Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cadillac or Rolls Royce

Being the rich retired Houston Police officer that I am, I wanted to thank Mayor Parker for recognizing my ability to lease a brand new Rolls Royce automobile. The folks in the Obama Administration kept telling me I had a Cadillac; but I never for a moment considered jumping all the way up to Rolls Royce.

I’m fortunate to have a parking place in my driveway for that new Rolls Royce, the one Mayor Parker thinks I can afford. It would have been nice to actually see the vehicle; much less drive it. Lucy and I didn’t get to pick out the exterior paint, leather or cloth seats, Bose surround sound audio system or even decide on the payment plan; I guess when you buy a Rolls you take what you’re offered.

The car falls into the category of “invisible”. It’s in my driveway, you just can’t see it; much like the house near the golf course that never got built, the one we call “invisible”.

The folks who own that property intended to erect a fine structure, even had an electric service line brought to the edge of the forms filled with sand where the foundation was to be poured. That was several years ago and you can still see the outline. We call it the invisible house; joking that they must have used some kind of fancy material; they really did build the house, we just can’t see it.

No, I’m really not talking about buying a new car; just keeping my health insurance package from last year in force until I’m eligible for Medicare when I turn 65. We got our official notification from the City in the mail this past week; that and Bradley Olson’s Houston Chronicle article made for a sleepless night.

Our health insurance package was one of the reasons I stuck with the City of Houston until I reached retirement. As costs in the medical field increased my wife and I accepted our monthly premiums would go up; that’s part of life. We’d been told to expect a bump from our current rate of $500 a month to $750 a month, give or take a couple of dollars.

That was until Mayor Parker found the City was underfunded by about $7 million and decided to solve the shortage by laying it off on retired city employees; more specifically, on retired employees who were not yet eligible for Medicare.

The City of Houston had been responsible for 64% of my retirement health insurance while I picked up the rest; but as of May 1st the City will only pay 52% to ease the pain of being in the hole $7 million. Mayor Parker just signed a piece of paper at city hall and, as of May 1st, my monthly payment goes up to $1179 a month, about $700 more than I’d been paying. How come the rules changed?

I can understand the need for reasonable cut backs at all levels, to include retired employees; but this doesn’t even come close to equitable. Active employees have a binding contract where the City’s responsible for 79% of health insurance cost; no attempt was made to have that binding contract renegotiated due to extreme economic conditions brought about by a recession.

Why then would the Mayor believe it permissible to change the terms of a previous agreement? Granted, it’s not a binding contract like the one with active employee unions; but agreements have to do with honoring promises made over the tenure of employment. I’ve held up my end of that agreement; but I forgot, the City has no honor.

The City is targeting a specific group of employees to square up the budget shortfall, a penalty based on age discrimination. I’m old enough to be retired; but not old enough for the federal government to pick up the tab and so I’m just another extra expense the City hadn’t planned on.

I was prepared to make the jump from $500 a month to $750 a month; everyone’s health insurance costs are going up, why should I be exempt? I wasn’t thrilled to be forced into the extra expense; but it wasn’t entirely unexpected and so I have no squawk with the City there.

I do have a legitimate gripe when the City changes the percentage of coverage without that change being uniformly spread across the rest of their employees, retired or active. Mayor Parker, I just got up at 4 in the morning trying to figure out how to get this bad taste out of my mouth; any suggestions, Your Honor?


Lucy Stern said...

What makes me mad is that the city just signed an agreement to build another sports stsdium in our city... If the budget is hurting so bad, why did they do that? Grrrr....

Starsplash said...

Same problem here in OK.

I will render a very wild guess. The uppity mukities are getting raises while the rank and file are getting laid off or are getting a sharp pointy pole rammed up their spine so they can be stuck up in rows along the hiway as a reminder.......ala count dracula.

I heard a report here local that 90 percent of the school budget is personal. Holy smoke in the temple. I can't see in a country where we rank like 15 why they can't get that throwing.......... awwww you get it.

I cannot reconcile all of the contradictions, so we must be being boiled in a fry pan.

The probligo said...

Another preconception gone, totally shattered.

Here was me thinking that one of the last to ever go freeloading on the state, or even the city, would be Fraser Stern.

Seems not so.

How sad.

T. F. Stern said...


I’m not sure how to address your comment without sounding like you crossed the line and have irritated a raw nerve; but I will endeavor to explain some basics which you might not be aware of.

Part of my salary as a police officer was in the form of employer supplied health insurance, of which I paid a portion for various upgrades which cover my wife along with the kinds of deductibles and plans. During my tenure with the department these benefits, what you attribute to “free loading” off the state or city, was part of were looked upon as part of my salary and taxed by the government as income.

When I retired the package of health insurance remained part of my package, again an agreed upon figure. The City has attempted to get out of the agreed upon figure twice now; the first was when they wanted to stop paying the percentage as per contract saying it was too much. This didn’t sit well with the Houston Police Retired Officer’s Association or our lawyers; call it breach of contract in its most simple terms.

Now the City has altered the percentage figures which were in force as pertain to the original health care package. I expect the same aggressive legal support from the Houston Police Retired Officer’s Association as this is not only a breach of contract; but an unequal treatment of personnel which is against the law.

As far as your stepping over the line in making such a ludicrous statement, that I was free loading off of anyone; I will explain the definition of free loading. It means that you expect something for nothing or something at another’s expense which was not earned. I have fulfilled my contract with the City of Houston under the terms agreed upon and in no way do I expect to give away that which I have earned without standing up for a good fight. If you cannot see that then perhaps you are not as sharp as I thought you were.

Tigersue said...

My Aunt was a school teacher in Utah for many years. Retired early and this past year the state canceled the insurance of retirees that weren't old enough for Medicare. She did not notice the change until January, this was done in August. She died uninsured because of this change.

It has been hard, we are trying to figure out the funding for her 5 day hospital change, but she would have been the last to want socialized medicine.

T. F. Stern said...

Tigersue, There are many retired police officers who will be hit much harder than me; not having a second source of income like I do.

MK said...

"I’ve held up my end of that agreement; but I forgot, the City has no honor."

Exactly right TF, you did your part, and don't for a minute think that you're getting something you haven't already paid for. Most likely you paid twice what they promised to return down the track.

This is something that a lot of people in the western world are going to find out the hard way. We are all forced to pay for stuff that we're supposedly going to get back further down the line. Here we have to pay 9% into our retirement fund, i only pay it cos i have to. But i know people who don't save a red cent outside of that 9%, in some cases it's because they can't due to the housing affordability crisis. Which incidentally is another thing the government meddled in and predictably effed up too.

At some point people are going to find out that they're either not going to get anything back or they're going to be taxed to the point were they'll just be holding it temporarily before returning it. It's all thanks to all the government 'services' too many of us are addicted to, and it won't be a pretty picture.

At no point do i make any assumptions that i'll get a cent of it back, like you said these bastards have no honor, no integrity either. At the first chance they get they'll @#$* me over, i know it because it's happened to plenty of people.

This is why your founders believed in limited, small government and citizens being free of them. Government was never our friend, at best, it's indifferent to us, at worst it's our outright enemy.

I hope there is some way for you to get what's rightfully yours, legal avenues or something.

The probligo said...

Well, TF, I guess that it is a matter of perceptions, or perhaps pre-ceptions.

"During my tenure with the department these benefits, what you attribute to “free loading” off the state or city, was part of were looked upon as part of my salary and taxed by the government as income. "

At the present time my employer pays health insurance on my behalf. That is "part of my package".

When my employment stops, so does my health cover. On that day. No extensions.

...unless I opt to take up the policy from that date onward.

...which I might, but at some $3000 p.a. it will bite the budget somewhat.

Bear in mind here that I have no opportunity to convert the value into cash in hand. The value of that would be in the vicinity of $4,500 p.a. The "benefit" is non-negotiable.

I do not consider "part of the package" as being "freeloading" at all.

For the same reason, if "part of the package" includes benefits after retirement then that should fall into the same category as you have stated.

My first draft of my comment was quite a bit longer. I chopped off most of it, perhaps with the thought that it might get your comparatively priviledged dander up.

It included the idea that many of the 460,000 people added to your population of freeloaders over the past 24 months will be in the same boat as would I - without employment and without health cover.

Is all...

T. F. Stern said...

Probligo, You wrote:

“…it might get your comparatively priviledged (privileged) dander up.

It included the idea that many of the 460,000 people added to your population of freeloaders over the past 24 months will be in the same boat as would I - without employment and without health cover.”

Probligo, face it; you enjoy stopping by my blog with the sole intent of getting my dander up. You enjoy mild contention as long as we abstain from name calling.

As for the 460,000 people you mention; the number of folks added to the unemployed is well above that figure. We are seeing job losses in the private sector in the millions due to policies intended to shut down the free market system (Cloward-Piven Strategy). At the same time government jobs are being increased which only adds to the problem, not the solution. While those out of work folks obtain a paycheck, that paycheck isn’t much different than a welfare check as the money which pays that check comes from the general public treasury. There isn’t room in a comment section to explain all the ways which the Obama regime is destroying America.