The May 9 editorial on public employee pensions omits some facts and makes some misleading statements.
The pension debt confronting Pennsylvania’s retirement systems for state and public school workers is not primarily a result of benefit changes which occurred in 2001, as the editorial states. The benefit changes from 2001 are only a small portion (19 percent) of the system’s� unfunded liability. The underfunding is primarily due to investment losses stemming from two historic recessions and underfunding of the system by the employers (the commonwealth and school districts). Those two factors contributed to 81 percent of the unfunded liability.
Teachers, nurses, social workers and law enforcement officials never stopped paying into their retirement systems, paycheck after paycheck. Many of us contribute 7.5 percent of our salaries for our pensions. Some now pay 10.3 percent.
Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposal to reduce benefits of current workers – a move that would violate the state constitution’s bar on impairment of contracts – does not remove the state’s obligation to pay off its pension debt. And his plan to force new workers into a defined contribution, 401k-type plan doesn’t solve the problem either. That’s not just theory. It’s the actual experience of the states that have moved in that direction.
Three states that have closed off their defined benefit plans and put all new hires in 401k-type plans: West Virginia (1991); Michigan for its state employees (1997); and Alaska (2006), all experienced dramatically higher employer (taxpayer) costs.
Actuarial studies in 12 other states examining a similar move concluded that modifying defined benefit pension plans to lower long-term costs and increase employee contributions,�both of which Pennsylvania did in Act 120 of 2010,�is more cost-efficient.
The employer cost for workers’� benefits under Act 120 of 2010 is only 2.2 percent. Once the debt is paid, the system is very sustainable.
Congress is very busy lately, trying to fix blame for the delay or denial of 401c application forms from conservative organizations. Is the denial the fault of a political party or government employees behaving badly? The use of the Internal Revenue Service to harass and hinder opponents has been used by both parties.
Politics is as powerful as religion for many people. Those with opposing political opinions are considered political heretics worthy of punishment. Henry II of England is said to have muttered something derogatory about the priest Becket, resulting in the unsanctioned slaughter of Becket by the kings zealots. I am sure there are many unsanctioned political zealots in the IRS and Washington.
Who is at blame? We may never know. Changing the tax system will go a long way in eliminating tax inquisitions imposed by IRS employees or a ruling party. A revenue system based strictly on sales, regardless of profit or non-profit status, will simplify tax returns, suppress the self-initiated inquisitions of zealots, greatly trim personal tax audits and reduce the need for thousands of government employees (although these employees may be needed to audit new health care tax reporting provisions).
Change the tax system. New laws and regulations are subject to zealot work-around and others behaving badly.
I read the Dave Molter column, “Global warming and other dirty lies,” in Wednesday’s edition of the Observer-Reporter. I find it interesting that Molter can post no scientific proof proving his point. I also find it interesting that he uses the common misconception offered by conservatives that it snowed this year and many other erroneous notions to attempt to prove a point.
More than 95 percent of the environmental scientists agree that we are having a very negative effect on Mother Earth. Global warming is not something that can be really seen by someone over time. The warming is the overall temperature in the upper atmosphere, not down here at ground level. It is believed that the rise in this temperature is the reason behind all the freaky storms that are occurring all over the world – things like monster tornados striking places that normally do not have tornados.
Yes, you can rationalize that this could be part of a natural cycle. But it’s the frequency of how often these events occur that the data shows is increasing.
It’s very easy to point to what seem to be flaws in reports. Think about this for just a minute or two. When growing up in Canonsburg in the 1950s, Chartiers Creek was highly polluted and actually orange. Nothing really lived in the creek, but now there are fish living there. Pittsburgh was a dirty city, and now it’s clean, beautiful city. People like Moulter fought against the environmental movement then. Were they wrong? No. Were they lying? No. What you and others need to consider is the world your grandkids and great-grandkids are going to inherit. Being conservative, I would think that you would want to err on the side of conserving the earth, not possibly destroying it.
Washington City Hall has slapped the business district in the face once again.
Washington is a city of attorneys, and they hire a new solicitor from Pittsburgh.
Thanks council and the mayor for supporting our local economy.