Editor's Notes

I worry so much about the poor rich

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tredmond@sfbg.com

This is how strange things are in the world:

I read a piece on SFGate Jan. 21, by an editor named David Curran, who claimed (in that kind of "wow-I'm-funny" tone) that young people should stop trying to be doctors and college professors. Instead, he says, he wants to "quietly sneak our kids into some midlevel bureaucrat position where they can hang out for decades, get decent vacation, loads of holidays, and, yes, face a few pay cuts and furlough days because in the end they hit the pension jackpot!" Of course, those jobs are easy, since all public employees are stupid and lame: "Whenever the kids take forever to set the table, I get a little angry and they reply, 'But dad, we're just getting ready for our future job at the DMV!'"

Three days later, I picked up the Jan. 22 edition of The Economist and read a flattering profile about a group called Tiger 21 — "A self-help group for rich people."

"Only those with more than $10 million of investable assets are eligible for membership, so no one assumes that, just because you have truckloads of cash, your problems are trivial. Whether you are worried that your kids might turn out like Paris Hilton, or fed up with your brother in law who wants to borrow money for the umpteenth time, someone in the room has faced a similar problem before."

And The Economist writer wasn't joking.

I worry so much about the poor rich. I've read all those stories about lottery winners who are suddenly miserable, and I think, nah. Long-term unemployment makes you miserable. The prospect of reaching old age in poverty makes you miserable. Being forced into a Medicare nursing home because the visiting nurse who allowed you to be independent lost his job in budget cuts makes you miserable. Dealing with too much money? It's not the same. It's really not.

The very rich have problems too, I'm sure — but if I had to choose between cat food and Paris Hilton, I think I could handle Paris just fine.

Or I could just blame all of society's problems on the folks who work at Caltrans and the DMV. After all, middle class people with pensions that give them a decent retirement are such a burden on society. And such a waste! People who work for the government can't do anything right. When's the last time you had a good experience registering your car?

Well, I've waited in line at the DMV, and I've waited on hold with those efficient private-sector tech companies, and I'll take the DMV any day. My son just bought a computer game that didn't load; at 4:02 in the afternoon, I called Electronic Arts tech support, which was supposedly open until 5. At 4:05, I was fifth in the queue; at 4:56, I was second in the queue. At 4:59:57, the line went dead. Sorry, sucker — we close at five.

Comcast: efficient private sector. The wait to exchange your cable box when it doesn't work is far, far worse than anything any government bureaucracy has ever thrown at me.

Somehow, somebody's missing the point here.

Comments

I realize this is out of the playbook of the right to demonize public employees, but in my direct experience, I see a ton of waste. Not to bore you, but i'll mention caltran, muni, building inspection, and DPW just to start.
I think is because of the nature of organizations. Self perpetuity is in the dna.
We have almost doubled the number of employees that work for the city in the last 15 years..
Feel like the quality of services have gone up? Thought so.
I'm not against working people having a livable wage, but getting 100% of your health with no co-pay after just five years is way higher than the rest of the planet,
And is a hugh reason that the city is going to get deeper in debt every year. Thank god they stopped that policy recently, although it only applies to new hires.
Of course the biggest sacred cow is the cops and especially firefighters who have a sweetheart deal deal to end all sweetheart deals. And no, they actually don't go into burning buildings anymore. The typical firefighter death? ( around 100 a year) is a heart attack to an over 50 volunteer, with a history of heart problems, often even heart surgery.
I'm just asking that these compensation packages be more in line with the real world, and that we be able to lay off people when they are not needed.
Having to go beg from the unions for a couple of bucks back in future wage increases in exchange for not laying people off is ridiculous.
I lay a lot of the blame at the feet of Willie Brown who was the king of patronage jobs.
Kind of disturbing to see him standing in front in the photo when they announced the new interim major. Especially since he set up the last one, too.
I am slowly starting to realize just how corrupt things are here in SF under the surface.

Posted by Guest poopy on Jan. 28, 2011 @ 10:05 pm

defend public union compensation?

What an odd piece - an attempt to divert the issues of obscene benefits for many public employees by discussing a multi-millionaire's club?

Have their perks become that indefensible?

How about this - they can BOTH be ridiculous. If it's gotten to the point that you can't honestly discuss the issues surrounding public sector benefits without brining up something even more out of line, then the debate is pretty DOA.

Your paper would be a hell of a lot more interesting not doing this knee jerk reaction of all things considered "left".

Posted by Sambo on Jan. 28, 2011 @ 10:22 pm