Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What's So Bad About Double-Dipping?

This comes up in conversation every now and then…usually because of a newspaper article about someone doing it. But when it came up a few weeks ago in a conversation at work, I decided that it was time for me to write about it…double-dipping.

Now, for those of you who’ve never heard the term before, we’re not talking about getting a two-scoop cone from Applegate Farm or Friendly’s. No, what we’re talking about is a person retires from one government job, and goes to work for another government agency…while collecting their pension from the first job.

“Unfair!” cry the masses.

“Not so!” say I.

The masses, who don’t understand how the system works think it’s unfair because they’re paying this person twice. But they’re not. This person put in the time needed to earn that pension, and is getting that pension without any more being paid in toward it. In fact, one could argue that the person who is double-dipping costs the taxpayers less, because we don’t have to pay into their pension plan.

But there’s still this emotional response that it’s unfair that you can officially retire from a job on Friday, get your retirement benefits, and come back to work for another…or even the same…government agency on Monday, bringing home more money than you did before, because of the combination of the pension and salary. And this emotional response is probably based on jealousy that they couldn’t get such a sweet deal. So let’s take a look at this by breaking it up a little differently.

I had a Gym teacher in high school, who I’ll call Mr W. Mr W had been in the military for what they call “20 years and a wake-up,” at which point he was eligible to retire with a military pension. And I don’t care what any of the rest of you say, he earned that pension. Anytime you stay in a job for 20 years where you know there’s a likelihood of your being killed, you have earned that pension in my book.

If he went in at age 18, he was a relatively young 38 when he retired. He was young enough to start a new career, which he did…in teaching. Was it double-dipping for him to retire from the military, collect their pension, and then start working for the East Orange Board of Education? Should it matter that because of his military pension he brings home more than the average teacher? I don’t think so.

And then when he retires from teaching 20-odd years later, is there a problems with him collecting pensions from both the military and the East Orange Board of Education? I don’t see one. He earned both of them fair and square.

And in the world of regular business, Donald Keogh retired from the presidency of Coca-Cola, where he was in charge of the “New Coke” disaster, in 1993, and became chairman of the investment bank of Allen & Company the very next day…while probably still drawing his Coca-Cola pension. Do we see a problem here? Is he double-dipping?

So then why is it a problem for someone to retire after 30 or 40 years in a public service job on Friday, and come back part or even full-time on Monday? Why does this elicit cries of “double-dipping”? Especially when that “double-dipping” is saving the taxpayers money.

As I said earlier, I think it’s jealousy, pure and simple. I think that the people who complain about it being unfair are jealous of a deal that they couldn’t get from their current employers…but would gladly take if it were offered.

At least that’s the way I see it…and maybe I’ll be one of those “double-dippers” in a few years.

And I think I’ll have some ice cream while I’m at it!

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