A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

Misunderstanding Pensions

There is much I could say about the firing of Andrew McCabe, but I’ll confine myself to an issue his firing raises of import far beyond his individual case. The issue is the almost complete misunderstanding of what a pension is that permeates our media if not our society. As fewer and fewer people have defined benefit pensions, the very meaning of the terms seems to be evaporating.

One would think from the way pensions, particularly public employee pensions, are talked about that they are a reward for meritorious service upon retirement. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. Pensions are deferred wages. A sum of money is paid by an employer periodically into a fund on behalf of an employee to provide income to that employee upon his retirement. The employee foregoes that money now to ensure a continuing income when he stops working.

When correctly understood, the taking of the pension of someone like McCabe who worked for over twenty years for an alleged contemporaneous infraction of FBI rules is particularly outrageous. He worked for the dollars that were put in the pension fund for him. We don’t ask him to return all of his pay checks for the twenty years of his employment. Why do we think his pension should be treated differently?

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