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Retired at 52, a Teacher Faults NJ’s Generosity


[I first aired this commentary more than a year ago but am republishing it because the public-employee pension problem it describes has only grown more dire. Some of the best writing on this topic has been done by my colleague and fellow deflationist Mish Shedlock. Click here to access his most recent work, which concerns the looming disaster in Illinois. 

The author of the guest essay below is a retired New Jersey teacher who considers her benefits package far too generous. Gov. Christie was right to confront the teachers’ union immediately after taking office, she says, since teacher benefits could eventually bankrupt the state, and many others, if outlays needed to pay those benefits continue to outstrip revenues.  I have withheld the author’s name to protect her from retaliation by her former colleagues. RA]

I watch with gratitude the commercial by Prudential that warns those who hope to retire to think about how much money they’ll need to do so comfortably.  I am grateful because I need not worry so much about my money running out before my nest egg does. I am a retired New Jersey educator.  My funds are as lengthy as my life.  They will even continue to support my spouse after I am gone at a rate of 50%.  His pension will additionally support me at a rate of 50% if he should pre-decease me.

I began teaching in 1972 at an annual salary of $7,700.  It was not much. Incremental raises were small from year to year.  I ended my career teaching after 30 years.  I was 52 — three years below full retirement age. I decided for personal reasons to retire early at a penalty of 3% per annum below the full retirement age, which was recently moved down to 55.  I was not concerned because the 9% decrease in my pension benefits would be more than offset by three additional years of benefits.

Retiring Like a Millionaire

Although I am not well versed in the subject of finance, I am told that I would need to have amassed a nest egg substantially greater than a million dollars to provide as well for myself as New Jersey does.  Since this is a near impossibility at my former pay scale, it is all the more amazing that New Jersey is so generously funding my golden years. Additionally, my healthcare benefits were covered by the state until Medicare kicked in. After that, my secondary insurance was picked up by the N.J. State Health Benefits Plan.

This is a rather lengthy prelude to the point I wish to convey about the state of pensions both in New Jersey and other states that confer similar benefits on government workers. It is clear that this level of pension funding cannot be sustained indefinitely. Public servants must be part of the solution to burgeoning budget deficits in every state in which they occur.  I am not an actuary, nor am I an economist, but I can see the anger growing in the public-at-large that continues to question the demands of those who receive generous packages during their employment and afterwards.  Surely, the cris de coeur about the plight of educators cannot reflect the economic realities of many of the constituents who pay the educators’ salaries.

Bergen County ‘Tops’ at $90K

To give you an idea of how very generous teachers’ pensions are, I’ve appended average salaries for NJ districts in 2011-12 below. Benefits are calculated by taking the average salary of the last three years of employment multiplied by the number of years in New Jersey public education, divided by 60 (full retirement age).  Thus, if you worked as teacher in Bergen County for 30 years, your annual pension benefit could be as high as $45,114 ($90,228 x 30 divided by 60). When I retired early, I received 30 years divided by 55 (which was for a short time considered full retirement age. Gov. Christie returned the full retirement age to 60 as a cost-saving measure). Tack on full health insurance until Medicare kicks in, plus, when you reach 65, the state picks up the supplemental costs. A pretty sweet deal, no?

Here are the salary averages, by county: 1. Northern Valley Regional (Bergen County) $90,228; 2. Ocean City (Cape May) $88,434; 3. Carlstadt-East Rutherford (Bergen) $87,502; 4. East Rutherford (Bergen) $86,624; 5. Edison (Middlesex) $84,159; 6. Margate (Atlantic) $83,820; 7. East Orange (Essex) $83,418; 8. Closter (Bergen) $82,558; 9. Wallkill Valley Regional (Sussex) $82,475; 10. High Point Regional (Sussex) $82,386; 11. Teaneck (Bergen) $82,116; 12. West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional (Mercer) $82,059; 13. Hackensack (Bergen) $81,900;14. Pascack Valley Regional (Bergen) $81,832;15. Mainland Regional (Atlantic) $81,100; 16. Trenton (Mercer) $80,886;17. Millburn (Essex) $80,774; 18. Pemberton (Burlington) $80,579; 19. River Dell Regional (Bergen) $79,564; 20. Freehold Regional (Monmouth) $79,185.

No Traitor

Often I feel like a traitor to my profession – or I am made to feel so by the constant postings of my former colleagues who seek every opportunity to defame Gov. Christie for his hardline stance on unsustainable obligations to retired educators.  I am not, however, traitorous. A paradox arises out of this situation.  Taxes rise to cover increasing costs.  Retirees who cannot afford some of the highest property taxes and state taxes take their pensions out of state and live in tax free zones.  It is time for us to become responsible adults and change a system which is antiquated and inequitable for those who are left to pay the price.

Please do not ask trading questions!

  • TahoeBilly June 27, 2015, 12:08 am

    I come from the school of thought that anything and everything we have, such as overpaid public “servants”, are “allowed” by the so called “deep state”. The true handlers of the system see a high value in pushing the “state employees” to the limits of financial ruin for all, because they create power for the State structure itself. First off, teachers can be looked at as the core of the “system” itself, teaching children to keep debates within controlled lines, Republican versus Democrat etc.. If the deep state controllers didn’t want big, fat overpaid retirees to hold up a success stories of the state system itself, the unions wouldn’t have a chance. God forbid a gang of retired teachers started voting for Rand Paul or something crazy like that, deep state needs its core, and you have it with these people.

  • James June 24, 2015, 6:21 am

    It’s been well known that many teachers have well-stocked benefits and union-backed pensions. In addition they are given leniency based on the type of work they do. Of course I am talking about regular K-12 teachers not the ones in secondary level education. On one hand, I agree that unilateral support of teachers is important, but then again there is way too much regulation and bureaucracy and that definitely can be improved so that teaching can become more in line with today’s realities and real world expectations.

  • mava May 10, 2014, 9:06 am

    “50 percent of professional teachers quit in 5 years time. Now they must be sick. Given your iron-clad view of their sweet vocation it must be so.

    I am a very good computer programmer. This does not compute.”

    Why? Why can’t you compute this? They make so much money, after 5 years they are set! Too much money!

    Compare this with people working for minimum wage. They have no other choice but to stick around for life!

  • VILE VLAD May 10, 2014, 7:13 am

    ….which most of it you delete anyway, since you hate me. and you hate me, because I will not play your game. even though, I am a defender of jew girls.


    Hate you, Vlad? Come on. You’re merely a minor annoyance. But if you want to be published here, you know the rules. Rule #1 is: Stick to the topic. Concerning jew girls, if I had daughters, you’d be the last person I’d trust to babysit them.

    And how about furnishing a legit email address so that I don’t have to pollute the forum with dialogue such as this? RA

    • VILE VLAD May 12, 2014, 1:46 am

      maybe you are just burnt out from craziest ‘bull’market of all. I know I am.

  • Rick Ackerman May 9, 2014, 8:42 pm

    Gary, I’m going to give it to you straight: Your posts here reflect a sickness and an addiction. SO FAR, YOU HAVE WRITTEN EXACTLY 3743 WORDS ON THE CURRENT TOPIC. Can’t you stop yourself? If not, you should seek help, maybe a twelve-step program. I wish I could put you in touch with Vlad, who has a similar problem, but he’s too paranoid to provide a legitimate email address.

    • gary leibowitz May 10, 2014, 12:14 am

      Why when I give facts that contradict your assumptions is it totally ignored. Not one person explains or discards my research. Isn’t this a blog? I assumed people respond to others, especially if they have something to contribute.

      I write in a vacuum. You can ignore me, but the FACTS still remain, unless I have gotten them wrong.

      Have I gotten it wrong? (what no answer yet again)
      Yes I will move on since not one single person has contradicted or challenged my facts.

      Yes I do need help. I can’t for the life of me figure out why people would shut themselves from truths they find offensive.

      50 percent of professional teachers quit in 5 years time. Now they must be sick. Given your iron-clad view of their sweet vocation it must be so.

      I am a very good computer programmer. This does not compute.

      • Oregon May 10, 2014, 2:58 am

        50% of small businesses fail in the first 5 years.
        50% of college students change their major, most will have had three majors before they finish. Most marriages fail in 7-8 years. Most people move every 5 years. ‘FACTS’, that reflect human nature, so what?

        I am not disputing your ‘facts’, only the conclusions you draw from them.

        Fact: I would not be a teacher for $100,000.00/year. Does that mean it’s not enough money, or that I don’t want to be a teacher?

      • Rick Ackerman May 10, 2014, 4:55 am

        That’s 108 more words, Gary, for a total to 3851. I would guess that some forum regulars are rooting for you to hit 4000 before the topic gets changed Sunday night. In the blog world, that would be equivalent to, oh, Carl Sawatski’s 200th base hit.

      • Oregon May 10, 2014, 5:07 pm

        …”In the blog world, that would be equivalent to, oh, Carl Sawatski’s 200th base hit.”

        R.A., your perspicaciousness knows no bounds.

        However, you may be underestimating the profundity. I might suggest equivalence to Navin R. Johnson’s phonebook moment: “I’m somebody! …I’m in print! Things are going to start happening to me now.”


        So sad that the millions of ordinary Americans who would have empathized with Navin Johnson didn’t live long enough to see his apotheosis on The Jerry Springer Show. Sawatski, by the way, who caught without a chest protector, was no Navin Johnson.

  • gary leibowitz May 9, 2014, 6:10 pm

    In 2011, 50 percent of all teachers left their profession. the average salary was 35,000, considered half of what private sector jobs of comparable responsibility should pay.

    I live in a world of teachers. Sisters, wife, friends. The job requires many hours at home to prepare lessons, tests, materials. Every single person I know as a teacher uses his/her own money to supply basic needed materials. Every single person I know tell everyone interested in the profession to look for another career.

    Just like the FOX NEWS on outlandish rate hikes for Obamacare, you manage to paint a one-sided picture. Congrats!

    Lets not let FACTS get in the way of reality. Please explain away the simple fact that by the end of 2011 there were 50 percent of all teachers leaving that profession in a 5 year stretch. Were they the stupid ones that didn’t know what their union dues paid for?
    Looks like reality once again goes against your assumptions. You would rather believe an abstract version of events as opposed to real hard data.

    Would YOU leave a job with such perks? There has to be an answer.

    50 percent is a number that can’t be dismissed. You can of course look to find why that data is just another example of corrupt misleading reporting.

    This is once again falling on deaf ears. Why do you even bother to follow a technical proprietary system? Surely YOU know better that this market will crash and burn any day now. Why use a system that is based on flawed underpinning. Fixed and manipulated markets can’t possibly have a valid tradable system? Yet you do use it. Just another hypocrisy.

    Dismiss the 50 percent attrition rate as an aberration. Angry Old White Men. I am glad the next generation is not as biased and bitter about the world. The old Republican ways is losing members using the lynch mob mentality. BTW, let me know what startling conspiracy is uncovered on the Benghazi murders. We all know it was planned from the beginning. Witch hunt for political talking points? Gee, politicians slanted or ignored possible solutions that made them look bad? Far cry from allowing this mess to happen. 2500 pages of documents already uncovered is not enough? Under funding was by the senate and house. Shocking! In hindsight we love to blame politicians. In reality we hate they over spend on everything.

    • gary leibowitz May 9, 2014, 6:20 pm

      Revisions: Starting salary around 35,000 and average pay around 45,000 of the ones in the workforce at that time. States vary a lot by differing standard of living. This is the pooled average.

      If I am wrong please open the discussion.

  • gary leibowitz May 8, 2014, 5:45 pm

    All this talk of the 4 horseman, the evil government bailouts, the never ending bond purchases have me thinking all is lost. But wait, facts seem to get in the way of this dire prediction.

    Total outflow from bailouts accounting for both the TARP and the Fannie and Freddie bailout, $610B has gone out the door—invested, loaned, or paid out—while $387B has been returned. But wait, the government already earns a profit from these loans. Add on dividends, interest, warrants, and other proceeds and the government actually earned 32 billion so far. That comes to over 5 percent return on monies loaned in the last 5 years. Not exactly a great investment but given the fact that our government only knows how to spend it sure is a miracle.

    What’s up with the bond purchase program? The numerous talking points for years was that that would never be stopped. Don’t look now but it just might happen this year. I know that program has cost over a trillion dollars, and perhaps the economy will not recover enough to pay that back. Hope for your sake it holds true. This way the complaints can get stronger. The strong opinion from this board would have us do absolutely nothing from 2009 on. I wonder which way will prove the least painful. We will never know, and because of that you can claim victory.

    As for the 4 horseman, sorry I can’t compete with all the dire predictions coming out of this blog. I suspect each of you must already be in dire straits for you to think its coming now. How it gets worse from so many long and horrific periods in our past is beyond me. A nuclear war, or nature’s angry cyclical and man-made events is always a possibility. But with those you can’t blame the US government (or can you).

    I await the next fallout to be posted here. Benghazi? The Republicans are sure riding this one as far as it politically can go. I guess they didn’t learn their lesson from the dire consequence of Obamacare. Is there really a story here? I guess when most here think every bad outcome is a result of government intervention you will forever have something to talk about. The 9/11 conspiracy surely must also be tied to Obama. According to most here he is the biblical predicted antichrist. Can’t be any more evil than that.

    Clip-clop clip-clop, here they come.

    • Craig May 8, 2014, 10:18 pm

      Losers always look at the scoreboard before the game is over.


      This economic trainwreck is held together by dental floss, what is keeping it together….confidence built on lies. Why and when will it collapse, when your heros want it to. Will your heros help Gary in the collapse, nope, your heros despise you Gary. They admire the people that fight them.

      You know when freedom fails the best men rot in filthy jails and those that cried appease appease (Gary) are hung (or starved) by those they tried to please.

      • Oregon May 8, 2014, 11:38 pm

        Beautiful shot Craig. Was that pimp-slap a forehand or backhand?

    • gary leibowitz May 9, 2014, 5:00 pm

      Great retort to common sense questions and opinions. It’s this type of counter-point I always get when confronted with hard facts. 5 years and counting without any real answers. In a normal market cycle of the past few decades we have just achieved yet another one. Hard to imagine that intervention and conspiracies have allowed for such record earnings and gross margins. I am still of the opinion that we have another 20 percent on the upside before it’s all over. Time wise we are approaching a much needed correction. Since the Nasdaq is behaving well during the long and slow transition away from the high-flyers, we should see an inflection point very soon. 4,000 or bust. We should breakout or down very soon. My expectation for this move has already passed, but I am an impatient investor. If we do go higher from here it should be short but dramatic. I was told that my calls are no better than most. I disagree, but I am biased in this opinion.

      So I guess I continue to talk to myself and we both learn nothing from it. I don’t dare claim to have all the answers, and would appreciate other peoples perspective. Honest discussion without trash talk. I must admit that after so long I too go on the offensive, but still wish more people like Mario would try and have a real debate. This board seems to only want a specific type of social club gathering. It is a vehicle for learning proprietary technical market betting for those that have an extreme political agenda.

      Why isn’t the topics germane to market direction? Using technical method for betting with talking points of conspiracies, fixes, fake data, and hidden agendas. Wouldn’t fundamental analysis of market condition help in using the technical betting method everyone uses here? I would think that it would help in determining the strength of some of the A-B-C-D trends that develop. If you see a strong trend develop, be it fundamental or technical, would you put equal weight on the proprietary trading method if it goes against that trend? Perhaps someone should analyze the win loss ratio by using Ricks method when there is clear intermediate trend directions. Just a thought.

  • John Jay May 8, 2014, 4:27 pm

    Oops, I forgot one!

    First Lady acts like Eva Peron? Check, and Double Check!

    • VICIOUS VLAD May 9, 2014, 1:40 pm

      early-died evita perón


      You are seizing on minor details of other posts to create gratuitous excuses to blather and rant ad nauseum about your own bugaboos. I will publish up to two items from you daily, but only if they thoughtfully address the headlined topic. RA

  • John Jay May 8, 2014, 4:22 pm

    All of this is just more evidence that the USA is just another Banana Republic now.

    Ruled by a Dictator? Check.
    A tiny, uber-wealthy class of Overlords? Check.
    Only decent jobs are Government Jobs? Check.
    Any dissent crushed by a brutal Police Force? Check.
    Rigged elections? Check.
    Top 1% exempt from all Laws? Check.
    Ceaseless Government Propaganda? Check.

    That’s Checkmate for you and I!

    • VICIOUS VLAD May 9, 2014, 2:03 pm

      and hey, buddy jj!
      ‘banana republics,’ are often good!! (but not always, though).
      because, like in hesse’s siddharta, a man is allowed to fish, on his own!
      and mind his own business! and care about nothing, but his own business!
      strange world. but writers tell it best.

    • Troll May 10, 2014, 4:05 am

      That’s “Checkmate for you and me!” John Jay. Grade five English.

  • Redwilldanaher May 8, 2014, 2:33 am

    El Garo will be happy to learn that the PPT is handing the ball off to the NSA. Now the “regulators” will be able to print stock market profits for themselves as they porn surf while they’re protecting us from from nothing yet serving their purpose of reeling in suckers…

    Drudge about to be regulated.

    Need one more item for Garo to hit trifecta today.

    Embrace the fascunism Garo, it worked out so well last time around.

  • Traveler May 7, 2014, 7:57 pm

    Gary is forgetting something: eventually that which can’t be paid, won’t be paid. I read somewhere that back around 1960, government spending at all levels consumed about 15% of GDP. Today that number is about 40%. And climbing. That’s a trend that can’t continue unabated, no two ways about that. Yeah the private economy isn’t so bad as many think, but that’s counteracted by just how bad it is in the public sector. Gary loves the private sector performance, but refuses to see the reality of public sector performance.

    • gary leibowitz May 8, 2014, 3:07 am

      Government GDP percentages have been rising for over a century. You have me mistaken for someone else when you stated I love the private sector performance. In fact I hate it. Betting with corporations in the private sector doesn’t mean I enjoy the way they treat their employees. Profits equate to rising stock prices, not the health of the worker. While I agree government spending can’t continue, the timing of it’s reversal is disastrous. You don’t get rid of the job sector that is keeping the economy afloat today. It’s the same argument I have with the notion of allowing the debt implosion to take out our banks, brokerages, insurance companies, and the like. Not a good idea. You reign in abuses when it is feasible to do so. Silly to kill the economy because you never liked the original structure. Can you see one step ahead? What do you suppose happens when that 40 percent has a pay/perks cut? Will this allow the economy to recover faster or slower? Will it not cut the knees under the current fragile recovery? All people see here is right or wrong without any unwanted repercussions from these simple decisions. Is that how it works in the real world?

      In your world we never had the taper program because everyone assured me it would cause inflation and destroy the market and economy. It hasn’t happened and in fact is actually showing strong demand for our bonds. The black and white cause and affect hasn’t worked with this bunch. If wrong, you must reassess and change. Instead most here stick to a failed premise and assume in reality it never did fail, only was masked over or lied to. I can’t win when everything that happens or ever will happen can be explained away with smoke and mirrors. Can’t fight what’s not there. I’ll stick to the data points, as silly as that is.

  • Troll May 7, 2014, 5:04 am

    Gary, you are not bailing water nearly as fast as it is coming in. Time to abandon ship, get yourself a lifeboat and save your arguments for another day. Seriously.

    • gary leibowitz May 7, 2014, 4:38 pm

      Seriously, the energy spent on defending the top, when most of the argument is coming from the middle is silly and counter productive.

      Fair market competition is now a slang for fixed wages and reduced benefits. Give me a break. You people complain out of both sides of your mouth. So which is it, the Middle C
      lass government jobs killing this nation, or the siphoning of money to the very top?

      The notion that Unions were the cause of the decline is ludicrous. I suppose the fact that today we only have 7 percent of Unions in the private sector must mean the private sector is doing just great. Well if you look at profits and the stubborn resistance to share that profit I would agree. The last 5 years was a miracle according to most here. You can’t seem to understand how the economy is chugging along based on the appalling wage and job reports.

      So let me ask you, are you complaining that the wage and job component is still too high? Should we continue to see the free market destroy any thoughts of a life after retirement? Everyone agrees that wages are dead. The theory pushed around as to why the economy is still growing is most interesting. We have the conspiracy theories that dismiss this is really happening to outside money filling the gap, to people working longer, harder, and borrowing more. I must put in yet another reason. it’s those pesky union jobs that are preventing us from having a boom economy.

      Killing the perks of government jobs will do what to the state of the economy? A- Will it help increase the overall wage and spending component B- Will it reduce government spending and thereby give more back to its citizens? C- Will it balance the private and public “free markets” and thereby help the general public? It will do none of these. It will however speed the decline of wage earners and steepen the descent.

      Killing the one thing that has kept us afloat is masochistic. You can’t continue to complain about the low wages and lousy jobs in a free market. If anything you are encouraging and endorsing such policy by demanding government jobs be part of that free market. You are asking for your death sentence to be pushed up in time. Guess you just can’t wait to be executed.

      Once Unions are gone and the startling realization that there is a proportional reduction in government tax inflow, what do you suppose that does to the deficit gap? Will local governments have more money to shore up their ever widening debt gap? Will they reduce taxes? Will they then have a balanced budget? Will they then become fiscally responsible?

      BTW, can anyone please show me articles by professionals that show the comparison between increased Union membership and the proportional destruction of the economy? Since there are no private unions to speak of, 7 percent of all unions, these can’t be a problem with free market competition. There then can’t be the cause of this economic destruction. In fact once you get rid of government unions the differences will be gone. For the better or worse? I’ll let you business men decide.

      • gary leibowitz May 7, 2014, 5:25 pm

        Looked at my post and realized my “then” for “than” mistakes. Since I live in the past perhaps you can understand my inclination to see everything in the past tense.

        As for the notion that this market has been propped up for 5 years, I would call that time frame a very defined bull cycle. No such thing as a hidden crash for 5 plus years. I even expect another 20 percent higher from here before it’s all over. The speed bump on this current move should occur soon. If not right here, than by June. The June thru October should see a much needed correction. If we hold reasonably well by end of October, we should have that last leg up. My naïve silly notions of a normal bull cycle has already proven to be true, much to everyone’s dissatisfaction. Just as the markets have proven me right, your resolve to wipe out any argument that has been proven to go against you is intact. When we do get that 2009 style drop again you will of course restart your script as if it never stopped. I for one can’t wait for the gloating and ecstasy to begin. Patience and fortitude will be needed till that day occurs. (with my luck the crash will occur as I write this)

      • Redwilldanaher May 7, 2014, 9:09 pm

        El Garo, shockingly I agree that the summer into early fall could be precarious and also with a big rebound to follow, also think they will try their best for one more push here over the next 6 weeks.

        As for the rest of your commentary, it’s as ludicrous today as it was 5 years ago. You’re a model of a consistency with a lack of quality control …

  • Hardrock May 7, 2014, 4:21 am

    In Kentucky certified employees top out at about $60k in most districts for about 185 days of instruction. We can retire after 27 years at 65% of the top three years average. If you hang in there another three years, you’re up to 70%. People who are smart do not use sick days because you get 30% of the value of those days factored into the average of the last three years.
    When I started, older teachers told me that the pay stunk but that it would be worth it in the end. Now that I’m finishing 30…and especially because I spent the last 18 in administration (year ’round – 240 day contract) it is indeed looking better. That said, our state is not funding teacher retirement like it should and I wonder if some of the younger educators are going to pay the price for those of us able to get out before the SHTF. We are already paying more into retirement. Next thing that will happen is retirement will go back to 30 years….after that, who knows.

  • gary leibowitz May 6, 2014, 9:36 pm

    Most Union members are either in the middle class or lower-middle class. Most are now employed by the public. Most union jobs used to be supplied by the private sector with similar perks.

    Why in the world hasn’t anyone complained that the reason private jobs have such low wages and zero job protection is because of the abandonment of Unions. Why would you actually encourage this to continue?

    Is everyone here an owner of a company? I can sure understand their point of view. Please tell me how the blame is on the citizens that still have pensions, and not on the private sector that abandoned it. If all of us had these perks there would be no whining.

    Attacking the group that is fighting for middle class survival is ludicrous. We should be demanding that the private sector treats us as good (like they used to).

    But in the end everyone will make sure Unions get stripped of their so called privileges. We prefer bringing everyone down to scramble in the muck. it’s so much easier to do so than to actually demand we all get out of that muck.

    • Oregon May 7, 2014, 7:49 am

      Glaring problems with your thinking gary…

      “Since Unions came into existence some very interesting facts have emerged. Whenever you have peak union members the economy has performed at its best, and exactly the opposite occurs when you have low numbers.”

      The health of the economy has nothing to do with the unions. The health of the unions has everything to do with the economy. A frothy economy means workers can demand more and businesses have more to meet those demands. When the economy turns down businesses cannot meet the demands of the unions, and the promises of the past create a drag on business during a down economy.

      “Why in the world hasn’t anyone complained that the reason private jobs have such low wages and zero job protection is because of the abandonment of Unions. Why would you actually encourage this to continue?”

      Unions were abandoned from competition within the labor pool domestically, and now internationally. Detroit died because it cost unionized labor $70/hr. to build a car when other places can and will build for $40, domestically, and much cheaper internationally. Welcome to life in the real world gary. I compete with contractors who will work much cheaper all the time, it’s not a problem for me unless they also do a better job. And what would you do gary, fine or imprison someone who will do a quality job for a lower price, and no pension?

      “We should be demanding that the private sector treats us as good (like they used to).”

      Go ahead gary, make your demands, I hope you are irreplaceable, otherwise there are a few thousand college grads who will do your job for less, and possibly better.

      You admit you are a socialist, and therefore I don’t think you can even comprehend free market economics nor the competitive practices necessary for business AND personal survival.

      Competition killed unions! Figure it out.

    • mario cavolo May 7, 2014, 9:36 am

      I must chime in that Gary is hitting on a reasonable point here.

      We can’t complain about directive like unions and pension and healthcare benefits while at the same time also noting how our oligarch crony influenced govt has destroyed the country by destroying the lives of the lower-middle class while the rich have gotten filthy rich and favored, both of which is true and which we are all upset about.

      Of course there are many related issues and I’ve oversimplified it a bit but…

      On a related note, I’ve often said that comparing U.S. and China; In China, unlike the U.S., the rich have also gotten filthy richer over the past ten years but the lower/middle class have also enjoyed a wonderful ride upward along side them into comfortable, modernizing middle class lifestyles.

      Resolution on this contradiction, folks?

      Cheers, Mario

      • Oregon May 7, 2014, 5:52 pm

        Mario, everyone wins in a frothy economy (China). As I said, labor can demand more, and employers will pay if they want the cream of the labor pool; and yes the rich get richer. That trend will continue until the cycle peaks in China and begins to turn down, at which point the obligations from the good times will intensify the following bad times (US). In the downward trend, it is a race to the bottom for labor. Anyone in construction over the last 7 years can attest: Life is survival of the fittest. An analogy comes to mind… for those that witnessed the beginnings of UFC. In the beginning of UFC, a champion had to win 3 fights in one night; even the former champion had to beat 2 hungry fighters with nothing to lose, and possibly get injured in the process, just to advance to the championship fight. Construction is similar in that during the lean times one must fend off all the hungry guys working for nothing, (who will go out of business subsequently), to be left standing when things pick up.

        This is the way of things.

      • mario cavolo May 8, 2014, 3:00 am

        Well said Oregon. Gary I get the impression you enjoy supporting social ideals for a harmonious society like unions and so do I. Without govt men with power will screw the little guy every time and with govt it still happens, but reasonable protections get created that way which is good. But you might need to allow yourself to see how in real world execution, the shenanigans begin and these well intended programs like unions end up being part of the problem. They get corrupted and unreasonable. Unions/govts, etc aren’t the problem. BAD unions/govts run by people with mostly self-serving agendas are the problem. Unfettered unreasonableness is the problem especially when it goes on and on as if its normal. Oh geez, I’m just saying two wrongs don’t make a right, aren’t I?

        Another thing I was thinking about; I don’t think most here are spouting “conspiracy theories” which implies hidden, whereas the things we see going on which shouldn’t be aren’t hidden at all, they are out for all to see and yet they still go on without justice, prudence.

        Cheers, Mario

      • Oregon May 8, 2014, 4:32 pm

        “…supporting social ideals for a harmonious society…”

        Mario, you remember that show from the early ’80s, ‘Fantasy Island’? Something just made me think of that.

      • Jason S May 8, 2014, 6:03 pm


        An apathetic and inactive populace is the problem. We get the government that we deserve.

      • mario May 10, 2014, 2:10 am


        Ricardo Montalban! What a campy show!

    • Jason S May 7, 2014, 5:16 pm

      Gary, unions served their purpose early on but their time came and went with the growth of middle class American prosperity. Over time unions became about enriching union bosses, not taking care of the common worker. Maybe America will have need of them again but right now they are part of the problem, not the solution.

      • Jason S May 7, 2014, 5:17 pm

        Oh, Gary, in your benevolence, if you would like to help take care of me and my disabled daughter let me know and I will let you know how you can walk the walk.

  • Jason S May 6, 2014, 5:00 pm

    I love that the author’s reduction for early retirement was only 3% per annum. Compared with SS which reduces benefits by 8% per annum if you take it prior to full retirement which for many of us is 66-67.

  • ter May 6, 2014, 4:28 pm

    In southeastern Florida fires are almost as rare as blizzards. Consequently, firefolk have become the most expensive Emergency Medical Techs in the neighorhoods. When there aren’t accidents or elders stricken with heart attack symptoms, they are sedentary (those who don’t pump iron in the “firehouse”) collectors of more than $120,000 per annum, much of it from overtime. Only the unions and the county commissioners know what their pensions are because the media won’t touch the sensitive subject of their (or police) pensions and retirement health care coverage. When there are fires, they are usually watched, not fought, unless of the flaming kitchen grease variety.

  • Stephen G May 6, 2014, 2:52 am

    You are correct to criticize teachers’ unions for their outlandishly luxurious benefits. But the problem exists throughout the public service, of which teachers are but one part.

    In my Canadian province, police constables receive perks that even TEACHERS can only dream of. They get regular, fat raises, lavish benefits, and can retire at 50. As with teachers, it’s nearly impossible to fire them. However while the right wing loves nothing more than to lob missiles at teachers’ unions, it is pathetically deferential to the police and doesn’t dare utter a word of criticism.

    Our crime rate is the lowest in decades – let’s face it, their job isn’t that dangerous anymore (especially not in Canada). They mostly spend their days handing out speeding tickets, directing traffic around road obstructions, and doing menial desk tasks. And they LOVE their traffic court days! How many more of these bozos do we need, arms flapping out their car windows and scarfing down taxpayer-funded doughnuts?

    The public sector’s benefits have led to a two-tier economy in which public sector employees get far more for doing the exact same jobs as their private sector counterparts. But don’t single out teachers specifically. Conservatives lose any credibility on this issue by continuing to treat police and firefighters with kid gloves.

  • gary leibowitz May 6, 2014, 2:18 am

    What an absurd argument. Unions are bad, free enterprise is good. Yup the private job market and wage scale is so bad according to everyone here that the were convinced 5 years ago that the market would never recover. Most already assumed we were in a depression given the sad state of wages in the private sector. So what to do about it? I know, get rid of anyone that is making a decent living. The easy way is to attack government workers for their lavish life style and perks. The facts that these jobs were NOT attracting people to fill them is a minor issue. The fact that government jobs used to pa less than comparable private job pay is another small inconsequential debate. The fact that until recently these great lavish jobs had an attrition rate of 50 percent within the first 5 year tenure. Inconsequential. These Union jobs must have been hidden from the general public all these decades. Why else would YOU not join? Yes all during my adolescents there were street protests against such lavish union perks. Yes all my friends complained how hard it was to get one of those great jobs. All unions should go, that way the median pay scale of American workers will fall substantially. Unions don’t help the middle class. No the private sector is doing a great job holding up the middle. In fact I think all Union jobs should be outlawed. The only protect the bosses. But don’t you worry your little heads off. It is already happening, especially with teachers. Perhaps you haven’t heard there is a decade long campaign to have charter schools replace conventional ones. Guess how many of those are unionized? Hmmm. Times up. The fact that test scores haven’t shown ANY improvement with these charter schools, where they can cherry pick students, is simply amazing. But lets not let facts get in the way of chartering schools.

    Since Unions came into existence some very interesting facts have emerged. Whenever you have peak union members the economy has performed at its best, and exactly the opposite occurs when you have low numbers.

    Anyone look up these facts? Excerpts from Wikipedia below.

    “Union membership had been declining in the US since 1954, and since 1967, as union membership rates decreased, middle class incomes shrank correspondingly. Historically, the rapid growth of public employee unions since the 1960s has served to mask an even more dramatic decline in private-sector union membership. In 2013 there were 14.5 million members in the U.S., compared with 17.7 million in 1983. In 2013, the percentage of workers belonging to a union in the United States (or total labor union “density”) was 11.3%, compared to 20.1% in 1983
    Union membership in the private sector has fallen under 7%[3] — levels not seen since 1932.
    The percentage of workers belonging to a union (or “density”) in the United States peaked in 1954 at almost 35% and the total number of union members peaked in 1979 at an estimated 21.0 million. Membership has declined since (currently 14.5 million and 11.3% of the labor force[3]). Private sector union membership then began a steady decline that continues into the 2010s, but the membership of public sector unions grew steadily (now 37%).[11]”

    So now you want the 93 percent of Union jobs (government) to be scaled down or done away with. Try guessing the result of that act. Connect the dots if you will. How bad would the economy be TODAY if all Union jobs were gone; if all complaints of envy were gone; if all scapegoats were gone.

    Me, I want EVERYONE to have a pension, private and public. Me, I want mandatory health and savings other than social security baked into your working pay scale.

    We have talking points about unions destroying our way of life when the largest implosion of greed and corruption caused trillions of dollars to be lost forever, worldwide. Nope, it wasn’t from those greedy and corrupt union bosses and members.

    A waste of print to discuss this. It is a done deal. Government union membership will drop like a stone, and will lose all the perks you think are outrageous. They have no clout. The whining about lost jobs and wages will always result in attacking the people that still maintain a middle class existence. Lynch those blacks during Civil War conscription. It sure made people feel better.

    Backbone of the middle class was unions. Now you will have to find another scapegoat. Look how well the private sector has protected the middle class. Not to worry. I am more assured that Unions are a thing of the past, like all pensions. Once they go you will be left with complaining about the immigrants taking over the jobs that you should have.

    All Union perks will be scaled back. If you bothered to look at today’s union contracts they are already substantially less for new employees. If you are lucky enough to have a pension locked in, don’t bet on it. These things are a done deal. All states on all government levels will scale back union costs. The angry public, masses, have spoken.

    • Chuck May 6, 2014, 3:49 pm

      it seems that the QE was essentially a method to shore up all of these pension funds……and to put off this issue as long as possible. just wonder how long this will be….unavoidable eventually though.


      Shoring up? No way. Pensions have costs that are mounting each and every day and that must be paid continuously with real money that comes from someone else’s pocket. As such, keeping them going so that we don’t have rioting in the streets is far different from trying to sustain the criminal hoax, with QE and other shenanigans, that the banking system is solvent.

      • Chuck May 6, 2014, 6:06 pm

        well…..even with Detroit there is another bail out for these pensioners……very small cuts were negotiated with uncle Sam helping on the other end with ‘slush’ fund money. Cops and firemen get ZERO cuts.

      • gary leibowitz May 9, 2014, 5:43 pm

        Pension funds, like the federal deficit was always deficient. Yes in good times and bad. Same was true with private pensions. Blaming the recipients for lack of fiduciary responsibility is silly. The Unions did not hold a gun to the heads of those signing the contract. Imagine if every contract was declared null and void simply because a party can no longer afford it. Fiscal responsibility is the “fake” mantra from this crowd. As long as “YOU” are the beneficiary of the broken contract it seems all right. You complain that the rules were changed to “BAILOUT” financial institutions, but seem very content to change the rules once again in “FAVOR” of your position. Hypocrites. Rules should only change if it benefits YOUR pocketbook?

        On teachers attrition rate, please explain to me the one-sided opinion that they get a windfall of perks with no downside? ANYONE want to explain why 50 percent of all teachers leave within 5 years? ANYONE? Surely the one-sided opinion here that they have it so great is contradictory to FACTS. But lets not try to confuse the issue. Surely those outlandish contracts were extorted out of the politicians. Surely the fact that they couldn’t get qualified teachers had something to do with it? NO?

        50 percent of stupid teachers have left? This MUST be wrong.

        But as usual this board will keep their blinders on and continue to scratch their head trying to figure out how the stock market managed to trap so many stupid people these last 5 years.

        Debate? One-liners? I know which I will receive.



        For teachers hired in the last 5-10 years, the gravy train has ceased to exist. That will in no way alleviate the burden on taxpayers of overly generous benefits promised to retired teachers who began their careers 10 to 50 years ago. So, how will 5,000 cities on the hook for retirement benefits that will bankrupt them make good on those promises if the money isn’t there…will never be there? RA

    • DON' NEED NO STEENKIN' PENCHON -- VLAD May 7, 2014, 6:49 am

      gary, the in-house (ever-laughable, bleeding-heart lib) EMPATH, sadly, whine-ly says–

      “Me, I want EVERYONE to have a pension, private and public. Me, I want mandatory health and savings other than social security baked into your working pay scale.”

      (and says, while sweet violins play, as background music, for site’s maudlin EMPATH).

      and for literal types (most of you), here’s evidence, that ussa pensions, are the walking dead:


      excerpt from it, skipping right past the obvious detroit, major-thievery fiasco–

      “On the East Coast, Newark is nearing its own financial reckoning. The Star-Ledger reports that a state takeover of city finances may be the only way that Newark can balance its budget.

      Cities around the country are increasingly facing financial problems similar to Detroit’s, says Ravitch. “You have Arizona selling its state capital and using the proceeds to balance its budget [and] the city of Chicago selling its parking revenues for 75 years to balance its budget. Some governors have raised taxes … but most students of the pension system say that we’re dramatically underfunded — maybe by as much as $2-$3 trillion.”

      In a newly released memoir So Much to Do: A Full Life of Business, Politics, and Confronting Fiscal Crises, Ravitch writes that policymakers need “to recognize that the fiscal difficulties in states and localities are not just a series of individual crises but also a national problem that reflects a national history of promises made and obligations undertaken, often for the best of reasons, without the present resources to support them.”

      As far as Detroit goes, Ravitch writes that the bankruptcy filing shook up the public pension world with a “perfectly rational decision by the court that ruled that federal bankruptcy law preempts even the constitutional protection of the payment of benefits.”

    • Sam May 8, 2014, 12:31 am

      Very insightful reply in regard to the social dynamic occurring in response to continual worldwide impoverishment .

      Of course, scapegoats are welcomed politically for they allow politicians time and room to maneuver. While plenty of moral and decent people might see and defend the altruistic and self-regulating aspect of the system as it has evolved today, I have to plead a vote of no confidence to it being sustainable.

      Despite its admirable defense in theory, in practice it remains a case of infinite growth on a finite planet. Consequence will have to take its toll and one of these will be the loss of socialist and progressive theories. Sadly, many of these are the foundations of the high standards I enjoy living in the west.

    • Craig May 8, 2014, 5:54 am

      Gary do you have a job? You need to start a website…although no one would read it. Call it GOHILLARYFEINSTEIN2016.com

      Here is the question…since Jan 2013 who has typed more words on this website Rick or Gary???

  • Traveler May 5, 2014, 7:55 pm

    Another item I’ve heard through the blog grapevine is that the Pentagon is pruning the armed services with an emphasis on discharging armed services personnel short of the 20 years needed to collect a pension. If they need bodies, they’ll recruit them off the streets. This isn’t being reported in the mainstream media so can’t say how true this is, but it makes sense.

    Yet another item is the emergence of the “secret wait list” in Arizona where it alleged that most of the veterans who called up for appointments were told it would take several months to get an appointment when in actuality, any record of their request was destroyed and they were placed on a secret list. With the hope that they’d die off before they could collect on the government’s health care promises to them.

    One can find these things all over with some due diligence. Spells a lot more trouble coming. Effects are already being felt as I’ve seen recent articles in the LA Times talking about the increase in age 50-64 adults who move back in with their parents and the increase in adults over 65 who are taking on roommate arrangements to make ends meet.

    my $0.02. now to make that back with the next trade…

    • gary leibowitz May 6, 2014, 2:37 am

      I find it so bizarre that conspiracy theories abound on why the economy and stock market hasn’t fallen into an abyss these last 5 years. Not one mention of real job growth, manufacture growth, service sector growth, low cost to employers, low borrowing costs to individuals. It’s as if you live in a time warp where it’s 1 second past the 2009 crash and all is obliterated with no visible future. Does anyone even bother to look at the “things” that make the stock market tick?

      In 5 years not ONE article on the slimmest of possibilities that we could experience a long period of slow growth, and low rates, allowing a dramatic rise in the stock market.

      • Farmer May 6, 2014, 11:26 am

        Jesus Gary. The discussions here are hardly conspiracy theory. Your pipsqueak growth cannot adequately undo the damage that has been accumulated through a multi-decade long ramp up in debt that is not repayable EVER. Low rates only buy us time to take shelter. They are not intended to create the conditions for a recovery based on growth that is frankly a pipe dream. So use this time wisely. There WILL be sovereign defaults. There will be municipal and state funding crisis and bankruptcies. We will get a correction and reconciliation from the excess credit growth of the past and none of it will feel warm and comfortable once it finally arrives. If you cash out of stocks and reallocate before the sh*t hits the fan then good for you. My instincts tell me you go down the tubes with everyone else though.

      • Oregon May 6, 2014, 5:44 pm

        Thanks for stepping up to bat Farmer, but I think you will find reasoning with gary’s daily copy and paste obloquy is an exercise in futility. Gary has become like the early artificial intelligence computers where it was difficult to understand what relevance the answer had to the question.


        I pondered deleting all of Gary’s posts today but decided against it. Just because I don’t read a word of what he writes is no reason to deny others the opportunity to shoot him down. Still, as Oregon implies, it is an utter waste of one’s time to go tit-for-tat with Gary, since he evidently has unlimited time for navel-gazing in this forum. RA

      • dk May 6, 2014, 10:00 pm

        Farmer, great response.
        How many pages of nothing has Gary written here? I think he refuses to “get it.” He’s part of the way, but that’s the mindset of an ideologue.

        Nothing from Vlad, or is RA simply hitting delete in the queue?


        I’ve simply been hitting ‘delete’, DK. I’m at zero tolerance, since Vlad knows the rules by now. RA

  • Traveler May 5, 2014, 7:43 pm

    Thing to remember is that retired workers collecting pensions never actually fall off the payroll, they just get shifted to a different department.

    Hence we are treated to the specter of 2, 3 or more persons collecting a paycheck for every person actually working. Since labor is a substantial part of the budget, it follows that costs must rise. At some point, that which cannot keep being paid … will not get paid and no amount of kicking and screaming by the retirees will change that. But we will see attempts by the retirees to engineer backdoor bailouts from the feds, think there is one proposed in the Detroit case.

    Another reason the government loves inflation is they get to monkey with the CPI calculations in order to hold the COLA’s short of the actual inflation rate. That is how the obligation will get paid in nominal dollars that fall short of the purchasing power they used to have.

    • Farmer May 6, 2014, 11:15 am

      We need a legal precedent in Detroit that assures pensions will not be treated as being any more special than any other creditor class. The idea here is too send a message to both Unions and employers at the state and municipal level that there are ceilings on how far salaries and benefits can go and serious consequences when funding bodies run out of funds. Personally I object to preferential treatment for pensioners. We must all understand that we will get what we bargained for. If those deals result in the bankruptcy of the City or State then the benefits should be reduced accordingly. Setting all emotion aside about how those poor old people will suffer is a good starting point. My heart feels nothing.

  • Chuck May 5, 2014, 7:31 pm

    what about fed workers? fed gov doesn’t require a balanced budget like states do……and just how they are ‘balancing’ such budgets is very dubious. at least feds may have more ‘time’ than state workers……also, aren’t they ‘renegotiating’ the entry employee retirement benefits and leaving the established ones alone?

  • jibbity May 5, 2014, 5:09 pm

    What is not mentioned here is that public employees who retire will never get any appreciable Social Security due to the Windfall Provision.

    So to do an apples to apples comparison you would need to subtract any SS payment that someone would get and add to their monthly non-public pension (if they can get one) or their monthly 401k take out.

    Sure….the pension might still be higher but not as crazy as those here whine about…..most of you seem like you’re filled with envy & jealous of those who made a great career decision.


    What ‘Windfall Provision’? I’m sure that for beleaguered taxpayers, the devil is in the details.

    Incidentally, my wife was a college teacher in the California school system 20 years ago, and I could have told you then that her benefits were way out of line with private-sector benefits. As to the matter of teachers having made a great career decision, few who made that decision decades ago could have predicted that their perks would eventually become far more valuable than base pay. Nor could any of them foreseen how lucky they would be that those perks, including a retire-at-55 option that no private company could conceivably afford, would go unobserved and uncontested for so many years. Those perks are drawing plenty of well-deserved flak now, though, because most states are on a path to certain bankruptcy due to their unfunded retirement liabilities.

    It hasn’t helped that voters have been lied to and ripped off in recent years when new taxes were pushed by the teacher’s union to fund ‘better schools’. As Californians found out too late, proceeds from a new tax passed via referendum in 2012 were ultimately dedicated, not to the classroom, but entirely to the shoring up of the state’s teacher retirement fund. Colorado tried the same weaselly con-game last year, but voters saw through it and overwhelmingly rejected the measure. RA

    • Farmer May 6, 2014, 11:18 am

      “Sure….the pension might still be higher but not as crazy as those here whine about…..most of you seem like you’re filled with envy & jealous of those who made a great career decision”.

      Sounds to me like you just sniffed out the start of a wave of public discussion that will surely result in reduced teacher pensions in the future. You should be worried. Taxpayers are going to have the final say on this.

    • Jason S May 6, 2014, 4:55 pm

      Jibbity, the WEP has a maximum reduction of 60% or $408 (2014), whichever is less. If I paid into SS for 10 years and only get a $100 benefit then it is reduced by 60%, if I paid in for 20 years and the benefit is $1000 then it is reduced by $408. See chart below.


      • Jason S May 6, 2014, 4:56 pm

        Oh, and if I pay into SS for 30 or more years there is no SS reduction under WEP. Also note there is the Government Pension Offset regarding receiving spousal benefits (both while spouse is alive and when inheriting the benefit).

      • jibbity May 7, 2014, 2:06 am

        Oh…..and by the way most public employees don’t get ANY Social Security because they never paid into it and SS is not taken out of paycheck so their pension IS their Social Security.


        No one was saying public employees get Social Security too — only that their benefits upon retiring 10 to 20+ years earlier than the rest of us are overly generous at taxpayers’ expense. RA

  • LARRY May 5, 2014, 4:36 pm

    I have lived in Bergen County NJ for 43 years and I can tell you that the above essay is very true. Prior to 1965 NJ was not only a tax free state but also had no sales tax. Slowly over the years we got both a sales tax and income tax and the property taxes have continued to grow exponentially. Sadly over the years both the Democrats and the Republicans sold out the state to the unions for votes and today there are few decent jobs and the population has been dead in the water for years. Unfortunately this is happening in a lot of states where benefits for state and municipal workers greatly exceed the norm and eventually this will bankrupt all the real estate because the taxes will be too high to make the properties affordable. In addition these states will eventually go into bankruptcy as the majority of people seek shelter in states with no income tax and minimal unionization.

  • wayne siggard May 5, 2014, 8:48 am

    What will happen when 70 year-old workers in the private sector (Walmart greeters seeking to make ends meet) are asked to pay increased taxes to pay for 50 year-old retired teachers, or 40 year-old soldiers, firemen, police, and other government workers who are paid annual retirement benefits that are three times as much as the private sector worker ever made?
    I remember when I started my first job at $1.35 per hour. President Johnson enacted a guns and butter tax to pay for the Vietnam war, and it was not progressive. I was netting $1.05 per hour, and wondering how it could possibly be worth working at all.
    We will all be asking, “Who is John Galt?” You can’t squeeze blood out of a stone, and government workers will not get their payments. Your friend is smart to take it as soon as she can, because if she waited another 10 years, there might not be anything there.

    • Oregon May 5, 2014, 5:52 pm

      I have kicked myself for not becoming a fireman. Work 2 days a week for 50-75k/year, leaving enough time to contract on the side, take vacations, collect all the benefits, and retire early.

      Oh well, I guess I should just be happy for those that were smarter.

  • Stephen G May 5, 2014, 6:52 am

    Congrats Baby Boomers. You’ve sucked the money pit dry and will probably outlive your overworked, overstressed, neurotic, and unhealthy offspring. Enjoy your $7,000/month luxury assisted living facilities in 20 years while your kids and grandkids starve. The luckiest generation that ever lived or ever WILL live just keeps on taking – you think the AARP was meddlesome when it was serving the interests of the Greatest Generation? We ain’t seen nothing yet!

  • mario cavolo May 5, 2014, 3:54 am

    Applause to the article author for seeing reality clearly and without personal bias.

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