Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Profiles in Cowardice

I want to make it clear that what I am about to say is not meant to reflect on those legislators that voted against the Raimondo-Chafee pension reform bill that was passed last week in Rhode Island. I give a special thanks to my local representative, Scott Guthrie, who did the right thing.

The rest of you are truly profiles in cowardice! You have fixed nothing. You have gone after the middle class in this state with a hateful, shameful, immoral and illegal strategy that will put a stranglehold on our state's future. You are asking 50,000 individuals to come up with the $ billions to bail out over 1 million people. You have not lived up to your oath of office; you are thieves and you lack the intelligence to ask the appropriate questions.

Reneging on your oath of office is quite despicable. You all took an oath to uphold the constitution of the state: Am I right? The RI Constitution insists that no ex-post-facto law may be past regarding any contract(Article 1: Section 12): Am I right? The Constitution further stipulates that all taxation will be fair and equitably distributed(Article 1: Section 2): Am I right? To date the superior court has ruled that pensions are in fact contracts and the COLA is a part of that contract: Am I right? You ignored the court's ruling and voted for a bill that, to the best of your knowledge, was unconstitutional: Am I right? You choose to pass a law that uses absurd assumptions regarding the longevity of retirees (87.6 years): Am I right? You choose to tax public employees only, an act so outrageous that the average state retiree ($27,000 annual pension) will lose over $180,000 during a 19 year period: Am I right? You ignored your oath of office by not upholding the Constitution: Am I right? You should all resign immediately: Am I right? You will not resign: Am I right? You are cowards: Right!

General Treasurer Gina Raimondo said in the Providence Journal that as she looked out her window, she felt good knowing that the teacher below will have a pension one day. She was proud of the fact that the system which was less than 50% funded is now over 60% funded. I have news for her! Change the longevity assumption back to a reasonable figure and the pension fund will be 80% funded so the promises made to public employees can be kept.

I just read an article in the "Science News " magazine, February 26, 2011 (this information was available to Raimondo). The title; "U.S, falters in life expectancy gains", discusses the United States falling behind other developed countries in life expectancy gains. The average life expectancy for those over 50 years of age is 79 for males and 83 for females. How dare you rob our future without the appropriate questions being asked.

I hold no allegiance to thieves and I really don't like cowards. Have a nice Thanksgiving.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Veterans Day Comment

This Veterans day I did a lot of thinking about my father who passed away 8 years ago. He served in the Navy in the North Atlantic before the official war. He was an original crew member of the Battleship Massachusetts (1941) and stayed with her throughout the war. He served as a signalman so he had opportunity to observe the war from the bridge. When decisions were being made in the heat of battle, he was there. From Casablanca and then to the South Pacific, he took part in numerous battles; Tarawa, Leyte Gulf, Coral Sea, Guam, Siapan, Palau, Okinawa, the Marshall Islands and the Gilbert's. Like most war veterans who were in the thick of things, he never spoke of his experience; at least not often. Beware the veteran that is always talking about their war stories.

My dad spent his later life working to memorialize the Battleship Massachusetts and spent thousands of volunteer hours on her behalf. This is the way he coped. I know he saw a lot - he saw a lot of men die. I can't relate to his experience but I can relate to the man he became. I remember the way he treated an employee who had been scarred horrifically from war. The man's name was Red Brady and he had a serious drinking problem. Red was a binge drinker and would disappear for a week or more. His psychological hurt was so debilitating that he was claustrophobic and could not go behind any locked door. Because of his drinking, his wife had to drive him to his appointments (he repaired kitchen and laundry appliances for my father's business). He couldn't even service my father's largest client; a psychiatric hospital in Waltham, Massachusetts, because they locked the doors behind you when you entered. My dad had to cover all of those calls.

One day, sensing the frustration in my father, I asked him why he kept Red working when anyone else would have fired him long ago. My father then told me that Red has some trouble that is not his fault and he is coping as best he can. Wanting further clarification, I pressed on. My father then told me that Red was aboard ship when it was torpedoed and the ship partially sunk. Red was trapped for days below deck before he was rescued. I then understood; my dad knew that Red's story could possibly have been him. My father would never judge him or fire him for that matter.

This is truly a great memory that I have preserved over the years. My father made his decisions long before anyone invented the term "post traumatic stress". Red certainly suffered from post traumatic stress and my father didn't need any psychologist to explain it. This lesson taught me to recognize post traumatic stress in veterans that I would have to supervise one day. And, yes, I had to deal with a severe case of post traumatic stress in a Vietnam veteran that sought the help he needed. That person went on to become a great supervisor within the division I was managing. I learned from my father; I learned from a veteran; I've learned from all veterans. There are wounds that we can not see, we can not totally understand, but we have to learn to live with. I'm glad that Red Brady had my father to help him. I'm thankful for the service of Red Brady, my father and all veterans.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Is Rhode Island being lied to about pensions II?

OK: The title says it all. We continue to learn about more lies to Rhode Island regarding the proposed pension changes of Governor Chafee and General Treasurer, Gina Raimondo. This article follows a previous article posted on October 4, 2011 in this blog.

First and foremost, we now learn that the General Treasurer is using 87.6 years as the projected life expectancy of the average retiree. No wonder why she says that the state contribution to the pension has to increase to 35% of salary. How truly foolish is this? The U.S. government says the age should be 78 years. (I'm not linking a source because I read this in the Providence Journal and I do not want people to migrate to that site to make more money for that rag). I just attended a Bar Mitzvah where the oldest person was 85. She was frail and had trouble walking because of a previous stroke. While we all know some people that make it past 87.6 years, start counting all of the people you know that did not make it to that age.

Here is another lie to confuse the issue, courtesy of the Providence Journal. A recent article listed "myths" surrounding the pension system. One myth that they tried to tackle involves issues surrounding the state's required contributions. The Journal clearly states that this issue is simply not true, the state made all of its contributions except for some $60 million in payouts to rescue the wealthy in this state during the banking crisis (they didn't say the "wealthy" - I did because our Governor chose to meet all obligations in bank accounts that exceeded $100,000). Your public employees paid for your bailout.

Here is the rub! Even the General Treasurer has the intelligence to say the following: "The state made contributions "as required by law" (note the quotation marks). When I was working budgets, I was livid when Governor DiPrete tapped into the pension contribution for the first time. I remember seeing half of the state's contribution disappear. This trickery continued during the Sundlun administration and yes, they cooked the books to please the legislature. Gina Raimondo is right when she says that unrealistic numbers were used to justify the state's robbery of its pension accounts. The robbery continued. Don't tell me that the state always made it's contribution. When union bosses have robbed the pension accounts of its members, people go to jail. Nobody in this country has been jailed for pulling corporate pension funds or public pension funds. The Journal rag is lying to everyone when it refuses to make this point perfectly clear. The Providence Journal was absent from these facts at a time when it needed to let the public know. We all know that the Journal wanted to be absent because they never liked public pensions because it makes their newspaper operation look cheap in their worker's eyes. The state did not meet it's pension contribution for over 2 decades. The employees made every contribution and also took a 20% pay cut to bailout the banks. We bailed out the banks with our pensions and our salaries. Thank you very much!

Additionally, the $60 million that the Journal seems to brush aside today would be approximately $232 million out of the projected $7 billion shortfall that Raimondo is claiming because we are all going to live to be 87.6 years of age. Yea!