CalPERS’ new shtick: Ripping CalPERS = ripping retirees. Groan.

Dec. 17, 2012

By Chris Reed

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is a piece of work. For years, it has downplayed the pension crisis, ignored its central role in the crisis by encouraging a 50 percent retroactive giveaway to all state employees in 1999, and depicted its critics as hateful ideologues, not people who understand basic math.

So the governor got through a fairly sweeping pension reform, which is the best proof possible in Democrat-dominated Sacramento that the problems are huge and unavoidable — and CalPERS is still pretending it is one of the good guys in the pension fight. The method: depicting attacks on CalPERS for its many mistakes and for its horrible counsel to local governments as an attack on innocent, aged retirees:

CalPERS officials say retirees are being scapegoated for problems caused by foolhardy local officials who overspent their budgets and Wall Street bondholders who should have understood that lending money to municipalities carries the risk of not getting repaid. … 

In 1999, CalPERS persuaded the Legislature to substantially increase state worker pensions, saying the costs could be borne by booming investment returns. CalPERS predicted the state’s annual pension contributions would remain at $766 million or less for at least a decade. Many local governments responded by boosting their own workers’ pensions.

When the investment markets sagged and the state’s annual contribution to CalPERS zoomed past $3 billion, Republican lawmakers and others began attacking benefit levels as too generous.

CalPERS was quick to defend itself, noting that the average pensioner receives under $30,000 a year and shouldn’t get blamed for weak investment results.

Groan. CalPERS encouraged local officials to make the bad decisions it now denounces. And the claim that the average pensioner receives under $30,000 a year is such a lame Maviglioism. The figure includes every state retiree, including the many who worked less than 15 years.
If CalPERS were in the private sector, it would be considered a pariah for its dishonesty, recklessness and refusal to accept responsibility when things go wrong. But in Sacramento, it is just one of many such government agencies.
Great, just great.


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