Congress should consider downsizing their pensions

I learned to swim a few weeks ago, but I still stay in the shallow end of the pool. I think I’ll stay in the shallow end of these arguments as well:

• It looks like the new victim of attacks from Congress is the public employee, and the unions that help them acquire pensions that can help them survive a retirement where they often can’t draw a Social Security check.

The Senate Republican Committee didn’t want deficit-neutral emergency funding given to states to keep firefighters, police officers and teachers from being laid off by states in budget crunches … at least not until their conditions were met.

“No state bailouts should be contemplated,” the committee said in a statement, “until the wages and pensions of public sector employees are brought into line.”

I can think of something else that could be brought in line.

When a member of Congress is complaining about unions, wages and pensions for firefighters, police officers and teachers:

A) the government employee making $174,000 a year is railing about the economic drain of the government employee making around $40,000 per year.

B) the government employee who can get a full pension in as little as five years is railing about the government employee who likely worked at least 20 years to get their full pension.

C) the government employee who belongs to an organization with approval rates around 30 percent, yet is provided numerous benefits (like free postage) to help them keep their job, is railing about the unions that help other public employees keep theirs.

I’m not holding my breath for Congress to get rid of their pensions and salaries, even when about two-fifths of them are already millionaires. Just like federal spending isn’t pork when it’s in your district, wages and pensions aren’t a problem when your name’s on the check.

• I’m an NBA fan, no doubt. But I’m not sure I like the say-one-thing, do-another economics of the sport.

Commissioner David Stern said a few months ago that he expects teams to lose $370 million this season.

I like the job Commissioner Stern has done with the league, and agree that economics are changing to the detriment of pro sports franchises. Seriously, will the average New Yorker spend $4,000 on Knicks season tickets, or spend far less for a 50-inch high-definition TV, a subscription to NBA League Pass and a really comfortable couch so they can watch everything at home?

But let’s look at the Miami Heat’s offseason, and the contracts they gave out. LeBron James, $110 million. Chris Bosh, $110 million. Dwyane Wade, $110 million. Mike Miller, $30 million. Udonis Haslem, $20 million.

So the NBA is going to lose $370 million this year … but the Heat just gave out $380 million in guaranteed contracts.

• Trying to ban an Islam community center because the Sept. 11 terrorists considered themselves Islamic doesn’t make sense to me.

Nobody would stop the Republican Party from setting up a campaign office in Oklahoma City because Timothy McVeigh was registered as a Republican in New York. Nobody would stop a church from being built on the same block as a Planned Parenthood building because people who bomb abortion clinics think of themselves as Christians.

If we devalue the rights of people we don’t agree with because of what a loosely related fringe did, our rights mean a lot less, and we give in to the fringes.