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The Pension Theft Crime Wave Rages On

Rhode Island has become a model for how to rip off teachers and firefighters and enrich Wall Street.

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Far from shoring up our faltering retirement system, these measures will only increase its fragmentation, putting each small slice of the population into a different leaky boat.

As unions fight to defend members’ pensions, it’s worth thinking beyond our shrinking share of the workforce to measures that will benefit everyone. For half the country’s workers, Social Security is already all they have. And on the flip side, some or all public employees in 15 states don’t get Social Security, so their pensions are all they have.

What if we took seriously the fate of retirees, and strengthened Social Security so that it could actually pay for most living expenses? Whether your retirement was golden or tinfoil would not depend on the health of your particular employer—a radical proposition, to be sure.

We’re a long way from a universal retirement plan that robust. Cutting Social Security is almost a bipartisan goal now. So the first step is to stop politicians from hacking at Social Security as part of a “grand bargain” on the debt ceiling, Obamacare, future government shutdowns, or anything else.

A version of this article appeared in Labor Notes #416, November 2013.

Mark Brenner is the Director of Labor Notes.