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Barbara Gore: Imagine the level of hysteria that would ensue if people spoke of the flu in the same manner they speak of the coronavirus.

7 Apr

In the March 13 Enterprise-Record, there was an editorial putting this coronavirus in perspective and I quote, “The flu infects 1 billion people each year worldwide, killing as many as 650,000. In the U.S. so far this season, flu afflicted up to 49 million people, resulting in as many as 52,000 deaths. Imagine the level of hysteria that would ensue if people spoke of the flu in the same manner they speak of the coronavirus.”

I’ve been pondering this editorial ever since, wondering why it became this huge crisis, with people panicking and then the different countries and now the US shutting down and shutting people in? Of course every life is precious but in this case, what about the 52,000 lives lost to the flu just in the US?

Unless the staggering number of losses, due to the flu are a misprint, could someone please explain to me the difference? And one more thing, in an attempt to save thousands of lives, millions will be ruined — no jobs, no paychecks, many becoming homeless, more needing welfare to survive. Businesses being closed not just for now but forever. The enormity of it is mind-boggling.

— Barbara Gore, Durham

Will states use COVID-19 funds to bail out pensions? Let’s talk about true pension reform first

31 Mar

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2020/03/30/dont_let_states_rob_covid-19_funds_to_bail_out_pensions.html

Don’t Let States Rob COVID-19 Funds to Bail Out Pensions

COMMENTARY
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By Ted Dabrowski & Mark Glennon – RCP Contributors
March 30, 2020

Now that Congress has passed its broader humanitarian aid packages in response to the COVID-19 virus, it’s likely that the nation’s most fiscally irresponsible states will request bailouts for something completely unrelated to the virus: their bankrupt pension plans.

Bad as that may be, it’s likely some sort of assistance will materialize from Congress. If that happens, any support should be conditioned on pension reform.

It’s not a stretch to think that federal money will somehow find its way into the nation’s most dysfunctional pension plans. New Jersey’s Phil Murphy, governor of a state with one of the worst pension crises in the country, is seeking a multi-billion-dollar, flexible block grant. Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, whose city is already junk rated largely due to pensions, has warned “this is a B-sized problem, meaning something that can only be solved with billions in needed stimulus support from the federal government.”

With the shortfall in pension funds exceeding what Stanford’s Pension Tracker says was $5 trillion even before the meltdown, you can bet those governments most mired in pension debt will seek additional help. They could demand direct aid for their state and local pensions, or for their own operations that indirectly support those pensions. But states and cities that bankrupted their funds through corrupted governance long before the current crisis shouldn’t get a free pass.

Many states, including Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut, have refused real reform for decades, wreaking havoc on their residents and the retirement security of their workers. That’s reason enough to require preconditions for any federal support.

The rationale for requiring reforms with any aid is threefold. First, supporting irresponsible states with no strings attached is fundamentally unfair to those states that have already enacted major reforms. Second, structural reforms reduce the risk of future federal bailouts by setting those states on a path toward stability. Third, requiring reforms would reduce the cost of any potential federal aid to those states.

Illinois is a perfect example of a state that shouldn’t be bailed out at the expense of fiscally responsible governments. Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the state legislature and Chicago Mayor Lightfoot all reject structural pension reforms that would fix Illinois’ problems. They continue to block efforts to amend the state’s pension-protection clause through a constitutional amendment and they refuse to authorize the option of municipal bankruptcy, something that only requires a legislative majority.

Instead, like their predecessors, they’re protecting the status quo. As a result, Illinois’ Net Primary Position – basically its net worth – has worsened by $190 billion since 2001. Those losses resulted primarily from growing unfunded pension and retiree health insurance liabilities. Illinois’ pension crisis is now the nation’s worst, both in terms of total shortfall and on a per capita basis, according to Moody’s Investors Service. The agency rates Illinois just one notch away from junk.

Conditions in New Jersey are no better. The Garden State’s pension funds were flush at the turn of the century, but since then, gross bipartisan mismanagement and pension holidays have led to near insolvency. S&P warned in June of 2019 that: “[The state’s] inability to contribute [its] annually determined contribution after 10 years of national economic recovery raises questions about what could happen in another recession.”

Connecticut is also swimming in unfunded pension and retirement health care debts. Those obligations equaled nearly 40% of its GDP in 2018 – the highest among all states, according to Moody’s. And like Illinois, the state has resorted to decades-long reamortizations and is considering asset transfers instead of real, structural reforms.

If that’s not evidence enough, consider this. In 2018, the plans for Chicago’s 30,000 active and retired public safety workers were just 22% funded. The funding for Kentucky’s 90,000 state workers was even worse, at just 16%. And the plan for New Jersey’s 136,000 public employees was only 32%. All those workers lost their retirement security due to politicians’ corrupt practices long before the current crisis.

The unwillingness of such states to make hard choices on their own is precisely why any help from the federal government must come with preconditions.

Defined contribution plans, cost of living reforms and increased retirement ages are all part of the suite the federal government should require. And for states that have constitutional protections, lawmakers must commit to removing them or lose out on aid.

Whether the federal government eventually provides direct aid to state and local governments remains to be seen. However, it’s imperative that any such support not be used to bail out pensions or enable irresponsible states to further ignore their retirement crises.

Ted Dabrowski is a former international managing director for Citibank and current president of Wirepoints, an independent, nonpartisan research and news organization focused on fiscal and economic policy.

Mark Glennon, a former bankruptcy lawyer and venture capital investor, is executive editor and founder of Wirepoints, an independent, nonpartisan research and news organization focused on fiscal and economic policy.

As city leaders posture over the coronavirus, the real epidemic in Chico is crime

28 Mar

This morning I saw the paper – my teeth are old, and my dentist told me, if I didn’t quit grinding them all the time he would be taking them out. So, I when I read the paper, or watch the local news, I’ve adopted the habit of holding my mouth open, teeth wide apart – I know, it looks stupid, but it’s going to save me a fortune in dental work.

Cause today, right there on the front page, was a picture of a business I remember since very young childhood. The door was covered with plywood – oh wow, just like the post office annex! There was council woman Kasey Reynolds, owner of Shuberts, flanked by Chief Sitting Lame Ass and Mayor Again? Ann Schwab. I wonder if Schwab was wondering what I was wondering – why didn’t they hit Campus Bicycles?

I’m just so sick of the lawlessness. Oh sure, I better not congregate with my congregation in church, and any business that dares to stay open is shamed, bullied, and threatened into closing up shop while still cajoled to pay their employees. But St. Patrick can continue to take over Downtown Plaza with his “feedings” and the NVHRC can still hand out free needles to heroin and meth addicts and dealers every Sunday.

Oh sure, you know the PUBLIC employees don’t miss a paycheck, even though they have been on reduced hours, most of them off on Fridays, since long before the Coronavirus Panic.

Wow, this is a lot better than grinding my teeth.

The president says it’s “time to get back to normal.” I agree. I think the county and city need to end their imaginary state of emergency, because it is creating a real state of emergency. So I wrote a letter to the editor  about it.

As city leaders posture over coronavirus, the real epidemic in Chico is crime. 

During the week of March 5, a fire was started in a trash bin inside the post office annex at the main branch on Vallombrosa.  There are over 3,000 mail boxes in that annex. The mail that was in the boxes on the night of the fire is still being held indefinitely while the matter is being investigated. Box holders are expected to line up at the main desk during business hours to collect their mail. I got no response from the police chief or the fire chief when I asked if any suspect was charged. 

Sometime overnight March 27 Shubert’s Ice Cream front door was taken off  by a person caught on security camera wearing a mask and using bolt cutters. This criminal act was done right out on a public street in a well-lit area. 

Whether or not Shuberts was a political target, criminals have become more brazen as the coronavirus shutdown continues, while the talking heads Downtown discuss “suspending the rules”. I agree with President Trump – this country needs to pull it’s collective head out of it’s collective ostrich hole and “get back to normal.” As long as transients are allowed to congregate for feedings at Downtown Plaza or free syringes at Humboldt Park, I think it’s safe to get out and have an ice cream with your friends, and talk about the upcoming election.

Prepare instead of panic

24 Mar

The weekend after the Camp Fire, my husband and I and our adult son, two dogs, and two cats, found ourselves jammed into our tiny studio apartment. The sky was still black day and night, and ash was raining everywhere. The temps stayed in the 30’s all day. We knew by that time that my son’s little cottage in Paradise was toast. And, we were starting to run out of groceries and clean clothes. 

While we enjoyed milling in the Safeway parking lot, masks on, flagging down old friends who had been driven into town by the fire, the store itself was overcrowded and the shelves were looking frazzled. Chico Walmart had  been stripped of everything we needed – air mattresses, sleeping bags, toilet paper, shelves bare throughout the store. 

So we got up that Sunday morning and we headed for Red Bluff hell bent  for leather, to shop at their Walmart. We wanted out of Chico, out of the smoke, out of the crowds, off the backed up streets. The skies lightened as we sped up 99, by the time we got to Red Bluff you could actually see blue sky. 

That was also my first experience with a Walmart Superstore. I’d heard about it, mostly from friends who didn’t like Walmart. My Red Bluff friends said it was bad for the local economy, but also joked how many former lumber mill employees had found jobs there. Me, I’ve long gotten over any revulsion for Walmart. It’s about the only place I can afford to shop anymore. I think they’ve got better as a business under the scrutiny of the 80’s and 90’s, and I think they offer good jobs for a significant portion of the local populace, including older people who still need to work. 

So I stood marveling in the gigantic entryway. It was a real life “Me-ga-lo Mart” from King of the Hill. I wondered if Chuck Mangione was camped out under the paper products display. It was like an entire mall, all in one enormous room. And, unlike a lot of the retail scene in Chico, everything was sparkling clean and in perfect order. 

The greeter smiled us in, and we walked as if in a dream. Our clothes were scruffy and covered with dog hair, we looked like The Bride after she escaped her desert tomb. Suddenly we noticed other scruffy ragamuffins – fire evacuees. We were all headed for the camping section, where my husband and I got one of the last of the air mattresses. Sleeping bags were also flying off the shelves. We also needed a heater and a few other household items, clothes – our son had escaped with his cats and his car and the clothes on his back. Since he’d been headed for work, at least he had his lunch and Kleen Kanteen.

When I saw the grocery section I had to hold myself back. We were sharing a tiny counter-top refrigerator/freezer, so I had to make sure not to buy too much stuff. The produce section was as nice as Raley’s in Chico, with tons of fresh stuff, even a big organic section. We found a bigger selection of various products, with a range of affordable prices, than we have found at any store in Chico. So while I didn’t intend it, I’ll admit, I hoarded a little. My son exclaimed, as we unpacked our booty, “Mom, you have enough sugar here for Armageddon!” Well,  a lady likes to have some things…

A year and a half later, after a summer of PG&E shut-offs (a rolling blackout by any other name still stinks), my husband and I are more “prepared”.  I decided it’s okay to “hoard”, especially if you make a consistent habit of it and build your stockpiles slowly. Oh my god – yesterday I saw a younger couple, with very serious masks and gloves, piling huge quantities of food on two of those warehouse style dollies. They looked at me with that crazy shine in their eyes.  Don’t do that, it makes it hard for everybody. Make a habit of being well stocked ahead of time. 

I don’t know if the rest of you have noticed – prices at grocery stores are going up – one store we shopped yesterday had essentially stuck another dollar on every product I bought. I know because I buy the same stuff. It’s really disgusting to see how they act during a crisis, but you saw what happened to the housing market in the year after the Camp Fire. People kinda suck. 

So here’s my “Stuff to Hoard” list. Make your own, based on your lifestyle. But yeah, get ready for the next panic, and don’t be caught with your pantry down. 

  • toilet paper – I know, people have always looked at me funny with my 18 pack, but who’s laughing now?
  • Kool Aide – makes crappy water taste better. If you’re on Cal Water you know what I’m talking about. 
  • sugar – geeshy sakes folks, don’t ever get caught in the “Kool Aide with no sugar” dilemma
  • I drink coffee, so I never have less than two pounds of beans on hand
  • powdered milk/canned milk – and I’m weird, so I keep a pack of yogurt starter too
  • propane for your camp stove – get a 4 pack, it’s cheaper
  • I hoard dry goods, stuff like rice, barley, flour, yeast, salt, etc. These don’t take up much room in airtight containers
  • gas for your generator

 

 

 

 

 

Chico’s Tax Swindle: City bureaucrats expect YOU to pay higher taxes in order to fund unaffordable pensions

24 Mar

While your retirement investments implode in what is shaping up to be the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, city bureaucrats expect YOU to pay higher taxes in order to save their multi-million dollar pensions.

Over the years tens of millions of dollars that should have gone for roads, infrastructure and other necessities has been siphoned off to CalPERS in a futile attempt to fund ridiculous and unaffordable pensions.

Recently the city experienced a surplus in excess of $3 million. What did they do with the money? They didn’t spend a penny of it on the roads and instead shipped $400,000 of it off to CalPERS for pensions. (See https://chicotaxpayers.com/2020/03/15/time-for-true-pension-reform/ ) This is ON TOP of the money they already sent to CalPERS for the fiscal year!

In today’s ER city bureaucrat Constantin says the tax increase is “absolutely needed.” From the ER:

It’s likely, Constantin believes, that the city’s “most substantial needs” would be addressed.

It’s likely? He believes? Those are weasel words, folks. The ER goes on:

And yes, said Constantin, it could be used for pensions.

Hah! Ya think? OF COURSE IT WILL BE USED FOR PENSIONS!

If you want to read the rest of Constantin’s drivel you can read it here

If voters are stupid enough to pass this tax increase it will only enable them to continue what they’ve been doing for many years.

You may never be able to afford to retire but the city council and Constantin believe you should pay MORE TAXES so city bureaucrats can retire as multi-millionaires! ARE YOU GOING TO LET THEM GET AWAY WITH THAT?

LET THE CITY COUNCIL KNOW YOU WILL NOT PASS THEIR SALES TAX INCREASE AND DEMAND THEY REFORM THE PENSIONS!

As the city shuts down, if you want to stay engaged, you’ll have to try Chico Engaged!

21 Mar

The city of Chico announced they will shut down all meetings to the public, opting for social media to keep the public informed. For months now they’ve been toying with a website called “City of Chico Engaged,” or “Engage Chico.”  I’ve looked at it a few times, and the comments I saw did not seem related to any agenda items, people were using it as a suggestion box. 

Until recently. A lively discussion has come up regarding the sit-and-lie and crimes against property ordinances. Alex Brown has agendized a discussion of overturning these ordinances, and finally, the lobster pot might be overturned. We can hope.

I signed up for the site because I thought I had to have an account to be able to read the discussions. But, from what I can see, the site is no easier to see now that I have an account. This is important because this stuff is all supposed to be public information. We’ll see if this site gets any better as more people sign on. 

But don’t forget to unsubscribe from mailings – or you will get an email every time somebody makes a comment on a conversation you’ve read, commented or voted on. 

https://chico-ca.granicusideas.com/

 

 

A guide to staying politically active in the age of COVID-19

Write Early and Write Often

20 Mar

The early bird gets the worm. A local newspaper owner and editor I know told me, “Write early and write often.” He’s right – start before the ER announces their election cut-off, build your argument slowly and consistently, and then summarize in your last letter. 

I’ve been watching the agendas and reports for various meetings, available here:

http://www.chico.ca.us/government/minutes_agendas.asp

This is something you can do if you want to be more involved – read the reports.  You’ll see stuff that makes you want to write a letter to the editor. I did – I read the report for the now-cancelled March 17 city council meeting, and I thought other taxpayers needed to hear about it. 

Chico City staff recently reported $3,050,000 in “unanticipated revenues” in this year’s budget, “$2,550,000 in additional sales tax revenue, $400,000 additional property tax in lieu of vehicle license fees and $100,000 additional short-term rental transient occupancy tax.”

Staff claimed Camp Fire evacuees had heavy impacts on Chico streets, now we see, they were also making a significant financial contribution. Why isn’t this money being put in the street fund?

Citing city budget policy, staff claims “unanticipated revenues”  are “dedicated to long-term liabilities and replenishing reserve and internal service funds to established targets. ”  How could they have not anticipated these revenues, having acknowledged other effects of the sudden population influx? And since the city has admitted to deferring street maintenance for years because of a shortage of funds, shouldn’t they replenish the street fund?

Staff instead suggests uses for these funds that are not covered by the above policy:  $1,405,000 to guarantee airline service,  $350,000 toward the city’s Community Choice Aggregation scheme, $100,000 to remove the BMX track from the fairgrounds to accommodate homeless services, $30,000 for questionable district maps, $250,000 for a “remodel” of Fire Station 1, and $515,000 for the “Homeless Solutions Project”. 

Putting $400,000 toward the long-term pension liability may fit policy, but I find it questionable – staff already transfers millions a year into that fund from other funds that remain in the red.

This appropriation shows how capriciously staff and council spend our money in their own interest, on their own agenda.   Is this an agency you want to trust with a sales tax increase?

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA