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Old 11-04-2010, 02:27 AM   #181
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The disparity of wealth is at the highest in our history and is increasing still. The typical CEO makes 300x the salary of the employee. In 1965? 24x. But this is what Americans have chosen for themselves. It is very sad--a race to the bottom.
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Old 11-04-2010, 04:58 AM   #182
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Why don't we just make you the Wage Czar, and let you set everyone's pay? You seem to have very decided ideas about how much all the rest of us should be getting paid.

This argument comes up when we debate minimum wage and union labor issues. It's seems to be more pronounced in areas of the country where there isn't a history/tradition of worker/stakeholder rights and collective bargaining. Some of the characterizations you read and hear about are pretty extreme.

It seems very much like a zero sum game unfortunately.
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Old 11-04-2010, 07:52 AM   #183
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I posted in early this thread and have attempted to follow, but now it is not clear what is being argued. Would anyone care to summarize what the key agreements and debate points are?

Thanks in advance
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Old 11-04-2010, 08:22 AM   #184
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Would anyone care to summarize what the key agreements and debate points are?
I'll be happy to do so:

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Old 11-04-2010, 08:49 AM   #185
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I'll be happy to do so:

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Old 11-04-2010, 08:49 AM   #186
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"Why don't we just make you the Wage Czar, and let you set everyone's pay? You seem to have very decided ideas about how much all the rest of us should be getting paid."

I think kyounge1956 summed up this entire tread very well. Lots of people think they know what's better for others, how much they should be paid, what benefits they should receive, etc. I really understand that some folks are deeply offended that others have better pay and benefits than they do and, when coupled with the fact that they may be civil servants, triggers a sense of moral outrage.

It doesn't matter what I, or anyone else says, in defense of the fact that there are many professional HR folks and compensation boards that set public pay, as long as the results don't agree with their pre-conceived notions, they will continue to be outraged.

There's nothing I can do to change that attitude. It's been pointed out that governments pay more, two to three times as much, to hire contractors to do the same jobs as civil servants. That people become public servants for many reasons, pay and benefits being at the lower end of the list. If the pay and benefits are so wonderful, why is it that less than 30% of graduates of the Kennedy School of Government (Harvard) actually go into public service? The money is far, far better in the private sector.

As long as the pay and/or benefits exceed what someone, for some reason, thinks is right and proper, they will complain. Someone mentioned that I should be more solicitous of such folks as they pay my salary. Why bother? Nothing I say or do will convince them. I am a retired fed - took a buyout at 55 because things had changed significantly in my department and I was tired of initiating a new group of political appointees every few years. So I became a consultant back to the government doing essentially the same thing I did before, except for the fact that being a consultant is never really being responsible for anything - no signature authority, no ability to make actual decisions, etc. I provide advice and they are free to follow it or ignore it. And guess what? The government pays the small company I work for over 3 times what I made as base salary when I was working. And I earn more now than when I was working for the government from salary alone. And it's been over 7 years since I started doing that.

So what monetary benefit does the taxpayer derive from all this? In my opinion, none. It would have been far cheaper to keep me on board, even if it meant paying my salary and my retirement, than what they are paying now. It doesn't matter that they don't directly pay me - the money goes somewhere. And, if you think there is some cronyism or something of that nature, I made certain that I did not go back to the department I came from.

Another person asked how many people in my family work/worked for the government - exactly one. Our kids stay away from it as they saw the hours I put in and the crap from politicals I had to put up with. They know the benefits and one of them would even earn more than he does now. They both have advanced degrees and would do well as feds. But there is no chance of that happening - it's just not worth the trade-off for them to become bureaucrats.

Lest you think that I'm unique, the answer is not at all. Most of the people I knew in government and retired are doing the same thing as I am. A few took the early retiree oath seriously, but I decided to make up for the many years of depressed salaries and oppressive responsibility. I'm sure that someone will suggest that what I am doing should b made illegal, or that retirees should never be hired back, even indirectly. And maybe we shouldn't have all those highly paid contractors at all. Feel free - then the government would have to expand by at least 50%, probably more.

Rather than complain about things that you can't change - just vote for those you believe will make change the way you want it. I hope all of you did on Tuesday. I certainly did.
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Old 11-04-2010, 09:18 AM   #187
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Old 11-04-2010, 09:47 AM   #188
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I posted in early this thread and have attempted to follow, but now it is not clear what is being argued. Would anyone care to summarize what the key agreements and debate points are?

Thanks in advance
Actually, you can go back and read the OP. It is pretty concise and specific to the topic of how early pensions should be available.

And IMO, the specific subject of that OP has not been beat to death, but... it seems as soon as any question rises about pensions/funding, the dead horse arguments, referencing of meaningless statistics and name calling comes out in force.

I gotta run, so I'll keep this short - but the responses from some of those most vocally defending these pensions have had the opposite effect of what they intend. When I see that kind of entrenched thinking, it tells me they are working a little too hard to protect something - that something must be pretty sweet.

Makes me want to work even harder to get to the bottom of this, and increases my skepticism of anything I see.

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Old 11-04-2010, 10:00 AM   #189
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Why don't we just make you the Wage Czar, and let you set everyone's pay? You seem to have very decided ideas about how much all the rest of us should be getting paid.

Hmmm... mean spirited IMO.... and you seem to write more mean spirited posts than anyone on this thread...


READ MY POST before slamming me... I said I do not care what someone is paid IF it is not out of my pocket...

Federal employees are out of my pocket... so are state and locals in my area... but even then I don't really care that much on what they are paid as long as it is in line with market wages... if the market is not rigged... and I could care less about what you make...

All along what I have been objecting to is out of control pensions... you seem to think that they are not out of control.... maybe you think that SS is fully funded and will not change either... great...

Maybe federal pensions are 'OK'.... but IMO there is a basic flaw that all DB plans have.... that there is a promise to pay in the future an unknown liability and if that liability should balloon out of countrol then it is 'WE' the taxpayers that are supposed to come to the aid of these people... I don't want that liability...

You seem to be defending the federal plan tooth and nail... that it is PERFECT the way it is.... because you don't seem to want to change it in the least... in fact, you seem to demonize the people who are suggesting that there is a different way that allows for a pension, but also allows for getting rid of market risks from the taxpayer.... so we know what the cop, file clerk, city manager etc. etc. cost RIGHT NOW... sure, those risks are passed on to the employee, but so what... life is not without risks...
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Old 11-04-2010, 10:04 AM   #190
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There's nothing I can do to change that attitude. It's been pointed out that governments pay more, two to three times as much, to hire contractors to do the same jobs as civil servants.
The private sector does the same thing, because "consultants" are not counted as "headcount", so that is a way to get things done without "hiring" anyone. So, are you saying that govt are wasting EVEN MORE MONEY by hiring consultants? Maybe 2-3X wages is actually cheaper than being on the hook for 30 years for a benefits package? That would make sense.....

Quote:
took a buyout at 55 because things had changed significantly in my department and I was tired of initiating a new group of political appointees every few years. So I became a consultant back to the government doing essentially the same thing I did before, except for the fact that being a consultant is never really being responsible for anything - no signature authority, no ability to make actual decisions, etc. I provide advice and they are free to follow it or ignore it. And guess what?
Most folks in the private sector can't do that, and still have to put up with a lot of BS, albeit different BS. Private sector folks have a hard time negotiating the health insurance thing until age 65..........


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So what monetary benefit does the taxpayer derive from all this? In my opinion, none. It would have been far cheaper to keep me on board, even if it meant paying my salary and my retirement, than what they are paying now.
Actually, I think in the 60's, 70's, and 80's, noone really cared, because the pensions were fully funded and everyone was doing ok. However, only 4 states out of 50 have fully funded pensions, and taxpayers are starting to take a look at where the money is going. Taxpayer ire is at an alltime high, and they want answers. Our local teachers union managed to negotiate base pay increases of 4% a year in a recession, and they wonder why taxpayers are upset about that, when the unemployment rate is 10% or so? I guess what I am trying to say is that govt employees are under more scruting, whether that is just or not is the eternal debate. News stories like the folks in that small town in California that were making over $500,000 a year as police chiefs or whatever do not help the cause, and lead the public to beleive fraud is widespread...........

Lest you think that I'm unique, the answer is not at all. Most of the people I knew in government and retired are doing the same thing as I am. A few took the early retiree oath seriously, but I decided to make up for the many years of depressed salaries and oppressive responsibility. I'm sure that someone will suggest that what I am doing should b made illegal, or that retirees should never be hired back, even indirectly. And maybe we shouldn't have all those highly paid contractors at all. Feel free - then the government would have to expand by at least 50%, probably more.

Rather than complain about things that you can't change - just vote for those you believe will make change the way you want it. I hope all of you did on Tuesday. I certainly did.[/QUOTE]
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Old 11-04-2010, 10:27 AM   #191
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I think kyounge1956 summed up this entire tread very well. Lots of people think they know what's better for others, how much they should be paid, what benefits they should receive, etc. I really understand that some folks are deeply offended that others have better pay and benefits than they do and, when coupled with the fact that they may be civil servants, triggers a sense of moral outrage.
No, I think that he is making a snide remark because he does not like what I said... even though I did not say anything about what someone should make (except for an overpriced doorman).



Quote:
It doesn't matter what I, or anyone else says, in defense of the fact that there are many professional HR folks and compensation boards that set public pay, as long as the results don't agree with their pre-conceived notions, they will continue to be outraged.
No, I have not seen post of people being that outraged on salary... most post have been about the pensions giving to every employee



Quote:
There's nothing I can do to change that attitude. It's been pointed out that governments pay more, two to three times as much, to hire contractors to do the same jobs as civil servants. That people become public servants for many reasons, pay and benefits being at the lower end of the list.
So why are people so vocal on defending the pension plan Nobody that I can remember has said "Lets just not pay any pensions to anybody even if they have earned it".... but from all the posts it seems this is the thinking that is going on


Quote:
If the pay and benefits are so wonderful, why is it that less than 30% of graduates of the Kennedy School of Government (Harvard) actually go into public service? The money is far, far better in the private sector.
I challenge you to find any university that has 30% of their graduates go into public service... even a school of government... I think this is a strawman and does not prove anything


Quote:
As long as the pay and/or benefits exceed what someone, for some reason, thinks is right and proper, they will complain. Someone mentioned that I should be more solicitous of such folks as they pay my salary. Why bother? Nothing I say or do will convince them.
Agree... I don't care if you are more solicitous or not...



Quote:
Another person asked how many people in my family work/worked for the government - exactly one.
So then why are you defending the current system I had four direct family memebers and two close that are or were in public service... my wife is working to get her teachers certificate.... so it affects my family a lot more than yours... and I want it changed... silly me....


Quote:
Rather than complain about things that you can't change - just vote for those you believe will make change the way you want it. I hope all of you did on Tuesday. I certainly did.
Yep.... I voted.... but since the current system if fully entrenched in the minds of most all of the people who get elected, it will not change... especially for state and local gvmts...

From what I read, the federal system does seem to be more balanced and is not outrageous... but it still has a risk that I would like to get rid of... will it make a big difference in the total cost in my lifetime probably not... but the cash balance account takes away all of the games that are played by a decent percent of the people out there... the cash account is what it is... getting a raise at the end of your career to 'reward' you with a higher pension is not available... the games stop..
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Old 11-04-2010, 07:33 PM   #192
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Actually, you can go back and read the OP. It is pretty concise and specific to the topic of how early pensions should be available.

And IMO, the specific subject of that OP has not been beat to death, but... it seems as soon as any question rises about pensions/funding, the dead horse arguments, referencing of meaningless statistics and name calling comes out in force.

I
I agree the OP question is a very good one. Part of what I am attempting to do is educate a financially sophisticated group like this forum as to the severity of the crisis, $27,000 per household I think is the best estimate. No doubt I've repeated myself a lot, so yes the horse meat is pretty tender by now. Still we do have new members, and there are new studies coming out with new information and I make an effort to keep abreast of it.

As forums go this is a very polite one and rational discussion is possible. It helps to be able to post things like a SWR and risk free rate of return, and discuss annuities and know that folks actually have a pretty good grasp of what these thing mean. I'd point out that this is not an academic exercise. We have a large number of forum members who's retirement income is partially or mainly dependent on government pension. Changes to their benefits directly impact their lifestyles. On the flip side those of us without pension are a pretty affluent group with income and/or asset much above the average. The one thing I know with 100% certainty is they aren't going to send a bill for $27,000 to each and every household in the US. Those of us with means to pay more are going to be asked to pay more.

I'd also point out this state and local pension crisis most likely isn't going to be solved by Washington (at least I hope not). People on this forum actually have an important role by getting involved with the pension fund investments and any public hearing on the subject.
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Old 11-04-2010, 07:59 PM   #193
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... the severity of the crisis, $27,000 per household I think is the best estimate. No doubt I've repeated myself a lot,

....

The one thing I know with 100% certainty is they aren't going to send a bill for $27,000 to each and every household in the US. Those of us with means to pay more are going to be asked to pay more.
Well, it bears repeating, IMO. I do recall that $27,000 number now, but it had kinda gotten lost in the muddle. And it is sobering to think about how that is going to be divided up by our tax system.

Hmmm, I'm familiar with the rough breakdowns of Federal Income Tax, where the high AGI filers pay the bulk of what is collected. Not sure how that breaks out at the State level. In IL, we have a flat bracket, but of course there are deductions, so it is still progressive.

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Old 11-04-2010, 08:14 PM   #194
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Part of what I am attempting to do is educate a financially sophisticated group like this forum as to the severity of the crisis, $27,000 per household I think is the best estimate. No doubt I've repeated myself a lot, so yes the horse meat is pretty tender by now.
For the record, the horse emoticon wasn't in reference to the above, it was a comment on...

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...the muddle.
...and the "pension war dispute" this subject inevitably generates.

Carry on.
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Old 11-05-2010, 01:52 AM   #195
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Hmmm... mean spirited IMO.... and you seem to write more mean spirited posts than anyone on this thread...
My goodness! What brought that on?! Admittedly it was a sarcastic comment, but seriously—do you really consider it mean-spirited to say that a person has "very decided ideas" about a particular topic?

Quote:
READ MY POST before slamming me... I said I do not care what someone is paid IF it is not out of my pocket...
I did read it. You said you didn't care how much anyone makes if you aren't the one paying them, and then you turned right around and in your very next comment called the doorman "overpriced". What is that, but an opinion on how much someone else ought to be paid? If you don't care how much NY doormen make, why did you bring it up in the first place?

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(snip) All along what I have been objecting to is out of control pensions... you seem to think that they are not out of control.... maybe you think that SS is fully funded and will not change either... great... Maybe federal pensions are 'OK'.... but IMO there is a basic flaw that all DB plans have.... that there is a promise to pay in the future an unknown liability and if that liability should balloon out of countrol then it is 'WE' the taxpayers that are supposed to come to the aid of these people... I don't want that liability...
Are all pensions "out of control"? That seems to me to be the assumption underlying your suggestions in this and similar threads.

Quote:
You seem to be defending the federal plan tooth and nail... that it is PERFECT the way it is.... because you don't seem to want to change it in the least... in fact, you seem to demonize the people who are suggesting that there is a different way that allows for a pension, but also allows for getting rid of market risks from the taxpayer.... so we know what the cop, file clerk, city manager etc. etc. cost RIGHT NOW... sure, those risks are passed on to the employee, but so what... life is not without risks...
I don't recall having said anything at all about federal pensions. I'm not a Fed, and I don't know the details of that system. But yes, I do defend defined benefit pensions. I think they're a good thing, I don't want mine to be taken away, and I would prefer that City of Seattle employees in the future have the opportunity to earn the same benefits that I've had. I have not "demonized" anyone, although I have vehemently disagreed with the idea of reducing, delaying, or eliminating the pensions of government employees. The employees have kept their side of the bargain, while in some cases at least, the employers have not.

It does seem to me, although possibly I am biased, that some type of decrease in retirement benefits is usually the first option suggested whenever the topic of pension system underfunding comes up. I don't see threads titled "How An Underfunded Pension System Can Recover". IMO, cutting retirement benefits—of current or future employees—should be one of the last things to look at, and then only after the other possibilities have been investigated and determined to be impracticable or inadequate. The first thing to look at on a troubled pension plan, IMO, is the extent and cause of the underfunding. How bad is it? Can the system recover to an adequate funding level if left alone, or is it to the point where it will certainly fail if no changes are made? Why is it underfunded? Were employee and/or employer contribution rates inadequate from the start, have benefits been increased over time without a corresponding change in the contribution rate, have both employer and employee actually put into the plan the money they were supposed to put in, was the underfunding caused by stock market losses, or is it a combination of things? Then look at the available options to remedy the shortfall. Can a change to the contribution rates or the asset allocation of the fund or other internal changes bring the fund back into a financially sound condition? Until these other alternatives have been investigated, I don't think decreased benefits should even be considered.

I will also say again that the alternative form of pension you have suggested in the past, the cash balance plan, does not eliminate market risk for the taxpayer. It is still a defined benefit plan, although of a different type than the more usual age + years of service variety. If, as can be the case with public pension plans, the pension was established by legislation and the employing government is required by law to pay the specified retirement benefits, taxpayers could end up being called on to make up a shortfall between the calculated cash balances and the amount of money actually generated from employee & employer contributions.
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Old 11-05-2010, 09:31 AM   #196
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kyounge1956 brings up some good points that I have thought about, but not put in writing. The original OP asked about early pensions and my response to that is, unless the work is hazardous, extremely physically demanding or has performance that is subject to degradation due to age, then pensions for civil servants (not military) should be available without penalty no earlier than 60 years of age. I think that's a reasonable position at this time and would save pension systems a lot of money. The catch is that DB plans, even partial DB plans base the DB on time worked and some calculation of high salary. So there will be some increased cost which should be more than offset by not having to pay the pension as long.

If early outs for downsizing are offered, they should either be lump sum or heavily penalized the younger the person leaves. These all make sense. Many of the retirement ages were set when people lived at least 5 years less and maybe even 10 than they do now. For thse of us now over 60, life expectancy at birth is at least 10 years longer than when we were born.

I also agree with k1956 that CB plans are not the answer, expose governments to just as much risk as DB plans as the money can and will be used by politicians for other purposes, leaving a paper IOU instead. There is nothing wrong with DB plans that are properly structured and funded.

For those who keep insisting that public pensions take food out of their children's mouths, how is this any less of an issue than fire services you pay for but never have a fire, education if you never have children, welfare or food stamps if you never need them, etc? You can't pick and choose what you would like to pay for. And you can't complain about things that have no direct impact on you. Most of us are residents of and pay taxes in one state. Maybe we own a vacation or retirement home in another state and pay property taxes there. For the most part, our taxes are affected by what happens in a single state. So why are people so concerned with what happens where they don't pay taxes? Goes back to the doorman comment. What do you care what a doorman or garbageman or anyone else makes when you are not paying those salaries? I don't hear any complaints about the CEO of Lockheed Martin being paid $1.8M in 2010 plus stock options upwards of $10M? A very large portion of their business is DoD funded - so you have a direct line from your tax dollars to his pocket. Why does it bother people who live in Vermont what the civil servants in Arizona receive as pay or pensions?

This is where my pension envy comment comes from. Other than an academic interest, why is it so important to you what happens in areas that do not affect your personal taxes? Federal pensions are, at this time, pretty much in line with those paid by extremely large companies. Health care costs for feds are way higher than in most large private companies. Some employees are overpaid and many are underpaid in comparisons with similar jobs with similarly sized companies - that was the study some of you read. Some federal benefits are extremely rare in private companies - COLAs and health insurance in retirement. But does that equate to taking them away because you don't have them and are paying for them through your federal taxes?

I have said this before and it's apparently not sinking in. The current - for the past 24 years - federal retirement system is far less generous than the one prior to that. From the DB portion of the pension to retirement age, the amount that the government pays, and is funded by tax payers is way less than it used to be. The portion of the current federal budget spent on federal pensions is miniscule compared with the well over $1T total. Face it, public serants are an easy target to take out your anger and frustration on. Just remember that unhappy civil servant who is auditing your tax returns - be sure to tell him you think he is ovepaid and that his pension is far too generous .

BTW, not sure I remember where this happened, but did you read about the local fire department that refused to put out a house fire at a house where the owners would not pay their fire tax? Sort of puts it in perspective - you do not get to pay as you go for public services.
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Old 11-05-2010, 09:52 AM   #197
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I don't recall having said anything at all about federal pensions. I'm not a Fed, and I don't know the details of that system.
My bad, got your confused with someone else... sorry...
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Old 11-05-2010, 09:57 AM   #198
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I did read it. You said you didn't care how much anyone makes if you aren't the one paying them, and then you turned right around and in your very next comment called the doorman "overpriced". What is that, but an opinion on how much someone else ought to be paid? If you don't care how much NY doormen make, why did you bring it up in the first place?
Thinking someone is overpriced and caring if they are overpriced are two separate things...

I could care less that they make that amount of money... but I also think it is a high salary for what they do...

I think a number of CEOs (not all, probably not even the majority) make to much money, but again, I really don't care because it is the companies that pay them.....

I think teachers are paid to little, and I actually would not mind paying a bit more taxes for a raise (this means I care about their salary)... but I would also want them to get rid of a lot of the bloat that has grown over time...

Hope I made my point on this.... not sure...
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Old 11-05-2010, 10:03 AM   #199
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My goodness! What brought that on?! Admittedly it was a sarcastic comment, but seriously—do you really consider it mean-spirited to say that a person has "very decided ideas" about a particular topic?
What brought it on was it was a snide remark... I have not said what someone should make... just made a remark about a high salary that I had heard about... then you turn it around to try and make it look like I want to control everybody salary everywhere... I did not attack you personally.... I think your post did... you did not say that you thought differently... that your opinion was they should make this kind of money etc. etc... that is fair game IMO... attack the ideas, not the person...
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Old 11-05-2010, 10:08 AM   #200
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kyounge1956 View Post
It does seem to me, although possibly I am biased, that some type of decrease in retirement benefits is usually the first option suggested whenever the topic of pension system underfunding comes up. I don't see threads titled "How An Underfunded Pension System Can Recover". IMO, cutting retirement benefits—of current or future employees—should be one of the last things to look at, and then only after the other possibilities have been investigated and determined to be impracticable or inadequate. The first thing to look at on a troubled pension plan, IMO, is the extent and cause of the underfunding. How bad is it? Can the system recover to an adequate funding level if left alone, or is it to the point where it will certainly fail if no changes are made? Why is it underfunded? Were employee and/or employer contribution rates inadequate from the start, have benefits been increased over time without a corresponding change in the contribution rate, have both employer and employee actually put into the plan the money they were supposed to put in, was the underfunding caused by stock market losses, or is it a combination of things? Then look at the available options to remedy the shortfall. Can a change to the contribution rates or the asset allocation of the fund or other internal changes bring the fund back into a financially sound condition? Until these other alternatives have been investigated, I don't think decreased benefits should even be considered.

I don't disagree with this statement in general... we should look at other options first... If the states did not fund pensions and now they are underfunded, well they should put in the money that was required... but it still leaves the taxpayer on the hook if the market tanks and it does not recover.. all the risks are on the taxpayer, none on the employee...
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