City Journal Summer 2014

Current Issue:

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

Readers’ Comments

Steven Malanga
The Pension Fund That Ate California « Back to Story

View Comments (127)

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 127 Comment(s) Subscribe by RSS
Calpers will not be fully funded again - if it ever really was.

After all the biased pieces done on this "thing" over the past few years, one has to go to many sources to find out the truth.

The truth is that it is going to be a great day when this monstrosity crumbles to the ground. Because at some point Calpers, constantly in court and constantly asking cities to increase their contributions will be begging for the State to tax everyone to fund the massive, undeserved pensions handed to public sector workers. Because it will be, it is, disgraceful to ask private sector people, who have literally had their retirement funds stolen from them bit by bit have to pay public sector employees retirements that amount to these people making more than they did while working. It's not a matter of jealousy as some public sector employees state. The fact is that the outrageous pensions were promised basically in return for political favors. Now that chickens are not far from coming home to roost, the initial stages of the panic can be soon. Look at all the ballot measures up and down the State that ask for more tax dollars because Calpers is strong-arming cities.

It will be a tragi-comedy in the end with Calpers looking for all of California's taxpayers to foot the bill. Because most of the middle-class will have already run to Texas, Nevada, Idaho and other more sane areas in terms of taxes. Calpers will have its hands reaching out to the illegals and their children, the majority of whom will be on the dole or at low paying, bottom of the rung jobs. There won't be enough businesses to rob. Laugh now, but look at how many people and businesses have left CA in the past 5 years, and look at what has "replaced" them. The joke is on Calpers and the greedy people who went along with the highway robbery. When their pensions get dropped to sane levels or to zip - which can happen despite claims to the contrary - the shoe will be on the other foot. But you naysayers keep making fun. And help Gov. Brown welcome more illegals to CA. That'll take care of all of our problems. Look at how they've enriched the State of California the past 25 years!
And another comment if you think that public pensions are bad you should see what the private military defense contractors are up to. See Huffington post on this issue and the over 20billion we have paid out so far and the shortfall gap fix placed in the 2006 pension reform act at the federal level. NOW THATS a SCAM. How many of those companies were on the fix the debt committee and lobbied to have us pick up the shortfall in their pensions courtesy of uncle sam..Humm.
Note nothing here about the absurd fees and costs of hedge funds impacting CALPERS. Also the losses incurred by workers in defined contribution plans. Some of the largest companies managing those plans have been pushing corporate and government pensions to that model specifically because THEY not the workers make more money. Oh and some of those in academia come directly from those same firms hoping to get more of pension moneys.
Virtually all articles about CalPERS are biased political pieces. While this article has good information, it completely fails to mention that CalPERS was *fully funded* in 2007.

So, the idea that there is some unsolvable problem with CalPERS, or defined benefit pension plans in general, is simply political bias.

CalPERS is subject to market fluctuations just as any 401k plan is. The difference is that CalPERS works like an insurance plan during downturns since they have money to pay out benefits due to a large member base. You are on your own with a 401k style plan. Most people sell everything on a dip and buy on a high. Those people are not going to have a good retirement.

CalPERS will be fully funded again.

That said, CalPERS and other retirement plans should be replaced with a national pension system in addition to Social Security. Everyone deserves a secure and pleasant retirement.

Sticking it to people that actually work for a living is not a solution.
What is going on with our fund? Will there be enough money for us?
Liar.
Steven Malanga is a big fat liar.
Excellent article..However the above activities described in the article have become so common in most government agencies that there is little fear of being prosecuted ,,,,
Thank you, California, for implementing all of the ideas of the left and the unions. Now, everyone can see that the model proposed by the left simply does not work. I will not take for granted my life and existence in a financially solvent "red" state...you know, those states that balance their budgets and live within their means. And I will not take for granted my 401(k), which will provide a six-figure annual private pension for me in the future and can be adjusted by me. Sure, I will not be able to retire at age 55 like the police and fire captains in California. But I am not complaining. The best thing California voters can do is to change the Constitution so that the only people who can run for office for the state legislature are those who have taken (and understand) Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University courses.
As a born and raised EX Californian now living in Idaho with many many other ex Cali's, it's soooo sad to see what has become of such a once great place to live. CALPERS is unsustainable but they will just tax you more, how long before there isn't anyone left to tax to make up the deficit?
in the not too distant future California will have another calpers raise; or election. are you going to sit in back or get in the front seat?
Are You Kidding Me? March 18, 2014 at 8:52 AM
I just wanted to piggyback on Chief 1942's comment.

Chief 1942 is a firefighter with 29 years of service. As a firefighter with that many years of public service, he is/should be receiving a fairly high compensation that is close to his final 1 year compensation.

Early in his rant, he says that he does not want his financial future to be tied to CalPERS, yet he has no problem collecting his pension benefits (relatively high compared to the average state worker) while advocating that his peers would gladly take a low-mid income salary. So I am confused....you do not want to be tied to a public pension system that has provided great benefits to you, in which you have received these benefits for approx 19-20 years (based on you starting service at 1966).

This individual was eligible to retire at 50 years of age.

I believe that public safety employees should receive a good compensation plan, especially considering the lower average lifespan of firefighters.

So my point is, why does an individual feel that he is entitled to complain about a system that has greatly benefited him. Yes there are problems with CalPERS, but the organization is striving to become more transparent in how it handles its business.

Also, as a senior at the Manhattan Institute of Research, Steven Malanga is clearly biased on this issue. The Manhattan Institute of Research would like to abolish all Defined Benefit Plans, so take this article by Steven with a grain of salt and always remember that there is an agenda.
I hardly know where to begin. Not unlike Zain in his comments below, I am one of those who witnessed this whole ugly transformation of CalPers. Became a firefighter in a large SoCal city in 1966. We were not unionized. When the push to be represented by IAFF began, there was much pushback, as many of our members came to the Fire Service with prior union experience and saw a definite conflict between being a Public Servant and the union concept. If you are sworn to serve, how do you with hold your services when someone dials 911? But it is now history that the unions became dominant in the Public Safety sector. Those of us who would have had it otherwise were simply swept up in the political environment. It soon became obvious to anyone who had any type of college level business education, that the effects of a symbiotic relationship between powerful union forces and powerful political entities was a recipe for disaster. That is all so apparent now but it was very difficult to get anyone to listen to the warnings as all this unfolded over my 29 year career. For better or worse, I am tied to CalPers and am my financial well being is tied to their whims. As with the unionization of Public Safety in California, a few dissenting voices get drowned out in the mix. I never went into the Fire Service because of it compensation and benefits. I felt it was a "calling" and I was proud to accept a lower middle class living standard simply for the rewards that came with that job. There are folks out here and some still in the service who feel as I do, a public servant should never live at a standard greater than those which they serve and pay the bills. Until such time as the taxpayers get wise to the power of the union/politician cabal has and takes the necessary steps to right the wrongs, then I fear nothing will change. The citizens have the power to force the necessary changes, but they have to get involved and get California's financial ship back on course.
I worked PART-TIME for the County of Santa Clara for 2.5 years. I left that job several years ago. I just checked, and I now have a CalPERS account with close to 10K that is gaining 6% interest a year... this is not sustainable.
Why is it that CALPERs is allowed the ability to invest in markets with taxpayer/employee contributions, while Social Security isn't doing the same?

Seems a bit hypocritical for liberals to rail against privatizing Social Security because of the obvious dangers of Wall Street, yet seem to have no problems with CALPERs fund managers making those investment decisions for them.

CALPERs should be reformed where public worker employees have their own 401K plans that they and taxpayers contribute into...and THEY make their own investment decisions. Plus, no one says you have to actually invest in markets, as you can simply allocate all your funds into cash.
DELORME: "Are we all incapable of recalling who created the economic crisis for over a decade prior to the 2008 crash in America and around the globe"

Why do you insist on total distraction from the corruption of CALPERS by bringing up the Wall Street crash of 2008? I highly doubt CALPERS was complaining when they were making money on the real estate boom investments...where was their due diligence? Where were the financial experts at CALPERS who were supposed to be looking out for the interests of the public worker's pensions and taxpayer dollars?

What has gone on at CALPERS is nothing short of massive greed and hubris at the expense of the taxpayers. Seems CALPERS has THAT in common with Wall Street.

An excellent article that really painted a chronological history of the CALPERS pension story. I will definitely read again in order to get the facts square in my head for the next debate I have with a partisan union shill.

How can anyone read about these obvious taxpayer abuses and still defend CALPERS? I guess in the end, when this broken pension system crashes down, taxpayers will finally get their just desserts. That's when the current state of misaligned retiree benefits will once again swing back to manageable and fair levels. That will be a day for California (and taxpayers) to celebrate.
I'm inclined to suggest that wide-scale mismanaged social services are a bigger problem to worry about. God bless CALPERS and the 3@50 safety formula with single highest years earnings.
As one in Law Enforcement, and In CalPERS, you may be shocked when I say, great article and thank you. There are many workers in CalPERS who are financially savvy and have been raising these issues for years. Yet, there are many youngsters in my field who are inept when it comes to CalPERS and financial investing. I and other continually state, our job is to serve the public, not rake them over the coals. You article touches on CalPERS lowering employer contributions, as I see it as a "keep low profile" approach when it was rough in '90, but I'll go further. CalPERS claim to do so well that from 1996-2002, many mumicipalities did not have to contribute at all, but workers did. In San Francisco, for the 4 labor groups in CalPERS (about 2,500 - all others in SFFERS system), the savings to the city was $485 million. If you ask the city where the money went instead, they can't tell you: we have quite a bit of political meandering in our county too. San Francisco voters recently voted all new workers to city retirement (SFFERS). Wise move as the fund is pretty much 100% solvent. By doing this, and by having municipal pensions, the benefit is the workers monitor the fund closely as it's a smaller pool. The fund faced a $2 bln shortfall over the long haul. To adress this it went to the ballot, and labor & SF residents soundly agreed to a fix; over so many years workers would contribute more. The same type of ballot occured on projected shortfalls for health costs. I have found when pension plans are smaller, everyone works together better. As for the 2,500 of us in CalPERS (SFworkers, full & part time total 24,000), we recently picked 3% more of the overall CalPERS contributions. I now pay 12% , the city pays 2.5-3%' Many of us older workers say, just pass the balance to us. The truth is, its not much more and it lowers the taxable income at the of the year. The issue IS the union, most notably the SEIU. There's a misvonception that labor equals union. That's not always the case. The SFPD & Sheriff's deputies have NO union. The SFPD booted the SEIU and use there own bargaining team of officers. The Sheriff's Dept employees left the OE3 - Operational Engineers Union, also creating their own bargaining unit. The benfit to the city is these workers bring in lawyers who truly know little of labor negotiations. I have issue paying my pension, health care, etc. I paid all that in my 20 yrs in the private sector in Law and Finance. The only workers who have issues are the younger generations who would read this article and say "huh?" There is a large CalPERS shortfall looming. I belueve it was a Costa Mesa Rep who came up with a viable fix, one many of us supported, but CalPERS claimed was unsound: lower worker annual accrual rate of 2.5% to 1.5% for four years. The shortfall (at $195 bln at the time) would be covered. I'll go further, do his plan and workers contribute an extra 1%. That would cover the shortfall close to a year and add funds. The short of it is, I have told my coworkers for years that if the environment becomes Us and Them (being the public/voters), them will prevail. What's unnerving is many I know feel they are owed these high pensions, yet many dont do.more thsn sit on their butt all day. Only 895 Officers of SFPD's 2,000 workforce are actually on the streets at risk. The Sheriff's Dept does not patrol, 80% work in a jail ies, courts, civil and other internal units, never on the streets. Personally, the voters have a great deal of power and in order to promote and affect change, they need to hit the ballot box. There are some lije me who agree change needs to happen, but we are the minority and do not have the clout to tackle the varied labor groups. I think SF's approach of using the ballot box is an effective way lical municipalties can start to crack the stone. Thanks again for the article
This is why honest, hard working tax payers from the private sector are leaving California. The public employees are literally being paid twice. Of course Calpers is a scam, there is no way to reap the "profits" needed to cover more and more and more pensions that run from the high five to the low six figures. Realistic return on investments doesn't work that way, no matter how well managed. May as well have Bernie Madoff run the show, it would be a bit more honest.

People who have worked in the private sector have had their retirements stolen from them, yet are expected to pay some city clerk, ex-cop, or retired fireman what amounts to their full salary after retirement. Their full salary based on their highest pay the last five years of their careers? That's criminal and ridiculous. Of course it's the crooked lawyers and union officials who are responsible, the civil servants not having enough intelligence to put this scam together.

The only thing that will be sweet will be the crying from all of the civil service retirees when the pensions are cut or possibly eliminated. We'll be able to say "...we told you so." I won't feel sorry for them because deep down they know their pensions are a scam, yet they have fallen into the "I've got mine!" mentality of the perpetual welfare recipient. Some of them are so blind and/or arrogant they feel Calpers is invincible, the money is there, that taxpayers, the people who actually contributed to the economy in the private sector, should be taxed more and more to foot the bill so some pot-bellied retired fireman can fish for Marlin in Mazatlan. Year after year on his six figure retirement. That self centered idiocy and arrogance is why I will have no pity when it all collapses and the greedy clerks, cops and the rest look around and see nothing but third world dreck up and down the state who can't, and won't, toss anymore green their way.
Found this article while looking for information that would define the chicanery behind the massive pensions several of my friends enjoy here in CA.

These men are all retired police officers, in their early 50's. They spent their 30 year careers working for a city right next to Los Angeles. Easy duty, crime levels nowhere near those of LA's. All three of these men enjoy pensions that are ridiculous. One receives just under $100k/yr along with 100% medical. The other two receive just over $100k/yr along with their free 100% medical. And these 'conservative' cops are so self righteous when it comes to defending this type of thievery it's almost comical. Almost. It isn't only police of course who enjoy this type of theft in retirement. But these men via their current situations do help illustrate the rape of taxpayers going on in CA. Why should anyone receive what amounts to their full salary for 10, 20, or 30 years AFTER they've stopped working? Just another reason to leave the state, on top of the 20 million or more bottom feeders from Latin America who are bleeding the state dry via taxpayer funded handouts.

Here you go
Thought this article was interesting reading.
i have been complaining for years about the lack of sustainability of a fund that 1) an employee doesn't contribute to and 2) one that the benefit is guaranteed of a return beyond the actual interest earned from the contributions made (not promised) into the fund.

I also feel that ant public employee that is dismissed from their employment because of fraud , jail time, ethical violations etc. should be stripped of their state pension and have to rely only on social security.

this article supports my contention that Calpers fraudulently promoted an unsustainable pension plan for their personal benefit and prower-the taxpayers should be off the hook for the entire obligation.
Delorne Lenard,

While some of the abuses of the wealthy you enumerate are true, they were anything but aimed at the Public Sector working class ... virtually none of whom lost pensions or in fact ANY "value" in their promised pensions because the Taxpayers (85% of whom are Private Sector workers) are on the hook to make Public Sector pensions "whole", while they have to "suck-it-up" for their retirement losses.

So to be blunt, you're full of it. The Public Sector Unions and workers (and the self-interested Taxpayer-betraying politicians that let it happen) are the financial rapist at the table, and THAT's the group that need addressing ... by reneging on any further funding of their grossly excessive pensions and benefits.
Just heard you speak on the Chris Daniel show. Had to read what you had written. Bravo.
Delorme Lennard May 09, 2013 at 12:02 PM
Are we all incapable of recalling who created the economic crisis for over a decade prior to the 2008 crash in America and around the globe. This crisis was so deep it impacted one of the wealthiest states in American,California? It certainly wasn't working people or their wages. It wasn't working peoples' pension funds. It was greedy banks who thought it was a great idea to gamble to an unpararelled excess with ordinary poeples savings, home equity and pensions. Public worker wages and their pension funds became a convenient distraction and target when banks, the Bush administration and congessional representatives receiving payoffs from banking industry lobyists cared more about excessive, ill gotten profits from unscrupulous investments than the international and national economy, our government by and for the people, or the people who work hard every day, not for luxureis but to sustain themeselves and their families. These greedy immoral people stole the wages of hardworking people, who by in large haven't seen real an increase in wages in decades. They stole the equity in hardworking peoples homes. They stole from the pensions of the same hardworking people planning to retire someday. And then they have the balls to continue steal by blaming hardworking people for receving a living wage, saving to own a home, saving for their retirement. And you have bought their lies everytime you repeat them.

Now working class people have lost their futures and are barely able to sustain themselves from month to month. All of the investments or hardworking people are gone gone but who still has all our money? You know who has it. Ask a middle class person when was the last time they could get a loan from the bank. Ask a small business owner the same question. So stop being shameful cowards and stand by those who were ripped off rather than those who created this economic debacle and are still preying on those of us who no longer have living wages, equity in our homes or a pension we counted on to allow us to retire as we were promised.
Wondering who's to blame: The corrupted pension fund and its puppet government, or the voters who will continue to vote these people into office based solely on party affiliation and catchy one-liners. Not to mention the "education taxes" that incessantly pass every election cycle to feed this beast (while people think the taxes might actually go to improve the quality of public ed). SMH
This couldn't happen without the Union controlled ca legislature. The sad thing is look at who will be reelected.
CalPERS is the legal robbery of California citizens created by thieves! For the sake of financial and economical health of the State, this whole system has to be reworked and its pensions reduced 2-4 times. Stop mugging and start fixing potholes!!!
Our Elected Officials in Sacramento together with the various Council and Supervisors should answer to the Public and explain their Stupidity.

Sutter county Supervisors were advised back in 2004 that their NEGIOTATED Pension program would eventually bring about BANKRUPTCY. THey Scoffed at such a statement. Sutter's pension account with Pers has gone from +$13 million to -$68 Million in 9 years.

We the citizens of Californa got what we deserved. We sat on our Fannies and allowed our Elected Officials to Rape & Plunder and we now blame the Unions.

Union officials brought home the Bacon for their membership while enriching their friends and families at the expense of the Taxpayers.

Perhaps the Masses will arise and tare the system down!
@ Grammy.. How refreshing to hear some critical thinking. Thank you. Most of the CalPERs recipients in my home town are conservatives. These people work hard all their lives, most, and now when powerful people have screwed them over, instead of their fellow citizens standing with the people that save lives, save homes, etc., the public wants blood. Do you folks actually believe everyone in CalPERs is "in on" the deceit?

Malanga's statement that employees receive pensions + SS is misleading as many choose not to split their monies into two retirement plans.

These Union leaders may have made mistakes but why don't you look to the thieves of Wall Street who convinced so very many people around the world of investing in their ponzi schemes? It's so easy to complain and point fingers rather than finding a solution.
If The Democrats Didn’t Give ” Sweetheart Deals ” To Your Public Service Union.
Goon Employees To Get Reelected; You Would Have Plenty Of Money and The.
Taxpayer would have Some Spare Change in His Pockets! Democratic Hustler
Politicians + Corrupt Union Goons = BANKRUPTCY BABY! Time To Bring.
RICO Conspiracy Charges Against The Hustler Corrupt Democrats and the.
Criminal Unions!
It has hit. CalPERs Long Term Care policies are being raised 85% knocking many holders in their late 80's out. They can't afford the premium increases. They lose all they've put in for the past 15 plus years. The increase is more than 85% as they had 5% increases for several years in a row and will have 5% increases 'til 2015 when the 85% kicks in. They point to the costs of LTC, but how was the money invested????
EJ - you point out the rate of return
for 'most' years over the last 10 is well above 10% and accuse the author of cherry picking, yet you conveniently start your time line immediately after 3 years of the following rates of return:

2000 -1.4
2001 -6.2
2002 -9.5

Average return over those 13 years? 5.2%

Couple that with CALPERS own adjustment for '12 of 1% (down from 13.3%) and it's now a heady 4.3% return.
Wolltest du nicht zur juedischen Bank gehen?

Europe imports Islamic invaders to provide workers for their usury in failing socialist public pension schemes because Europeans have become fat, faggøty and lazy.

Until the stupid white people wake up and realize third world filth are outbreeding them and feeding off of their lazy socialist, multicultural political correctness, nothing will change.

Have fun playing "spread the other cheek" for your new Islamic masters.
This and the divisiveness of the tax system in California is why all the CEOs I know are leaving or will never return to California. California needs to file bankruptcy, allow the takers to move out (as they will pay little to no benefits to them) and develop a flat tax for all adult state residents no matter their income. If the electorate lacks skin in the game then the game is exactly that -- a game.
Scott: "The solution to CalPERS chronic cronyism and mismanagement is not to plunk more of its assets into the volatile stock market that provided unpredictable returns and served as a magnet for corruption. It's to invest its assets in the state, thereby providing both jobs and a consistent ROE. The best way to do that is to form a State Bank, modeled on the Bank of North Dakota. "

Please, Scott. Have you ever been to North Dakota? North Dakotans work hard in a frigid, almost Siberian climate, don't put on airs or engage in moronic status seeking and puerile consumption.

What they do is not a result of the institutions that are forced on them, but a result of their personal and cultural character.

If California set up a state bank it would be immediately filled with Armenian grifters, Chinese lotus eaters, Mexican banditos and drunken hillbilly crooners within 20 years. Everyone would be on the take.

Californians suffer from a moral deficit, not a business deficit or an intelligence deficit or an institutional deficit. California is a state filled with fruits and nuts and utopian dreamers and visionaries of every stripe.

Where else but California could "Governor Moonbeam" be reelected after 30 years of dreamy, wasted adulthood and be considered an "elder statesman". Not North Dakota.
"Such dubious practices have piled up a crushing amount of pension debt, which California residents—and their children—will somehow have to repay."

No they won't.

It is impossible to keep alive, even assuming California could compel all the white folks to stick around and work like dogs, which, of course, they won't.

The California pension system is a dead letter. Californians are just waiting for the transplant doc to come and start harvesting organs. The pensions will be radically slashed.

All the liberal white folks who signed on for this nonsense will abandon the state--those who are still young enough to find work elsewhere, that is-- and the state will truly be Californicated.

Selah
See my CALPERS study which shows if they modified the loans in the mortgage backed securities owned by CALPER they would make money not suffer massive losses. Why isn't anyone demanding that. http://paularush.me
Dennis V Sinclair March 06, 2013 at 3:50 PM
Teknologikal, You can ignore the laws of economics, but you cannot avoid the effects of them.
Dennis V Sinclair March 06, 2013 at 3:36 PM
I have friends in California, who, when we meet, claim they are not concerned because "the state owes us and it will pay!" They expect to take their pensions and move to a low income tax state.
4:5. And the devil led him into a high mountain and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.

4:6. And he said to him: To thee will I give all this power and the glory of them. For to me they are delivered: and to whom I will, I give them.

4:7. If thou therefore wilt adore before me, all shall be thine.

4:8. And Jesus answering said to him. It is written: Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

Now we see how the godless liberals have brought down upon us the lies of satan, telling union members they are acting in their interest and keeping the receipts for themselves.

Et satan conduit le bal!
Since 37 Act counties follow the benefit & investment patterns of CalPERS, what do you have to say about those systems???
Although corruption is as old as government, it got its wings in California under Jess Unruh aka Big Daddy. As state treasurer he boasted that California was a pay to play state and regularly shook down those who wanted to do business with the state, including its pension funds.

It was at the height of white collar cocaine love and the beginning of decades of iron fisted Democrat control of the state. The press found nothing worthy of reporting regarding the consequences of pay to play. Jess also coined the phrase that "money was the mother's milk of politics."

CALPERS was converted into a party slush fund and extortionist. Corporations who failed to toe the liberal line would find cALPERS challenging their board, suing and manipulating the market for their stock. The press praised it as responsible investing.

The press shows very little interest in following the approximately $90 million that Villalobos received for his access to Calpers. A reasonable person would assume that much of the money found its way back to those who controlled Calpers or the people who controlled them. The story that Villalobos "lost " the money gambling is simply not believable. However, those involved have a long record of being able to erase the trail.

Among the billions Calpers invested in real estate, they bankrolled a developer named Muerello in Los Angeles. Not surprisingly Muerellos board suddenly included people with very close ties to Sacramento . Perhaps realizing that Muerello was more toxic than even they imagined, they supported the developer while he went public and then disappeared as the company went bankrupt shortly thereafter.




i thought you would like this
My solution is to move out of California. True reform will never happen. I've got two years before my son leaves state for college and I'll be right behind him!
That is scary good! The worst part is that it doesn't seem like there is any hope for the future. These Democratic party honks just keep spending and stealing.
A review of public union benefits compared to private sector benefits on a national level would be staggering in its imbalance.

The fact that they resist defined contribution plans (enacted by responsible private sector companies in the mid eighties) is telling of their motives.
It is very diffcult to believe that utopia can be passed off as reality to protect the interests of the cheats by impinging the cost on the next generation. The fools paradise is no solution but embracing reality is the need of the hour.
Joe: In response to your question, and speaking solely on behalf of myself, I believe your assumption is 100% correct. Notwithstanding the day-to-day cost of just surviving in California, the extravagant home prices, utility prices, gas prices, etc.,etc., newly increased State income taxes can do nothing but force people approaching retirement age, e.g., the “Baby Boomers” to move elsewhere. I know I certainly am.
This is a very well constructed and well-written article. I read a number of the responses and continue to feel that most of the readership simply don't understand the basics of finance, pension management, and politics. I'd enjoy talking about this over a beer sometime with anyone.

The author actually misses one of the most egregious and exploitive unions in the state: the police captains. I guess it's a taboo topic, but they have pensions that cannot be ignored. So readers and author, please indulge me:


1. Anyone who thinks double digit returns for a decade can outpace doubling liabilities is a moron. Pension liabilities are calculated assuming the liability extends into perpetuity -- that's forever knucklehead. You clearly did not live through the 1960-71 period when bonds outperformed stocks -- oops, they just did that between 2000-2010 again. If 60% of your assets were in assets that were worth the same amount when you started, that is hardly a formula to "raise benefits".

2. Greed and corruption at the state level is rampant and continues today. That is not a liberal of conservative position. It's just fact. Presently, the liberals are getting more of the pie than the conservative
forces.

3. Let's say thank you to one reader/commenter that acknowledged the benefit they received as a result of a decades of union negotiation and their concern that liberalism may be dead because of it. That WILL be the outcome. Liberals simply don't know it yet. Haven't you heard of Spain, Greece, Portugal, & Ireland? PIGS is what they are called today.

4. Let's say thanks to the author for doing good research. This article is supported by facts, not innuendo, not speculation, not an opinion, facts.

5. This is about power and money. California is still part of the USA, not the US of California. One reader pointed out that people are leaving the state. It's true. The MONEY is leaving. If Liberals can't see it and have not figured out that they will be hit with higher taxes as a result, they are naive. Lion's will eat their young too!

6. While this is not directly related to CALPERS, the situation in the City of Bell California is representative of how local officials, a la Mr. Valdez, Villalobos, Buenrostro, exploit the situation for their own "personal/individual" gain. if this does not upset every single citizen, left or right, liberal or conservative, the state is lost. These folks are taking your money, you simply don't know it.

7. Finally, why is it that police captains have a pension benefit that allows them to earn a large portion of their pension payment TAX FREE if they retire on disability! I find it appalling that anyone can accept a police captain sitting behind a desk, in front of a television, hob knobbing with politicians, and keeping the ranks in order can raise their salary rise to a low to mid 6 figure level (200,000-300,000) and then retire and receive half or more tax free. I would like to see what the total dollar amount of unfunded liability the taxpayers of California are on the hook for in this instance. I'll go out on a limb and speculate that the amount exceeds $2.0 billion dollars. That does not even account for the lost tax revenue the liberal leadership wants to charge everyone. The last time I checked, this kind of retirement put these "men" well inside "the 1-percent club". No wonder Jerry Brown can't fight this. Recall during the gubernatorial debate between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman on October 2, 2012, Gerry said that he knew he had the support of the police captains because "I have them in my back puh...stutter, uh", Whitman -- "of course Jerry, you have them in your back pocket."

Enjoy, keep writing Mr. Malanga. While I have little faith in the political process in California, and will leave it, the SEIU, UFCW, will kill the state's ability to maintain it's historic level of prosperity. We will only have nice weather and will lose a generation in the meantime. History is full of examples where systematic exploitation ends badly.

There is a future research paper in this topic: The death of wealth and security. Hello Texas, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, and Florida.
Brad P: I grew up back East, and have lived in CA for 30 years. What I've found interesting is that a disproportionate amount of the incremental economic prosperity CA has had over the other states during that time has been created by a relatively small percentage of the working population -- who were drawn here by what has/had been the entrepreneurial environment and free market principles that are quickly eroding. Most of the rest of CA's working population's contribution is comparable to that in other states -- but, due to egos or naivete, it's typically these people who think they are responsible for the lion's share. What will these people do when the former group -- many of whom are baby boomers ready to retire -- move to other states that have more fair-minded tax policies and balanced budgets?
To be 100% correct, the author should probably replace the term "CalPERs" with the "Democratic Party."

What amazes me, quite possibly more than anything I have ever encountered, is the fact that to this very day, there are Californian's, albeit the uneducated one's, that will argue till they are blue in the face, that California has done everything right!
Scott Baker -- why do you think that a California State Bank run by government bureaucrats would be any more successful than a California State Government run by government bureaucrats?

Some (many) people simply don't get it. The best and brightest people work in the private sector -- because that's where they will be rewarded for working harder, smarter, and taking more risks -- and creating more value as a result. You may argue that it's "not right", or "not politically correct" -- but that's the way human nature is! And no amount of government fiddling is going to change that fundamental notion.

It's these successful people who are leaving California in droves, and taking their hard-earned money with them. They don't want it pissed away by government idiots. And this is just the beginning -- what will California do as this trend continues?
The solution to CalPERS chronic cronyism and mismanagement is not to plunk more of its assets into the volatile stock market that provided unpredictable returns and served as a magnet for corruption. It's to invest its assets in the state, thereby providing both jobs and a consistent ROE. The best way to do that is to form a State Bank, modeled on the Bank of North Dakota. A state bank would not have the kinds of socially unconscious investments that Unions have been suspicious of. It WOULD create jobs and competitive home and business loans for its members and small businesses, which California desperately needs if it is to achieve the kinds of revenues that will finally end it near-bankrupt status. Unlike California, which has to borrow at Greece-style rates of 7% or more, the Bank of North Dakota PAYS a dividend - $300 million over 10 years - to the state. Obviously, in California, a state with over 60 times the population, the returns would be much greater.
You don't have to sit back and take CalPERS-induced default any longer. Sign the petition to create a state bank in California: http://www.change.org/petitions/california-dreaming-create-a-state-bank-and-eliminate-the-debt
- Scott Baker, NY Coordinator for the Public Banking Institute
Grammy -- what we want is a free market in teaching, just like in the private sector. If you are a great teacher, you make a great salary. If you are an average teacher, you make an average salary. If you are a mediocre teacher, you get fired -- unless you want to clean the bathrooms at a lower salary. Compete and be rewarded in the marketplace - just like the taxpayers (and private school teachers) who are paying your salaries have to do. Public school teachers and employees are no better than private sector ones. (Actually, I take that back -- I went to Catholic school and the teachers were much better, and far more dedicated to the students. I have no doubt the private school teachers were as well.)
Marten Purdy: You're a great example of what's wrong in California -- someone who couldn't string together a coherent sentence if he tried. Let me guess -- you got your education in the California public school system? You must be buddies with Tony...
Unions are terrible at running businesses, governments, and especially pension funds. They control California, and will ultimately be the big losers.
California is going to be the big "SEE YA" state. As Calpers pension obligations increase to unsustainable levels, California residents and homeowners will say "See Ya" to California and move to more fiscally responsible states which are not so eager to steal their money to pay for these unreasonable Calpers benefits. And steal is what California and other states will do, in order to pay its employees who will be demanding their rich pension benefits. They will steal in the form of increased states sales taxes, income taxes and property taxes. California may have a fiscal meltdown when they are unable to pay their bills, and as residents resist being further raped and pillaged.
Hey Tony, I don't know how old you are, but in my day we'd say, "You talk like you have a paper asshole." It's an old term, circa 1940's. Google it, maybe you'll find some references.

Today it would translate close to, you don't know what you're talking about, but are convinced you do, in so far as you don't know what you don't know, and without someone to show you, you couldn't find your ass with both hands.

Liberalism, Leftism, Public Unions and the Crony-Capitalism that they have spawned since Johnson's Great Society is what has destroyed this country.

Three interesting practical facts:

One, no matter how much the government tweakes Income Taxes, the money coming in to the U.S. Treasury pretty much remains the same, decade over decade, in Real dollars, since this country turned from a manufacturing based economy and into a service, government-employed economy. That's because Al Gore and Rupert Murdoch (or insanely rich hire equally competent accountants and we don't make suff any longer, we just have our hand in the next guys pocket.

Two, you could re-distribute all the wealth in any given State be it California or all of the United States and it would not be that long before, the same people who had the wealth before re-distribution would amass it again. Because, they work hard, denied themselves of things they could not afford.

Three, it's not what you earn, it's what you keep.

In the 1950's and 1960's, an average American couple bringing in $5,000.00 a year (about $40K in 2012 dollars) with the wife as Homemaker could raise three children, put them thru college and live a modest retirement. There Federal Tax rate was 22%, the cost of a Volkswagen was roughly $2,000.

In 1960 Anthony Perkins was paid $40,000 to appear in Psycho. And tax rates were 70% for that kind of income then, not taking in to account of good accountants. $40K, then is like $300K, today.

Back then the movie, manufacturing and other, moguls were insanely rich BUT they also employed an insane number of people manufacturing an insane number of things having an insane multiplayer effect in the money going to the Local, State & Federal governments, financing Defence, Roads, Schools, Bridges and Retirements. All with a good standard of living for a growing middle class AND one breadwinner in the family.

Then comes the surge of the left and liberalism: drugs, abortion, wide open an unchecked immigration and unions running manufacturing out of the country.

Without abortion this country would have a source of tens of millions of entry workers who would do those so called jobs American's don't want to do and who would have moved upward in American society, buying American made products (the best in the world) just like immigrant American's doing those jobs did, before the liberal's changed the immigration laws in 1965 (for votes) and the Mexican invasion began.

We would not have the large expense we now have for an illigal parasitic, illegal imigrant class disinclined to assimilate requiring bi-lingual education, signage and the loss of billions being sent to Mexico, in addition to increased crime related to gangs and the thugs they bring with it.

This isn't to say Latino's or any non European immigrants are undesirable. For the most part, they are people with an incredibly strong sense of family, they are devoutly religious and incredibly hardworking -- but -- those flooding in to our country illegally have disrespected our nation and us as a people, just as they would feel about us had we been sneaking in to Mexico.

This country was made great because of people coming from all over the world looking to assimilate, as an American, and have a better life. They didn't come here for a hand-out, nor was one offered. That's what liberalism offers, dependency, be it the Democrat or the Repblican form of Demicrat-light we have seen over the last 25 years.





So many critical comments about the CalPERS pension system. So many excuses by those reaping the benefits, on the backs of the common California taxpayer. I am so glad The people of California are waking To this unreasonable rip off!
Lies upon lies.
Policies should always be transparent to avoid such scandals!
CalPERS low news:
The raddest fucking private pension programs alive, even radder than Van Wilder; ate rotten meat on Ripley's Believe It or Not; bit into raw chicken on The Doctors; raw foodist of over 30 years based in Southern California; alternative health practitioner, iridolgist, health counselor, author of We Want To Live: The Primal Diet and The Recipe For Living Without Disease; has survived numerous attempts on his life due to the risk his information poses to the pharmaceutical and food industries.
A great example of how unions have learned how to "tax" us, looking out only for their own financial well being, willing to extort us by holding our children hostage and not picking up the garbage etc.
I would like to thank "EJ" for posting some truth here. There is a myth out there that CalPers employees are "liberals" or "democrats" and nothing could be further from the truth. And it is also a fact that Angeledes was one of the most astute investor reps we ever had. The stock market meltdown was certainly no fault of PERS, either.

It is extremely interesting to see that this article puts the beginning of the recession at 2001, not 2008 as a number of Obama critics like to say.

The article never mentions the absolute fact that Pete Wilson, then Gov of California, took TWO BILLION DOLLARS of PERS pension fund, which was mostly in sound investments at that time, and used it to balance his overdrawn budget. I personally signed two petitions to force him to return that money but it never happened. What did happen, as I understand it, is that the Teachers' Fund, STRS, had to take over the PERS fund, which then became CalPERS, but STRS "owns" it. The article never mentions this fact either.

There is a faction in the California legislature that wants to do away with public employees altogether, or at least they want their retirement plan to be "privatized" as proposed by G.W.Bush et al.
I can tell you that will be a cold day when that ever happens. If they don't like the investments PERS has made already, they sure as heck won't like them under Wall Street control either. Or, is he just suggesting that public employees don't deserve a retirement plan?

Another fallacy in this report is basing the PERS retirement on $50,000 income. I doubt very many school district employees earn that much to begin with, and they certainly do not all work for 40 - 50 years. That is a real rarity in school districts at least.

So what do we have left. Does this author think that teachers should be made to clean the bathrooms, rake the leaves, mow the lawns, empty the trash, and clean up the cafeterias? Does he think these jobs should be added to their "adjuct" duties. When will the teachers find time to coach baseball, football, and soccar? When will the teachers find time to help the ASB programs? Does he want to eliminate all the Advanced Placement programs in exchange for these other cleanup duties?

These so called public improvement complainers really should be thinking of both sides of a situation before they begin to rake a system that has worked very well for 100 years, and attempt to set it back into 1900.
If you want to make plans leaving CA, the state gov't will come after you for additional taxes....why?....because it still considers you a CA citizen (up to 18 months after you leave).

PhuLoi67

I am a retired employee of a large California County. I came to work in 1970 right after the 1st Jerry Brown administration (and the legislature) allowed public employees the right to bargain collectively. That was the key element in what you see before you. Over the years, union members were allowed on the retirement boards of all cities and counties and exterted influence to increase benefits and retirement formulas. Union organizations also quickly joined forces to support candidates for the board or council and poured money into electing Democrats at all levels. During my 30 years in the job, California was rich and liberal. The pensions and wages that you see today accumulated steadily under the deadly combination of union pressures and greedy elected officials. We are still liberal, but we sure ain't rich any longer. Public employee unions are the key culprit. (Hipocracy alert: Although my job class was Unrepresented Management, I reaped the benefits of what the unions negotiated and now have a pension which will exceed 6 figures in a few short years) Who knows what the future will bring, but this cannot go on. Maybe liberalism is a death wish.
PhuLoi67

I am a retired employee of a large California County. I came to work in 1970 right after the 1st Jerry Brown administration (and the legislature) allowed public employees the right to bargain collectively. That was the key element in what you see before you. Over the years, union members were allowed on the retirement boards of all cities and counties and exterted influence to increase benefits and retirement formulas. Union organizations also quickly joined forces to support candidates for the board or council and poured money into electing Democrats at all levels. During my 30 years in the job, California was rich and liberal. The pensions and wages that you see today accumulated steadily under the deadly combination of union pressures and greedy elected officials. We are still liberal, but we sure ain't rich any longer. Public employee unions are the key culprit. (Hipocracy alert: Although my job class was Unrepresented Management, I reaped the benefits of what the unions negotiated and now have a pension which will exceed 6 figures in a few short years) Who knows what the future will bring, but this cannot go on. Maybe liberalism is a death wish.
CALIFORNIA VOTERS DECIDED THEY WANTED TO BE PART OF MEXICO AND SUPPORT AS MANY MEXICANS AS THEY CAN. LET THE IDIOTS DO IT. IT'S THEIR MONEY. THEY CAN SEND IT TO MEXICO IF THEY WANT. I MOVED OUT OF CALIFORNIA RIGHT AFTER COLLEGE AND NEVER PAID A CENT TO THE STATE. ;-)
EJ: I was curious about your claim as to returns - where are you getting your figures? I came up with this from 2012:

"With three California cities electing to file for bankruptcy in the past month, in large part due to underfunded pension obligations, the last thing California needs right now is more bad pension news. Which is unfortunate, because the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the nation’s biggest public pension fund, delivered a jolt of bad news this week when it reported a paltry 1% return on its investments in the fiscal year ended June 30.

“The last twelve months were a challenging period for all investors as the ongoing European debt crisis and slowing global economic growth increased market volatility and reduced equity returns,” said Joe Dear, CalPERS chief investment officer, in a statement “It’s a clear reminder that we must remain focused on performance, risk and internal controls in today’s financial environment.”

CalPERS’ 1 percent return is well below the fund’s discount rate of 7.5%, a long-term target that CalPERS lowered recently as it re-evaluated its economic assumptions in the current investing environment. Other pension plans have made similar adjustments recently. The rate is significant in that it determines the amount of money such funds need to invest now in order to meet future pension obligation needs."

What a joke! The continued inability of those on the left to govern or manage anything would be laghable if it didn't cause so much pain. The end game here is the collapse of the system and the bailout from the rest of the nation. Imagine that - a retirement system based on ponzi scheme. California is a joke!
EJ, where did you get your numbers?

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jul/16/business/la-fi-mo-calpers-returns-paltry-20120716
Tom Ontos: The Govt Gravy train riders always have so many excuses and always undercut their pay and bennies and actual production yet the problem only gets worse exponentially. Why because Govt workers are uniformly LIARS and cheats always looking for the easy route at someone else's expense.....

YOU are the the ENEMY of America stinking lazy gravy train riding theives...
Here's the other trap of defined pension plans. When a fund earns above projected rates, one of two bad things happen -- sometimes BOTH things happen:

1. The contributions to the fund are cut back -- especially for our "public servants."

2. RETROACTIVE pension benefit increases are enacted (coupled with rosy scenario projections), resulting in an INSTANT unfunded liability for the pension fund.

It's a win-win for the employees. If the fund earns more than expected over time, they usually get the windfall (that's what happened in CA). If the fund earns less than projected, it's someone else's problem (and THAT's what's happening in CA). The latter is especially so when the CA pensioners depart for lower tax states -- something occurring with increasing frequency.
The ENEMY of America... Plain and simply put... The Crime Syndicate known as the Govt and its apparatchik that created this mess are the ENEMY of Americans...
Here's a math factor to keep in mind:

If a fund drops 50% one year and then goes up 50% the next year, is it earning 0% net -- and back where it started?

Do the math, and you quickly see that to earn 0% cumulative, the 2nd year the fund must go up 100%, not 50%.

I bring this up only because I find too many people struggle with percentages -- especially media folks.

Here's another percentage puzzle: If a fund goes from $1,000 to $10,000, what percent increase is that?

Ahhh - now you are on guard. Can't fool readers of this blog twice.

Most would respond that that's a 1,000% increase, but it's really only a 900% increase.

Just FYI stuff.
"What the board members didn’t mention was that California law protected government pensions, so that taxpayers would be on the hook for any shortfall in pension funding."

If the pigs are so confident about the 7.5% growth rate, then why don't you just let the taxpayers off that shortfall "hook?"

Are you willing?
This article cherry picks the bad news and ignores the good. CalPERS annual returns, last 10 years:

2003 23.30%
2004 13.40%
2005 11.10%
2006 15.70%
2007 10.20%
2008 -27.80%
2009 12.10%
2010 12.60%
2011 1.10%
2012 13.10%

Eight of ten years had returns over 10%. Tell me again why 7.5% is an unrealistic rate of return? Makes me think the anti-pension people push the 4% target because it makes the apparent unfunded liability look bigger than it really is. Anything to scare the voters, eh?
Mr. Malanga's well written article contains the usual references to the taxpayer being the ultimate guarantor of the public employee pensions - examples: "taxpayers would be on the hook for any shortfall in pension funding" and "placing all the future liability on the taxpayer."

As Glenn Reynolds is fond of pointing out - "When something can't go on forever, it won't." To prove the absurdity of expecting future taxpayers to pay for public employee pensions due to it simply being a part of the law created by the Democratic legislators consider another absurdity. Let us say the legislator passes a law requiring a public pension for anyone who works for any government agency for at least 3 years. The pension would be 75% of their average salary over 3 years. They could "retire" after 5 years and begin collecting their pension. And, of course, the payment of this pension is guaranteed by the taxpayer.

Of course it appears absurd due to the length of service being so short. But, does anyone think in this climate such a law couldn't pass? It could be promoted as a plan to give every unemployed worker a chance at becoming a government worker. And, there is that clause stating the taxpayer is on the hook.

Absurd, yes! But only in the details. What we are debating is the length of time of public service, the public employee's contribution, and the amount and length of retirement pay. I say they crossed the absurd line a long time ago and lost the moral and legal right to expect taxpayers to be their guarantors.
Well, technically the pension obligations aren't really 'long-term debt'. They're just promises. Political promises. When the coffers run dry reality will show what those promises are worth. Tying words like 'obligation' or 'entitlement' to this system must be scrapped, and new phrases found. Probably something more inventive and palatable that 'our wish' or 'we hope', but the reality of the future fiscal mess must be conveyed to the people who are either expecting to take (state pensioners) or expected to give (taxpayers generally). What do they call it at Berkeley? Consciousness raising?
I may be just an ignorant tax payer, but aren't all these laws enacted by legislators and office holders illegitimate, or even illegal, if they received money from the people (unions) who benefited from their passage?
California is one of the better runs states - of Mexico. I say make it official. It would help out both Countries. It is the right thing to do "for the children."

It will be quite entertaining to watch the California-greens v. Pemex.
BigT - forget the left versus right politics. Any entity which lives beyond its means should rightfully come in for criticism. Being financially responsible isn't just some quaint "core" Western value. Failing to live within your means, and at the same time permitting corruption and questionable value of services (in this case, government services), leads to situations like Detroit, Stockton, and San Bernadino. The list will grow. No one sensible can argue that these cases of financial mismanagement, no matter what the excuses or causes, is anywhere near a desirable state of affairs. There is of course lots of room for reasonable debate for what constitutes living within your means and being financially responsible, but California's pension problems (and Illinois, and other similarly situated states) have long passed the zone of reasonable debate. It is a numbers and financial issue, and whatever one thinks about Malanga's piece, his fundamental premise is sound - this problem cannot be avoided much longer.
This will not end well for the people of California or the people who depend upon CalPERSs

I thought it was a good article in that it chronologically gave insight to the pension issues in Cali .. it is slanted against unions – while unions deserve some of the blame – the voters of Cali and the Cali legislators all share the blame. The question is – how does it get fixed?

Of course this could be said with many other 401 K’s and other pension funds – the returns are not as good as the fund managers forecasted due to forecasting errors and the devalued dollar and not so good economy - these retirement vehicles are under funded.

The readers comments are most interesting too … a microcosm of today’s society – left and right blaming each other for social and financial issues, name calling and personal attacks … hey .. we all live in the same house – can’t we get along and figure something out.

To be repeated in Washington DC on the federal scale.

Now CALPERS is going to invest $800 million in CA infrastructure. High speed train? Solyndra?

They haven't changed at all.

http://www.calpers.ca.gov/index.jsp?bc=/about/press/pr-archive/pr-2011/sept/ca-infrastructure.xml
for class
Meaker - you can't possibly be obtuse. My guess is that you have come up with these elliptical points rather than address the very real problems CALPERS faces, made all the worse by its politicization.

When the market was doing well, all the savings went to the government entities? Really? Shocking. That is exactly what should have happened, because anyone with a lick of common sense knows that the stock market and the economy is invariably cyclical and of course it makes sense to reserve when financial times are "good". Well run municipalities know this, and of course reserve when times are lean. Notions of "fairness" actually should have compelled the government entities to engage in the most conservative treatment realistically possible. You cannot defend the status quo, can you? Once the accounting rules which apply to the private sector are visited upon these public sector pension operations, it will be clear to California state and local entities that entire property tax budgets will be going to pay for retiree pensions. "Fairness" requires that our younger people and the next generation do not get dumped on, which of course, they will. Don't you have anything to say about how to fix the current situation? Do you really think that investment projections a 7.5% are sensible in any way? How long does this con game continue?

It is nice to hear that Utah took some strides towards sanity, and your clarifications are helpful. What would it take for CALPERS to do the same? If Utah's actions helped get costs under control, isn't it a easy lay-up for CALPERS to consider the same? Of it just easier for you to find elliptical points to hang on Malanga?
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE STUPIDITY OF THE CALIFORNIA VOTER. I MOVED OUT IN 1992!!!! :-)
A couple of corrections: First, Utah did NOT convert to a completely defined contribution system; they adopted a "hybrid" plan that combines a defined-benefit plan and a defined contribution plan. It did reduce the tax payer exposure and helped to spread the future risks to the employees, but not entirely.

Second, the author also neglected to point out that when the market was doing well, the rate employees paid remained the same, and ALL of the savings went to the governmental entities. Thus, in fairness, when the market under-performed the increased costs were born entirely by the government because the employees had not shared in the bonus during the "good times."

The author either neglected to give the reader the entire information or was not sufficiently informed, which then begs the question as to whether or not the author has sufficient expertise to be offering a credible opinion.
The final solution that no politician will ever have the balls to endorse is getting government out of the pension business, at every level.

Retirement accounts and health insurance are merely personal financial planning tools. They should be controlled by individuals and purchased in the free market according to their individual needs and goals. This removes the moral hazard of government bureaucrats spending other people's money on other people, the least efficient means of managing capital there is.

The risk would be borne by the people who would be benefiting from the account. There would be a few who might screw up managing their retirement benefits but the damage would be contained to that few. The flipside of that is what we have now, which is EVERYBODY is going to be screwed, including the taxpayer and the pensioners.


let california rot and earn its way out..no bailout for you.
An eruption of corruption!
Let's unite to fight it.
Long past time to get out of California. Leave all this debt and union booty to the folks who voted a Democrat super majority in the Assembly, and to raise the top tax rate to 13 percent. Very stupid people to did that. And then, there's our Democrat U.S. Senators who represented the White House, not the people on Obamacare, which will hit people far harder than they ever imagined. Low life politicians!
I have an idea I think could work:
1. Require all state and local pension plans to comply with private sector ERISA funding rules.
2. Since they do not have the funds, fund the difference with loans from the federal government.
3. Create an excise tax on all benefits received from pension funds to repay the loans.
4. This way, the politicos and unions can promise all they want but will pay for it themselves.
Three points . 1. Cali has the financial resources to pay for these excesses if the State/people allow the drilling of its massive energy resources , offshore and onshore . 2 . The Congress must oppose any federalising of these excesses : no guarantees , explicit , implicit or contingent. None . 3. Cali is reallly two seperate societies , as VDH has amply and repeatedly demonstrated , the very very wealthy on the coast and the very , very impoverished inland . One needs to cut loose the other , either way will work .
An excellent article that is very well written. I hope to see this type of thorough writing in the future when a subject demands thoroughness.
You Righties are 100% delusional and its really disturbing.... Its almost scary and it makes my stomach sick that such filth walks besides me. I love Cali and we will prevail with or without your greedy single-minded one sided BS
I must take exception to he use of the term 'union thugs.' That implies, or does it say it out right, that union leaders are running around the State and country killin and maiming people to get their way. That can't be further fromthe truth. Truth be known, 'union thug' is a chocie of words from the right to inflame the people into thinkng something that is not true. My buddy worked for he State for nearly 29 years and gets a pension of about $1,400 permonth. I taught for about 13 years and get less than that.
Normal people thinks no one would be diabolic and sick enough to purposely use policies to reduce the Nation and its population to a state of Poverty, Crime, Misery and Corruption, but you would be wrong!

If reducing Calif. and this Nation to a suburb of Mexico and this Nation to a bankrupt Third World Slum is necessary to accomplish their goal that is a price Obama & the Democrats are more than willing to pay.

The more Democrats can decrease Education achievement, Reasoning ability, Punish success, Reward failure and increase, Poverty, Welfare and the Entitlement mentality the more Democrat voters they make.

The last piece to achieving their goals of controlling this Nation is nearly in place.

Amnesty for the 12 to 30 million criminals and uneducated invading Illegal Aliens. That with chain Immigration for the ones still left in Mexico and Latin American and with a Prolific breeding rate will assure Red States are turned blue and a Democrat majority forever with a Third World Slum here of Crime, Corruption, Poverty and Misery modeled on Mexico and controlled by the Socialist/Democrat party of Northern Mexico!

It is all about Power, Control and the Democrat party and how to use lies, false compassion, poverty and dependency to enslave a free people and a great Nation!
California the Golden state, Obama and the Democrats model for American future, is fast becoming the poster child for an bankrupt third world State!

An unholy alliance of Socialist Democrat politicians, Unions, Left wing loony,s and Illegal Aliens supporters are feasting like hogs at the trough of tax payers paid benefits while taxing & regulating business and the tax paying public into poverty.

The corruption and pandering of Left Wing Democrat Politicians to their constituency of Unions, Illegal Aliens and open border supporters, are driving business and citizens to other states & countries, while leaving the parasites, welfare leeches and Hollywood perverts in an increasing bankrupt, crime ridden, dysfunctional state!

For years California has ignored economics 101 and imported Criminals, Uneducated fast breeding Parasites, and poverty from Mexico, which increased Medical, Welfare, Crime, Prison, etc. & adding a estimated 22 billion per year to Calif. State expense to support the invading horde of Illegal Aliens while exporting business and educated tax payers.

Like all Socialist countries the results have been a astronomical increase in social welfare, schooling, prison cost etc. and a lowing of Living standards, Heath care, Education standards, Tax receipts & finally Bankruptcy.

The policies of Comrade Obama and Wash. DC Democrats are intent on following Calif. policies and Pro-Illegal Aliens, Pro-Unions and Anti-tax paying citizens and are endorsing the same socialist process of rewarding the Corrupt, Stupid, Foolish, Lazy, Greedy & Criminal while punishing the responsible, honest, law abiding citizens of American.

Failure to abide by our Constitution against invasion & enforce our Immigration laws and constraints on wages and benefits for public employees will result in turning the Golden State into MexiCalif and the end of the Calif. Dream and the beginning of the MexiCalif. Nightmare!

Amnesty & Citizenship as a reward for their invasion of the USA, with chain immigration will result in the rest of the USA turned into a Spanish speaking third world cesspool and follow California into a polluted, over populated, Spanish speaking, third world Slum of Crime, Corruption, Poverty, Cruelly & Misery modeled on Mexico!

This will result in a population depending on Welfare and the Democrat party, thus assuring the lock on power for the Socialist Democrat party of the United States of Mexico!
Put a bunch of "Progressives" in charge of anything and you'll get broke quick. A bunch of union thugs that have never done anything of value in their lives except hustling a living from their members are running a giant deficit that taxpayers are going to have to pick up- what's that remind you of?
Definitely major issues with CalPERS and other unions for state and public employees. Have lived in CA most of my life; have watched it being destroyed the last decade at a pace that is jaw dropping. I wonder with all this blame being tossed about why doesn't anyone ever say anything about the $20+ billion a year the state pays out to illegal immigrants that live off the public trough in CA? All I ever hear about in the media is how the unions are to blame for the financial disaster that is now CA. Why isn't this other issue ever addressed?
I nearly fell out of my chair when I read "the union-friendly state assembly... argued that any changes to the board’s composition should be negotiated between government unions and the state."

How can any sentient person argue that employee unions should be able to elect board members, who are free to pursue a political agenda in their investment decisions, while all losses coming from bad investments must be made up by taxpayers?
Whomever Tony is, please put a net and chain on him and make him stay in CA to enjoy the fruits of his vision. I see a lot of CA plates here in TX, there has got to be a reason. I just pray they assimilate to Texican points of view and never forget why they left the broke "Golden State". I left CA after my tour of duty in 1995. When I first saw CA in 1971 I thought I would never leave, but I saw the worm turn in the early 1980s and I could not wait to get "home".
I'm sure Obama will try to bail them out.
If this were a fiduciary of an estate, you'd fire them and sue them. Also the state legislature should be sued personally.
"Well, the tax holiday for billionaires is over."

Hysterical. Thnaks for the laugh.
The answer to making the CalPERS obligations sustainable is to reduce the future increases in legacy obligations. The reform that went into effect January 1, 2013 is probably part of the answer. Part of the rest of the answer is for all California CalPERS contractees (state and local governments) to shift most of their work to private contracts while reducing the government workforce. Although many conservative, and now liberal pundits, say exempt public safety employees, that is not viable. The straw that broke the camel's back was the general institution of the 3% at 50 contract for public safety employees. That increased many local government agency's cost by 18-20% overnight a couple of years ago. In large measure, that is what precipitated the local government bankruptcies over the last few years.
Ever since Prop 30 was proposed and now that is has passed not one word from the very loyal Rob "meathead" reiner
Now that a tax actually affects him, now he knows how it feels and for someone who cares about the poor, I wonder what his thoughts on cutting the welfare budget and building a train to no where, I wonder where are the good hollywood democrats are?? Why does Samuel L Jackson film in Canada?? my guess is to avoid Ca taxes and paying the labor unions
Phil, Thank you for your honesty.... I have seen the same think with relatives.

By the way $19K wasn't chump change in 1977, and assuming that with only 20 years of service, his starting pension was $10K at most. HERE's the enormously unfair situation...

While HIS pension grew with COLAs from $10K to $35K a comparable Private Sector worker's pension would NOT have received ANY COLAs as Private Sector Plans almose NEVER include them.

SoWHY should Taxpayers pay for COLAs (on TOP of the already TOO RICH formulas and TOO YOUNG full retirement ages) when THEY do not get them?

This is absurd .... a financial rape of the Taxpayers.
My father was a school teacher for the Anaheim Union School District. He retired at the age of 60 in 1977. He worked for the school district for 20 years. He never earned more than $19,000/yr when employed. As a retiree he was receiving $30,000/yr when he died this past year--after 35 years of retirement.

My Dad was a died-in-the-wool Democrat who was a personal friend of Jesse Unruh. As a child, I knew Mr Unrah well and I can assure you that this milking of the system was planned.

My Dad also had the best medical insurance I have ever seen; 100% coverage with no co-pay for medical and dental.

I love my Dad dearly but this is a classic example of one generation stealing from another.
Concerned Californian February 07, 2013 at 9:18 AM
I notice that Tony is conspicuously silent...
Wow, a refreshing and startling in depth piece of investigative journalism. This is required reading and a perfect example of absolute power corrupting absolutely.
Won't even bother with Tony. I was encouraged by Brown's apparent concern, but I feel his Concern is not for "All the Citizens of California." He wants to right the ship in the direction of continued Union power and dominance of the state. Feinstein, Boxer, and other Democratic "Leaders" in this State, are both extremely rich, and have furthered their fortunes on the naivety of the Democratic Working Joe, who often votes only his pocket book, as that is all he is left with. No Union, No job.
Just saw that Brown now wants to spend another $16 Billion on a water project, even after no land has been purchased or progress h made with the $550 million allotted for the "Train to Nowhere". Hey Governor--Make an Executive decision--Water or trains!! At least water will grow something. Trains?? Look at Amtrak.
The "Rewards" of a one party State, with no checks and balances are upon us.. Cuba?
Nice history lesson.

The solution, and a well deserved response to the insatiable greed of the Public Sector Unions is for Taxpayers to renege on any further TAXPAYER funding of these GROSSLY excessive pension (AND healthcare) promises.

If you want these HUGE pensions ... FAR FAR and away greater than what taxpayer ever get ..... PAY FOR IT YOURSELF !
Tony do I have this right you blame Mitt Romney for California's budget deficit?
Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett are all democrats (Jobs was) and all have outsourced their companies to foreign markets, (Buffett invests companies that outsource) all paid themselves maybe 200,000 a year and have billions in off shore accounts, do you think these 3 individuals care about the poor in the United States. All those california tech companies avoid paying taxes and all are good democrats
Jerry brown and the democrats are hypocrites they raised taxes on t he professional class and instead of pension reform cut billions from welfare and it is not like I care about welfare crowd but the democrats always talk about how much they care about the poor
I would like to say thank you to Mr Malanga, and to others who in Ca help us fight the fight-Greenhut, Richard Rider, and Yes you Soquel Creek I read your responses in WSJ and lA Times keep up the good work
Tony, what you vaguely propose was already proposed more specifically in California and elsewhere eighty years ago. Upton Sinclair called his program "End Poverty in California" under the slogan "production for use and not for profit." A California Authority for Production would put the unemployed to work in idle factories and pay them in state scrip which they could spend at publically owned chain stores. A California Authority for Money would issue bonds to back the scrip, assisted by confiscatory taxes on private enterprises. According to Sinclair, the old economy would be crushed "like a rotten log". Production for Use and Not for Profit would usher in Prosperity for All. If you and all those "hardworking real Americans" want to "rise up and create a new society" after you've driven out the "entitled parasite class", use your search engine to find a copy of Sinclair's "I, Governor of California and How I Ended Poverty". It's only sixty pages long and likely in the public domain. If you would like to distribute copies of it widely in your state, there is a wealthy Texan who might bankroll it for you, Governor Rick Perry. He, too, would like all the billionaires to abandon California.
Tony - the entitled parasite class is comprised of public unions, illegal immigrants, and welfare dependent minorities. Idiots like you are responsible for starting to bring down the US to 3rd world status. People aren't starving, low income families get federal transfer payments up to $33k. Which is unfortunate because it's not the intelligent who are producing children but those of low IQ. It's no mystery that the states in the biggest financial troubles are blue ones - CA, IL, NY. The producers are "Going Galt" and fleeing these states because they don't want to be fleeced anymore. CA is going to be just like South America where there will be the superrich with bodyguards and the criminal underclass. Welcome to a nightmare of your own making.
This was an excellent, well researched article. Thank you.

Unfortunately the battle has been lost in California. The last election demonstrated that with the passage of Prop. 30.

Now, it is just a matter of time for the whole thing to implode.
Longdrycreek Ranch - Texas February 07, 2013 at 4:18 AM
Investigative journalism typically uncovers the corruption in government. This article does its work well.
I read with interest a comment about creating a new society. This is been attempted time and time again with dismal results. The new society never works.
Read Nordhoff's "Communist Societies of North America" [1875] and learn how each new society flourished and then quickly failed or became a society of work and new vision. The new society bit was tossed out because it does not work.
Calpers promised the pot of gold and someone got the gold, not the pensioneers. Calpers leadership really sold snake oil.
OK this article tells us who to blame for the CalPers mess.

When do we find out what is to be done to correct it??
That is the most complete description of the history and problems with Cal-PERS I've seen. It truly is scary. Perhaps a Hollywood director could turn this into a horror movie!
This is an excellent article. One point that I might add as someone who worked inside California government for 30 years. One of the hidden reasons that Cal-PERS is so underfunded is the uncountable number of make shift job programs in just about every level of state and local government. All those employees demand pensions and lifetime medical care benefits.

The California Legislative Analyst for example stated in 2009 that a large number of "categorical" public school jobs should be eliminated to bring the state education fund into balance. The legislature was compelled to cut some ancillary public school staff jobs from 2009 to 2013 that laid off no core teachers, did not hurt poor students, and saved many school districts from insolvency. Now that Gov. Brown has passed a new income tax, he is replenishing these make work jobs that are mainly funded to buy votes. But this also adds burden to Cal-PERS.
Concerned Californian February 06, 2013 at 7:19 PM
Tony:

Now that you are finished with your rant, perhaps you can put forth a rational, fact-based solution to CA's fundamental problem -- that it is bankrupt? And while you're at it, can you explain why people have been leaving CA in droves -- and taking their money with them? (P.S. These are the "people who build, create, and run this state" -- those who take risks, invest their own money, work untold hours, and make smart decisions that create jobs and pay the overwhelming majority of taxes.) Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it...
Minority Bolshevism February 06, 2013 at 7:02 PM
Tony wants to "rise up to create a new society."
Where have I heard that?
Demagoguery 101, Marxism-Leninism.
Here's a fun historical item. It's the CalPERS brochure used to sell SB400, which granted RETROACTIVE, UNFUNDED pension benefits to many public employees.
http://soquelbythecreek.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-calpers-brochure-selling-california.html

Too bad the CalPERS brochure wasn't considered the work of fiction that it is today.

See also ...

SB400 pension boost: uncanny forecast unheeded
http://calpensions.com/2010/07/27/sb400-pension-boost-uncanny-forecast-unheeded/
Shocking. A radical rightwing nutjob, senior fellow at the Manhattan Center for enriching the already insanely wealthy, thinks that school teachers are the problem. Well guess what, buddy. The Mitt Romney/ Cayman Islands/ parasite class enjoyed thirty years of historically low taxes while everyone else starved and our infrastructure crumbled. We paid to train your workers, pave your roads, hire police to protect your investments. Well, the tax holiday for billionaires is over. Don;t like it? Get out of our state. There are plenty of hard-working real Americans right here who, in the absence of an entitled parasite class, will rise up to create a new society. One where the bankers/takers pay their share, and one where the people who build, create, and run this state share in the vast, insane wealth we create. So go back to the Faux News bubble you and your right-wing buddies have created to get ignorant racists to vote against their own economic self-interest. I'm sure you will hear your own fallacies echoed back to you as your audience dies and dwindles.