El Monte's six-figure pensions expose a fatal flaw of democracy

El Monte's six-figure pensions expose a fatal flaw of democracy
El Monte has one of the heaviest public pension burdens of any California city. More than half its 116,000 residents were born outside the U.S., and one in four live in poverty. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The article on El Monte's six-figure pensions illustrates the inevitable disaster of public employee collective bargaining. Employees cannot be expected to bargain fairly with other employees regarding compensation. ("California's pension crisis: When city retirement pays better than the job," Dec. 30)

Democratic processes inevitably subsidize concentrated "special interests" at the expense of the public interest. Employees have become the most powerful of all the special interests. Unions get collective bargaining and compulsory membership. Dues are taken from employees and passed to the union. The unions donate resources to control the politicians.


Two cardinal rules govern politics: First, concentrate the benefits to the few (employees) while spreading the burdens among the many (taxpayers), and second, distribute the benefits immediately while postponing the disastrous costs.

This is further evidence that our form of government must be considered a failed experiment.

Gary Colboth, Long Beach

The writer is a professor emeritus of public administration at Cal State Dominguez Hills.


To the editor: Public pensions are based on three criteria: annual pay, years on the job and a multiplier between 2% and 3% that is decided by each of the hundreds of public agencies in California.

The very small minority of California civil servants who receive a six-figure pension are CEO-type managers who had high salaries, worked in the public sector 30 years or more and worked for cities whose elected council members voted for greater benefits during boom times in the late 1990s.

Much more common are civil servants like me with pensions below $20,000. Mine is a result of 16 years of work for the state, a modest salary and a multiplier of 2%.

Am I glad to have a pension? Of course. Am I frustrated by repeated newspaper articles that focus only on the six-figure pensioners, causing my family and friends to think that I too am living on Easy Street? Of course.

Diane Scholfield, Vista, Calif.

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