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Old 11-14-2010, 12:53 PM   #281
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But you have to calculate, otherwise you really don't know whether your conclusion is true or not. Until I did the math, I mistakenly thought early retirement would cost the pension fund less overall than delayed retirement. You have to do the math to know the cost of employees to the general fund over time. I don't have the data to do that second calculation. But without knowing both of those costs, and maybe others too, there is no way to know what combination of pay, pension, employee turnover etc actually results in the lowest total cost over time, for services provided by government.

Actually I think it is quite easy to figure out that if I paid a pension to someone AND paid a salary to someone... and that one getting a salary is also accruing a pension that it would be more than just paying a salary to one person accruing a pension....

Now, you might come back and say 'my pay is a lot higher than someone who is just starting out'... which I will reply... WHY The salary should be based on the job you are doing, not how long you have been doing it... IOW, a starting teacher and a 20 year teacher both are teaching a class of our youth... why should their salary be so different Just because someone has 20 years experience does not make them a better teacher.... but we do pay them a lot more than a new one.. stupid IMO... but that is a WHOLE new discussion that I do not think should be in this thread... so I will leave it at that...

However, even if you salary is higher... at some time the new person will become higher with a pension at 52 etc. etc... over and over... higher costs... Now, if you think otherwise, why not do a few calculations...

Or, give me some real world info.... how much does a new person (that is qualified) make to do a similar job you do... how much do you make... what would the pension be for you at 52 etc. etc.... I can easily do the math.... I just don't have numbers... (I can make some up if you want)....
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Old 11-14-2010, 01:00 PM   #282
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I think the article approaches the pension deficits by focusing on some practices and intentionally creates the impression of systematic abuse by employees and unions. It furthermore implies that this abuse widespread. This is done using anecdotes instead of analyzing data.

It also uses provocative and inflammatory language that points to the possibility there may be ideological or partisan taint. Two examples

Quote:
In truth, pension systems rely on what might be considered an accounting trick, not unlike the trick which keeps the Social Security system afloat for now.

Just as pensions are a bit of an accounting trick (or a Ponzi scheme, some might argue),
Finally, the “pension problem” is not excessive benefits but inadequate funding. This is the responsibility of the elected public leadership. That is, Mayors, Governors, City Councils and their Finance professionals. To blame employees and unions for pension shortfalls is akin to blame homebuyers for the housing bubble. They were participants and looked for their own benefit, but the causes are to be found in bad leadership and poor conceived and executed policy.
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Old 11-14-2010, 01:03 PM   #283
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I recognize that you are not suggesting pension benefits be taken from people already retired, and I don't think the author of the article did either. IIRC you've also said you favor phasing in any changes so they have less effect on people close to retirement, but I'm not at all sure the author would agree. I get the impression he'd quite happily pull the pension rug out from under government employees only a few years from retirement.

When I wrote that the article advocates taking everyone's pension away, I was referring to current employees. I think it is accurate to say that the author of the article supports conversion of all public defined benefit pension systems to defined contribution, whether the system is fully funded or underfunded, whether it is basically sound or inherently unsustainable, whether it allows abuses or not. Probably there are some pension funds that are in such bad shape there is no real alternative but to shut them down, but there are others where it is at least possible that they can be put back in the black by internal remedies like contribution increases, changes to fund investment policies or the like. For those systems where recovery is possible, IMO that should be the goal. Don't shut down all DB systems because some of them were too far gone to be saved.

I am flexible on my views of how to fix the systems... even the ones that are not broke right now... I think that a DB has to many potential flaws in them that they should be eliminated in principal..... one of the problems I have from people who do not want change is that you automatically assume that the contribution plan is worse than the DB plan.... it does not have to be...

Do me a favor and calculate how much your 'cash account' would have in it if all your contributions and all the gvmt contributions were put in and it earned a return of a 50/50 mix of stock and bonds.... (or 70/30).... then calculate how big a pension you can buy with that amount of money...

Now, if you can not buy the pension that is promised... then someone else is paying for your benefits.... that is the taxpayers or your fellow pensioniers in some way.... if you could buy a bigger pension.... then you are helping out the people who spike etc. etc....

The change to the cash account is that YOU know how much money YOU have at all times.... and we can have it that you can retire at any time you wish.... we just buy an annuity with the cash balance... the sticky part is what are the contribution amounts from the employee and the gvmt....
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Old 11-14-2010, 01:07 PM   #284
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It implies that the true situation is even worse than the examples given suggest.
OK, but it doesn't follow that the total situation is solely due to those examples.

Analogy: I could open a news article with - "There are some potholes left from a recent utility installation in that road that are really bad, drivers have complained about damage to their cars. But the real situation with that road is far more serious."

Then I could go on to say that the underlying foundation and soil conditions just won't support the traffic. It's going to completely crumble in a few years. Those problems are separate from the potholes, it doesn't diminish those problems, and I'm not "blaming" the potholes for the total situation.

Likewise, I don't think one can jump to the conclusion that anyone is "blaming" spiking and other abuses for the total depth of the pension funding problem. But it is still a problem worth noting.

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Old 11-14-2010, 01:13 PM   #285
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A Modest Proposal

Any child who is born to a woman who is a government worker will be automatically enrolled in a government retirement plan at birth. How else can we possibly guarantee an adequate supply of qualified workers for these extremely demanding and low paid jobs?

Ha
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Old 11-14-2010, 01:16 PM   #286
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OK, but it doesn't follow that the total situation is solely due to those examples.

Analogy: I could open a news article with - "There are some potholes left from a recent utility installation in that road that are really bad, drivers have complained about damage to their cars. But the real situation with that road is far more serious."

Then I could go on to say that the underlying foundation and soil conditions just won't support the traffic.
Your analogy is defective, because in the analogy, the potholes are not examples of the real situation of the road.
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Old 11-14-2010, 01:18 PM   #287
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I think the article approaches the pension deficits by focusing on some practices and intentionally creates the impression of systematic abuse by employees and unions. It furthermore implies that this abuse widespread. This is done using anecdotes instead of analyzing data.
I'll agree that it would have been a much better article if it put issues like spiking and abuses in perspective with data to back it up. Unfortunately, I rarely find that level of journalism anywhere (I might start a new thread on that subject, using non-controversial examples).

I still say that to the extent that abuses are a problem they should be fixed. I don't care if it is 0.0004% - it ain't right. It shouldn't take the focus away from the bigger problem, nor should it be ignored.

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Old 11-14-2010, 06:40 PM   #288
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I'll agree that it would have been a much better article if it put issues like spiking and abuses in perspective with data to back it up. Unfortunately, I rarely find that level of journalism anywhere (I might start a new thread on that subject, using non-controversial examples).

I still say that to the extent that abuses are a problem they should be fixed. I don't care if it is 0.0004% - it ain't right. It shouldn't take the focus away from the bigger problem, nor should it be ignored.

-ERD50
"If it bleeds it leads" is journalism 101. 100K+ pension is the financial journalist equivalent of the driver with two DUIs killing the high school cheerleader, it has terrific emotional appeal and great visuals. Now days with drunken driving deaths decreasing they tend not to use statistics to place the accident in context or to use to campaign for stricter laws, but journalist certainly use to.

The fundamental problems with DB pensions is that there is a severe mismatch between the timing of costs and contributions. The most valuable contributions are made at the beginning of the career since have the most time to benefit from compound interest. However the cost to pension is related to final salary. This mismatch violates standard accounting practices which requires for instance buildings to be depreciated over decades and computers over only 3 years.

Every person with a pension benefits from 'spiking', since I have yet to see a pension that uses lifetime average salary for calculating the benefit. Some pensions, and some people, are better than others in that use the final five years base salary and prohibit OT and vacation to be calculated.

So while the most egregious abuses of spiking maybe a relatively isolated event, the article is correct as portraying spiking as a real problem.
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Old 11-14-2010, 08:17 PM   #289
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"k...simply how do you propose 23% of income continue to go to the top 1% with DB pensions like the one you described. ...how 1950's..."

Exactly what does this have to do with anyone who receives a DB pension? Are you implying that civil servants who recive DBs are in the top 1% of of wage earners getting 23% of the nation's income? I'm hoping that's not what you meant, as it's idiotic on its face.
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Old 11-14-2010, 08:44 PM   #290
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RE: It implies that the true situation is even worse than the examples given suggest.

followed by pothole/road analogy

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Your analogy is defective, because in the analogy, the potholes are not examples of the real situation of the road.
If you don't like it than skip it and go right to the meat that I gave:

I don't think one can jump to the conclusion that anyone is "blaming" spiking and other abuses for the total depth of the pension funding problem. But it is still a problem worth noting.

He mentioned them in the intro, as clifp says, they feel they need something to get the reader's attention. It just doesn't hold to say that was all there was. For example (bold mine):

Quote:
A Ponzi scheme?

In truth, pension systems rely on what might be considered an accounting trick, not unlike the trick which keeps the Social Security system afloat for now. While state workers contribute payments to the system – typically about 5 percent of their salary -- and those payments are matched by government employers -- about 10 percent -- those payments scarcely cover the eventual payouts.
.

Seems to sum it pretty well.

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Old 11-14-2010, 09:14 PM   #291
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Quote:
A Ponzi scheme?

In truth, pension systems rely on what might be considered an accounting trick, not unlike the trick which keeps the Social Security system afloat for now. While state workers contribute payments to the system – typically about 5 percent of their salary -- and those payments are matched by government employers -- about 10 percent -- those payments scarcely cover the eventual payouts.
Seems to sum it pretty well.

-ERD50
which points to a pension funding problem not a benefits problem. the benefits were promised by the employer (in this case some government agency) but the employer (if the pension fund is in trouble) didnt fund the pension sufficiently. it is totally the responsibility of said employer to determine the total amount required to sufficiently fund the pension, after all they offered that pension as a part of the salary package to their employees. (how would any of you that are advocating the demise of DB pensions feel if, when you got to the end of your career, your employer said to you "all those dollars that are supposed to be in your 401k arent really there and i am not going to give them to you"?) and just who is the employer we are talking about here? we call that employer "the government" but really the employer is the citizens of the city, county, state or USA offering said job. therefore we citizens have underfunded the pensions of our employees and it is our responsiblity to bring that funding to up what is needed to pay the pensions promised.

the feds did it right when they changed the retirement system from CSRS to FERS. nobody was forced out of CSRS but all new employees were in FERS. and when it comes to funding it the feds have altered the amount the feds pay into the pension fund to keep it adaquately funded.
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Old 11-14-2010, 09:28 PM   #292
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which points to a pension funding problem not a benefits problem.
OK- but it's all cut from the same cloth. Say it any way you want - the benefits exceed their ability to pay, or their ability to pay does not match the benefits paid. What difference does it make?

Quote:
the benefits were promised by the employer (in this case some government agency) but the employer (if the pension fund is in trouble) didnt fund the pension sufficiently. it is totally the responsibility of said employer to determine the total amount required to sufficiently fund the pension, after all they offered that pension as a part of the salary package to their employees.
Fine. Except that reality has just entered the room, and the reality is that many of these pensions are not adequately funded. So that leads us to... now what?

I'll temper that a bit though. If in some cases, the unions were fighting for these benefits, and they ignored whether they were being funded, maybe they need to take some responsibility also?


Quote:
(how would any of you that are advocating the demise of DB pensions feel if, when you got to the end of your career, your employer said to you "all those dollars that are supposed to be in your 401k arent really there and i am not going to give them to you"?)
Have you looked at a chart of the market for the past decade? That is exactly what has happened to many people. Well, not exactly, because it isn't "all" gone, but no is suggesting that "all" the pension be taken away from those approaching or in retirement. Reality says maybe some adjustments need to be made. It isn't personal.


Quote:
we call that employer "the government" but really the employer is the citizens of the city, county, state or USA offering said job. therefore we citizens have underfunded the pensions of our employees and it is our responsiblity to bring that funding to up what is needed to pay the pensions promised.
I'll make the same offer I've made before. You show which boxes I could have been "smart enough" to check in the voting booth to prevent all this, and then we can talk about whether I'm responsible or not.

-ERD50
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Old 11-14-2010, 10:12 PM   #293
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"It isn't personal."

Of course it's personal. It's very personal. You are talking about people who worked for a government entity that provided better benefits, both in the form of pensions and medical, in exchange for fairly modest salaries and who planned their whole working lives for the benefits they were to receive. We are not talking about 10's of thousands of people, or hundreds of thousands - we are talking about many millions of people. Folks keep talking about all the people earning over $150K a year and the sleazeballs in CA earning obscene salaries - they are a tiny fraction of the total number of civil servants.

Changing benefits for people early in their careers is fine, they have time to make adjustments. But people who have 15, 20, or more years under a promised system are unlikely to be able to recover from massive cuts to their pensions. Just because it happened to others, doesn't mean it should be a solution forced on public employees. I emphatically reject the idea that taxpayers, of whom I am one, after years and years of receiving the benefits (and whether or not you, personally, consider it a benefit, is irrelevant), don't want to foot the bill for promised pensions.

Cutting promised benefits to people late in their career or already retired should be absolutely the last option - there are many other services that can be cut first. But that's hard - cutting pensions seems to be a lot easier.

Once again - it is personal and I, personally, would not wish what you want to happen to civil servants on anyone.
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Old 11-14-2010, 10:26 PM   #294
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"It isn't personal."

Of course it's personal. ....

Once again - it is personal and I, personally, would not wish what you want to happen to civil servants on anyone.
And just what is is that I (or that you think I) personally ' want to happen to civil servants '?

Quote:
I emphatically reject the idea that taxpayers, of whom I am one, after years and years of receiving the benefits (and whether or not you, personally, consider it a benefit, is irrelevant), don't want to foot the bill for promised pensions.
And the counterpoint to that is - you received the benefits of the products/services that people in the private sector provided (and how many govt services improved and went down in cost over the years, as did many private produced products?). Those people got their pensions cut, so now go back and tally up everything you bought for the past 20 years and chip in some extra to keep their pensions intact. Yes, that is silly, isn't it?

That's why we keep saying this needs to be pay-as-you go. No surprises. If we don't want to pay for the true cost of the services as we receive them we don't get them. Isn't that better for both the receiver of the pension (they can count on the money being there) and the taxpayer (they know the true cost of what they are 'buying')?


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Old 11-14-2010, 10:29 PM   #295
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Have you looked at a chart of the market for the past decade? That is exactly what has happened to many people.
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ya think maybe that has something to do with how the individual invested. most people on this forum who attack pensions are happy that they have the opprotunity to manage their own investments so dont whine when you, given that very control over your retirement, lost money, it was your doing. but some people took a government job so they could get a secure retirement without having to become an expert in the markets or annuities.

or are you saying that because big business screwed many people by eliminating company DB plans that now we the people of <insert government name here> should screw our employees?

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I'll make the same offer I've made before. You show which boxes I could have been "smart enough" to check in the voting booth to prevent all this, and then we can talk about whether I'm responsible or not.

-ERD50
well you (citizens as a whole, as a group) got the benefit of receiving more services from government than you paid for (since you didnt fully fund the pensions and that was part of your employees pay package so you should have) and now is the time to pay up, not cheat the employees. your statement is a copout and you know it. our governments are not true democracies, they are representative governments and you picked (or had the opprotunity to pick) who ran them, so there was your box
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Old 11-14-2010, 10:43 PM   #296
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or are you saying that because big business screwed many people by eliminating company DB plans that now we the people of <insert government name here> should screw our employees?
No. I am saying:

1) That there are certain economic realities facing all of us.

2) That you shouldn't be surprised that the people who got their pensions cut are real excited about the prospect of having their taxes raised to keep you 100% whole.

3) It's not about wanting to see someone else 'get screwed'. It's a situation we are in that can't be 'wished away'.

But that has all been said before, and some people are not listening, so I guess it's time for me to try to bow out of this 'conversation'.



Quote:
well you (citizens as a whole, as a group) got the benefit of receiving more services from government than you paid for (since you didnt fully fund the pensions and that was part of your employees pay package so you should have) and now is the time to pay up, not cheat the employees.
See my reply to beowulf, your time to pay up for all those products you bought that were under-priced such that private companies had to cut benefits for their employees. I doubt you see it that way, but that's what you are asking from us.



Quote:
your statement is a copout and you know it. our governments are not true democracies, they are representative governments and you picked (or had the opprotunity to pick) who ran them, so there was your box
I have no idea what you are saying. It's a copout, but nothing I do can change it anyhow because it's not a true democracy, then I guess it's not a copout? But I guess if people get voted in that tear apart public pensions, you'll be OK with it because you had your chance to vote. Gimme a break.

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Old 11-14-2010, 11:13 PM   #297
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"Have you looked at a chart of the market for the past decade? That is exactly what has happened to many people. Well, not exactly, because it isn't "all" gone, but no is suggesting that "all" the pension be taken away from those approaching or in retirement. Reality says maybe some adjustments need to be made. It isn't personal."

Sounds to me like this is indicative of a desire to take some pension benefits away from those who are near or in retirement. Is there another way to interpret this?

"And the counterpoint to that is - you received the benefits of the products/services that people in the private sector provided (and how many govt services improved and went down in cost over the years, as did many private produced products?). Those people got their pensions cut, so now go back and tally up everything you bought for the past 20 years and chip in some extra to keep their pensions intact. Yes, that is silly, isn't it?"

For private employees, it is silly. It's not a true comparison at all. To even try and make this argument means a lack of understanding the differences between private and public employment. I can't argue with dumb ideas - we are talking about public employees who are funded by taxpayers who elect people to represent them and provide services and make laws. We have no say as to what goes on in private companies unless we are stockholders and damn little even then.

Pay-as-you go?? I have no idea how this can be applied to DB pensions, therefore you espouse the elimination of such. Please feel free to vote your preference.

I think what many of us who work or worked in the public sector is that many here seem to want the denouement of public pensions before anything else is tried. NOTHING has been tried, yet there is a constant drumbeat to attack what you don't have.

Try this link and see what can be cut in the federal budget without touching pensions - I could balance the budget, so can you.

Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget - Interactive Feature - NYTimes.com
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Old 11-14-2010, 11:58 PM   #298
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Pay-as-you go?? I have no idea how this can be applied to DB pensions, therefore you espouse the elimination of such. Please feel free to vote your preference.
For an example of "pay as you go" working successfully, Google the Wisconsin Public Pension System and look over their web site. Wis is one of 4 states whose public db pension obligations are considered fully funded. Every year they "pay as you go" and fund the system. COLA amounts are determined by market performance and can be taken back if investment returns are negative in subsequent years (but pensions never go below the annuitants original amount). It's pretty slick and I like it much better than the Illinois system which was written and modified by political hacks for the benefit of patronage workers and politically connected union bosses.
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Old 11-15-2010, 12:12 AM   #299
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ERD is right there are certain economic realities we face. As a nation we have consumed far more than we have produce for many decades. Now perhaps we can postpone the inevitable for a few year a have the Chinese Factory worker making a $1000/month continue to loan us money so we can over consume. But eventually, and I think sooner rather than later we are going to have cut consumption as a nation, just as many people have had to do over the last couple of years.

This is going to require shared sacrifice and it is more than just eating our spinach, it is eating our spinach, and Brussels sprouts, plus Broccoli and skipping dessert.

For Federal retiree and the handful of state and local government worker with adequately funded pensions funds, I suspect the sacrifice will be the same as everyone else. Higher taxes, means testing for social security, higher medicare copays, and death panels for 80 year olds (just kidding).

However, for the millions of state and local worker who's pension are severely underfunded the options are much more limited. We can raise taxes and/or fees, reduce the pay of current workers, reduce local government services, reduce the future benefits of new employees, reduce the future benefits of current workers, and reduce existing pensions and/or future COLA increases. Right now virtually every state and city government has done the first 4 options in a desperate attempt to balance current city and state budgets. What they haven't done is either increase the employer contribution to their pension or reduce the pension of current workers or current retirees since the pension run out of money near the end of the decade or later they have continued to kick that can done the road.

I am simply suggesting rather than sticking each household with at least a $10,000 bill (and perhaps as much as $27,000) to pay for the pension shortfall that current workers and pensioners share some of the pain.
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Old 11-15-2010, 12:39 AM   #300
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No. I am saying:

1) That there are certain economic realities facing all of us.

2) That you shouldn't be surprised that the people who got their pensions cut are real excited about the prospect of having their taxes raised to keep you 100% whole.

3) It's not about wanting to see someone else 'get screwed'. It's a situation we are in that can't be 'wished away'.

But that has all been said before, and some people are not listening, so I guess it's time for me to try to bow out of this 'conversation'.





See my reply to beowulf, your time to pay up for all those products you bought that were under-priced such that private companies had to cut benefits for their employees. I doubt you see it that way, but that's what you are asking from us.
i am sorry about you being screwed by big business but 2 wrongs dont make a right! it is obvious you dont see it that way but i doubt you will admit it.

there are a lot of things that can be done to strengthen government pensions (see what he feds did) and those things should be done but breaking promises is a bad choice.
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