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.

About

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 3, 2011 8:41 AM. The previous post in this blog was Final tally for Kroger 2010 press releases: 142. The next post in this blog is Hey, U.S. Senate, grow up!. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Archives

Links

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

Hap'nin' Guys
Tony Pierce
Parkway Rest Stop
Utterly Boring.com
Along the Gradyent
Dwight Jaynes
Bob Borden
Dingleberry Gazette
The Red Electric
Iced Borscht
Jeremy Blachman
Dean's Rhetorical Flourish
Straight White Guy
HinesSight
Onfocus
Jalpuna
Beerdrinker.org
As Time Goes By
Dave Wagner
Jeff Selis
Alas, a Blog
Scott Hendison
Sansego
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
Mireio
And Sew It Goes
Mile 73
Rainy Day Thoughts
That Black Girl
Posie Gets Cozy
{AE}
Cat Eyes
Rhi in Pink
Althouse
GirlHacker
Ragwaters, Bitters, and Blue Ruin
Frytopia
Rose City Journal
Type Like the Wind

Portland and Oregon
Isaac Laquedem
StumptownBlogger
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 Drink.com
Dave Knows Portland
Idaho's Portugal
Alameda Old House History
MLK in Motion
LoveSalem

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
Misterblue
Two Pennies
This Stony Planet
1221 SW 4th
Twisty
I am a Fish
Here Today
What If...?
Superinky Fixations
Pinktalk
Mellow-Drama
The Rural Bus Route
Another Blogger
Mikeyman's Computer Treehouse
Rosenblog
Portland Housing Blog

Wonderfully Wacky
Dave Barry
Borowitz Report
Blort
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
Maukie
Ride That Donkey
Singin' Horses
Rally Monkey
Simon Swears
Strong Bad's E-mail

Oregon News
KGW-TV
The Oregonian
Portland Tribune
KOIN
Willamette Week
KATU
The Sentinel
Southeast Examiner
Northwest Examiner
Sellwood Bee
Mid-County Memo
Vancouver Voice
Eugene Register-Guard
OPB
Topix.net - Portland
Salem Statesman-Journal
Oregon Capitol News
Portland Business Journal
Daily Journal of Commerce
Oregon Business
KPTV
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

Music-Related
The Beatles
Bruce Springsteen
Seal
Sting
Joni Mitchell
Ella Fitzgerald
Steve Earle
Joe Ely
Stevie Wonder
Lou Rawls

E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Monday, January 3, 2011

The year the worm turns

From the many links readers are sending us from media outlets and blogs around the country, it appears that 2011 will be the year in which the nation public employee pension problem will explode into flames. One town in the South just decided to stop paying its retirees' pension benefits. Several others are going into bankruptcy to get rid of them. And across the land, public employee unions are being painted as the villains as cash-strapped states and localities shut down public services and lay off current cops so they can pay retired ones.

None of this is new to Portlanders, particularly those who frequent this blog. We started studying the City of Portland's frightening debt situation in 2007, and the city's unfunded obligations to retirees immediately popped up as nearly half of what is now a staggering $6.4 billion of long-term debt that the city's got nothing set aside to pay off.

It's sad that states and municipalities throughout America are going broke. But it's even sadder that the politicians in our neck of the woods, who have made highly questionable financial decisions, will be able to use the national problem as their excuse. Just as they now couch all their apologies for the city's trashed economy on the "historic global recession," they'll soon shrug off Portland's money woes with "it's like this all over."

It didn't have to be this way. But year after year, they have continued to go deeply into hock to build junk. SoWhat fiasco, east side streetcar, painting bike silhouettes on the streets, yet another Civic Stadium re-do, and now a re-do of the SoWhat streetcar, and a new mystery train to Milwaukie. Meanwhile, they continue to hire unqualified minion after unqualified minion to "plan," and "facilitate," and "Tweet," and eat pizza, all the while racking up the benefits and pensions.

When the backlash being felt in other parts of the country reaches Portland, it's going to be interesting to watch. Interesting, but sad.

Comments (14)

It should be noted that it is illegal under Oregon law, ORS 59.135 (a Class B felony) to commit fraud in connection with the sale of any securities or municipal bonds. That includes the making of any false statements, or the omission of any material facts.

And my favorite quote on this subject comes from Oregon's Division of Finance and Corporate Securities, which has a publication titled, "Oregon Securities Law: A Guide For Law Enforcement."

On page 17, under the heading, "The Bottom Line," the guide states, "If your initial investigation doesn't meet the 'smell test,' it's worth a hard look."

So, how is it that law enforcement investigators see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, and smell no evil when it comes to the actions of public officials in connection with the sale of municipal bonds?

I listened to economists debating this pending disaster a few months ago. One promient guy predicted that widespread violence could occur as public pensions dry up. A small town with a few hundred left out in the cold is one thing. He suggested that as numbers grow so could widespread civil unrest.

I have to agree. Pensioners are not sworn to protect, nor do they exist any longer to serve the public. I doubt they will simply step aside, look for other work, or hope for a bailout. Not as interesting or sad as it is downright scary.

Well, we'll just have to wait and see how muni bond sales go. Right now, we are the kinda nervous stage, but people are still buying T-bills like crazy.

Be nice if the local pols came to their senses and set some aside for schools and bridges (and mental health care) so we'd have educated and well-adjusted people riding all of those TriMet trains.

It's just a hope, of course, that they'll look beyond their own immediate self-interest and really address problems.

With regards to the hiring of "unqualified minions" as trough-feeding consultants for the city, here is an interesting letter to the editor from yesterday's NYT magazine, from the president of a local firm. The bit about "separating stakeholders from the design process" is right up Sam "Mayor Creepy" Adams's alley, and stands as a surprisingly honest assessment of the current status quo in our graft-ridden city. At any rate, worth a read:

"Regarding David Segal’s article about the ‘‘new breed of consultants’’ helping corporations come up with fresh ideas, governments also need help. We need such consultants in the public sector to help our governments transform to meet the budgetary and service challenges of the 21st century. In business, there is one bottom line to innovate to: profit. In government, there are many interests and dynamics that can undercut innovation. We need to develop specific techniques that address the unique situation of government. In my work to help governments innovate, I have found that separating stakeholders’ input from the design process is very useful. We need more ideas, more support and more commitment to innovation in government. I hope next year we see these ideas highlighted.
Beverly Stein
President, the Public Strategies Group
Portland, Ore."

I've been subscribed to The Pension Tsunami.com for the past few years, and it's been an eye-opener. It's mostly California-centric, but Oregon and other places crop up in there as well.

I'd like to see the only acceptable definition of "stakeholder" become "taxpayer."

One promient guy predicted that widespread violence could occur as public pensions dry up.

I doubt it would come to violence, although it would be kind of funny to see grandparents rioting. I'm sure they'd take care to wear sweaters and comfortable shoes.

In all seriousness, though, I can see generational "warfare" at the ballot box. Old people vote more reliably than young people, so look for more legislation, regulation, and government spending favoring the needs of retirees and senior citizens. The AARP already has something like 40 million members, and retiree and senior citizens groups will gain more influence at all levels of government, particularly as Boomers retire over the next couple of decades.

It will pit young voters and families who want schools and parks against old people who want lower taxes and pensions protected and/or bailed out. It could tear apart unions as their older members with the most seniority fight to protect pensions and health care for themselves at the expense of younger members who will be laid off and face benefits cuts when revenues shrink. (Anyone here who thinks all Oregon public employees are pampered PERS 8-percenters really needs to talk to some public employees under the age of 40).

Unfortunately, there won't be enough workers in the workforce to support all the retirees, so catering to them will mean continued disinvestment in public services and infrastructure and more borrowing from China. I certainly don't want to begrudge my Boomer parents a comfortable retirement free from worry about their finances and health care needs, as they've earned it. But as someone with children approaching school age as well as the likelihood of getting back none of the Social Security money I've been paying into the system for the last 20 years, politically speaking my priorities and theirs will almost certainly diverge in the years ahead.

There's almost like a death spiral to this town. The more government bennies handed out to penniless young folks and others down and out, the more of these folks drawn into this town. These folks have no material property or income to tax so they vote in increasing numbers for more spending and debt financing. If it weren't for federal and state subsidies, I don't think this spiral could continue, at least not anywhere close to the current rate.

As TalkingPointsMemo points out today, the one state that everyone conveniently overlooks is Texas, which is facing a $25B shortfall, despite the fact that it is a no-union state, and very conservative. But because it doesn't fit into the ZOMG-teh-unionz are-bad!1!1!!! conservative narrative, it gets left out of the picture. Interesting.

For more than a decade I've listened to some very thoughtful people predict that Oregon's public pensions were unsustainable.

It took me a while to join the chorus because (like every other "the end is near" prediction involving government debt) I secretly wondered if the threat was being overblown.

I don't any longer. In 2008 when GWB had to bailout the banks to avoid worldwide financial collapse, I knew we'd been right all along to sound the alarm bells about every kind of government debt.

I just hope there is enough time to reach some accord before things turn ugly.

Here's one thing I know: when they start talking about "haircuts" for Tier 1 PERS recipients, the biggest PERS' buzzcuts need to go to the (ex-)legislators who are responsible for this mess.

Here, here, to that!

That's really the problem, isn't it? Politicians and legislators doing stupid and foolish but not illegal things, walking away scot-free later, and the citizen having to pay the bill for their mistakes, like a parent having to bail out foolish children, except this time the folks are broke and can't offer much help.


Beverly Stien
"In government, there are many interests and dynamics that can undercut innovation. We need to develop specific techniques that address the unique situation of government."

The biggest problem is saturation of inept people in public office.
You can't "technique" around obstackles like Sam Adams, Rex Burkholder and Lynn Peterson.
They must be removed.
I Oregon we have hundreds of the everywhere casuing programs of mass dysfunction.

Dave J.
"one state that everyone conveniently overlooks is Texas, which is facing a $25B shortfall"

NY has a $300 billion unfunded fringe benefits liability.

The Bev Stein's quote helps fortify her Urban Studies degree from Berkeley, her 3 terms in the Oregon Legislature and her time as Multnomah Co. Commissioner. She knew about the pension debt problems for years, but all she could give is a quote like this.

Well, Stein being a recipient of all these various pensions, why would she ever question them? That's the problem.

Eric, I don't disagree with you in the slightest, but there's a bit more to the situation in Texas than people think. We've never had a state income tax due to the money coming in from oil and gas leases: everyone in state government knows that the oil and gas is running out, but they're hoping that the responsibility of finding alternate income sources falls on their kids and grandkids. (We also have three separate amendments to the Texas State Constitution preventing a state income tax. Even mentioning the possibility of a state tax is a good way to lose political office: a lot of noise was made about George W. Bush's dirty tricks during the 1994 gubernatorial election, but the real reason why Ann Richards lost the governor's office was because she dared ask how we were going to pay the tax shortfall.)

Sadly, I don't see anything getting any better out here, either. Rick Perry, our current unbearable cross, is gleefully giving even more tax abatements to "encourage new business," mostly to companies owned by big campaign contributors. At the same time, he keeps talking about the same mythological "billion-dollar surplus" that his predecessor Bill Clements pushed back in the Eighties. We can't have a state income tax, current gas leases through North Texas are undercharged to encourage drilling and "fracking", and essential infrastructure upgrades and repairs held off for thirty years are becoming essential. We're gonna blow up, too, but it's just going to be a different sort of boom.


Sponsors


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

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: 104
At this date last year: 151
Total run 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