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Edward Ring

The Misleading Arguments of Those Who Fight Against Pension Reform

Weakening pensions is a choice, not an imperative. The crisis is political, not actuarial. – Susan Greenbaum,guest editorial, Al Jazeera America, October 20, 2014

With this thesis highlighted, Greenbaum, a retired professor of anthropology at the University of South Florida, has just published a guest editorial that provides in one place a useful example of the distortions, demonizing and inversions of logic used by those who fight against pension reform. To understand why public employees, and their union leadership, remain sincere in their delusions regarding pensions, Greenbaum’s missive may serve as Exhibit A. Because she has joined a chorus that is funded not only by the billions that are spent by public employee unions on political and educational propaganda each year, but also funded by elements of those same Wall Street financial interests they routinely deride.

Let’s examine some of these misleading arguments and tactics, in no particular order:

(1) Identify key reformers, demonize them, then accuse anyoneRead More

Edward Ring

Social Security is Healthy Compared to Public Sector Pensions

Last week yet another missive on the lessons to be learned from Detroit’s bankruptcy was published, this time in Forbes Magazine by Jeffrey Dorfman, an economist at the University of Georgia. Dorfman’s article, “Detroit’s Bankruptcy Should Be A Warning To Every Worker Expecting A Pension, Or Social Security,” clearly implies that future Social Security benefits are as financially imperiled as public sector pensions.

This is patently false, and spreading this falsehood has dangerous consequences.

Not only are the financial adjustments necessary to fix Social Security far easier to implement than what it’s going to take to rescue public sector pensions, but the sheer size of the public sector pension liability is actually bigger than the total liability for the entire Social Security fund. It is imperative that American voters understand this fact.

In the United States today about 20% of workers are employed by the government (or public utilities that offer benefits on par with… Read More

Congressman John Campbell

Moral Imperative

I speak often in these pages about things fiscal, financial and economic. Given that I am a CPA and sit on three committees in Congress that deal with money (Budget, Financial Services and Joint Economic), this is to be expected. But, I am not all about money. And, the nation’s problems are not all about money. As big a problem as our debts and deficits are, they are emblematic of deeper and actually more significant moral and cultural issues.

For some time now, we have heard of those who Tom Brokaw dubbed “the greatest generation”, those who sacrificed through a world war to vanquish fascism and imperialism and leave a stronger America for their children. We can go back further to speak of the generation that took the risks to establish this country in the late 18th century or of the generation that fought the Civil War. In each case, said generation sacrificed in order to leave a better and more prosperous country of opportunity for their children.

But, what are we doing now? What will be the legacy of my generation? Our debt and deficit crisis is largely caused by giving ourselves health care and retirement benefits without paying for them.… Read More

Congressman John Campbell

Debt Ceiling Conditions

The president says that we should just extend the debt limit, or cede the authority to him to expand it as he wishes. I’m sure he probably doesn’t think we even need such a discipline at all. He says he will not negotiate on this issue. He says that Congress has already approved all the spending that led to these deficits.

Like on most things, the president is completely wrong.

If credit cards had no limit on them, a whole lot of people would spend without end. The debt limit is like that. It is a discipline that reminds us – “Oh yeah…we’ve just borrowed $16.4 TRILLION. That’s kind of a lot. Maybe we shouldn’t spend so much.” We’ve borrowed 35% ($5.805 trillion) of that since Obama took office. Maybe we ought to think about it before we try to borrow $7 trillion more, which is an approximation of how much more this president wants to borrow in his second term. And, as I understand him, the president won’t negotiate on this. In fact, he has yet to negotiate on anything. No change here. And, as far as Congress already approving the spending….that’s not correct either, Mr. President. Sixty percent of all… Read More

Congressman John Campbell

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Fiscal Cliff Edition

Just the Facts, Ma’am – Fiscal Cliff Edition: This was the famous, at least to those of us who were alive then, admonition offered by the fictional LA detective, Sergeant Joe Friday, to witnesses who would engage in too much speculation about a crime. Well, I generally give you a lot of my opinion. Every once in a while, though, I give you just the unvarnished facts so that you can draw your own conclusions.

You have probably heard the term “Fiscal Cliff” enough times to make you sick. But, do you really know everything it entails? Below, you will find a comprehensive list of every law that will expire at the end of this year, as well as the result of our returning to whatever the law was before. The accumulation of all of these things has been dubbed collectively by the media as the “Fiscal Cliff”:

• Unemployment compensation will revert from a 73 week maximum to a 26 week maximum. This takes it back to the duration that existed in 2008 and prior. This will reduce spending by approximately $30 billion over 10 years.

• For the past 2 years, there has been a “payroll tax holiday”. For this… Read More

Congressman John Campbell

The President’s “Offer”

The President’s “”Offer””: That is not a typo. I intended to have two sets of quotation marks around the word “offer”. That’s because it is unspeakably absurd to call what the president proposed on the fiscal cliff an offer. It was more like a liberal wish list. There was literally nothing in this proposal for Republicans to like and a liberal (pun intended) sprinkling of elements that most Republicans absolutely hate. For example, the proposal (I will no longer flatter this monstrosity with the label “offer”) raises taxes on families making over $250,000 ($200k for individuals) by more than would result from going over the “fiscal cliff”. On top of that, Obama threw in some stimulus spending, an extension of the 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, and an extension of the payroll tax “holiday” – which means more and more Social Security benefits are borrowed. This package actually both increases taxes and increases the deficit because there is so much additional spending. As a false gesture towards something reasonable, the president says they will make some… Read More

Congressman John Campbell

Congressional Lump of Coal

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and A Happy New Year! I usually end my final missive of the year with these wishes. But, since the rest of this e-mail is loaded with lumps of coal, I thought I would start out with the happier note! Now, on to details that could just as easily have been provided by Ebenezer Scrooge.

Post-Thanksgiving, there were basically two issues remaining for Congress this year. I will address each separately:

Funding the Government: A bill to fund the government for the balance of this fiscal year passed both Houses on a bipartisan vote and is expected to be signed by the President very soon. The total spending in this bill was determined by the “debt limit agreement” in August. So, all that had to be worked out were the specifics within that number ($1.043 trillion). So, that means no government shutdowns before September 30, 2012. Additionally, it is standard practice in election years to fund the government from October 1st through at least the end of November on a Continuing Resolution (CR) rather than try to get enormous spending bills done weeks before an election. So, I expect that next year… Read More

Congressman John Campbell

More Facts, Ma’am

More Facts, Ma’am: Sergeant Joe Friday probably never said that, but you know what I’m getting at. With the debt limit debate getting close to the final days, you may wonder what happens if we actually go “over the cliff” and do not extend the debt limit by the supposedly magic August 2nd date? The following information is gleaned from a presentation made to the Republican caucus by a former Bush Administration deputy secretary at the Treasury Department who now works with a think tank called the “Bipartisan Policy Center” in DC:

There is general agreement that the federal government will have exhausted all alternative funding sources and will run out of cash on or about August 2nd. This date is largely driven by $23 billion worth of Social Security checks that are scheduled to go out on that day. At that point, the US government is on a cash basis with no ability to borrow more money. That means that it can only spend the same amount of money that comes in. And, this is not an annual issue, it is a daily issue. If $20 billion comes in on Thursday, then you can send $20 billion out. If only $10 billion comes in on Friday,… Read More

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