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Friday, January 29, 2010

Bullet With Butterfly Wings

On Wednesday the Oregon PERS Board held a joint meeting with the Oregon Investment Council and interested stakeholders. I didn't attend, but a reliable scribe was in attendance. If I didn't know better, I would have thought that the PERS Board might as well have declared the following: "Dear Current PERS Retiree: Please drop dead as soon as possible." At issue were the growing employer rates for the PERS Retirement System. The Board seemed to think that the real problem is that employers had to continue to pay for existing retirees and that retirees were making it hard because they weren't dying. Of course other ideas were also floated, including the possibility of a Tier 4, for new hires which would be no retirement system at all.

The fact that any of this was discussed in a public meeting is utterly repugnant and contemptible. The current PERS Board acts like PERS members and retirees are an inconvenient group of people for them to deal with (please see note below for a correction). They'd prefer dealing only with employers. Of course, without PERS Members and Retirees, there isn't a retirement system. Unless my understanding of state statute has been gravely flawed, it is stated in law that the PERS Board acts as the fiduciary for the system. They are responsible TO and FOR members. WE ARE NOT INCONVENIENT STATISTICS THAT MUST BE TRIFLED WITH. I find this behavior by the Board, even if tongue in cheek to be reprehensible and I hope the Board finds a copy of this post in its collective mailbox. Otherwise, the bullet will have butterfly wings and, if you recall, chaos theory starts with the flapping of butterfly wings. Expect a tsunami of complaint about this stupidity. I'm offended deeply and even sorrier I wasn't able to make the meeting. Had I been there, I would have objected out loud and in person face-to-face.

Note added at 8:00 p.m. My source for this information attended today's meeting as well. I was corrected that the remark about pesky retirees didn't come from a PERB member but a member of the Oregon Investment Council. I'm not any more mollified to know this as the OIC is also charged with the responsibility to invest OUR money. If they find us annoying and pesky and inconvenient, every member has the option of resigning. I'm sure there are many other folks out there who would be perfectly happy investing our money and would do just as well.


MollyNCharlie said...

Marc, I apologize that my original remarks mislead you and others. I to was deeply offended that anyone from either group would imply that the 'best' solution would be to do away with retirees and/or any future retirement plan for public employees.

A further correction (it gets hard to listen when you've just been told to drop dead). It was an investment specialist employed by OIC that pointed out that having no retirement plan would make it harder to recruit and retain talented people. In other places I had attributed this remark to a OIC/PERB member. It hurts more that nobody from either OIC or PERB spoke up in this joint meeting in defense of members -- the only reason the PERS Fund exists!

At least the PERS Board meeting today had a more supportive tone toward members both active and retired. I particularly appreciated remarks made by Chair James Dalton that reflected respect and sensitivity to these issues.


mrfearless47 said...

Thanks Peg. Perhaps Mr. Dalton reads this blog. I agree with you that the lack of defense for retirees and actives by the Board or OIC is an offense of its own. I realize that none of these people get paid for their work, but that is no excuse for hurtful comments and a failure to defend the primary raison d'etre for the Fund in the first place.

TruthSeeker said...

A bit like the 'creeping" Social Security retirement age over the last 15 years or so where the goal seems to be making retirement coincide with interment.