Reality check for CalPERS critics

Pensions are lifelines for those who devoted their lives to public service

An onslaught of inflammatory media reports and political rhetoric are exploiting public pensions as a lavish expense that taxpayers can't afford.

But here's the reality check: The average CalPERS member receives a pension of $2,100 a month—for most classified employees it's less than $1,200 a month. That's not a lot to live on in California!

Cutting our pensions along with other public employees will do almost nothing to help solve our current state budget problems. Retirement costs represent an extremely small fraction of the state budget. If we need to cut costs, the state should eliminate waste and fraud, not take away the pensions of school employees, firefighters, nurses and other hardworking Californians.

We didn't cause the state budget crisis. Blame should be placed where it belongs - on politicians, Wall Street greed and the impact of corporate abuses on the stock market.

Telling our side of the story

Mariam Stout worked as a school secretary for 28 years. She says her modest pension benefits are a lifeline.

“My pension benefits are less than $20,000 a year," said Stout. "I saved my whole life for retirement. I paid into the pension system along with my employer, and CalPERS generated income on investments in that money. I deserve what I get back from the pension system."

Unfortunately, her story is not the one told in the media. It is time for us to speak up and defend the benefits we deserve.

What's your story?