The Rule of Ostrich on Pensions

I was skeptical when I started reading The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government by Philip K. Howard.  My experience (especially in Union County where laws about not raiding Open Space Trust Funds don’t seem to apply) has not been that there are too many or too precise laws but rather that these laws are being broken, generally by another government,  and there is no procedure to turn anybody in.

But after reading more than half the book, which mines New Jersey for examples of bad practice (a Franklin Township tree, the Bayonne Bridge mess, a Morristown soup kitchen) I am convinced Mr. Howard is right as regards the running of nursing homes and day care centers but when the object is not to fix a problem but to avoid actions so you can continue getting paid, as in the current situation with multiemployer pension plans that the New York Times profiled last Sunday, no action is possible because any action will damage, even to extinction, whoever takes it.

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Misbashing Christie

The current issue of the New Yorker magazine leads off with 12 pages of a searing attack on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie that portrays him as a back-stabbing opportunist unqualified for the positions he wheedled or bullied himself into though it does include a couple of obligatory sentences about the ‘good’ things he has done:

Before the bridge scandal, Christie was known as a governor who transcended New Jersey’s reputation for toxic politics and toxic dumps. He took on the exploding costs of the state’s pension system, reformed property taxes, and worked with his opponents in the legislature, and he provided decisive leadership after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

If all that were true then this might be more funny than disturbing:

It’s not on all counts.*
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What Dean Baker Got Right and Government Flunkies Get Wrong

Dean Baker on Fox Business makes two excellent points about the public pension crisis (not the one where he denies there is one) when he explains why retirees need to be protected and the dangers of hedge funds:
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New Jersey Politicians Amusing Dean Baker

In a wide-ranging and often insightful interview on Fox Business economist Dean Baker argues the theme that there is no pension crises though when the topic of New Jersey is broached:

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Why It Really Would Be “Great” If the Star-Ledger Died

Newspapers at least have picked up on the flap over Rutgers Athletic Director Julie Hermann looking forward to the demise of New Jersey’s largest newspaper:

Hermann, who came to the school in May in the wake of the Mike Rice scandal, recently spoke of her disdain for the paper in a classroom full of journalism students.

“If they’re not writing headlines that are getting our attention, they’re not selling ads — and they die,” said Hermann, according to a student in the Media Ethics and Law class who posted her comments on “And the Ledger almost died in June, right?

When a student told her “they might die again next month,” Hermann responded “That would be great. I’m going to do all I can not to give them a headline to keep them alive.”

In response Steve Politi of the Star-Ledger, who once wished Hermann fired, came back with:

“Forget, for a minute, what you think about the newspaper. It doesn’t matter if you think its Rutgers’ coverage stinks, or its news coverage is biased, or if its columnists are too smug for their own good.  What matters is this: The Star-Ledger employs a lot of people. And if the Rutgers athletic director thinks it would be great if it closed down, then she relishes the idea of seeing those people lose their livelihood, their benefits and maybe more.”

Yes she does and so do I.

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The newspaper era: Professional journalists or just hypocritical boobs? (Bury)

The column itself  “The internet era: Citizen journalists or just boobs? (Mulshine)”  was not as abusive of us as the title suggests and might have been a knee-jerk reaction to the continuing death thoes of the newspaper for which Paul Mulshine works but that does not excuse the blatant idiocy of the premise:

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Getting Over Newspapers

In 2007 the circulation of the Newark Star-Ledger was reported to be 599,628 ranking it 16th among newspapers in the United States.    Two years later the rank remained 16th but circulation was down to 407,129.  In 2012 it was 311,904 weekday (including 127,430 digital editions they now tell us).  The latest data has daily circulation at 285,249 of which 167,600 is print, a figure that found its way into a story in today’s paper that announced the Star Ledger was laying off over 300 people.

In a state with a population of 9 million those 167,600 holdouts, after eliminating coupon-clippers, followers of local sports, and those who are obliged to subscribe (libraries, government offices, old people) include very few who depend primarily on the Ledger for their news and that’s a good thing as these excepts from Alain de Botton’s The News: A User’s Manual points up:

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