City Journal Summer 2014

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Summer 2014
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Steven Greenhut
The Secrecy Lobby « Back to Story

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Lake Worth - I am confused. I thought this article was about the lack of transparency in public sector pensions. Yet, not being the oracle you are, I now discover it is about military excesses. Am I missing something? Or is the notion of transparency in public sector pensions so completely wrong that it is not worth discussion?
Anonymous! Anonymous! Where are you guys?

Or a Manning or a Snowden?

Transparency is the only way to run a democracy. Really, the only way. Otherwise what happens is playing at democracy, not doing it.

This is obvious with the military excesses (attacking the Reuters office in East Baghdad, attacking Al Jazeera, Abu Ghraib, kidnapping the Channel 4 news crew) and with FBI/NSA going off the reservation. But it applies 100% to hidden pension burdens.
To Emanuelle Goldstein, In the Private Sector, the profit motive always pushes for administrative efficiencies.

Unfortunately, in the Public Sector, with in too many cases, personal self-interest replacing the profit motive, the Administration & the workers see little benefit (and often large negatives) associated with greater efficiencies. And of course the Unions hate true efficiencies, because few workers means lower dues collections.

Anyway, they always look to the Taxpayer as the sucker in the equation. But even THAT has limitations, as we are seeing today (Detroit being the first of many to follow).
Emanuelle Goldstein August 23, 2013 at 12:51 PM
Tough Love: I agree about the excessive pensions and other payouts that were given over the years. But, its financial problems are also due to mismanagement over time. Berkeley is just now consolidating it's administrative functions across the campus? UC is just now starting to consolidate those functions across the State? In 2013? That should've happened decades ago.
To Emanuelle Goldstein, The hand that gives can also take away ...

You may be part of the fallout from the excessive pensions promised UC workers. With the cost of those extraordinarily generous pensions reducing funds available for programs and cash salaries there will be more non-tenured employees let go or turned into part-timers.
SeeSaw, Not to belabor the point, but saying .."no responsibility of mine." is not an answer to my questions asked of you ..."Why are Public Sector workers entitle to "MORE" ?" .... as is the situation today.

By supporting the status quo INCLUDING no reductions for the FUTURE service of CURRENT workers (as well as
no reductions or giveback other than from NEW workers), you clearly feel CURRENT as well as Retired Public Sector workers are entitled to "MORE".

I'd love to hear why you feel that's justified?
Emanuelle Goldstein August 23, 2013 at 12:00 PM
SeeSaw: You should be careful jumping to conclusions.

I will be retiring from UC in my 60s, but I will not be retiring from work. Due to reorganizations, there is no where for me to go at UC when my current assignment ends. Retire or be laid off? That's the choice. So, I will retire and find another job in the private sector if I can find someone in youth-centric Cali to hire and old person. The job will more than likely be part-time given the state of the California job market and at a much lower salary.

My husband is unemployed, in poor health, and will probably never work again.

I fully expect to keep working until some one shovels my dead carcass into a grave.
EG, congrats on being able to retire in your 50's. I was 72 when I retired--I had to work long enough to get a pension that would sustain me in my, "Golden years". I now spend half of my take-home pension check on ABC Medical Insurance Premiums, that serve only as secondary to Medicare. So get ready to see your pension erode by the time you are old enough to have Medicare. And, just wait for all those hateful comments that are going to be piled on you by other commenters that can't stand it because you were able to retire at such a young age. Get ready for the word, "Thief", because you are going to be called that often. Or maybe you would prefer, "Pig, slopping at the trough"; or maybe, "Sanctimonious SOB"--that is another good one. You could start your own journal of terms which other people will use to refer to you, as a member of the public sector who had the nerve to do that type of work and get a pension.
TL, I do not set up salary or benefit plans for anyone in any sector, and the answer to your question is no responsibility of mine.
EG, I am aware of the fact that my former CM made a sweetheart deal with the officials of my entity, and he receives six+ times more in pension amount than I. So what am I to do with that information, except be glad for him and the fact that he is able to lend a lot more assistance to the economy than I? I know his name--what could it possibly mean to you? Once the database is published, the pension is already a done-deal. The information needed to vet any particular pension plan is there--the name of any recipient is irrelevant to the facts, unless there is intent to harass the beneficiary. I am saying that anyone who wants my name should make a formal request for it, because I have the same right to know who he/she is. My opinion has been made clear to CalPERS in my own correspondence with them. If the State will not pass a law to redact the names of the pensioners, then just forget the online database. The fiduciary duty of CalPERS is to me and the other members.
Seesaw, Was that response supposed to be your answer to my question ... "Why are Public Sector workers entitle to "MORE" ?"

How come you can't answer directly .... perhaps because you have no reasonable answer ?
Emanuelle Goldstein August 23, 2013 at 8:34 AM
SeeSaw: I'm in my 50s and ready to retire. I, for one, would like to see this retirement info. I know what I will receive. I've heard anecdotally about some sweet retirement packages that the elites and their favorite minions at UC and the State have received. Retirement benefits should provide enough money for the person to survive on... they should not be so high that the retiree gets to maintain a County Club lifestyle.

The rationale for making my salary public is that the taxpayers should be able to see how their tax dollars are spent. As far as I'm concerned this should apply to retirees, consultants, contractors, any one who is making a living off the public's dime.
TL, you and your cohorts evidently make you own livings vetting and criticizing others who had to work for a living. I do like to see a lot of people out in the market place, because that indicates they are getting better, financially. My major concern is about what our leaders are going to do to replace the millions of jobs that were yanked from the workers in this country, when 60,000 factories closed. The public-sector had nothing to do with that. Perhaps I should question why Judge Judy deserved 49 million dollars last year and I only got 49,000--my, my the unfairness of it all!
edf, aka justin case, DuBois HS, etc., I hope there are no innocent children in your house, for it would be awfully scary for them, depending on a blogger who couldn't get a public-sector job, so he turned to harassing those doing honest work in that sector. You aren't very good at it--your pay masters must be concerned whether or not they are getting their moneys-worth.
Seesaw, Talk about not "relating" .... While some Public Sector pensions are not very large in "dollars" terms, without question, ALL are 2-4 times (4-6 times for safety workers) greater in value at retirement than those of comparable Private Sector workers.

You "relate" by saying you feel for all people, (both Public and Private Sector) but push aside and refuse to address the fact that our economy cannot afford to give the 80% of all workers who are NOT Public Sector workers pensions as large as those the Public Sector workers have been granted.

Why are Public Sector workers entitle to "MORE" ?
Yeah; My Union Boss down at the Town Hall emailed me yesterday and Told me that this article was hitting the Papers today, and He told Me to make it Look like I was Working till this Blows Over in a week. I know the routine !!! In a week, I'll be back to my usual activity of Collecting A Paycheck for Doing Nothing !!! Hey, Private Sector Workers; You really gotta Pony Up more Taxes !!! I need at least a 10 % raise !!! My Cabin Cruiser at the Dock behind my Vacation House in Florida needs a New Engine. My wife has been after me for a new car. She wants a BMW X6 G-Power Typhoon S !!! I told her I can't afford that car. So then she says she will accept a Mercedes-Benz CL-Class and Nothing else !!! I also got Private School Tuition of $ 40,000.00 due in September. I got Credit Card Expenses coming out my AXX !!! That new 3000 sq ft extension on my house raised my property taxes $ 15,000. The maid and the housekeeper want raises. The gardener also wants a raise. You see Bunky; It ain't easy in the Public Sector !!! So come on Private Sector Worker; Pony Up and Pay More Taxes so I can afford to live here !!! You See; Life Is Not Fair, and the DemoRats will take care of Everything !!! HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN !!!
We are talking about people who are already retired and elderly. EG, You are probably in your 20's or 30's and not ready to relate.
Emanuelle Goldstein August 22, 2013 at 6:57 PM
I work for the University of California. My name and my salary are available to anyone in a searchable online database. So, why shouldn't retiree pay be public as well?
RPP, the information is already available to any individual or organization that makes a formal request. The retiree has the right to know who is requesting the information. So let's leave everything as is--then everything will remain transparent. Just make your request to CalPERS, pay the fee, and let the record show it.
Reform Public Pensions August 22, 2013 at 6:14 PM
SeeSaw,
Spoken like a loyal public employee.
It's called transparency. It's also called the taxpayers right to know, without having to dig for the information on pensions & benefits THAT THEY PAY. If the pensioners are worried about having their names linked with the amounts they receive, that raises even more questions.
The names of the individual pensioners are not necessary. Nobody, including the RPEA, is trying to shroud the pension details in a cloak of secrecy. If the Legislature is not willing to pass a law redacting the names of the pensioners, CalPERS should just forget the database and go back to square one--the system already in place. Any individual or group wanting certain pension information should file a formal request and pay for it. We don't know why CalPERS proposed publishing this database in the first place? C'mon! The author knows very well that a lot of work is involved in constantly preparing this information for release, to the requesting parties. It simply wanted to lesson its own workload. Understandable--but CalPERS's fiduciary duty to its members should take priority over making things easier for itself.