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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Your Gold Teeth

Sometimes I feel as though PERS retirees are to the Legislature and Governor as gold teeth were to the Nazis in Germany (if this is offensive to some, I'm sorry.  The metaphor seems entirely appropriate).  We represent the gold teeth the Legislature, PERS, and the Governor get to pluck before we are sent off to our "just rewards".  Yesterday, the PERS Board approved the reduction in the assumed rate used for Tier 1 rate guarantee, mortality tables, and for employer contribution rates.  The new rate, effective 1/1/14 will be 7.75%.  For most caught on the cusp, the difference between 8% and 7.75% is relatively minor.  Longer term, however, the effect is significant.  The mortality tables will be adjusted accordingly, but I haven't seen the new ones yet as the PERB is waiting on the Legislature to do its thing on Monday.  Speaking of Monday, the sop for the poor seems to be a 0.25% one-time payment at PERS' discretion to make them feel like they really got a 1.5% COLA increase.  Of course, it isn't the same.  It is simply a one-time payment, not added to the salary base for compounding on future benefits.  Those in the range between $20,000 and $60,000 *might* get one of these too, depending on finances.  This is entirely at the discretion of the PERB.  It also would be a non-compounding payment.    The only good news in all of this is that the employers will have increased payments resulting from the lowering of the assumed rate.  This will assure the continued employer whining, sniveling, and complaints come 2015, so we should never be complacent that the teeth pullers will ever be through.

Speaking of gold teeth, the amount of money spent on education just continues to amaze me.  That malodorous group called Fix PERS Now and its financial sugar daddies, OSBA, COSA, Oregon Business Alliance, Chamber of Commerce and others, don't seem to be the least concerned about how much money is wasted on the administrative infrastructure in education.  They don't seem to be even slightly concerned about the existence of 987 local school districts, superintendents, transportation systems, negotiators with teachers' unions.  Worse still, they don't seem to be unsettled with the salaries of the people selected to replace one elective position valued at $72,000 per year, with two appointed people earning, respectively $180,000 (Robb Saxton, Head, Department of Education and Deputy Superintendent), $225,000 (Nancy Golden) [both sources from articles in the Oregonian].  That's a lot of gold teeth that no one crying for more money "for the children" seems to be disturbed by melting down.

Right now, my mouth hurts like hell, and after Monday the pain will get greater.  And, like almost everything else in this state, the Dems will allow the rich to get richer off our gold teeth, while the libertarians at the Oregonian slaver for more.



Unknown said...

I am a PERS retiree, I am 67, female, and I testified at the hearing at the Capitol Building last Thursday, protesting the cut in the COLA, and protesting lumping retirees with pensions under $20,000 in a big group that included pensions of $60,000 a year.

I get $628 a month for my PERS pension, or $7,536 a year. That's from working 9 years and 11 months (plus 2 years of 6-month waiting periods at PERS jobs). I started working later in life after a divorce.

I testified that the COLA cut means to me, two fewer hearing aids over my life, fewer new eyeglass prescriptions when I need them, much less dental work, less car maintenance and probably one less $2000 used car.

I have $2600 in dental bills right now from work done this summer, and I need two more crowns.

I have a hearing loss due to surgery on my left ear, to remove a small benign tumor, in 2012, at OHSU. I need a hearing aid badly, but I have to get the dental work done first.

I don't go to hardly any events or lunch or other socializing with friends, because I can't afford it. I thought I'd cut my grocery items down to bare minimum, but I will have to cut more. I have to watch how far I drive, to save gas money. I pray I don't get in an accident with my van, as I can't afford collision insurance on it any more (I do have very good liability car insurance).

I told the committee Thursday, that since I've been on early social security, my annual increases in the Medicare Plan B premium and Medigap, and my car insurance premium increase, has been more than the 2% COLA each year--so it isn't really a cost-of-living increase for what I as a senior spend money on--and I don't think it reflects an actual CPI index.

However the compounding effect is really affecting my small budget in the future.

I probably will live to age 90, so my future PERS income is even more important than today's.

I have friends and relatives who work (or worked) for Intel, or Hewlett-Packard, or a hospital, or other private industry, and they sure would not like their 401K's or stock options or pension in their company messed with like the citizens and elected officials of Oregon treat PERS pensions.

The immoral part though is going after people already retired.

PERS jobs are an essential part of the economy in smaller towns in Oregon, as well as the cities: the jobs with the cities, counties, ODOT, schools, state forestry, etc. People that work in PERS jobs do essential work for communities.

That Gov. Kitzhaber went to Bhutan, and having a very very big pension of his own, that is hypocritical. He should have gone and visited many Oregonians, even retirees to see how they are doing on their pensions.

I'd like to see Gov. Kitzhaber fight for long-term aid to education. He'd have to fight the Republicans.

As for the GMO crops, a now-deceased brother-in-law of mine was a farmer near Salem, who grew some seed crops each year, as well as other crops, and who was a total Republican--but I can just hear him now, he would be outraged by this law, about not having cities and counties be able to regulate local GMO crops. He was an OSU grad in chemistry and agriculture.

mrfearless47 said...

Very helpful comment and puts into perspective just how savage the Ds have become, all to mollify a bunch of libertarians at the Oregonian.

s.m. mahoney said...

Miss 67 year old female. I am very sorry to hear your story. My financial situation is difficult, but nowhere near yours.

I am angry these politians think it is okay to hurt the little people. It is understandable they want to target a Mike Bellotti pension of $40,000 a year and many others who receive astronomical amounts. But us low earners are struggling and to take away from us is cruel and mean spirited. We aren't greedy, overpaid and did not play any part in the shenanigans that created these huge earnings. Shame on all these politicians.

If they had a conscience they might have trouble sleeping at night but they seem heartless.

Once again, I'm sorry the people that are supposed to care about you (and us other little folks) have thrown us under the bus.

mpguy said...

s.m.mahoney . . . Bellotti's pension is more like $40,000 a MONTH, not $40K a year.

However, the amount per month isn't really an issue. There's a great danger when PERS recipients start sniping at each other. It gives KitzRobber and his buddies a political opportunity to exploit--to the detriment of ALL PERS retirees and future retirees.

Demonizing those with pensions of $50K or $75K a year makes it much easier to make cuts. First to those getting more, but eventually to those getting less.

The important concept to remember is that "the law is the law." If 2% is the law, 1.99% is a violation of that law. So is reducing any increase on only those making "X" amount or more. Once there's even a small breach in that concept, the entire dam will crumble.

In numbers there is strength. PERS members need to remember that and use our numbers to our political advantage. If we don't, we'll be taken advantage OF.

Unknown said...

mpguy, I agree, all PERS retirees should stick together. I also have a gripe about that, I have noticed that retired teachers, working teachers, retired or working policemen, don't seem to be very vocal about cuts to the lower-salaried PERS people, such as me being a secretary. In the legislation pass in 2003, they were not vocal, for example. And never went on strike. The legislature and the public in Oregon would be much more hesitant to cut any PERS benefits if teachers and policemen and firemen went on strike about cuts to benefits. I have not seen them as a group do this. Maybe they have and I missed it. Maybe they have participated via the SIEU union, I don't know. But I do know that if they went on strike or threatened strike about PERS cuts, the legislature would sure listen to them. I wish they had been more vocal as a group here in this last debate, which just ended with a vote for the PERS COLA cuts. Maybe I misunderstood you, not sure, it's hard to communicate back and forth just with comments.

RKS said...

Police officers, firefighters and prison guards are forbidden by statute from striking in Oregon.


TruthSeeker said...

We are all screwed.

Unknown said...

I am about ready to adopt the eye-for-an-eye attitude. As of this morning I am already toothless so have little to loose.


mpguy said...

What PERS retirees (and their extended families) and PERS actives need to do is reduce their spending in Oregon.

PERS retirees residing in Oregon receive about $2.85 billion in benefits. If the average retiree reduces local/statewide consumption by only 5%, that's $143 million. If you employ a multiplier of 10 to that spending, the result would be an approximately $120 million reduction in Oregon state tax revenues.

That would blow quite a hole in the state budget. It's not hard to do. Eat out a couple fewer times a month. Make fewer shopping trips and go with a list to avoid impulse purchases. Wait for the DVD to come out instead of going to a first run movie. Shop at discount stores. Reduce contributions to in-state charities.

PERS retirees and those members still working have LOTS of economic power. It's about time we started using it. THAT's something the politicians will notice.

timberbeast said...

I have been away enjoying my retirement for a while so news has been hard to find. Your blog is about my only source of facts...thank you! I looked at my Oct benefit and haven't seen any COLA of any amount. My benefit has been the same since before August. What has happened to the COLA? I haven't been able to find out whether or not we get anything.

timberbeast said...

I haven't been able to find any information about when we are going to get this years COLA. My benefit hasn't increased since at all since August. Any advise would be appreciated.

mrfearless47 said...

Timberbeast. We have received our COLA for 2013. It took effect on July 1, 2013, which gets paid on August 1. The increase you saw on August 1, was the COLA. Nothing in the legislation altered the timing of the payment of the annual COLA, only the amount. The only unclear part, is when they will pay the supplementaland non-compounding 0.25% . PERS has discretion on when they pay starting in 2014 and thereafter until 2019.

mrfearless47 said...

Timberbeast. We have received our COLA for 2013. It took effect on July 1, 2013, which gets paid on August 1. The increase you saw on August 1, was the COLA. Nothing in the legislation altered the timing of the payment of the annual COLA, only the amount. The only unclear part, is when they will pay the supplementaland non-compounding 0.25% . PERS has discretion on when they pay starting in 2014 and thereafter until 2019.

TruthSeeker said...

mpguy...If we help to reduce tax revenue, they will just come back at us to make up the difference.

mpguy said...

TruthSeeker ... Really? How has that "sitting back and not exercising our political and economic muscle" thing been working out for us for the past decade?

Politicians respect one thing-- power. If we keep taking hits and not doing anything about it, we can be sure of only thing: that we'll continue to be targeted by BOTH parties whenever they "need" (read, "want") more funding for some program.

As important as it seems, making phone calls and writing letters only gets you so far. Sending sitting officeholders who vote for PERS benefit cuts to the sidelines and causing some hurt to those (like many business owners across the state) who advocate for our destruction registers quickly.

Screaming and yelling doesn't cut it. Action does.

mrfearless47 said...

I definitely agree that exercising political and economic muscle is the only way to grab back some of the balance to our side. But as long as we are up against the likes of the Pew Charitable Trust and the Arnolds, we are going to be facing an uphill challenge. The unions have to get on the bandwagon and start holding back on funds for politicos who stabbed us in the back, even if it means simply sitting out an election cycle. I don't see the unions supporting any of the Rs, but they don't have to support back-stabbing Ds, of which there are many this time around.

Unknown said...

I agree, we have to do something, and influencing the unions to not donate to the back-stabbing D's is a good idea. Count me in.

What about TV ads, or getting interviews on TV, or ads in local newspapers? Would have to get some donations for some ads.

This trend of balancing budgets on the elderly came up yesterday with social security. Some Republicans in Congress are now including changing the CPI-W to the chained CPI as part of their shutdown negotiations. This would cut the COLA for social security, and with compounding each year, affect seniors just like the PERS COLA cut has.

I read one article on the Oregon Live online news, about the PERS COLA cut, and it said that an Oregon legislator from Portland, a Democrat, who is also a lawyer, said that his/her Oregon taxes would drop 20% with this new tax change part of the "grand bargain." So the PERS people took the hit, 100%.

Does anyone have any info if this PERS COLA cut will be challenged in court, and chances of it winning? And even if it won, what then?

And is the anti-PERS, anti-elderly a prejudice that is very harmful, and of the same thinking process of the worst prejudices in history?

I believe there is a lot to that going on here. I've read some of the comments online against PERS retirees. These comments reflect the attitudes of the Gov. and Ms. Kotek and others in the legislature.

It's targeting the seemingly most helpless group. It's a form of bullying.

It's like they don't think about that retirees ever worked hard, struggled, overcame this or that in their lives. They don't see us as people any more.

But then things aren't that great for a lot of Americans these days, since the 2008 recession hit. So maybe this type of backlash is "normal" for times like these.

Remember the "Gray Panthers" in the late 60's, early 70's? (I can't remember the exact dates!) Maybe that's what we need to do, is organize.

And then, do like the black protestors did, and march, and sit down across the steps of the Oregon Capital and don't move, etc.

I've never thought along these lines before, just brainstorming. But if there is something that could help, we might be able to do it.

Who is the Pew Charitable Trust and the Arnolds? Maybe we Oregon PERS retirees can connect with our own charitable trust or a CEO or someone who is sympathetic.

Was also reading in the news about one person on PERS who had to foreclose their house, has a $17,000 a year PERS pension, his wife is disabled or something, etc etc. And this COLA cut will hit him and his wife hardest in 10-15 years.

So there is still a great need out there, and a case to be made, for increasing the COLA.

mrfearless47 said...

The COLA changes have been and will be challenged in Court. SB 822 legal action has already been filed, and SB 861 action is in the hopper for either additional action or a separate action. I fully agree that this is form of age discrimination, and the Oregon Legislature took the trifecta in the special session, cutting the PERS COLA further, reducing the Senior Medical Deduction for higher income people, and eliminating the $183 personal exemption for most everyone earning a modest PERS income.