Rolling Stone reported that all across America, Wall Street is grabbing money meant for public workers. The legal theft of public pensions started in Road Island in 2011 as a test case. “In state after state, politicians are following the Rhode Island playbook, using scare tactics and lavishly funded PR campaigns to cast teachers, firefighters and cops – not bankers – as the budget-devouring boogeymen responsible for the mounting fiscal problems of America’s states and cities.”
In fact, during my full-time university days on the GI Bill [1968 – 1973] before I graduated with a BA in journalism, I learned how easy it was for the media to make mistakes—sometimes deliberately—while practicing what is known as Yellow/Hate journalism to boost profits.
And Yellow/Hate Journalism [based upon sensationalism and crude exaggerations] is what the Associated Press [AP] did when it ran Public retirement ages come under greater scrutiny by Don Thompson on December 14, 2011.
For instance, how would you feel if you read, “Patrick Godwin spends his retirement days running a horse farm east of Sacramento, Calif. with his daughter? His departure from the workaday world [he worked thirty-six years in public education and was the superintendent of one of California’s 1,600 school districts] is likely to be long and relatively free of financial concerns, after he retired last July at age 59 with a pension paying $174,308 a year for the rest of his life.”
That previous quote was in the second paragraph of Thompson’s AP news piece, and it is extremely misleading because of what it doesn’t say.
What the AP piece doesn’t tell us is that in 2010 the average member-only benefit for retired public school educators in California was $4,256 a month before taxes [less than a third of what Godwin earned in retirement] and that is only 16% of educators that retired in 2010 who worked as long as Patrick Godwin did. The median years of service was 26.6, and if you were one of the educators that retired after 26.6 years of public service [the median] and was only 55 years old [the earliest you may retire], using the CalSTRS retirement calculator, that person earned about $2,130 a month before taxes—much less than the $14,525.66 that Godwin earns each month.
I calculated once that if a public school teacher in California taught for 42 years or more, his annual retirement income would equal what he earned the last year he worked.
But—and this is a very large BUT that we never hear about—in public education, less than 4% retire with full pay. In fact, 9% retired in 2010 with 10-15 years of service in public education, 11% with 14-20 years, 15% with 20-25 years, 12% with 25-30 years, 23% with 30-35 years, and 16% with 35-40 years. — CalSTRS
The reason why AP ran with Patrick Godwin’s retirement income as an example is called sensationalism designed to cause an emotional response (hate) so people who don’t know all the facts will talk about it. Word of mouth attracts readers and an audience and that stirs the hate.
In addition, Godwin was a school district superintendent at the top of the public education pay scale, which represents about 0.2% of the total number of retired educators in California. That means 99.8% of public educators in California do not earn as much as Godwin did in retirement.
The result is that many readers might be fooled to think that most public educators in California will retire with Patrick Godwin’s annual retirement income. However, that is far from the truth since most will not come close, but Thompson’s biased and misleading piece didn’t say that
Continued in Part 2 on June 7, 2015
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).
Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).
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