Pension Blame

I heard it again this morning–on the WPRO morning show, this time–probably in relation the ProJo’s latest in their pension series on “how we got here” regarding the pension mess (“They Just Broke the City“). Yes, we know we messed up in the past, goes the refrain, but what can we do to make it better in the future? It’s time to stop blaming people and look ahead, etc. It’s similar to the no-blame game being played by the General Treasurer. Try to shove it in the past–bury the blame–and move on.
What is missed is that it is necessary to assign the proper blame so we know how to deal with the problem. If we don’t properly identify the cause, we can’t come up with a fair solution. So when we learn that a union run retirement board did more than it’s fair share to put Providence in it’s acute pension predicament–mostly thanks to COLAs and disability retirements–then we shouldn’t feel too bad when recommending reforms that take a fair amount of flesh out of current retirees. Thanks to COLA’s, for instance, they’ve seen their pension double in 12 years. Pretty good return, no?
The unions didn’t act alone, though. As the ProJo story makes clear, politicians, the courts and, yes, voters did their share and were complicit in constructing this failed system. It’s a “full Rhode Island.”
That’s why, despite the pleas of RI cities and towns, the General Assembly isn’t rushing into any fixes and seems content to sit on their hands until the fall. If they even really do anything then. We were screwed then and we are screwed now. Maybe when the checks stop coming, something will get done.

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Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

” So when we learn that a union run retirement board did more than it’s fair share…”
Good point.
I’m amazed that they’re taking so long to do something. Maybe they really are giving the electorate the middle finger as you’d think they’d want to make an unpopular decision as early as possible and then hope it fades from memory by next November. The longer they wait, the closer they’re getting to election season. Plus, it’s not only their own seats they’re playing with, they’re also going to keep the Providence mess fresh in people’s heads for Cicilline’s election season.

Russ
Russ
10 years ago

“What is missed is that it is necessary to assign the proper blame so we know how to deal with the problem.”
I disagree. That’s a recipe for paralysis. Every hear the expression “held for further study?” Debating who did what during events that occurred 30 years ago is marginal at best, a total waste of time at worst.
What’s important is to understand the changes that need to occur. The exception to this would be cases where there may have been fraud, etc, which I think we can agree should be addressed.

John
John
10 years ago

“During the 1970s, Senate Majority Leader John P. Hawkins, a former Providence firefighter himself, and other senators began advocating legislation that would add two union representatives to the city’s Retirement Board, thus tipping the balance. The legislation eventually passed around 1977.” Providence Journal, June 5, 2011
Good to see the old names come back to the forefront as one of the guiding lights helping to bankrupt the city of Providence (and soon the state).
Union hacks taking care of other union hacks; pigs, one and all.
Should we expect it to change? Can the GA actually do what is right and fair for all? Listen for the pigs to squeal loud and often this fall.

Max Diesel
Max Diesel
10 years ago

Russ,
Would you be saying that if this state hadn’t been run by Democrats for the past 70 years?

Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
10 years ago

Just take a look at what politicians got the union donations and look at their voting record. Once you do that, it is easy to target the culprits. It is easier to identify the broken system. Russ would prefer not to understand this as his bread is buttered with this corrupt system. Just witness the circle-jerk that continues as we speak, with the union pigs in the general assembly, taking care of their own with the nationwide search that culminated in hiring the dropout Ianazzi.
There is no question that they won’t stop until the checks are bouncing. They are pigs that know no bounds.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

“It’s not important who spent or received all of the money in the past… what’s important is that we all contribute equally to fund the system going forward.”
Hmmmmm…………..

ANTHONY
ANTHONY
10 years ago

Great post Marc. It is absolutely imperative that blame is assigned. Blame=Accountability. If there is no accountability then expect the failed past to be repeated………wait a minute……it just may be happening again. Union corruption is so deep in the fiber of RI that the cloth may have to be entirely thrown out. It is not repairable.

Tom W
Tom W
10 years ago

–“I’m amazed that they’re taking so long to do something. Maybe they really are giving the electorate the middle finger as you’d think they’d want to make an unpopular decision as early as possible and then hope it fades from memory by next November. The longer they wait, the closer they’re getting to election season. Plus, it’s not only their own seats they’re playing with, they’re also going to keep the Providence mess fresh in people’s heads for Cicilline’s election season.”
Every once in a while it’s interesting to check on on the latest in RI (it’s so comforting to observe the state’s inevitable fiscal collapse from afar).
Anyway, consider the possibility that the intentional delay is to get the incumbents past the (June? August?) deadline for candidacy filings, and so past the danger of union-puppet primary challenges.
As for Ciccilline, he’s probably a dead duck and the Democrats consider him expendable.
Traditionally in RI Democrat circles anything goes unless you get caught, and then to protect itself the rest of the party acts like you never existed (e.g., Martineau; Irons). Sort of like the old Soviet Union when Gulag’d / firing-squaded party officials were airbrushed out of official photographs.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

“Anyway, consider the possibility that the intentional delay is to get the incumbents past the (June? August?) deadline for candidacy filings, and so past the danger of union-puppet primary challenges.”
Tom, good thought but you’re off by a year. The election is next year, 2012 and we’re saying they may do things this October. If they want to push things off until October of 2012, maybe checks will already be bouncing by then.
It does make you wonder though, why private companies can get billions in a bailout, but a state cannot. I’m not saying that Congress should simply write a check, but if there was some major systematic reform to go along with it, something like that could make sense. Get us back into the black along with dropping the pension system completely and switch to a defined contribution system and well as lots of other cuts.

Monique
Editor
10 years ago

“It’s not important who spent or received all of the money in the past… what’s important is that we all contribute equally to fund the system going forward.”
This suggestion leaves out a couple of critical facts: 1.) that the pensions were reasonable to begin with and 2.) that they had been funded all along as they should have been.
Those are the two aspects of the pension crisis that everyone keeps wishing away. Sorry, they cannot be wished away.

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
10 years ago

Let’s get serious:
Does ANYONE here really think that in 17 weeks the GA is going to meet and:
1. Raise the retirement age to 67-for existing workers.
2. Suspend COLA’s for all, even the already retired.
3. Drop the annuity benefit down to 1.0%-1.2% from 1.6%-2.0%.
Anyone????????

Tom W
Tom W
10 years ago

–“Tom, good thought but you’re off by a year.”
Patrick, you’re right. My bad.
Which isn’t to say that they still won’t kick the can down the road until sometime in 2012.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama has “winked and nodded” the public sector unions and state Democrat officials in the collapsing states (IL; CA; RI to name a few) that a federal government / Federal Reserve bailout is on the table, but he can’t do it before the 2012 election. Even if not true, it’d keep the unions motivated to cough up campaign support for Obama, definitely eliminating their “enthusiasm gap.”
Of course the end result would be the trashing of the dollar and hyperinflation wiping out the value of the pensions anyway, but the union officials and Democrats know that most of the rank and file wouldn’t make the connection.
Similar to how most of the rank and file in RI haven’t made the connection to how their union leadership enabled the welfare magnet status of RI to eat up the pension system contributions that should have been made, because the union leaders were more interested in the immediate gratification of union dues from the social service / teachers hired to take care of the welfare crowd and their offspring.

swamper
swamper
10 years ago

Ww need to assign blame in order to identify what went wrong. It is only when we understand who broke the system and how it was accomplished, can we prevent the repeat of history itself again.

Rasputin
Rasputin
10 years ago

When are we going to start blaming the VOTERS. THE VOTERS are responsible for this mess in the end.
Why do we have this need to make this so much more complicated than it is?

ANTHONY
ANTHONY
10 years ago

Rasputin,…yup the voters are partially to blame for voting self interest. However there are a lot of politicians who morph while in office. Are you happy with the “hope and change” you are getting with Hussein Obama? The “hope” is for gas prices not to hit $5. gal. and the “change” is that we have a changeling in the White House that despises capitalism and the middle class.

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