Thursday, May 31, 2012

Illinois - The wages of sin

"Reform runaway Medicaid and pension spending or subject the least creditworthy state in America-- Illinois-- to even more costly bond rating downgrades. He noted that rating agency Standard & Poor's says it could drop Illinois "by more than one notch" if the state won't fix its finances."- Chicago Tribune

Good start, Illinois lawmakers, on financial reforms. Now finish. - "Those of you in Springfield (Illinois state capital) need to pay for sins that not all of you committed. Friday's Tribune detailed how a 1989 law ballooned the pensions of legislators who served more than 20 years, a classic case of pension sweeteners written by lawmakers for lawmakers. Legislative newcomers no longer qualify for that perk. But among the still-serving members grandfathered into its lavish pensions when they retire are House Speaker Michael Madigan ($131,000 next year if he retired this year) and Senate President John Cullerton ($112,000)."

Hogs at the Trough - one wonders: how do these guys look themselves in the mirror?


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Robert Mugabe - UN Leader for Tourism

UN taking lessons from the GSA?--

The Rosett Report » Yep – Robert Mugabe, UN Leader for Tourism: "Zimbabwe and Zambia will be co-hosting the UNWTO’s General Assembly next year, at Victoria Falls. Quite likely that augurs a pleasant excursion for the eminences and UNWTO staff who will be attending the UNWTO’s 2013 General Assembly, plus plenty of diplomatic glad-handing for co-host Mugabe. Will the UNWTO’s festivities promote better times for the people of Zimbabwe? — battered and impoverished  as they are, due to decades of Mugabe’s thuggish rule. Well, the UNWTO is a UN organization that includes North Korea and Syria . . . "

Enough said?


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Illinois --it's all "Greek" to me

No one should shake their heads at Greece and its fiscal troubles--just look at the state of Illinois--

Illinois struggles financially more than year after record income tax hike - "The governor acknowledges the drastic cutbacks are a lot to ask on the heels of a 67 percent increase in the personal income tax rate . . . Republican Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine put the blame on years of overspending by Democrats who have controlled the Capitol since 2003. Murphy said years of skipped pension payments and expanding Medicaid eligibility dug a budget hole so deep that the tax increase couldn't fill it. "The chickens are coming home to roost," Murphy said. "So now we have very tough, painful decisions to make even after the largest tax increase in state history. And that's frankly because of a lack of fiscal discipline for the last decade in this Capitol.""

Everyone LOVES to spend money--where's the adult supervision?


Monday, May 28, 2012

A Loss of Innocence

David Brooks makes liberals like Paul Krugman VERY UNCOMFORTABLE--sometimes the TRUTH really hurts--Brooks really nailed it in a recent column, excerpted below:

The Age of Innocence - "The people who pioneered democracy in Europe and the United States had a low but pretty accurate view of human nature. They knew that if we get the chance, most of us will try to get something for nothing. They knew that people generally prize short-term goodies over long-term prosperity. So, in centuries past, the democratic pioneers built a series of checks to make sure their nations wouldn’t be ruined by their own frailties.The American founders did this by decentralizing power. . . .James Madison put it well: “As there is a degree of depravity in mankind, which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence.” But, over the years, this balanced wisdom was lost. Leaders today do not believe their job is to restrain popular will. Their job is to flatter and satisfy it. A gigantic polling apparatus has developed to help leaders anticipate and respond to popular whims. Democratic politicians adopt the mind-set of marketing executives. Give the customer what he wants. . . Having lost a sense of their own frailty, many voters have come to regard their desires as entitlements. They become incensed when their leaders are not responsive to their needs. Like any normal set of human beings, they command their politicians to give them benefits without asking them to pay. The consequences of this shift are now obvious. In Europe and America, governments have made promises they can’t afford to fulfill. . . . Congress is capable of passing laws that give people benefits with borrowed money, but it gridlocks when it tries to impose self-restraint. The Obama campaign issues its famous “Julia” ad, which perfectly embodies the vision of government as a national Sugar Daddy, delivering free money and goodies up and down the life cycle. The Citizens United case gives well-financed interests tremendous power to preserve or acquire tax breaks and regulatory deals. American senior citizens receive health benefits that cost many times more than the contributions they put into the system. . . . "

Will we ever come to our senses?


Sunday, May 27, 2012

California: the chickens are coming home to roost

McGurn: Jerry Brown vs. Chris Christie - "More states are realizing that the road to fiscal hell is paved with progressive intentions. . . On public-employee unions, Mr. Brown can talk a good game—at Monday's press conference, he announced a 5% pay cut for state workers, and he has proposed pension reform. Yet for all his pull with unions (the last time he was governor, he gave California's public-sector unions collective-bargaining rights), Gov. Brown, a Democrat, has not been able to accomplish what Republican Gov. Christie (New Jersey) has: persuade a Democratic legislature to require government workers to kick in more for their health care and pensions. . . . "

California: the chickens are coming home to roost!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Outlier Illinois

The American Midwest: Smaller, more accountable government--everywhere except Illinois where the hogs are still at the trough:

McGurn: Jerry Brown vs. Chris Christie - " . . the American Midwest today is home to some of the biggest experiments in government. Republicans now hold both the governorships and the legislatures in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, and in Wisconsin they control all but the Senate. In each they are pushing for smaller, more accountable government. The outlier is Illinois, where Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and his Democratic legislature pushed through a tax increase on their heavily indebted state. Now ask yourself this. Can anyone look at Illinois and say to himself: I have seen the future and it works? . . ."


Friday, May 25, 2012

Relatives of deceased municipal employees cashed pension checks

Here's another thing about public pensions--they just keep issuing checks--even after the retired employee dies!

Relatives of deceased municipal employees caught cashing city pension checks - "Death didn’t deter some folks from illegally cashing nearly $384,000 in government pension checks of retired municipal employees who have been deceased for years, investigators said yesterday. The Department of Investigation said it has uncovered eight cases of fraud involving dead workers’ relatives. . . . "


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Public pension fixes face legal challenges

Analysis: Public pension fixes face stout legal challenges | Reuters: " . . . . While legal fees pile up, the financial health of pension funds is worsening. In April, the Northern Mariana Islands, way out in the Pacific Ocean, became the first U.S. public pension fund to file for bankruptcy protection. States have tended to avoid trying to change pensions for existing retirees and have tried instead to raise retirement ages and lower benefits for new hires. While that strategy may help them avoid lawsuits, it also makes only a small dent in the financial problem. A case in point is Illinois, where pensions are among the most poorly funded in the country. Nearly two years ago, the state government tried to cut retirement packages for new hires but its unfunded pension liability remains at $83 billion. In fiscal 2013, starting July 1, state payments into the pension system will hit $5.2 billion, or 15 percent of general revenue spending. It was 6 percent in 2008. In April, Democratic Governor Pat Quinn went further, making existing employees contribute more or take fewer benefits. That choice was unfair and a violation of the state constitutional, said Michael Carrigan, speaking for public worker coalitions. . . . "

At this rate, states like Illinois will eventually pay 100% of general revenue into their pension systems. Nothing like "kicking the can" down the road.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Unfunded pension liabilities - is there a problem?

Unfunded public pensions--somebody's got to pay--

Unfunded pension liabilities draw attention of Homer-Lockport Tea Party - Illinois Review: "If the Illinois General Assembly votes this month to transfer pension liabilities to local school districts, the weight of the debt will fall on local property tax owners - both residential and business. . . . Michael Brown said: "Passing the pensions back onto the disticts will necessarily cause property taxes to increase overnight at least 25%. This will cripple homeowners who already are struggling to pay their mortgage. . . ""

But that's YOUR problem. See how government works!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How to fix Social Security--another view

How to fix Social Security - Page 2 - " . . . On the revenue side, we should hold tax rates steady, but gradually phase in a rise in the current $110,100 ceiling on wages subject to Social Security contributions. Until the 1990s, that ceiling reached roughly 90 percent of all wages. We should move back up to that 90 percent level by 2020 and then index the ceiling to future wage gains. . . . We could also enhance revenues by requiring all future state and local government employees to join the Social Security system, a reform that would also, over time, make local pension costs more manageable. On the benefits side, we should change the way we calculate the cost-of-living adjustment for all beneficiaries, by utilizing a revised Consumer Price Index which most economists agree more accurately reflects the rate of inflation for the expenses most seniors incur. . . Lastly, we should accelerate the rise in Social Security’s full-benefit retirement age from age 67 to 68 by 2030 and then index the full benefit age for future generations to gains in longevity. Life expectancy past age 65 has risen nearly 50 percent since 1940, when Social Security first began regular monthly payments. . . . Based on estimates included in the 2010 report of the Social Security system’s expert advisory board, these proposals could eliminate nearly all of Social Security’s funding shortfall over the next 75 years.

We should then back up a solvent Social Security system with as close to universal access to workplace-based private savings as possible. This requires preserving all existing tax deferrals for savings through 401(k)s, IRAs, and other retirement vehicles — then extending coverage to all working Americans by adopting a great, bipartisan idea — the payroll-deduction Automatic IRA. . .Creating a truly reliable public-private retirement system would do far more than just help restore Americans’ confidence in their personal futures. It would boost market confidence worldwide. It might also revive the American people’s belief that our two political parties can look past their differences — as we have — to find common ground for the country we love. Rebooting that shared faith might just be the greatest benefit of all.

James Roosevelt Jr. is president and CEO of Tufts Health Plan and former associate commissioner for retirement policy for the Social Security Administration. Robert L. Reynolds is president and CEO of Putnam Investments.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Bribes, Kickbacks, and Unemployment Checks

Former state employee took $40K in bribes - The Reporter: "Federal prosecutors say a former worker for California's employment agency has pleaded guilty to accepting more than $40,000 bribes in return for wrongly issuing more than $500,000 in unemployment checks U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. says 30-year-old David Paul Holden pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and bribery. Birotte says Holden worked for the Anaheim office of the Employment Development Department when he received the in cash kickbacks from ineligible workers others recruited for him. Four of the recruiters have also been charged with conspiracy and embezzlement. Birotte says Holden orchestrated the kickback scheme, in which more than 50 people provided their social security numbers in exchange for unemployment checks."

Who's gonna pay back the $500,000+?


Sunday, May 20, 2012

California Dreamin'

Like I've said before, California is in a category all by itself:

CalPERS Database | Fix Pensions First | "12,199 retired California government workers receive pensions in excess of $100,000 from CalPERS They're all listed here. . . . "

WHEN IT COMES TO PENSIONS, WE CAN’T AFFORD TO PARTY LIKE IT’S 1999 . . . thousands of local (California) government employees retire at 55, collect six-figure pensions and lifetime health care benefits, and contribute nothing to their retirement plans. . . .


Saturday, May 19, 2012

More Than Good Enough for Government Work

More Than Good Enough for Government Work: "State lawmakers face an uphill battle in trying to bring their governments' pension costs under control, largely due to opposition from government employee unions. According to Northwestern University finance professor Joshua Rauh, public pensions nationwide are underfunded by a total of $4.4 trillion, despite efforts by many state governments to reform pension programs, says Ivan Osorio, the editorial director and a labor policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. . . . four crucial areas for reform. . . Pension payouts based on final year pay. . . .Collective bargaining and binding arbitration. The practice allows public employees to ratchet up benefits by controlling both sides of the negotiating table. Elected officials often receive enormous amounts of funding and support from well-funded and organized unions, and this creates hazardous conflicts of interest . . . Politicized pension fund boards. . . Faulty accounting standards. . . ." 

Source: Ivan Osorio, "More Than Good Enough for Government Work," The American, April 25, 2012. For text:

For more on Tax and Spending Issues:


Friday, May 18, 2012

Government pensions - a blast from the past

Here's the public pension problem in a nutshell:

Government pension convention starts with a combative tone | Raising Hale: "“The traditional pension – also known as the defined benefit retirement plan . . . “In the private sector, the percentage of workers participating in a traditional plan has plummeted from about 88 percent in 1975 to 24 percent in 2008,” Liu said. “More than 90 percent of public sector workers still have a traditional retirement plan". . . "

Government just isn't nimble and change is anathema to public employees who want to continue living in the past and increasing their "take" of GDP and public resources. The fix? We need to replace pensions (public and private) with self-funded retirement accounts, and have everyone included in Social Security.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Public-Employee Unions Gone Wild

Public-Employee Unions Gone Wild | The Cynical Economist: "Terry List, a teacher in Saginaw Township, Mich., has a depressing lesson for her students: “I would not recommend to my pupils to become a teacher in Michigan.” What’s discouraging her? A proposed pension-reform bill in Michigan would derail her plans to retire — at age 47. . . "

Unbelievable--I couldn't make this stuff up. You have to ask yourself--what reality are these people (public employees) living in?


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Jerry Brown tells public unions the "bad" news

California is truly in a category by itself--no more money to borrow, spend or . . .

Jerry Brown tells unions state payroll costs need to come down - Capitol and California - The Sacramento Bee: "State workers' pay is back on the budget chopping block. Officials representing Gov. Jerry Brown met with state employee union leaders last week and delivered the news: A budget revision he'll release Monday includes a new proposal to cut payroll costs in the upcoming fiscal year. The decision to take a bite out of state workers' pay comes amid a deepening California budget deficit that Brown pegged in January at $9.2 billion through 2012-13 but now is thought to be considerably more. . . . "

Somethin's gotta give.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Government That Serves Itself

And then there's Oregon--here's a comment to a recent news item--

Comments on Oregon PERS: About 1 in 10 pensioners are rehired, draw a second public paycheck | Politics & Elections - Page 5 -: "The taxpayers are merely here to bucket slop into the trough for public employees to feed. We do not have a government that serves the people. We have a government that serves itself. "


Monday, May 14, 2012

SEC alleges fraud by former CalPERS chief

California's CalPERS--sounds like the GSA--only worse!--

SEC alleges fraud by former CalPERS chief, friend - OC Watchdog : The Orange County Register: " . . . What happened, the SEC alleged, was forgery: Villalobos, with Buenrostro’s cooperation, had scanned the CalPERS logo from Buenrostro’s business card to a computer. He had then had Buenrostro sign several pieces of paper with the CalPERS logo on top. Whenever he needed an investor disclosure letter, he filled in the blanks on one of those pieces of paper. He kept a folder of these blank documents behind his desk, the SEC alleged. There were several clues that these documents were forgeries, according to the SEC lawsuit: The logo was on the wrong side of the page. Although they were supposedly sent from Buenrostro at CalPERS headquarters in Sacramento, the letters actually were sent via Fed-Ex from ARVCO in Stateline, Nev. And perhaps most telling, according to the SEC lawsuit, Buenrostro signed that first letter “on behalf of ‘California Public Employees Retirement Fund/CalPERS’ (emphasis added), which was not the correct name of the institution that he had led for the preceding five years.” The SEC is seeking a court order to force Buenrostro and Villalobos to disgorge all ill-gotten gains. It filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Nevada, where both men now live. Then-California Attorney General Jerry Brown sued Villalobos and Buenrostro in May 2010.  He alleged that Villalobos lavishly entertained CalPERS employees, taking two of them on an around-the-world trip, and later provided Buenrostro with a $300,000-a-year job and a condo after he retired, to influence them to steer $40 million in commissions to him. That lawsuit is pending. . . ."


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Investors Love Puerto Rico - Pension Bomb Ticks

Caveat emptor: Investors Love Puerto Rico While Pension Bomb Ticks: Muni Credit - Bloomberg: " . . . Puerto Rico has been battling budget deficits for 12 years, has a public pension that’s 9 percent funded and a debt load almost as big as its economic output. That hasn’t dimmed demand for its bonds from municipal mutual funds catering to investors living in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Virginia Beach, instead of San Juan and Vieques. . . .OppenheimerFunds Inc.’s Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina tax-exempt funds hold more than 30 percent of their assets in debt issued by Puerto Rico and its agencies, data compiled by Bloomberg show. . . . “It’s not the first thing that most people would expect when they buy a fund with their own state’s name on it,” Eric Jacobson, director of fixed income at research firm Morningstar Inc. in Chicago, said in an interview. “Investors are courting the income that these funds are throwing off. The question is, do they really understand where it’s coming from?” With local-government yields at the lowest since the 1960s, investors are looking past Puerto Rico’s chronic budget deficits and the threat of a downgrade from Moody’s Investors Service. . . . Moody’s in August lowered Puerto Rico to Baa1, three levels above speculative grade, and gave it a negative outlook because of its deteriorating pension fund and history of borrowing to bridge budget deficits. Standard & Poor’s rates Puerto Rico BBB, two steps above junk. Moody’s last month placed Puerto Rico’s $16 billion of sales-tax bonds on review for downgrade as well. A cut in the commonwealth’s rating could force selling, Boston-based Breckinridge Capital Advisors said in a March commentary. “Puerto Rico has systemic risk because it’s so widely and ubiquitously held because of the favorable tax treatment . . . .""

As they say, "Pigs get Fat, Hogs get Slaughtered."


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Public worker benefits are killing government services

Here's the real "priority" at work in many governmental entities: Government employees' (including retirees) pay and benefits come first. Services for the public, last.--

Queens Crap: Public worker benefits are killing gov't services: "Across New York, the cost of health benefits for retired government employees is growing so rapidly that it threatens to crowd out funding for essential government services. Rather than lay off police or close libraries, public officials may want to use their discretion to alter retiree health insurance — but some state legislators are trying to take away that discretion. These lawmakers are introducing bills that would prevent government officials from reducing current benefit levels — in effect, forcing them to sacrifice core services instead. In fiscal year 2012, New York City will pay $1.6 billion for health insurance for retired government employees — more than is budgeted for transportation and park operations combined. The state paid $1.3 billion for retiree health care in fiscal year 2011-12, as much as it gave to support the City University. . ."


Friday, May 11, 2012

Public Pensions - you want the Truth?

You want the Truth? Can you handle the Truth?--

Emanuel sends "Dear City Employee" letters on pensions - Chicago Tribune: “ . . .If we follow along the current path, we know we will confront two stark choices: either the city’s pension payments will squeeze its ability to offer the essential services that you provide, or each of our pension funds will go bankrupt, leaving you and your families without retirement security,” Emanuel wrote. The mayor announced he was sending out the “Dear City Employee” letters during a news conference following today’s City Council meeting. It came a day after Emanuel made a rare mayoral trip to the state capitol to outline his proposal to save faltering pension funds. His solution, which also would involve implementing 401-k type plans for new employees, has been met with allegations of unfairness from unions representing city employees. The unions say it’s the failure of city and state leaders to set aside enough money in retirement funds that led to a funding shortfall of $20 billion in pensions supported mostly by city property taxes. “I want everyone to know, the city employees have done nothing wrong,” Emanuel said at the news conference. The mayor also said taxpayers are not at fault, that the blame lies with legislative, union and city leaders who “year in and year out agreed to things that they knew we could not do and then didn’t pay into the system like they were supposed to.” Without naming names, Emanuel said people who held his job and were in “other positions of leadership” created the current situation. The state has nearly $80 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, the city $20 billion, threatening the financial stability of both. . . "

Again, kudos to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for telling the Truth.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ex-Detroit mayor and former city treasurer charged in alleged pension scam

Ex-Detroit mayor faces charges in alleged pension scam – "DETROIT – This city's former mayor and his longtime friend are facing fresh allegations of wrongdoing in federal court, where the pair are accused of accepting lavish gifts in an influence-peddling scheme involving pension funds. In a federal Securities and Exchange Commission civil complaint filed Wednesday, former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Jeffrey Beasley — the former city treasurer — are accused of accepting gifts including private jet travel and golf outings from an investment adviser to the city's pension funds in exchange for favoritism. MayfieldGentry Realty Advisors, which a city pension fund fired last week, also was charged in the alleged scheme. In the SEC case, the former mayor and his fraternity brother are not facing criminal charges or any possible prison time. Instead, the SEC is seeking unspecified monetary penalties from the defendants and wants them to forfeit all of their alleged ill-gotten gains. The agency also is seeking a permanent injunction barring Kilpatrick and Beasley from ever participating in decisions involving investments in securities by public pension funds."

Detroit?--I'm shocked!


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Public pensions: "Day of reckoning has arrived"

Pension Reform? It's simple math and at least one Democratic politician "gets it"--kudos to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, for taking on the political risk to try to fix a broken system (which I have previously posted about here):

Rahm Emanuel to state lawmakers on pension costs: 'Day of reckoning has arrived' - "Emanuel called for a pause on cost-of-living increases for 10 years to allow pension systems "to catch its breath." He wants city employees to increase their contributions 1 percent each year for five years and to allow employees to be offered a choice of retirement plans.   "The day of reckoning has arrived," Emanuel said, saying taxpayers, retirees and employees want politicians to be honest and "level with them" about the problems.   A rare step for a Chicago mayor, Emanuel personally pitched his ideas for cutting costs to a House pension panel. It's an approach that his immediate predecessor, Richard M. Daley, had not taken, though he made a variety of appearances over the years. Emanuel said the cost-of-living pause is necessary because retirees are getting increases while current employees are unable to get similar increases. For example, a retiree making a $60,000 pension in 1995 is now receiving $100,000. After 10 years of a pause, Emanuel said the plan would go to a simplified cost-of-living adjustment rather than annual compounded increases. . . . "


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Illinois faces its moment of pension reform truth

For those fiscally irresponsible HOGS (in this case, HOGS being those who advocate more and more government spending)--everyone from Paul Krugman to Barack Obama to the U.S. Congress--here's what happens (at least at the state and local level):

Illinois faces its moment of pension reform truth - Chicago Sun-Times: "The state faces a choice: Either continue to hack away at vital services trying to fulfill skyrocketing pension obligations — pension costs are 17 percent of state expenditures this year — or cut future benefits. The devil is in the details, of course, but the basic plan, for those just joining us: Retirement age gets pushed up to 67, cost-of-living adjustments are reduced, and retirees will be expected to pay something toward their health care — right now, 90 percent pay nothing. The alternative: The state goes broke. “If we don’t change the system, then folks coming up now, especially children, we won’t have the money for their schools, or education, or public safety,” Quinn says."

See what happens when you just spend, spend, spend?


Monday, May 7, 2012

Awarding bonuses for wasting taxpayer dollars

This story is undoubtedly the "tip of the iceberg" in the Obama Administration's "stewardship" of taxpayer funds, and bears repeating:

Federal employees got bonuses for planning agency's lavish 2010 event, investigation reveals: "Awarding bonuses for wasting taxpayer dollars? . . . "It would also appear that a number of GSA bureaucrats who helped arrange the Las Vegas junket were handed cash bonuses for their work in wasting the better part of a million dollars," Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said Tuesday. Rep. Mica also revealed Tuesday that one high-ranking official spent an extra night in Vegas at taxpayer expense, even though the conference was already over. Calling the new revelation the "icing on the cake," Mica said the official paid only $93 for a fourth night at the Vegas suite, which costs more than $1,000 a night. The rest of the cost of the room "was apparently charged to the taxpayer" he said in a statement. . . . The GSA, the federal equivalent of the government's landlord, had been preparing to return to the Las Vegas area, but the Washington Post reported that the upcoming conference, scheduled for April 25 at a Vegas hotel, has been cancelled."

Here's a prime example of why those in the private sector know government is clueless (at least under the Obama administration) when it comes to efficiency, stewardship of resources, and productivity.  GSA (from top to bottom) actually believed they were operating "in the public interest" by wasting taxpayer funds on a Las Vegas junket.  Bureaucrats and politicians can "rationalize and justify" all kinds of wasteful spending. Maybe it's time for real change in Washington.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

More on Public Pensions and Hogs at the Trough

Following up on the post yesterday about California pensions, here's another state with a pension mess--Illinois--

"Illinois's unfunded pension liability totals more than $80 billion, and pensions have been a significant budget pressure and credit negative for the state. . . . At present, Illinois's unfunded pension liability as a percentage of the state's personal income is the highest of states rated by Fitch and five times the median level. . . . " (source)

and how do the people in Illinois feel about this? Here's one letter written by an Illinois resident to the Chicago Tribune:

Obscene pensions - Chicago Tribune"Obscene pensions May 04, 2012 To all state senators, state's attorneys, mayors, aldermen, judges and city flunkies and union heads: You knowingly and deliberately gamed the public pension systems to gain pension payouts that can only be described as obscene and more than you are worth. The only honorable thing would be for you to refuse your pensions from these sources. But who ever accused you of being honorable?"

Interesting sentiment expressed in the foregoing letter, but likely? No way.

California's biggest pension, $540,000, to be cut?

The #1 Trough the Hogs are feeding at? That's easy--public pensions.  Here's the tip of the iceberg--

California's biggest pension -- $540,000 -- likely to be cut - "State pension officials said they will probably move to cut California's biggest public pension -- and others -- after finding that the city of Vernon improperly boosted the benefits of nearly two dozen employees. The CalPERS audit will be released Tuesday, nearly two years after The Times reported on the lucrative pensions awarded to top officials in Vernon, including some who had been charged with public corruption. The state's highest public pension -- roughly $540,000 a year -- is now received by a former Vernon city administrator, Bruce Malkenhorst, who pleaded guilty to misappropriation of public funds last year. California Public Employees' Retirement System auditors found problems with Malkenhorst's pension as well as with those of former City . . . "

The problem is now so widespread, and so deep, at all levels--state, local, and federal--eventually the U.S. will have to reform the entire system.  The best system? Put everyone into Social Security and allow self-funded, tax sheltered retirement accounts along the line of this proposal--

Views under the Palm - Why the U.S. desperately needs tax reform: " . . . Everyone would be covered by Social Security (including public employees currently exempt)--this would eliminate (eventually) the need for all public employee pensions (which are bankrupting the states, local governments, and agencies such as the Post Office). Institute "means testing" and the other reforms to entitlements recommended by Simpson Bowles. Allow everyone to have a "tax-exempt" retirement account (merging the 401k and IRAs) into retirement accounts which would be insured by the federal government and could only be held at a federally regulated institution (such as a FDIC bank or federally regulated broker)."


Friday, May 4, 2012

The Pork Parade

The Pork Parade | CREW | Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington: "For years some members of Congress have made a lucrative side business of trading earmarks for campaign contributions. These members treat the federal treasury – meaning our tax dollars -- like their own personal piggy bank, handing out big money contracts to favored donors, friends, and family members. In exchange, these members often receive campaign donations, employment for relatives, or charitable contributions. Update: Former Members of Congress Eat from Both Sides of the Trough "

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Jeff Neely: Just a Symptom of the "Obama Disease"

Jeff Neely’s Pacific Adventure | Heard on the Hill: "Well after an inspector general began auditing a lavish Las Vegas conference, Jeff Neely, who headed the General Services Administration’s San Francisco office, took his wife on a taxpayer-funded trip to Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Neely boasted in a November 2011 email that the trip was a “birfday” gift. (Fiddy must be so proud.) His wife responded positively to the gesture. “It’s yo birfday … We gonna pawty like iz yo birfday!” she emailed to Neely. “All sounds good. Need to check date line …  Do we fain or lose a day going to Guam? If so we will have to adjust sked.”"

You've got to hand it to the Obama administration--they did nothing about the GSA's failures until uncovered by others--so much for their responsibility to be stewards of taxpayer funds. As I've said before, Obama et al have no real understanding of the fiscal irresponsibility they have practiced the last 3 and 1/2 years in Washington while the rest of the country has been suffering through the worst "recovery" since the Great Depression. "Jeff Neely" is just a symptom of the "Obama disease."


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Obama scandal forecast: Slightly hazy

Obama scandal forecast: Slightly hazy - Byron Tau and Glenn Thrush - "This past month — the kickoff of the general election — has seen a procession of ugly, salacious and (seemingly) unrelated disclosures: Revelations that a dozen or so members of Secret Service preparing for the president in Cartagena brought 20 or so hookers back to their hotel; the unfolding public relations nightmare of the 2010 General Services Administration junket to Las Vegas; And, the less noticed but deeply embarrassing admission by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that he’s been charging the Pentagon $32,000 per flight to jet home to his northern California manse every few weeks. . . . "


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cicero library board members get pricey perk: free health care for life - Chicago Sun-Times

Cicero library board members get pricey perk: free health care for life - Chicago Sun-Times: "For many folks who serve on their towns’ library boards, the job comes with few perks. Free coffee at meetings, maybe first crack at the used-book sale. Former library board members in Cicero, though, get something worth a whole lot more, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned. They get excellent health insurance, currently a BlueCross BlueShield PPO plan. For life. For free.

Their spouses and kids, until they turn 19, are covered, too, for free.

What if the trustee dies?

Not to worry.

The family inherits the benefit, according to a legal analysis obtained by the Sun-Times. . . . "