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Category Archives: government

What the FACTS Reveal about Teacher Retirement Programs—Part 5 of 6

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Critics of public pension plans like CalSTRS will claim that the cost of these plans are bankrupting states, but that is false—in fact it is a damn lie. For instance, the current annual budget of California is about $156 billion. The state’s annual contribution to the CalSTRS pension plan is usually about $1.4 billion or 0.89% of the total state budget. With the 30-year plan from AB 1469 to stabilize the funding gap to uphold the state’s promise of a secure retirement to teachers, the state will be paying $1.9 billion annually to CalSTRS (instead of $1.4 billion) or 1.12% of the total annual state budget of California. – ebudget.ca.gov

It’s a fact that misery loves company and when the accountants, carpenters, clerks, plumbers, reporters, salesmen, and secretaries, and many other professions in the private sector, read the Yellow/Hate Journalism in Don Thompson’s AP piece, Public retirement ages come under greater scrutiny, many of these people in the private sector will say, “It isn’t fair. If we have to work longer and suffer, so do they.” In fact, that is already happening. Due to pressure from the private sector, this has led to: “Earlier in New Jersey, part of a legislative deal struck between Democrats and Republicans raised the normal retirement age from 62 to 65,” Thompson wrote.


Is Your Pension Safe? States Struggle With Pricey Challenges

On the other hand, when given a choice, many private sector employees do not save toward retirement other than Social Security. Many do not put money into 401 (k) plans or pay into tax deductible IRAs.  Many that own homes take out equity loans to finance vacations, purchase new cars, pay off credit card debts, or go on spending sprees.

The result is that the average family in America cannot afford to retire as early as many public employees that paid into employer-based defined benefit pensions.

For example, total U.S. consumer debt was $2.43 trillion as of May 2011. Average credit card debt per household was $15,799. Average total debt in 2009 (including credit cards, mortgage, home equity, student loans and more) of U.S. households was $54,000. Source: Credit Card.com

As for me, instead of paying into Social Security while I taught, I paid 8% of my gross monthly pay for thirty years into CalSTRS, and the school district where I taught contributed a matching amount of about 8%. That means if I get any Social Security from the jobs I had outside of teaching, it isn’t going to be much.

In fact, to force public educators in California to work more years may cost more than it will save.

Continued in Part 6 on June 11, 2015 or return to Part 4

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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What the FACTS Reveal about Teacher Retirement Programs—Part 4 of 6

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What Thompson also doesn’t mention in his AP piece is that some states managed their pension funds better than others did.

A March 2011 report on the Best and Worst State Funded Pensions by Adam Corey Ross of The Fiscal Times offers a more balanced picture. Ross wrote, “State pension programs across the country have undergone a major transformation, as more and more of them are cutting back the amount of money they set aside for retired workers, gambling that they can meet their obligations through investments instead of savings …”

In fact, Ross lists the best fully-funded state pensions that existed then, which were: New York, Wisconsin, Delaware, North Carolina, Washington, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wyoming, Florida and Georgia. He also lists the worst state pensions where the gamble did not pay off. However, with Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Cuomo of New York, the public pension plans for those two states are probably doomed along with the public unions in those states if the voters don’t get rid of them in the next election.

California fell between the two lists, but thanks to recent legislations plans to fill the funding gap in a more sensible way. In addition, nowhere does Ross or Thompson mention that California has two state pension plans—CalPERS and CalSTRS.


As Public Pensions Shift to Risky Wall Street, Local Politicians Rake in Political Cash

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System [CalSTRS], with a portfolio valued at $189.1 billion as of June 30, 2014, is the largest teacher pension fund and second largest public pension fund in the United States. In addition, CalSTRS makes it clear that “it’s important to understand that the risk of facing depleted assets exists approximately 30 years from now versus actually facing insolvency today.”

Due to losses from investments during the 2008 global financial crises, the CalSTRS retirement “fund took an enormous hit to its stock portfolio when the market plunged during the heart of the recession, losing nearly $43 billion—roughly 25 percent of its value—from June 2008 to June 2009.”

However, in June 2014, California’s Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 1469 to stabilize CalSTRS funding in an effort to bridge the nearly $74 billion funding gap that would keep the fund solvent beyond 30 years. Teachers’ Retirement Board Chair Harry Keiley said, “Educators in California do not receive Social Security for their CalSTRS-covered employment and the benefit they earn from years in the classroom serves as the cornerstone of their retirement income. Today’s actions further strengthen the Governor and Legislature’s commitment to uphold the state’s promise of a secure retirement to teachers.”

The vote in the State Senate was 37 – 0, and in the Assembly was 76 – 1. – legislature.ca.gov

Continued in Part 5 on June 10, 2015 or return to Part 3

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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What the FACTS Reveal about Teacher Retirement Programs—Part 3 of 6

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Back to the public sector retirement plans that did not follow the risky 401 (k) path to retirement. The Public Sector stayed with employer-based defined benefit pension plans such as the one I have through CalSTRS.

It helps that the union membership rate for public sector workers is 36.2 percent and that is substantially higher than the rate for private sector workers at 6.9 percent.


Discover how California is fixing its public pensions

To understand the numbers better and why the media focuses its Yellow/Hate Journalism circus act to attract the biggest hating mob, in November 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 20.4 million public sector employees [2 million work for the federal government—the rest work for the states or local county or city governments] and about 128 million private sector employees.

Those numbers help explain why the Associated Press ran the misleading Public retirement ages come under greater scrutiny by Don Thompson.

If you published a newspaper, a magazine, ran a TV news network, hosted a conservative talk show, or wrote a popular conservative Blog, which audience would you focus on to boost advertising rates? As I said, it’s all in the numbers

A, 20.4 million
B. 128 million

Another example of how misleading Don Thompson’s AP piece, Public retirement ages come under greater scrutiny, was: “With Americans increasingly likely to live well into their 80s, critics question whether paying lifetime pensions to retirees from age 55 or 60 is financially sustainable. An Associated Press survey earlier this year found the 50 states have a combined $690 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and $418 billion in retiree health care obligations.”

Continued in Part 4 on June 9, 2015 or return to Part 2

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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What the FACTS Reveal about Teacher Retirement Programs—Part 2 of 6

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The reason AP distorted the facts about teacher retirement plans as much as they did is because of audience share, which determines how much a media source [TV, newspapers, hate talk shows, magazines, Blogs, etc] may charge to advertisers, and balancing the news and telling the truth often does not achieve this goal, because profits are the foundation of the private sector media.

It’s a simple formula: if you don’t make a profit you go out of business and everyone working for you loses his or her job so almost everyone plays the same Yellow/Hate Journalism game, and then there is the politics of money.

To understand why Thompson wrote such a misleading news piece, it helps to understand the trend away from private-sector pensions that were once similar to current public sector-pensions and the answers are in the numbers.

Due to the politics of money, beginning early in the 1980s, during the Reagan era, there was a rapid shift away from private sector employer-based defined benefit pension plans to employee-controlled personal retirement accounts.


teacher pensions explained

Under President Reagan [1981 – 1989] this trend in the private sector was helped along by the Republican Party that controlled the Senate from 1981 to 1987 giving President Reagan the leverage he needed to shift private sector pension money to the stock market and other risky investments—another part of the Reagan plan besides adding two trillion dollars to the national debt by cutting taxes on the wealthy; raising them on the working class by cutting deductions and spending more.

And since 1982 and Ronald Reagan’s infamous trickle down economic reform, profit expectations of American corporations have skyrocketed, and right behind have been the costs of health care, the cost of housing, the cost of military programs, the cost of banking, and the cost of many other products and services.” – The Agonist

In 1980, approximately 92 percent of private retirement saving contributions went to employer-based plans; 64 percent of these contributions were to defined benefit pension plans [similar to the public pension plans of today].

Then by 1999, [thanks to President Reagan and the Republican majority in the Senate while he was president] about 88 percent of private sector contributions were switched to defined contribution plans, the vast majority of personal retirement accounts being set up as 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA), and that ended in disaster.

I suggest your either Google the failure of 401 (K) or read what PBS.org said, “Most people don’t know that the 401(k) products are toxic and their behavior toward a 401(k) product is toxic because no one has been responsible for providing a safe product.

“The Congress has not put itself [out] as a responsible actor. Employers were told, “It’s up to your employees to choose,” and the banking industry and the mutual fund industry said, “Trust us.”

If you are a regular fan of hate media and trust no other source, you will probably dismiss anything from PBS. But what about CNBC.com, Forbes.com, NBC News.com, USA Today, or even the Los Angeles Times. Will you trust one of those sources over your favorite hate radio show? If not, then I suggest you read this from Mother Jones.com to discover who is behind the lies designed to fool and why.

Continued in Part 3 on June 8, 2015 or start with Part 1

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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What the FACTS Reveal about Teacher Retirement Programs—Part 1 of 6

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Rolling Stone reported that all across America, Wall Street is grabbing money meant for public workers. The legal theft of public pensions started in Road Island in 2011 as a test case.  “In state after state, politicians are following the Rhode Island playbook, using scare tactics and lavishly funded PR campaigns to cast teachers, firefighters and cops – not bankers – as the budget-devouring boogeymen responsible for the mounting fiscal problems of America’s states and cities.”

Fortune Magazine in addition to In These Times, and KQED also reported on this legalized fraud being supported by corrupt elected representatives from the state level all the way to the White House.

In fact, during my full-time university days on the GI Bill [1968 – 1973] before I graduated with a BA in journalism, I learned how easy it was for the media to make mistakes—sometimes deliberately—while practicing what is known as Yellow/Hate journalism to boost profits.

And Yellow/Hate Journalism [based upon sensationalism and crude exaggerations] is what the Associated Press [AP] did when it ran Public retirement ages come under greater scrutiny by Don Thompson on December 14, 2011.

For instance, how would you feel if you read, “Patrick Godwin spends his retirement days running a horse farm east of Sacramento, Calif. with his daughter? His departure from the workaday world [he worked thirty-six years in public education and was the superintendent of one of California’s 1,600 school districts] is likely to be long and relatively free of financial concerns, after he retired last July at age 59 with a pension paying $174,308 a year for the rest of his life.”

That previous quote was in the second paragraph of Thompson’s AP news piece, and it is extremely misleading because of what it doesn’t say.

What the AP piece doesn’t tell us is that in 2010 the average member-only benefit for retired public school educators in California was $4,256 a month before taxes [less than a third of what Godwin earned in retirement] and that is only 16% of educators that retired in 2010 who worked as long as Patrick Godwin did.  The median years of service was 26.6, and if you were one of the educators that retired after 26.6 years of public service [the median] and was only 55 years old [the earliest you may retire], using the CalSTRS retirement calculator, that person earned about $2,130 a month before taxes—much less than the $14,525.66 that Godwin earns each month.

I calculated once that if a public school teacher in California taught for 42 years or more, his annual retirement income would equal what he earned the last year he worked.

But—and this is a very large BUT that we never hear about—in public education, less than 4% retire with full pay. In fact, 9% retired in 2010 with 10-15 years of service in public education, 11% with 14-20 years, 15% with 20-25 years, 12% with 25-30 years, 23% with 30-35 years, and 16% with 35-40 years. — CalSTRS

The reason why AP ran with Patrick Godwin’s retirement income as an example is called sensationalism designed to cause an emotional response (hate) so people who don’t know all the facts will talk about it. Word of mouth attracts readers and an audience and that stirs the hate.

In addition, Godwin was a school district superintendent at the top of the public education pay scale, which represents about 0.2% of the total number of retired educators in California.  That means 99.8% of public educators in California do not earn as much as Godwin did in retirement.

The result is that many readers might be fooled to think that most public educators in California will retire with Patrick Godwin’s annual retirement income.  However, that is far from the truth since most will not come close, but Thompson’s biased and misleading piece didn’t say that

Continued in Part 2 on June 7, 2015

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._______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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The Alleged Public School Monopoly and the Fraudulent Civil Rights Movement of our Time

It is highly arguable with evidence and data that the corporate education reform movement mostly funded by a handful of billionaire oligarchs is driven by endless oxymorons. For instance, the oxymoron of a movement that claims it’s the Civil Right Movement of our time while Corporate Charters practice segregation on a grand scale (click the link to learn more), and the other major oxymoron alleges the public schools are a monopoly that must be destroyed.

For instance, in New York State, Governor Cuomo (The Crook) characterized public education as a ‘monopoly’ that he vowed to break. For the rest of this post, I will focus on Governor Cuomo’s claim that the public schools are a ‘monopoly’ that must be broken.

First, the public schools are supported by taxes paid by the public, and they are non-profit, transparent and held accountable through that transparency. In addition, they are governed by democratic values—except where reformers like Cuomo the Crook have used their executive power to hijack entire school districts and remove the democratically elected school boards. Because of the transparency and democratic nature of these schools, every public dollar spent is tracked to make sure it was spent to support the education of children.

A monopoly by definition, would be John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, and his Standard Oil (with an emphasis on his) incorporated oil producing, transporting, refining, and marketing into one single behemoth which grew both vertically and horizontally (he bought the producers and distributors). In 1882, all of Standard Oil’s properties were merged into the Standard Oil Trust, and by the end of the decade (1890), it controlled 88% of the refined oil flows in the United States.

To be clear: John D. Rockefeller was ONE man who controlled 88% of the refined oil that flowed in the United States, and he answered to no one until President Teddy Roosevelt went after his monopoly to break it up.

How does that compare to the corporate education reform movement’s claim that public education is a monopoly that must be broken?

Even though the Obama Administration—with help from, for instance, mostly Bill Gates in addition to the Walton family, Eli Broad and a squad of other powerful private sector corporate oligarchs—did all they could to make Arne Duncan the John D. Rockefeller of the alleged public education monopoly, when we sweep away all the lies and allegations, what’s left is almost 14,000 individual public school districts. Most of these school districts are managed by their own democratically elected school boards and each district has its own CEO who often comes with the title of superintendent, who is hired and can be fired by those elected school boards. Those superintendents answer to the elected school boards and nothing can be hidden because of the transparency, and through that transparency every state and territory in the United States watches over those almost 14,000 public school districts to make sure they are not breaking any laws or legislation that applies to public education.

If you’re interested, you might want to read:

When that alleged public school monopoly is broken as Cuomo has pledged, what is already taking its place?

The answer: opaque, often fraudulent, often worse or the same as the public schools they are replacing, segregated, private sector, for-profit corporate charter schools that are not democratic and not answerable to the laws of each state that are meant for the public schools (even when a corporate charter claims to be non-profit, when we follow the money, it almost always flows like fast moving sewage to a private sector, for-profit corporation.)

For a sampling of this fraud, I suggest you read the following:

Release: “A new report released today reveals that fraudulent charter operators in 15 states are responsible for losing, misusing or wasting over $100 million in taxpayer money.”

One last thought—while no one can buy the public schools and create a private sector monopoly like Standard Oil once was under John D. Rockefeller, one oligarch—for instance, Bill Gates, Eli Broad or the Walmart Walton family—will be in a position to do just that once the public schools are gone and have been replaced by corporate charters that can go bankrupt and close or be merged and/ or sold on a daily basis.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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Proof that any fool can get elected, and that public school teachers should really be running the United States

This post will compare the qualifications it takes to become a public school teacher to what it takes to qualify to run for a political state or national office and end up in the White House as president or a member of the U.S. Congress.

TEACHERS

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. In addition, public school teachers must have a state-issued certification or license.

The 2011–12 Schools and Staffing Survey: First Look

In 2011-12, on average, both public and private school teachers had about 14 years of experience. On average, teachers in traditional public schools had more teaching experience (14 years) than teachers in public charter schools (9 years).

The percentage of public school teachers with a master’s degree as their highest degree was larger in traditional public schools (48 percent) than in public charter schools (37 percent) and private schools (36 percent).

“As a group, teachers score relatively high in prose, document, and quantitative literacy; there are no significant differences in scores between male and female teachers or between elementary and secondary teachers. About half of teachers score at Levels 4 and 5 (the two highest levels) on the three literacy scales, compared to about 20 percent of other adults nationwide. … The NALS data present teachers as a labor market bargain, comparing favorably with other professionals in their literacy skills, yet earning less. And we need to recognize that we pay teachers considerably less than other professionals with comparable capacities for dealing with prose, document, and quantitative literacy tasks.” – ets.org

ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES

As you read this section, you might notice that there are no literacy or education requirements to run for a public office. It’s possible to be a high school dropout and be illiterate and become President, a state governor or a member of the U.S. Congress.

In the United States, a person must be at least 35 to be President or Vice President, 30 to be a Senator, or 25 to be a Representative, as specified in the U.S. Constitution. Most states in the U.S. also have age requirements for the offices of Governor, State Senator, and State Representative. Some states have a minimum age requirement to hold any elected office (usually 21 or 18).

How Elected Officials Scored On American Civics Literacy

In each of the following areas, for example, officeholders do more poorly than non-officeholders:

  • 79% of those who have been elected to government office do not know the Bill of Rights expressly prohibits establishing an official religion for the U.S.
  • 30% do not know that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are the inalienable rights referred to in the Declaration of Independence.
  • 27% cannot name even one right or freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.
  • 43% do not know what the Electoral College does. One in five thinks it either “trains those aspiring for higher political office” or “was established to supervise the first televised presidential debates.”
  • 54% do not know the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war. 39% think that power belongs to the president, and 10% think it belongs to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • Only 32% can properly define the free enterprise system, and only 41% can identify business profit as “revenue minus expenses.” – Fellowship of the Minds.com

And in the education wars, who is telling whom how to do their job?

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Graphic OCT 2015

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