January Diary
The gulag, the Long Island Railroad, Chinese lit, and more


John Derbyshire

The most dangerous job in America     Speaking of the Gulag:

“Short of the gulag, I can’t imagine any work force that would have a so-to-speak 90 percent disability attrition rate,” said Glenn Scammel, long one of Capitol Hill’s top experts on railroads. “That defies both logic and experience.”

That refers to retirees from the Long Island Railroad. I took it from New York Times report of two years ago, which revealed that: “Virtually every career employee — as many as 97 percent in one recent year — applies for and gets disability payments soon after retirement.”

The Times story was decorated with pictures of “disabled” LIRR retirees out on the golf course — which is free for them, another perk. Oh, and they get tax breaks on their lavish disability benefits.

The LIRR is my commuter railroad. Every time they put up fares — they just did — I do a trawl of Google News to see if anything’s happened in the past two years to those retiree boondoggles. For a scam on that scale, someone should be going to jail, right? Ha ha ha ha! Look at the nothing-going-to-happen code words here (my italics):

. . . changes being considered . . . Among the changes that [Sen. Chuck] Schumer and [Rep. Tim] Bishop said they got the board members to tentatively agree upon . . . The board also agreed to consider . . . agreed that changing the “outdated” railroad pension system was vital . . . 

“Outdated”? These public-employee disability scams aren’t “outdated,” they’re criminally larcenous. Two years on, hasn’t anyone gone to jail? Has anyone even been charged? Well, sort of:

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo issued 108 subpoenas related to the case, yet only one person had been brought up on felony charges as of last March. . . . The person brought up on charges was a former manager of L.I.R.R.’s pension office, Frederick S. Kreuder, who charged $100 to coach workers on how to get disability benefits. The charges were dropped, however, since what he did was not criminal.

Why the hell not? And why aren’t these lying, scamming retirees being hustled off to jail in batches? Can New York afford these payouts? No, of course not. From that 2008 Times report:

Four years ago [i.e. in 2004], the transportation authority’s inspector general cautioned that occupational disabilities could have financial implications for the L.I.R.R.’s pension plan, which it found to be “extremely” underfunded.

Oh, I wouldn’t worry. Private-sector workers will pick up the tab.

Footnote: As with the Cities of the Plain, there are righteous persons even among LIRR retirees. That original Times story found one. Let him be known and his name celebrated:

Walter Kueffner is one manager who didn’t say he was disabled, even though many others around him did. . . . Mr. Kueffner said that while he’s not “a saint,” the thought of claiming disability never crossed his mind for one simple reason: “I didn’t have a disability,” he said. “I was doing a job that people do everywhere. I worked at a desk and I retired in good shape.”


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

NRO Polls on LockerDome

Subscribe to National Review