Tag Archives: Pensions

How exposed is your state to the problem of underfunded pensions?

I am thinking about moving to a new state in the future, and one of the factors I am considering is underfunded pension liabilities. This basically refers to the ability of a state to pay out pensions to retiring public sector employees going forward. I’m going to tell you everything you need to know to solve this problem in this post.

First, Investors Business Daily explains the problem:

A new report by Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Joshua Rauh shows that, unless action is taken soon, many local governments could face bankruptcy because they can’t meet their pension obligations.

[…]The problem is surprisingly simple: States and cities overestimate returns on their pension fund investments, while systematically underfunding them. The result is a growing deficit that will require massive tax hikes or dramatic and painful cuts in government services and promised pensions to public workers.

Rauh’s study looked at 564 state and local pension systems, representing $4.8 trillion in pension liabilities and $3.6 trillion in assets — for an apparent current deficit of just $1.19 trillion.

So far, so good. But Rauh notes the average expected return on pension assets is about 7.6% — which means a doubling every 9.5 years. He calls that assumption “wildly optimistic,” and says a more realistic assumption would be the Treasury bond rate of 3% or lower — less than half the expected return.

Unless pension managers, politicians and voters do something now, the unfunded liabilities of the national system will continue to grow out of control, reaching $3.4 trillion in just 10 years. States and cities across the country would have to raise taxes massively to keep from becoming insolvent.

Right now, state and local governments set aside about 7.3% of revenues for public pensions. To keep the funding gap from exploding and taking down governments across the nation, pension spending would have to rise to  17.5% of revenues on average — roughly equal to a 240% tax increase.

How did things get so bad? Generations of feckless politicians have refused to face down public employee unions, which have negotiated massively expensive pensions for their members while concealing their true cost. Politicians have gone along with it because, heck, it’s not their money and anyway, the problems will take place long after they’re out of office. That’s where we are now.

States and cities will come under intense pressure to raise taxes on local citizens to pay for this travesty. Instead, they should get rid of the public employee unions that have plundered the public for too long and have made local government inefficient, expensive and dysfunctional. If not, they can expect to face the same economy-crippling effects as Detroit, San Bernardino and a number of other cities have — financial insolvency.

Now, obviously states with kick-ass governors like Scott Walker of Wisconsin are not going to have the same exposure to such problems as incompetent governors like Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire. Scott Walker know how to rein in public sector unions.

Let’s get the numbers to confirm this hypothesis.

Bloomberg has the numbers:

Bloomberg ranked 49 U.S. states based on their pension funding ratios in 2014 under GASB 25. (Delaware is not included because of insufficient data for GASB 25.)

Here are the best states… Wisconsin is 100% funded:

States with the best-funded pension liiabilities
States with the best-funded pension liiabilities

And actually there is a comprehensive analysis of the fiscal solvency of all the states right here from George Mason University.

Here’s the map:

Overall fiscal solvency by state
Overall fiscal solvency by state

I notice that the deep blue states like California, Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, etc. are just horrible states. No wonder everyone is fleeing them in droves. Socialism doesn’t work. Eventually, the money runs out.

So, if you’re thinking of moving to a new state, look at that. And if you don’t want to move, then vote for governors like Scott Walker who will take on public sector unions – otherwise, you’re headed for a big tax hike in the future, to pay for the big spending liberals of the past.

Bobby Jindal: policies of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are the same as Greece

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

Here’s an excellent editorial by Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal in left-leaning Time magazine.

He writes:

It’s simple math to understand what is happening in Greece right now. When Greece joined the euro, it benefited from the financial support of its more fiscally responsible neighbors in the euro zone. Rather than taking the opportunity to enact the structural reforms that could have increased growth — reforms that it still has not undertaken — Greece instead went on a spending spree funded by other people’s money.

Greece has been cooking the books with complicated financial instruments for years. But the problems don’t stop there. Greece’s Rubik’s Cube tax code and rampant corruption make tax evasion widespread. Golden parachute public pensions that allow public sector workers to retire as early as 45 drain dollars out of the government coffers while incentivizing a still healthy and work-age workforce to live on the public dime. It’s hard to have sufficient tax paying workers when about 75% of Greek public-sector employees retire by the age 61.

Did the new socialist government run by 40-year-old child Alex Tsipras fix anything?

They made it worse:

After taking office in January, the Alexis Tsipras administration reversed promised privatization of state-owned assets like the Port of Piraeus. In 2011, the IMF predicted Greece could bring in 50 billion euros ($56 billion) from the sale of state assets, not to mention the savings from moving those employees off the public wage and benefit system. To date, it has raised about 3 billion euros.

Business has no interest in creating jobs when crushed by government regulation. Tspiras promised to raise the minimum wage, despite the economy spiraling out of control. It’s not surprising the March unemployment rate stood at 25.6%.

Privatization is a thing that conservatives do, because we don’t like the idea that government workers get automatic pay from compulsory taxation. We prefer that whoever is providing services be in the private sector, as independent from government influence as possible. That way, they actually have to compete with other providers to earn your money – something a government monopoly never has to do.

Anyway, back to Greece socialism. Who would be stupid enough to raise taxes, raise minimum wage, increase spending and promise people more free stuff as a way of getting out of debt?

These two unqualified clowns, that’s who:

Clinton and Sanders are math deniers, like most of the Democrats in D.C. They want to grow the government economy instead of the real American economy. Rather than pursuing tax reform to improve growth or entitlement changes to reduce future expenditures, Clinton and Sanders are focused on spending trillions on Obamacare, giving free college to everyone, and raising the federal minimum wage.

Since January 2007, Democrats have added well over $10 trillion to the national debt, running it up to $18.5 trillion, higher than the entire GDP of the country. What have we got for that? Fewer people in the labor force, and more people dependent on government, that’s what. But oh, you can marry your siblings and pets now, because lurve, so that’s something.

OK, so let’s talk about Bobby Jindal. Initially, I had him slotted in as my #2 candidate with Scott Walker on top. But Walker has had two months and hasn’t done anything super conservative. Meanwhile, Jindal has offered a lot of red meat to conservatives on marriage and right to life, and now we have this aggressive condemnation of socialism, too. I think Jindal is now my top pick, and Walker is next, then Cruz. Fiorina is looking better at this point and is #4, and Rubio is off my list entirely.

What happens to crime rates if we punish police officers for stopping crime?

This story from Heather MacDonald in the Wall Street Journal is scary.

She writes:

The nation’s two-decades-long crime decline may be over. Gun violence in particular is spiraling upward in cities across America. In Baltimore, the most pressing question every morning is how many people were shot the previous night. Gun violence is up more than 60% compared with this time last year, according to Baltimore police, with 32 shootings over Memorial Day weekend. May has been the most violent month the city has seen in 15 years.

In Milwaukee, homicides were up 180% by May 17 over the same period the previous year. Through April, shootings in St. Louis were up 39%, robberies 43%, and homicides 25%. “Crime is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said St. Louis Alderman Joe Vacarro at a May 7 City Hall hearing.

Murders in Atlanta were up 32% as of mid-May. Shootings in Chicago had increased 24% and homicides 17%. Shootings and other violent felonies in Los Angeles had spiked by 25%; in New York, murder was up nearly 13%, and gun violence 7%.

Those citywide statistics from law-enforcement officials mask even more startling neighborhood-level increases. Shooting incidents are up 500% in an East Harlem precinct compared with last year; in a South Central Los Angeles police division, shooting victims are up 100%.

By contrast, the first six months of 2014 continued a 20-year pattern of growing public safety. Violent crime in the first half of last year dropped 4.6% nationally and property crime was down 7.5%. Though comparable national figures for the first half of 2015 won’t be available for another year, the January through June 2014 crime decline is unlikely to be repeated.

What could the cause of this be? Well, it’s the backlash against police officers who defend themselves from assault by criminals who attack them:

Since last summer, the airwaves have been dominated by suggestions that the police are the biggest threat facing young black males today. A handful of highly publicized deaths of unarmed black men, often following a resisted arrest—including Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., in July 2014, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014 and Freddie Gray in Baltimore last month—have led to riots, violent protests and attacks on the police. Murders of officers jumped 89% in 2014, to 51 from 27.

The state’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, wants to create a special state prosecutor dedicated solely to prosecuting cops who use lethal force. New York Gov.Andrew Cuomo would appoint an independent monitor whenever a grand jury fails to indict an officer for homicide and there are “doubts” about the fairness of the proceeding (read: in every instance of a non-indictment); the governor could then turn over the case to a special prosecutor for a second grand jury proceeding.

This incessant drumbeat against the police has resulted in what St. Louis police chiefSam Dotson last November called the “Ferguson effect.” Cops are disengaging from discretionary enforcement activity and the “criminal element is feeling empowered,” Mr. Dotson reported. Arrests in St. Louis city and county by that point had dropped a third since the shooting of Michael Brown in August. Not surprisingly, homicides in the city surged 47% by early November and robberies in the county were up 82%.

Similar “Ferguson effects” are happening across the country as officers scale back on proactive policing under the onslaught of anti-cop rhetoric. Arrests in Baltimore were down 56% in May compared with 2014.

But there’s more – there’s also leniency towards property and drug crime, and criminals are getting the message:

As attorney general, Eric Holder pressed the cause of ending “mass incarceration” on racial grounds; elected officials across the political spectrum have jumped on board. A 2014 California voter initiative has retroactively downgraded a range of property and drug felonies to misdemeanors, including forcible theft of guns, purses and laptops. More than 3,000 felons have already been released from California prisons, according to the Association of Deputy District Attorneys in Los Angeles County. Burglary, larceny and car theft have surged in the county, the association reports.

“There are no real consequences for committing property crimes anymore,” Los Angeles Police Lt. Armando Munoz told Downtown News earlier this month, “and the criminals know this.” The Milwaukee district attorney, John Chisholm, is diverting many property and drug criminals to rehabilitation programs to reduce the number of blacks in Wisconsin prisons; critics see the rise in Milwaukee crime as one result.

Yes, this is what happens with the leftist mainstream media and the Democrats who run big cities like Baltimore, Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, Seattle, etc. get together and decide that they are more opposed to police officers than they are to criminals. If we as a society choose to intimidate and persecute the police for doing their jobs, then crime goes up. What’s my counter to this? Well, it might be time to start thinking about moving out of big cities, especially ones that are run by Democrats. I just don’t see how this is going to get fixed in the near-term, given that Obama rolled back welfare reform, and welfare is what causes women to have children before they get married. Fatherless children are more likely to become criminals. The decline of marriage and family that everyone seems to be celebrating as “tolerance” will just make more delinquent children. So, just when we most need the police (since we insist on attack marriage with welfare, no-fault divorce and same-sex marriage) we are actively working to undermine them.

But that’s not all I am seeing that troubles me. I see a lot of support for amnesty, and that means a lot more Democrat voters in the future, especially in states with a high concentration of illegal immigrants. Not only that, but there are problems of underfunded pensions at the state level, and the trillion dollar student loan bubble, and the problem of continued funding of entitlement programs like Social Security. And of course we have the $10 trillion that the Democrats added to the debt, and the problems in so many countries in the Middle East, like Iran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria. The whole Middle East is on fire, and this is bound to affect us as our defense spending declines.

How to respond to this? I think having earnings and savings is key, and maybe trying to move away from areas that are likely to have high crime, and strains on state and local budgets from illegal immigrants, pension obligations, etc. I really have no answer to the student loan bubble, the entitlements, the debt and the foreign policy threats. What I am doing is focusing on earning money (through work) and saving it by restricting spending on luxury items, e.g. – travel, fun, etc.

Democrats join Republicans in demanding probe into Delphi pension scandal

From the Daily Caller.

Excerpt:

Twelve lawmakers wrote to House oversight committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman asking that they expand current probes into a Department of Treasury scandal that left 20,000 non-union Delphi retirees without their pensions after the 2009 General Motors bailout.

The members — Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, and Reps. Pat Tiberi of Ohio, Steve Stivers of Ohio, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, Dan Burton of Indiana, Bill Johnson of Ohio, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio and Gregg Harper of Mississippi — are led by Ohio Republican Rep. Mike Turner.

“We are writing to request that the committees which you chair submit additional requests for documents from the Department of the Treasury and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) on matters pertaining to the unjust termination of Delphi salaried retiree pensions in the federal government’s bailout of General Motors,” the lawmakers wrote. “As you may know, the pensions of Delphi salaried retirees were significantly reduced in the aftermath of the bailout, while their union counterparts were made whole. These retirees, regardless of labor affiliation or not, spent their careers working alongside one another and should not be treated differently in their retirement. This decision of the Auto Task Force, Treasury, and the PBGC continues to affect roughly 20,000 current and future retirees across the nation.”

The bipartisan support for this renewed investigation call — Kaptur is a Democrat — undercuts the Obama campaign’s accusations that his GOP rival, Mitt Romney, and Turner are trying to “politicize” this scandal.

Portman, who’s widely considered to be on Romney’s short list of potential vice presidential candidates, said in a statement that he has “met with these hard-working Ohioans who lost a significant portion of their pension benefits while other retirees from the same company received far better treatment.”

“The idea that the administration played politics with their pensions is beyond disappointing, and it deserves answers,” Portman said. “The administration’s decisions have caused pain and loss to thousands of workers and their families as a result of their reduced benefits. This matter deserves continued scrutiny from Congress, and the administration must be called upon to account for its decisions.”

Remember way back in 2009 about how the auto bailouts favored the unions over the private sector creditors who would normally be paid more of whatever could be saved? This isn’t the first time that the private sector – which funds the government –  was screwed by the government. But “the private sector is fine”.

How well did Obama-style tax hikes on the rich work for Illinois?

Central United States
Central United States

From the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

Run up spending and debt, raise taxes in the naming of balancing the budget, but then watch as deficits rise and your credit-rating falls anyway. That’s been the sad pattern in Europe, and now it’s hitting that mecca of tax-and-spend government known as Illinois.

Though too few noticed, this month Moody’s downgraded Illinois state debt to A2 from A1, the lowest among the 50 states. That’s worse even than California. The state’s cost of borrowing for $800 million of new 10-year general obligation bonds rose to 3.1%—which is 110 basis points higher than the 2% on top-rated 10-year bonds of more financially secure states.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Only a year ago, Governor Pat Quinn and his fellow Democrats raised individual income taxes by 67% and the corporate tax rate by 46%. They did it to raise $7 billion in revenue, as the Governor put it, to “get Illinois back on fiscal sound footing” and improve the state’s credit rating.

So much for that. In its downgrade statement, Moody’s panned Illinois lawmakers for “a legislative session in which the state took no steps to implement lasting solutions to its severe pension underfunding or to its chronic bill payment delays.” An analysis by Bloomberg finds that the assets in the pension fund will only cover “45% of projected liabilities, the least of any state.” And—no surprise—in part because the tax increases have caused companies to leave Illinois, the state budget office confesses that as of this month the state still has $6.8 billion in unpaid bills and unaddressed obligations.

It’s worth contrasting this grim picture with that of Wisconsin north of the border. Last winter Madison was occupied by thousands of union protesters trying to bully legislators to defeat Republican Governor Scott Walker’s plan to require government workers to pay a larger share of their health-plan costs, and to shore up the pension system by trimming future retirement liabilities. The reforms passed anyway.

In contrast to the Illinois downgrade, Moody’s has praised Mr. Walker’s budget as “credit positive for Wisconsin,” adding that the money-saving reforms bring “the state’s finances closer to a structural budgetary balance.” As a result, Wisconsin jumped in Chief Executive magazine’s 2011 ranking of each state’s business climate—moving to 17th from 41st. Illinois dropped to 48th from 45th as ranked by the nation’s top CEOs.

And in Ohio, Republican Governor John Kasich also saw success.

Excerpt:

Ohio’s new fiscal responsibility is getting noticed and rewarded.

Standard & Poor’s upgraded the state’s credit forecast from “negative” to “stable,” in time for a $417 million bond sale last week to refinance at a lower interest rate and restructure debt.

Ohio’s lean budget will pay off with lower costs for borrowing, saving taxpayers as much as $1 million or more over the course of a year, according to the state’s Office of Budget and Management. It’s like having a credit-card company lower its annual percentage rate: The borrower can either accelerate the payoff or spend the savings elsewhere.

So essentially, cutting state programs spared money for state programs.

This is vindication for the Kasich administration. When Gov. John Kasich took office this year, the state was $8 billion in the hole and its rainy-day fund totaled $1.78. That’s not a typo; Ohio barely had enough in the bank to buy itself a cup of coffee. A small one.

[…]Investors pay attention to these ratings, especially since Ohio stands out as other states continue to struggle. “There are a lot of jitters in the credit market; I can’t imagine it won’t be helpful,” said Robin Prunty, primary credit analyst with Standard & Poor’s.

[…]Most states still are struggling with the economic recovery and phasing out one-time money from the federal stimulus program that Kasich’s predecessor used to paper over the deficit. S&P’s revised outlook reflects its view that Ohio’s economy “is steadily recovering.”

“The outlook revision reflects the state’s progress in moving toward structural budget balance through fiscal 2013 and the modest economic recovery under way,” its report says.

Republican tax policies work, and Democrat policies don’t. Taxing the rich sounds good, but it doesn’t help the poor. To help the poor, we need to encourage people with capital to risk it by engaging in enterprises for profit. That is what causes workers to be hired and wealth to be created – forming valuable products and services through ingenuity and labor.  Workers who build skills and experience while working have more confidence and can be more productive, making them more free because they can succeed independently of government handouts.