Pension deniers attempt to shame reform advocates

May 16, 2012

By Brian Calle

If you have not read or heard anything about California’s unfunded public employee pension crisis, you’ve probably been living under a rock or, like union bosses and too many members of the state Legislature, the governor’s office and local elected officials, you are happily in denial.

Tensions are mounting too as pension deniers or pension reform “obstructionists, as Mercury News writer Daniel Borenstein called them, are attempting to publicly shame those of us pointing out that pension liabilities could bankrupt California without serious reform.

Borenstein is joining CalWatchdog contributor Steven Greenhut and David Crane, a former California State Teachers Retirement System board member,  and me for a panel on pension reform in San Francisco on Thursday.The unions have already gone on the attack about the event.

“Spotting my scheduled appearance on an upcoming conservative think-tank panel to discuss public-employee pensions, union spokesman Steve Maviglio went into Twitter attack mode last week,” Borenstein wrote for the Mercury News.

“@stevenmaviglio branded me a ‘pension basher’ and called my ethics into question. His sad attempt to divert the debate badly mischaracterizes my position and further undermines serious discussion of a complex issue.”

Fortunately as unions get louder so do the cries from taxpayers and advocacy organizations.

Christina Tobin, Founder and Chair of Free and Equal Elections Foundation and Vice-President of Taxpayers United of America, this week has been holding press conferences in California cities to draw increased attention to California’s pension crisis, including a planned event in Fresno on Wednesday and San Francisco on Thursday (in the morning before the reform panel).

Instead of denying the flood of economic problems looming because of pensions, it’s time to face the facts and fix the problem.


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  1. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 15 May, 2012, 22:25

    Hey Mr. Calle,

    Why don’t you start a panel on illegal immigration too!!

    Illegal Mexicans with ITIN #’s collected child tax credit refunds from the IRS in the amount of $4.2b last year, much of which is being paid for kids living in Mexico!!! HAH!

    Why not do blog on that inbetween your blogs on bullet trains and gov pensions??? Or is that topic verboten at the OC Register?

    Reply this comment
  2. Bob
    Bob 15 May, 2012, 23:33

    The former city manager where I live retired and right after that started his own “consulting” firm. And guess who the first contract was from? Yup, the city. So he retires from the city and gets a six figure pension plus health bennies then he gets a six figure contract from the city.

    Now he advertises himself as a business man and is pushing to get a local sales tax increase on the ballot. He and another “business” man who suck off the taxpayer tit have convinced the city council to not require them to get signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

    These criminals have no shame, no shame at all.

    Reply this comment
    NTHEOC 15 May, 2012, 23:58

    I read and saw the news report to. Not sure if it’s a loophole in the system or not,but they are claiming nieces and nephews down in Mexico as their independents and getting back returns of 10k to 15k.No social security number needed either!!!!! You will never see Brian calle or any of the cal watchdog cowards touch this subject. They take the easy fight and go after teachers,police officers and firefighters!! The ones out in the public they can point their fingers at!

    Reply this comment
  4. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 16 May, 2012, 07:19

    “I read and saw the news report to. Not sure if it’s a loophole in the system or not,but they are claiming nieces and nephews down in Mexico as their independents and getting back returns of 10k to 15k”

    If it’s just a loophole it’s being done intentionally and nothing is being done to stop it. The Inspector General of the Treasury has brought it to the attention to the IRS and nothing changes. That tells me it’s being condoned. The American citizens are being forced to subsidize indigent illegal foreigners in the form of child tax credits for children (who are not even their own) who live in Mexico. That is so so so wrong when many Americans are having a terribly difficult time making ends meet.

    It is my opinion that Brian Calle is under orders (either direct or indirect) not to touch this topic with a 50 foot pole. We have NEVER seen an article in the OC Register that itemizes the financial costs of illegal immigration borne by the American citizens or the social costs (ie. crime, blight, etc…)that effect our lives. Most of their articles are tear jerkers about how these indigent illegals just want to come here to feed their families and do work that we don’t want to do (which is total BS, btw). They don’t give a damn about the financial and social costs that we American citizens must pay as these illegals infiltrate our neighborhoods!!!


    That is a very true statement and I would be willing to engage in a public debate with any journalist on that topic. But not one would take up my challenge. Because all of them know I am 100% correct. Our nation has been PRAVDATIZED!!!

    Reply this comment
  5. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 16 May, 2012, 11:21

    Maviglio’s damage control doesn’t change the financial fact that state pension systems are broke and even the pensions of existing retirees will be cut. The bond houses already are warning California. And the bond houses — not the unions, not the voters, not Maviglio — are the real rulers of California. That’s what happens when you get deeply into debt and despoil your posterity.

    — John Seiler

    Reply this comment
  6. Claire Voyance
    Claire Voyance 16 May, 2012, 12:17

    Retired California firefighter’s PENSION ($300K) is $126K GREATER than California Governor’s salary ($174K).

    California Sucks

    Reply this comment
    NTHEOC 16 May, 2012, 13:56

    That is not a firefighter’s pension,it’s a CHIEFS pension!!! So it’s a non union position and more in the role like a politician. Having cleared that up I do believe that it is a rediculous amount of money for a pension, especially when a chief is in a non risk position! The cuts need to start at the top but you will never see it because of the political power and inside a chief has. Why do you think we have city next to city in orange county each with a fire chief and slew of other administrator chiefs costing millions!! There should be a one county fire dept with one chief,but good luck with that….

    Reply this comment
  8. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 16 May, 2012, 14:42

    “Having cleared that up I do believe that it is a rediculous amount of money for a pension, especially when a chief is in a non risk position!”

    What risk to you clowns carry? To my recollection there has never been a firefighter killed while engaged in fighting a fire or rescuing somebody in Orange County in the last 40 years. I take more of a risk when I drive on the freeway.

    “The cuts need to start at the top but you will never see it because of the political power and inside a chief has”

    BS. Pensions need to be cut across the board. Go look at the State Controller’s website where all the city and county FF salaries are listed. The AVERAGE FF will qualify with a pension of well over $100,000 at age 50-55. That is a complete fracking farce and you know it, NTHEOC! Why are you so disingenuous on the topic of FF pensions? Oh wait. You are a ff, aren’t you?? I forgot.

    Reply this comment
  9. eugene
    eugene 16 May, 2012, 18:49

    let the State go bankrupt, then you can get rid of the unions and we can start over. next time though dont vote to give everything away like last time when things were fat and the economy was good. if the economy was good now nobody would even be talking about pensions, taxpayers would say “oh no problem, the state workers are great sure give them a raise or a pension boost”. So next time dont be a bunch of naive buffoons, PAY ATTENTION or shut your mouth and dont cry when poor times fall on us about the state workers!

    Reply this comment
  10. Tough Love
    Tough Love 16 May, 2012, 19:13

    Hey Beelzebub and NTHEOC,

    How does the illegal immigrant/welfare problem justify your grossly excess pensions ? Didn’t your mamas ever tell you that two wrongs don’t make a right ?

    Might your comments be trying to divert attention from the issue ay hand …. your grossly excessive pensions ?

    And by-the-way, are you (and are your families) proud of you, that you’re pigs at the trough. Ask a neighbor (who isn’t a Public Sector workers) if they think you’ve “earned” that big pension.

    Reply this comment
  11. Hondo
    Hondo 16 May, 2012, 19:18

    As a former paid and volunteer firefighter in California, Colorado and Idaho, the profession is and has become quite safe over the years. There are a few factors.
    #1 is that breathing apparatus is the standard on every fire dept that engages in interior firefighting(in houses, buildings, ect). Just a couple gulps of bad air will kill you.
    Two: competent and constant training is the norm on any fire dept, weather it be paid or unpaid. By the way, most fires in America are fought by volunteer firefighters.
    3rd: Since WW2 building codes have been up-dated and enforced. Old buildings have been torn down and newer ones have been put up with much better standards. That has had a huge effect. That means far fewer building fires and when they occur they aren’t nearly as big. Building fires are what kill most firefighters.
    Everyone was stunned at the loss of 350 firefighters of 911. They died bravely and I cried for them. But that was an act of war. Not a mere building fire or airplane crash.
    Firefighting now days is quite safe. Very few get killed or even injured badly.
    When I read that firefighters in Alameda had let a man drown because of ‘union’ rules, I was stunned and outraged. As a Volunteer firefighter we didn’t have a ‘union’. I couldn’t imagine standing by while someone drowned in chest deep water. Twice I have nearly drowned myself while saving someone. And for free, each time. Those firefighters in Alameda are disgrace, not only to firefighters everywhere, but to the human race too.

    Reply this comment
  12. Tough Love
    Tough Love 16 May, 2012, 19:25

    Beelzebub, My mistake. Reading further along the comments (above) tells me that you are not one of the group feeding at the through. While I know NTHEOC is, your complaining about the immigrant/welfare issue is so typical of the diversion tactic commonly by these public sector parasites that I erroneously concluded you must be one of them.

    Reply this comment
  13. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 16 May, 2012, 22:38

    No problem, Tough Love. I understand the confusion.

    My feeling is that we must cut out all waste, fraud and corruption. Pensions alone do not have a corner on that market. Pensions are only one part of the problem, albeit a large one. Illegal immigration and welfare fraud is also a huge problem that must be addressed. Illegals are stealing our jobs while ransacking our CA public treasure of $20B each year. That’s a HUGE problem. And, as I pointed out, illegals are gaming our tax system by using their ITIN’s to collect $4B or more each year in child tax credits for relative minors LIVING IN MEXICO!!!

    We cannot just watch one bouncing ball, Tough Love. The problems are multi-fold. Unlimited corporate and public union contributions to pols is also a HUGE problem. It has turned the Nation and State Capitals into big whorehouses!

    Reply this comment
  14. TruthSquad
    TruthSquad 17 May, 2012, 08:39

    So it’s ethical for a journalist to appear on a one-sided panel in front of an ideological organization that will make money from it? Good to know what you think passes for ethics.

    Reply this comment
  15. nowsane
    nowsane 17 May, 2012, 08:55

    Unfortunately, same thing is going on here in San Diego, with low-level union-troops trying to bash the logic out of voters’ heads!

    Reply this comment
  16. Donkey
    Donkey 17 May, 2012, 09:20

    Beelzebub, is that my old pal OC? Have you seen Wonderdog around?

    Will like you always said, “the math will eventually take care of the problem,” of these obscene pensions.

    What I find so amazing is the fact that all these educated idiots that work in government fail to admit that they have stolen more than can be paid out and work at bringing pensions, pay, benefits and perks back to a logical reality instead of continuing to live the RAGWUS fantasy of government life where the laws of physics cease to exsit.

    Reply this comment
  17. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 17 May, 2012, 10:47

    The Wonderdog is strangely quiet these days, Donkey. How was your detox program?

    Reply this comment
  18. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 17 May, 2012, 22:27

    “Beelzebub, is that my old pal OC?”

    You must have me confused with someone else, Mr. Donkey. But you seem to have a good head on your shoulders and you’re welcome to join our little web of truth. Anyone who speaks the truth is my pal. Most people despise those who speak the truth and want them eliminated. Yet from the other sides of their mouths they applaud ‘free speech’. HAH! Nothing makes a human madder than the truth. So pals are far and few inbetween. You seem to be a good person. Welcome.

    Reply this comment
  19. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 18 May, 2012, 10:06

    Nice to see that two of the original “Three Pendejos” — er, sorry — “Three Amigos” have found each other and are putting the band back together….

    Reply this comment
  20. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 18 May, 2012, 16:05

    Of course that is, “ocobservor”, Donkey! Maybe he wants to leave the former hissy fits on the OCR behind him. I, for one, like the little-bit kinder, gentler, Beezelbub much better.

    Reply this comment
  21. Jon Jenson
    Jon Jenson 26 November, 2013, 19:04

    It was quite alarming to read the proposal of the Taxpayer United of America ”to move public employees from a defined benefit plan … to a defined contribution plan, known as a 401(k) plan.”

    The Wisconsin Retirement System, aka the state pension plan – is a smashing success and a role model for all pension plans nationwide. It is the one invention that can promise a better life for hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin citizens.

    In contrast, 401(k) plans are a Wall Street skim operation. The majority of 401(k) plans are distributed amongst millions of small businesses, which means there is no economy of scale. In addition, most individuals do not have the financial savvy to avoid the inherent investment risks. As a result, individual 401(k) plans buy stocks and bonds at retail prices and their 401(k) balances at retirement are woefully small. In contrast, Pension Plans pool large amounts of money – which enables them to buy stocks and bonds at wholesale prices and mitigate investment risk with highly skilled financial specialists.

    Many pension plans were mismanaged which is why they became a burden on private and public employers. The solution is to modify those pension plans and copy the state of Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS). Bringing the WRS success to more Americans can be achieved through everyone’s representative trade organization. For example, for food workers, the National Restaurant Association has over 12 million members. The American Truckers Association has 37,000 members. That provides an economy of scale. The Newspaper Association of American could be a viable entity to organize a pension plan for you.

    Tragically, for most Americans, a 401(k) plan will never give them the retirement security that is provided by the Wisconsin Retirement System.

    I hope you can stop being gullible to pro Wall Street propaganda.

    NOTE: There is no secrecy to the Wisconsin Retirement System. A simple way to calculate the approximate annuity of everyone who participates in the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS):
    “Average final salary” x number of years in the WRS x .0162 = approximate annuity at retirement.

    Reply this comment
  22. Jon Jenson
    Jon Jenson 26 November, 2013, 19:05

    Source: Study of the Wisconsin Retirement System, June 30, 2012

    Terms: Pension plans, such as the WRS, are technically called “Defined Benefit” plans.
    401(k) plans are technically called “Defined Contribution” plans.

    WRS Size: $80 Billion

    Performance: 8.9% average rate of return over past 20 years (1992-2011).
    Pension plans achieve higher rates of return than 401(k) plans.
    Pension plan financial experts take care of investing for the participant vs. 401(k) plans which have participants invest on their own and they typically lack investment savvy.

    Stability: Ranked first in the U.S. *1
    The WRS is nearly 100% (fully) funded since 2004, because the annual payouts to retirees are cautiously decreased or increased, depending on investment earnings.

    Participants: 1,500 Wisconsin public employers.
    27% participants are state/UWS employees and 73% are local government employees.

    169,229 retired members
    260,711 active employees
    148,048 inactive members

    Annuity Payouts: $23,800 average annual annuity payout to retirees (2009 figure)
    Wisconsin has one of the lowest annuity payouts to retirees in the U.S. This means other states have higher annuity payouts.

    Administrative Cost: Pension plans have lower administrative costs than 401(k) plans because Pension plans pool large amounts of money, which leads to an “economy of scale”.
    The WRS is managed locally to avoid the higher cost of Wall Street managers. Another benefit of local management is administrative fees stay in Wisconsin.

    Cost to Taxpayer: 1.26% of state and local budgets goes to the WRS (vs. 2.9% national average)
    5% of contributions come from taxpayers
    15% of contributions come from government employees
    80% of contributions come from investment earnings

    Risk to Taxpayer: 20% of risk is borne by taxpayers (this is lower than most other states).
    80% of risk is borne by government employees.

    Economic Impact: 86% of WRS retirees have a Wisconsin address, thereby recycling the payouts.
    Pension payouts are fully taxable which means Wisconsin local governments get some of their previous contributions back. And, because payouts are typically spent in the local community, those payouts helped support 35,000 Wisconsin jobs in 2010. This also means private sector taxpayers are getting some of their contributions back.
    The WRS is a great recruiting tool, especially for the University of Wisconsin System.

    Other States: West Virginia and Nebraska are cancelling their 401(k) plans and returning to the lower costing pension plan.

    *1 Most other public sector and private sector pension plans are partially or inadequately funded because their management 1) did not decrease payouts when investments decreased, and 2) allowed “contribution holidays” when no money was put into the plan.

    Reply this comment

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Daniel BorensteinDavid CraneSteven Greenhut

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