Pensioners Will Feel the Pinch from Illegal Mortgages and Foreclosures

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Editor’s Comment:

There are many people whose opinion produces the resistance of government to rip up the banks that got us into this economic mess. They all say government is too big, that we already have too much regulation and that Obama is the cause of the recession. Their opinions are based largely on the fact that they perceive the borrowers as deadbeats and government assistance as another “handout.” 

But when it comes down to it, it’s easy to make a decision based upn ideology if the consequences are not falling on you. Read any news source and you will see that the pension funds are taking a huge hit as a rsult of illegal bank activities and fraudulent practices leaving the victims and our economy in a lurch.

The article below is about public pensions where the pension funds and the governmental units took a monumental hit when the banks sucked the life out of our economy. TRANSLATION: IF YOU DEPEND UPON PENSION INCOME YOU ARE LIKELY TO FIND OUT YOU ARE SCREWED. And even if you don’t depend upon pension income, you are likely to be taxed for the shortfall that is now sitting in the pockets of Wall Street Bankers.

Think about it. If the Banks were hit hard like they were in Iceland andother places (and where by the way they still exist and make money) then your pension fund would not have the loss that requires either more taxes or less benefits. And going after the banks doesn’t take a dime out of pulic funds which should (but doesn’t) make responsible people advocating austerity measures rejoice. They still say they don’t like the obvious plan of getting restitution from thieves because the theives are paying them and feeding them talking points. And some of us are listening. Are you?

Public Pensions Faulted for Bets on Rosy Returns

By: Mary Williams Walsh and Danny Hakim

Few investors are more bullish these days than public pension funds. While Americans are typically earning less than 1 percent interest on their savings accounts and watching their 401(k) balances yo-yo along with the stock market, most public pension funds are still betting they will earn annual returns of 7 to 8 percent over the long haul, a practice that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg recently called “indefensible.”

Now public pension funds across the country are facing a painful reckoning. Their projections look increasingly out of touch in today’s low-interest environment, and pressure is mounting to be more realistic. But lowering their investment assumptions, even slightly, means turning for more cash to local taxpayers — who pay part of the cost of public pensions through property and other taxes.

In New York, the city’s chief actuary, Robert North, has proposed lowering the assumed rate of return for the city’s five pension funds to 7 percent from 8 percent, which would be one of the sharpest reductions by a public pension fund in the United States. But that change would mean finding an additional $1.9 billion for the pension system every year, a huge amount for a city already depositing more than a tenth of its budget — $7.3 billion a year — into the funds.

But to many observers, even 7 percent is too high in today’s market conditions.

“The actuary is supposedly going to lower the assumed reinvestment rate from an absolutely hysterical, laughable 8 percent to a totally indefensible 7 or 7.5 percent,” Mr. Bloomberg said during a trip to Albany in late February. “If I can give you one piece of financial advice: If somebody offers you a guaranteed 7 percent on your money for the rest of your life, you take it and just make sure the guy’s name is not Madoff.” Public retirement systems from Alaska to Maine are running into the same dilemma as they struggle to lower their assumed rates of return in light of very low interest rates and unpredictable stock prices.

They are facing opposition from public-sector unions, which fear that increased pension costs to taxpayers will further feed the push to cut retirement benefits for public workers. In New York, the Legislature this year cut pensions for public workers who are hired in the future, and around the country governors and mayors are citing high pension costs as a reason for requiring workers to contribute more, or work longer, to earn retirement benefits.

In addition to lowering the projected rate of return, Mr. North has also recommended that the New York City trustees acknowledge that city workers are living longer and reporting more disabilities — changes that would cost the city an additional $2.8 billion in pension contributions this year. Mr. North has called for the city to soften the blow to the budget by pushing much of the increased pension cost into the future, by spreading the increased liability out over 22 years. Ailing pension systems have been among the factors that have recently driven struggling cities into Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Such bankruptcies are rare, but economists warn that more are likely in the coming years. Faulty assumptions can mask problems, and municipal pension funds are often so big that if they run into a crisis their home cities cannot afford to bail them out. The typical public pension plan assumes its investments will earn average annual returns of 8 percent over the long term, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Actual experience since 2000 has been much less, 5.7 percent over the last 10 years, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. (New York State announced last week that it had earned 5.96 percent last year, compared with the 7.5 percent it had projected.)

Worse, many economists say, is that states and cities have special accounting rules that have been criticized for greatly understating pension costs. Governments do not just use their investment assumptions to project future asset growth. They also use them to measure what they will owe retirees in the future in today’s dollars, something companies have not been permitted to do since 1993.

As a result, companies now use an average interest rate of 4.8 percent to calculate their pension costs in today’s dollars, according to Milliman, an actuarial firm.

In New York City, the proposed 7 percent rate faces resistance from union trustees who sit on the funds’ boards. The trustees have the power to make the change; their decision must also be approved by the State Legislature.

“The continued risk here is that even 7 is too high,” said Edmund J. McMahon, a senior fellow at the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a research group for fiscal issues.

And Jeremy Gold, an actuary and economist who has been an outspoken critic of public pension disclosures, said, “If you’re using 7 percent in a 3 percent world, then you’re still continuing to borrow from the pension fund.” The city’s union leaders disagree. Harry Nespoli, the chairman of the Municipal Labor Committee, the umbrella group for the city’s public employee unions, said that lowering the rate to 7 percent was unnecessary.

“They don’t have to turn around and lower it a whole point,” he said.

When asked if his union was more bullish on the markets than the city’s actuary, Mr. Nespoli said, “All we can do is what the actuary is doing. He’s guessing. We’re guessing.”

Vermont has lowered its rate by 2 percentage points, but for only one year. The state recently adopted an unusual new approach calling for a sharp initial reduction in its investment assumptions, followed by gradual yearly increases. Vermont has also required public workers to pay more into the pension system.

Union leaders see hidden agendas behind the rising calls for lower pension assumptions. When Rhode Island’s state treasurer, Gina M. Raimondo, persuaded her state’s pension board to lower its rate to 7.5 percent last year, from 8.25 percent, the president of a firemen’s union accused her of “cooking the books.”

Lowering the rate to 7.5 percent meant Rhode Island’s taxpayers would have to contribute an additional $300 million to the fund in the first year, and more after that. Lawmakers were convinced that the state could not afford that, and instead reduced public pension benefits, including the yearly cost-of-living adjustments that retirees now receive. State officials expect the unions to sue over the benefits cuts.

When the mayor of San Jose, Calif., Chuck Reed, warned that the city’s reliance on 7.5 percent returns was too risky, three public employees’ unions filed a complaint against him and the city with the Securities and Exchange Commission. They told the regulators that San Jose had not included such warnings in its bond prospectus, and asked the regulators to look into whether the omission amounted to securities fraud. A spokesman for the mayor said the complaint was without merit. In Sacramento this year, Alan Milligan, the actuary for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or Calpers, recommended that the trustees lower their assumption to 7.25 percent from 7.75 percent. Last year, the trustees rejected Mr. Milligan’s previous proposal, to lower the rate to 7.5 percent.

This time, one trustee, Dan Dunmoyer, asked the actuary if he had calculated the probability that the pension fund could even hit those targets.

Yes, Mr. Milligan said: There was a 50-50 chance of getting 7.5 percent returns, on average, over the next two decades. The odds of hitting a 7.25 percent target were a little better, he added, 54 to 46.

Mr. Dunmoyer, who represents the insurance industry on the board, sounded shocked. “To me, as a fiduciary, you want to have more than a 50 percent chance of success.”

If Calpers kept setting high targets and missing them, “the impact on the counties won’t be bigger numbers,” he said. “It will be bankruptcy.”

In the end, a majority decided it was worth the risk, and voted against Mr. Dunmoyer, lowering the rate to 7.5 percent.


WHO BENEFITS FROM AUSTERITY? WALL STREET!

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Editor’s Comment:

You might wonder why people, mostly republicans, are all about “spending cuts.” just for clarification here, spending cuts are what Europe calls “austerity measures.” every policy possibility has been played here and the worst one is clearly austerity or “spending cuts.” everyone calling for austerity is controlled by the banks. Everyone who is not controlled by the banks thinks it isn’t a bad idea to continue government safety nets and sponsor more commerce. Once upon a time Wall Street made its money riding the crest of successful economies, collecting brokerage fees for more and more deals. Not anymore. The Banks are intent on taking the capital — all of it. What then?

People think it makes sense to spend less money to have more. But when the government does that it has less, not more money, thus cutting off vital services. So you might want to think about who benefits as all the major industrialised nations go down the tubes. We know government loses, we know the people lose their services and pay more taxes, so who is it that benefits from the austerity spin?

WALL STREET is the answer. With the level of commerce declining, plummeting they can bet on a sure thing — that interest rates are going to go through the roof, which means that the prices of bonds already issued are going to fall like stones. Only on Wall street can you make bets on interest rates and bets on bonds or groups of bonds or banks or groups of banks. They are pushing the austerity engine and taking us all into a ditch while Wall Street rakes in whatever money is left in our limping economy.

Wall Street has not only turned the lending models on their heads they have succeeded at turning the policy models on their head. The results are unthinkable— Wall Street has created an incentive to kill commerce. And now they are so deep into those bets that the only game in town is putting every economy into crisis. Someone needs to pull the rug out from under these banksters and put them jail where they belong. As society gave them the license to create and grow liquidity for the engine of economic growth so too can society take it away when the banks bite the hands that fed them.

Paul Krugman Debunks Mitt Romney’s Economic Nonsense

By: Jason Easley

On CNN, Paul Krugman called out Mitt Romney today for spouting nonsense about the economy and explained why Romney’s plan to do what Greece did won’t bring prosperity to America.

Here are Krugman’s thoughts on Obama and Romney via CNN:

ZAKARIA: All this said and done, are you enthusiastic about President Obama? You were not for him in the Democratic primary four years ago.

KRUGMAN: Right. I mean, we’re a long way past where I think enthusiasm is the appropriate emotion for anything here.

But he’s learned a lot. And, you know, his heart’s always been in the right place, and I believe his head is now in the right place. And you certainly — of course, I can’t do endorsements, right? It’s a Times rule. So you have no idea who I prefer in this election.

(LAUGHTER)

But he certainly is talking sense about the economy, and Mitt Romney is talking utter nonsense. And you really do worry. In effect…

ZAKARIA: What is the single biggest piece of nonsense that Mitt Romney…

KRUGMAN: Mitt Romney is saying basically that spending cuts are how we’re going to get to prosperity. Mitt Romney is saying, see what’s happening in Greece and in Portugal and in Spain and in Ireland; let’s do that here.

Boy — you know, we’ve just had a massive test, human experimentation on a massive scale, in effect, alternative doctrines of economic management. We’ve just seen which doctrines are disastrous. And the Republican platform is, let’s put that doctrine that has just caused collapse in Europe — let’s put that doctrine into effect right here in America.

Krugman was right on the money. Republicans have been trying to play what they think is a clever game of pretending that what they have proposed isn’t austerity, while at the same time threatening to implement austerity if they don’t get what they want, which is austerity. History shows that economies suffocate under austerity, but Republicans like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan keep pushing the insane idea is that we can do the same thing that Europe did, but expect a different result.

Republicans are using austerity as an economic justification for their policy of feeding the rich while starving everyone else. The Romney and Ryan plans by design don’t force any austerity measures on the wealthy. The austerity is designed for everyone else. The rich would benefit while America’s devolution into a society of haves and have nots would accelerate. The reality is that Spending cuts never bring prosperity, and many of the rank and file Republicans who are championing the cuts fail to understand that those cuts will be coming out of their hides. All of the Republicans over 65 years of age who support Romney haven’t put the pieces together that a vote for Mitt is a vote to slash their Medicare.

Mitt Romney is spewing contradictory economic nonsense, because the Republican platform is becoming little more than historically discredited feel good dreams of trickledown worship and gibberish.

Paul Krugman is right. A majority of his fellow economists know he is right. The American people know he is right, and history proves him correct, but the Republican Party is trapped in a suicidal fantasy economy of their own creation. It is this fantasy that Romney has to pander to in order to keep his base, and it is the same fantasy that Paul Krugman absolutely destroyed.

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