Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide

An aging pundit with Parkinson’s disease reflects on life, politics, journalism, and public pensions.

Excerpts follow:

“A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth,” he wrote, a line now known as [Michael] Kinsley’s Law. (page 6)

Totally by coincidence, the speakers’ bureau got me a gig moderating a “town hall” session at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology…..My role, besides introducing the speakers and posing questions, was to roam the audience with a wireless microphone trying to stir up trouble on some neurological issue (mainly, it seemed, Medicare reimbursements). (pages 26- 27)

And it was the Greats (the Greatest Generation), not the boomers, who got us addicted to debt. The GGs’ willfully blind sense of entitlement turned the government – and many private companies, too – into machines for taking money from working people and giving it to “seniors” (in amounts far in excess of what they had contributed). (page 136)

Debt is everywhere you look. Here’s a short inside piece in the New York Times Magazine about state and local unfunded pension obligations for retired employees. They add up to between $1 trillion and $3 trillion. Until that article, I had given no thought whatsoever to shortfalls in state employee pension funds. You? Now we can only say, “Add it to the pile.” (page 147)

15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anonymous on August 8, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    Yeah and what about the freaking Fed pensions (including military) what’s the economic cost to taxpayers including the cost of printing money?


    • Posted by S Moderation Douglas on August 8, 2016 at 9:37 pm

      Who do you believe? This is the first I’ve heard of this, and it’s old news, so maybe it’s changed. If I understand this, military pensions are paid directly by Department of Defense… but not exactly “pay as you go”. It …was… pay as you go, before before 1984.

      “To promote better management, in 1984, Congress directed a switch to an accrual method of funding retirement. Under this procedure, each year the services transfer into a fund the amount necessary to pay for future retirements. The amount transferred is a percentage of the service’s basic pay. Thus, if a service implements policies that affect the future value of retirement benefits, it sees the budgetary consequences of that decision immediately in the form of an increase in the amount transferred to the retirement fund.”


      In 2012, DoD paid 34 cents for each dollar of basic pay for active personnel and 24 cents for each dollar of basic pay for reserve personnel.

      Transfers into the fund and its investment transactions qualify as intragovernmental transfers (even though they represent an outlay to DoD) and thus have no effect on the deficit. Only payments to retirees from the fund represent outlays to the federal government. 


      • Posted by Anonymous on August 8, 2016 at 10:09 pm

        Hmm sounds good in theory but really do you think the $ stay there? I mean look at how SSA $ have been ab(used) over the years!


        • Posted by S Moderation Douglas on August 8, 2016 at 10:25 pm

          Apparently not…

          Who do you believe? Part two.

          Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work. According to the Daily Caller: ” Federal Pension Gap Grows As Agencies Ignore 1984 Law”. ( 03/07/2016)

          They say the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund is only 48% funded, with a trillion dollar funding gap.

          Governing Magazine says ( OCTOBER 12, 2011) that all federal retirement programs combined, including civilian and military pensions and health care, have a $5.7 trillion liability.  

          LOL!!! You can’t make this stuff up.


          • Posted by Anonymous on August 8, 2016 at 11:14 pm

            That’s good to know, now I feel like things are as they should be. Not to worry Trump will fix it all with one h*ll of a good old American bankruptcy!


          • Posted by Anonymous on August 9, 2016 at 9:38 am

            I wonder how the ~$5.7T compares to all State & Local governments?


          • Posted by S Moderation Douglas on August 9, 2016 at 12:18 pm

            “They” say there is a trillion dollar unfunded liability for state and local workers. Josh Rauh says if you use risk free discount rate, it’s $3.28 trillion. For state workers alone.

            BLS says there are about 20 million state and local government workers and 3 million federal government workers (2014). And 1.46 million active military.

            It …looks like… a much larger liability per person for the federal/military than for the state/local.


            I wouldn’t put too much faith in any of those numbers. A trillion here, a trillion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money.


          • Posted by Anonymous on August 10, 2016 at 10:18 am

            Thanks SMD, interesting info however misstated the data might be. Another I wonder, how many of anti State & Local DBP bloggers are direct or indirect receipents of Fed and/or Military (full disclosure, I believe you’ve previously stated to be).

            How about a national reset, freeze all DBP at all levels of government and all government subsidies and grants, etc. We’re stuck with paying down “known” liabilities but going forward we’re not accumulation any more. Let’s see where the economy goes from there….


  2. Posted by steve on August 8, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    Well ladies and gentlemen—Every one knows a problem exists but no one knows how to fix it–now it is a ” personality problem “—–could greed be an acquired taste ,like scotch and cigars-( at first you gag but than you convince your self it tastes OK) ?


    • Posted by Anonymous on August 8, 2016 at 11:10 pm

      Well I think you hit the nail on the head and The Donald has the greediest taste buds of all! I know it’s different, he earned on the minimum wage backs of hard working Americans oh and illegals not to mention a few bankruptcies….


  3. Posted by S Moderation Douglas on August 9, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    It sounds like, according to Michael Kinsley, I should feel guilty. For Social Security, for Medicare, for state pension, for nineteen trillion dollar federal debt.

    And yet…

    My dad was a farmer. Never finished high school. And he said debt is what made America great. Imagine if everyone waited to by a car or house until they had saved enough to pay cash. There would be a lot fewer cars and houses… and jobs.

    “I am the king of debt. I do love debt. I love debt. I love playing with it,” Trump said.

    Want to see a picture of the US debt?…



    • Posted by dentss dunnigan on August 9, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      Without debt …everything would be about 50% cheaper to purchase …..think about it college would be like in the 60’s and 70’s ….2K ,3K a year ….


      • Posted by S Moderation Douglas on August 9, 2016 at 9:01 pm

        So, instead of having to save up thirty thousand cash before I could by mid priced car, I would only have to accumulate fifteen thousand. Not many cars will be sold at that rate.

        On a related note, my dad also had a proposal to reduce congestion on roads and highways. Pass a law forbidding registration or operation of any vehicle unless it is paid off.


  4. Posted by S Moderation Douglas on August 10, 2016 at 1:50 am

    • Posted by Anonymous on August 10, 2016 at 10:30 am

      Yeah he loves debt b/c he doesn’t have to pay it when filing bankruptcy. Mexico has a saying for gringos like Trump – esta loco! Build That Wall, maybe but with US tax $


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