Cutting Retirement Benefits on the Animal Farm


Here in America we hear about the sanctity of property.

The right opposes inheritance taxes because it mean money gets “double taxed.”   The über rich news magnate justifies the behavior of Fox and the rest of News Corp because, after all, he owns 40% of the company and is trying to pass that on to his kids.  Family farms are the root and life source of all that is American.  My own hero, Thomas Jefferson, never freed his slaves because their “property value” was most of what he could pass on to his daughter.

Money can even buy immortality.  My Dad died three years ago, leaving some estate, some memories, but he himself is gone.  The rich, when they die, not so much changes.  . Bill Gates, Henry Ford, Eli Broad … the guys will all live on, tax free, long after their physical deaths.  Even Steve Jobs, a selfish man who eschewed charities and bought himself a liver so he could keep on living,  said he saw Apple Corp. as his legacy!

The exceptional idea of America was very much about property rights.  Lacking an aristocracy, the founding fathers fought to perpetuate the rights of all Americans (except Indians and slaves, to keep what they had earned.

The US motto appears to be

 “What is Ours, is Ours!”

What happens to property of the not so rich?  What happens to property that is not money?

This is a big deal in my world, the world of an academic scientist.  When a young American scientist decides to spend his of her life in a faculty job, he or she trades income for tenure.  In my own case, I had salary offers of three times what I earned at the UW from industry and, as practicing pathologist, I would certainly have been able to earn over five times as much per year than I have as a professor.   People like me work very hard for low pay in return for the freedom tenure gives us to explore new ideas.   In return society gets the benefit of the free thinking intellectual entrepreneurship that has planted the seeds of much America’s corporate growth since WW II.

Tenure ,in academic science, is earned.  I suspect, however, that the right sees academic tenure as not as important as the money our football coaches earn.  Imagine reneging on the delayed (low tax) pay of the coach!

It looks like the retirement benefits of the military may come next.   For all my life people chose military careers out of patriotism and because they could earn an early retirement.  This seemed like a pretty fair deal, until ….

The government’s promise of lifetime health care for the military’s men and
women is suddenly a little less sacrosanct as Congress looks to slash
trillion-dollar-plus deficits. Republicans and Democrats alike are signaling a
willingness – unheard of at the height of two post-Sept. 11 wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan – to make military retirees pay more for coverage. It’s a reflection
of Washington’s newfound embrace of fiscal austerity and the Pentagon’s push to
cut health care costs that have skyrocketed from $19 billion in 2001 to $53

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