Entries by Edward Ring

How Big is California’s “Wall of Debt”?

When California Governor Jerry Brown unveiled his latest state budget, he explained that as the budget begins to generate surpluses, the state will finally begin to dismantle the “Wall of Debt” that has been accumulating. Whether or not Gov. Brown’s budget will generate surpluses, this year or any time soon, is an open question. But […]

The Persistent Pension Fund Doublethink Behind the 7.0% Per Year Projection

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” ― George Orwell, 1984 The two largest public employee pension funds in California, CalPERS and CalSTRS, logged annual returns for their fiscal years ending June 30th, 2012, of 0.14% and 1.8%, respectively. These pension funds employ an […]

Municipal Credit Ratings May Crumble Under New Rules

Everyone remembers how thousands of bankers and millions of homeowners were caught by surprise when the real estate bubble collapsed in late 2008. One of the major reasons this prodigious bubble was allowed to inflate in the first place was because credit rating agencies did not properly evaluate the financial risks inherent in collateralized mortgage […]

The California Budget Crisis – Causes and Recommendations

December 31, 2012 Download Printable Version By William D. Fletcher INTRODUCTION California needs the equivalent of a readable annual report that lets everyone who is interested see how well the state is doing and where it’s headed. Hopefully, this report is a step in that direction. The closest overview available is the State Controller’s Office […]

Saving Defined Benefits Requires Lower Pensions for Existing Workers and Retirees

Among pension reformers there is a spirited ongoing debate regarding what might constitute a financially sustainable yet equitable solution. On one side there is a call to do away with defined benefits entirely, replacing them with defined contribution plans. The argument is compelling; with defined contribution plans, when the participant retires, they survive on the […]

“Work in Progress” Government Employee Pay Tracker Still Grossly Inaccurate

Since reporting on the State Controller’s government employee pay tracker last month (ref. California State Controller’s Employee Pay Tracker Grossly Understates Actual Compensation), the State Controller’s Office has responded to one of our concerns, writing: “…it is possible in certain situations to have the data from the Controller’s GCC database sorted by city or county.  […]

California State Controller’s Employee Pay Tracker Grossly Understates Actual Compensation

California state controller John Chiang has unveiled a website that tracks public employee pay. Unfortunately, the website provides grossly misleading information. The data compiled and summarized on this website report average wages that are literally one half to one-third the amount of total compensation actually earned by California’s state and local public servants. The impact […]

Anaheim, California – City Employee Compensation Analysis

August 29, 2012 Earlier this year the California Policy Center obtained from the city of Anaheim a comprehensive record of all payroll-related disbursements for 2011. This information was provided in the form of a spreadsheet that provided compensation details for every full and part-time employee of the city of Anaheim during 2011. We performed subsequent […]

Why Lower Rates of Return Will Destroy Pension Funds

May 18, 2012 As reported today in Capitol Weekly, in a post entitled “CalPERS ignores Brown, delays pension payment” by Ed Mendel, the amount taxpayers will have to fork over to CalPERS next year will rise by $213 million, to a total of $3.7 billion. Governor Brown, quite rightly, believes the full amount of the […]

A Pension Analysis Tool for Everyone

April 2, 2012 A concern often voiced by pension reform activists and politicians interested in better understanding pension finance is that they have to depend solely on the information delivered by actuaries. This information, in turn, is typically delivered in a report so voluminous and so technical that the activists and politicians have to hire […]

Public Sector Unions Spend $4.0 Billion per Year in U.S.

March 23, 2012 In an earlier post, “Public Sector Unions & Political Spending,” we tried to estimate political spending by public sector unions in California. The top-down analysis used was straight-forward and conservative: assume 1.0 million unionized public sector workers, times average dues of $750 per year, times one-third (the proportion of dues used for […]

Self-Employed Workers vs. Government Workers – A Financial Comparison

February 24, 2012 When discussing what level of compensation is appropriate and affordable for government workers, it is helpful to make apples-to-apples comparisons between public and private sector workers. In this analysis, the ultimate private sector taxpayer, the self-employed worker, is compared to the typical state or local government employee in California. In both cases, […]

The Ideology of Public Sector Unions vs. Private Sector Unions

It would be a simplification – not entirely inaccurate – to characterize the labor movement leadership in the United States of having a leftist, if not socialist ideology. But such a generalization ignores the wide schism that exists between the elites who run America’s labor movement and their members. Equally important, such a generalization ignores […]

How Much Could California's Government Pensions Cost Taxpayers?

January 27, 2012 This week both of California’s largest government employee pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS, released their portfolio earnings numbers for the most recent twelve months. In a statement released on January 24th, “CalSTRS Calendar Year-End Investment Returns Show Slight Gains,” CalSTRS disclosed “Investment returns for the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) ended […]

Calculating Public Employee Total Compensation

A study released late last year, sponsored by U.C. Berkeley’s “Institute for Research on Labor and Employment” entitled “The Truth about Public Employees in California: They are Neither Overpaid nor Overcompensated,” contains its conclusion in its title, but whether or not this study is presenting the “truth” or not is worthy of further discussion. According […]

Which Special Interests Are Partisan?

December 15, 2011 An analysis we published earlier this year, “Is Union Reform Partisan,” documented the fact that about 95% of political contributions by unions go to the Democratic party. But is corporate political spending is less partisan than union political spending? Equally important, to what extent does corporate political spending outweigh political spending by […]

California's Public Safety Compensation Trends, 2000-2010

Today’s Wall Street Journal published an article by Phil Izzo entitled “Bleak News for Americans’ Income,” where, citing U.S. Census Data, it was reported that U.S. median household income – adjusted for inflation – fell by 7% over the past ten years. In constant 2010 dollars, the average household in the U.S. saw their income […]