May 05, 2010

Fast-thinking cops may have saved thousands of lives last weekend, so what better time to discuss the possibility they may be overpaid than now? Okay, maybe it’s the worst time possible. The Strokes pulled “€œNYC Cops (Ain”€™t too Smart)”€ from their album after experiencing 9-11 and I”€™d probably do well to do the same. 

For the record, I love the NYPD. I dedicated a whole issue of my old magazine to them and fraternize with the fuckers every chance I get. Unlike the FDNY, these guys actually work for a living. If you have any doubts go to One Police Plaza in New York and sign up for a Ride-Along. It’s a free service that allows you to hang out with cops for an entire shift. When I went, I chose an Upper West Side precinct, accidentally thinking it would include Harlem, but I still saw plenty of thieves, junkies, liars, and violence. There are projects in every precinct and this particular night involved a girl who had set up her cousin to be robbed by thugs. “€œThat was my college intuition money,”€ the victim cried. She was short on intuition. 

Being a cop is a lot of paperwork and bullshit. You are essentially a babysitter for adults and the amount of lying these guys have to deal with literally makes me laugh out loud. However, I”€™m sorry, but as with the Fire Department, it’s not a particularly dangerous job. The short lifespan is also a myth. Both cops and firemen like to tell you how brave they are and how vital the service they provide is, but many jobs are just as vital and much more dangerous. Take the meatpacking industry for example. It dwarfs all other occupations with documented injuries as high as 30 percent of all employees, but, considering the vast majority of the workers are illegal, that number is estimated to be almost twice that. For all their hard work, meatpackers would be lucky to get minimum wage. Your average cop, however, is looking at about $100k a year. 

“What’s really disturbing about my dinner with the cop is not that America’s big unions earn so much more than the rest of us. It’s that they don”€™t even realize this is happening.”

Whenever I talk to these guys, I”€™m stunned at how someone who deals with America’s working class all day can know so little about America’s working class. Over dinner recently, we were talking about the price of having kids and the one cop at the table regaled us with the following story…

“So, my buddy, he goes from sergeant to lieutenant and he actually loses money. I know it’s hard to believe you would get a promotion and lose money but it’s his overtime he lost. That meant he went down from $135k to just $100k. Now, his ex, she gets $800 off every check for child support and that’s AFTER tax. That leaves him with barely 40k a year.”

“So,” I replied “his salary drops down to what the average American makes and all he gets out of it is a human being?” What really shocked me about the story was the way someone could talk about overtime and salaries well over $100k like it ain”€™t no thang. Can someone tell these union-types how totally unheard of this is in the real world? I think I made $100k my last year at my old job after almost 15 years, but I was the owner of a huge corporation that employed almost 100 people in 17 countries around the world. Even then, if I had submitted an invoice for overtime to our accountant he would have done a spit take. Working in the magazine business means at least one 24-hour shift an issue. That’s life. My wife worked in fashion PR and it was common for her to sleep at the office for the last few days before a show. You don”€™t get overtime for this. You get to keep your job. 

Later in the night, we were told how Sergeant Dad got the girl pregnant in the first place. Apparently he worked his ass off and saved up enough sick days to go visit her in Florida for three months and that’s “€œwhen it happened.”€ Without getting into the absurdity of pregnancy magically happening, can you believe this? I cannot think of any real world job where you could possibly save up three months of holidays. What planet are these people on? The public sector makes an average of $120k a year while the private sector is down to half that. Public bonuses average $40k a year while ours are less than $10k. Fighting crime and fires and renewing our driver’s licenses is crucial work we need done but there is a limit to monetary value of all this “€œservice.”€ As I said in the first half of this piece, even if they could defend these exorbitant pensions, the money is simply no longer there. In the private sector we don”€™t get to explain why we deserve money that’s not there because, well, it’s not there!

What’s really disturbing about my dinner with the cop is not that America’s big unions earn so much more than the rest of us. It’s that they don”€™t even realize this is happening. Like Ivory Tower academics and preach-to-the-converted liberals, they live in a tiny bubble where your values are defined by the small clique that surrounds you and nothing is ever questioned. They believe they deserve exactly as much as their neighbor no matter how absurd the scenario. I heart cops almost as much as I heart NYC, but we”€™ve come to the end of our rope here and this imminent pension explosion is going to leave us a lot more fucked up than a simple car bomb. 


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