Monday, November 14, 2005 | You’ve read about the colossal retirement bonuses, mostly going to those folks who helped write the package. They knew what they were doing. But hold on. It gets way worse.

Meet Paul.

Paul seems like a decent guy. He’s the desk clerk where I work out and does a little bit of security guard duty. Paul retired after 39 years and some months from San Diego’s city payroll. He worked for the parks and is 56.

“What’s your pension?” I asked one day. He and I have chatted enough to make a blunt question like that OK. Almost.

“102 percent of my highest pay,” he replied.

That got my attention, so he explained further, waiting a minute until the arrivals in the lobby strolled out of earshot. Paul was advised to do the buyout of future years when he retired, so he did. That made his retirement pay 98 percent of his last year. But the sweetest part of the deal is a 2-percent inflationary adjustment every year, which took Paul from 98 percent to 100 percent and he’s making 102 percent currently.

“What I couldn’t believe,” he said, in a low voice, “was that I also receive full health benefits forever.”

Lucky Paul. Sad San Diego.

Plan on fewer books in the library, more street potholes and new weeds in the schoolyards. And it’s not just the fat cats at top; it’s not just those millionaire public servants who stole from us. There are many tens of thousands of Pauls who never expected the windfalls our top thugs pushed through, and these workers feel both blessed and guilty. They don’t even understand how huge this robbery is for them.

So I did the math for Paul. (His name remains my secret, because he’s a good man, and gave me answers that our elected officials carefully evade, and is a worker who didn’t ask to be part of the problem, but is.)

“Paul, you’re white and 56,” I said.


“Your mother is still alive, you’ve never smoked and you’re not overweight.”

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