Monday, December 20, 2010

Our deadbeat states

Sixty Minutes covers the disaster in state budgets. Perhaps now people will pay more attention to what has been going on in the states.
As Governor Christie says on the show,
We spent too much on everything. We spent too much. We spent money we didn’t have. We borrowed money just crazily. The credit card’s maxed-out. And it’s over. It’s over. We have to now get to the business of climbing out of the hole. We’ve been digging it for a decade or more. We’ve got to climb now. And a climb is harder. We got to do it.
My husband links to this NYT story about San Francisco's liabilities to cover the health care of municipal retirees and their dependents. It's amazing what the city's leaders have promised their employees.
All city employees hired before 2009 were promised lifetime health care after five years of work. The coverage includes all dependents, and it does not matter how long before retirement the employee stopped working for the city.
Can you think of any other job where five years of work gets you and all your dependents lifetime health care? It was only last year that new city employees had to start paying in 2% of their salary into a health care trust fund and requirements for lifetime coverage were tightened.

The city now expects to pay $4.4 billion to cover those promised benefits. They have only $9.7 million set aside. Yes, pay attention to which number begins with a "b" and which begins with an "m." And then ponder this fact.
To put the $4.4 billion liability in perspective, San Francisco has borrowed $2.6 billion through general obligation bonds in its entire history.
And then pay attention to this.
The retiree health care liability is separate from the city’s rapidly growing contribution to its pension fund. This year, the city paid more than $138 million for retiree health care. The city’s contribution to its pension fund was $173 million.

The controller projects the city’s budget deficit for the coming year at $712 million, though the mayor’s office has asserted more recently that the shortfall is now only about $380 million.

In November 2009, the United States Government Accountability Office studied retiree health care liabilities of the 39 largest local governments. San Francisco’s then-$4 billion tab ranked No. 6 on the list, behind larger cities like New York and Los Angeles.
Future employees and taxpayers will have to be paying for those benefits for retirees and their families. But it is still unsustainable. Public employees cannot keep expecting governments to bankrupt themselves to pay promised pension benefits that no officials in their right minds should have promised. But politicians seemed to have been happy to buddy up with the public employees unions to promise these absurd benefits and then close their eyes to the calamity they were bringing on their constituents. There is a special circle in Hell reserved for both those politicians and those union bosses.

28 comments:

Dr Weevil said...

Actually, I can think of another job "where five years of work gets you and all your dependents lifetime health care". Public school teaching in North Carolina had exactly that up until around five years ago, when they changed it to a 25- or 30-year minimum. As they told me in new teacher orientation in 2008, they had a problem with teachers retiring after 25-30 years teaching in a high-salary northeastern state, moving to North Carolina and teaching for exactly five years, and then living in luxury on a big NY or CT pension, a tiny NC pension, and a fully-paid NC health plan, while enjoying the warmer weather and the much lower living costs. Apparently so many people were doing that it was helping to bankrupt the state, so they (better late than never) raised the minimum. I don't know if the rule applied to charter schools.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

i think it's really tragic for our country that the first thing to go under the gun in these state budget crises is financing the education of our children

you teachers here seem to think that you all making less is a jim dandy solution, but our american children have been getting hurt for years by governments at all levels making teaching a less and less attractive economic proposition for young people going into the work force

the cartoonist al capp invented a character called a "shmoo". one of its traits was its eagerness to offer itself to be eaten: "Shmoos are delicious to eat, and are eager to be eaten. If a human looks at one hungrily, it will happily immolate itself, either by jumping into a frying pan"

y'all self-immolating teachers are certainly nothing less. good luck with that!

Tacitus Voltaire said...

Public employees cannot keep expecting governments to bankrupt themselves to pay promised pension benefits that no officials in their right minds should have promised.

please, then, come up with some way to distinguish between which lifetime pension benefits promised to public employees you think are good and which ones are unacceptable to you

otherwise somebody might think that you are against u.s. military pensions

tfhr said...

TV has returned, military pension obsession in hand, to once again show his scant understanding of the problem faced by governments beholden to powerful unions. High cost and low performance is bad enough at the DMV but it is flat out tragic in a school system.

When military personnel fail to perform to standard they are forced out or worse. When unionized public school employees, teachers included, fail to perform to standard, they are extremely difficult to remove. There are far too many tenured educators that are failing their students and continue to do so while blocking the accession of new aspirants to the profession.

TV, would you be willing to accept merit pay for educators? I cannot think of many other professions that are as undervalued as teaching but the union resistance to innovation and reform hurt the really talented educators while protecting the deadwood, all at the terrible expense of cheating students and ripping off tax-payers. Look at the performance of our public schools in comparison with the overseas efforts of other modern nations. Are we really being served well by our unionized version? Your comments in a recent thread tell me that you find our public school system lacking and I agree with you, but why do you persist in your failure to identify the union's place in this mess?

Is it some sort of confused calculus that leads you astray or just blinders?

Tacitus Voltaire said...

oh, is this tfhr, the budget chickenhawk who wants to cut government spending to balance the budget except where it goes into his pocket? tfhr, who insists the budget can be balanced by cuts alone but can't come up with even 1% of the amount needed? tfhr, whose favorite crank scheme for reforming the tax code involves raising taxes on the bottom 90% of american taxpayers?

listen up, buster - all your bluster isn't going to change the laws of arithmetic or the necessity of paying for what you want

i'm tired of listening to you avoid responsibility for your airy and pompous theories. it's high time you quit avoiding the questions and come up with a little arithmetic to justify your airy rhetoric

not that i'm optimistic you'll do anything of the kind

Tacitus Voltaire said...

Look at the performance of our public schools in comparison with the overseas efforts of other modern nations. Are we really being served well by our unionized version?

other countries pay better, so the teaching profession is more attractive. they don't have governor christies berating their teachers for resisting having their pay lowered or complaining that the schools recieve less and less funding. and they don't have self- immolating teachers begging to teach for even less pay and in ever more poorly financed schools

tfhr, you seem determined to display your poverty of information in every post. i have been meaning to help you out a bit - for starters with your obvious ignorance in the matter of the third reich, which you feel obliged to bring up to godwin every mention of the continuing strength of the german economy. please read the extremely detailed and non ideological account of the economic and other policies of the third reich in 'the third reich in power', by richard evans, penguin, 2005, which i just happened to have read recently

Tacitus Voltaire said...

When unionized public school employees, teachers included, fail to perform to standard, they are extremely difficult to remove

i'd love to see what would happen if a public school teacher was hauled before a board of review and asked if the united states of america is a democracy or not

i'm sure all the public school teachers on this blog would be eager to have their performance reviewed and judged, and be subject to the "at will" employment law that i was hired under, just like me and any other employee of a private company in california

no, tfhr - in this matter you only hallucinate that i disagree with you, because you see the entire matter through your union-hate obsession

i think teachers should be paid more, schools should be better funded, and that teachers should be subject to rigorous testing so that the ignorant can be purged

Pat Patterson said...

Every time TV uses the phrase buster that means he has no idea what he's talking about except superannuated notion of talking tough. Or he is still looking for that fictional DMV in Berkeley.

BTW, the Shmoo as Al Capp admitted was a representation of his take on the Earth. That it provided for us, sheltered us and fed us and even when we abused it it still loved us.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

last time i talked with pat he was trying to wish away the german auto industy's $15 billion dollar trade surplus with us by wishing it into investments into imaginary american volkswagen plants

tell me again why i should take anything you say seriously, pat?

by the way, if tfhr and me have our way, your job performance will soon be under review and you will be liable to quick termination

Tacitus Voltaire said...

even when we abused it it still loved us

very appropriate. no matter how much the gop attacks and abuses the teaching profession, teachers like you still love it

also, i think you should take a look at that flat tax scheme tfhr touts so much so you can see how much he'd like to raise your taxes. let me know how much you love it!

Tacitus Voltaire said...

TV has returned, military pension obsession in hand

pretending to have poor reading comprehension seems to be the avoidance mechanism of choice around here lately

it's a simple question, tfhr: to balance the federal budget we would need to cut it by about a third, lets say across the board. my question was simply: would you be willing to take a cut of 1/3 in your pension so that your favorite budget balancing scheme could be implemented

i've asked you twice before, but you think perhaps nobody notices you avoiding the question. other questions you avoided include: could you provide actual cuts with actual amounts that would cut the 33% necessary to balance the federal budget, assuming you don't want to cut it across the board? you have named cuts amounting to less than 1% so far. again, avoiding the question is about as effective as a child thinking it's invisible by hiding its face

now, come on, tfhr, man up. arithmetic is not that scary

Tacitus Voltaire said...

Pat Patterson said...
Every time TV uses the phrase buster that means he has no idea what he's


i'm not sure how old a person should be before they realize that this is not what adults consider debate

tfhr said...

Tedious Voltaire,

You said (ranted), "...for starters with your obvious ignorance in the matter of the third reich, which you feel obliged to bring up to godwin every mention of the continuing strength of the german economy."

What?

Not only is that incoherent, when have I ever mentioned the Third Reich? Dude, that's some other fantasy of yours. Save your jack-booted notions for someone else.

And get help.

You are so pathetically incapable of staying on topic that you routinely attempt to hijack threads by opening with a feigned apology for going off-topic in an unrelated thread. But now you've finally jumped the Third Reich shark. I should not be surprised as such behavior has become common place amongst the nostalgic, though increasingly marginalized Bushitler crowd.

When Betsy launches a thread on budget cutting we can get down to brass tacks. I'll start with cutting the defense budget in places where it needs it. In the meantime, be glad that I get a pension because it is consumed by taxes needed to pay for your fast approaching Social Security ponzi pay-off. Seems to me that an upright lefty like you should refuse to receive any return at all on those SS (that's short for Social Security, not another prompt for your Nazi fantasy) dollars you paid out. Really, aren't there people more deserving than you? For starters, I think you should send it all to unions in New Jersey. Surely they can do better with it than you.

By the way, when Christie asked the NJ education unions to accept a pay freeze, in order for many to keep their jobs, they rejected it even though most teachers were making more than the average NJ worker's wages. Seriously, at a time when people are trying desperately to find work in a state mired in union corruption, you cannot figure out why a conservative was elected to govern a blue state.

You make me laugh.

tfhr said...

Pat Patterson,

I threw that DMV bit in there for you because I remember how you slapped TV around with that reality check. It never gets old.

Well, actually it does but TV never seems to notice.

Pat Patterson said...

Should I switch over to the "reading comprehension..." gag instead? Plus the type of cuts that TV thinks that many conservative advocate all have the same moral weight. As if cutting funds for a casino in Missouri should be given the same treatment as a military pension. TV would probably argue that if he had to cut the budget for food in his family that in fairness to the family dog and cat that his children also have their caloric intake cut rather than giving the animals up to a shelter.

Along with no increases in COLA, with little inflation now those having their pensions or salaries frozen wouldn't be threatened by ruin, some adult decisions are going to have to be made. No new spending unless someone else's ox is gored in the world of bureaucrats and grant getters. No new taxes anywhere while encouraging business not by handing out money but by cutting the corporate tax rate and keeping the capital gains tax low. And end the ridiculous practice of planning some program appropriating the money then simply spending the money somewhere else if the original plan becomes moot.

Before the soon-to-be-good-riddance California current governor is gone the main, during the recall election the other Republican candidate was shrilly criticized for advocating that the widows and orphans be thrown out in the street yet his main policy position to cut the deficit and the borrowing was to simply freeze everything for three to four years. Even the LAT noticed that if the state had followed his advice the budget would have been in balance by 2008 and virtually no debt. Oh, well. BTW, that 5 year rule in SF has more to do with securing the support of the unions for campaign contributions then any need or great moral demand.

Pat Patterson said...

The US still leads the world in teacher's salaries.

http://www.worldsalaries.org/teacher.shtml

In California the number of teachers has been declining for over ten years due to an oversupply and many schools opting out of the smaller classroom programs due to the much higher than anticipated costs. And then most of the loss in teachers over the last year or not due to teacher's being laid off but that less are being hired and that position not being filled being counted, for sleight-of-hand and to make people like TV all weepy, as a loss.

How about medical coverage while working and then lifetime for after at least twenty years service. When my dad started teaching in 1946 he knew he had to work until he had 30 years of service, only after getting a contract, plus at that time he also had to live in the district to work there.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

tfhr said...

Tedious Voltaire,

You said (ranted), "...for starters with your obvious ignorance in the matter of the third reich, which you feel obliged to bring up to godwin every mention of the continuing strength of the german economy."

What?

Not only is that incoherent, when have I ever mentioned the Third Reich? Dude, that's some other fantasy of yours. Save your jack-booted notions for someone else.


don't remember any of them?

here ya go:

(from: Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Al Gore comes clean about his political opportunism )

Blogger tfhr said...

TV,

On Germany: "...a highly socialized economy like germany's is inherently better equipped to provide a better and more robust business environment."

Germany had a real go at a highly socialized economy back in the Thirties too. Socialism with a kinder, gentler face, eh? Arbeit mach ward of the state.

But then there is the habit TV has of railing against corporate welfare in the US while lauding it's "virtues" in Germany:

"...the social safety net there frees companies up to concentrate on production and profits"

Tax payer Euros going to underwrite the cost of health care for labor and in the process, the corporate bottom line. TV, do you see some inconsistency in your position?

How about a free market solution?

10:57 AM


tfhr here adds his advice for countries in western europe who currently have lower unemployment and more robust economies than the u.s. - they should become more like us

you could still take my advice, tfhr, read some history and do some high school arithmetic so that you could begin to debate facts instead of working on your poo flinging skills. at least pat is answering questions and adducing evidence!

Tacitus Voltaire said...

and now, tfhr, to sum up:

1) you can't come up with cuts to justify you notion that we can balance the budget on cuts alone

2) when we talk about cuts, your little piece of the federal budget is sacred and can't be cut. this is why politicians talk about how the budget should be cut until they're blue in the face, but nothing ever happens

3) tfhr's idea of tax reform is to make the bottom 90% of tax payers pay more so that he can pay less

thanks for playing!

Tacitus Voltaire said...

Pat Patterson said...
In California the number of teachers has been declining for over ten years due to an oversupply and many schools opting out of the smaller classroom programs due to the much higher than anticipated costs. And then most of the loss in teachers over the last year or not due to teacher's being laid off but that less are being hired and that position not being filled being counted, for sleight-of-hand and to make people like TV all weepy, as a loss.


oh, pat, the california public school teacher, thinks there is no problem with the supply of teachers in california schools!

pat, you better get on the phone and tell the state of california:

Teacher Shortage
Articles outlining the current shortage of teachers.

The current shortage of K-12 teachers is having a profound impact on the education of California’s children.


http://www.cde.ca.gov/pd/bt/ts/

this is california department of education webpage

"oversupply"??? pat, you have been misinformed once again

Tacitus Voltaire said...

The next steps for recruiting highly qualified teachers are to:

1. Develop initiatives for recruitment and retention of highly qualified teachers that include:

* Statewide teacher recruitment centers that provide online information regarding teaching opportunities and submission of applications.
* Teacher recruitment incentives, including signing bonuses, salary enhancements, improved working conditions, and housing subsidies as well as bonuses and differential pay in the teacher shortage areas of science and mathematics, English learners, and special education.


http://www.cde.ca.gov/eo/in/se/hqt.asp

Tacitus Voltaire said...

   4. Therefore, altogether, the average teacher will get (yen)6302847 per year.
    The total is about $ 52,523 a year and is almost the same as the average salaries of public school
    teachers in Michigan and the State of New York which are ranked 3rd or 4th rank in the U. S.


this figure is for a teacher with 20 years experience, and teachers with more years of experience make considerably more, as the page shows

this is from a very detailed analysis of teacher's salaries in japan, as of 2002

http://www.aba.ne.jp/~sugita/71e.htm

the only bad thing about it is that it plays some very annoying music!

Pat Patterson said...

Like I mentioned earlier that seeming shortage is due to many districts reverting back to larger class sizes. The state in turn is using the goal of class size to determine how many teachers they need and as a tool to protect the education budget for the Department of Education. If I want to allocate a salary by using the one teacher for 30 students and use the ratio from fifteen years ago the state and the unions consider that a shortage because it wants one teacher for every twenty-five students. The union wants more members and the state wants greater control that the reduced class size subsidy gave them.

The districts have dropped the class size goals to match their budgets and as a result there are less teachers, some 10,000 claimed, today than in 2000. You can't possibly have a shortage of teachers if the teaching corp is smaller know than in 2000. And just in the district I work in and have worked in there are hundreds applying for any open slot and often having to accept part-time work as a substitute. And many districts LA, LB, Bakersfield and even San Diego are not even accepting applications. That certainly doesn't sound like a shortage.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

That certainly doesn't sound like a shortage.

you haven't noticed all the headlines lamenting the states cutting back on education funding? betsy posting a video of n. j.'s gov christie berating the teacher's union there for not accepting lower salaries for teachers and therefore forcing some to be fired?

very strange. i would tend to think that the ca dept of education outlining strategies to deal with a "shortage of teachers" would be a bit of an indication of a teacher shortage

also, in the decades i've been reading about the issue, i've never seen anybody refer to larger class sizes as a desirable goal

Tacitus Voltaire said...

which is all to say that i think it's terrible for our country that when there are local budget crises, the education of our children remains among the most vulnerable areas

how can this country compete in the 21st century if our children's education is the first to get cut when the budget knife comes out?

Pat Patterson said...

There are less than 300,000 teachers in California in 2010 compared to 310,361 just two years ago. Betsy and anybody else knows that there is always a difference between what the government wants and what the local school districts provide. The CA BoE wants there to be more teachers but there aren't because the goal has nothing to do with the reality.

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2010/12/14/1408036/california-teachers.html

BTW, thanks for not persisting in that dreary and fanciful claim that US teacher salaries are lower than the rest of the world.

Pat Patterson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tacitus Voltaire said...

pat posted this link:

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2010/12/14/1408036/california-teachers.html

when i go there, the first thing i see is this:

Number of California teachers is at lowest point in a decade

The number of public school teachers has reached a decade-low in California, and the job is getting less attractive amid state budget cuts, a new study says.

The budget problems have boosted class sizes, interfered with teacher training and reduced support from school counselors, nurses and aides, according to the report released Monday by the not-for-profit Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, a research and advocacy group based in Santa Cruz.

"The budget cuts have severely damaged the teacher pipeline, but all the systems that support good teaching are really compromised," center director Margaret Gaston told the Monterey County Herald. "That's really the main message."

The study showed the number of teachers in California is now at its lowest level in a decade - just under 300,000 this year, compared to 310,361 in 2008 - because fewer people are entering the profession.

The number of people enrolled in university teacher training programs fell from more than 75,000 to fewer than 45,000 between 2002 and 2008, the study said.

The center said the trend could produce a significant teacher shortage in the future even as some districts have resorted to layoffs to make ends meet.


i can't think of anything that would do more to help me make my point

Pat Patterson said...

Ah, but these shortages are predicted every few years or so and none have ever panned out except during the baby boom period. So it's interesting that TV is essentially claiming we are all going to die but has changed the date of his prediction to manana.