Sunday, September 6, 2015

More attacks on public pensions and services ahead

The market cannot provide a decent retirement
by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

More and more state pension funds are lowering their return expectations which means further cuts in public services, jobs and pensions.  State retirement system cover about 20 million workers and two thirds of them are lowering the expectations the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

The changes might not seem significant, a drop from an estimated 8% return to 7.75 or 7.5, but such declines can have a significant affect on public workers as well as services.  A one percentage point drop can increase pension liabilities by 12% an official from the Center for Retirement Research tells the Journal. Boulder Colorado eliminated 100 jobs and made other cuts in response to a series of reductions in the state’s investment forecast.

State’s and municipalities are “cash strapped” is what we hear all the time from the mass media as the US war machine marches on, financing predatory wars and building and maintaining hundreds of military facilities throughout the world; we have to remain fearful of the rest of the world in order for the Pentagon to protect us.

But the corporate wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been a catastrophic failure.  Meanwhile, the refugee crisis in Europe has one and one cause alone and that is US foreign policy in the Middle East.  US imperialism has been bombing the region for 20 years straight as well as funding the various stooge regimes in the area.  Mubarak, the former Egyptian president, who Hillary Clinton considered like “family” and whose torture cells were widely known, was removed during the “Arab Spring” but not abandoned by his US patrons until it became too much of a liability to hold on to him.

So “cash strapped” doesn’t apply to funding wars and stooge regimes that willingly defend US corporate interests and profits in an area, it only applies to social needs. The reductions in investment forecasts are not nearly enough says Josh McGee who is a senior vice president of public accountability at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.  Local and state contributions to retirement systems have more than doubled over the past decade to $121 billion in 2014, as contributions rose 50% to $45 billion, the Journal reports.

I have seen this foundation’s name as a contributor to the Public Broadcasting Service. It is headed by John D Arnold, a hedge fund manager (coupon clipper) and money trader.  He traded in energy for one,  and worked for the infamous Enron.  Arnold comes from an “upper class” family and his present wife is a former oil company executive.

The Arnold Foundation while posing as some sort of philanthropic outfit, is committed to undermining public pensions, what it terms “reforming” guaranteed pension benefits. The defined benefit plans have been severely curtailed as workers are forced more and more in to market based programs. 

John Arnold. Never worked, wants to eliminate your pension
This is what Forbes has to say about this warrior of the 1% that wages war on workers: “John Arnold, the natural gas trading wunderkind retired from the hedge fund game last year at age 38 having amassed a fortune of $2.8 billion. He got his start at Enron and is said to have made $750 million in trading profits during the last days of that company in 2001.”

“Retired at 38”, worth almost 3 billion and earned 750 million during the “last days” of Enron. Not bad.  Meanwhile he spends the money he never earned pushing US public television, meager as it already is, further to the right.  It never had ads when I first came to this country; it does now.   And being the “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” guy that he is, he wants to ensure that the average American worker does the same as being guaranteed a pension from the state, and one that you can actually live on, makes us soft, it’s just plain communistic.

So if this social parasite and others like him have their way, we can expect further reductions in what are relatively decent pensions in the public sector.

Coupled with the likelihood of another crash in the not so distant future the next generation can look forward to working in to their 70’s for a pension that will barely keep them afloat.  For those of us like this writer who has benefited for a decent public sector pension that should be expanded to all workers, we too are not secure. But that’s the way the 1% like it, that’s how they can retire at 38 with $3 billion.

And we’re  supposed to worry about Iran?

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