I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Dog Ate My Pension Report

I swear I wanted to write about pensions last week - really, I did - and then we had the Bret and Chris show, and the LA Times decided to treat teachers like they should be subject to Megan's Law, and the T@x Foundation stared stalking me, and...

So instead of the clear, nuanced, well-sourced writing you've come to expect from the Jazzman, here are some completely random thoughts about teacher pensions:

- I know the Hall  Institute and Fred Beaver and whoever else think that we need to change the management of the pensions, and they're probably right. But let's get real - we are in the hole for one reason and one reason only: the government employers - not the employees, the employers - didn't want to pony up their fair share.

- If the local, county, school, and state governments of NJ ever decided to actually do what they should and fund pensions properly, it would further highlight the fact that this state relies too heavily on regressive property taxes. And that problem must never, ever be confronted. Hence, keep kicking that can down the road.

- The notion that NJ's pension benefits are out of control is just not true.

- There is an idea floating around that government employees ought to move to 401k's instead of pensions. Although I continue to be astonished of what Chris Christie is capable of, I don't think even he will push that. Not because he's an honorable guy who wants to follow through on promises the state made to its workers; far from it.

No, I think even Chris gets that if he moved everyone off of pensions to defined-contribution (401k) type plans, he would implode the finances of the state.

There are only three sources of revenue for a pension: the employee's contribution, the employer's (the government's) contribution, and investment returns. Well, we all know how the market is doing, and we all know that the government hasn't contributed since Christie Whitman declared a pension holiday for every public employer in NJ. Only Jon Corzine made a significant contribution to the pension; great political move, huh?

If we move public employees off of pensions, there will be absolutely no money coming into the system. It will destroy itself faster than a Hollywood child star with an unlocked trust fund. Even Christie isn't so craven as to allow that.

I think...

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