Bevin Channeling Julius Caesar on Pensions

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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I don’t know if Matt Bevin studied Roman history.

But it looks like the governor is using Julius Caesar’s famous strategy with his public pension-gutting bill.

Caesar added Gaul (France today) to the Roman empire with a one-two punch: a powerful army and splitting up the Gallic people.

The strategy was called divide and rule, or divide and conquer.

Bevin’s Republican party enjoys potent majorities in both houses of the state legislature. Some Republicans are balking at the bill, but I’d bet the farm that most GOP lawmakers will ultimately fall in line and pass legislation to his liking.

To be sure, the governor’s pension measure has triggered a tsunami of citizen protest from Paducah to Pikeville. Republican senators and representatives have been getting earfuls from angry constituents.

The bill cuts some benefits for current employees and retirees. But if the legislation passes, the biggest losers will be new hires, because they’ll have to go under risky 401(k)-style private pension plans.

I’m a retired community college history teacher. My pension is a combination 401(k)-style plan and Social Security. My wife is a retired high school English teacher. Her traditional state pension plan does not include Social Security.

Under Bevin’s plan, the newly-hired teachers stuck with the inferior 401(k)-style plans won’t have the Social Security safety net. Their retirement income will be pegged to the ups and downs of the stock market. Thinking about that crap shoot gives my wife and me the willies.

Bevin is counting on a ton of current and retired employees being more worried about themselves than about the plight of those who come after them. He’s expecting plenty of what the Germans call schadenfreude. It means shameful joy—or being glad somebody else is getting the big-time shaft instead of you.

The GOP long ago lopped off its liberal and moderate wings. In Kentucky and elsewhere, the arch-conservative party of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, and Matt Bevin operates on a simple philosophy: “I’ve got mine—you’re on your own.”

Bevin is counting on a combination of selfishness and schadenfreude as his ace-in-the-hole. He wants his bill to scare into silence a ton of public employees. He wants them all, active and retired, to conclude, however reluctantly, that if he doesn’t drop the hammer on the newbies, he’ll come up with a bill that nails them even more than the current one does.

I’m betting the farm that hogs will fly before most public employees, present and past, knuckle under to Bevin. I’m confident that they will go with our state motto: “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”

Those of us who pack union cards stand united against Bevin’s bill and his obvious divide and rule ploy. “Solidarity,” that old union byword, bests divide and rule every time.

My union brother and fellow Kentucky State AFL-CIO staffer Liles Taylor points out that Bevin also aims to pit “private sector employees without pensions against public sector employees with pensions.” He sees the governor deliberately “boxing people into a corner, saying the only options are either cutting vital government services, raising your taxes or decimating the retirement of public employees, particularly new hires.”

So come on, public employees, active and retired, union or not. Join us in speaking out loud and clear against Bevin and his pension scam. Silence is the voice of complicity.

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