Thursday, April 8, 2010

"Government of its employees, by its employees and for its employees"

California strangled by it's government, cont: From an op-ed in the L.A. Times:

"The state of California's real unfunded pension debt clocks in at more than $500 billion, nearly eight times greater than officially reported.

That's the finding from a study released Monday by Stanford University's public policy program, confirming a recent report with similar, stunning findings from Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.

To put that number in perspective, it's almost seven times greater than all the outstanding voter-approved state general obligation bonds in California.....

How did we get here? The answer is simple: For decades -- and without voter consent -- state leaders have been issuing billions of dollars of debt in the form of unfunded pension and healthcare promises, then gaming accounting rules in order to understate the size of those promises.

As we saw during the recent financial crisis, hiding debt is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, General Motors did something similar to obscure the true cost of its retirement promises. Through aggressive accounting, for a while it, too, got away with making pension contributions that were a fraction of what it really needed to make, thereby reporting better earnings than was truly the case.

But eventually the pension promises come due, and for GM, that meant having to add extra costs to its cars, making its prices less attractive to consumers and contributing to its eventual bankruptcy.

In California's case, past pension underfunding means reduced funding of current programs. This explains why pension costs rose 2,000% from 1999 to 2009, while state funding for higher education declined over the same period. "

The Stanford University study being cited is here.

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