Steve Maviglio, pension sage: Why it’s a laughable spectacle

April 2, 2013

By Chris Reed

eGhybG8xMTI=_o_newsconference-steve-maviglioSteve Maviglio, a leading consigliere to top Sacramento Democrats for more than a decade, now regularly pretends to  a new role. Even though he’s on Speaker John Perez’s payroll, Maviglio offers himself up on Twitter in the quasi-journalistic role of reasoned, reasonable commentator on pensions. On Monday, he stuck up for the reforms Gov. Jerry Brown got through the Legislature in September and depicted the Contra Costa Times’ Dan Borenstein as being on a “jihad” against public employees because Borenstein — like lots of people — thought the reforms were insufficient given the size of the pension mess.

So let’s bother to take Maviglio seriously. A reasoned, reasonable commentator on pensions would offer an honest take on pension problems, not try to downplay their size and significance with name-calling, non sequiturs,  semantic gamesmanship and twisted use of statistics.

That’s not Steve.

In 2011, as spokesman for the Californians for Retirement Security, Maviglio depicted the pension crisis as manufactured. His press releases tore into “myths and falsehoods about public employee pensions” spreadly widely by evil “out-of-state billionaires.” What was their goal, according to Maviglio? To use “a few sensational cases of pension abuse” as a means to “attack middle-class Californians.”

Falling short on consistency, insight, math and honesty

So in 2011, Maviglio depicted the pension reforms won by Jerry Brown in 2012 as unnecessary, and now in 2013, he’s depicting them as broad, sweeping and positive. Consistency ain’t one of your strengths, Steve.

Nor is breadth of insight a Maviglian strength. For years, whenever people talked about the extreme severity of the pension crisis at the local level, in places like San Jose and San Diego, Maviglio would always shift the topic to the state level, where the pension underfunding isn’t as extreme.

Nor are math or honesty Steve’s strong suits. For years, one of Maviglio’s favorite narratives has been to assert the average CalPERS pension is tiny, about $25,000 a year, by citing median pensions of former public employees — knowing full well that category included loads of people who only worked for the government for a few years. Maviglio understands that the pension debate’s core inflammatory issue is the fact that tens of thousands of public employees in California have retired in their 50s with 75 percent to 90 percent or more of their last, highest salaries. But instead he invokes grossly misleading statistics that include pension recipients who worked for local or state government for a few years before taking other jobs.

And these are just the most obvious ways to poke holes in the idea that Maviglio is a credible pension commentator.

The ‘middle-class’ retirees with $100k-plus pensions

There are also more sophisticated ways to do so. For example, Maviglio constantly depicts pension reformers as being at war with “middle class” government workers and retirees. Then why have Maviglio and the California Democratic establishment fought so bitterly against a pension reform approved in similarly liberal Illinois a few years ago that capped pensions at $108,000 going forward adjusted for inflation? Because so many public employees would be affected. They are hardly middle-class.

And then there is the basic, somewhat mean way to poke holes in the idea that Maviglio is a credible pension commentator. He stands to get a gigantic pension after years working in $100,000-plus jobs for Gray Davis, Fabian Nunez, John Perez and others.

In short, Steve Maviglio has as much credibility on pension reform as Kinde Durkee has on campaign finance reform.

But at least his Twitter posturing on the topic will be good for some laughs.


Write a comment
  1. Devoid of Credentials
    Devoid of Credentials 2 April, 2013, 06:21

    Here’s a post from yesterday (April 1, 2013) on The California Majority Report, a web site published by Maviglio and others:

    Anti-pension propaganda disguised by think tanks and ‘public policy’ websites:

    Actually, his statements are no laughing matter, as his claims seem to be “winning” and our vindication will be paying for his victories.

    Reply this comment
  2. Jay
    Jay 2 April, 2013, 07:15

    This pension crisis has me a bit worried, in that I worked 13 years for a PERS employer and need now to get my pension from that. It will be only about $8500 a year. I hope the excesses of the higher-ups (like that Alameda County administrator) who find ways to pad their pensions don’t cause an over-reaction that screws me and other low-level employees out of our expected little stipends.

    Reply this comment
  3. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 2 April, 2013, 07:36

    The longer it takes to reform pensions, the more retirees will lose out when the Big Crash comes. They could end up like bank depositors in Cyprus.

    — John Seiler

    Reply this comment
  4. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 2 April, 2013, 08:00

    Keep trying to stir up that fear, John.

    The California Majority Report is exactly correct. You anti-government people hide behind various neutral sounding organizations to write your “studies” and opinion pieces, exchange them with each other in your own editorial circuit, and then pretend the pieces have some kind of wide support. It’s nothing more than an exercise in Astroturfing.

    Reply this comment
  5. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 2 April, 2013, 08:08

    Righties never win….irrelevant…..they need CWD to huddle their shrinking masses for doom chronicling……work union…work government you will be healthy and wealthy…of course, wise!

    Reply this comment
  6. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 2 April, 2013, 08:24

    That list of Maviglio’s employers is like a Who’s Who of what’s wrong with Crazyfornia. How low a life form do you have to be to carry water for that pack of Hyena’s. The guy is worse than a mafia lawyer.

    Chris, thanks for the Kindee Durkee reminder, that always brings a smile to my face.

    Reply this comment
  7. Douglas
    Douglas 2 April, 2013, 08:41

    I read five words. Up to “consigliere”. No point reading any further. Any hope of “fair and balanced” reporting is dashed.

    I did read some of the comments and the link to majority report. It’s true. Propaganda like “2,000% increase in pension costs” ,”$100,000 pensions” (2%), Retire at 50 with full (90%) pension (1%), ad nauseum, does nothing to bolster the credibility of CPPC.

    Reply this comment
  8. Tough Love
    Tough Love 2 April, 2013, 08:43


    Wonderful description of this creep.

    After reading some of his grossly misleading “articles”, and having a substantive understanding of the real issues, I came away with the feeling that there going to be a special place in hell for this A-hole.

    Reply this comment
  9. stolson
    stolson 2 April, 2013, 09:18

    Bondholders rescued Calpers in 2008–no more rescuing for other cash strapped cities because of staggering pension costs. If bondholders take the big haircut to keep Calpers from reducing payments, the long run outlook is bad. I don’t see this as a good thing for CA. He can write for his cronies all day long, but the handwriting is soon to be on the wall.

    Reply this comment
  10. Brown delta trout
    Brown delta trout 2 April, 2013, 09:38

    What doesn’t he understand about “unfunded liability?” It’s a pretty simple concept. We owe lot’s of money that we can’t pay. And yet he thinks the very ones who are to receive the benefit of the debt are not responsible?

    Reply this comment
  11. eatingdogfood
    eatingdogfood 2 April, 2013, 10:48

    If The Democrats Didn’t Give ” Sweetheart Deals ” To Your Public Service Union.
    Goon Employees To Get Reelected; You Would Have Plenty Of Money and The.
    Taxpayer would have Some Spare Change in His Pockets! Democratic Hustler
    Politicians + Corrupt Union Goons = BANKRUPTCY BABY! Time To Bring.
    RICO Conspiracy Charges Against The Hustler Corrupt Democrats and the.
    Criminal Unions!

    Reply this comment
  12. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 2 April, 2013, 11:08

    Jay, that’s what my private sector, carpenter husband gets for a lifetime of hard work. Fortunately, this is not a private vs. public sector world. We all live together and support each other. His private sector pension, along with my modest public sector pension helps sustain us and keeps us off the welfare rolls. And, keep telling the critics that public employees like that administrator in Alameda County were not beneficiares of collective bargaining–she and her other management, non-union, ilk are beneficiares of their own individual bargaining, and their very generous public officials. Keep on keepin on!

    Reply this comment
  13. stevefromsacto
    stevefromsacto 2 April, 2013, 11:29

    Right on, SeeSaw and Skipping Dog. The righties love for you to think that the excessive pensions of some execs are 1) typical of those of all public employees, and 2) the result of collective bargaining–even though the execs pensions aren’t the result of collective bargaining. And they get their panties in a wad when someone calls them on their misleading comments.

    Reply this comment
  14. stevefromsacto
    stevefromsacto 2 April, 2013, 11:30

    Could have said that a little more clearly. I meant to say the the execs pensions are not subject to collective bargaining.

    Reply this comment
  15. Tough Love
    Tough Love 2 April, 2013, 11:42

    So Stevefromsacto, Aren’t the outrageously excessive pensions (& benefits) of cops & firemen the result of collective bargaining ?

    Oh …. you chose not to mention that ?

    Reply this comment
  16. Brown delta trout
    Brown delta trout 2 April, 2013, 13:58

    SeeSaw, depending on what “government” entity you worked for you may already be on welfare. If the entity didn’t pay for your benefits when you worked for them then your on a government entitlement program funded by other taxpayers. I know you think your entitled to have others pay your way, but your not. Go get a job.

    Reply this comment
  17. us citizen
    us citizen 2 April, 2013, 17:39

    Im sorry but there are NO guarantees in life. You arent guaranteed a specific income for any job anywhere anyhow. Just because you work for the govt does not give you extra privileges. Just because you are either filthy rich or dirt poor…….means that you can live off the backs of someone else. (taxes) Life is not fair and has its ups and downs. Deal with it. This bit that govt employees are “owed” is a bunch of hog wash. If this is the case, then I want you to donate to MY retirement fund. I mean after all…….fair is fair then.

    Reply this comment
  18. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 2 April, 2013, 19:58

    That’s nonsense, citizen. Like it or not, pension benefits for public employees are nothing more or less than deferred compensation for their work. That’s not a privilege, it’s the cost of having those people do the work you want.

    Every public employee has donated to their own pension fund at some level, even if that level was a pension contribution in lieu of direct wages. It was not only a contract agreement with their employer, but a commitment by the people of California who thought so much of it that they (we) placed the obligation into our state constitution and our laws.

    Your gripes about public employee pensions are nothing more than sour grapes, and you’d be the first to yell if anyone tried to take any of your earned income or benefits away.

    Reply this comment
  19. Tough Love
    Tough Love 2 April, 2013, 20:17

    Calm down Skippy, with all those big COLA-increased pension payments in your future you don’t want to give yourself a heart attack.

    Reply this comment
  20. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 2 April, 2013, 20:41

    Don’t worry, TL. I’m using my retiree medical plan to see my doctor at least twice a year, get all of the diagnostic tests and immunizations recommended for someone of my age, and I quit smoking nearly 30 years ago. My blood pressure is normal, I don’t have diabetes or heart disease, and my weight is down to where my doctor likes it. I took all of the physical risks necessary during my long service in your behalf, so I refrain from unnecessary risks these days such as skydiving or riding a motorcycle.

    I might well live another 40 or more years, since my family tends to have long lives.

    Reply this comment
  21. Tough Love
    Tough Love 2 April, 2013, 21:47

    Skippy, Participating in these discussions increases ones stress level …. bad for one’s morbidity and mortality.

    Reply this comment
  22. Donkey
    Donkey 2 April, 2013, 22:19

    The math will take care of the RAGWUS feeders, and it will hit them the hardest!! 🙂

    Reply this comment
  23. Donkey
    Donkey 2 April, 2013, 22:29

    SKdog, you weave the goodness of the pension story mantra just like any sideshow preacher, and you are just as big of a liar. The pension scam is the product of a Quid Pro Quo scheme between the politicians your union put in office and the creeps that ran the bureaucracies feeding off the taxpayers. The money can’t run out fact enough, but it will run dry, and I will delight in your sorrow. 🙂

    Reply this comment
  24. winston
    winston 2 April, 2013, 23:31

    Why do schoolteachers, college professors and office workers need unions? We ‘re not talking about coal miners or child labor. More like planning office potlucks, adding up vacation /sick/personal days and never ever acknowledging their debt to hardworking private sector taxpayers. Shame on you.

    Reply this comment
  25. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 3 April, 2013, 08:38

    CWD doomer’s are jealous they are unqualified for government professional positions.

    Relax with your fate! Not your fault……you have Social Security a great government lifeline.

    Reply this comment
  26. Tough Love
    Tough Love 3 April, 2013, 10:05

    Ulysses Uhaul, Nice (piggish) attitude.

    Please keep it up. It make justifying the reneging of your pensions SO MUCH easier to justify.

    Reply this comment
  27. Steve Mehlman
    Steve Mehlman 4 April, 2013, 08:18

    Tough love won’t be happy until all public employees are either laid off or forced to work for minimum wage with no benefits. And then he’ll bitch because it wasn’t done sooner.

    Reply this comment
  28. Steve Mehlman
    Steve Mehlman 4 April, 2013, 08:35

    Hey Winston, it is precisely because of the attitudes of people like tough love that public employees need unions.

    Reply this comment
  29. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 4 April, 2013, 10:42

    Brown delta trout, I’m 77 years old–don’t think anyone would want to hire me. Anyway, don’t worry–investment earnings cover 64 cents of every dollar CalPERS pays me–you should be grateful that I’m out there in the market place supporting you.

    Reply this comment
  30. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 4 April, 2013, 10:49

    winston, even where unions exist in schools, municipalities, etc., the salaries and perks of management are several times more than what the rank and file get. My former CM gets six and one-half times more in CalPERS retirement than I–I have nothing against him–just putting the statistics out there to make a point. Without the unions in these various entities, management would be making 10-20 times more than rank and file. I’m sure you have seen the motto, “Live Better, Work Union”–it’s a fact.

    Reply this comment
  31. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 4 April, 2013, 10:57

    winston, every member of my family, starting with my spouse, on to my children, their spouses, and my grandchildren are in the private sector. They all receive very generous benefits from my having a sustainable income stream. The private sector receives most of every penny I put into the economy. Accusing me of taking from the private sector to pad my own nest is something you will not get away with!!

    Reply this comment
  32. Tough Love
    Tough Love 4 April, 2013, 23:45

    Steve Mehlman, No Steve, I would be very satisfied (since Public Sector “cash pay” is generally no less than their Private Sector counterparts … and hence there is no justification for greater pensions & benefits) to have your pensions and benefits reduced to a level no greater than ours …. which is generally about 25-50% of what you are now promised.

    But being the piggy that you are, you don’t don’t find that EQUALITY acceptable … do you ?

    Reply this comment

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