City Journal Spring 2014

Current Issue:

Spring 2014
Table of Contents
Subscribe
Tablet Editions
Click to visit City Journal California

Readers’ Comments

Steven Greenhut
Reform by Any Other Name « Back to Story

View Comments (11)

Add New Comment:

To send your message, please enter the words you see in the distorted image below, in order and separated by a space, and click "Submit." If you cannot read the words below, please click here to receive a new challenge.

Comments will appear online. Please do not submit comments containing advertising or obscene language. Comments containing certain content, such as URLs, may not appear online until they have been reviewed by a moderator.


 
Showing 11 Comment(s) Subscribe by RSS
When will the union members recognize that it is the unions that are responsible for the majority of the financial problems in California resulting in job loss, both union jobs and private sector as the businesses flee the state? Just because they were able to coerce some politicians into allowing unsustainable wages and benefits doesn't make it right. They continue to bully the elected officials into submission and acceptance of the `status quo' with their PAC $$ while their membership shrinks as we layoff public sector employees in order to pay for retirees. Parks are closing, classroom size is increasing and college admissions are in steep decline while tuition is skyrocketing. All the while the Union fats are playing the `status quo' fiddle while California burns. So sad...
Quoting ConcernedVoter .... "Public employees pay into their retirements with every paycheck, and most receive about $26,000 a year - barely enough to cover expenses and live with a tiny bit of dignity."

Tell ya what .... you've got a deal ... you get $26K annually PERIOD.

Deal (you lying parasite) ?
More distractions and lies from commenter "TheTruthSquad" ... the epitome of a gravy-train riding parasite.
Time to STOP the Unions, Once and For All !!! Time to do a Claw Back on the Retirees, also. If the Unions don't like it, they should quit and get a job in the Private Sector, that pays for everything !!!
YJ Draiman for Mayor April 20, 2012 at 12:06 PM
Pension reform is a must

Pension reform plan must be devised and put into affect as soon as possible. Every day we wait is an economic drain and an ultimate cause for the failure of government fiscal responsibility and the potential for bankruptcy. It is an economic suicide not to devise and implement a viable Pension reform, with a short term plan and a long term plan.
YJ Draiman





THE GREAT COLORADO PENSION HEIST OF 2010: DIAGNOSIS, “LEGISLATIVE SCHIZOPHRENIA.”

If two contradictory positions peacefully coexist in the mind of an individual that person is schizophrenic, but is it possible for an entire organization to exhibit schizophrenia? Be the judge.

The Colorado General Assembly has recently endorsed the following two public policy positions:

#1 - “Colorado is in a fiscal crisis, Colorado PERA pension contracts must be breached!”
#2 - “Colorado is not in a fiscal crisis, we are free to grant $100 million in property tax relief!”

How is it that this glaring inconsistency is readily apparent to me, but cannot force its way into the minds of our state legislators?

In 2000, Colorado voters amended Article X of the Colorado Constitution to allow the General Assembly, at its discretion, to exempt up to $100,000 of the value of a qualifying senior’s home from property taxation. To qualify for the tax relief, a senior must be 65 years old or older, and must have lived in his/her home for a decade or more. If tax relief is granted by the General Assembly, the state is required to reimburse Colorado local governments for any resulting loss of property tax revenue.

Tax relief under this 2000 constitutional amendment is optional. The General Assembly is not compelled to return state revenues to taxpayers while it is in breach of its contractual pension obligations. Providing property tax relief may be laudable; however, it is a discretionary allocation of state resources. Meeting one’s contractual and moral obligations (for example, honoring pension contracts that were earned over a thirty year period) is not discretionary.

The General Assembly may be schizophrenic, but it is not ignorant of its pension obligations. Every year Colorado PERA pension administrators hire an actuary to determine the amount of money that must be contributed to the PERA pension in order that it remain financially sound. This figure, (the “annual required contribution”) is routinely provided to the Legislature, and has been routinely ignored by the Legislature. The figure has grown to exceed a cumulative $3 billion.

New heights of absurdity are reached when one learns that the Colorado General Assembly provides funding to pensions that ARE NOT its legal obligation, while simultaneously ignoring pension debts that ARE its legal obligation. Over the last two decades the Colorado General Assembly has pumped more than half a billion dollars into pension obligations that are not its responsibility, those of local governments (old local government fire and police pension obligations). Much of this money was sent to the local government pension plans in years during which the General Assembly ignored its own PERA annual required contributions.

In the coming years, judges may legitimately ask “Why should the state of Colorado be permitted to breach its contractual pension obligations in years that it has provided discretionary tax relief, ignored its annual required contributions, or directed state resources to pension obligations that are not its own?”

How can the Colorado Attorney General argue with a straight face that it is “actuarially necessary” for Colorado to breach its pension contracts, when the state is giving back tax revenue, ignoring its annual required contributions, and voluntarily paying pension obligations for other governmental entities?

While states across the nation are enacting prospective, legal, moral pension reforms, the Colorado Legislature has adopted a retroactive pension reform bill (SB 10-001).

While states across the nation are reducing their unfunded pension liabilities (albeit slowly) the Colorado General Assembly is attempting to claw back deferred pension compensation that was earned over the past thirty years.

The Colorado General Assembly distills the political preferences of all Coloradans. Our character is reflected in their actions, by observing the Legislature we know ourselves better.

So, who are we? The verdict is ugly. Collectively, through our elected representatives, it appears that we will commit fraud when it is financially opportune. We will construct elaborate rationalizations for outright theft. We will abandon our contractual obligations when convenient. We will be distinguished by our moral laxity.

Friend Save Pera Cola on Facebook, Visit saveperacola.com, Support the Colorado pension theft lawsuit!
Let's set the matter of pensions straight. They are earned. Both the City and the Employee pay for them. The Citizens of San Jose have had a say in the pensions that employees have earned through there elected officials. The Citizens have granted the benefits and are just as responsible as the Council that granted them.

If the pension system is not doing well then we must look to the Councils for not taking their responsibilities toward the system seriously.

Employees and Retirees are not evil people who are stealing from the City coffers. Decisions were made by the Council that approved the benefit. The Citizens need to know there are other drains on there revenues as well. The Council went through a decade of building new facilities. They were paid through with bonds. These bonds have an effect on the negative on the revenues in the City.

The City has roughly 11.5 billion dollars in assets. Of that 1.8 billion is very liquid. The strength of the City lies in reading the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

Remember employees provide the services. They have an interest in keeping the City solvent and have offered solutions. Much of what is in the initiative the Council could already do without a vote.

Is there a financial crisis in the City? Is it being manufactured? Are you only seeing one side of the story. What are all the factors involved in the development of the figures that we see. Remember you are not seeing the whole picture for San Jose if you talk about just the retirement picture. It is only one piece of the puzzle.

Going to the ballot box is political. Some one or ones are planning to benefit. There are agendas out there and they go far beyond the health of the City.
Mr. Greenhut seems to have made it his personal mission to destroy California's middle class.

Indeed, San Jose is a bellwether... and an example of the right-wing misleading the public to carry out their own political agendas. It has been revealed that public officials in that city exaggerated and lied about pensions' impact on the city budget to coerce unions into accepting concessions and fool voters into supporting so-called pension reform.

Think about this: You are attacking the people who teach your children, risk their own lives to keep your families safe, and perform many of the blue-collar,hard-working tasks that help keep California running. They use their modest pensions (giant pensions and abuse are rare exceptions, not the norm) to pay taxes, help support their local communities and to stay off of public assistance.

Public employees pay into their retirements with every paycheck, and most receive about $26,000 a year - barely enough to cover expenses and live with a tiny bit of dignity.
"Vice President of Journalism"? Mr. Greenhut is a right-wing Tea Party backer, hardly a reporter, and this "article" makes that very clear.

The Little Hoover report quoted here was widely discredited because of flawed data. California's Treasurer said it was bogus, and most independent observers agree.

Pensions aren't the reason cities are in trouble; the economy is. Mr. Greenhut's alternative is 401k plans that are more expensive to administer and yield smaller returns -- and reward the Wall Street greed that has ruined our economy.
How ironic that San Jose taxpayers now pay both for defending the measure and the litigation challenging the measure!

The one and only reason public unions were allowed is because one party - the Democratic Party - had agreed to give unions what they wanted in return for which the unions would provide the Democrats with money, directly or indirectly. It is a corrupt system, with the taxpayers - heck all citizens - as losers, while the Democrats and unions laugh all the way to the bank while they squeeze the citizens dry. The worst of it is that the Democratic media said and says nothing about how corrupt the system is.

And that's really it - the corrupt bargain between the unions and the Democrats - the public unions get what they want - benefits - and the Democrats get what they want - money, essentially taxpayer funding. It's an ingenious way that allows Democrats to get taxpayer funding - who needs campaign finance reform when Democrats get taxpayer funding anyway?

For example, the American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees is the #3 all time campaign donor since 1989, donating $47,000,000+ since 1989, only 1% of which went to Republicans. The American Federation of Teachers, #10 on the list, donated close to $28,000,000 with not a penny to Republicans. These of course, are national organizations - the individual local unions also gave and give tons of money to Democrats. All of this money originates as taxpayer dollars, and it is a primary source of funding for Democrats.

So just why would Democrats agree to change anything? Unless the money spigot is turned off, Democrats have every incentive to continue to give unions all or most of what they ask for - despite dire consequences for taxpayers. Who cares about the taxpayers - they don't donate, certainly not in these numbers! I don't see reform happening anytime soon, make that never, so in a sense the quicker those municipalities go bankrupt the better - there needs to be examples to illustrate the insanity of the system.

But then again, even with bankruptcies the Democratic media will never put the blame where it belongs.

Looking back, couldn't anyone have figured out that allowing public unions to donate all of their campaign money to one political party was a bad idea? This should have been brought up from the outset - where was the press?

But, of course - the overwhelmingly Democratic media was in favor of anything that helps Democrats. Unlike of course, what would have happened if the unions had donated to Republicans - if that had happened we would have seen a massive protest from our equally corrupt (revolving door with the Democratic Party) media.

So, as usual, the citizens lose - because the cost of government is now astronomical. Jeez, do we have to all separate into two countries? One for those who favor the corrupt Democratic system and one for those who do not? It certainly looks that's where all this is heading.

This is off topic, but I keep on thinking of Detroit as the as the ultimate result of years of blind adherence to Democratic policies - crime ridden, poor, with block upon block of abandoned houses - adopt the Democratic system and that's what happens. It's truly what a Democratic paradise really looks like (ad not just Detroit either), that's where Democrats would take the entire nation. You can't help feeling sorry for the people who year after year were fed poison through a media that failed to warn these people of what would happen if they blindly followed Democratic policies. Even today, after decades of nothing but miserable failure, Democrats in Detroit are still re-elected year after year. It's depressing evidence of media power.
In Australia they have changed to a contribution system, employer pays 9% of salary ion a money purchase pension. This will rise to 12% over the next couple fo years, the costs are known to the employer and there are no one costs, simple and fair. In the case of dangerous work like police or fire, there could be a loading for risk say a further 3%, and that is it for the employer. employees can top up if they want to a maximum amount of $25,000 p.a.