Sunday, January 10, 2021

Bill Crawford: Money-Hungry PERS Just Another Socialistic Debt-Busting Program

Surprise! The state’s Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) needs more money. 

Well, it’s not a surprise, but a continuing calamity. Based on 2020 underperformance, PERS’ financial consultants called for another increase in employer contributions to 19.6% of salaries. Just two years ago PERS upped employer contributions 17.4%, promising, as it has time after time, that the new money would fix PERS finances.

It didn’t.

You hear that huge sucking sound? That’s the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars being sucked annually into PERS because it cannot keep its promises. Employer contributions in 2020 were $448 million more than they were in 2011, but even more is needed.

PERS' employers are state and local governments and public agencies. Where do they get these extra millions and millions of dollars to fund PERS? From state and local taxpayers. Get your wallets ready.

What do PERS and federal programs like Medicare and Social Security have in common? They are government operated, debt-busting, mostly taxpayer funded programs that provide benefits to select groups of citizens.

In Washington, conservative Republicans call that “socialism.” In Mississippi, the conservative Republicans who control the state legislature just look the other way.  

Why?

Well, the answer is pretty clear from conservative Republicans’ debt-busting response to the COVID-19 virus. When it’s their voter bases clamoring for help, it’s okay for government to provide taxpayer funded benefits. And conservative legislators’ voter bases in Mississippi contain thousands of state and local employees and retirees clamoring for PERS benefits.

Therein lies part of the systemic problem with PERS. Gov. Haley Barbour predicted in 2011, when the employer contribution rate was 12%, that PERS would overburden taxpayers unless the system made significant changes. He formed a blue ribbon panel to recommend changes. PERS and the Legislature ignored those recommendations.

One key recommendation was to change PERS’ governance structure. Employees and retirees dominate the PERS board. Now, these board members are not bad people, but they get elected by employees and retirees who want, no, demand continuation of their taxpayer funded benefits. Legislators face the same voters.

Also, PERS candidates are not required to have any investment, financial, or even business expertise, though they are expected to oversee a $28 billion investment portfolio and hire professional staff, consultants, and investment managers. Barbour’s panel recommended adding members with relevant expertise.

Another part of the systemic problem is PERS’ guaranteed 3% cost of living adjustment (COLA) compounded yearly. Since 2010, the CPI cost of living index increased 18% but the PERS COLA increased benefits over 34%. This expensive gift to retirees comes on top of the un-paid-for and unconstitutional extra benefits legislators and PERS officials conspired to enact from 1999 to 2001. (Read Section 272A(2) of the constitution.)

Had benefits awarded back then been properly funded, PERS would be in good shape. Had the 2011 recommendations been adopted, PERS would be in decent shape with a reasonable COLA.

Instead, PERS has an unfunded liability nearing $20 billion and sucks up taxpayer dollars with no end in sight, hallmarks of American socialistic programs.

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” – Proverbs 12:15.

Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.

 

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

Think I may go with a bulk payout.

Anonymous said...

It's entirely counterproductive to drag this into the partisan morass of "dat dere's soshalism".

This is about math. Many PERs recipients agree that the management of the system is poor, and even that COLA levels are unsustainable.

Public employees didn't get into public service to get rich -- they're more interested in the system not collapsing than in breaking the bank. Explaining the need to make changes in a non-partisan, fact-based manner would be far more likely to achieve results than this partisan proxy-war venting.

Anonymous said...

It’s seems to be a simple fix but the so called politicians are making it to a huge mess. It’s time for the politicians to do what’s right for the citizens of this great state instead of what best fits them or should I say how to best fat their pockets.

Anonymous said...

Is calling something socialist the right’s version of the race card now?

Anonymous said...

State employee wages are considerably lower than public sector jobs, especially for any degreed professionals. I suspect the retirement package is the only reason most take and keep those jobs. If PERS went away overnight and was replaced with something like a 401k plan, I suspect employee wages would have to go up considerably more to retain enough people to keep teachers in schools, auditors busting corrupt officials, engineers maintaining highways and bridges, etc etc etc. Putting a 19.6% match of their current salaries into PERS might be a bargain compared to what we’d need to pay them otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Came here for the “will the last to leave turn off the lights” comment. Disappointed.

PERS Buzz Cut said...

Mississippi's taxing capacity is nearly tapped out. Eventually state voters will be faced with funding yet another (nth) PERS bailout or funding education. Voters won't side with PERS.

Anonymous said...

@11:15 are you new here? The publisher of JJ has been writing about PERS in a "non-partisan, fact-based manner" for almost 14 years now. Please catch up and until then spare us the complaints.

Anonymous said...

Did PERS eliminate SS from public employees? Did PERS provide for retirement at well below the age of 65? Did PERS offer full retirement benefits after 20 years equal to those in public service for 40 years?

The Wall St/Fed game trashed honest interest rates on bank savings which threw even working class people into equity markets by way of 401ks, etc, making 'Joe the plumber' think he was just a few good trades away from 'the Life of Riley' but surprise.

How many agitated commenters here are clueless of the situation as a whole? Does the PERS office offer answers to critical questions?

Anonymous said...

Very, very informative!

But wait, isn’t Bill Crawford a Democrat?

If so aren’t all Democrats Socialists?

And aren’t conservative’s almost extinct since we are in the vote buying phase of this so-called democracy (that can’t last)?

11:42AM, you may be right but I’m willing to bet there won’t ever be any cuts to state’s Public Employee Retirement checks cause people that didn’t “work’ for then government are the only one’s that have to choose between risk in the stock market and near 0% fixed income interest rates.

Anonymous said...

I got a 1.5% cost of living adjustment / increase for 2021 from Social Security. Why can't the PERS COLA be tied to Social Security cost of living adjustments? Seems excessive to give a 3% COLA when most curreng workers get a 2% annual pay raise at best - & that's for productive employees.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if we did like California and just did away with the retirement system all together and depended on the monthly tax payments to cover all the retirement checks, then maybe all the naysayers would STFU and move on to something else to complain about...

Anonymous said...

12:31 PM, Huh? CalPERS

Anonymous said...

Where is our State Treasurer in this quagmire? Shouldn't he be front and center in dealing with the problem and coming up with solutions?

Anonymous said...

State employee wages are considerably lower than public sector jobs, especially for any degreed professionals. I suspect the retirement package is the only reason most take and keep those jobs.
January 10, 2021 at 11:27 AM
——————————-

I’ve dealt with state employees. The majority of them, in my opinion, are people who can’t get employed in the private sector. Just because you get a college degree doesn’t mean you are competent, pleasant to work with, or intelligent.

Anonymous said...

State employees earn very low salaries. 3% COLA is pretty modest given that was the average of their working life span up until 2012 or so. Given the bizarre monetary policy of the last decade and that the ACTUAL cost of living increases pretty steadily at 3, this Cut GubMint schtick is getting old. Good Lord. Look at grocery prices. Do retirees have a magic way to cover that increase we don't know about? Don't think so, Hoss. And, when was the last time the active employees got that annual 2 percent pay raise? Never.

Sick of the Tea Party BS here. Yep, CEO and Tea Partier sits and takes 11 out of 12 cookies, and tells Billy Bob, "Watch out. That GubMint worker is gonna take your cookie!"

Meanwhile, China laughs as their middle class prospers, and ours disappears. But, hey, some school teacher is GETTING RICH!!!! Good one, Cletus.

Save the BS and enjoy the coming Democratic onslaught on freedom, firearms rights, religion, and other basic freedoms. Your cookies will be enjoyed by the cretins and geezers of Northeast Jerkson. Mmmmm. Mmmmmm.

The Dems win because they attempt to address the huge inequality and stagnant pay of the average guy. Not agreeing with their methods, but, they now have total control as "Freedom Caucus" folks fought for corporate lobbyists and more tax cuts for the rich instead of workers. Thanks, Tea Party!!!

Anonymous said...

No original content in the comments. No surprise there.

Anonymous said...

No original content in the comments. No surprise there.

BUT the same old tired predictable drone from you.

Anonymous said...

12:31PM, yea California’s system is so successful it’s the model we all should be copying. Nothing like taxing the shit out of the working men and women to make sure government employees can work for 25 years (less than 2/3rds of the time the rest of us have to work) and retire for more years than they had to work with a guaranteed income and cost of living increases (which is why so many people ARE NOT leaving California; oops, did I get that backwards?).

1:21PM, China laughs at us because we don’t build shit on the backs of child labor (well Apple & Niki did (do?) and we have not become full fledged commies yet.
And the Dems win with vote buying (via both harvesting & government welfare) and by keeping poor people poor and dependent (for the last 1/2 century) in order to control inner cities.

Which is probably why Bill Crawford is beating up Republicans (he calls them conservatives but this word along with free markets and capitalism are all but obsolete). Sounds like Crawford wants Republicans to become “conservative” again so they can not only lose all of the welfare vote, but all of the government employees as well.

But nope, we are in the vote buying phase of this so-called democracy (that can’t last), so that can not happen.

Anonymous said...

"Another part of the systemic problem is PERS’ guaranteed 3% cost of living adjustment (COLA) compounded yearly."

This equates to a lot of 15-20,000.00 plus thirteenth checks issued each year to retirees.

Anonymous said...

How is agreeing to a compensation arrangement that includes salary and benefits a socialist program? The offer is made, considered, and accepted or rejected. Don't criticize people for accepting employment based on the total package and then expecting the employer to honor what was offered. What if your employer told you next Friday, sorry, we elected not to pay you as agreed? The guilt would be 100% on the employer, not the person who did the work.

And if the employer knowingly made the deal knowing he couldn't pay you as agreed, that would be fraud. Surprised a legislature full of lawyers doesn't see that.

Kingfish said...

CALPERS has its share of problems. Naked Capitalism has been covering it for years. Worth reading.

Anonymous said...

Most people receiving the COLA did not pay into the system at the rate currently being paid by employees. In other words, they are getting something for nothing. Current and future employees are paying the retirees 13th checks.

That part to me is beyond what was bargained for. Time to freeze it until the plan is funded.

Anonymous said...

11:27 - a 28 year career state enployee. And based on the "degreed professional" inclusion, part of that narrow class.

Ignoring of course the study done in the early 2000's that disputed this fact, especially among the "degreed professionals" at MDOT. While the study did identify disparities, the Personal Board made adjustments so that this long-claimed justification was no longer valid. (The MDOT 'degreed professionals' did not get any adjustment due to their higher than average pay scale; in fact didn't get the same basic pay increases of other state employees for a few years to bring their salaries down to an appropriate level).

Besides the defined benefit retirement plan of PERS - government being the only organization other than a few unions that remain, that still have defined benefit plans - is the idiotic COLA (the 13th check that every retiree brags about and holds on to as the Holy Grail), and the 'high four' rule. Instead of retirement benefits being based on the lifetime wages of the employee, many - including those special retired legislators - take real advantage of their specialness by uping their lifetime retirement benefits moving into a 'new' position that pays multiple times their average salary for the last four years of their career.

Crawford, often right and often spewing his personal venom, hits the nail on the head with this column. And points out not only the probluems but a few of the proposed, but rejected solutions, although as has been his norm for the past few years, he blames it all on the 'conservative republicans'. The changes he refers to that created the disaster of PERS, including the compounded COLA, the SLURP for legislators, etc. were done under the Democratic leadership of the state and its legislature. True, its up to good conservative leadership in the legislature to fix the mess they created.

The question is - will Hosemann and Gunn tackle this problem and fix it? Or will they cave to the political voting block of current and retired state employees and "give" another hundred of so million dollars every year from now until eternity so that they don't have to deal with the problem?

If the cave, which is where my bet goes - how long will it be until PERS comes back and asks for another 2 or 3%? One year? Two years? I'll set the over/under at 2.5 - anybody that takes the over better look for long odds.

Mike Morgan said...

Robert St. John knows much more about capitalism vs socialism than Crawford ever will. And his columns are more entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Seems like I remember contributing a portion of my salary every week for 25 years. But that is never mentioned. Also in reading the other posts and their math, I don’t see those kind of numbers on my retirement check.

Anonymous said...

The M$ legi$lature has been kicking the can down the road one $e$$ion at a time. Nothing to $ee here...move along.

Aisle B Bach said...

Anyone remember Singing River? jus' sayin'...PS I yanked my PERS...401K is doing gangbusters...

Anonymous said...

We all know what happened. Democrats passed the COLA and then went back and gave it to prior retirees that did not have it. Musgrove signed it. They bought votes, but never funded it. They used a promissory not to the employees promising future compensation. The legislature should meet its obligation and not default. In the meantime, benefits for future employees should be cut, like not allowing payment of benefits before age 62. No way someone should be able to draw benefits in their late forties or fifties. Also calculate benefits based on contributions from their full career, not just highest 4 years. That part of the system is abused. Elected officials also get a big bonus from the system by adding 30 days for each year of service. That is supposedly for vacation and sick time . Lol.

Also, don’t forget employees pay 9%. That is not a small contribution.

Anonymous said...

2:43PM said: “True, its up to good conservative leadership in the legislature to fix the mess they (Democrats) created.”


First of all, delete that word “conservative” from your vocabulary while referring to Republicans since conservatives are no longer electable in the vast majority of cases.

Second: Seriously? I mean really? Have you literally lost your freaking mind? You are proposing that Repubs take Crawfords “bait” and if he’s reading this he is laughing his hypocritical ass off right now!

If Repubs “fix the mess,” the socialist government employees and retirees will throw the Republicans’ asses out on their heads. Hell I know a big Trump supporter that voted for Hood because her daughter is a teacher. So, wake up man, or woman, or amen, or awoman (dang I can’t keep up)!

PERS, Social Security, etc. must be fixed the old fashioned way: currency devaluation. Just as if social security benefits were cut 25% tomorrow, this would lead to a public outcry with whaling and gnashing of teeth like we’ve never seen. But, keep that print press going and devalue their purchasing power by 25%, and the vast majority of ill-informed have no clue who to blame.

Repubs need to fix the democrats mess? In a vote buying phase of a Democracy? Man, my head is hurting!

Anonymous said...

If Bill Crawford really wants to expose Republicans for not being conservative, why isn’t he reporting on the unbelievable, like nothing we’ve ever seen in this country before, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) scam?

Anonymous said...

"The publisher of JJ has been writing about PERS in a "non-partisan, fact-based manner" for almost 14 years now."

Take a deep breath and say it with me.....B u l l S h i t !

Anonymous said...

PEER has done some really good reporting over the last 15 years or so on the obligations/abilities of the PERS Board versus the Legislature. Recommend all take a look at it.

Anonymous said...

1:11 - you must be an idiot. Or incapable of understanding much.

The State Treasurer does not control PERS. He (or she) sits on the board as ONE OF ELEVEN members. He (or she) gets one vote. The Governor gets to appoint a person. Another ONE VOTE. The other votes on the PERS board are elected by the beneficiaries of the system.

It would be like you owning a bank. And the bank has eleven people that decide who get loans, and how much the savings acoounts will pay. you, as the owner, get one vote. But the other votes are all cast by people who you have either lent money to, or were taking their money as deposits in order to make loans.

You wouldn't control how much was invested in loans, or in other securities, or which securities were purchased. Or how much you charged for loaning your money.

So, you want to blame the Treasurer. His job is to manage the state's other dollars, and to get the bills paid. His role at PERS is an auxillary job to his elected position.

Crawford rightly pointed out the problem - that the pigs get to choose what they eat and how much - and they continue to get fatter. Amazing, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Money is the mother's milk of politics.

Anonymous said...

"PERS, Social Security, etc. must be fixed the old fashioned way: currency devaluation. "

So - Mississippi is going to have their own separate currency now? Good to know.

Kingfish said...

The PEER report is a complete joke and farce. Arinder didn't even have a financial expert look at it. He took PERS reports at face value, had a CPA look at them and they said yup, looks ok to us. It wasn't a whitewash because that would require an intent by the expert to ignore negative facts. Readers got more honest reporting about PERS on this website than it did from PEER. I personally asked Arinder who did the report and he admitted his only expert was a CPA.

Anonymous said...

5:49PM, in case you’ve been on another planet for a long time, this isn’t exclusively a Mississippi problem. The Fed (whoever he, she or it is) will, hell already is doing the dirty work. Like 1:21PM said, “look at grocery prices.” You bought a home, or a piece of lumber lately?

Of course in addition to currency devaluation, 12:31PM could get his/her/its way. Remember Maxine Waters was crying for a bail out of private equity when the Wuhan first came about and the market was crashing. Classic heads they the government retirees win, tails the tax payer loses; kind of like Goldman Sachs, etc. in 08.

Now, like Al Sharpton’s inability to spell “R E S P E C T,” ole Maxine doesn’t have an F’ing clue how private equity works; but somebody told her those promises made to government employees are really big and can’t be kept if the market takes a hit, so she starts screaming “bail out!”

Like the couple in San Fran that both became fire chiefs and retired after 25 years with $250k each for life, if ole KF started printing what some of these Mississippi government folks are knocking down in retirement, for decades if they live a normal lifespan, and after working less than most do, this ole board will light up hot and fast!

Oh, and KF, if a married couple both retired from the state, then one of the spouses passes, does the surviving spouse then only get one check, as is the case with social security; or do they keep getting both checks?

Anonymous said...

@ 2:09 now if you decide to move from the Liberal DIM-O-KRAT utopia of California, you have to pay a "exit" tax!!!!

The way their structure works, some 'retired" makes more than they did working.

Anonymous said...

When your fund consistently underperforms its peers, it may be time to seek out a new asset manager. Or, hell just stick it in a few index funds with a very conservative allocation and still vastly outperform these clowns. Why is the MS taxpayer on the hook for this ginormous amount of management fees for managers that can't even track its peers?

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness that 20+ years ago Mr. Bob Herrin convinced the PERS board to invest in market securities. It’s time to change the annual 13th check to a true COLA. And my wife and I are both retired state employees.

Anonymous said...

What a stunning surprise to learn that paying into an employer pension fund or retirement fund of any kind is " socialism". That word must have a new definition given the way it's being thrown around these days.

Deregulating Wall Street has had ill effects as we saw in 2008. Hard to know if your investment is conservative or high risk.

But, y'all go on with partisan buzz words and personal attacks. Never solves anything but some of you don't feel alive unless you are angry and ignorantly judgmental.

Anonymous said...

And you are puzzled at why businesses are leaving and none want to come here???

Anonymous said...

Most people have no interest in playing the equities markets. Most just want an honest day's pay for an honest day's work. More and more those who have accumulated a seemingly sizable portfolio feel entitled to look down on those who choose not to do so.

In the not too distant future the markets could go bust again and leave a lot of wannabe millionaires rethinking their vacations and retirements and calculating how much their SS checks will be.

Anonymous said...

Democrats gave COLA.

Democrats gave WELFARE.

Democrats gave SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY.
(Mostly pays dopers who won’t earn)

Democrats gave ..............................

Seems like Democrats like to give what they don’t have

To those who won’t.

Democrats do not give to the frugal and industrious.

Democrats reward failure.

Republicans give in to the Democrats.

Anonymous said...

The real richness is that this might be the only tax increase Crawford opposes. A tax increase to pay the retirements of some of the lowest paid people I have ever seen that were considered gainfully employed.

Anonymous said...

Can we have an article written on the qualifications of the fund managers and if the State dictates the class of investments.

While we are on that subject, are the managers chosen based on any type of affirmative action or special class set aside..

johnson85 said...

@7:34, I don't doubt that we select investments and managers imprudently, but it's not the investment returns that is the problem.

We have a benefits formula that is not actuarily sound. The contribution formula should be tied to the accrual of benefits and instead it's a flat rate. So every time somebody bumps up their high four at the end of their career, they create an unfunded liability, sometimes a pretty significant one.

Now the contribution rate is high enough that with the number of people that don't vest, it would probably come out ok, as far as covering the benefits being accrued now, but with the massive past underfunding, we are still digging a bigger and bigger hole.

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