Detail, east Portland photo, courtesy Miles Hochstein / Portland Ground.

For old times' sake
The bojack bumper sticker -- only $1.50!

To order, click here.

Excellent tunes -- free! And on your browser right now. Just click on Radio Bojack!

E-mail us here.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 29, 2006 1:26 PM. The previous post in this blog was Food fight!. The next post in this blog is Hump Day coffee break. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



Law and Taxation
How Appealing
TaxProf Blog
Mauled Again
Tax Appellate Blog
A Taxing Matter
Josh Marquis
Native America, Discovered and Conquered
The Yin Blog
Ernie the Attorney
Above the Law
The Volokh Conspiracy
Going Concern
Bag and Baggage
Wealth Strategies Journal
Jim Hamilton's World of Securities Regulation
World of Work
The Faculty Lounge
Lowering the Bar
OrCon Law

Hap'nin' Guys
Tony Pierce
Parkway Rest Stop
Along the Gradyent
Dwight Jaynes
Bob Borden
Dingleberry Gazette
The Red Electric
Iced Borscht
Jeremy Blachman
Dean's Rhetorical Flourish
Straight White Guy
As Time Goes By
Dave Wagner
Jeff Selis
Alas, a Blog
Scott Hendison
The View Through the Windshield
Appliance Blog
The Bleat

Hap'nin' Gals
My Whim is Law
Lelo in Nopo
Attorney at Large
Linda Kruschke
The Non-Consumer Advocate
10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place
A Pig of Success
Attorney at Large
Margaret and Helen
Kimberlee Jaynes
Cornelia Seigneur
And Sew It Goes
Mile 73
Rainy Day Thoughts
That Black Girl
Posie Gets Cozy
Cat Eyes
Rhi in Pink
Ragwaters, Bitters, and Blue Ruin
Rose City Journal
Type Like the Wind

Portland and Oregon
Isaac Laquedem
Rantings of a [Censored] Bus Driver
Jeff Mapes
Vintage Portland
The Portlander
South Waterfront
Amanda Fritz
O City Hall Reporters
Guilty Carnivore
Old Town by Larry Norton
The Alaunt
Bend Blogs
Lost Oregon
Cafe Unknown
Tin Zeroes
David's Oregon Picayune
Mark Nelsen's Weather Blog
Travel Oregon Blog
Portland Daily Photo
Portland Building Ads
Portland Food and
Dave Knows Portland
Idaho's Portugal
Alameda Old House History
MLK in Motion

Retired from Blogging
Various Observations...
The Daily E-Mail
Saving James
Portland Freelancer
Furious Nads (b!X)
Izzle Pfaff
The Grich
Kevin Allman
AboutItAll - Oregon
Lost in the Details
Worldwide Pablo
Tales from the Stump
Whitman Boys
Two Pennies
This Stony Planet
1221 SW 4th
I am a Fish
Here Today
What If...?
Superinky Fixations
The Rural Bus Route
Another Blogger
Mikeyman's Computer Treehouse
Portland Housing Blog

Wonderfully Wacky
Dave Barry
Borowitz Report
Stuff White People Like
Worst of the Web

Valuable Time-Wasters
My Gallery of Jacks
Litterbox, On the Prowl
Litterbox, Bag of Bones
Litterbox, Scratch
Ride That Donkey
Singin' Horses
Rally Monkey
Simon Swears
Strong Bad's E-mail

Oregon News
The Oregonian
Portland Tribune
Willamette Week
The Sentinel
Southeast Examiner
Northwest Examiner
Sellwood Bee
Mid-County Memo
Vancouver Voice
Eugene Register-Guard
OPB - Portland
Salem Statesman-Journal
Oregon Capitol News
Portland Business Journal
Daily Journal of Commerce
Oregon Business
Portland Info Net
McMinnville News Register
Lake Oswego Review
The Daily Astorian
Bend Bulletin
Corvallis Gazette-Times
Roseburg News-Review
Medford Mail-Tribune
Ashland Daily Tidings
Newport News-Times
Albany Democrat-Herald
The Eugene Weekly
Portland IndyMedia
The Columbian

The Beatles
Bruce Springsteen
Joni Mitchell
Ella Fitzgerald
Steve Earle
Joe Ely
Stevie Wonder
Lou Rawls

E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Nothing PERSonal

Lots of stuff crossing the main desk here at Blog Central today about Oregon's generous pension system for public employees throughout the state. A story in the Salem Statesman-Journal caught Gordy's eye down at RoguePundit yesterday. It's pretty eye-opening. Public employees retire at around age 59 on average, but quite a few at age 53, and many make more per month retired than they did when they were working.

Yes, there have been reforms in recent years -- bitterly opposed by the bureaucrats whose pensions they have cut -- but it's still a pretty darn cushy system. On behalf of all the state's taxpayers, let me just say to you PERSians out there, you're welcome.

Meanwhile, a recipient of this taxpayer largesse -- a participant in PERS -- writes:

When I called PERS to check on my account, I found out the latest wrinkle (to me) in the heads-public-employees-win, tails-taxpayers-lose system down there. (Not that a decent retirement shouldn't be a goal of all employees. . . .)

At the end of the year, when they credit your account for earnings, what account balance do they use for the entire year's earnings? The final balance. So if you earn 8 percent, that's 8 percent of the final (highest) balance of the year. If you start the year with $0 and end up with $5,000, you get the interest on the full $5,000. Never mind the average daily balance of $2,500.

Why can't they calculate interest like any checking account or credit card balance -- on the average annual or monthly balance?

It probably is a small amount per account, but small amounts add up when you're talking tens of thousands of accounts.

What do you think of that suggestion? It makes too much common sense ever to be adopted, I suspect.

Comments (9)

Just one of the myriad of devils in the details where PERS is concerned. Actually there be devils throughout.

PERS is probably the premier object lesson in why one should NEVER blindly trust governments to have anything like fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers.

Some old information here. The PERS system has been fixed so that the number of retirees receiving a high percentage of their final salaries as benefits is dropping quickly. In a few years we'll be back to a benefit of only 50% or so of final salary.

The 8% earnings rate applies to the final balance because there aren't any more contributions being made to the Tier 1 and 2 accounts. At all. New contributions are going to the new 401k-style individual accounts. So if I have $10,000 in my Tier 1 account on 12/31/05, that's the same amount I'll have a year later just before the earnings are credited.

Rather than take offense at about half of what is said, let me offer the comment to the PERS recipient about WHY PERS computes interest that way. Unfortunately, there are two related factors involved. The first has to do when employers bother to actually contribute money on behalf of the employees. The proposal to credit on the average daily balance would work if employers put money in on a regular and predictible basis. Because PERS' computer system is so completely antiquated (they're still running software written in 1986 using EasyTrieve. This software is poorly documented and EasyTrieve itself is, to the best of my knowledge, no longer licensed to new users), that there is no significant interface between public employers' payroll systems and PERS' system. So, even if employers were to contribute in a timely way, PERS is unable to credit these accounts in a timely way. Worse still, some employers contribute money quarterly, some weekly, some monthly regardless of how the employees are paid. Consequently, how would you compute an average daily balance for an employee who was entitled to monthly credits, who doesn't see them appear in his/her account for several months after the work is completed. It's not fair to the person who's done the work to be deprived of the benefit simply because the employer doesn't contribute on a predictible basis that bears any resemblance to the pay cycle. All of these problems relate to the second reason why PERS only credits once a year. PERS computer system is only now starting to be upgraded, despite year after year of requests from PERS' own IT people and from the Executive Director of PERS. Jim Voytko, former Executive Director of PERS from 2000 until late 2003 actually resigned from PERS over the Legislature and eBoard's repeated denials of PERS' requests for more IT support and upgraded hardware and software to process complex payments.

It is reasonable for people to grouse about the fact that PERS credits interest once per year on the ending account balance rather than as the money comes in. But this has nothing to do with members or retirees and has everything to do with a state that has been pennywise and pound foolish in helpful create a culture within PERS that can implement these kinds of cost -savings.

Finally, let me repeat for the record that the benefits PERS recipients receive is in exchange for work performed under contract (not necessarily actual union contracts), for which the employers received full value at the time the work was performed. I take no responsibility for my own benefits. I worked hard for them and am receiving, for now anyway, exactly what I was promised - no more nor any less. I didn't have any input into the type of retirement system I had nor did I have any input in any of the features of the system. The system is the product of years of legislative tinkering and a group of public employers who wanted to avoid paying competitive salaries in exchange for the deferred benefit of the retirement system we had.

What part of promise is hard to understand? I don't have problems with people criticizing the system for its many inefficiencies, but I do have problems with people expecting PERS members and retirees to cover shortfalls that they neither created nor had in input in maintaining. I suggest you read the lengthy history of PERS, which is available in a number of locations. I think you'd be hard-pressed to feel obliged to take this out on PERS members and retirees. We took the system we were given, not necessarily the one we wanted or would have designed ourselves.

And Jack, as a tax lawyer teaching at a well-known and respected law school, you should know better than I about the IRS regulations covering pensions and "accrued benefits".

Jack - before you smear all public employees realize that it was public employers (primarily cities and counties) that pushed for a lot of these reforms. Remember the City of Eugene case? That case was pushed by public employees who were essentially asking the courts to reduce their pensions. Why? Because it was the right thing to do. I know a lot of these people personally and they want to fix the system.

We ended up with a totally screwy system for a lot of reasons. But remember that there are a lot of public employees that share the same concerns about PERS as taxpayers because it affects their ability to do their jobs.

One more comment. Regarding 53 year olds who retire. The ONLY group of people who can retire before age 55 are police and fire (NOT Portland Police and Fire) members who can retire as early as age 50 because of the job hazards. NO ONE ELSE can retire before age 55 *except* if they have more than 30 years of service. Even if they do, the IRS imposes some special requirements on how they receive their benefits. The normal retirement age is 58 for Tier 1, 60 for Tier 2, and 65 for new hires since 8/29/03. Tier 1 members represent a declining percentage of the total membership of PERS (currently about 50% are Tier 1). Tier 2 will start to decline in a few years, but it has only been in existence since January 1996 and ended on 8/28/03. Within a few years as more and more Tier 1's retire, the system will become dominated by Tier 3 members who have NONE of the benefits afforded to Tier 1 or Tier 2 members.

The problem is self-limiting and the reforms of 2003 and the subsequent litigation and settlement agreement has accelerated both the pace of retirements and the rate at which benefits are declining. Watch these same numbers in about 3 years. Benefits are dropping like rocks from an airplane.

There's another [and obvious] reason why there so many 53-year-olds are retiring: That's pretty much exactly 30 years after the start of many teachers' careers, begun when they were freshly minted teachers out of college. Thirty years is a solid career, and PERS, like many pension systems, promises a full retirement to public servants who so serve and fulfill their end of the bargain [25 years for firefighters and police]. This "trend" isn't new.

Brian writes:

"That case was pushed by public employees who were essentially asking the courts to reduce their pensions. "

I think you may be reaching a bit here. While it is true that public employers are also public employees, it was the employers who were pushing for the reforms. To say that "public employees" were pushing for the reforms is somewhat disengenuous. The public employers were at least half-responsible for the mess in the first place. They kept asking to defer full cost of the system by agitating the PERS Board to come up with all sorts of clever accounting tricks like "smoothing". Eventually, between the market forces, the various avoidance techniques whose bill finally came due, and the Legislature's moronic solution to the "income tax" cases from 1988 (federal) and 1991 (state) which dumped the burden on the employers rather than the Department of Revenue, the problem became acute and called for solutions. Interestingly enough, if the employers and PERS hadn't both tried to play both sides of the street from the middle, some of these problems could have been solved years earlier. The actuarial table matter didn't require legislation or a court case. The unions proposed a perfectly sensible solution in 2000, but neither the legislature nor PERS were interested in this solution. They stubbornly held out until the situation got so bad that something had to be done.

Just once I'd like to see the employers accept some responsibility for creating this debacle. They didn't blink an eyelash forcing public employees to accept the PERS-pickup (the 6% that employers generally pay on behalf of employees) instead of a salary increase. The employers saved a boatload of money on that deal, but long after the employees accepted that in good faith, the employers wanted out of the deal they shoved down our throats. It didn't take a genius to figure out that the employers would eventually have to come up with the money they were "contributing" on our behalf. They tried as long as they could to avoid paying it and are still trying to avoid paying it.

The story just isn't as simple as Brian would like us to believe. The public employee as altruist story is just too precious for words.

Thirty years is a solid career

Really? In the private sector, retirement age is 62, 65 or 67. If you get out of college when you're, say, 22, that's 40, 43 or 45 years.

Jack Bog wrote:

"Really? In the private sector, retirement age is 62, 65 or 67. If you get out of college when you're, say, 22, that's 40, 43 or 45 years."

True, but it is pretty much the case that most people don't work for the same employer for 30 years. So anyone who works for the same employer for 30 years is entitled to retire. Most of us "retire" but continue to work in our fields of training, just not necessarily for our former employers, and most definitely not full-time. Besides, if you'd worked in the public sector for 30 years and had to put up with the sh*t many people dish out undeservedly to hard-working people, you'd need to retire. (I know, I know. There are plenty of counter-examples to this. I encounter them myself often enough. But a few counter-examples/bad-apples don't disprove the general rule that *most* are regular people trying to do the best job they can, often with antiquated tools).

Sorry but I just disagree with you here. I think anyone who works for ANY employer for 30 years deserves both a medal and the right to retire.


As a lawyer/blogger, I get
to be a member of:

In Vino Veritas

Lange, Pinot Gris 2015
Kiona, Lemberger 2014
Willamette Valley, Pinot Gris 2015
Aix, Rosé de Provence 2016
Marchigüe, Cabernet 2013
Inazío Irruzola, Getariako Txakolina Rosé 2015
Maso Canali, Pinot Grigio 2015
Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva 2011
Kirkland, Côtes de Provence Rosé 2016
Cantele, Salice Salentino Reserva 2013
Whispering Angel, Côtes de Provence Rosé 2013
Avissi, Prosecco
Cleto Charli, Lambrusco di Sorbara Secco, Vecchia Modena
Pique Poul, Rosé 2016
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Rosé 2016
Stoller, Pinot Noir Rosé 2016
Chehalem, Inox Chardonnay 2015
The Four Graces, Pinot Gris 2015
Gascón, Colosal Red 2013
Cardwell Hill, Pinot Gris 2015
L'Ecole No. 41, Merlot 2013
Della Terra, Anonymus
Willamette Valley, Dijon Clone Chardonnay 2013
Wraith, Cabernet, Eidolon Estate 2012
Januik, Red 2015
Tomassi, Valpolicella, Rafaél, 2014
Sharecropper's Pinot Noir 2013
Helix, Pomatia Red Blend 2013
La Espera, Cabernet 2011
Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva 2011
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2013
Locations, Spanish Red Wine
Locations, Argentinian Red Wine
La Antigua Clásico, Rioja 2011
Shatter, Grenache, Maury 2012
Argyle, Vintage Brut 2011
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #16 Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2014
Benton Hill, Pinot Gris 2015
Primarius, Pinot Gris 2015
Januik, Merlot 2013
Napa Cellars, Cabernet 2013
J. Bookwalter, Protagonist 2012
LAN, Rioja Edicion Limitada 2011
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Rutherford 2009
Denada Cellars, Cabernet, Maipo Valley 2014
Marchigüe, Cabernet, Colchagua Valley 2013
Oberon, Cabernet 2014
Hedges, Red Mountain 2012
Balboa, Rose of Grenache 2015
Ontañón, Rioja Reserva 2015
Three Horse Ranch, Pinot Gris 2014
Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
Nelms Road, Merlot 2013
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Pinot Gris 2014
Conn Creek, Cabernet, Napa 2012
Conn Creek, Cabernet, Napa 2013
Villa Maria, Sauvignon Blanc 2015
G3, Cabernet 2013
Chateau Smith, Cabernet, Washington State 2014
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #16
Willamette Valley, Rose of Pinot Noir, Whole Clusters 2015
Albero, Bobal Rose 2015
Ca' del Baio Barbaresco Valgrande 2012
Goodfellow, Reserve Pinot Gris, Clover 2014
Lugana, San Benedetto 2014
Wente, Cabernet, Charles Wetmore 2011
La Espera, Cabernet 2011
King Estate, Pinot Gris 2015
Adelsheim, Pinot Gris 2015
Trader Joe's, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley 2015
La Vite Lucente, Toscana Red 2013
St. Francis, Cabernet, Sonoma 2013
Kendall-Jackson, Pinot Noir, California 2013
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Napa Valley 2013
Erath, Pinot Noir, Estate Selection 2012
Abbot's Table, Columbia Valley 2014
Intrinsic, Cabernet 2014
Oyster Bay, Pinot Noir 2010
Occhipinti, SP68 Bianco 2014
Layer Cake, Shiraz 2013
Desert Wind, Ruah 2011
WillaKenzie, Pinot Gris 2014
Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2013
Des Amis, Rose 2014
Dunham, Trautina 2012
RoxyAnn, Claret 2012
Del Ri, Claret 2012
Stoppa, Emilia, Red 2004
Primarius, Pinot Noir 2013
Domaines Bunan, Bandol Rose 2015
Albero, Bobal Rose 2015
Deer Creek, Pinot Gris 2015
Beaulieu, Rutherford Cabernet 2013
Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
King Estate, Pinot Gris, Backbone 2014
Oberon, Napa Cabernet 2013
Apaltagua, Envero Carmenere Gran Reserva 2013
Chateau des Arnauds, Cuvee des Capucins 2012
Nine Hats, Red 2013
Benziger, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Roxy Ann, Claret 2012
Januik, Merlot 2012
Conundrum, White 2013
St. Francis, Sonoma Cabernet 2012

The Occasional Book

Marc Maron - Waiting for the Punch
Phil Stanford - Rose City Vice
Kenneth R. Feinberg - What is Life Worth?
Kent Haruf - Our Souls at Night
Peter Carey - True History of the Kelly Gang
Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games
Amy Stewart - Girl Waits With Gun
Philip Roth - The Plot Against America
Norm Macdonald - Based on a True Story
Christopher Buckley - Boomsday
Ryan Holiday - The Obstacle is the Way
Ruth Sepetys - Between Shades of Gray
Richard Adams - Watership Down
Claire Vaye Watkins - Gold Fame Citrus
Markus Zusak - I am the Messenger
Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See
James Joyce - Dubliners
Cheryl Strayed - Torch
William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Saul Bellow - Mister Sammler's Planet
Phil Stanford - White House Call Girl
John Kaplan & Jon R. Waltz - The Trial of Jack Ruby
Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 5
At this date last year: 3
Total run in 2017: 113
In 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

Clicky Web Analytics