Pension Supporters Fight Back with Website Attempting to Lampoon Critics and Set the Facts Straight

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Pension-Response

Unions and other defenders of the current pension system are fighting back with a new website launched yesterday called “DontScapegoatUs.com.”

The website strongly criticizes eight figures who they say are leading the charge to change public pensions.  These include Dan Pellissier, president of California Pension Reform; Marcia Fritz, executive director of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility; and an “anonymous out-of-state billionaire.”

The site is filled with facts and also various attacks on opponents.

For instance, for the Out-of-State Billionaire they write, “Who’s behind the well-financed attacks on California’s public employees? Pension busters say that it’s an ‘out of state billionaire.’ “

They continue, “That’s right: someone from beyond California’s borders who has no worries about his own retirement security is bankrolling anti-public worker efforts in our state!”

According to the investigative journalists at California Watch, “An unknown out-of-state foundation has become a substantial backer of an ambitious nonprofit group that is positioning itself at the center of the state’s debate over public pensions.”

They also cite George Skelton’s report that we covered two weeks ago in which he once again does the math, and concludes, “State employee pensions are not to blame for Sacramento’s budget deficit. Not by any math.”

However, he does add, “Down the road, the current state pension system probably is not fiscally sustainable, as some studies have reported. It could burn a hole in the state vault — some time in the future. But not now or any time soon.”

However, and this backs up our earlier point, “Yes, some local governments are suffering financially because of their politicians’ short-sighted largess in negotiating overly-generous pension schemes with public employee unions.”

He cites an article last week that found that 180 local governments “in California kept sweetening employee pension plans even after the state’s economy began tanking, sinking the entities further into debt. Now they’re forced to lay off workers and reduce public services.”

So, here is the math.  In the next year, the general fund is roughly $85 billion dollars.  The total payment that goes for pension is: $3.7 billion.  That is not chump change to be sure, but it is not even five percent of the state’s budget and not even a significant chunk of the deficit.

Mr. Skelton breaks down that $3.7 billion.  $2.4 billion goes to state employees through CalPERS (California Public Employees’ Retirement System).  The other $1.3 billion goes to teachers through CalSTRS (California State Teachers’ Retirement System).

There is also about a $1.8 billion payment to CalPERS that “will come from special funds that don’t figure in the deficit.”

Writes George Skelton, “So, hypothetically, even if the governor and Legislature eliminated all payments to the state and teacher pension funds, they still would face a budget deficit of nearly $12 billion. And, of course, that’s not a realistic scenario. They’re not going to completely stiff public employees and provide them with no retirement benefits at all.”

“It would not have a significant impact,” Mr. Skelton quotes former Republican Assemblyman Roger Niello of Sacramento County, who is pushing a pension initiative for the 2012 state ballot. “Frankly, I don’t know of anything that can be done [with pensions] that would have a significant impact on this or next year’s budget.”

Another target of the website is Moinca Fritz, Executive Director of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility

They write that it is not a real foundation, but instead, “Its board of advisors aren’t pension experts or academics. It includes a lobbyist, political consultant, a dealer in 401(k) plans, and anti-tax groups, including Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and Lew Uhler of the National Tax Limitation Committee.”

Dave Low, Chairman of Californians for Healthcare and Retirement Security, has called on Californians for Fiscal Responsibility to reveal the out-of-state donor financing its assault on California public employees. “It’s time to pull back the curtain and expose the special interests parachuting in to target California’s middle class. We don’t need Wisconsin-read style political attacks bankrolled by out-of-state-billionaires. Californians deserve to know the identities of these secret donors buying their way onto the ballot to try to change the California constitution for their own special interests.”

Roger Niello is the part-owner of a series of luxury auto dealerships in the Sacramento area and a former Republican state assembly member.

He is supporting what they call a “draconian ballot measure” that they claim would “drastically reduce retirement security for thousands of public employees in the very communities he used to represent.”

They write, “It would make 62 the lowest allowable retirement age for all future public workers, leaving us with the real possibility of gray-headed police and firefighters working well beyond their able years. Remember, such “safety” retirement was instituted for the public’s safety to ensure that those police and firefighters retired before age diminished their effectiveness and put the public at risk.”

While I largely agree with their conclusions on a statewide level that pensions are not the problem, I think they miss the boat when it comes to the impact on local communities – cities and counties in particular.

In fact, aside from the conservative anti-union proponents of pension reform at the state level, a potent force is the more liberal local officeholders, including organizations like the California League of Cities and others that represent local governmental bodies.

For several years now, sites like this have urged unions and Democrats to get out in front on this issue to protect the defined benefit pension pension system that allows public employees to have reasonable standards of living upon retirement, while at the same time cuts down on the excesses that will eventually lead the Roger Niello’s of the the world to push for and get the sort of draconian proposals that they are pushing.

Toward that end, Governor Jerry Brown has a reasonable and commonsense approach to pensions.  As Mr. Skelton points out, the Governor is right in the middle of the two sides, he has not gone far enough for Republicans and other reformers, but he has gone two far for unions.

“Actually, he probably went about the right distance, considering the stormy political climate. There’s still much, after all, to be negotiated,” he writes.

The top three proposals include capping pensions at $106,000 annually.

“We think that’s a very reasonable pension, a very adequate amount for people to live a fine life on,” Governor Brown’s veteran labor director, Marty Morgenstern, said. “Beyond that, we think it’s excessive.”

Second, it would prohibit pension spiking by basing benefits only on base wages and for an average of three years, rather than the final year.

Finally it would offer an hybrid system which would reduce the public pension portion, but add in a 401(k) type plan.

The problem is not the statewide impact of pensions, it is the impact on municipalities like Davis.

This year we are projected to pay just above $6 million to furnish pensions.  That number could jump significantly by 2014-15.  Right now, that number is projected to be around $9 million in two years, but could rise significantly higher should CalPERS eventually reduce their expected rate of return from 7.75 down to 7.5% where most people think they should be.

If that happens we are looking at $11 million from our budget going to PERS.  To put that into perspective, our payroll is roughly $30 million and the general fund is right around $40 million.

So, unlike the state pension hit which is less than 5% of the state’s general fund budget, our current pension obligation is about $6 million out of a $40 million budget, and an increase of $5 to $7 million would push the obligation to over 25%.

Remember, these pension increases are occurring at a time when we are not expecting revenue growth.  We have a flat budget expectation for the next few years.

That is why the pension issue matters to Davis far more than it matters at the state level.  And this is in part why the issue of pensions have so much legs, because it is not just the right wingers that the website above attempts to demagogue, it is also reasonable people who recognize that local government cannot sustain the pension obligations they have.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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25 thoughts on “Pension Supporters Fight Back with Website Attempting to Lampoon Critics and Set the Facts Straight”

  1. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]That is why the pension issue matters to Davis far more than it matters at the state level. And this is in part why the issue of pensions have so much legs, because it is not just the right wingers that the website above attempts to demagogue, it is also reasonable people who recognize that local government cannot sustain the pension obligations they have.[/quote]

    Precisely. The proponents of public unions are doing the same thing the proponents of Measure A did. Villify the opposition, rather than address the real issues.

    While 3.7 billion out of $85 billion on the face does not seem like much, if every aspect of the budget were scrutinized and dealt with, there most likely would be sizeable savings that could shrink the deficit. A penny here, a penny there economized, taken in the aggregate, adds up to many dollars saved. If every entity impacted took the same approach as the public union proponents, that their particular part of the budget is somehow sacrosanct and should be left untouched, then no budget savings are ever going to be possible.

    Secondly, the pension issue is much larger than the union proponents are willing to concede. It is at the local level where the problem is the most dramatic, and will result in the greatest impact on citizens. To blame the boogyman – some “out-of-state contributor” – or anyone who disagrees is somehow a member of the evil “right”, is shameful, disingenuous, undemocratic. It ignores the very real fiscal impact at the local level that is going to put cities in real danger of having to declare bankruptcy.

  2. medwoman

    EMR

    While I agree that every aspect of the budget should be analyzed, I also agree with the previous posts you made with regard to Measure A, that this was a matter of personal values, not a matter of
    right and wrong and that the legitimate points of both sides should be respected.
    With regard to Measure A, I think there was far more vilifying coming from the opponents than the proponents. if you doubt this, please go back and review multiple comments from Musser and rusty49 with regard to underhanded, unethical, corrupt actions on the part of public officials. About the worst I could come up with from the proponents was that the opponents were uninformed. I don’t think that comes even close in terms of “vilification”.

    The idea of the creation of a “boogeyman” seems to depend on where one sits on the political spectrum. I see no substantive difference
    In the claims of financing by “an out of state contributor” in this case and
    the.claims of Governor Walker that out of state union supports were being bussed in to oppose him. It is completely legitimate in my opinion to state the facts about who is providing support for any initiative or proposal. Stating facts is not a scare tactic regardless of one’s political
    philosophy.

    Finally, I agree with your point that this is about fiscal impact. All the rest, from either side is nothing but political drama designed to elicit knee jerk responses.

  3. davehart

    Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if it could be reported that in response to the pension funding crisis here in Davis, that our city administrators and council recognized we had a problem, researched all the facts and policies and have a report available that presents a clear picture for all to read? Such a report could be useful for city voters, elected leaders and even educational for the individual to understand pension financing for themselves as individuals.

    As it is, it seems like we only get a patchwork recounting of facts that bolster one point of view over another. Pension obligations go back decades. This crisis is recently recognized. Not all cities are in trouble. What happened differently, over the years, from jurisdiction to jurisdiction?

    Everyone who has worked most of their adult life should be entitled (yes, entitled) to a decent and poverty-free retirement. That is something we should demand from each other. A basic understanding of that also includes to what extent each of us also has a responsibility to help pay for that. Social Security taxes represent a minimal basic floor toward that end. I would hope when “debating” this crisis, that we would all think outside the immediate box of what “the other guy” is getting and consider what a sound, fair system would look like for everyone. Our solutions should incorporate that vision.

  4. Frankly

    We need a new age of American enlightenment, because, apparently we are slipping further backwards toward ignorance and tribalism.

    What a fine future I see for my sons: struggling to recover from their crappy public school education and then looking forward to a lower standard of living and higher taxes to fund the all-expenses-paid permanent vacation of all the people responsible for, or complicit in, the process of screwing it up for them.

  5. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]With regard to Measure A, I think there was far more vilifying coming from the opponents than the proponents.[/quote]

    Those who represented “No” on Measure A were completely BANNED from the LWV forum. I don’t remember the proponents of Measure A being excluded from any discussions. How much more “villified” can you get than a public shunning?

  6. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]As it is, it seems like we only get a patchwork recounting of facts that bolster one point of view over another. Pension obligations go back decades. This crisis is recently recognized. Not all cities are in trouble. What happened differently, over the years, from jurisdiction to jurisdiction? [/quote]

    Very good question.

    [quote]What a fine future I see for my sons: struggling to recover from their crappy public school education and then looking forward to a lower standard of living and higher taxes to fund the all-expenses-paid permanent vacation of all the people responsible for, or complicit in, the process of screwing it up for them.[/quote]

    Nor are your sons likely to ever own a home, at the rate things are going… very, very sad…

  7. davehart

    Mr. Boone, you are expressing the fear nearly everyone I know has about an uncertain future for ourselves and our children. I believe we are lacking a vision for how we can overcome that fear. When Social Security was created, we were in a recession and everyone had plenty of fear for the future given the path that lay immediately in view. Imagine creating Social Security today, in our existing circumstances, with the quality of public discussion. Could it be done? If we allow ourselves to be dominated by fear, we paralyze ourselves. That’s the case in business, social interactions, you name it.

    The positive things that have been accomplished in United States’ history have occurred when we think big and inclusively. That requires a vision that builds on finding a solution. What is your vision, your neighbor’s vision for a future that you would want for yourself or your descendants?

    There’s no question we have to fashion solutions to problems in the near and medium term. These may be painful and not to our liking. But, how will those solutions mesh with our long term goals and vision for our future? There are a lot of “easy”, “no-brainer” solutions that are punitive without regard to the source of the problem and with no regard to a final destination. In my opinion, that is bad planning in the business world and bad politics in the social world. I’m disappointed in the lack of political leadership that should provide big thinking, inclusive approach. Have we lost that as a nation? Are we willing to settle for “protect your own” and “I’ve got mine, you’ve got yours” politics?

    That’s what really scares me the most.

  8. Rifkin

    [i]”Another target of the website is [u]Moinca Fritz[/u], Executive Director of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility.”[/i]

    Moinca? I think you meant to say, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”

    [i]”Who’s behind the well-financed attacks on California’s public employees? Pension busters say that it’s an ‘out of state billionaire.'”[/i]

    Who is this person?

  9. rusty49

    “With regard to Measure A, I think there was far more vilifying coming from the opponents than the proponents. if you doubt this, please go back and review multiple comments from Musser and rusty49 with regard to underhanded, unethical, corrupt actions on the part of public officials. About the worst I could come up with from the proponents was that the opponents were uninformed. I don’t think that comes even close in terms of “vilification”.”

    Medwoman, since you are looking at this through your pro-measure A rose colored glasses I don’t think you’re in a position to give a fair assessment. Looking back in my opinion Dunning was vilified by many on this blog. Yesterday unbelievably someone on the pro-A side tried to infer racism as part of my Measure A position, as if that had anything to do with it. I could give you many more examples. People on both sides questioned the “letter” and the LWV’s decisions which absolutely should have been scrutinized. I know it’s easy to overlook and accept posts that agree with one’s stance but in all fairness both sides participated.

  10. Dr. Wu

    This discussion seems to be all over the map today.

    I think the important point to make is that while it is true that our short term debt problems are not directly related to the benefits issue it is BY FAR the biggest long term problem facing govt at all levels (if you include Social Security and Medicare).

    our health care system is sick; our pension system is unsustainable

    anyone who doesn’t recognize this problem (right wing, left wing, whatever) is polluting our public discourse

  11. medwoman

    rusty49

    I think that you will find if you were to go back and review my posts, although I was strongly in favor of Measure A, at no point did I denigrate anyone else’s positions or point of view. I am in complete agreement with the critics of the lack of inclusion of both sides of the debate in the
    LWV forum and said so publicly. I also posted my opinion that both Dunning and Rifkin nailed it with their criticisms of the way the por campaign was handled while still supporting the measure itself. I said on several occasions that I agreed with Elaine’s assessment of the pros and cons. However, I think that “public shunning” in reference to a forum at which maybe 5 members of the public were present, and when broadcasted, was followed by statements from both sides, is a bit of hyperbole which does not bode well for a nonjudgemental,collaborative approach.

    JB

    I am curious about what your dreams are for your sons that you do not feel they will be able to achieve.
    I am confident that my two children have acquired the skills that they will need to support themselves and their families should that occur.
    I believe that they will be able to keep a roof over their heads, food on their tables, attend an occasional recreational event of their choice’,contribute meaningfully to their community, achieve piece and fulfillment in their personal interactions and career and avocational choices.. I personally am not emotionally invested in whether or not they can afford a bigger and better house or luxury cars.
    I can certainly see that if your dreams for them include achieving a higher material style of living than you have provided, how you might be concerned. If you are hoping that they will be happy, fulfilled members of our community, I think from your previous posts,that you can rest assured regardless of current budget debates.

    davehart

    I appreciated your posts and very much agree that I would like to see a comprehensive objective review of the fiscal situation such as you suggested.

  12. Frankly

    [i]”I am curious about what your dreams are for your sons that you do not feel they will be able to achieve.”[/i]

    medwoman: I don’t know where you came up with this statement… it is never something I wrote.

  13. medwoman

    JB

    Your post of this am ” What a fine future I see for my sons…..” certainly led me to believe that you had concerns about your sons future.
    I was just curious about what concerns those might be ?

  14. Frankly

    “Their future” representing the future of most young people today. These are the people who will have significantly reduced professional and economic opportunities than the generations that preceded them. They will have to work harder, longer hours and more years for less pay to fund the debt payments resulting from all the free stuff given to those unwilling to take care of themselves, and all the permanent vacations given to masses of entitled public-sector baby boomers.

  15. medwoman

    By the generations tbat preceded them, I presume you mean us. I do not buy into the belief that our children will have less opportunity.
    I did significantly better materially than my blue collar working class parents did. I am keenly aware that much of my success was due to the support of a public education system accessible to all. I know that when I had a fire at my house one winter evening, a number of firemen presented to limit my losses, thereby putting their lives at risk. As a doctor in an outlying clinic, I have used the 911 service a number of times and the prompt paramedic response ( fire station based) has saved more than one of my patient’s lives. Having practiced an extremely physically demanding specialty for more than 25 years, I am aware that reaching one’s late 50’s frequently may mean that one is not able to perform at the same level as at the peak of ones career. I do not begrudge the public employees such as law enforcement and firefighters a secure retirement once they reach an age at which they can no longer perform their extremely demanding jobs. And I certainly hope that my children will not either.

  16. Frankly

    medwoman: have you paid any attention to the data showing the current and projected costs for these things that you do not begrudge? Note that the majority of firefighters in the country are still volunteers; and the job is no more physically demanding than many others where workers retire at age 65… if they are lucky… and without any company-paid pension and retirement healthcare. What makes your physically-demanding job or their physically-demanding job deserve retirement benefits exceeding, by far, those provided others?

    The benefits we pay these public-sector and union employees are over the top, extreme, unecessary, unfair… but most importantly, we cannot afford them. It will be our kids that feel the largest pain because we adults were too selfish and ignorant to deal with the looming problem.

  17. Dr. Wu

    [quote]I do not buy into the belief that our children will have less opportunity. [/quote]

    [edit–no personal attacks, please]

    if your child is well off (mine is) he/she is in good shape
    but other kids are not
    inequality is killing us

  18. davehart

    The difference in the discourse on this issue seems to be those who express despair and offer no hope in going beyond the stated or perceived problem. “It’s unsustainable, so we just have to cut back and do with or without depending on your luck, inheritance, health, good looks, etc., too bad, end of story, suck it up on your own”.

    There are those who don’t want to take bad news as the final answer and believe if we can envision a solution, there is hope we can attain it. “There is a larger context for this crisis that suggests it can be fixed if we do some things differently; share the vision of what the fix looks like so that almost everyone can pitch in and do their part to make it happen.” It’s patriotic to be in the “hope” category. Great leaders have realistic optimism when confronting problems. If our leaders aren’t showing those traits, we need to find ones who do have them. Despair goes nowhere.

  19. medwoman

    JB

    In what other categories of jobs that you are citing are people potentially putting their lives on the line? I certainly do believe that doing that over the course of your career is worth some compensation. I am missing your point about many firefighters being volunteers. I appreciate the involvement of the volunteers, but do not want to go back to relying on volunteers entirely.

    I agree with you that there are workers that currently work to 65 without company paid pension and health care. That in my opinion is a failing of both the free market system and our society as a whole. I do not believe that anyone should face old age in our society without an income sufficient to provide for food, housing, clothing and health care. My point was not that anyone’s particular job should entitle them to exhorbitant
    benefits while others have none, but that no one who has contributed should have to worry about living out their retirement in poverty.

    I do not believe the answer is to penalize our public employees or to pit public workers against private sector workers.
    I agree with davehart that everyone who has worked through most of their adult life is entitled (yes, entitled!) to a retirement free of poverty simply for having been a contributing member of our society. And, yes, I am aware of the cost. i firmly believe that our society generates enough wealth to guarantee this. I believe that we need to re prioritize our societal values. I find it find it completely unacceptable to finance multiple overseas military adventures (also very costly), provide billionaires with tax breaks (also pretty costly) while allowing children and the elderly to live in poverty.

    And I am not in ignorance of your Ayn Rand based belief in the free market system as a panacea. I simply read it, analyzed it, as you did,
    And came to different conclusions. I disagree with you, but I respect your opinion which is doubtless as consistent with your life experiences as my beliefs are with mine. We are very unlikely to agree philosophically, so I feel that it is our responsibility as members of the same society to seek those ares of common ground which can be used as a base on which to build.

  20. Frankly

    [i]”The difference in the discourse on this issue seems to be those who express despair and offer no hope in going beyond the stated or perceived problem. “It’s unsustainable, so we just have to cut back and do with or without depending on your luck, inheritance, health, good looks, etc., too bad, end of story, suck it up on your own”.[/i]

    Dave Hart: I see your objectivity at work here, but there is very important concept you left out: the effects, strengths and limitations of human nature.

    Ironically most that envision a world with copious government-provided social services and safety nets also believe a fantastic story that humans evolved from some tarry substance a couple of billion years ago (note that the alternative story is also fantastic) and then started to walk upright a few million years ago. These same people that are prone to believe this scientific-based fantastic story rather than the religion-based fantastic story more often wring their hands over any human intervention that disrupts the natural state and behavior of all animals… that is, except the human animal. For the human animal, these people think they are smart enough to control all outcomes. They believe they have the knowledge required to make it better for everyone… to basically save people from themselves… actions they justify by their statist’s assessment that those they will save will be beneficiaries compensated for their unlucky, unsophisticated and uneducated ways. The people that think this way have historically always failed; yet they never give up in this same pursuit. They change the names of their ideas, but they are all the same. They are all collectivism at its core… repackaged for a modern audience prone to forgetfulness about the lessons of history.

    Humans are built for struggle. On the scale of our evolution, it is only the last micro-second of our existence that we have not had to fight every day for survival. We hunted, then we farmed, then we moved to an economic-market based system of existence. The reason this later worked is that it replicated the struggle for survival that is part of our human nature. Yes there are winners and losers; but the greatness of the American system is that these are only temporary and transitory. “Rags to riches” is main story, not the subplot. America has been the great experiment that worked, but it is being destroyed from within.

    What we need from our government is to get the hell out of our lives to stop attempting to force outcomes. Instead, it should be a purveyor of individual and collective opportunity. Education fits here because with a great education a young person starts his/her journey to economic growth and development farther up the ladder… potentially making up for some liabilities that come from being less lucky in birth. Infrastructure also need to be a priority. Government should also get the hell out of regulating the crap out of business and just focus on policies that keep competition fair and plentiful. Progressives hate this idea because most of them are not part of the inner circle of business. They also hate what they cannot control. They hate the chaos of natural systems and want order in their world. They will order us to death.

    Ironically too, it was academic lefty math brains that were the root cause of the collapse of the financial markets the led to the Great Recession. It was their pursuit of struggle (games) that led them to start trying to beat the stock market through computer models. These are the people that invented derivatives, arbitrage and hedge funds. Their computer models were so complex that nobody in charge could calculate real risk. These computer models are still at work today because the government stepped in to prevent the natural consequences of over-hunting and over-farming the land (metaphors for the work they would do today).

  21. Frankly

    Without a robust system that allows success through self-determination (and yes, luck), we are ignoring our built-in human nature for needing to struggle and persevere. We are corrupting our individual and collective psyche with a looter and moocher mentality gone wild. Keep it up and the meek will most definitely inherit the earth and it will not turn out well.

    Mine is a much more difficult argument to make than medwoman’s because it requires a bigger picture view and thicker skin… and frankly sounds mean. For example, a common talking point of the left is the growing income gap between rich and poor and then the common emotives that accompany this point. Those that cry about this either don’t understand or otherwise just disingenuously leave out the fact that the number of wealthy has exploded in the last 40-50 years. In the 60s when the top fed tax rate was 90% the top 10% of wealthy contribute less than half of what the top 10% of wealthy contribute today. Boats have been substantially lifted and, yes, some are worse off by comparison. However many of those who are worse off could grow much more prosperity by recognizing that if they don’t hunt, or if they don’t farm (metaphors again), they will go hungry. Instead, we feed them and provide them shelter and healthcare… all for free. We should be teaching them to speak Chinese, not feeding them free Chinese food!

    The issue with public-sector pay and pensions gone wild is that, combined with all the social entitlements, we do not have enough money to spend on all the things that we should… education, infrastructure, business development, job retraining, etc…. all the things that help people help themselves. And we cannot raise taxes… the Laffer Curve is real… as greater economic opportunity can be realized from tax avoidance more than it can from wealth creation, producers will stop producing… stop taking risks… stop hiring. They will “shrug”.

    I too want services for the truly needy. I do not want them cut. However, I think there a LOT FEWER truly need people than we are constantly giving handout to. And many of those that have fallen off the road to prosperity are casualties of our crappy public schools. Schools we cannot reform because we are so busy wringing our hands over a lack of funding.

  22. medwoman

    jB

    “mine is a much more difficult argument to make….because it requires a bigger picture view and a thicker skin …and frankly sounds mean”
    By focusing on the “built in human nature for needing to struggle and preserver “you ignore the other half of our built in human nature. The half that leads us to form social groups, collaborate, and share, To be successful as a society, I believe we must find a balance between these two aspects of human nature, not pretend that one or the other is more valuable.

  23. wdf1

    JB: [i]Without a robust system that allows success through self-determination (and yes, luck), we are ignoring our built-in human nature for needing to struggle and persevere. We are corrupting our individual and collective psyche with a looter and moocher mentality gone wild. Keep it up and the meek will most definitely inherit the earth and it will not turn out well.[/i]

    You have a view of evolution that focuses on the individual competition that tends to exclude certain synergistic and group dynamics. This view is a very limited portion of the paradigm of evolutionary biologists. There is substantial interdependency in nature. Even “tribalism”, which you seem to disdain, represents at a certain level the cooperative and collaborative abilities of the human race which have led to its growth on Earth. Likewise, a lack of understanding of our interdependencies will just as readily lead to our downfall.

    Inasmuch as you have an affinity for a Randian view of the world, biologists regularly put plants into an ecological category called “producers”. They put humans and animals into another category called “consumers”, which is equivalent to what Ayn Rand would identify as “moochers”. I find that a somewhat humbling perspective of nature. But even plants as producers rely on the putrid rotting flesh of animals (“moochers”) for nutrients and certain other benefits to their survival, some plants more than others.

    Viewing the world in terms of individual competition is a bit myopic and misses the bigger picture of possibilities.

  24. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]There are those who don’t want to take bad news as the final answer and believe if we can envision a solution, there is hope we can attain it. “There is a larger context for this crisis that suggests it can be fixed if we do some things differently; share the vision of what the fix looks like so that almost everyone can pitch in and do their part to make it happen.” It’s patriotic to be in the “hope” category. Great leaders have realistic optimism when confronting problems. If our leaders aren’t showing those traits, we need to find ones who do have them. Despair goes nowhere.[/quote]

    I agree with your basic premise of “hope”. My dad always taught me that without hope you have nothing. I think my distress and concern is with the direction the country is going – away from home ownership towards rent only. Towards big gov’t taking care of everyone’s wants and needs even tho it is an unsustainable track. I, like you, would like to see our gov’t leaders get a good grip on reality, and do what is in the best interests of the country as a whole. But instead we see constant mudslinging, more concern about being elected than what is best for our citizens, and no concern for the future – the model that I grew up with – which is to slowly build equity towards self sufficiency. Instead, our children are being shortchanged w newer and better gadgets to make up for the lack in solid equity building self-sufficiency, including moving away from social skills to interact appropriately with one’s fellow man.

  25. Frankly

    wdf1:

    [i]”They put humans and animals into another category called “consumers”, which is equivalent to what Ayn Rand would identify as “moochers”. [/i]

    Absolutely not assuming the consumer earns what he spends. The consumer would also be a producer of something if he earned what he spent.

    [i]”You have a view of evolution that focuses on the individual competition that tends to exclude certain synergistic and group dynamics.”[/i]

    I absolutely do not exclude synergistic and group dynamics. I also do not see tribalism as a negative thing per se. Humans, like all animals, create tribes, groups, communities, etc… as a common mechanism to enhance survival and to help individuals pursue their individual self interest. When one tribe attempts to subvert and control another tribe I see that as the negative aspect of tribalism.

    [i]”Viewing the world in terms of individual competition is a bit myopic and misses the bigger picture of possibilities.”[/i]

    Viewing so many people as needing so much control and so much social and economic intervention is a bit short-sighted and also misses the picture of possibilities that should be achieved.

    I think you tend to think: “Look at all we can do to help people if we direct our resources appropriately.” I think: “Look at all we can do to help people help themselves if we direct our resources appropriately.” This difference in thinking is both nuanced and vast. I think you want a government that cares for people. I think government is never a genuine caring and loving institution because the people in power are always just people pursuing their own self interest… despite their denial and mythology that they answer to some higher secular calling. I would prefer a government that is much more limited… focusing instead on policies and services that help people take care of themselves. I want government to stop looting; to start producing more producers and fewer moochers.

    I used to read a lot of science fiction. I was also a big fan of the Star Trek Next Generation series. Gene Roddenberry was obsessed with contrasting social and cultural views. The Next Generation story and plot was based on a liberal-progressive view of the “possibilities” manifest: extremely diverse humanoids working together in racially-sensitive harmony in a highly-intellectual meritocracy where they combat social, cultural and ecological injustice with nuance and respect for other less-blessed humanoids. Roddenberry then produced Deep Space Nine, which was meant to show the opposite view… one where human nature was not so easily controlled… where individual self-interest ruled and people of all planetary origins competed for prosperity. Roddenberry was a liberal-progressive and he painted the Next Generation as pristine, clean and ordered. Deep Space Nine was dark, dirty and chaotic. The interesting conundrum he saw in his utopian view was the development of a new static dual class hierarchy: the controlling intellectual elites and the rest of humanity. He acknowledged that his Deep Space Nine social construct, although fraught with more conflict and transactional ugliness, was more real, more dynamic and less exclusionary.

    The failure of any form of collectivism is the requirement that we have rules makers and rule enforcers. Any view of utopia forced on others will always become a dystopia. The only qualified march to social utopia is one where each individual has abundant opportunity to define his/her own.

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