By William Ghrist
Robert Szypulski in his March 24 letter (“Pa. Pension Scam”) seems to have a basic misunderstanding of what a pension is. He refers to pensions for public employees as “unearned” and “public aid.”
A pension is not unearned. It is part of a worker’s compensation, just the same as salary and other benefits that are paid at the time of employment.
There are two types of pensions: defined benefit pensions, the more traditional type (the type he is calling “public aid”), and defined contribution pensions, such as 401(k)/403(b) plans.
Mr. Szypulski has no problem with the defined contribution plans, and it is true that few private employers provide defined benefit plans to new employees anymore, but retirees who earned defined benefit pensions are just as entitled to them as to any other form of compensation.
If an employer is in trouble, should the retired employees be required to pay back part of their salaries that they received in previous years? Well they should not have to give up their pensions either.
Mr. Szypulski also seems to think that we taxpayers are not responsible for funding the pensions of public employees. Adequately funding pensions that have been provided as part of employees’ compensation is the responsibility of the employer, and we, through our elected representatives, are the employers.
Some may express an opinion that it was unwise to provide public employees with pensions as part of their pay, but I think a lot of us would disagree with that. It is also pretty obvious that our elected representatives have been derelict in their duty to properly fund what we provided, but the bottom line is that it is the employer’s responsibility to provide what has been earned.
It is not the employees’ obligation, legally or morally, to give up what has been earned just because the employer (in this case we the public) screwed up.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette