R.I.P. Star Ledger (1939 – 9/8/2014)

They may still use the name but as of September 8, 2014 NJ Advance Media, according to their website, will launch content operations (with 6 people including the current editor-in-chief of the Star Ledger) on September 8, 2014.  Sales and Marketing, with 14 people, is presumably already launched.  According to the linkedin page of its president Matt Kraner:

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Who To Believe

Panels of experts or letter writers and anonymous commenters?

On August 7, 2014 Paul Mulshine of the Star Ledger wrote a confusing piece on the New Jersey pension mess that overstated the roles of the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) to which I commented and got a response.

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Doublie-Dipping Deception

David Jones is a retiree under the State Police Retirement System (SPRS) getting $90,650 annually.  He is also running for Mercer County sheriff and Bil Schluter, who appears to be his campaign director, editorializes today that David Jones…

“has taken a stand of courage and self-sacrifice by opposing the double-dipping practice of collecting a state pension while also receiving a salary for service in another public office: He has said he will forego* his pension if elected sheriff.

Though Mr. Schulter later admits:

“Some might say that the pension savings of one sheriff and several undersheriffs are small when compared to all the pension extravagances taking place in New Jersey. But isn’t it because of the multiplicity of pension excesses that the unfunded liability of state pensions has grown to the point where sustainability of the system is in jeopardy?”

No! Not at all!  It is a combination of a lack of independent oversight allowing everyone to supposedly get whatever they want and a general innumeracy (sometimes legitimate and sometimes feigned for convenience) among stakeholders that has doomed the New Jersey state pension system.  Double-dipping is not the problem and in many cases is a cost container.

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You Disgust Me!

There have been more memorable rope line encounters with politicians but what happened at Governor Christie’s town hall meeting last Thursday in Ocean City should have at least gotten a higher footing in the media blabosphere above an insert on an NJTV story:

No word on whether this fellow was a disgusted Atlantic City employee or a public sector retiree or maybe even a good-government advocate but Chrisite admitted there were other incidents that day that didn’t even make NJTV:

Again, no explanation (or consideration) of why these people were disgusted.  Just a dismissal of them as malcontents that the governor is stoically tolerating.  I don’t know what the real concerns of these people are (and that’s not the story being told by those media folk) but the comments that Chrisite made at that Ocean City town hall meeting were disgusting and for these reasons:

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SEC Cracking Down on Municipal Bond Issuers/Liars?

For years now the only pieces of fiction I have been reading are either by Christopher Buckley or the auditors for Union County.  Whether it’s fudging OPEB disclosures or failing to mention raiding the Open Space Trust Fund (a $10 million annual tax that sunsets in 2020) to pay operating expenses this deceptive reporting (I mean by the auditors not Buckley) have kept investors, who heretofore have accepted as gospel that municipalities would somehow always pay back their bonds, in the dark and eventually out of luck and money.

Then came Detroit with their deceptive pension numbers and the SEC started worrying.

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Christie’s Incongruity

One of the problems with lying is that you pretty much have to stick to that lie even when it would be more convenient in another circumstance had you not lied.

So it is with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie claiming that he is making the “pension payment that takes care of all of the current employees”.

That pension payment comes to $681 million this year based on the July 1, 2013 valuation of the plans but if you look at the profile of those current employees that Christie claims to be covering:

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Why a Pension Study Commission?

Mark J. Magyar at NJSpotlight reports today:

Christie has been promising a plan to cut the state’s growing $90 billion unfunded liability for future pension and retiree health benefit costs for months, going all the way back to his February 25 budget address.


Christie promised to unveil that plan by the end of this month and, indeed, Republicans who met with Christie administration officials told NJ Spotlight that the plan was almost finished and would be unveiled either in late August or early September.

“Obviously, whatever plan Treasury came up with didn’t meet the governor’s political needs,” said one Republican who asked not to be identified. “That’s when he decided to go to a commission.

“This issue is more difficult and complex than I expected it would be,” Christie said in Parsippany on August 2 after signing the executive order creating the commission. “I came to the conclusion that I wanted outside help to come and give me some advice before I made a proposal. It’s no more complicated than that.”

Actually it’s a whole lot less complicated than even that.

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