". The actual rate of inflation, with all goods and services included, is between 5% & 9%, depending on how honest the economist is. The present method of calculating inflation, disregarding the "volatile" elements of the economy as it does, is simply lying with statistics, nothing more.