Friday, December 16, 2011

Raimondo's faulty pension data begins to sting Rhode Island

As seen in this blog in prior posts, the pension law changes shoved down the throats of our weak kneed legislature was based on faulty assumptions that I argued would lead to economic decline in this state. Raimondo's most egregious error was to rely on data from actuaries that live in outer space. Her insistence that the life expectancy for retirees should be 87.6 years on average is absolute hogwash. Using such bad data created the crisis which she so joyfully capitalized on.

I draw your attention to the chart. This chart represents a random study of deaths in Rhode Island during the Fall of 2011. Days were randomly selected and age at death calculated from the obituary page of the Providence Journal. In total, there were 257 deaths recorded. The average age of death was 77.4 years and out of the 257 deaths recorded during the study; 50 people lived past 88 years. The green line represents Raimondo's science fiction while the red line represents today's reality. (Please note: On the chart the green line says 88.6 but it represents the 87.6 year target - my mistake) Raimondo's unbelievable pension plan actually adds on 10 years of life in one giant leap of economic whackyness.

I know this information is anecdotal and not a scientific study. This chart does provide a view of the present day longevity of Rhode Island residents. It can be used for comparison purposes. You need to also remember that the chart represents only those people with the hard cash to pay the Providence Journal for the listing. These folks may actually live a little longer than those without the cash. Regardless; the assumptions made by Raimondo are wild-ass assumptions.

Now on to the state's economic decline. Today's Providence Journal rag has a lead story entitled; "Job losses edge up for fourth month." (Please note: I no longer link to the Providence Journal as policy for this blog) Rhode Island lost 1,900 jobs in November and the unemployment rate is again increasing for the first time in nearly 2 years (10.5%). In the same edition of the Journal, the national news headline is: "The Economy: Edging toward recovery" The national unemployment rate has ticked down to 8.6%. While things are getting better in the nation, Rhode Island's downward spiral continues. I guess stealing $billions from retirees is not working. Rhode Island can't even add jobs during the Holiday season. Do you think it has something to do with consumer confidence and retirees holding tight to their money? You bet it does! Get ready for 19 more years of this. Is it coincidence that Rhode Island has been faltering economically during the past 4 months: The same 4 months as the pension debate boiled?

In other more promising news: The Rhode Island Supreme Court denied the state's request for summary judgement on the issue of state pensions being contractual. The Supreme Court sent the case back to Superior Court for trial because the unions have a solid case. Maybe it will take the courts in Rhode Island to straighten up the economy. God knows, the Governor and Treasurer can't do it. Retirees have won round 2!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Anti-Union = Anti-American

In a country filled with political braggadocio, politicians that despise unions are UN-American. I am sick and tired of listening to people blast unions. The landscape in America today has 1% controlling a near majority of wealth in this nation while the middle class struggles to pay the bills, put kids through college and plan for a decent retirement. When will the 1% be happy? When they control 100% of the wealth? Are we all to return to slavery - working our entire lives to enrich our owners. Now just imagine what this country would be like if there was never a union.

Unions have fought for the middle class and stood up to the powerful interests that could care less about worker health, safety, security and retirement. The system has been tipped too far in favor of the wealthy and this needs to change. Take for example the pension systems of private companies. Thanks to our enlightened Congress, pension plans of private corporations are company assets that can be leveraged in favor of the big money interests. When the corporation is sold, the pension plans frequently get stolen leaving the workers with little and the Federal Government partially filling the void. We subject ourselves to constant bailouts of industries that want to do business overseas so they don't have to pay taxes here at home and their actions are always at the expense of the working stiffs.

To get to my primary point, anti-union is anti-capitalism. Why in a free society can't workers organize to argue for justice in the work place? Unions have found a capitalistic niche that should not be overlooked. While unions collect dues from workers, they serve as a leveling force in our society. As unions falter, so will the middle class. Let me think of a government system that hated unions and outlawed them: How about communism? The Scott Walkers of our country, most Republicans and the fanatic radio talk show fringe would turn this country in the direction of communism. I'm serious, there are those that feel that outlawing unions is a good thing. There are those that feel that autocratic rule is the way to get things done. The way to keep the rich rich and to hell with anyone else.

Let's get one thing straight, unions are capitalistic ventures and free marketeers ought to be supporting their role in our society. Management at the negotiating table represent the many (stock holders and monied interests) while unions represent the workers. Unions have a way of leveling the playing field and Americans need to understand their importance to the middle class. Remove unions and we are far closer to totalitarian rule. If you oppose unions, you do not support free market systems. If you believe that the wealthy have a right to make their millions while workers are silenced, then you are anti-American.

We just witnessed another step towards autocratic rule in Rhode Island when General Treasurer Gina Raimondo pushed her pension reform legislation. She did not even consider negotiating with unions. She could not be bothered. Again; I tell Rhode Islanders and Americans, be careful what you wish for.