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Old 11-01-2010, 08:39 PM   #141
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Originally Posted by beowulf View Post
You're all going to love this article from today's Washington Post :

Federal Eye - Federal salaries fall behind private sector, panel says

I just can't imagine the reactions [/QUOTE

You oughta be ashamed of yourself.....
I googled this all kinds of ways, has anybody actually seen the report rather than just 3 paragraph summary of the summary. I'd be interested in reading it.
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Old 11-01-2010, 08:39 PM   #142
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Ya know FD, those toll-less interstate highways you have are confusing for us Illini. When I'm driving up there, I always roll my window down and toss out a handful of coins every few miles since I'm so used to it!

BTW, we've now modernized. the Precinct Captain now accepts credit cards for payola (to get services such as garbage collection or to have the police chase the hookers and drug dealers from in front of your home) instead of the usual plain brown bags of small denominated bills. Bet ya can't say that about Wisconsin!

Wisconsin - Illinois' biggest state park!
I suppose I shouldn't mention that I used to leave Janesville, WI, headed south past Rockford, and most of the time I just blew on by the tolls. Of course the ones that were manned, I had to stop, but some of those honor system ones...well...what can I say?
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Old 11-02-2010, 01:36 AM   #143
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I'm too lazy to find my old posts on the subject, but earlier when I was researching pension in some depth I did a fair amount of calculations.

The basic problems is that most public pension plans allow employees to work 30+ years and than retire at 55 with only a modest reduction in benefits from the 62 years 'normal' retirement. So a kid who goes to work right out of college as a teacher at say 36K and than retires at 33 years later at age 55 with a final salary of say 75K (all numbers ignore inflation) (which represents a 2.2% annual merit increase), is often eligible for 2/3 (2%/year) of their final salary or 50K/year. They will be collecting a pension on average between 25-30 years or almost long as they worked.

Lets assume the worse case and assume that we are like Japan and capital has 0% percent real return. (10 Years TIPs are about .3% 30 years aren't much higher). This would require the teacher to have saved up 50K x 25 or 30 years or 1.25-1.5 million. Over 33 year working career that is 40K per year combined contribution. Clearly this difficult when you are making 75K and down right impossible when you are making 36K year as a starting teacher. Even if we give early retires a 25% penalty and reduce the pension to 40K/year we are still talking about needing a million+ dollars in assets to fund a 25-30 year pension. It is true that currently the average pension is lower 25K-30K is typical but even that require $500K - $750K in today interest rate environment for an early retirement. This amount is roughly twice the amount of assets that typical public pension has per retiree.

Now lets assume that world returns to normal and we go back to 2002 (without the real estate bubble) Pension funds and investors can look forward to 7-8% real returns (The average public pension fund assumes 7.5% down about 1% from the pre crash assumptions).


In order to fund a pension that allows somebody to retire in the 55-62 year range with between 60-80% of their final salary the combined contribution (i.e. the employee and the state) needs to be in the 25-35% range. Most public pension fund require an 8% employee contribution ( Nun's 11% is above average but still not enough), it is a very very rare state or city that consistently contributes more than 15% with most averaging in the 10-12% range. So basically for decades we have been funding public pension in the 18-20% range when we needed 25-35%. You throw in the financial crisis, with the 20-25% decrease equity values (although I am sure some pension sold stocks at the bottom), much lower bond yields, and a disaster for any real estate investment and we have a real crisis.

Finally let me note that at the root of the problem is that the most valuable contribution to any savings plans are the earliest, but that is when the public employees salary is the lowest. Yet the benefit is typically based on the final few years salary which are always the highest. The only way to have DB work in the long run is the base the pension on the average lifetime salary because that corresponds with the contributions.
Unless I am reading too fast, you have left two important factors out of this calculation:
1) employer match. My contribution to the pension system is 8.03% and my employer puts in an equal amount so the total contribution is 16% of each employee's salary. Of course the amount of contribution and the extent of the match varies from system to system. Does your "total contribution of 10-12%"include employer match as well as employee contributions.
I absolutely am including the employee contribution to arrive at my 25-35% figure. I am assuming that the state or city kicks in 10-12% although in both your and Nun's case the employee contribution is well below that level. We've already discussed the underfunded Seattle pensions in the past.
Well, I guess I was reading too fast. But I still think, based on the statements highlighted in blue, you may be overestimating the amount of savings required.
  • ...2.2% annual merit increase if by "merit increase" you mean an increase in pay over and above cost of living adjustments, not all employees get these every year. Of course, things will vary from place to place, but in the system I work in there are a certain number of these annual increases for each position title, but after that the only way to increase your pay (over and above COLA) would be either to apply for and get hired in a position at a higher ranking, or request a reclassification, for which you must demonstrate that the work you are doing is that of a higher job title than you currently hold.
  • ...would require the teacher to have saved up 50K x 25 or 30 years Isn't this what would be required to fund a fully COLA'd pension? If the pension is partially- or non-COLA'd, less would be required.
  • ...Pension funds and investors can look forward to 7-8% real returns (The average public pension fund assumes 7.5%.) I've just looked at the most recent actuarial report on my pension system. It uses an expected rate of return of 7.75%, but I think this is 7.75% nominal, not real (see pg 29 of link). If I've understood the report correctly, with an assumed inflation rate of 3.5% (also on pg 29), the pension fund is only counting on a real growth rate of 4.25%. An actual real return of 7 or 7.5% would enormously improve the system's funding level, wouldn't it?
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2) people who leave the system before vesting. Employees who leave the City of Seattle retirement system for another employer before vesting (at 5 years of service) receive their contributions back with accumulated interest calculated at an assumed value, but the employer match that was put in the system for their salary stays in the Seattle system. Employees who leave after five years of service have the option of leaving their contributions in the system and receiving a pension when eligible based on age and years of service, or withdrawing their contributions and interest. In the latter case, their employer match stays in the system as well.

I think both of these factors would tend to improve the funding insufficiencies you point out (snip)
You are right that people leaving before vesting would help the funding. On the other hand how many of your older co-workers have quit their jobs in the last couple of years to take a private sector> I am guessing the number is quite small. I am also not accounting for the people who start government jobs in their 50s work 10-15 years and then are eligible for 20-40% pension in their early 60s they make the situation worse, especially for health care.
It's true that the younger a person is when they leave City employment, the smaller their total contributions, but also assumed (see pg A-11 of linked report) that the younger they are the more likely they will withdraw the contributions, leaving the employer match behind. Another factor also enters in here which I didn't have time to include this morning, which is the assumed interest rate on contributions. For calculating the amount to be withdrawn, an annual interest rate of 5.75% is assumed. If the fund actually performs better than that, any excess stays behind, which would also tend to improve the picture. Lastly, although systems vary, it would not be possible to start a job with the City of Seattle at age 50, work 10 years, and be eligible for a pension of 40% of your best salary. In our system at any rate, 20% is the upper, not the lower, limit of what a retiree would receive with 10 years of service, and if they retired any younger than 65, it would be less than 20%. A retiree would also be eligible for just over 20% at age 62 with 11 years of service, but by that time (age 62 to 65) we are no longer talking about "starting later", at least not as far as the original post on this thread—which suggested a minimum age of 62—is concerned.
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Old 11-02-2010, 01:59 AM   #144
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How about we defend retirement security for everyone regardless of where their paycheck comes from??
You asked for it, you got it.
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Old 11-02-2010, 06:07 AM   #145
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I honestly do feel for the private sector worker. I think it's a true shame that we as Americans generally bought into the BS begun during the Reagan years that benefits (like pensions, health care, holidays, etc) are somehow wasteful. Greed is god. Or 'good'.

Of course, if the wealthy are in danger of losing their fortunes, (S&L crisis in the 80s, real estate bubble burst in 2009), then of course we as Americans owe it to our captains of finance to save them--but if the shoe is on the other foot--hah! Suck it up. Work harder. You're to blame for your poverty. "Privatize the gains and socialize the losses" where the wealthy are concerned is what we've become as a nation.

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.

There is an answer: restore top marginal tax rates to pre-1980s levels, for one.
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Old 11-02-2010, 07:05 AM   #146
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I honestly do feel for the private sector worker. I think it's a true shame that we as Americans generally bought into the BS begun during the Reagan years that benefits (like pensions, health care, holidays, etc) are somehow wasteful. Greed is god. Or 'good'.

Of course, if the wealthy are in danger of losing their fortunes, (S&L crisis in the 80s, real estate bubble burst in 2009), then of course we as Americans owe it to our captains of finance to save them--but if the shoe is on the other foot--hah! Suck it up. Work harder. You're to blame for your poverty. "Privatize the gains and socialize the losses" where the wealthy are concerned is what we've become as a nation.

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.

There is an answer: restore top marginal tax rates to pre-1980s levels, for one.

It isn't just CEO pay that has gone up nor is it just in America. Across the world top performers are earning a many times more than those on the bottom. For example baseball.

In 1931 Babe Ruth made $80,000 (five thousand more than Herbert Hoover and yes Babe had a better year). That is $1.10 Million in today's dollar. In 1964 Mickey Mantle made 100K/year (equal to 705K in 2010 dollars) that was 8 times more than the Major league average and equal to the President's salary. In contrast A Rod makes $33 million dollars a year which is about the same as the entire payroll for teams like the Pirates and now days the League minimum is 400K equal to the President's salary.

The same thing is true of salaries of movie/tv stars, and probably singers. Not long ago they may have earned 50 or 100 times more than the average worker now days 500-1,000 times is not unusual.

China is another country which has seen massive increase in inequality with more than 128 Chinese billionaires in country where the per capita GDP is still only $3800. Yet as anyone who has gone there in the last few years can tell you despite this huge rise in inequality hundreds of millions have moved out of poverty into Chinas growing middle class.

Raising taxes up to 70% like they were in 1980 is pretty much a recipe for insuring that the entrepreneurs and companies flee the US. Why would anyone stay in the US and pay 70% on their income when they can move to Singapore and pay 20%?
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Old 11-02-2010, 07:33 AM   #147
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Raising taxes up to 70% like they were in 1980 is pretty much a recipe for insuring that the entrepreneurs and companies flee the US. Why would anyone stay in the US and pay 70% on their income when they can move to Singapore and pay 20%?
That is the uber-wealthy's argument. "Tax us and we won't create jobs for you." It's a lie. We have historically the lowest tax rates in our history--corporate and individual. Where are the jobs? They are investing in factories alright--in China and Vietnam. Those jobs are gone for good. The decent wage service jobs they promised us are increasingly overseas now as well. Western Europe has higher tax rates than the US and their unemployment rate is equal or even lower to ours. But they do not have to worry about going bankrupt due to illness or descending into poverty in their later years.

Ask 10 people when the Golden Age of America was--I bet at least 6 of them will say the period from WW2 until the assassination of JFK. Care to postulate what the income tax rate was then? But things worked. The schools were better, the roads and bridges weren't falling apart.

I'm telling you, it is this increasing disparity of wealth that is destroying the social and economic fabric of our nation. But I do honestly believe we have chosen this for ourselves. It's what people appear to want.
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Old 11-02-2010, 08:52 AM   #148
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"Why would anyone stay in the US and pay 70% on their income when they can move to Singapore and pay 20%?"

Maybe they like living in a country where there is true democracy? But really, even when the highest tax rates were 90% in the US, no one actually paid at that level. Anyone earning enough to be subject to such a high level of taxation has several good lawyers and accountants to take care of the problem.

"I'm telling you, it is this increasing disparity of wealth that is destroying the social and economic fabric of our nation. But I do honestly believe we have chosen this for ourselves. It's what people appear to want."

I have to agree with this. Americans seem to vote against their personal economic interests all the time. I'm not taking about Warren Buffet and his raise taxes position. I'm talking about blue collar workers (all 7 of them left in the US ) who believe unions are there to screw them and allow companies to treat them like dirt. No matter what your opinion of unions is now, they were a driving force in creating the middle class in the US.

I consider the golden age in the US to be from the end of WWII to about 1970 - because that's when skule was over and I had to go to w*rk .
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Old 11-02-2010, 09:09 AM   #149
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"Why would anyone stay in the US and pay 70% on their income when they can move to Singapore and pay 20%?"

Maybe they like living in a country where there is true democracy? But really, even when the highest tax rates were 90% in the US, no one actually paid at that level. Anyone earning enough to be subject to such a high level of taxation has several good lawyers and accountants to take care of the problem.

"I'm telling you, it is this increasing disparity of wealth that is destroying the social and economic fabric of our nation. But I do honestly believe we have chosen this for ourselves. It's what people appear to want."

I have to agree with this. Americans seem to vote against their personal economic interests all the time. I'm not taking about Warren Buffet and his raise taxes position. I'm talking about blue collar workers (all 7 of them left in the US ) who believe unions are there to screw them and allow companies to treat them like dirt. No matter what your opinion of unions is now, they were a driving force in creating the middle class in the US.

I consider the golden age in the US to be from the end of WWII to about 1970 - because that's when skule was over and I had to go to w*rk .

Singapore has had essentially a one party system for the past fifty years. I suppose you could call it a democracy. Its universal healthcare system is run by the government and costs about 3% of GDP. Ours costs 16% of GDP.

I'd really like to know the answer to your question regarding what drives voting patterns in the US.
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Old 11-02-2010, 09:12 AM   #150
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You're all going to love this article from today's Washington Post :

Federal Eye - Federal salaries fall behind private sector, panel says

I just can't imagine the reactions
I am not surprised. Overall, private sector pay is higher, but private sector BENEFITS? That's the issue of this whole post. There are overpaid folks in the public and private sector, the real issue it seems is that private sector has been seeing a steady erosion of medical and financial benefits over the past 20 years, and it is making private sector folks more and more unsure of retirement. Throw in SS and Medicaid problems, and there's your answer..........
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Old 11-02-2010, 09:36 AM   #151
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This is an interesting article and cartoon about the topic we are discussing. I think the cartoon pretty much sums it up.



Federal vs. corporate pay scales: A cartoonist tries to sort it all out -- Government Computer News
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Old 11-02-2010, 10:45 AM   #152
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This is an interesting article and cartoon about the topic we are discussing. I think the cartoon pretty much sums it up.



Federal vs. corporate pay scales: A cartoonist tries to sort it all out -- Government Computer News
It sums up the view from someone who is not listening (or chooses not to listen) to others.

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Old 11-02-2010, 10:53 AM   #153
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That captures it perfectly...
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Old 11-02-2010, 10:56 AM   #154
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It's a CARTOON. Have a sense of humor. I am listening to others and still believe that most criticism of other's choices comes from our Puritan ethic past. When we see someone doing better than we are, having more things than we do or just having more fun than we are, we want to bring them to our level . It's called human nature.

In the end, it still all comes down to the same thing, regardless of anything else and it applies to everything we do. It's called "free will." We, in the US, have this marvelous advantage that most of the world's population doesn't have. The ability to make decisions of our own free will. And then we have to live with those decisions. Whether they are economic or social or personal, they are our decisions and they are our responsibility.
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Old 11-02-2010, 11:26 AM   #155
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It's a CARTOON. Have a sense of humor. I am listening to others and still believe that most criticism of other's choices comes from our Puritan ethic past. When we see someone doing better than we are, having more things than we do or just having more fun than we are, we want to bring them to our level .
you are NOT listening.


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We, in the US, have this marvelous advantage that most of the world's population doesn't have. The ability to make decisions of our own free will. And then we have to live with those decisions. Whether they are economic or social or personal, they are our decisions and they are our responsibility.
So don't be surprised if the majority of citizens decide that politicians acted irresponsibly in providing some of these pensions/benefits and that adjustments may need to be made.

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Old 11-02-2010, 11:46 AM   #156
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You're all going to love this article from today's Washington Post :

Federal Eye - Federal salaries fall behind private sector, panel says

I just can't imagine the reactions

Interesting paragraph... my bold...

"The government's numbers also show that higher-paid, more senior employees tend to fall behind their counterparts at private companies, whereas lower-paid employees in government come out ahead."


Just a guess... but I bet there are more lower paid employees than higher paid...
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Old 11-02-2010, 12:08 PM   #157
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I just can't imagine the reactions
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Interesting paragraph... my bold...

"The government's numbers also show that higher-paid, more senior employees tend to fall behind their counterparts at private companies, whereas lower-paid employees in government come out ahead."


Just a guess... but I bet there are more lower paid employees than higher paid...

Wow, so it looks like most of the government employees get better pay, more security AND better benefits! I guess beowulf was right - he probably couldn't imagine the reactions from that article

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Old 11-02-2010, 12:59 PM   #158
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Wow, so it looks like most of the government employees get better pay, more security AND better benefits! I guess beowulf was right - he probably couldn't imagine the reactions from that article

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Old 11-02-2010, 02:31 PM   #159
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One thing that I'm not sure Texas Proud (love them Giants, right ??) and ERD50 are taking into account is that many of the lower paid workers are only lower paid for a limited period of time. This is hard to explain, but most highly educated workers in the government start at low grade levels and are promoted relatively quickly. As an example, an MBA from a top 20 school in industry may start out at $90K a year, or more. The same person in the federal government would start at about $51K in the Washington, DC area. Less in the rest of the country except maybe for SF, NY and Boston. Same thing for lawyers and other professionals.

What happens next is that the feds get promoted and earn more, but they can generally never overcome that initial difference. By the time they get to $150K, their counterparts are making $200K, $300K or more. And those who go on to manage large organizations get maybe $170K, while similar folks in industry get millions .

Those who stay in lower grades - lets say for example grades 5 through 12 - and don't rise above that level, tend to lack college degrees and slowly move to the top of their pay scale, which take about 20 years. At which point the only pay raises they can get are the annual COLAs. What I'm probably not explaining well is that we are still talking apples and oranges as to the experience level of the feds vs industry.

If you have an admin assistant in the government and an admin assistant in industry, they both probably started out earning about the same annual salary in a given geographical are. But, over time, the fed will receive a steady stream of raises, even if they are not promoted, that will most likely exceed those being received by the industry person.

This is why the study shows what it did about the lower salary folks. There is no easy solution. It would be far too much effort and unfair to employees to reevaluate their salaries each year and compare every single occupational area to those in industry. One problem is that in good times, federal salaries are held down to prevent inflation. In bad times, they are held down because....times are bad. I'm referring to annual Colas here. So, in the end, it sort of averages out because of the non-cola increases.

So what happens is that step increases slowly raise salaries so that they may be higher than their industry counterparts for the lowest paid feds. This helps retention and allows the government to have highly trained people who know their agency. While there are more lower paid employees than those of higher grades, why would you want to take away money from those people? Even if we make an assumption (total guesswork on my part) that there are 1M lower paid employees and that they make, on average, $5,000 more than their industry counterparts, that comes to $5B annually. That's a lot of money, but less than 2 aircraft carriers. Not really much in the grand scheme of things and you would be cutting the salaries of the most vulnerable people.

You keep saying that I'm not listening - you are mistaken - I am listening very well and all I hear is a lot of mean spiritedness. I have no idea what you do, how much you earn, or anything else. I'm more than willing to hear arguments for cutting federal pay and benefits when I see all those highly paid lawyers, managers and stock traders do the same. We all know that's never going to happen.
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Old 11-02-2010, 03:12 PM   #160
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You keep saying that I'm not listening - you are mistaken - I am listening very well and all I hear is a lot of mean spiritedness. I have no idea what you do, how much you earn, or anything else.
I don't have time now to digest the rest of your post, I hope to get to it later, but I do have to ask - what have I posted on this subject that could be interpreted as "mean spirited"? Perhaps I said something that could be read differently from what I intended (it happens). If so, I'd like a chance to clarify, I have no intention of insulting anyone (well, unless I make it obvious ).

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I'm more than willing to hear arguments for cutting federal pay and benefits when I see all those highly paid lawyers, managers and stock traders do the same. We all know that's never going to happen.
Red Herring. I'm not trying to compare average public worker benefits to those classes. It's a different ball game.

In fact, "comparison" is tough in any shape. Forget public for now, you won't get agreement on compensation between two private employees within the same company. Did some engineers think that marketing or sales were not compensated fairly in comparison and vice versa. You betch'a. And you'll never come to any conclusion.

What I AM trying to get to is simply an understanding of what those public benefits are for roughly similar paying jobs. Are the relatively generous or not? We need some data.

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