美国公仆变成主人 America’s public servants are now its masters
There really are two Americas, but they are not captured by the standard class warfare speeches that dramatise the gulf between the rich and the poor. Of the new divisions, one is the gap between employed and unemployed that President Barack Obama seeks to close with yet another $50bn stimulus programme. Another is between workers in the private and public sectors. No guesses which are the more protected. A recent study by the Mayo Research Institute found that “private-sector workers were nearly three times more likely to be jobless than public-sector workers”.
美国的确存在两个阶层，但标准的阶级斗争言论阐述得并不准确，它们夸大了富人与穷人的 差距。在各种新的差距中，有一个是就业者和失业者之间的差距。美国总统巴拉克•奥巴马(Barack Obama)正寻求再出台一项500亿美元刺激计划，来弥合这一差距。另一种差距存在于私营与公共部门的雇员之间。哪个部门更有保障就不用猜了。梅奥研究 所(Mayo Research Institute)近期完成的一项调查发现，“私营部门雇员失业的可能性比公共部门高出近3倍。”
Political tension is bound to grow when jobs disappear faster in the private sector than in the public sector just as compensation in the former is squeezed more. There was a time when government work offered lower salaries than comparable jobs in the private sector, a difference for which the public sector compensated by providing more security and better benefits. No longer. These days, government employees are better off in almost every area: pay, benefits, time off and security, on top of working fewer hours. Public workers have become a privileged class – an elite who live better than their private-sector counterparts. Public servants have become the public’s masters.
如果在私营部门减薪幅度比公共部门更大之际，工作机会也比公共部门流失得更快，政治上 的紧张局势肯定会加剧。曾经有一段时间，政府工作岗位给出的薪酬低于私营部门相应的岗位，而公共部门通过保障和福利上的优势弥补了这一差距。这种日子已经 一去不复返了。如今，政府雇员的待遇几乎在各个方面都好于私营部门：除了工作时间更短，薪酬、福利、休假和保障也更好。公共部门的雇员已成为一个特权阶 层、一个比私营部门雇员生活得更滋润的精英阶层。公仆变成了公众的主人。
Take federal employees. For nine years in a row, they have been awarded bigger average pay and benefit increases than private-sector workers. In 2008, the average wage for 1.9m federal civilian workers was more than $79,000, against an average of about $50,000 for the nation’s 108m private-sector workers, measured in full-time equivalents. Ninety per cent of government employees receive lifetime pension benefits versus 18 per cent of private employees. Public service employees continue to gain annual salary increases; they retire earlier with instant, guaranteed benefits paid for with the taxes of those very same private-sector workers.
以联邦雇员为例。他们的平均加薪额和福利增加额连续九年都高出私营部门雇员。2008 年，以全职人员计算，190万联邦公务员的平均薪酬超过7.9万美元，而1.08亿私营部门雇员的平均薪酬仅为5万美元左右。90%的政府雇员享受终身退 休津贴，私营部门的这一比例只有18%。公共部门雇员每年仍会得到加薪；他们的退休年龄更早，退休时马上就会拿到由私营部门雇员所缴税款支付的有保障的福 利。
More troubling still is the inherent political corruption. Elected officials tend to be accommodating when confronted by powerful constituencies such as the public service unions that agitate for plush benefits and often provide (or deny) a steady flow of cash to election campaign funds. Their successors will have to cope with the inherited debt burden – and ultimately the nation’s taxpayers are stuck with the bill.
As Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has pointed out, spending on retirement benefits for California’s state employees is growing at three times the rate of state revenues, now exceeding $6bn annually and growing at the rate of 15 per cent a year. In other states, however, the politics of public pensions appear to be changing. In Michigan, Governor Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, recently enacted a teacher pension reform that should save about $3bn over 10 years by increasing the amount workers must contribute. Illinois raised its retirement age for newly hired public workers from as low as 55 to 67. Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, decided that even if it took bruising clashes with public worker unions, public service compensation reform was essential for the fiscal health of the state. His stance surprised many, but it made him a national figure.
正如加州州长阿诺德•施瓦辛格(Arnold Schwarzenegger)所指出的，加州在州雇员退休津贴上的支出正在以州财政收入三倍的速度增长，如今每年支出额已超过60亿美元，年增速达到 15%。但在其它州，围绕公共部门退休金的政治策略似乎正在发生改变。在密歇根州，州长、民主党人詹妮弗•格兰霍恩(Jennifer Granholm)最近颁布了一项教师退休金改革。通过提高政府雇员必须缴纳的退休金数额，此项改革应该会在未来十年里节省大约30亿美元的资金。伊利诺 伊州则提高了新聘用的公共部门雇员的退休年龄，从最低55岁提高至67岁。新泽西州州长、共和党人克里斯•克里斯蒂(Chris Christie)断定，公共部门薪酬改革对于该州的财政健康至关重要，即使这意味着要与公务员工会爆发激烈对抗。克里斯蒂的立场令许多人感到惊讶，但他 也因此成为了一位全美瞩目的人物。
There is no quick fix to deal with the billions in unfunded liabilities. Public service employees are almost impossible to fire, except after a long process and only for the most grievous offences. What is more, the courts have ruled in many states that pension increases granted by elected bodies are vested benefits that must be paid no matter what, precluding politicians from going back and changing past agreements.
要消解数十亿美元无资金准备的债务，没有什么快速解决之道。解雇公共部门雇员几乎是不 可能的——只有那些犯下最严重过失的雇员，才有可能在经过一套漫长的程序后被解雇。更重要的是，许多洲的法庭都已裁定：民选机构批准的退休金上调属于既定 福利(vested benefits)，任何情况下都必须予以支付。这使得政治家们无法回溯并修改过去的协议。
The only fair solution is to take the politicians out of the equation and have fully independent commissions in charge, fixing the scale of salaries and benefits for public-service workers and establishing an affordable second retirement tier for new employees. More reasonable retirement ages should be in order, such as 65 for general employees and 55 for public safety employees. This would take nothing away from the existing benefits of current employees.
唯一公平的解决办法是，把政治家们排除在解决过程之外，组建完全独立的委员会来负责此 事，固定公务员的薪酬和福利水平，为新雇员建立负担得起的第二套退休体系。更合理的退休年龄应该是层级化的，如一般雇员为65岁，公共安全部门雇员为55 岁。这么做丝毫不会损害到现有雇员的福利。
A fundamental rethinking of the public workforce is necessary. Americans cannot maintain their essential faith in government if there are two Americas, in which the private sector subsidises the disproportionate benefits of this new public sector elite.