Pity the Detroit Boomer

by Justin LeBlanc
File under: Baby Boomers03 Dec 2013 22:26 EST

A news event has to be truly momentous for us to stoop to the level of reading the Detroit News (possibly one of the most evil "news sources" in the history of the US),but today we did it — for the cause, of course.

Legal permission to cut city pensions should be reason for celebration — but not for everyone, as 43-year old staff writer Joel Kurth points out in this article.  There are some Boomers, specifically retired Detroit police officers that now live in Florida, who are going to feel a pinch.  Kurth eagerly shills for them.  Here's the testimony he provides from one retiree, Bill Larsen:

“If they take our health insurance? Oh god. Cutting pensions? It’s terrible. The city of Detroit was our pride. Honest to goodness. We loved it.”

He and about 25 others met Sunday for the monthly meeting of the Retired Detroit Police and Fire Club of Florida in Brandon, outside Tampa. The social group has met over doughnuts and decaf since 1954. Usually, the agenda is light. Nowadays, angst reigns.

Something is clearly wrong when a Detroit police officer describes the city as "his pride", but we'll overlook that for now.  Kurth generously provides us with some details regarding the current living conditions of these retired officers:

Larsen has used a cane since a fall last month. He’s nearly deaf and gets by reading lips. Kammer [another retired cop] wears a brace because a suspect fell on his back in 1962 during surveillance of a blind pig.

He takes Aleve for the pain and sometimes sleeps on the floor. His wife needs 11 prescriptions for a pulmonary condition and weekly intravenous treatments. Kammer estimated that Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s proposed changes to retiree health insurance would cost him $1,000 a month.

“My net pension is $2,300 a month,” said Kammer, 77, who moved to Englewood, Fla., not long after retiring with a disability in 1977.

“I could make it for a while, go through savings, but pretty soon, I’d end up in bankruptcy."

You'd think a professional journalist would feel ashamed to make such a maudlin and gratuitous appeal for sympathy, but not Joel Kurth.  Did you hear that this old man has to take Aleve and sometimes sleep on the floor?  Just terrible, poor guy.  After more than thirty full years of retirement, I guess things can get rough.  The bankruptcy trustee should definitely ensure that he doesn't lose a cent of his pension.  I mean, he's only been receiving free money longer than any writer at Fakenation has been alive.  Certainly we all feel sympathy for him.

But perhaps the worst part of Kurth's collaboranist effort to perpetuate the remaning fragments of the corrupt city government is the fact that he poses the police officers as the primary victims of the bankruptcy.  Their pensions and needs are low relative to the corrupt school board (whose members make over $100k a year to run a school system that 66% of students never finish),and other higher level city officials, especially those who have routinely taken kickbacks from city contracts.  These people, the school board members especially, have actively produced so much suffering for their fellow citizens, if there were any justice to be had from all this situation, they would be sent immediately to prison.  But if pensions are kept, this is the group that will profit most.

And this creature Joel Kurth, posing as a sympathetic advocate for poor old retirees, callously shoves aside the victims of the destruction wrought by these people during the course of their careers.  Most of the victims were young people who were cheated out of an education and livable neighborhood so that an administrator or official could skim a little more off the top.  I know nothing about the records of Larsen or Kammer, but it's safe to say that the Detroit Police Department hasn't exactly been on a winning streak since the late 70s, and I don't think it's been a model of safety or efficiency. 

Kurth also showcases one of the classic Baby Boomer Defense Mechanisms, quoting someone named Ryan Plecha, an attorney for the retirees:

“(Retirees) feel like something that they’ve earned and were promised is being taken away from when they’re not in a position in their lives to plan for it and fight back,” Plecha said. “They’re at a time in their lives when they’re most vulnerable.”

Right.  That promise.  You know, the one today's young people made... before they were born.  There's still some hope for this poor, vulnerable, underappreciated group of retirees, who obviously played no role in the process that has led up to this point:

Wearing ballcaps and floral shirts, the retirees gathered at a cinder-block community center lined with palm trees. They stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, read names of recently deceased members and swapped horror stories.

Cute.  And for the finale:

[The retirees] are not a rich group: City records indicate the highest-paid retiree at the meeting made $36,000, $2,000 more than the average pension for police and fire. Most others get $30,000 or less.

I wonder how much money the the average 2012 college grad made last year?  Or I wonder how much the average college student will pay in tuition this year?  Money doesn't grow on trees, after all: the pension money has to come from somewhere.  And don't forget: you promised!

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