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Old 10-18-2011, 08:17 AM   #181
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The bulk of stimulus spending was in tax cuts and benefit support for unemployment.

Public sector employees could be much more productive than private sector because they don't have to worry so much about losing their jobs and can focus on getting their work done.
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Old 10-18-2011, 08:48 AM   #182
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As I indicated relative to the article, you can draw your own conclusions, but it did seem to provide more data and references than we are finding in this thread.

While I do not believe this has been mentioned thus far, one other area that creates division in the county is the new healthcare legislation. Why are lawmakers, gov't workers, and union members exempted? Not a very good way to bring everyone together on that costly subject whether your retired or not. I'm actually much more concerned about that than I am about social security or pensions.
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Old 10-18-2011, 09:04 AM   #183
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Public sector employees could be much more productive than private sector because they don't have to worry so much about losing their jobs and can focus on getting their work done.
That is really splitting hairs, LOL. How about private sector employees that work in companies that have no competition and don't need to worry about losing their jobs. I don't know where you have worked, but if your in a competitive business, the job needs to get done, there is a need for speed, as well as being better than your competition. If you as employee or the company doesn't measure up, you'll be long for the world.
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Old 10-18-2011, 09:18 AM   #184
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I think other factors could be used to explain if (and I'll say 'if' since I don't have any hard data to back it up) public workers are less productive overall. It could very well be the environment. If a person feels they have a very secure job, and if there is no hard data to measure their performance (and no significant merit raises/bonuses), and there isn't an overall environment of "we have to get this product/service on line this week, or our competitor beats us to it, and we will all be out of a job...', well, that is quite a motivator. And before anyone jumps on me, I did say "if', and I'm sure there are some highly motivated hard working people/departments in the public sector. And there are some slugs in the private sector. I'm just saying there are some factors that could explain much of any general difference that may exist.

-ERD50
You did say "if" which is rather not as conclusive as others have generally assumed here. Like you, I don't know if government workers are less productive than the private sector; one well-worn hypothesis is a profit factor or greater compensation tips the tide in favor of greater productivity in the private sector although I believe some Nobel Prize winning economists and Daniel Pink have published pieces that purport to undermine this hypothesis. It would be interesting to compare whether blue collar maintenance workers in the Government are any less productive than their counterparts in the private sector. I do note that there are other factors, mainly political and process requirements, that cause inefficiencies and make the government worker appear less productive than others.
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Old 10-18-2011, 09:30 AM   #185
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That is really splitting hairs, LOL. How about private sector employees that work in companies that have no competition and don't need to worry about losing their jobs. I don't know where you have worked, but if your in a competitive business, the job needs to get done, there is a need for speed, as well as being better than your competition. If you as employee or the company doesn't measure up, you'll be long for the world.
The only point I was making is one explanation is as good as any other when based on assumptions or opinions. A fact and data free analysis of public vs private sector employee productivity is kind of pointless.
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Old 10-18-2011, 10:02 AM   #186
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The only point I was making is one explanation is as good as any other when based on assumptions or opinions. A fact and data free analysis of public vs private sector employee productivity is kind of pointless.
Agree, all of these things are very subjective and may seem pointless. Nevertheless, there is a mantra that many take to heart in the business world, and its probably true here as well, "perception is reality."
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Old 10-18-2011, 11:09 AM   #187
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As I indicated relative to the article, you can draw your own conclusions, but it did seem to provide more data and references than we are finding in this thread.

While I do not believe this has been mentioned thus far, one other area that creates division in the county is the new healthcare legislation. Why are lawmakers, gov't workers, and union members exempted? Not a very good way to bring everyone together on that costly subject whether your retired or not. I'm actually much more concerned about that than I am about social security or pensions.
Do you have a link you can provide that lawmakers, government workers and unions are exempted from the health care affordability act? From everything I have read this is not true. I got several e-mails that were forwarded around that said this however when I did research I found the e-mails were false.

snopes.com: 28th Amendment
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Old 10-18-2011, 11:20 AM   #188
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Agree, all of these things are very subjective and may seem pointless.
I agree. Talk of job difficulty, education requirements, experience requirements, necessary skillsets, etc. are all subjective and likely to be seen differently by folks on one side vs. the other.

What seems to really matter to tax payers is whether they are getting value for their expenditure and if compensation packages are reasonably connected to the market place.

Frequently, compensation packages won by unions, public sectior employees and, especially, unionized public sector employees have a lot of momentum on the upside. In good times, there is much to be gained by politicians by establishing generous packages for public sector workers to garner union support. And, because it's "good times," tax payers take little notice.

When the economy turns and tax payers themselves quickly suffer the consequences with high unemployment, wage package reductions, loss of benefits and all that, it seems like unionized public sector workers have some protection and suffer less.

So, for public sector workers it's up in the good times and flat in the bad times, whereas private sector workers tend to see both ups and downs. And that brings on the wailing and complaining and, so it seems today, a few actual downward changes for the public sector.

What I'd like to see is a little more connectivity and timeliness between market forces and public sector wage packages so the level of complaining and outrage doesn't need to get so high before tweaks are made and employers (tax payers) feel they are getting good value again but are still able to attract and retain all the qualified employees they wish.

I have no clue how to accomplish that.........
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Old 10-18-2011, 11:41 AM   #189
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Maybe the typical pension fund was too aggressive, and that's why so many are in trouble now.
...
There was another contributing factor. The reason I know the fund was at 100% in 2007 is that that's the last time the floor COLA was increased. This wasn't the result of anything done at the time by either the union or public officials, it went up because hitting 100% funding automatically triggers an increase, a feature that was written into the ordinance that established the floor, back in 2000 or so. Who wrote the original legislation, at whose prompting, and what the actuaries said about it at the time, I don't know and don't really care. I do think the automatic ratcheting-up of the floor COLA should be removed. The way the law is written, it raises the floor without raising the contributions to compensate.
These two issues are related. If the pension fund is mostly common stocks, it will be volatile, and one should expect that when the market is down, the actuaries will say that pension system liabilities exceed assets, but when the market is up, they will find that the market value of assets exceeds liabilities, and the system appears to be overfunded.

Clearly, what should happen in the face of such volatility is no action. When the market is down, seasoned investors know to sit tight and wait for it to come back up. When the market is up, maybe you change the AA, but you don't go on a spending spree because you appear to have more money than you need. You need that extra value to weather the next down time in the market.

Increasing the COLA and what was called "skimming" in Hawaii have had the same bad effect. When the market value of the portfolio went up, that looked like free money, and it was taken out of the portfolio and spent, with the result that, when the market subsequently turned down, suddenly the system was in trouble.

I don't think you can trust the actuaries in this instance. It's not an actuarial problem; it's an investment problem.
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Old 10-18-2011, 11:58 AM   #190
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Do you have a link you can provide that lawmakers, government workers and unions are exempted from the health care affordability act? From everything I have read this is not true. I got several e-mails that were forwarded around that said this however when I did research I found the e-mails were false.

snopes.com: 28th Amendment
Honestly, I don't. I do believe there is a waiver process, but this act is so complex and how it is interpreted is challenging for anyone. I did find one link that refers to waivers being granted, but I may be operating under a false assumption based on seeing the same emails you did.

Businesses get waivers to opt out of health care mandate - Business - ReviewJournal.com

Additionally, earlier this year I got a first hand view of how you can be denied benefits under this new law and can share that. My son graduated with his MBA this Spring. I queried my insurance company of whether he would be covered under my retiree company plan until he was 26 (if unemployed) and was told no. Not being satisfied with that answer, I checked it with the DOL and was told, absolutely he can be denied since I was not an active employee under that plan (another loop hole).
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Old 10-18-2011, 12:08 PM   #191
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What seems to really matter to tax payers is whether they are getting value for their expenditure and if compensation packages are reasonably connected to the market place.
I agree with your comments, but I would guess that the question of whether tax payers are getting value for their tax dollars may even be somewhat subjective. What I do think matters to tax payers is can they afford to see their taxes increased for the same level of services to support unfunded liabilities, especially when they are under financial duress.
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Old 10-18-2011, 12:13 PM   #192
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Off Topic somewhat, but...

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My son graduated with his MBA this Spring. I queried my insurance company of whether he would be covered under my retiree company plan until he was 26 (if unemployed) and was told no. Not being satisfied with that answer, I checked it with the DOL and was told, absolutely he can be denied since I was not an active employee under that plan (another loop hole).
You might want to check again. Now, I assume you had family coverage with him earlier.

I'm on a retiree plan, and my DD was covered between graduation (under 26 YO) and the time her new employee HC took effect. No problem.

One 'hitch' in this could be: did your son lose eligibility earlier (get caught a an in-between point)? If he was not covered under your plan while he was in grad school, then I don't think they 'pick him up' later. Once out you are out as I understand it.

-ERD50
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Old 10-18-2011, 12:18 PM   #193
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I agree with your comments, but I would guess that the question of whether tax payers are getting value for their tax dollars may even be somewhat subjective.
I'll agree with that.
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What I do think matters to tax payers is can they afford to see their taxes increased for the same level of services to support unfunded liabilities, especially when they are under financial duress.
Perhaps it's both perceived value and affordability. If you think something is a good value you, as a tax payer (employer) are likely to be willing to sacrifice more to continue it.

For example, you see that the teachers in your school district are paid at the 50th percentile in your area. Your community's school system is rated A+ top notch and helps keep home values up and parents and kids happy with the results. A tax payer might feel that a small real estate tax increase to fund a modest compensation package hike is OK even if it requires some minor cutting back in other areas of his personal budget so he can afford it. A tax payer where school performance is a well known problem while the staff is compensated at the 90th percentile, might be much less willing to tolerate a tax hike, especially if it requires sacrifice.
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Old 10-18-2011, 12:19 PM   #194
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I think other factors could be used to explain if (and I'll say 'if' since I don't have any hard data to back it up) public workers are less productive overall. It could very well be the environment. If a person feels they have a very secure job, and if there is no hard data to measure their performance (and no significant merit raises/bonuses), and there isn't an overall environment of "we have to get this product/service on line this week, or our competitor beats us to it, and we will all be out of a job...', well, that is quite a motivator. And before anyone jumps on me, I did say "if', and I'm sure there are some highly motivated hard working people/departments in the public sector. And there are some slugs in the private sector. I'm just saying there are some factors that could explain much of any general difference that may exist.

-ERD50
Interesting, I agree with this (and, of course, didn't include those doubts in my post since as a many decade Fed I was arguing in support of my former comrades). But, truth be told, over 30+ years I saw more than a few slackers who had retired on the job. I often wondered along the same lines as expressed in the opinion piece we are referencing - does the perceived security (both job and pension) attract a somewhat higher percentage of people who value those factors over risk and challenge? Probably. Are those same people tilted a bit toward the lazy incompetent side of the scale? I don't know, maybe. Does that apply across the public sector? Certainly not since there are tons of high physical risk jobs, plenty of challenge and plenty of "normal, private sector style, wake up in a sweat at 4:00 AM" type risk jobs. On the pressure to deliver a good product I may not be in a good position to evaluate most of the public sector. The agency I worked for was funded by the rates we set for our services (not direct appropriations) and most of those services were not mandatory. So we were constantly focused on customer needs and delivering products that would keep us in business. I will say that I dealt with a lot of private sector companies that sold us products and services and I saw a mix of smarts and incompetence that to my eye matched what I saw in-house. And the lame brain activities that have led to the current recession (and the occupy Wall Street and t-party responses to them) drew from both sectors. Is it a draw or does productivity and competence tilt toward the private sector? I don't think the debates can be settled but I will be certain to jump in whenever they come up.
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Old 10-18-2011, 12:25 PM   #195
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Off Topic somewhat, but...



You might want to check again. Now, I assume you had family coverage with him earlier.

I'm on a retiree plan, and my DD was covered between graduation (under 26 YO) and the time her new employee HC took effect. No problem.

One 'hitch' in this could be: did your son lose eligibility earlier (get caught a an in-between point)? If he was not covered under your plan while he was in grad school, then I don't think they 'pick him up' later. Once out you are out as I understand it.

-ERD50
No, he was covered without any break in coverage, however, the law provides discretion to the company who holds the plan and they do not have to offer this to retirees, since that class is not considered as an active employee. My former company did tell me however, had I been a non-exempt (union) retiree, he would have been covered.
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Old 10-18-2011, 12:28 PM   #196
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Is it a draw or does productivity and competence tilt toward the private sector? I don't think the debates can be settled but I will be certain to jump in whenever they come up.
The only reason it may tilt towards the private sector is that every day they go to work and it could be their last day, and nearly 100% of public sector employees I know never have those thoughts........meaning less "coasting" going on in the private sector, IMHO..........
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Old 10-18-2011, 12:44 PM   #197
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The only reason it may tilt towards the private sector is that every day they go to work and it could be their last day, and nearly 100% of public sector employees I know never have those thoughts........meaning less "coasting" going on in the private sector, IMHO..........
Well, using thought experiments like the article writer did, I could take this the opposite way. The job security in the private sector today is so bad that stress levels are sky high. Rather than ramping up their productivity to protect their jobs, millions may be close to emotional shutdown and unable to perform at normal levels. In truth I suspect both scenarios are playing out to some degree. I don't envy today's workers.
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Old 10-18-2011, 12:48 PM   #198
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Well, using thought experiments like the article writer did, I could take this the opposite way. The job security in the private sector today is so bad that stress levels are sky high. Rather than ramping up their productivity to protect their jobs, millions may be close to emotional shutdown and unable to perform at normal levels. In truth I suspect both scenarios are playing out to some degree. I don't envy today's workers.
I suspect a "healthy" amount of fear might be a motivator and increase productivity. But in today's world -- mostly in the private sector though the public may be catching up -- there is *excess* fear and stress and at some point, I think it can be enough to reduce productivity.

It's like a jockey on a race horse -- a certain amount of whipping and cajoling will result in a horse running faster for sustained periods of time, but whip and cajole too much and it will crap out before the finish line.

One thing I do know is that when 20% of most private sector workforces are laid off, 20% of the work doesn't go away. In fact, in many times there's *more* work but fewer people to do it.
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Old 10-18-2011, 01:03 PM   #199
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I will say this for certain, once a worker knows for sure he going to be riffed, the productivity goes way down until their out the door. Usually better to get things over with quickly than have them drag on for months, but in some situations the company is forced to provide certain periods of notice.
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Old 10-18-2011, 01:12 PM   #200
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What I'd like to see is a little more connectivity and timeliness between market forces and public sector wage packages so the level of complaining and outrage doesn't need to get so high before tweaks are made and employers (tax payers) feel they are getting good value again but are still able to attract and retain all the qualified employees they wish.

I have no clue how to accomplish that.........
More sunshine will help. According to the following, Hawaii state and counties are now being required to report on liabilities for health benefits, which, it appears, were simply not known before. Once the future liabilities have been estimated, this creates some pressure to deal with the problems before they become critical.
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In recent years the Governmental Accounting Standards Board has required more transparency on the future costs for retiree health benefits, something that’s also known as "Other Post Retirement Benefits," or OPEB, among accountants. Hawaii has started reporting this liability but has yet to follow some other states that are starting to set aside funds for these future costs. There is no GASB requirement that states pre-fund these expenses and Hawaii is in compliance with OPEB reporting rules for now. Some of Hawaii’s counties have started to set aside money for OPEB, but the state has yet to do so.
Honolulu Civil Beat - Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund
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