Public Sector Union Reform Requires Mutual Empathy

Sorry but you would all be crying like a little b**** if the cops and firefighters that earn every penny they get in retirement were not there when your perfect make believe world falls apart so shut the f*** up. Until you do the job you have no idea what you are talking about.
–  Comment on post, June 3, 2015

This comment, made by a California police supervisor onto the Facebook page of our organization, graphically encapsulates what is entirely understandable resentment on the part of public servants to a new reality – their pay and benefits are being exposed to public debate. It would be easy to dismiss this comment as inappropriate, or to merely characterize it as an example of public sector arrogance. But that would be a huge mistake.

Compared to the lives most of us are privileged to lead, public safety employees endure unrelenting stress. While it is important to be honest about rates of police and firefighter mortality and job related disabilities, the fact that many other jobs carry greater risk of death or injury does not change the fact that public safety employees endure unique stress. It is unique not only because it can occur at any time, but because it is the very nature of their work. They face hostility and mayhem as part of their job description, and because they do that, we are enabled to feel secure in our so-called “make believe” lives.

There is a compensation premium we owe public safety employees that appropriately should exceed the premium we’ve paid in the past to those who risk their lives to protect us. Because we now live in a society where overall safety and security has never been greater. Crime rates remain at historic lows in the United States. Based on empirical data, the quality of services we receive from public safety agencies has never been higher. Better service merits higher pay.

Public safety employees deserve a premium over historical rates of pay for another reason. Crime has morphed into areas unimaginable even a generation ago – cybercrime, global terrorism, financial crimes, gangs, international criminal networks, foreign espionage, asymmetric threats – the list is big and gets bigger every year. At the same time, our expectations regarding human rights and police conduct have never been higher. Police officers today need to possess skills well beyond what sufficed in the past. This also means they should be paid more.

Which brings us to the difficult conversation that we still have to have regarding compensation. The person who made this comment was reacting to our recent post that exposed a retired firefighter – and current official for a firefighter union – who was attacking pension reformers, while collecting a pension that during 2013 (not including benefits) was $183,690. It is neither fair nor affordable to pay anyone a government pension that big. The average full-career pension and benefits for recently retired public safety employees in California is over $100,000 per year, and the average retirement age is under 60. Using conservative assumptions, a starting pension of $100,000 per year, awarded that early, is worth at least $2.5 million. Factoring in cost-of-living adjustments, it’s worth even more. This is an impossible level of retirement benefit to sustain. It prevents us from hiring more public safety employees, and it drains funds from other worthwhile government programs including not only general services, but crucial infrastructure development.

Public safety employees deserve all the respect we can give them for the jobs they do. They deserve our appreciation and our thanks. But that courtesy should not extend to routinely conceding the debate over how much they should be paid, or, for that matter, whether or not they should have so much political influence, or, to get down to the crux of it, whether or not they should be allowed to even form unions and bind local governments with collective bargaining agreements. There is NO connection between our debate over public employee compensation or related public policies, and how much we respect public employees.

Finally, the respect that citizens ought to feel towards public safety employees can be taken too far. We should respect all workers, including those whose jobs are indeed more dangerous than police work or firefighting, and including those whose jobs are tedious, laborious, dirty, and underpaying. All work is valuable. All workers deserve dignity and respect. And while the deaths of police and firefighters are always tragic, all deaths are tragic. About 2.5 million Americans die each year, and about 1.0 million of those deaths are untimely – usually from fatal accidents or terminal disease that strikes before someone is elderly. Our collective empathy must extend well beyond what we rightly owe public safety employees, or we cannot keep their sacrifices in perspective.

*   *   *

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

42 replies
  1. Avatar
    Tough Love says:


    Well said, and I have made similar comments noting the respect we should have for honest and hard working safety workers, while at the same time challenging their overly generous pensions and benefits.

    I have additionally made the same point that a (safety-worker) premium is appropriate, suggesting perhaps a 25%, even 50% premium over what a Private Sector worker would get if retiring at the SAME age, with the SAME pay, and the SAME years of service.

    But knowing the “math” (as you do) I went on to mathematically demonstrate that the value at retirement of the very typical full career California safety workers is not 25% or 50% greater but is ROUTINELY FIVE TIMES greater. And the comments flew towards me, just like the one your organization received.

    Understandably, no one wants to give up something the have long anticipated and were “promised”…… even if they quietly know that their Union’s money and influence over our Elected Officials resulted in the granting of pensions & benefits far greater than necessary (to attract and retain a qualified workforce), fair (to the Taxpayer who pay for 80-90% of the total costs), or affordable.

    But acting respectfully, reforms in the form of VERY material reductions in the pension accrual rate for the future service of all current workers MUST be pursued with vigor. The survival of our States and Cities DEPEND on a positive outcome.

  2. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    Given my earlier comment which mentioned a “demonstration” of FIVE TIMES greater safety worker pensions, I thought it might be helpful to re-post that “demonstration” here. See below:

    In California the typical recent Pubic Safety retiree’s pension starts at just about $100,000 and is COLA adjusted thereafter. By looking at a table of life annuity factors, such a single life immediate annuity has a value or cost upon retirement of just about $1.8 Million (18 times the annual pension). One way to judge if that is reasonable (or “appropriate and fair”) is to answer the question … What would be the necessary INCOME LEVEL (or Final Average Salary … FAS) of a Private Sector worker with the TYPICAL Private Sector DB pension (for the few Private Sector workers lucky enough to still be covered by such a pensions) to obtain a pension from his/her employer with the SAME $1.8 Million “value” upon retirement ?

    Assume the CA safety worker has the typical 3% of final average pay per-year-of-service pension factor, had a final average salary of $111,111, 30 years of service and retired at age 55… resulting in the starting pension of $111,111 x .03 x 30 = $100,000. Next, let’s assume the Private Sector worker’s DB pension formula is 1.25% per year of service (a quite typical formula), is NOT COLA adjusted (routine in PRIVATE Sector Plans), and has a full unreduced retirement age of 62 (with a 4% reduction in pension payout for each year of age that you retire begin collecting your pension before age 62).

    For a given Final Average Salary (FAS), this Private Sector worker’s annual pension (P) is given by the formula P = (FAS x 30 x .0125)x (1-((62-55)x.04)), with the latter part of that formula being the adjustment for early retirement at age 55. Shortening that formula, we have P = (FAS x 30 x .0125) x 0.72.

    From above, we saw that the Safety worker’s pension (being COLA-increased) has a lump sum “value” of 18 times the annual STARTING pension. With no COLA increases, the lump sum “value” is only 13 times the annual pension. Therefore the Lump Sum “value” of the Private Sector worker’s pension is given by 13 x P, and since we are SETTING that value equal to the $1.8 Million value of the safety worker’s pension we have $1,800,000 = 13 x P, and solving for P, we have P= $1,800,000/13 = $138,462. This Private Sector non-COLA-increased annual pension of $138,462 can be looked at as being mathematically equivalent to an otherwise identical pension starting at $100,000 that includes 3% annual COLA increases (i.e., the Safety worker’s pension).

    Now since we know the annual Private Sector worker’s annual pension “P”, we can plug it into my above formula of P = (FAS x 30 x .0125) x 0.72 to solve for FAS. Doing so we have, $138,462 = (FAS x 30 x .0125) x 0.72, from which

    FAS = $138,462/(30 x 0.0125 x 0.72) = $512,822

    What this shows is that a Private Sector worker (with a TYPICAL DB pension formula and provisions) would need to have a final average salary of $512,812 to generate a pension from his/her employer with the SAME $1.8 Million “value” as the TYPICAL Safety worker pension …. or $512,822/$111,111 = 4.62 times the Safety worker’s salary.

    And for the skeptics that say …. this can’t be correct …. we can just reverse the order of calculations and SHOW that this $512,822 PRIVATE Sector salary is indeed necessary to generate a pension with a “value” equal to that (the $1.8 Million) of the Public Sector Safety worker … as follows:

    (a) Private Sector worker’s Annual (non-COLA-increased) pension = $512,822 x 30 x 0.0125 x .72 = $138,462
    (b) Lump sum value (using the 13 times life annuity factor applicable to non-COLA-increased pensions) = $138.462 x 13 = $1.8 Million

    While most reasonable people would suggest that (give the nature of the occupations) Safety workers should receive pensions equivalent to Private Sector workers with salaries say 10% or 25% or 50% greater than they, I find it incredulous to believe that ANYONE would feel it appropriate to provide the TYPICAL CA Safety worker retiree with a pension equivalent to that of the Private Sector worker making over $500,000 annually. Taxpayers (who pay for all but the 10-20% of Total Coat Public Sector pensions typically paid for by the worker’s own contributions and the investment earnings thereon) simply cannot afford anything even remotely close to this level of generosity.

    And to preemptively address the anticipated comeback ………… the 4.62 times greater CA safety pension is NOT a function of the Officer’s final pay. It would remain 4.62% even if the officer’s final pay (and hence starting pension) were 10%, 20% or even 50% lower.

    The 4.62 time greater CA Safety worker pension results from the MUCH richer Formula and MUCH more generous “provisions” as follows:

    (1) Benefit from the richer “formula” of 3% vs 1.25% = 3.00/1.25= 2.40 greater
    (2) Benefit from only the CA safety worker getting COLA increases = 18/13 = 1.3846
    (3) Benefit from no CA Safety worker pension reduction for full (unreduced) retirement at age 55 = 1.00/0.72 = 1.3889

    The above beneficial ratios are multiplicative, giving the overall advantage of 2.40 x 1.3846 x 1.3889 = 4.62 times.

  3. Avatar
    john m. moore says:

    The truth is that because legislative bodies have the power to reduce salaries, there is no need for pension reform. What is needed are city councils and Boards of Supervisors willing to freeze salaries and cut salaries across the board by 25% and use the savings to pay off pension and medical ins. debt. Once the debt is gone, the freeze could be lifted. But not until then.

    Unions will claim that none are available to work at lower wages. The evidence is contra, particularly for firemen. The jobs in question do not require highly skilled workers. Their current pay scale is a product of owning legislators and cowardice on the part of pension reformers who want a simple solution performed by someone else.

  4. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    John, on the surface, a good idea if legislative bodies can “reduce salaries” unilaterally, because the Unions would never agree.

    However, I’m not sure if “pensionable compensation” is based on the “FINAL” year’s (or 3 year’s average) pay, or the “HIGHEST” year’s (or 3-year’s average) pay.

    If the former, and salaries were reduced by 25%, all workers eligible to retire would have a huge financial incentive to do so immediately. While that might save a great deal in salaries (with the oldest, longest serving, and likely highest paid leaving, and partially replaced with lower paid workers), it would certainly accelerate payouts from the pension system and exacerbate the problem (of materially insufficient assets to cover past service accruals)

  5. Avatar
    Rex the Wonder Dog! says:

    “…their pay and benefits are being exposed to public debate. It would be easy to dismiss this comment as inappropriate, or to merely characterize it as an example of public sector arrogance.”

    No, it is an example of “entitlement mentality” from GED employees who think their job is actually work $200K per year when it is worth only $50-$60K per year WITH benefits. Especially Firewhiner.

  6. Avatar
    S Moderation Douglas says:

    Oh, My Goodness

    The Fireman Fallacy once more rears it’s confused head.

    Someone please put parental controls on this boy’s computer.

    Comparing a safety workers pension “value at retirement” to some hypothetical private sector worker is an exercise in futility and/or deception.

    Joshua Rauh mentioned that, since there is no real private sector comparison to police work, the only proper way to value it is what can be reasonably negotiated.

    With…..transparent….figures on the real cost of total compensation. Although there may be considerable disagreement on how to value the pensions and OPEBs.

    BUT, for context, any taxpayer should look at the true total compensation of private sector workers, not just net pay.

    The average wage in California (2013) was about $61,000. BLS estimates private sector workers wages are about 68% of total
    compensation, which would bring “average” compensation to about $90,000 a year. (Please note, this $90,000 is the “apples” of the comparison. It includes CEOs, forklift operators, and the proverbial burger flippers.)

    Use that number if you are comparing to the “orange” of public sector wages plus benefits. Including the cost of pensions and benefits.

    Some of the numbers often thrown out may be misleading, for example:

    “California police officers made, on average, $97,500, including overtime, incentive pay and payouts upon retirement during 2013”

    (Sacramento Bee, March, 2011)

    That is useless information. OT and other payouts is a different problem. And that figure only includes wages, not the value of benefits. So average “wages” are less than $97,000; and average “compensation” is more.

    How much does a police officer make per hour, including the “true” cost of pensions and benefits? And separate the calculations for the patrolman, middle, and upper management.

  7. Avatar
    S Moderation Douglas says:

    Please can the “GED” sophistry.

    If you can find twin brothers, each with only a GED, and one decides to become a cop while the other is, for whatever reason, quite contented unloading trucks and stocking shelves at Home Depot; I don’t think any reasonable person would believe the stock boy should make as much as the patrolman.

    And if that patrolman, through continuing education, experience, and dedication, promotes through progressively more responsible positions, there is no reason he should make less than a middle management private sector worker with similar duties and responsibilities.

    We use twin brothers in this example because we assume they are free of felony convictions, physically fit, and can pass the psychological tests. If not, they may both end up at Home Depot.

    And, if, as has been reiterated numerous times, there are “hundreds” of qualified applications for every public safety opening, your GED won’t get you within spitting distance of the eligible list. Welcome to Home Depot, brother.

  8. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    S. Moderation Douglas,

    Not surprised you showed up, and as usual (being a VERY self-interested Public Sector retiree) trying your darnedest to misinform and mislead readers.

    There is no “Fireman Fallacy” in anything I stated, and if you REALLY believed that ANYTHING in my above demonstration was not accurate, you should state so and BE SPECIFIC.

    As pointed out (VERY CLEARLY) in the last few paragraphs of that demonstration, the officer’s salary is not relevant. The Officer’s multiples greater pension is SOLELY the result of the much richer Public Sector pension “formula” and much more generous pension “provisions”. THAT (and NOT any specific salary level) results in the Police Officer’s pension being 4.62 TIMES that of the similarly situated Private Sector worker.

    And if you REALLY want to discuss “Fallacies”, here a great list that ALL Taxpayers should read, digest, discuss …. and then ACT UPON.

    Here’s the Link:

    Here’s the Title: Nine Fallacies Used to Defend Public-Sector Pensions

    Here’s the Table of Contents:

    Fallacy 1: The average public pension payment reflects the generosity of the plan’s benefits.

    Fallacy 2: The cost of a public pension plan is equal to whatever the
    government contributes to the pension fund each year.

    Fallacy 3: Public pension plans can “assume away” risk because governments are long-lived.

    Fallacy 4: Advocates of risk-adjusted discounting are merely a niche group of contrarian economists.

    Fallacy 5: Critics of public pension accounting assumptions are projecting low rates of return.

    Fallacy 6: The investment returns earned by a pension fund pay for most pension benefits, so taxpayers are actually charged very little.

    Fallacy 7: Public pensions are not overly generous because they are simply deferred compensation.

    Fallacy 8: Generous pensions are necessary because some government employees do not participate in Social Security.

    Fallacy 9: Closing a public pension carries major transition costs.

  9. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    Quoting S. Moderation Douglas …”And if that patrolman, through continuing education, experience, and dedication, promotes through progressively more responsible positions, there is no reason he should make less than a middle management private sector worker with similar duties and responsibilities. ”

    See my mathematical demonstration of the officer’s pension above……….

    What middle management private sector worker with duties and responsibilities comparable to those of a police officer gets a pension EQUAL to that reserved for Private Sector workers making over $500,000 annually …….. as do virtually all full career CA Police Officers?

  10. Avatar
    S Moderation Douglas says:

    “What middle management private sector worker with duties and responsibilities comparable to those of a police officer gets a pension EQUAL to that reserved for Private Sector workers making over $500,000 annually …….. as do virtually all full career CA Police Officers?”

    You seriously need to revisit your fifth grade teacher and review the concept of “word problems”.

    Your assumptions are invalid, still, so your conclusion is faulty, still.

  11. Avatar
    john m. moore says:

    Union agreement is unnecessay. The legislative body declares a financial emergency, negotiates per Myer, Milias, reaches Impasse, then final impasse, then enacts the cuts. Incorrectly arguing the unions case is not helpful.

    Undoubtedly the workers with greatest seniority would flee in bunches; that is a reason this simple strategy would in fact help. Another is that the 25% reduction would immediately reduce unfunded pension deficits by many billions of dollars as would applying the 25% reduction to pension debt.

  12. Avatar
    SeeSaw says:

    Nothing ever changes. The reformers and public-sector haters continue to cite rare examples of former public-sector workers getting huge pensions, as if that were the norm; TL continues to compare apples and oranges by offering up term papers that nobody is going to read; the wonder dog continues to expose his mental dysfunction publicly instead of in the therapist’s office where it belongs; SMD continues to carry the water alone in support of the public-sector (thanks, SMD). Perhaps there will be a movie some day.

  13. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    Still trying the ….. I’ll just call your stuff “crap” and that will be it?

    Sorry, the reader aren’t that stupid. Like I said earlier, if you want to really challenge my demonstration, be very SPECIFIC …. and we can debate it.

  14. Avatar
    HMA says:

    So in this case it is totally “normal” for a fireman with 28 years of service to get a $183K annual pension in his 50’s? If that is the prevailing attitude my “empathy” is over. Maybe I’ll regain some when the pension funds go dry and the checks bounce.

    Firemen are like any other profession; the pay should be what it takes to get qualified applicants. Except in their case, nepotism, unions and politics artificially pump up salaries and benefits to ridiculous levels. I have news for most firemen; if they quit tomorrow it would take at least several days to obtain replacements. And at much lower levels of comp and benefits.

  15. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    The VOLUNTARY termination (what the US Gov’t call the “quit rate”) of Safety workers is near zero.

    Yea, they KNOW ……

    (1) their cash pay is better than the education, skills, and knowledge they possess would garner in any other job, and
    (2) the pensions and benefits are so grossly excessive that they’re giddy … and not about to give em up.

  16. Avatar
    HMA says:

    I have thought for many years that firemen sit around the TV (at the firehouse) laughing their collective asses off at just how fn’g stupid the sheeple who pay the taxes that fund their ridiculous pensions and benefits really are.

  17. Avatar
    HMA says:

    Turnover in FF positions is near zero but lets keep giving them “longevity” bonuses because heaven forbid they decide to leave for a better opportunity. More PS insanity. Bonuses to ensure low turnover when there is none.

  18. Avatar
    S Moderation Douglas says:

    TL: “Not surprised you showed up,….”

    Literally Laughing

    I am ubiquitous……and eponymous. The very soul of moderation.


    I have been specific. You apparently have no spell checker (or syntax filter), but somehow managed to engage a logic firewall.

    One more time… I have no specific objection to your *math*, except that it is moot.

    You cannot compare the pensions of two dissimilar employees. A fireman’s pension is being compared to a hypothetical private sector employee. We don’t know if this employee is a doorman, or a doctor.

    Fortunately, there is a real life empirical example of a public and private sector worker who make about the SAME pay:

    Private sector: $62,283
    Public sector: $62,384

    We can guarantee that if these two workers retire at the SAME age with the SAME years of service, the public sector worker will have a much…much higher pension. Is this unfair?

    These are actual nationwide average salaries for a private sector worker with a Bachelors degree ($62,283) and a public sector worker with a Masters degree. $62,384.

    They make about the same cash pay, but the higher pension and benefits bring the total compensation of the public sector worker higher.

    SAME pay
    SAME age at retirement
    SAME years of service.
    HIGHER pension.. Although only a fool would try to quantify the difference because there is no “typical” private sector pension.

    But we cannot say the higher pension is “unfair” (much less “egregious” or “greedy”) because we are comparing dissimilar workers…MA vs BA…although with the SAME pay.

    If you compare that same public sector MA with a private sector MA, you will find the private sector MA makes about 31% more in cash wages, and, even with higher public pensions the private sector makes about 3% more.

    In this case we have similar employees, who have similar *total* compensation, but the public employee has a much lower cash wage and much higher pension. A classic example of deferred compensation.

    I’m sure by now you’ve guessed the data comes from AEI “Overpaid or Underpaid? A State by State Ranking of Public Employee Compensation”

    At this time, I just don’t know how to be any more clear: your math is OK. T
    Your logic is not.

    Please do not ask me again to critique your math, specifically or in general. The math is irrelevant.

  19. Avatar
    CJ Roses says:

    You were far too kind. Infantile, mindless rants (in this context) are not “understandable.”

  20. Avatar
    S Moderation Douglas says:

    Not totally “normal”. He was deputy fire chief, not an “average” firefighter.

  21. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    S. Moderation Douglas,

    I’m glad we have established that my mathematical demonstration ………. that a police officer (retiring at age 55 after 30 years of service) typically gets a pension 4.62 times greater in value than what a Private Sector worker would typically get if retiring at the SAME age, with the SAME years of service, and the SAME pay ……… has no errors (at least none that you can find).

    In a nutshell, the conclusion that YOU are trying to “force” is that no Private Sector worker compares sufficiently to a Police Officer, so THEREFORE “whatever” Police Officers are paid in total compensation (irrespective of the split between wages, pensions, and benefits) is BY DEFINITION, the “appropriate” level of compensation.

    I don’t buy that……

    It would not be that difficult to isolate many Private Sector jobs with risks, educational and knowledge requirements, and skill sets of comparable magnitude and scope of those of a Police officer. After finding such Private Sector occupations, all that would need to be done would be to translate ALL 3 components of total compensation into their CASH equivalents (with pensions and benefits expressed as a level annual percentage of cash pay to fully fund the pension or benefit over the employee’s working career) separately for the Police Officer and the Private Sector worker and compare them.

    While I sure you will disagree, the HUGE costs associated with extraordinarily generous 3%@50 Cola-adjusted CA police officer pension, and free or heavily subsidized retiree healthcare starting in the 50s, has a cash-equivalent for the Police Officer that will EASILY add a level annual 50% to base pay, while the FAR more modest Private Sector retirement Plan (typically a 401K Plan with a 3-4% of pay match) and rarely ANY employer-sponsored retiree healthcare benefits would AT MOST add less than 10% of pay.

    While I’m not working up any new #s here, it’s pretty obvious that there is no way the small differences that might exist in “cash pay” for those 2 (comparable Public/Private Sector) workers (even IF the Private Sector worker did have a cash pay advantage) would EVER come even close to matching the OVERWHELMING compensation “advantage” generated from the police officers over-the-top pension and benefits.

    I’ll let the readers decide.

  22. Avatar
    S Moderation Douglas says:

    “In a nutshell, the conclusion that YOU are trying to “force” is that no Private Sector worker compares sufficiently to a Police Officer, so THEREFORE “whatever” Police Officers are paid in total compensation (irrespective of the split between wages, pensions, and benefits) is BY DEFINITION, the “appropriate” level of compensation.”

    I never said anything of the sort. I said your entire example is convoluted gibberish. And, incredibly, you just made it worse.

  23. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    You have a PHD in “gibberish”……….

    I’m comfortable letting the reader’s decide.

  24. Avatar
    S Moderation Douglas says:

    ¡Ay, caramba!

    I see it!

    We have two workers retiring today. Each has a pension worth $1.8 million.

    Each worker is 55 years old.
    Each worker has 30 years service.

    The CA safety worker has a final salary of $111,111.
    The private sector worker has a final salary of $512,822.

    4.62 times as much as the safety worker just to generate the SAME pension value.

    Now we know.

    State (and local government) workers have a much greater portion of their compensation diverted to retirement than do private sector workers.


    That is all it tells us. It does not show the safety worker is over (or under) compensated, either in salary or in pension.

    But wait, we have known all along that public sector employers allot a greater portion of compensation to pensions and benefits than do private sector employers. It is a given. A tautology.

    So you have a lot of detailed math that shows……….nothing.

    I am so disappointed, brother.

  25. Avatar
    john m. moore says:

    The fact is that cities and counties have the power to reduce salaries after final impasse. Tough Love, you have turned this into another dreary back and forth that hurts pension reform. We get your point about your comparisons, but don’t dismiss salary reduction just because it works and is not your idea.

  26. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    Good example …… but you forgot to mention that the likely Pubic Sector employee would be a Police Officer, and the Private Sector worker a brain surgeon (really !).

    That’s exactly what I was getting at but with one addition…..

    Now take a Private Sector worker with very similar job ricks, experience, education, skills and knowledge as the Police officer. And what will we LIKELY find ?

    Wages (cash pay) very comparable to the Police Officer, but an employer-sponsored retirement package TYPICALLY worth no more than $500,000 vs the Officer’s $1.8 Million.

    That’s the taxpayer ripoff. There is ZERO justification for the Taxpayer paid-for share of the Officer’s pension to be ANY greater than that of the COMPARABLE worker. And with Police officer’s own contributions rarely accumulating to a sun at retirement sufficient to buy more than 15% of their VERY generous pensions, the Taxpayer funded share (85% x $1.8 Million) less the Private employer’s share (likely the full $500,000) is (0.85x$1,800,000)-$500,000 = $1,030,000.

    Yes, over $1 Million in TAXPAYER money unnecessarily and with zero justification TAKEN to overcompensate the Police Officer.
    Readers ….. so who’s BSing you ?

  27. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    John, I wasn’t trying to “dismiss” salary reduction … why did you think I was? I was only asking “if” that can be done w/o Union agreement …. and you answered that affirmatively. And, I was pointing out that a surge in retirements (from those now eligible to retire) would likely result.

    Surely you agree that the likely consequences of various options needs to be considered. For CA Plans, with assets now 20+ times annual payout (even though materially underfunded), the acceleration of retirements is not a big problem as long as the asset shortfall is addressed, but (for example) the State Plans in NJ with assets closer to 10X annual payout, accelerating retirements takes away the “time” such a Plan needs to address it’s much larger underfunding.

  28. Avatar
    S Moderation Douglas says:

    “That’s exactly what I was getting at…….….” ???

    Whut ? A brain surgeon (really!) makes more than a Police Officer?

    A hypothetical brain surgeon, at that.


    If……we can find a private sector worker with job ricks similar to a Police Officer….

    “We will LIKELY find employer-sponsored retirement package TYPICALLY worth no more than $500,000.”

    Why “find” him? Make one up! Another hypothetical retiree.

    Brother, I don’t know now if your backpedaling or going sideways, but your math is still moot.
    TL quote:

    “the value at retirement of the very typical full career California safety workers is not 25% or 50% greater but is ROUTINELY FIVE TIMES greater.”

    Is irrelevant unless you are comparing similar jobs.

    No one is surprised or shocked that a brain surgeon (really!) makes 4.62 times what a Police Officer makes. Even if that brain surgeon is hypothetical.

    In the meantime, as you told fouls123 (burypensions), “there are dozens of such Gov’t and University studies on the subject”

    They all agree, and have always agreed:

    1. Across the board, public workers earn less in cash wages than equivalent private sector workers.

    2. At the lower educated levels, pensions and benefits more than make up for the lower pay, so the total compensation in the public sector is higher.

    3. At the higher educated levels, cash wages are significantly lower in the public sector, and pensions are not enough to offset the deficit.

    Where safety workers fall on that continuum is up for debate, but your hypothetical math is not helping.

    Who, indeed, is BSing whom?

    Not me, brother.

  29. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    Quoting S. Moderation Douglas above (time-stamped: June 19, 2015 at 12:49 PM)…..

    “If……we can find a private sector worker with job ricks similar to a Police Officer….

    “We will LIKELY find employer-sponsored retirement package TYPICALLY worth no more than $500,000.”

    Why “find” him? Make one up! ”

    Ok, here’s a list with GREATER risks from the US Gov’t BLS:

    Bureau of Labor Statistics Released Top 10 Dangerous Jobs Report: Police Officer Not On It

    10. Construction Laborers
    9. Electrical Power-Line Installers And Repairers
    8. Farmers, Ranchers, And Other Agricultural Managers
    7. Driver/Sales Workers and Truck Drivers
    6. Mining Machine Operators
    5. Refuse And Recyclable Material Collectors
    4. Roofers
    3. Aircraft Pilots And Flight Engineers
    2. Fishers And Related Fishing Workers
    1. Logging Workers

    I looked carefully at that list. Certainly 9 of 10 occupations make FAR less than Police Officers, likely in cash pay alone, and certainly with pensions & benefits included FAR FAR less (likely no more than HALF) than the compensation ROUTINELY given Police Officers. While Airline pilots are on the list, and the captains of the large commercial carriers likely make more than police officers, such Pilots are a very small % of all Pilots, almost all of whom make considerably less than Police officers.


    So there are some “FACTS” for the readers to digest ……. and w/o the S.-Moderation-Douglas-style response whereby, when you have nothing concrete to offer, all you can say is … Oh its GIGO, Oh it’s irreverent, and iay caramba !

    Here THIS rational person (not biased by self-interest) sees it:

    A Police Officer and a Private Sector worker in jobs with similar risks, educational and knowledge requirements, and skill sets will likely make relatively similar “wages” (“cash pay”) but the Officer’s pensions and benefits will TYPICALLY be 4x-5x greater in value at retirement ….. that $500k vs $1.8 Million in our earlier discussion.

    S. Moderation Douglas wants readers to believe that the officer’s Total Compensation is not excessive, but that it only DISTRIBUTED differently, with less in cash pay and more in pensions and benefits. Well, I don’t buy that … not at all. In my own middle class town, the BASE PAY of Patrolman (with 5 years of service) is $125K annually. There is virtually no crime, the typical traffic tickets and traffic accidents, the occasional DWI passing thru town, and the occasional mischief and loud kids party when the parents are away.

    I’m sure our Officers train for that “terrorist attack” that will never come (to our small town) and for the serial killer just waiting in the wings for the Officers to let their guard down. FOR THIS my town’s taxpayers pay them $120K in base pay, overtime* when needed, pension 4 to 5 times the pensions of similarly situated Private Sector workers, and FREE (yes FREE) retiree healthcare (usually starting in their mid 50s when they typically retire).

    One would have to be brain-dead** to honestly believe that they are underpaid in cash and that ABSURDLY GENEROUS pensions & benefits are necessary and justified to MAKE UP FOR that underpayment in cash.

    * What Private Sector worker making an annual BASE “wage” of $125K DOESN’T work 50 hours a week, with the extra 10 hours (over a standard 40 hour week) with ZERO additional pay ? I know I do, and sometimes it’s 60 hours. Why do we pay $125K officers “overtime” ….. or at least RECOGNIZE (and factor into compensation decisions) that comparably paid PRIVATE Sector workers typically have a 50+ hour work-week.

    ** Brain-dead, or a self-interested, insatiably greedy Public Sector woerker/retiree.

  30. Avatar
    S Moderation Douglas says:

    Oh it’s ¡irreverent!

    I get it. Police Officers, in your opinion, are overpaid.

    Moderation is our friend. I didn’t actually say I disagreed:

    Dozens of times I have cited sources saying that *some* public workers, when pensions and benefits are considered, earn more than their peers in the private sector. And some earn much less…………and:

    “Where safety workers fall on that continuum is up for debate, but your hypothetical math is not helping.”

    I have said many times that your extremist attitude is self defeating. Specifically, this math you are using is not based on logic. An impartial observer (a “moderate”) might reasonably be suspicious of your motives, and/or wonder what other “facts” you are exaggerating.

    Just trying to help, brother.

    “4.62 times….. whatever” ….is just numeric sophistry.

    I have no problem with making a reasonable comparison between the true total compensation of police officers and the true total compensation of the private sector.

    por ejemplo :

    Ed Ring says the average total compensation for LAPD officers is $157,151. (UnionWatch, Aug 5, 2014)

    To a person earning an “average” salary in Los Angeles, ($60,000, in 2013) this may seem excessive. Most average people never consider their own “total compensation”. BLS says for the private sector, wages are about 69% of total compensation, which would make the LA area average total compensation about $86,000.

    Now we’re back to apples and oranges. $86 grand includes everyone in LA, from minimum wage clerks to hypothetical brain surgeons (really!).

    Is $157,151 excessive, I don’t know. Let the people decide. Based on real information. Not that ……..SAME, SAME, SAME, ROUTINELY FIVE TIMES greater…….rhetoric.

    If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times; don’t exaggerate.

  31. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    I see (again when you have nothing really “constructive” to say) you’ve come up with another buzzword….. numeric sophistry. ”

    Impressive, and some may actually think (oh, he must be “smart”) it MEANS something.

    Yes, I think Police are VERY VERY overcompensated…. and 75-90% of all OTHER Public Sector workers are just VERY overcompensated.

  32. Avatar
    S Moderation Douglas says:

     “constructive” ?

    As in, compute the “true” cost, as do Biggs and Richwine of police pensions and healthcare, discounted at the risk free rate. Then, for a valid comparison, compute the “true” cost of the median private sector worker.

    And let the chips fall where they may.

    California may (or may not) have a voter initiative constitutional amendment in 2016 which will require all future public employees to be enrolled in a DC system unless the affected taxpayers specifically authorize continuance of the existing DB. And any future pension increases must also have voter approval.

    I would not object to that……..if………the true costs of both public and private workers were fairly disclosed. Let the people decide. How insidious is that?

    In California, the average wage is about $60,000 a year. For illustration, I like to use a forklift operator working for a large employer (500 or more). Much better than a minimum wage clerk, and not nearly as lucrative as a brain surgeon (really!).

    That voter looks at the wages for LAPD officer base salary of $94,660 (according to the Union watch article) and says, “not bad, considering the responsibilities in that job”

    When I was working, I made a little less than 60 grand, and I have no objection to that pay for an officer.

    Now, tell that forklift operator the total compensation for the police officer is actually  $157,151 (again, Ed Ring, Unionwatch, Aug. 5, 2014), and ask him to vote to either continue the DB system with $157k payout, or switch to a less generous DC system. The DC system has a good chance of winning. Even better chance if gullible voters fall for that “4.62 times whatever…..SAME, SAME, SAME” sophistry or “value at retirement……….ROUTINELY FIVE TIMES greater.” nonsense.

    (Five times greater than what?….another mythical number? The “typical” private sector pension ……if……. the private worker retires at 55, instead of 62?)

    There is no “typical” private sector pension. Only about ten percent even have a DB pension. You are comparing a hypothetical pension to an imaginary one.

    ergo, GIGO

    Tell that forklift operator, your wages are about $60,000 a year. The Police Officer wages are about $95,000. The PO total compensation is about $157,000 a year. Yours is about $86,000.

    Let the forklift driver and the minimum wage clerk, and the brain surgeon (really!) decide.

    As for me, police officer or firefighter pay looks very generous, but I wouldn’t trade places with them even if I were qualified to. I also know that their pension costs are creating hardships, particularly crucial in local governments, where police and fire salary and pension costs are as much as 80% of general fund costs, and growing. There are ways to alleviate those hardships.

    In your opinion, apparently I am “** Brain-dead, or a self-interested, insatiably greedy Public Sector woerker/retiree.”

    So be it. You can imagine how much I value your opinion.

    I have no dog in this hunt. For better or worse, my expiration date is much closer than is the demise of CalPERS $304 billion system.

    You can have a civil debate, or you can continue with your exaggerations. I’ll be watching. And I’ll keep my thesaurus handy, if you truly offended by “numeric sophistry”.

    Moderation in all things — including moderation.” — Benjamin Franklin

  33. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    The Taxpayers get riped-off in SOOOOOO many ways by the COLLUSION between the Public Sector Unions and our Elected Officials.

    In NJ, a State Law REQUIRES those working on minor road repairs (mainly the Utility Companies) to hire police officers to be onsite preventing accidents and directing traffic.

    A local Councilman told me that the Police are paid $125/hr (volunteering for the assignments when off-duty) with a Minimum Guarantee of $500 (even if they work for less than $500/$125 = 4 hours). He also said that the town is reimbursed by the Utility for the amounts paid to the officers.

    So, while we don’t DIRECTLY pay for this in our town’s “taxes”, we indirectly pay for it in unnecessarily increased Utility “Bills”.

    Why can’t the Utility hire a $15 “flagman” instead of a $125/hr. Police Officer? Because it’s THE LAW … one of many similarly nonsensical laws passed to cater to the Union base that gets those who write the laws re-elected.

    Want “proof” that Police presence is unnecessary at the road repair jobs ?

    When it’s not a Utility Company doing the repairs, but “County” road employees, there never is any Police presence ….. because the “COUNTY” will not pay the “TOWN” (for Police presence) where the work is being done. When it’s really necessary, one of the County road workers waves a flag.

    Police are ONLY there when there is someone who can unnecessary be FORCED (and “suckered”) into paying them.

    Isn’t it time to end ALL of this BS ?

  34. Avatar
    S Moderation Douglas says:

    HEY !!! Where’s the empathy, brother?

    Safety workers give in so many ways. It’s not just a job, it’s a way of life.

    If these first responders aren’t worth $100,000, I’ll kiss your butt on the town square and give you half an hour to gather a crowd.

    June Maxi Marshall says:

    “Delightful! What a wonderful job they’re doing and are doing! God Bless America’s’ Police and Fire Departments as well as all SAFETY AGENCIES. What an eye opener and great beginning to a day!”

  35. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    Maybe they are worth $100K … IN TOTAL ANNUAL COMPENSATION ….. but where I live:

    (1) BASE PAY = $125K
    (2) pension cost (to fully fund over their working careers … in excess of their own contributions) is a level annual 40% of pay … = 40% of 125K = $50K
    (3 )Cost of annual benefits while active (healthcare, life & disability ins, allowances, etc.) = $30K
    (4) level annual cost of retiree healthcare = 10% (per several studies) = $125K x10% = $12.5K

    Total = (in year 2015 costs) = $125K + 50K + $30K + $12.5K = $217.5

    Now I may be $10K off (+ or -) but Police are DEFINITELY not $100K employees ….. and you look like a fool suggesting that they are.


  36. Avatar
    S Moderation Douglas says:

    All cynicism aside, it’s not always about some union cabal.

    The reason they always use overtime is for scheduling. CHP doesn’t have enough person years to accommodate the seasonal and unpredictable maintenance and construction schedules.

    Worker and traffic safety are extraordinarily serious concerns. You are right about one thing, though. Work area safety is extremely expensive. But that officer sitting there is a very small fraction of the total.…/two-page…/2249_COZ_MAZ_Results_V5.pdf

    Depending on the length and complexity of the closure, there could be three to six persons whose only job is to set up, monitor and maintain the signs and cones, and pick up at the end of the job. Cone trucks, changeable message signs, attenuator trucks, all designed exclusively for traffic control. Before the first “work truck” or work crew even shows up. I have had a six man crew with four trucks work a total of three hours closing lanes for me to do a five minute emergency repair.

    Legally required by federal regulations.

  37. Avatar
    S and P 500 says:

    I wonder how these dedicated safety workers feel about the people who are one step above them in the food chain– i.e. the colleges and universities that they will be sending their kids and grandkids to. As I’ve mentioned before, tuition at the University of Calif. is $4500 per quarter. Janet Napolitano threatened to raise tuition 25% to pay for pensions (that has been put on hold for two years). So some of these firemen and police officers will be using their pensions to pay for UC pensions. Do they have a problem with that or do they think UC should charge whatever taxpayers will bear?

  38. Avatar
    SeeSaw says:

    According to comments made by Janet Napolitano, students who come from households with total income less than $80,000 receive free tuition. The biggest hurdle for any applicant is getting accepted first–UCLA receives the largest number of applications in the U.S. , approximately 60,000/yr–it accepts less than ten percent. One who is fortunate enough to get one of those slots is going to find a way to attend.

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