Bachrach’s proposal of federal intervention wrong for pensions

Where was Ed Bachrach’s outrage when state and local governments were willfully ignoring their legal obligations to fund pensions for their teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public servants? His call for federal intervention in the fiscal management of public pensions is a wrong-headed exercise in cherry-picking facts to suit one’s arguments (“State and Local Pensions Need National Attention,” Nov. 10,  2016).

Bachrach correctly notes that pension funding gaps vary widely from state to state and city to city, but he exaggerates the size and the immediacy of the shortfall. The gap is less than $1 trillion spread over 30 years, according to the 2015 Census of Governments. These costs equal 4 percent of expected state revenues over the same period. Bachrach wields the T-word — trillion — as a scary weapon but doesn’t bother to point out that beneficiaries can’t demand their pensions in a lump sum tomorrow. Time is on our side.

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State and local governments made mistakes by relying excessively on regressive and volatile revenue schemes such as casinos, lotteries and “sin taxes,” and compounded the error by reneging on their pension funding commitment during an economic downturn. Bachrach’s solution — federal intervention to enable states and local governments to reduce promised pension benefits — is unfair to workers who faithfully made every required contribution and violates a host of constitutional, contractual and property-rights principles.

There is a better way. State and local governments can adopt more progressive, broad-based revenue systems with lower rates. Governments should stop giving away twice as much in economic development incentives as they have committed to spend on pensions. Pension checks are spent locally and domestically, unlike money given to corporations through tax loopholes and subsidies. Other solutions include using well-designed pension obligation bonds and improving risk management.

From Hank H. Kim, executive director and counsel, National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems, Washington, D.C.


Inaccurate polling no surprise

As a physicist with a companion degree in applied mathematics, who read Mark Mellman’s Nov. 15 “What happened to the polls?” column, there is absolutely no surprise why so many of the polls were completely wrong.

Human beings are inherently nonlinear and are governed in part by emotion that enables their incredible creativity and which was necessary for their evolutionary survival. Humans must learn rational thinking. Thus, “predicting” human behavior is more of a psuedo-science — we don’t behave as robots, nor do we always do as we’re told by the mainstream media and our “leaders.” 

Second, having endured a phone call from one of the pollsters — who was not fluent in English — I can attest to the agonizingly slow process of being queried at 9 p.m. when I was busy helping my kids with their homework and simultaneously trying to decide how I would vote for the various complex questions and candidates on Nevada’s ballot, about which I had not fully decided on and, at that point, had not been fully informed on. 

Third, due to the incessant and almost hysterical reporting on Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE, many Trump supporters simply didn’t intimate their voting preference for fear of being condemned or attacked for their views until entering the relative security and safety of the voting booth.   

The saddest casualty of this recent election debacle is that a large portion of Americans just don’t trust the media, our government, and certainly not polling “experts,” which does not bode well for the future.

From Dr. Michael Pravica, Henderson, Nev.