Chicken little is alive and well. Those who seek to undercut the retirement security of hard-working public servants are once again trying to whip up mass hysteria about pensions, cherry-picking data from a website recently created by State Controller John Chiang in an effort to fool the public.
As usual, the fact-challenged pension-busters — and a number of media outlets — totally missed the mark in their shallow analysis of pension data, which Dave Low of Californians for Retirement Security notes in a San Diego Union-Tribune op-ed:
Contrary to many editorial and news reports, Chiang did not sound an alarm, but went out of his way to say that firefighters, teachers, police officers and other public servants deserve the retirement security they’ve earned.
But those who seek to undermine retirement security for working families took the website launch as a new opportunity to hit the panic button yet again, and unnecessarily whip up a new round of public hysteria around retirement security for working families. As usual, their sky-is-falling criticism had little foundation in facts. But here’s one to remember: The funded status of retirement funds today (on a percentage basis) is better than it was in 1980.
Unfunded liabilities — the statistic that pension bashers typically use for their false hysteria — are cyclical, and better measured as a percentage than a dollar basis. Pension critics are willfully ignoring cyclical variations and the long-term nature of pension funding, seeking an opportunity to turn more public dollars over to their Wall Street cronies. The fact is, the biggest downturn in unfunded liability was due to the fiasco caused by irresponsible Wall Street bankers gaming the system.
Low goes on to paint a realistic picture of the current state of public sector pensions and the real challenges that face all Californians planning for retirement.