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Letter: Can state workers balance the budget

How has it come to pass that public employees are expected to solve the budget crisis facing our state and nation?

Their salaries are already generally below those with similar levels of qualification in the private sector. If collective bargaining has allowed them to retain insurance and retirement benefits that many private sector employers have withdrawn from non-unionized employees, these costs are not the driving force behind our deficits. Are we forgetting the Great Recession with its double-digit unemployment resulting in a sudden loss of revenue and an increased need for social services for those suddenly impoverished for reasons beyond their control? Not the profligacy of public employees but the greed of a small segment of our society, primarily in the financial sector, led to a fever of speculation resulting in the possibility of a greater global economic crisis than that of the 1930s. Only a bipartisan effort to prop up large financial institutions prevented this outcome.

While all U.S. taxpayers contributed to the solution, only a small proportion of us have directly benefited. Those of us dependent upon investments have seen their values almost double since the financial collapse. If we are in the upper 10 percent of the nation in either wealth or income, this financial bailout has been very good to us. Requiring us to pay our fair share of taxes is a more effective antidote to budget shortfalls than to erode the working conditions of public servants and undercut the services necessary to our neighbors who are suffering from dislocation and impoverishment as well as to our children in public schools.

Bert Ahern