Sham Retirements

Andrew Thompson on cities and states that are reconsidering an all-too-common loophole that allows workers to receive a pension and a salary at the same time.

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Recessions can sometimes be good reality checks for governments that need to clean house, as they force them to look at nonsensical expenditures and wonder, “What the hell were we thinking?” Sort of like a socialite gone broke wondering what compelled her to sign up her dog for weekly spa treatments.

Indiana recently decided that allowing government employees to retire for a day, collect retirement benefits, and then go back to work after a one-day vacation is ridiculous and clearly exploitative of taxpayer dollars. They even have a name for it: Sham retirement. Florida is reconsidering the practicality of it, too. As Al Tompkins writes over at Poynter, there’s somewhat of a revolt at the idea.

Everywhere else might call it a sham, but in Philadelphia, they have a weirdly officiated name: Deferred Retirement Option Program, or DROP. Alan Tu over at WHYY has a great piece explaining how it works, which links to a good primer for how it works everywhere else as well. Members of Philly’s City Council have participated in the program, and when Mayor Michael Nutter said he was reexamining the sense of the thing, council members became hot and bothered and swore that Nutter could only pry away their free money from their cold, dead, elected fingers.

But just as angering as sham retirements themselves is the fact that no one bothered to take on governments about them until the coffers were empty. The idea that someone can actually go on a fake retirement and collect is such an absurd misuse of employee benefits that I can’t help but shake my fist at the political network that let it go on for so long in the first place. I’d like to end on an optimistic prognosis for city’s future decisions, hoping that maybe it won’t take another recession for governments to gain an inkling of self-awareness. But I know it will only take a single boom for politicians to become amnesic about money problems, and back to the spa the doggies will go.

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Tags: philadelphiagovernance

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