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Out of control public pensions - NYT oped

Original post made by We are not alone on Mar 7, 2011

Interesting oped from NYT on their public employee retirement cost issues:

Web Link

Many similarities to Pleasanton:

- Public employees received a series of raises through the entire recession and are now pushing back on contributing more
- Employees making more than average citizens yet complaining they are being picked on when asked to compromise
- Layoffs (soft hiring freeze for Pleasanton) to compensate for higher costs of fewer remaining employees
- Annual pension costs are significantly larger than in the past and more than planned
- Unfunded pension liability large and growing
- Retirement medical costs also a significant problem
- Unions continue to be a road block for needed changes with dirty politics and misleading advertisement

Where will all you progressives go to defend your position when now even your progressive bastion NYT is coming around to the problem?

Comments (38)

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2011 at 10:04 am

I'm sure b, YAT and the others will find fault with this somehow.

There is no problem - it is all made up by those devious tea party people.


Posted by forgetful?, a resident of Downtown
on Mar 7, 2011 at 10:56 am

Seems 'we are not alone's' right-wing enthusiasm led to a neglect of 5 of 6 opinion pieces in nyt over the past couple days defending teachers against those who seek to chisel away at their salaries and pensions. Small matter, since the right is not about honesty, nor even about truth, and certainly not about improving the community. Theirs is an all-out destructive campaign motivated by thirst for scoring political points and protecting wealth in the hands of the few.


Posted by We are not alone, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2011 at 11:16 am

Fantastic! I knew you'd find a way to spin this and pin it back on those heartless, right-winger, un-American folks.

Funny how you guys trotted out that poll that showed the majority of Americans supported union rights to collective bargaining but failed to mention that large majorities said government employees should pay more for their pension, medical coverage, etc. I know, it is always the right-wingers who distort the truth

Let me go back to drinking my kool-aide. Silly me, we have absolutely no problem here. Let's just raise taxes so that government employees can continue to receive raised and retire earlier while those who are actually paying the bill make less and retire later.

Makes perfect sense to me! I just need to get one of them gov'ment jobs so others will have to work on my behalf.


Posted by Hostage employer, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Collective bargaining is right for the private secter...free will for both employers and employees. That is not the case with government employees and taxpayer employers..,.,which is why union supporter FDR, ( DEM Pres Franklin Roosvelt) felt strongly and spoke clearly that it was improper for government employees to be unionized ! ! ! The whole concept is absurd, and a genuine crime against taxpayer/employers. A public employee ACTING as 'negotiator' supposedly 'representing' taxpaying employer is so ridiculous and morally wrong and unjust.


Posted by Steve is Right!!!, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2011 at 9:52 pm

More free will in the public sector. No more determinism. I'm a philosopher. My name is Socrates. Let's ignore how wealth is distributed in this country and focus instead on how public unions are ruining the equation. Top 20% of pop = 93% of the wealth; bottom 80% of pop = 7% of the wealth. I belong to the bottom 80% of the pop -- probably from that severe head fall I took in my youth -- but I'll show my patriotic fervor by trying to ensure that the top 20% keeps their 93%. See I'm sly as a cow. (You thought I was going to say 'fox' didn't you? See how clever I am?)


Posted by Ken, a resident of Bordeaux Estates
on Mar 8, 2011 at 5:38 am

Yes, a slight majority wants pension paybacks. Oh, you say the Wisconsin workers agreed? Oh.

Yes, a substantial majority disapproves of Walker's attempt to bust the public unions. You say he's stepping down? Is he pulling back?No? How come? Haven't the people spoken?

Boy this is one for Socrates. We need intellectual leadership on this one. Steve? Stacey?


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 8:55 am

After firefighters agree to slash pay and benefits, other San Jose unions more willing to talk cuts

Web Link

Makes Pleasanton's 2% employee contribution concession seem kind of silly ...


Posted by Greedy, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 9:01 am

Never enough for greedy union retirees. They will bleed you dry even when you are bankrupt ...

Vallejo Retirees Fight Back


SAN FRANCISCO — Vallejo retirees have fired another salvo in a battle for scarce funds in the California city's proposed plan to exit bankruptcy, including conflict of interest accusations against the city's mayor and law firm.

The assertions by the retiree committee, which represents 800 retired city workers in the court battle, are part of a long list of objections filed in court last month to Vallejo's legal exit plan.

The legal gripes are a reaction to the city's proposal to pay retirees and other unsecured creditors only 5% to 20% of their claims out of a $6 million pool over two years, though some would be paid more through insurance.

Vallejo has received more than a thousand claims, both secured and unsecured, worth almost $500 million.

Web Link


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 9:17 am

Have you ever considered how many low- to mid-level Silicon Valley workers are given the opportunity to retire in their 40's, thanks to generous salaries, bonuses and stock options?

If I'm not mistaken, Bart Hughes is in his 40s. Looking at his resume, he's never doing anything more challenging than a mid-level manager in the city hierarchy earning $100k. He has never built a company, and based on his positions, never really been in a position to truly create new jobs or contribute much to the economy.

And yet at a young age, he has the luxury to sit in his expensive home and spend the day criticizing people who are out pounding the pavement every day, doing equal work, but earn much less money and will have to work a lot longer before they can enjoy the same luxury.

I spent time last week arguing with you idiots over your ruthless campaign to pointlessly destroy hard-working people, while you simultaneously tried to convince me that the economy is falling off a cliff and the city is headed toward bankruptcy. Despite that, I still managed to start interviewing people for three new jobs I created, and signed my best book of business in three years. I'm

Quit trying to tear down other people, and go contribute something to society.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 8, 2011 at 9:27 am

Stacey is a registered user.

b wrote: "Have you ever considered how many low- to mid-level Silicon Valley workers are given the opportunity to retire in their 40's, thanks to generous salaries, bonuses and stock options?"

How many won that lottery? I knew of someone who almost did. Last I heard, they fled to Costa Rica to avoid paying AMT on stock options they had exercised and didn't sell before they became worthless scraps of paper.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 8, 2011 at 9:27 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Gotta love the idea of paying tax on imaginary money...


Posted by Bart Hughes, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 9:54 am

b - With all these unsolicited attacks on me, I must really be a threat to you.

Your comments regarding my backgroup show how clueless you really are about business. I have run organizations with as many people and more revenue than Pleasanton represents, and created many jobs and more value for my stakeholders than I ever received back. And I am still working. I've decided to focus on a second career as I accomplished all that I wanted with my first and decided to focus on something I enjoy.

I guess if you can't win the logical argument, try to tear down the other side. Sad.


Posted by Dan Quayle, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 10:12 am

I have a backgroup, too! And I've been working ever since I was a boy in India.


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 10:36 am

I've already won the logical argument. I don't need to destroy other people to create value for myself. I don't feel the need to go hunting around Google for doom-and-gloom stories to prove doomsdays theories.

Here's an idea. Go figure out how to build a new business. Create 500 new jobs this year in Pleasanton, and overwhelm this city with tax revenue. Figure out what you can do this year to make sure the hard-working people of our city get big Christmas bonuses this year.

That's how real American Patriots live their lives. They create value and help lift all boats. Destroying peoples lives and increasing personal wealth by taking from the little people is what our enemies do.

Bart, you chose to insert yourself into public life and take on this destructive rampage. When you make life choices like that, you better expect that someone is going to take a closer look a your background and agenda. Get used to it or go back to your private life.


Posted by Sam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 10:46 am

b, here are some thoughts:

-businesses don't want to locate in California because of the high taxes
-high taxes are due in part to the unsustainable pensions to support government employees
-it is not the responsibility of citizens to make sure City of Pleasanton employees get "big Christmas bonuses this year."
-government employees are not "little people"...their pay rates are higher than the private sector and they have lifetime pensions


Posted by Mary, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 10:48 am

Hmmmmmm. I've got to say, 'b' makes some pretty good sense.


Posted by Ken, a resident of Bordeaux Estates
on Mar 8, 2011 at 11:00 am

Sam's deep thoughts are right on. My family and I drove for hours looking for a KFC. Finally we gave up after being told they had all moved to Utah.

Somebody else told me it was because of high salaries and pensions for public workers.

America is not about hard-working people getting big xmas bonuses. It's about making sure bankers and hedge fund managers and stock brokers get THEIR huge bonuses. They're the real little people, not public workers.


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 11:10 am

Yeah right, Sam. There's an old joke about nobody coming here anymore because it is so crowded. Looks like the TEA Party fed you their doom-and-gloom BS, too. And yet, I look around me, and Silicon Valley is thriving. Get on the bus or get run over.

Bart, your "I'm just the victim here" schtick is getting old.


Posted by Bart Hughes, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 1:04 pm

b - The day you find the courage to identify yourself and use your real name, I'll take your comments more seriously ... oh, and actually start using actual data to support your points.


Posted by comment, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Bart, have you ever worked for an investment banking company?


Posted by comment, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Or hedge fund, or commercial bank with a proprietary trading desk, or stock exchange, or brokerage house?


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm

How does my anonymity make my points any less valid? Absolutely bogus argument.

I can spend my day Googling for news articles, too. There's really no need to. The evidence of our national and local economic recovery is broadly reported. I see the evidence in my life every day, whether it is new closed sales in my business, stable home prices and rapid home sales in my neighborhood, frequent calls from recruiters, the optimism of my friends, or the new businesses popping up all around us. I read daily about improving job/unemployment statistics, increased tax revenue and business investment here in Pleasanton, record corporate profits, soaring stock prices, improving consumer confidence, and improving state/municipal health (bunch of articles on this in the past week).

Just what "statistics" do you need me to post, man?!

Come on, quit trying to hurt people and find something to do that will actually improve the quality of your community.


Posted by Sam, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Had to laugh about the "Everything is coming up roses" speech, especially about the booming economy in California!

b is for bogus.


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Bart's background And employment history is easy to find on Google.

Quite frankly, it really doesn't matter. All that matters is that he's complaining about hard-working people "getting" to retire at age 55 with a half way decent stream of income. Meanwhile, he gets to enjoy virtual retirement at a younger age, after a career in which he did nothing more difficult or beneficial to society than these hard-working city employees and managers.

Think for yourselves, folks. It is popular to bash public employees. But like you and me , they're just people trying to make the best of their lives.

Go do something positive and constructive today.


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Sam, it beats Bart's musty old rear-facing statistics. Yeah, 2008-09 were bad. As a result, the 10 year results were bad. Yawn--this is news?! Most every forward-looking statistic is pretty rosy. Where were you guys 3 years ago, when leading indicators suggested it actually was time to batten the hatches? Now it is time to move forward.


Posted by Bart Hughes, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 2:48 pm

I guess b you can liberally use ad hominems but no one else?

If you really cared about our community, you'd look honestly at the numbers (not mine but the city's) and contemplate the long-term implication of having personnel costs increase from 63% to 80% of general budget while at the same time having our unfunded liability for services already performed ballon from zero to $185M.

But instead you are supportive of an employment contract that would guarantee increased annual costs for the city plus the same/increasing unfunded liabilities.

You are right, my background doesn't matter (but it is you who always brings it up as a way to try to discredit the messenger). What matters is that we all look honestly at our financial situation and develop a realistic plan to dig out of the financial hole we are in.

Be a big person and come clean on who you are. Are you afraid it will undermine all that you have said?


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 3:11 pm

No, the actual difference between you and me is that I see them as People, not Statistics. I think about what would happen to someone earning $50k/year who suddenly had to figure out how to contribute 8% of that to their pension, and then try to come up with EVERY possible way to avoid hurting that person. You think in terms of numbers, and only peripherally consider the impact on people. THAT is the difference between us.


Posted by Bart Hughes, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 3:14 pm

b - what I especially find humorous about you and your rosy perspect regarding the current economy is that I'm not sure that you appreciate what the implications are of running a $1.5 Trillion dollar deficit year after year and having the Fed monetize $600B. Of course, things will appear great during this time, but it doesn't mean it is a real/stable economy.

When the Fed announced QE2 last fall, I predicted that no one would care until gas hit $4/gallon. Now we may be looking at even higher prices. The sad thing is that we will conveniently point to the turmoil in the middle east without appreciating/admitting what caused that turmoil - rampant food inflations caused by Fed monetization and the refusal of foreign central banks to let the dollar fall relative to their currencies.

If we were having this debate in 2000 around the time SB400 was passed, you'd probably be one of the ones who said the Dow was going to 25,000 and be saying "stop worrying, the public pensions will take care of themselves with market returns".

It sure would be fun to debate you face-to-face. Maybe one day you will find the courage.


Posted by Bart Hughes, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Oh, so it is OK for average personnel costs to increase to a point where the city is forced to do a soft-hiring freeze or layoff people thereby taking away jobs from others?

You've got to be associated with the union. Only they use manipulative bogus numbers like taking the lowest paid employee compared to the maximum contribution to make the situation looks bad as possible. Just like continuing to reference the $27K average retirement figuring knowing full well that recent employees have retired with dramatically higher retirements.

I challenge you to find a quote of mine where I said employees should jump to 8% in one year. You won't find it because I've never said it. Instead I am focused on trying to get the city/union to relax on the retirement age/formula. It is the right/fair thing to do so address the situation.


Posted by compassionate, a resident of Apperson Ridge
on Mar 8, 2011 at 4:26 pm

b-
And he does TOO care about people!


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Actually, you have it backwards. 2000/2001 and 2007/2008 were the times to be pessimistic. Things were too rosy then. I turned into an optimist a little over a year ago, because everyone else was too pessimistic. I was absolutely correct--the economy has done nothing but improve since then.

Yes, deficits are a problem. The TEA Party isn't the solution.

LOL at "compassionate." Bart just spews worthless statistics and Rand Paul sound bites. The people are an afterthought.


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Isn't it a bit two-faced for you to force this retirement age formula on the city workers, while you enjoy the spoils of your virtual very-early retirement? Now, that you've made it yourself, no need to worry about the comfort of someone you don't even know, right? Nevermind that they may be your intellectual equivalent, performing a job just as difficult as any you've ever held, or already working full-time to an older age than you. There is nothing right, fair or compassionate about that. Just greed, selfishness, and lack of consideration for your neighbors.


Posted by Bart Hughes, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 8:34 pm

For all those out there reading the comments from b and are not sure what/who to believe anymore. Please do yourself a favor and reach out to the city to confirm the information I quote above that b labels as worthless. This may help you appreciate who is trying to be fact based and constructive with solving a problem our city faces and who is resorting to personal attacks and all sorts of unfound accusations with the hope of diverting attention from the real issue.

I am confident I have framed the issue correctly.




Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 9:07 pm

This really is just one big math equation to you, isn't it, Bart? Let's just plug those numbers into our spreadsheet and come up with the right answer.

Fortunately, the City Council has had the common sense to look at the bigger picture and weigh ALL the important factors.


Posted by just asking, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 9:55 pm

b - found this recent article about the pension situation and I have to admit, it is a little disturbing. Don't want to cheat anyone out of something that was agreed to, but also don't want to leave the next generation a crushing bill and no services in return.
May I ask what are the important factors you mentioned?

Web Link


Posted by comment, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2011 at 10:45 pm

"When the Fed announced QE2 last fall, I predicted that no one would care until gas hit $4/gallon. Now we may be looking at even higher prices. The sad thing is that we will conveniently point to the turmoil in the middle east without appreciating/admitting what caused that turmoil - rampant food inflations caused by Fed monetization and the refusal of foreign central banks to let the dollar fall relative to their currencies."

There is a lot more to it than that. The US federal reserve policy has only a small effect on demand for food in China and India. A good part of the shortage is also just an accident of bad weather. There is talk in the FED of a QE 3 in case high gas prices threaten to slow the economy in the US. This is the kind of thing that could just blow over. There was some evidence that might be happening already.


Posted by compassionate, a resident of Apperson Ridge
on Mar 9, 2011 at 1:32 am

Check out the big brain on Bart....

"rampant food inflations caused by Fed monetization and the refusal of foreign central banks to let the dollar fall relative to their currencies."

See, it's like this. Fed monetization policy is responsible for the floods in Australia and the droughts in Brazil and Russia, which have done serious damage to world production levels of wheat, corn and sugar. Fed monetization policy, also, has caused the people in increasing industrial nations like China and India to demand more food to fill their bellies. Therefore, the recent spike in food prices has been caused by Fed monetization policy. I read this in a Ron Paul for President brochure. Inspired by ol' six balls, I've attempted to provide an analysis with a human touch kinna like what b was calling for. Bart knows his stuff!!! He gets facts and then his logic takes over. Real big picture kinna guy, Bart is.


Posted by Jeb Bing, editor of the Pleasanton Weekly
on Mar 9, 2011 at 6:41 am

Jeb Bing is a registered user.

We're intentionally giving this Town Hall commentary a rest because the postings have become repetitive and, in some instances, accusatory without factual support. We will be covering breaking news on pension reform both online and in our print edition as developments occur.


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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