How Unions and Bankers Work Together to Protect Unsustainable Defined Benefits

One of the biggest unreported, blockbuster stories in modern America is the alliance between public sector unions and the speculative banking industry. It is a story saturated in greed, drowning in delusion, smothered and marginalized by an avalanche of propaganda – paid for by taxpayers who fund both the public sector unions and the public employee pension funds.

The problem with public sector defined benefit pensions can be boiled down to two cold factors: They are too generous, and they rely on rate-of-return assumptions that are too optimistic. The first is the result of greed, the second of delusion. To indulge these vices requires corruption, and it is a rot that joins public sector unions with the most questionable elements of that Wall Street machine they so readily demonize.

If you honestly review the numbers, the greed is obvious. The average pension for a public servant who has worked 30 years or more in public service is more than four times what the average social security benefit is for someone who has worked 40 years or more in the private sector. To cite examples – the average CalPERS retiree who retired in the last five years, after 30 years service, collects a pension of $67,980, for CalSTRS, the average for recent retirees with 30+ years of service is $66,828 per year. Most of California’s independent city and county pension funds are even more generous; Orange County’s employee retirement system, for example, pays the average recent retiree with 30+ years of service a pension of $81,000.

These numbers are ridiculously out of step with reality. If every Californian over the age of 55 got a pension that averaged $65,000 per year, it would cost over $650 billion per year, one-third of California’s entire GDP. But the average public employee who works from age 26 through age 55 will easily collect that much. This is impossible to justify, and impossible to sustain. The average Social Security benefit for a 68 year old new retiree: $15,000 per year.

Greed is compounded with corruption and delusion, when in response for calls to bring public sector pensions into line with what is affordable and fair, unions and pension bankers claim 7.5% annual rates of return can be sustained forever. Their first mistake is suggesting that 7.5% rates of return is all they need. Current levels of underfunding mean either annual contributions go way up, or returns have to greatly exceed 7.5%. For example, CalSTRS is 67% funded, and to avoid becoming more underfunded, they must either earn 11.2% per year, or they must make a supplemental “unfunded contribution” of $4.1 billion per year – last year their unfunded contribution was only $1.1 billion. We are at the top of another bull market and in the terminal phases of a long-term credit cycle – anyone want to bet that CalSTRS is going to earn 11.2% a year for the next 30 years?

In an attempt to earn in excess of 7.5% per year, pension funds are increasingly turning to hedge funds, whose charter, essentially, is to earn over-market returns. To do this, they do all the things that public sector unions are supposedly opposed to and wishing to protect us from – opaque private equity deals, currency speculation, high-frequency trading – all those manipulative tools used by the super-wealthy, super empowered Wall Street players to siphon billions out of the economy. Except now they’re using tax dollars, channeled to them via government payroll departments, and cutting the government workers in on the skim. And if it goes south? Taxpayers pay for the bailout. And even if these funds can keep the lights on for a few more years before the whole scam collapses, isn’t it inherently exploitative for a government-ran pension fund, operated for the benefit of government employees, to aspire to over-market returns? To the extent the market is manipulated and over-market returns are extracted for an elite few, value investors with their individual 401Ks are penalized. That fact is irrefutable, simple algebra.

Which brings us to sheer abuse of power. Hypocrisy aside – and how much more hypocritical can it be for union leaders to hurl the word “profit” the way most of us might utter obscenities, yet ignore the fact that only “profits” can impel pension funds to appreciate at rates of 7.5% per year or more – it is raw power, sheer financial and legal might, that enables pension funds, with unions cheering them on every step of the way, to sue city after bankrupt city to ensure their “contracts” are inviolable, that the pension money keeps pouring in, even if it means raising taxes via court order, then selling the parks, selling the libraries, closing government offices and “furloughing” public servants, and giving raw deals to newly hired employees. But as courts will eventually sustain, perhaps out of financial necessity, the moral worth or worthlessness of a contract supersedes its technical validity. Power is a ship. Financial reality is a lighthouse.

Public sector retirement benefits – like all taxpayer funded entitlements – should provide an austere safety net, like Social Security. Pensions should not enable a retirement lifestyle of luxury and ongoing leverage, exempting government workers from the challenges to save and prepare that face every other American citizen. Nor, in the process, should they impoverish taxpayers, enrich banks, and flush the social contract into oblivion.

The reason pension reform doesn’t happen isn’t merely due to the greed and exceptionalism of public sector unions. Despite their overwhelming power, unions probably couldn’t stop reforms all by themselves. Public sector unions receive formidable political, legal and financial support, along with intellectual cover in the form of delusional financial projections, from their partners in the financial sector, corrupt, crony capitalists who indeed give capitalism a bad name.

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Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Public Policy Center.

27 replies
  1. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    Ed, As usual another excellent article.

    One comment …. the reader might walk away thinking that IF (yes, a big if) the 7.5% target return is met, then there is nothing wrong with the very generous pensions that have been promised Public Sector workers. I believe that you know, as I do, that that is not the case because the goal should be EQUAL Public/Private Sector “Total Compensation” (cash pay plus pensions plus benefits) in comparable jobs, and with cash pay already being very close, that means that there is no justification for ANY greater Public Sector pensions (or benefits) that are now routinely multiples greater that those granted Private Sector workers by their employers.

    To explain mathematically…..

    Suppose it takes a total level annual (employee plus employer) pension contribution of 30% of cash pay to fully fund (over the working career of the employee) a 30-year-service COLA-adjusted pension with a 2.50% (per year of service) factor to a worker retiring at age 55 assuming a 7.5% annual investment return, and a level annual 45% of pay assuming a 5% investment return.

    The problem everyone (even pension reformers) focuses on is that (while we might be able to cough up 30% of pay) we can’t afford the 45% contribution (even after deducting the employee-paid share). This misdirected logic leads us to believe that IF we indeed earn the target 7.5%, hence only needing to contribute at the 30% level, then all is fine.

    But stepping back, it really isn’t, because even at the 30% contribution level (that “may” be manageable/affordable), and even after deducting the 5-10% employee contribution, the Taxpayers are STILL making an annual 20%-25% of pay contribution towards their workers’ retirement.

    With equal Public/Private Sector cash pay, there is no justification for Taxpayers to contribute MORE to Public Sector retirements (i.e., to their pension Plans) than what the Taxpayers typically get from THEIR employers …. which is rarely more than the employer’s share of the total Social Security contribution plus roughly another 3%-5% of pay into a 401K Plan. Noting that 80+% of Public Sector workers participate in Social Security, for most such workers, even if we obtained the 7.5% investment return EVERY YEAR Taxpayers are STILL contributing multiples more toward Public Sector retirement Plans than what they get.

    Using the midpoints of the Public and Private Sector contribution ranges from above, Taxpayers TYPICALLY contribute (22.5%/4.0% = 5.625) over five time what they get. Even if we can “afford” to pay this, there is no logical reason to do so. There are far better uses for this money, not the least of which is to leave it in the Taxpayers’ pockets for them to invest, perhaps earning that 7.5% return to help fund their much smaller pensions.

    Ed, the bottom line always gets back to the ROOT CAUSE of the Public pension problem being the grossly excessive pension “generosity” that has been promised Public Sector workers everywhere. And “funding” FOLLOWS “generosity”(regardless of the rate earned on invested assets).

    The FOCUS of pension reform should be to bring Taxpayer contributions towards funding of Public Sector worker pensions down to a level no greater than (as a% of pay) what Private Sector workers typically get from their employers. And yes, that would buy a FAR FAR smaller DB pension (than currently promised), but only because under fair and appropriate analysis, current Public Sector DB pensions are always grossly excessive.

    And of course we BOTH know that the BEST solution is for Taxpayers to completely get out from under providing (and assuming great risk by being the backstop for investment losses of)Defined Benefit Pensions for the FUTURE service of all CURRENT workers. The current DB Plans should be hard- frozen (ZERO future growth) and should be replaced (for future service) with a DC (401k-style) Plan contribution comparable to what Private Sector taxpayers typically get from their employers … 3%-5% of pay.

  2. Avatar
    Reality_Cheque says:

    After looking at my favorite site ‘uberhumor’ this morning, I was in quite the jolly mood. Did not think it possible that there could be anything funnier posted on the intraweb this A.M., but here we are! I want to thank Ed Ring for his trolling articles! To think that Banks are in collusion with the likes of CalPERS is to go to a place few of the most mentally ill could get to. To compare the ‘typical’ SS benefit to that of a government retiree is a stretch that even Gumby would appreciate. I’m not inclined to spell out the obvious reasons regarding the aforementioned – as no doubt some ignoramus will request, as it is all too obvious. At any rate, thanks for the laugh, and to you’re less than educated poster. Sorry it isn’t poster(s). LOL.

  3. Editor
    Editor says:

    Reality_Cheque: How would you describe a creditor who is suing you for payment of a debt and making you sell all your assets? “Bank” may not be quite as precise as “financial institution,” but it’s a four letter word that’s readily understood and fits better in a title.

    Your comment would be more useful if you could explain exactly why the financial oppression stalking our cities and counties, coming from government worker pension funds, does not enjoy the full support of government worker unions.

  4. Avatar
    Reality_Cheque says:

    ROFL – Financial institutions, the real ones like JPM, GS, and so on want to get their dirty little hands on pension funds so they can raid them via outrageous fees. This is already going on to a small extent. To say that banks, or financial institutions are in collusion with CalPERS suggests that the likes of JPM, GS are on retirees side. Nothing could be further from the truth. The irony – you know it, but you mislead your sole reader.

    “Your comment would be more useful if you could explain exactly why the financial oppression stalking our cities and counties, coming from government worker pension funds”

    And the humor continues to spill forth!!!! There is irony in that short sentence thou you will be unable to find it. The oppression stalking our cities…Yes, indeed!! It comes from those who have given 20, 30, 40 years of their life to those very cities in exchange for a pay/pension package. There it is, it must be the EMPLOYEES fault. It isn’t that these same cities are run over by welfare recipients, illegals, or the new generation that simply doesn’t want to work, or even that these same cities mismanaged themselves into financial oblivion by building arenas, unneeded infrastructure (to benefit a contractor relative no doubt), or that the tax base is decreasing because baby boomers are retiring, or that corporations have sent millions of jobs overseas (reducing income & property taxes)…the list goes on. But no – IT IS SOME CIVIL SERVICE EMPLOYEE WHO CAUSED THE FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES OF THE CITY. To say you sound like a mouth-breathing, double digit IQ, right-wing idealog would be too kind. It would be akin to saying Rosie O’Donnell has a slight weight problem – the problem is really bigger than slight. You see, you sir are a moron. To lay the problems at the feet of those who gave their lives/time to earn what they have, while ignoring all the freeloading individuals (and corporations) fits in with you’re perverse view of justice. To blame the producers, while the leeches suck the system dry is you’re way of thinking.

    Maybe you and you’re lone reader (sycophant) can go on one of those specialty cruises together. I hear the hot tubs are wonderful!

  5. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    Reality_Cheque, Clearly you think you (having an over-sized sense of entitlement common to most Public Sector worker) are “special” and deserving of greater pensions, better benefits, and greater protections from change than the Taxpayers who have been forced to pay for (via THEIR contributions and the investment earnings thereon) 80-90% of your grossly excessive pensions.

    What you’re skipping over is that in the end game reality and the math ALWAYS governs, and at some point (quite possibility via a Bankruptcy Court ruling) your pension and benefits will almost certainly be VERY materially reduced.

    Your laughter will be replaced with anger, fear, and tears.

  6. Editor
    Editor says:

    Reality_Cheque: You are a fairly amusing writer yourself, although it’s disappointing you have to resort to name calling. This has little to do with ideology. It has to do with finance and fairness. The other reasons you cite for the fiscal problems facing our cities are valid, but that doesn’t change the fact that public sector retirement benefits – and base pay and current benefits – have become too generous.

    Why don’t you tell me what city or county you are most familiar with – maybe you work for one – and I’ll get back to you with the average and median pay information for that city or county, compared to the median household income and median home price. Then you can tell me why your unionized public sector workforce is so superior to private sector taxpayers that they’re entitled to make TWICE as much in pay and benefits as the average citizen they supposedly serve.

    As for “gave their lives and time to serve,” that went out the window the day state and local workers took “furloughs” in exchange for pro-rata pay cuts, instead of just taking pay cuts like the rest of us. You see, they were already getting 12-15 holidays, 10-25 paid vacation days, plus 26 three day weekends a year with pay ala the “9/80” program (“comp time”) where you show up a few minutes early and skip a few lunches and work “9 hour days for 9 days” so you’re off with pay every other Friday. Got that? Veteran salaried employees were already taking 52+ days off a year, i.e., working four day weeks. Then when it came time to cut budgets, they took a 20% pay cut and started working three day weeks.

    Spare me your indignation. It is sorely misplaced.

    By the way, take a look at CalPERS most recent annual report, pages 106-113: Their direct fees to outside investment firms totaled over $1.2 BILLION. And that’s just one year, just the direct payments, and just for CalPERS.

  7. Avatar
    Reality_Cheque says:

    “The other reasons you cite for the fiscal problems facing our cities are valid…”

    But you are only asking for ONE thing to be fixed – pensions. On the backs of those who worked. You are not asking for welfare to be fixed, the illegals situation, the corporations, the city mismanagement, and so on. You wish to balance the budget only on those who worked because you are jealous of what they have. You are not jealous of the welfare family, or the others – why? Think about it. Don’t hurt yourself.

    Yes – I am an amusing writer. My writing style flourished many years ago whilst…sorry, lost my train of ‘thought’.

    But you sir, are the must witty writer of all. To quote: “You see, they were already getting 12-15 holidays, 10-25 paid vacation days, plus 26 three day weekends a year with pay ala the “9/80″ program (“comp time”) where you show up a few minutes early and skip a few lunches and work “9 hour days for 9 days” so you’re off with pay every other Friday. Got that? Veteran salaried employees were already taking 52+ days off a year, i.e., working four day weeks.”

    You see, there is a problem with all that gibberish – I was there, working for the state. I can assure you there was no 12-15 holidays, no 26 3-day weekends, no ‘9 for 9’, or any of the other things you listed. In fact, you better be to work 15 minutes early, and you won’t leave until the appropriate time. To do otherwise is a FLSA violation – two of them gets you removed from state service. I know people who have lost their jobs in just this manner. Oddly enough, only one of them was in violation, the others were just misunderstanding. Lost their jobs anyhow. I realize that goes against your mantra of ‘government employees can never be fired’. LOL…only if.

    Indignation? None here, just tired of your lies and deceit. You and you’re ilk add nothing of value to the conversation regarding improving government, or the cost there of. Thinking about it, you add nothing of value to anything. Do us all a favor…you know. For my part, I saved the state a minimum of 50% in each post that I took. Was quite proud of that accomplishment, although it was met with some resistance by those around me. I am happily retired now, and nowhere near your quoted ‘average’ of what a government employee retires on. Those numbers are just laughable. But comfortable none-the-less. What makes it more comfortable is knowing you are on the hook for it. Hoping they send the bill to you personally.

  8. Editor
    Editor says:

    Reality_Cheque: Nobody here is intentionally lying or even cherry picking facts. The “9/80” program is very common in state and city government. The average pensions are well documented; refer to page 165 of the CalPERS financials referenced in my previous comment. You will see that a retiree in the last five years with 30+ years experience had an average pension benefit of $64,365 per year. And we’re learning that isn’t necessarily all they get. There are additional payments such as “drop payments” and “preservation of benefits” we’re learning about that don’t make it onto these reports. CalSTRS has actually stopped preparing the schedule showing pensions by years of retirement and years of service, probably because the numbers are so embarrassingly high.

    As for adding value to the conversation regarding improving government, we’re adding plenty of value, because we’ve identified and are exposing the single most corrupting force in government – public sector unions. They have alienated government workers from the taxpayers they serve, and your attitude is a perfect example of that. They want more pay and benefits for government workers, and more government workers, regardless of the cost to society. They are a threat to our economic health, the solvency of our government agencies, and our economic and civil liberties. And they are in bed with “Wall Street,” because every time unionized government worker pay causes budget deficits, Wall Street makes billions issuing bonds, and every time unions bully politicians into raising pension benefits, Wall Street makes billions investing the money. Corporations play ball to avoid being targeted with retaliatory legislation.

    If you were as conscientious a contributor as you claim during your time in state service, you would be well aware of how stultifying the union rules are – elevating the incompetent, protecting inefficiencies, orchestrating the side-deals with cronies, and promoting a corrosive “us vs. them” attitude.

    As for all the other social and economic challenges we may actually both agree are problems, I don’t see your unions doing anything about them. Not even the unions dominated by conservatives, such as public safety. Instead they just want more for themselves.

  9. Avatar
    Metaphsyical says:

    “Reality” misses the point–and by a grand canyon-esque margin, which is no shock seeing as how he/she is a self admitted public union worker. He argues “You are not asking for welfare to be fixed, the illegals situation, the corporations, the city mismanagement, and so on”

    So…..just because there are other sources of financial strain and outright wrongdoing that his plunder of taxpayers is somehow justified. Since when did two wrongs make a right? No, “Reality”, you are NOT entitled to retire on the backs of the rest of us. You are NOT entitled to more, better and longer than we are. I’ll bet you worked in a job with little competition.

    As for his claims of how he saved the people money? About as believable as most public union claims. Lets make this simple: Unions and government do not mix.

  10. Avatar
    Reality_Cheque says:

    EDitor –

    All you do is lie and cherry pick facts. There was a time you didn’t, but that is no longer the case. As you have (unknown to yourself) slid further into the right-wing ideology you have lost you’re balance as a journalist. You believe the propaganda you spew, or are putting into print propaganda that you have been fed. I have watched for several years now, and there was a time you brought something to the table. You now only bring hate.

    Enjoy Thanks Giving. Be ‘thankful’ for the roads you travel on to you’re relatives house (CalTrans), and be ‘thankful’ for the safety that is provided by the local law enforcement, and know that what comes out of the kitchen faucet (used for those TG dinners) is provided by you’re local water department, and be thankful for the sewer you will most certainly need after. And while you are being ‘thankful’ for all that, remember – you despise all those who have provided these services for you. I’m sure they are thankful you do not wish to live up to you’re end of the bargain – paying them for a contract they signed onto many years ago. But that illegal guy breaking into you’re house who takes 2k/month of tax money – you are good with him. What a complete joke you are.

  11. Avatar
    SeeSaw says:

    Editor, if one employee works 20 hrs/day, two days per week, would you say he/she already gets 156 days off every year?

  12. Editor
    Editor says:

    Reality_Cheque: You are absolutely right that it is important to try to propose solutions and not just expose problems. The solution is a retirement system – to the extent it is funded by taxes – that allows everyone, public or private, to earn retirement according to the same formulas and incentives. Our primary disagreements are: You don’t think the public pension system is financially broken, and I do. You don’t think benefits need to be cut in order to fix it, and I do. You don’t think your solution will cause unacceptable harm to our economy and society, and I do. Where we agree, among other things, is that I do think we should keep the defined benefit. But it has to be adjustable, downwards when necessary, to maintain solvency. As I’ve previously written:

    “To find a model for a sustainable defined benefit, look no further than Social Security. It has minimum and maximum benefit payments, it stays out of the market, much less hedge funds, and it is adjustable upwards or downwards as needed to maintain solvency. It is NOT a Ponzi scheme because there is no implied return of principle. It does NOT penalize young people, because just as their payments support retirees, when they eventually retire, young workers will make payments to support them. It is NOT a Pyramid scheme, because today the U.S. population is distributed equally between young and old, which means new participants no longer outnumber veteran participants. Public sector retirement benefits – like all taxpayer funded entitlements – should provide an austere safety net, like Social Security. Pensions should not enable a retirement lifestyle of luxury and ongoing leverage, exempting government workers from the challenges to save and prepare that face every other American citizen. Nor, in the process, should they impoverish taxpayers, enrich banks, and flush the social contract into oblivion.”

    Are you saying you’re against Social Security, at the same time as you defend making no changes to public sector pensions?

  13. Avatar
    Reality_Cheque says:

    I didn’t say the retirement system wasn’t broken.
    I didn’t say that it didn’t need to be fixed.
    I didn’t say that future benefit accumulation need to be adjusted.
    I didn’t say anything about a solution.

    What I am saying is you are an unamerican neocon.

    There are many ways to bring states/counties/cities into budget, but you choose the ONE way that will effect Americans who have done the proper thing: taken a job and lived by a contract.

    You choose to give illegals ‘free’ stuff. BUDGET PROBLEM.
    You choose to give welfare recipients ‘free’ stuff. BUDGET PROBLEM.
    You choose not to address corporate welfare. BUDGET PROBLEM.
    The list goes on…

    I propose fixing the budget by taking care of all the illegal stuff going on that is blatantly not right, and considered not right by the vast majority of people.

    You propose fixing budgets by going after people who applied for a job, took it (with contract in place). You choose to leave out all the leeches, and balance the problems of the country on a very small percentage of people. WHY? Because you have become a right-wing neocon moron. You don’t get it, and you never will because you are so wrapped up in hating public employees. Go ahead and hate. By the way, the retirement factors were downsized by Brown when he got into office. Police/Fire went from 3%@50 to 2.5%55. That, on an actualized basis is a 50% cut. Did we see a 50% cut in welfare? Did we see a 50% cut in services to illegals? Did we see a 50% cut in corporate welfare?

    See the problem? Doubt you do – why? M.O.R.O.N.

    Thought I would spell it out for you…

    I’m going to the movies – Frozen looks good. Later Loser.

  14. Editor
    Editor says:

    Reality_Cheque: Wow! You seem to be the one hurling most of the insults. If I didn’t recall our more civil exchanges in the past, I suppose I’d have withdrawn from this dialogue by now.

    Let me repeat something: I don’t see your unions doing anything about these other problems you describe. Why not? Public sector unions are by far the most powerful political force in California. If they wanted to solve some of these other social problems that indeed are quite expensive, they could. But they don’t. And the reason they don’t is because social problems are a meal ticket for government workers. And no, it isn’t the workers who are to blame for this, it is the union leadership, who cynically understand that the more these social policies and programs fail, the more budget and the more workers they will get to add to their membership roles.

    This is why public sector unions should be illegal. And this is why I see them as the core problem in this country. Because the public sector union leadership BENEFITS when we have all these other problems. There is no ideology connected to this sentiment, only logic. A good government liberal – assuming they care about America’s future and care about effective government – should agree.

  15. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    While your complaints about OTHER leaches are not unfounded, the faults and misdeeds of those groups in know way erases or lessens the insatiable greed of the Public Sector Unions/workers.

    As I said earlier, The ROOT CAUSE of the financial mess is the grossly excessive promised pensions & benefits.

  16. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    Yes Reality_Cheque, I am thankful for the services provided, by sickened that I’m forced to overpay for all of it.

    P.S. Have you considered therapy? You are very an angry and nasty individual.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  17. Avatar
    Reality_Cheque says:

    SEESAW –

    Frozen was a pretty slow movie, but there is a surprise towards the end. It isn’t what you think it will be either. Don’t see any reviews, info about the movie or it will ruin that part – and it is the best part.

    EDitor –

    Yeah, I’m pretty much done with civil exchanges. Tired of watching lie after lie after lie put out. I actually bought the book ‘Plunder’ (I’m sure you know of it) written by that twit over at the OCR. I could hardly make it through the first 20 pages I was laughing so hard, but also kind of sad that people would actually believe some of the stuff in there. Then I watch Crane and his hurling of bovine defecation, and others too. You used to be the only balanced one out there, but you have slid towards spewing the same inaccuracies that others have. At one time I actually thought of challenging you to a public debate, as I thought it would bring out a lot of points for further discussion and help the process along. The thing is you (and the pension reform group) have made no real attempt to aid in the shortfalls various levels of government are facing. It is a constant drumbeat of beating on the guys who earned it, but never those who haven’t. You ask what have the unions done regarding these items I brought up – and they have done nothing. It is not their job to do anything, the job of the union(s) is to represent their members at the bargaining table. The job of the PRESS (and you are part of that press) is to articulate the various matters that (in this instance) cause financial difficulties for the various government entities. Instead, you have become a constant drumbeat for what I call ‘pension theft’. If you were truly interested in the financial well being of these government entities you would be addressing the full spectrum of financial issues they face, and pensions are usually far down that list. It is disheartening to see a ‘free’ press succumb to the will of political groups. It is even more disheartening to see YOU SPECIFICALLY succumb to such political pressure. If you do indeed know who is writing you, you should know that I mean what I say there. I have had great respect for some of your articles in the past.

    I know you sometimes edit these, please leave the brief movie review in there for seesaw…don’t want anybody to ruin the show for her.

  18. Avatar
    Editor says:

    Reality_Cheque: Actually I enjoy and value continuing this debate with you. First of all, if you are someone who has invested time in commenting on my posts for several years, than I believe we have earned a relationship of mutual respect. Also, based on my experience with comment writers like you, if not actually you, I have developed an appreciation for your sense of humor. So it might be good to meet you. But if we were to debate further, especially in a public forum, I would establish, perhaps using the Socratic method, how we agree on virtually every other significant issue facing Americans, Californians in particular. Then I would challenge you to suggest why, if we are so obviously of one mind on all these equally vital issues, I must be so terribly intellectually dishonest and morally compromised on this one issue?

  19. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    Reality_Cheque, You stand as proof-positive of the “entitlement mentality” that makes necessary and just Public Sector pension reform near impossible …. almost guaranteeing the material pension reductions that you fear the most.

  20. Avatar
    Reality_Cheque says:

    Why do I think you are being intellectually dishonest?

    That is easy to answer, but first a brief discussion of what the problem is: various levels of government(s) are in financial difficulty due to a variety of circumstances – and pensions are/may be a part. If you are trying to aid the states/counties/cities in their attempt to meet services/budgets then you (and others like you) would be speaking to the entire scope of the problem – of which pensions are a small part. The 100% focus on pensions demonstrates that the attempt is not to aid ‘cities’ in their individual efforts to meet budget demands or provide services/infrastructure to citizens, but to attack retirees. The further problem with this (that shows the intellectual dishonesty you mentioned) that of all the problems the cities face, almost all of them are due to some level of criminality except for the people who played by the rules and earned their pensions. To focus on one aspect of any financial crisis, and that one aspect be the only group that played by the rules has to make everyone wonder why you would do it. Why Greenhut would do it, why Crane would do it, and so on. There are so many bigger costs/issues that have to be dealt with (as I have outlined in an earlier flaming post) that it would make any sensible person question the validity of the ‘only pensions are the problem’ argument. Thus the questioning (as you put it) of intellectual honesty.

  21. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    Your entire argument is based on the faulty premise that you are “entitled” to keep pensions (FAR above what comparable Private Sector workers get, and for which the granting of such was only due to the collusion between the Public Sector Unions and the elected officials whose favorable votes on such matters were bought with campaign contributions and election support) if only you can free up revenue to pay for them by further punishing FAR less fortunate groups (e.g., illegals and welfare recipients).

    That’s a distraction from the Root Cause of the problem.

    Man up ……….. and DIRECTLY answer the question of exactly WHY (Public Sector workers) are “entitled” to a much better and therefore much more costly deal (equal cash pay combined with MUCH greater Taxpayer-funded pensions and MUCH better Taxpayer-funded benefits) than everyone else.

  22. Avatar
    SeeSaw says:

    There are 500,000+ current annuitants of CalPERS. When you select one group of a few thousand employees, all retiring at the same time with 30-yrs+ service credit, and call it the average pension you are indeed cherry-picking your facts. All you have there is the average pension for x-amount of retirees who belong to that small, select group. The average CalPERS pension is less than $26,000/yr; the average age at retirement is 60, and the average amount of service credit is 20. You are obviously afraid of the truth–if you had to admit the truth, you would have to find another way to make a living.

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    Tough Love says:

    Yes Reality_Cheque, When you have no reasonable answer to a valid/legitimate question, your response is to insult the questioner and hide.

    Let’s try again …

    WHY are Public Sector workers are “entitled” to a much better and therefore much more costly deal than their Private Sector counterparts ….. equal cash pay combined with MUCH greater Taxpayer-funded pensions and MUCH better Taxpayer-funded benefits.

    We’re waiting ….

  24. Avatar
    Right to worker says:

    It’s sad to see you bickering over the details. Neither party understands that labor unions are one of the agencies that will bring on a time of trouble such as never was sincer there was a nation. Union associations rob the poorer classes of the priveleges that they justly deserve. Unions are a communist manifestation of opppresion.

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