So Government Employees Also Do Non-Fictitious Work?

California Gov. Jerry Brown has unveiled his seven-point plan for pension reform. While the proposals are all good, they will not solve the half-trillion-dollar problem facing the Golden State. But the first item mentioned is something I've been meaning to bring up for a while:

1. Eliminate Purchase of Airtime. Would eliminate the opportunity, for all current and future employee members of all state and local retirement systems, to purchase additional retirement service credit. (RN 14777) (Note Walters, SB 522, would eliminate Air Time)

What is "air time"? In addition to being more proof that you could sooner count every grain of sand on the beach than find every variety of government-employee featherbedding, it's a practice that raises a serious question: If a government employee worked for five fictitious years, would anybody notice? The gist

State law allows the employees to increase their retirement benefits by tacking up to five fictitious years — known as "air time" — onto their public service. Although they pay a fee for the privilege and officials say it is high enough to cover the eventual payouts, critics of air time note that the boost can cost taxpayers millions when the state pension system's investment income falls short, as it has in recent years.

Air time offers a return nearly twice as generous as a similar benefit — known as an annuity — that can be purchased on the private market, said Dan Pellissier, who advised former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on pensions. Pellissier, who as a state employee purchased five years' credit, is now pushing to eliminate air time as president of California Pension Reform.

Private financial advisors agree.

"It's a phenomenal deal for retirees, but it's an absolute fleecing of the taxpayers," said Scott Hanson, a principal in Sacramento-based investment firm Hanson McClain.

Hanson said he gets calls about air time frequently and advises nearly all state employees to sign up. It offers a guaranteed 7% to 8% return, as opposed to a 3% return available for similar investments in the private sector, he said.

The practice has an honorable tradition in legislative staffers who were disgruntled that they couldn't collect taxpayer salaries while campaigning. Gov. Gray Davis signed off on the benefit just before getting recalled, but 47,000 pension-richer employees have followed Hanson's advice and purchased air time. 

There is truly no end to the methods California's government employees have devised to fleece the taxpayers. 

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  • Some Guy||

    Although they pay a fee for the privilege and officials say it is high enough to cover the eventual payouts

    So they're saying that these people are paying for something with an average expected return of zero? I'm going to go ahead and call that unlikely.

  • Team Blue||

    Seriously. I can see how that would make sense for the state, as it would amount to an interest-free loan, but it would make absolutely no sense for the pensioner. How stupid do you have to be to believe this?

  • Team Blue||

    Disregard my sarcastic Team Blue moniker. I forgot to change it.

  • Zeb||

    I think that what they mean is "high enough to cover the eventual payouts, assuming that our rosy projections for the performance of pension fund investments are all completely correct". Which also seems like bullshit as they are guaranteed a 7-8% return.

  • The Fact Guy||

    This article is completely wrong and the financial advisor doesn't seem to know what he's talking about. Here's the offer my wife just received for purchasing additional years. For each year purchased, the cost = $25,937.45. The resulting annual increase in pension = $1,678.68. Simple math shows that she won't break even for 15.45 years. If she make her life expectency of another 25 years, the gross payout will be $41,967 or an annual rate of return of 1.94%. For pensioners, it's a terrible investment. For the state, CalPers, and the taxpayer, it look like a great deal getting a loan at less than 2%. No wonder CalPers is marketing this to her. Big wonder why the article comes up with it's uninformed conclusion.

  • H. Protagonist||

    If those seven points were all the unions were letting Brown offer, it's unsurprising that the GOP didn't cave.

    Not that they have principles, mind you. But even the cheapest of whores would scoff at that offer.

  • Apologetic California||

    Good holy shit! That's so novel and ingenious it must be a scam only the state government can run. This and the ability of city councils to loan themselves money and set the rates by having closed meetings as redevelopment agencies are what makes California just a littlebit on this side of awesome.

  • ||

    There is truly no end to the methods California's government employees have devised to fleece the taxpayers.

    Oh, I'm sure it's not just California.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    And, in a way, can it not actually be said that these are methods taxpayers have devised to get fleeced by government employees? Think about it.

  • prolefeed||

    I'm pretty sure no actual taxpayers were involved in coming up with this idea.

    So, no.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    I'm intensely not a believer in public advocates or ombudsmen (ombudsmans? ombudswomen?) or patient representatives or other tribunus plebei-type jobs. It seems to me these are just more jobs, more incrustations of the bureaucracy that deliver a pension on retirement. And my handful of experiences with the L.A. Times ombudswoman was that she was a thoroughly corrupt person doing the bidding of the institution.

    That having been said, David Crane, pension czar in the Schwarzenegger era, made a good case that all compensation-deciding bodies need to include people specifically charged with representing the taxpayers. (I would have thought the people we call "State Senators," "Assemblywomen" and "Male Assemblywomen" were there to represent the taxpayers. But I guess we're long past that kind of quibbling.)

  • sevo||

    "That having been said, David Crane, pension czar in the Schwarzenegger era, made a good case that all compensation-deciding bodies need to include people specifically charged with representing the taxpayers. (I would have thought the people we call "State Senators," "Assemblywomen" and "Male Assemblywomen" were there to represent the taxpayers. But I guess we're long past that kind of quibbling.)"

    Yes, once Jerry signed the Dill act, we were beyond that.
    The conduit of cash was established, and only those not getting the dough were 'representing the taxpayers'. The majority then started representing the government workers.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Ombudspeople, you insensitive dick.

  • ||

    No, they can do the same thing here in Colorado, where PERA is proudly sailing into the future with assumed 10 percent future returns on their investments, that have had negative returns for most of the century.

  • alan||

    My penal colonies on Mars for all public employees is looking like a better idea by the day, eh taxpayers?

    You can't afford to keep them here. I've run the numbers; it is the cheapest alternative that you possible could have even after you build several domed cities on freakin' Mars (and Bruce Sterling thought there was no realistic good use for the planet -- phhshaw! ). That is so long as the monies used to pay off their contracts is kept on a separate planet with a separate distribution that doesn't come in contact with that of the Earth's.

  • prolefeed||

    Putting up domes with air to breathe is entirely optional, IMHO.

  • alan||

    You are right. I was using two criteri that do not necessarily mesh well. The one I mentioned was the 'cheapest solution', and the other was the appropriate use of force in a libertarian civil society. The cheapest would obviously require the demise of the public workers, but in the moral frame work of a libertarian order you can really only justify the use of force to the extent that you have been attacked. Now, certainly, the public employees initiated the use of force when they fraudulently engaged in collective bargaining and sought a class interest outside of serving the public interest(in the minarchist scheme of things, at least that is where there crime began, in the anarcho-capitalist one they initiated force when they became employed by the government), but given it is not a threat to life but of life style, I cannot justify killing them wholesale, but certainly can justify removing them as a threat.

  • CE||

    Please don't send them to Mars.... we need some hope for a government-free frontier somewhere.....

  • alan||

    When you consider how much inflation will be generated by just monetizing those contractual obligations, you'll come to the conclusion that you can't afford to keep them on the Earth. Mars is the most convenient land mass out there for the purposes of isolating them economically and limit the devastating effects to those who are responsible.

    Besides, when the busy bodies are gone, why would want to leave?

    Even so, a cloud city floating above Venus would be a more worthy technological marvel than some dug out pits on Mars.

  • Au H20||

    Your statist fuck comment of the day comes from the New York Times, on a Gail Collins article trying to justify the light bulb ban:

    "I work for a vintage lighting manufacturer in Portland, OR, and get asked about this issue frequently. It seems to me that, absent regulation, we will never achieve substantial, wide-spread change in our consumption habits. We are so terribly concerned in this culture about limitation of choice, so preoccupied with the rights of the individual. Problem is, the individual can rarely be trusted to take the long-view when pursuing their daily wants and needs. And isn't it true that we are all better served by policy that isn't based on immediate benefit? Sure, I would love to sell a bulb that has warm and appealing light, that contains no trace mercury, that delivers 1600 lumens, that runs on 7 watts, that costs $3. That bulb has yet to be released on the mass market. Until then, folks, let's show a little personal sacrifice and tolerate what energy-efficient options are available, and realize that what is good for the many is what is good for the few."

    Recommended by 490 people. Props, NY Times.

  • JoshiNHB||

    That quote is pulled straight out of Atlas shrugged, isn't it?

  • Au H20||

    Yeah, damn New York Times has been swallowed by the Kochtopus.

  • This Dave||

    ""I work for a vintage lighting manufacturer in Portland, OR"

    No, this was an episode of Portlandia.

  • ||

    Put a bird on it.

  • alan||

    Let's show a little personal sacrifice! Let's start a war! Let's raise taxes!

    Seriously, do they have any ideas at the NYT that are in the least way productive or constructive instead of this ruinous bilge they are always turning into 'issues' and 'causes'?

  • Almanian||

    No

  • CoyoteBlue||

  • sevo||

    "Problem is, the individual can rarely be trusted to take the long-view when pursuing their daily wants and needs."

    So why would anyone value what this twit says? She already told you she's an ignoramus.

  • Au H20||

    Actually, the handle was Scott, so I assume that this was a guy who took this position. Not all statist fucks are women, not to go all Socrates on you or anything

  • sevo||

    Sorry; I took the "Gail Collins" as the commenter.

  • alan||

    Yep, I did too.

  • Au H20||

    Damn my lack of an apostrophe!!!

  • Rather||

    but you are a specialist on isolationism

  • Au H20||

    Well, thanks to you, of course

  • Rather||

    joke as in ha ha

  • Rock Action ||

    Dude, that reeks of satire/troll...

    "I work for a vintage lighting manufacturer in Portland, OR..."
    "warm and appealing light, that contains no trace mercury..."
    "...and realize that what is good for the many is what is good for the few"

    The "few" meaning the green light bulb producers...

    Just a thought.

  • Au H20||

    Actually, everything, from the article, to the comments, must be seen to be believed, so here's the link:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03.....l?_r=1&hp;
    Apparently, if we don't regulate light bulbs, we will also stop mandating that emergency rooms are clean, according to Gail Collins. How the fuck did she become a columnist again? She's like a dumber Maureen Dowd, without the weird sex shit Dowd throws in to keep you on your toes.

  • Rock Action ||

    I'll check it out. I'm no longer sure. That's the crazy, if not.

  • Rock Action ||

    That was pretty awful. One thing she said that troubled me: What does Congress standardizing scientific measurements have to do with regulating how much of that measurement can be used, like light bulbs and watts? Fixing weights and measures standards is an explicit Constitutional grant to Congress, Article One, Section Eight, Clause Five.

    But maybe I'm wrong...I'm just not sure. No, I just re-read her op-ed, and the op-ed she referred to, and I don't think the original author is making a proper distinction. He's using the Constitutional authority to fix weights and measures as a justification for Congress to not only define what a "watt" is, but also as the grant of authority whereby they can define how many "watts" a product will be allowed to use.

    Sounds like different things to me.

  • Rock Action ||

    I just went back again, and she entirely misreads that guy's article. He's not arguing constitutionality or Congressional power at all, he's talking about efficiency and result.

    Red Herring dipshittery!

  • robc||

    Fuck Utilitarianism!

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    How the fuck did she become a columnist again? She's like a dumber Maureen Dowd, without the weird sex shit Dowd throws in to keep you on your toes.

    Never underestimate the degree to which preferment goes by letter and affection and not by old gradation. There are vast numbers of high-profile jobs that are basically filled because somebody had the right age/prejudice profile. Unless the rate of disestablishment continues to accelerate (unlikely, considering how regression to the mean is the true power in the universe), you will basically have to wait until everybody my age and older is dead before you'll see any progress.

  • Jim||

    I knew this was somehow your fault.

    You heard it here first, folks: I'm calling for a Final Solution for the old people. We don't even need camps; according to the blue-shaded statists, all we need to do is cut off entitlements, and then they'll all starve off on their own.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Carousel now. Carousel tomorrow. Carousel forever.

  • ||

    There are vast numbers of high-profile jobs that are basically filled because somebody had the right age/prejudice profile.

    I'm the correct age (if not I'll fake it) and can be just as prejudiced (or not should conditions warrant) as any hack at the times...and I'll be this way for 75% of what Dowd makes.

  • Evil Libertarian||

    Renew! Renew! Renew!

  • Butts Wagner||

    Apparently, if we don't regulate light bulbs, we will also stop mandating that emergency rooms are clean, according to Gail Collins.

    And murderers will be allowed to roam free, killing all the innocent peoples of the earth!!!!

  • U N'Kradobul||

    absent regulation, we will never achieve substantial, wide-spread change in our consumption habits.

    We will if we DIAF.

  • Bill||

    At another point in the same article she quotes statistics that consumers have already cut use of incandescents 50% over the last 5 years. Or was this a comment to her article. Either way they must not have noticed the 50% figure.

  • Jeffersonian||

    So, in theory, I could get a job as a bureaucrat in California tomorrow and, if I had enough money, could retire the next day with a fat pension that I bought with that money? One that paid me 2-3 times what I could get from an annuity?

  • Crass||

    The living that is owed to me I'm never going to get,
    They've buggered this old world up, up to their necks in dept.
    They'd give you a lobotomy for something you ain't done,
    They'll make you an epitomy of everything that's wrong.

    Do they owe us a living?
    Of course they do, of course they do.
    Owe us a living?
    Of course they do, of course they do.
    Owe us a living?
    OF COURSE THEY FUCKING DO.

  • Bill Clinton||

    I could give you your money back, but you might not spend it right.

  • Minnie Haha||

    they pay a fee for the privilege and officials say it is high enough to cover the eventual payouts

    Then those officials shouldn't mind personally making the current payouts, since they'll be reimbursed eventually.

  • testt||

    asdasdasdas

  • Edwin||

    What the fuck is wrong with you people?

  • Tony||

    Who knows? *I* don't have a problem with it.

  • Gov't. Union Rep||

    You better not have a problem with it, assmunch.

  • Black Midget||

    What do the fuck do you mean, "you people"?

  • air max france||

    wow

  • Almanian||

    There is truly no end to the methods California's government employees have devised to fleece the taxpayers.

    This is it, right here. There truly IS no end. Unbelievable.

    Off to my non-government job that involves actual risk of my own capital and requires me to work for as many years as I expect to be credited with at retirement.

  • Almanian||

    Oh, also...

    TIMMEH!

  • ||

    lol, is anyone actually surprised?

    www.privacy-resources.ie.tc

  • ||

    Zongo,

    In this context your robotic posting is almost in keeping with the gist of the thread.

    lol.

  • creech||

    Sure, let's give them plenty of airtime...from a lampost at 10th and L.

  • ||

    The public workers are fleecing the taxpayers? Oh please. Whatever fleecing they are doing is nothing in compare to what the corporations and the GOP are doing. Wake up! I can't believe people are stupid enough to buy this propaganda crap from the GOP. Instead of questioning the very people who put this country into an economic quagmire - the super rich - we're targeting other workers. How stupid is that?

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