Four Issues of Free Speech

I had blogs set to go on some news of the day – two of which are getting massive media coverage while the other two barely return a blip on bing searches – but decided to conflate the four since they are somewhat related on one issue and I have only brief comments on each.

New Jersey Pension Reform

The Wall Street Journal provided some token coverage of the pension crisis in New Jersey (full story at bottom) where the driving force behind reform admitted:

“We’re broke. Just throwing tax dollars at it isn’t going to fix it.”

Yes, New Jersey is broke but more importantly many of its citizens are broke. $150 billion in tax dollars will definitely fix the pension problem but that is not available and Sweeney is delusional if he believes this new set of otiose ‘reforms’ will accomplish anything. Why isn’t anyone telling him?

Multiemployer Hiatus

Both applications for Benefit Suspension and the multiemployer bailout committee have been quiet recently. It will be the midterm elections that determine if benefit cuts continue (Republicans win) or a bailout comes (Democrats win). When Studebaker went bust in 1964 the government worked to fix the system to assure that pensions would be protected and this would never happen again. It happened again and the government is now working to put in place a methodology to steal from its citizens (either retirees promised benefits or taxpayers who never committed to paying those benefits). Where is the outrage?

Nike/Kaepernick Ad

Here it is:

I am confused somewhat about the dream-crazy message (what about doing your best with what you have and seeing where you get – dreaming unrealistically yields 10 million kids working to dunk a basketball for no good reason) but even more so about how limiting free speech became an American value.

Trump Resistance

Odds are it’s Mike Pence but, even if it’s Javanka, why can’t this critical discussion be had without anonymity? Because, to answer my own question, the resisters would be fired and that is a sad reflection on what has befallen freedom of speech in the “land of the free”.


WSJ Pension story:

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney is once again pushing to cut pension costs, setting up another standoff with the state’s public-employee unions.

He must also sell his pension-overhaul plan to the public and Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat who campaigned on protecting the middle class.

Mr. Sweeney, the top Democrat in the state Senate, said in an interview there is no time to waste. Pension and health-care costs will eat up nearly a quarter of the state’s $45 billion budget by fiscal year 2023, fueling a $3 billion deficit, according to a recent report from a fiscal task force established by the state Legislature.

“We’re broke,” said Mr. Sweeney, who supported a 2011 pension overhaul under former Republican Gov. Chris Christie that infuriated public employees. “Just throwing tax dollars at it isn’t going to fix it.”

One of the task force’s proposals, which Mr. Sweeney is endorsing, would shift new state employees and those with less than five years of service to a hybrid pension and 401(k)-style plan. Another would move public employees to less-expensive health-care plans and require future retirees to pay more for health care.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Murphy said he would review Mr. Sweeney’s proposals. “The governor’s guiding principle is always whether a proposal strengthens New Jersey’s middle class and working families,” she said.

New Jersey has a pension liability of $115 billion and only 55.8% of that is funded, according to the fiscal panel’s report. Lawmakers put aside $3.21 billion to pay for pensions for the current fiscal year. That figure is expected to rise to $6.63 billion by 2023.

The fiscal panel’s cost-trimming proposals together could save $3 billion annually, Mr. Sweeney said. The task force included lawmakers, academics and financial experts but had no public-sector union representatives.

Critics of the overhaul plan note that this estimate hasn’t been verified by actuaries. Mr. Sweeney said that is in the works.

“All the solutions seemed to be pointed at the back of public employees,” said Marie Blistan, president of the New Jersey Education Association, which represents teachers and backed Mr. Murphy’s candidacy in 2017. The NJEA spent $5 million during the 2017 election trying to unseat Mr. Sweeney.

A senior official in the Murphy administration said the pension proposal wasn’t a serious solution. The recommendations for health benefits seek more money from current employees and retirees instead of cutting the cost of care, which Mr. Murphy would prefer, the official said.

Mr. Murphy has called for ramping up payments to the pension system over the next five years to address the system’s unfunded liabilities. That plan relies in part on raising taxes on New Jersey’s millionaires.

Messrs. Murphy and Sweeney clashed during this summer’s prolonged budget fight over tax increases. Mr. Murphy had sought a sales-tax increase and wanted to raise taxes on millionaires. Mr. Sweeney, who previously supported a millionaire’s tax, fought both, saying the new federal tax law added to New Jersey residents’ tax burden.

The final budget agreement ended up raising taxes on families earning more than $5 million and began a four-year surcharge on businesses earning more than $1 million. Messrs. Murphy and Sweeney also negotiated a school-funding deal.

Mr. Sweeney said the education negotiations could provide a blueprint for a pension and health-care deal.

“This is the 800-pound gorilla,” Mr. Sweeney said, referring to New Jersey’s growing pension and health-care costs. “I know the governor is not excited about this stuff.”

Hetty Rosenstein, the New Jersey director of the Communications Workers of America, which represents some state workers, said it is unfair to cut health benefits for workers to fix pension problems created by the state. Mr. Sweeney’s pension proposals also won’t solve the system’s unfunded-pension-liability problem, she said.

22 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anonymous on September 6, 2018 at 12:25 pm

    Freedom of ‘pro Trump’ speech is alive and well but anything ‘anti Trump’ is scorned and labeled Fake News. Definitely the image ‘We The People’ have longed for! Indeed we need for God to Bless America Again.


    • Posted by NJ2AZ on September 6, 2018 at 2:33 pm

      in all fairness, it swings both ways.

      Anti trump speech is scorned as fake news
      Trying going against the progressive narrative and you’re labeled any number of terrible things.

      Its times like these i remember The Comedian: Its a joke. It’s all a joke.


  2. Posted by dentss on September 6, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    Put all newly hired employees into their own 401K …


    • Posted by Tough Love on September 6, 2018 at 5:42 pm

      AND …… switch the FUTURE service retirement security accruals of all CURRENT Public Sector workers from the now ludicrously excessive/unaffordable DB Plans to 401K (DC) Plans with a taxpayer contribution comparable to (but no greater than) what they typically get from their employers .. 2% to 4% of pay.


      • Posted by Anonymous on September 6, 2018 at 7:44 pm

        Trenton’s good at talking and creating special panels to issue mindless reports. Now it’s time for Trenton to act!


    • Posted by geo8rge on September 7, 2018 at 10:26 am

      “even more so about how limiting free speech became an American value.”

      An idealized past that probably never really existed. Very long periods of ‘free market’ censorship existed in the past. Cold war McCarthyism. Censorship during WWI especially. Earlier red scares. Jim crow. … You are nostalgic for your post Vietnam youth.

      Eugene V Debs was jailed During WWI, it took a presidential election to get him at least pardoned. The election of Trump might have resulted in something similar except the wars are ongoing, and Harding came into office with WWI over and as head of an enthusiastic majority coalition that included frightening people like the KKK. So Harding was in a good position to pardon Debs for example and to negotiate important arms control agreements. Worth noting is that freed from the Naval Dreadnought arms race the USA was well positioned to pursue with full vigor aviation as the basis of the US military. Trump came into office with wars raging, no coalition support and perhaps not even a lukewarm majority. So Trump clings precariously to power, is unable to pardon people for free speech crimes, or even modernize the US military.

      De Tocqueville maintained that even freedom of speech, guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, was affected by majority opinion.

      “I know no country,” he wrote, “in which, generally speaking, there is less independence of mind and true freedom of discussion than in America.” He added that the lack of great writers in the United States was due to the absence of “freedom of spirit” brought on by a majority intolerant of minority views.

      If I recall correctlly Tocqueville claimed free speech in the US was controlled not by the government but by local shunning, boycotts, ect.

      As to Nike + Kaepernick. Nike the shoe company sells shoes to the young all over the world. The NFL sells tickets ect to older males mostly in the USA. Nike doesn’t need a good reputation among elderly men in the USA. Even if pro/university teams boycotted Nike, that would just mean Nike would not have to pay them to use Nike products. The boycott will likely just mean free publicity for the Nike swish. So maybe there is a free speech ideal somewhere out there, mostly with the young and bold rather than the old and frightened.


  3. Posted by boscoe on September 6, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    “Otiose.” You win the internet, sir.


  4. Posted by skip3house on September 6, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    ” Where is the outrage? ” My Pop (1916-1971) used to ask same after his weekly columns in the local weekly. His Col. State Trooper friend answered about ‘needing to first read, then understand…..’
    And, both have gone downhill since.


  5. Posted by Tough Love on September 6, 2018 at 9:28 pm

    WHY …… so Public Sector workers can get Platinum+ insurance at low cost ???


    • Posted by Anonymous on September 7, 2018 at 9:07 am

      Unrelated but the conservatives don’t want Obamacare. Yet it’s usually those who need it most that are against universal coverage. I guess it’s one of those it ain’t gonna happen to me until it does and then it’s too late. A Republican in need is a Democrat indeed!


    • Posted by Stanley on September 7, 2018 at 11:33 am

      It sounds like fat people are using up the insulin supplies. As fat as the country is it is amazing that there are any insulin supplies. Who waits until three months before a problem hits to take action? If that young man had moved to Tucson, he could have bought affordable insulin over the counter across the border. Or Yuma.

      “Yet it’s usually those who need it most that are against universal coverage.”

      And how did you arrive at this conclusion? One study showed that 85% of type II diabetics voted democrat. When push comes to shove, American health care will be sparse indeed.


      • Posted by Anonymous on September 7, 2018 at 12:48 pm

        The same way you did….


      • Posted by Anonymous on September 7, 2018 at 1:26 pm

        Stan put on your common sense cap for just a moment and stop reading Infowars! West Virginia is a prime example of a State with a large majority of poorer Americans. Unfortunately, they tend to be less healthy and in need of basic and often critical medical care. Let me guess, they’re in your 85% of insulin taking Democrats?


        • Posted by Stanley on September 7, 2018 at 4:02 pm

          Infowars? Never heard of it. I’ve heard of Alex Jones but I don’t follow his commentary. The truth is that I just threw the study in for fun, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t close to fact. It’s easy to fall into a rut that is basically a death sentence.

          Almost everyone in WVA has mountain hiking opportunities and it is almost impossible to combine mountain hiking with bad diet and health choices. Most people don’t have a natural need for extensive health services.


      • Posted by geo8rge on September 8, 2018 at 10:04 am

        For the record, the article does not claim insulin is in short supply. It claims individuals cannot afford insulin in the quantities they need, so as individuals they are forced to reduce their usage to less than prescribed by their DR.

        Even if you buy all the ‘capitalist’ arguments about why pharmaceuticals must be high priced to keep them coming, it would seem that individual insulin users should only have to pay a yearly licensing fee to cover fixed cost including profit. After that any insulin they purchase should be at the cost of production. Just like I pay once for the Windows operating system, not for each window I open.


  6. Posted by Anonymous on September 7, 2018 at 9:11 am

    Did anyone see the 60 Minutes show this past Sunday on Scalise? Touching yes but without his exceptional coverage he’d probably be wheelchair bound or worse. I’m sure there’s a lot of work related and other shooting victims who wished they had the kind of medical attention he is receiving.


  7. Posted by geo8rge on September 7, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    “It will be the midterm elections that determine if benefit cuts continue (Republicans win) or a bailout comes (Democrats win). ”

    It isn’t clear to me that the Ds will come up with the bailout cash the Rs would not. Is the bailout talked about in any of the races? Is there a link to a campaign website that mentions pensions?

    I tried to logic out which retirees had benefits above the PBGC max and in which states they might be. I couldn’t. There is also that UPS and other businesses want a bailout, but perhaps competitors like FedEx don’t. I think a bailout would get 50% of the house because of high population upper midwest states with retired union members especially. The Senate is the problem. Are there 25 states + VP Pence that will vote for a bailout without all the other sweeteners and stuff that will be in normal legislation. If I understand it right the bailout is to be voted on without discussion or additional riders, sweeteners, ect.

    What if Hurricane Florence hits the tri state area and NY NJ need another hurricane bailout. The flyover states might not be willing to give the ‘coastal elites’ a pension, hurricane, California firestorms bailout (and an enormously expensive tunnel).


    • Posted by geo8rge on September 7, 2018 at 7:17 pm

      The senate race Heidi Heitkamp vs Cramer might be decided by the multi employer pension issue.

      Heidi Heitkamp trucker ad:


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