Dumb, Lazy Pensioners

Detroit Emergency Manager called these people “dumb, lazy, happy, and rich” in a WSJ article earlier this month:
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Today it was reported that he apologized*. He shouldn’t have. Though those people don’t look particularly happy or rich (subjective judgments in any case) there is no doubt that they, like the vast majority of public pensioners, are dumb and lazy when it comes to assuming pension promises will be kept.

What Kevyn Orr said exactly in that August 2, 2013 WSJ piece was:

“For a long time, the city was dumb, lazy, happy and rich. Detroit has been the center of more change in the 20th century than I dare say virtually any other city, but that wealth allowed us to have a covenant [that held] if you had an eighth-grade education, you’ll get 30 years of a good job and a pension and great health care, but you don’t have to worry about what’s going to come.”

True in Detroit.  True in Chicago.  True in New Jersey.

Promises of massive benefits to be paid (and paid for) at a later date  can not possibly be kept.  It’s obvious to anyone inclined to reality.

The fact that government employees and retirees refuse to recognize mathematical certainties can have several explanations.  Being too trusting of politicians.  Being too trusting of pension ‘experts’ who tell them their plans are 96.1% funded.  Not wanting to face an unpleasant reality.  Whatever their excuses, dumb and lazy are components.

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* In this case the apology turns into a real insult:

“I was not as sensitive as perhaps I should have been … to the fact that some people who do not read the Wall Street Journal would have interpreted that in a way that I was not making a figurative statement about complacency but a literal statement about the people,” he said, in the Detroit Free Press report. “That was not my intent. I would say very clearly to the people of Detroit: I apologize to the extent anyone was offended. Let’s get by this. I want to remove the emotion.”

Not only did it include the generic copout “to the extent anyone was offended” but then he  directs his apology to “some people who do not read the Wall Street Journal” who would be too dumb to understand what someone quoted in the Wall Street Journal would be saying.

16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tough Love on August 15, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    It REALLY is a shame that the pensions of these retires must be cut (excessive as they are vs those granted comparable Private Sector workers) …. but they must be cut anyway, because:

    (a) cutting services FURTHER is no longer an option,
    (b) the money doesn’t now, nor will it ever exist to pay these pensions in full, and
    (c) asking Taxpayers (who get SOOOO much LESS) to pay MORE so Public Sector retirees can KEEP these excessive pensions is ridiculous.

    Detroit is just the beginning ……… greed HAS consequences.

    Reply

  2. During a 2001 political interview with a NJEA committee, I plain out told them the above ‘underfunding’, but a math teacher replied ‘a promise is better than nothing’.

    Reply

    • Some promises are – depending on who is promising. How much is a pension promise from Prichard, AL; Central Falls, RI; or Detroit worth these days? Or for that matter how much is a promise from GRS that your plan is 96.1% funded?

      They were always close to worthless though, unfortunately, a lot of people woke up to that fact a little too late.

      Reply

      • Posted by Anonymous on August 15, 2013 at 2:10 pm

        I get under 1400 for my wife and I per month. I am below the poverty level due to chronic pain, I cannot even eat a meal sitting down because of it. I am not on disability. I dont want my pension cut but if they do, then wont I have to go on disability anyways? so what is the point of cutting pension in my case.?

        Reply

        • Posted by Tough Love on August 15, 2013 at 3:24 pm

          Doesn’t mean it’ shouldn’t be cut for all the OTHERS.

          I suggest you apply for Disability now ….it takes time to get approved.

          Reply

          • Posted by Anonymous on August 15, 2013 at 3:35 pm

            I dong feel right going on disability when I am getting a pension. I will wait.

    • Posted by Tough Love on August 15, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      A Federal Gov’t (general obligation) promise is still good (and for the foreseeable future) as they have the printing presses and so far, our Bonds are still selling (yea yea, I know, mainly to the Fed., but the big holders AREN’T selling).

      Any gov’t promise lower than the Federal Gov’t is worth squat … in terms of REAL guarantees. That’s because it’s a MATH problem, not just a political problem, and THEY don’t have access to that printing press.

      Reply

  3. Posted by bpaterson on August 15, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    regarding this situation coming out of Detroit: So far reading all the entries on JB1s blog and the media coverage on detroits pension woes, do any of us actually know if the Detroit pensioners are getting a fantastic pension in relative terms. In other words, maybe after 30 some years dept directors were making only 75k, managers 60k, those in the trench luckily if they topped out over 50k. Do we know any numbers of their final salaries. Can they be easily extrapolated from JB1’s posting of various numbers in various forms. Maybe Detroit pensioners should not be truly vilified and that they are really just getting small to average livable and reasonable pensions.

    I bring this up as a comp with NJ’s salaries and the pension largesse that our states bad political system created.

    Reply

    • Good thought, scattered throughout so not just convenient figures.

      Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on August 15, 2013 at 6:51 pm

      Well I’m going to be the bad guy here …

      From what I’ve read, the dollar amount of the typical Detroit pensions aren’t huge (certainly nothing like we read coming out of California), but full career workers are still promised a COLA-increased pension approaching 75% of pay, or 2.5% per year of service for a 30 year career.

      SO …. UNLESS they are earning LESS than their Private Sector counterparts in “cash pay” (to thereby justify a greater pension), there is no justifiable reason for a greater Public Sector pensions …EVEN if not large in dollar terms.

      Keep in mind that THE MOST GENEROUS Private Sector pensions (likely at the 90-th percentile for large Corporations) might be 2%@60 with no COLAs, which is just about equivalent to 1.5%@60 with COLA increases (John can verify this).

      So what comparison do we have …… typical full 30-year career Public Sector Detroit pension (on an apples-to-apples basis) of 2.5%@60 vs 1.5%@60 for the best Corporate pensions ….. that’s 2/3 GREATER than the private sector pension.

      So yes, under the correct way to compare Public vs Private Sector pension generosity, (UNLESS they are making less in cash pay) their pensions may not be large, but they ARE excessive.

      Sorry, but Taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for that excess.

      Reply

      • Posted by Tough Love on August 15, 2013 at 7:05 pm

        By the way, in my above comment, I’m not implying it’s the worker’s “fault”. The “fault” for the mess Detroit is in primarily belongs to the corrupt and self-interested politicians (with a share belonging to the Unions for being so darn greedy).

        But since (a) the money isn’t now,and will never be there to pay the promised benefits, (b) the workers can’t get it from the real guilty party (the politicians), and (c) since the workers pensions likely ARE excessive under reasonable measure, that’s both the PROPER and ONLY place to go to bring pension benefits in line with available funds.

        Reply

  4. Posted by Eric on August 15, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    John:
    Kevyn Orr did not insult the Detroit pensioners. He said that for a long time the city was dumb. He never said that the pensioners were dumb. Dumb people do not become smart or not dumb. Dumb is forever. For a long time implies no longer is the city dumb. People, as I said, stay dumb.
    Eric

    Reply

  5. Posted by MJ on August 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Sounds to me that Orr was referring to the overall financial practices of the city for a long time that got Detroit to where it is and that no one had the will or the insight to see where these dumb practices would end up, hence the lazy part. He was not referring to the pensioners as a group but using the Wall Street Journal comment as a reference to the fact that people have been writing about and warning about the pensions and impending bankruptcies for quite some time. Why should Orr apologize for telling the truth. Ooops forgot, this is the la la land fantasy of public workers. Quite frankly, any public who believed that the gravy would go on forever, IMHO is dumb! Dumb is dumb!

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on August 19, 2013 at 3:34 pm

      Yes, the la la land of Public Sector Unions/Workers and their insatiable greed …

      The one example I find most informative of that mentality is the current attempt of the Contra County, CA Public Sector Union/Worker attempt to OVERTURN a recent law preventing unjust end-of-career pay, and hence pension, “spiking”.

      Their justification …… everyone who retired before them got away with it, so it’s only “fair” (my emphasis) they we future retires can do it too.

      Unbelievable. Public Sector Unions are a CANCER on Society.

      Reply

  6. Posted by MJ on August 19, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    They are a cancer indeed and like all cancers will be challenging to treat. May be fine for awhile but the cancer can always come back. Best to try to eradicate it all together as aggressively as possible. I find it interesting that on any given day there are loads of articles all telling the same story just insert a different town, municipality, etc. Is anyone making that connection? I think what we are seeing in the pinprick of the iceberg. Lots more to come.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on August 19, 2013 at 6:53 pm

      Yes, and without doubt (en mass) if the Federal Bankruptcy Court approves material reductions in the pensions of Detroit’s retirees and the vested-accrued pensions of those still working.

      Pray for that result. The decades-long financial mugging of Private Sector Taxpayers must end ……. and be reversed …. by MATERIAL REDUCTIONS in the promised Public Sector pensions EVERYWHERE.

      Reply

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