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Old 10-16-2011, 02:24 PM   #121
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One other thing to keep in mind, most public employees PAY INTO their retirement system. I estimate that about 1/3 of my pension retirement dollars will simply be a return on the dollars I paid in and the earnings on those dollars.
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Old 10-16-2011, 02:26 PM   #122
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One other thing to keep in mind, most public employees PAY INTO their retirement system. I estimate that about 1/3 of my pension retirement dollars will simply be a return on the dollars I paid in and the earnings on those dollars.
To me, it's less a problem that the employers put taxpayer funds into the plans as it is the way they don't fund them in better times (when they can best afford it)... and then come back to us requesting a huge influx of funds at the time we can least afford it. Again, this is on the government and the politicians making the decisions, not the pensioners. Seems no matter how many times I say that people think I'm attacking public servants.
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Old 10-16-2011, 02:38 PM   #123
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While I am not trying to pick on gov't workers per se, one other big chasim that I see between jobs in the commercial sector and gov't is in the area of productivity. On-going productivity improvements has enabled the private sector to do much more with less; can we really say the same is true for gov't being more efficient and productive? It seems like the only answer has been to add more govt workers and additional govt functions. My wife works for the city as a part time worker, $13/hr, no vacation or medical benefits. I am appauled at how little the full time workers do, and all the vacation/sick time that they get and their inability to drive continuous improvement. If they worked in corporate america, most would have been riffed long ago. I am not blaming the workers themselves, but this system and those in charge are out of control and as a tax payer, I don't feel a desire to continue to feed this system unabated. As a shareholder, I could say the same thing in terms of how top execs have bilked both the workers and shareholders alike. Sorry for the rant.
So, why don't we hear more from you about the imbecility and unproductiveness of the private sector? Market forces don't always result in optimal decisions for businesses or society. I'm not a socialist but I do think the debate is really over how we can make the government more responsive to us, including streamlining functions and perhaps even regulating unrestrained excesses of the private sector, where the market is dysfunctional, like CEO compensation!
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Old 10-16-2011, 02:49 PM   #124
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So, why don't we hear more from you about the imbecility and unproductiveness of the private sector?
Chris, I think the productivity improvements made by corp american can be readily comfirmed with gov't data and the US is certainly one of the most productive countries in the world. If that is not self evident to you, I am not going to waste time trying to educate you.

Again, I think Ziggy tried to point this out to you already, but you do not seem to getting the message. We are not trying to pick on the govt workers themselves or take away from what they have been promised, its the system that needs to be fixed going forward, not the workers!!!!!!

Edit: Also, fyi, I have railed several times on this forum about exec compensation abuses and outsourcing.
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Old 10-16-2011, 02:54 PM   #125
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There are times I've said I believe that the status quo for some plans is unsustainable, but I don't believe I've ever attacked government employees or advocated that those already working or retired in public service should have their benefits taken away or reduced. But have fun looking for evidence!
I don't have to look far. Above in post #101, you write:
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... as soon as someone with a government employer has to sample a very small taste of what we've endured since the 1990s, it's an outrage that promises are being broken?
with the implication that it's not really an outrage to break promises to government employees. Then
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I can't watch my real wages decline by more than 10% over the last 6 years and watch the amount of taxes needed to fund public sector compensation continue to rise.
We know that many public pension funds have substantial unfunded liabilities, and in Hawaii, at least, the reason is clear. It is exactly this unwillingness to devote sufficient tax monies to fund the states' portions of the funding. Either the tax monies will rise in the future, to make up the deficits, or the states will default their obligations. You can't reasonably say that you favor the pension funds paying out all their obligations in the future but at the same time be determined to deny them the means of doing so.

You need to consider the implications of your words.
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Old 10-16-2011, 03:03 PM   #126
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Chris, I think the productivity improvements made by corp american can be readily comfirmed with gov't data and the US is certainly one of the most productive countries in the world. If that is not self evident to you, I am not going to waste time trying to educate you.

Again, I think Ziggy tried to point this out to you already, but you do not seem to getting the message. We are not trying to pick on the govt workers themselves or take away from what they have been promised, its the system that needs to be fixed going forward, not the workers!!!!!!
DFW, please excuse my ignorance if I confuse your one-sided rant with an unbalanced approach to this all. It is not self-evident to me that American corporations are the most productive in the world or that our private sector employees are at the top of the game -- there's a lot of excess capacity in the private sector too that simply isn't weeded out by supply and demand. And we all know anecdotal espisodes of corporate welfare.

I don't think that you or Ziggy are intentionally picking on government workers, but the rants here suggest that you believe the government workforce is bloated and overcompensated and that this condition is unfair when the private sector is taking on the chin! I merely suggest that that's the way it sounds to me.
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Old 10-16-2011, 03:21 PM   #127
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DFW, please excuse my ignorance if I confuse your one-sided rant with an unbalanced approach to this all. It is not self-evident to me that American corporations are the most productive in the world or that our private sector employees are at the top of the game -- there's a lot of excess capacity in the private sector too that simply isn't weeded out by supply and demand. And we all know anecdotal espisodes of corporate welfare.

I don't think that you or Ziggy are intentionally picking on government workers, but the rants here suggest that you believe the government workforce is bloated and overcompensated and that this condition is unfair when the private sector is taking on the chin! I merely suggest that that's the way it sounds to me.
Sorry that this discussion seems to have struck a nerve with you, but I will agree with this part of your diatribe "you believe the government workforce is bloated and overcompensated".
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Old 10-16-2011, 03:23 PM   #128
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I don't think that you or Ziggy are intentionally picking on government workers, but the rants here suggest that you believe the government workforce is bloated and overcompensated and that this condition is unfair when the private sector is taking on the chin! I merely suggest that that's the way it sounds to me.
I simply think there has been a rather significant divergence over the last 10-15 years that can't be sustained and can't really continue. I'd much prefer we address that by reversing the slide of the private sector instead of taking down the public sector, but we can't continue down the same road we've been following since the 1990s.

Unfortunately it's hard to make that point without many public sector pensioners and plan participants automatically assuming you are scapegoating *them* or feeling like you are trying to take something away from them. I won't deny that some folks are doing that, but wanting to advocate for the private sector isn't the same thing as wanting to take the public sector down. Hell, I'd love to have at least "held serve" in my real income instead of seeing it drop probably 12% in the last six years -- that would make it a lot easier for me to feel like I could still afford to allow others to hold serve, too. I'd prefer that a LOT more than seeing anyone else's benefits taken away or watered down.

In summary -- I don't know how we get there, but unless the slide of the private sector middle class can be reversed, I don't know how this issue can be defused.
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Old 10-16-2011, 04:09 PM   #129
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Given the woeful financial ignorance of a large percentage of Americans, how can you be sure that union leaders were "fully aware" the funding was inadequate? They aren't actuaries.
I'm pretty sure. If not actuaries themselves, those union leaders can hire actuaries. Just because the average American is a dope doesn't mean every union leader is. I said above that in Hawaii, the unions were well aware of the government's raiding the pension funds, and I referred to the lawsuit of 2002 which sought (vainly) to prevent that from continuing. Thinking that you did not read this, or simply didn't believe me, I've looked up a couple of news articles chronicling the suit from the police union, Lawsuit to test raid of state pension fund | The Honolulu Advertiser | Hawaii's Newspaper, and the interesting follow up of the Hawaii retirement system itself joining that suit: ERS joins pension fund lawsuit against state | The Honolulu Advertiser | Hawaii's Newspaper.
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Old 10-16-2011, 04:12 PM   #130
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I don't think that you or Ziggy are intentionally picking on government workers,
Right about Ziggy but wrong about DFW witness his riposte:
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I will agree with this part of your diatribe "you believe the government workforce is bloated and overcompensated".
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Old 10-16-2011, 04:34 PM   #131
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In summary -- I don't know how we get there, but unless the slide of the private sector middle class can be reversed, I don't know how this issue can be defused.
What about the slide of every sector of the middle class?

"Divide and conquer" is a great strategy for those who might benefit in one way or another from the confusion that results within the bourgeoisie.
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Old 10-16-2011, 04:39 PM   #132
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What about the slide of every sector of the middle class?

"Divide and conquer" is a great strategy for those who might benefit in one way or another from the confusion that results within the bourgeoisie.
The problem is that it feels like there's a disconnect between GDP, corporate profits and what we have endured for the last few years. I just don't know how one can address that in the private sector without more government control than I find desirable, but at the same time if it continues the current "confusion" and disconnect may only grow, and it is indeed a good way to keep one segment of "ordinary folks" too mad at each other to come together and address the root of the problem -- which serves neither interest well in the long term.

I don't claim to be smart enough to have the answers there. But I think I am smart enough to recognize that it will be hard to endure many more years of diverging fates -- AND that ordinary people treating each other as the problem will solve nothing and will just make a lot of bitter people.
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Old 10-16-2011, 04:45 PM   #133
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It turns out many employee pension funds were well funded until corporate cost cutters raided them to the benefit of top execs and CIOs many times legally (although immorally) and often illegally.
Hasn't the combination of low interest rates and low equity prices played the major roll in causing pension plans to become underfunded?
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Old 10-16-2011, 05:16 PM   #134
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Sorry that this discussion seems to have struck a nerve with you, but I will agree with this part of your diatribe "you believe the government workforce is bloated and overcompensated".
It's not the discussion that has struck a nerve with me, but it's the attitude you appear to convey that underlies your hypothesis that the government workforce is bloated and overcompensated based on the limited, anecdotal case you mention about your wife's public sector colleagues. It's like me suggesting that Steve Jobs was a doofus and a dope based on his championing of the Apple Lisa! We all know of waste and inefficiency in public and private sectors; and big corporations like big government agencies are typically very slow to react to pockets of inefficiency and unproductivity.

Not sure I engaged in a diatribe; I thought I was really responding to the one you initiated.
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Old 10-16-2011, 05:37 PM   #135
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Chris, I think the productivity improvements made by corp american can be readily comfirmed with gov't data and the US is certainly one of the most productive countries in the world. If that is not self evident to you, I am not going to waste time trying to educate you.

Again, I think Ziggy tried to point this out to you already, but you do not seem to getting the message. We are not trying to pick on the govt workers themselves or take away from what they have been promised, its the system that needs to be fixed going forward, not the workers!!!!!!

Edit: Also, fyi, I have railed several times on this forum about exec compensation abuses and outsourcing.
I think this graph shows that productivity has indeed greatly improved over the past 30 years, but the income gains from that improvement have been captured by capital, not labor. If private sector workers want to find out who stole their cheese, the holders of capital would be a good place to look, not the public sector workers.

Edit to add: This is the most recent graph I could easily find. My feeling is that a more recent one would only show more of the same.
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Old 10-16-2011, 05:42 PM   #136
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I simply think there has been a rather significant divergence over the last 10-15 years that can't be sustained and can't really continue. I'd much prefer we address that by reversing the slide of the private sector instead of taking down the public sector, but we can't continue down the same road we've been following since the 1990s.

Unfortunately it's hard to make that point without many public sector pensioners and plan participants automatically assuming you are scapegoating *them* or feeling like you are trying to take something away from them. I won't deny that some folks are doing that, but wanting to advocate for the private sector isn't the same thing as wanting to take the public sector down. Hell, I'd love to have at least "held serve" in my real income instead of seeing it drop probably 12% in the last six years -- that would make it a lot easier for me to feel like I could still afford to allow others to hold serve, too. I'd prefer that a LOT more than seeing anyone else's benefits taken away or watered down.

In summary -- I don't know how we get there, but unless the slide of the private sector middle class can be reversed, I don't know how this issue can be defused.

I'm not sure how the middle class slide can be reserved or even to some extent if it should. As a nation we borrowed much more than produced over the last decade both individually and through the government.

The people who we borrowed the money from are roughly a billion folks in India and China, who 20 years ago were barely surviving on subsistence level agriculture. They have spent the last 10 year working very hard in factories, call centers etc. at wages that were much too low. But the wages were still high enough to allow these people a taste of western life, meat a few days week, store bought clothing, indoor plumbing, a bicycle, and a luxury item or two like cell phone, or iPod. The Chinese, India worker isn't going back to the farm.

We need to pay these people back, through some combination of higher inflation, higher taxes, lower consumption, lower wages and harder work.
The giant national block party is over, and we need to clean up, it is not all that productive to argue that me and my friends only had 3 beers, so we are going to only dispose of three beer bottles. The guy in the hospital that went through a case, and some shots isn't in a position to help out.
Somebody has to clean up his mess.

It also isn't very productive to point to big corporation and CEOs and say these guys should pay. These companies aren't American and WE don't own them. The Coke CEO is Turkish and the Pepsi CEO is Indian these people don't owe us a damn thing, other than next time we go on a binge to cut us off sooner.
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Old 10-16-2011, 06:08 PM   #137
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I think this graph shows that productivity has indeed greatly improved over the past 30 years, but the income gains from that improvement have been captured by capital, not labor. If private sector workers want to find out who stole their cheese, the holders of capital would be a good place to look, not the public sector workers.

Edit to add: This is the most recent graph I could easily find. My feeling is that a more recent one would only show more of the same.
+1 Well said and well illustrated. (emphasis by bolding in the above is mine)
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Old 10-16-2011, 06:25 PM   #138
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I think this graph shows that productivity has indeed greatly improved over the past 30 years, but the income gains from that improvement have been captured by capital, not labor. If private sector workers want to find out who stole their cheese, the holders of capital would be a good place to look, not the public sector workers.
I think it's hard to generalize from these types of graphs. My question is who contributed more to the increased productivity? Likely it wasn't the median worker. A large part of the increased productivity occurred from technology. Those skilled in this area (both in the private and public sectors) have seen their incomes rise considerably more than the median.
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Old 10-16-2011, 06:42 PM   #139
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Right about Ziggy but wrong about DFW witness his riposte:
Saying I believe the govt workforce is bloated and over compensated is quite a bit different than intentionally picking on gov't workers.

There is a lot to pick on these days and its not just the gov't sector. I don't like and have picked on excessive executive compensation, the outsourcing of jobs, and the laying off of perfectly good workers just because the company will not make next quarters numbers. I don't like the lack of opportunity for the younger generation. I don't like a gov't that is in gridlock due to its inability to work for the common good. I don't like the shenanigans from wallstreet or the wrong doers getting off unscathed. I don't like education and healthcare costs that increase exponentially. I don't like working 60 - 70 hour weeks for pay that doesn't even keep up with inflation, and hearing workers told, if you don't like it there's the door.

This thread seemed to elude that the govt sector pay/benefits is part of the cause for the mess we are in and I do not think its unreasonable to mention that, and and if anyone thinks that such pay and benefits should not be questioned or scrutized, please speak up. While all of these comments are generalizations and may not apply to your situation, I do believe the mess we are in has largely been caused by the politicos and officials, and their legislation that has created these schemes that we hold sacred, has caused whats happening in all sectors private and public, both intentionally and unintentionally.

If any of these comments makes you feel picked on, welcome to the club, because its been going on for a long time on the other side of the fence. We are not in Kansas any more Toto, and we have big mess to clean up that is going to require everyone sharing the pain, thats inevitable.

Now, I apologize if anyone took my comments as intentionally trying to pick on you. I do not want to see any promises made to anyone, public or private, get cut or eliminated. However, the system must be fixed going forward so that it is fiscally viable and sustainable.
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Old 10-16-2011, 06:43 PM   #140
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If private sector workers want to find out who stole their cheese, the holders of capital would be a good place to look, not the public sector workers.
The price of labor and capital are both subject to market forces, obviously there's no "right" price for either one aside from that. Any graphs looking strictly at US pay and productivity and not including worldwide figures is going to miss the point. US labor has been subject to increasing worldwide competition. Yes, US labor is still among the most productive in the world, but only when looked as "production per labor hour." The metric of more importance to businesses is "Production per labor cost" and the US has been slipping in that department relative to our competitors for quite some time (looking for graphs now).
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