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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Second Time Around

In their typical desperate search for news, the Boregonian's Sunday edition (today) has a front page and inside "A" section article on the financial troubles at PERS. It isn't like this is anything new. The paper has had several articles previous to this that say pretty much the same thing. Today's new twist is that they are whining about the potential for a change in the investment mix and effectively claiming that the taxpayers will be on the hook for backfilling PERS if the market doesn't recover. Well duh. In any taxpayer funded system, the taxpayers are always on the hook if the needed revenue doesn't materialize to fulfill contractual obligations. What makes this news? What is different now than before.

The reporter also makes the snarky comment about the actuary recommending that the PERS Board remove the 18-month "rate collar" that protects employers from market vagaries for at least 18 months after they occur. But does the Oregonian report WHY this rate collar exists? Nope. Again, they make it appear that there is some unknown force preventing this from happening. What is preventing it from happening is that the PERS Board exists solely for the benefit of the employERS, who don't want to pay their obligations in a timely manner.

The Oregonian doesn't also consider one of the other possible implications of changing the investment mix. They never mention the possibility that the change of the investment mix *could* also lead to a lowering of the assumed rate, which would make the system solvent more quickly, but at the expense of both employers and employees. They don't mention this because either they are ignorant, or because they don't want to antagonize the employers.

What is clear from the article, and especially looking at the online version where comments can be posted, is that the article has succeeded in fomenting the public's anger about the PERS system and its beneficiaries. Yet again, we will be called upon to defend ourselves and our benefits, just when we thought the flogging would stop for awhile. I've resigned myself to the fact that the Oregonian will never stop beating on the system, and that everytime they do, it will be the fault of public employees and retirees. Get used to it. Believe me, it is not better the second time around.

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