Sunday, May 15, 2016

U.S. State, Local Pension Funds Drowning In Red Ink

by JASmius

Y'know, even here, even now, it's at times still difficult to remember that we really are broker and more foolish than the rest of the world.  Which goes to resoundingly show that continuity of memory is profoundly overrated:

U.S. State and local government pensions, which operate under the loosest accounting standards in the public pension world, are not nearly as well-funded as most public employee pensions in other developed countries, reported.

“On an apples-to-apples basis, U.S. public employee plans simply set aside substantially less money to fund each dollar of promised benefits than do public employee pensions in other OECD countries,” contributor Andrew Biggs explained. “When the stakes are this high, last isn’t a good place to be,” he said.

Biggs explained that a 2011 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study "showed public employee pensions in other countries use more conservative assumptions and more demanding funding requirements than State and local pensions in the U.S."

The OECD’s 2011 study compared government employee retirement plans in eight countries (the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, Norway and France).

“But the OECD study performed a second useful task: In addition to merely listing the differences in accounting assumptions used by different countries’ public pensions, the OECD authors re-valued each pension using consistent standards so their funding levels could be compared on an apples-to-apples basis,” Biggs said.

“What do these figures mean? That nearly all of the developed countries analyzed by the OECD contribute a lot more to funding public pension liabilities than do U.S. State and local plans. The Dutch, Swedish and French plans have set aside roughly twice as much money per dollar of promised retirement benefits as have U.S. State and local pensions. Twice as much.” [emphases added]

"Money for nothin' and chicks for free".  Wishcasting.  The Land of Make-Believe.  Caution to the wind.  The entitlement mentality.  "Don't worry, be happy".  "There's no such thing as a 'down market'".  "What could possibly go wrong?"

How about a cascade collapse of State and local pension funds - effectively already underway - that will pass dozens of institutional tin cups up the "bailout" line to Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico-style?  Oh, but wait!  The federal government is orders of magnitude broker than all the States and municipalities put together!  $19.3 trillion worth!  Whatever shall we do?

Welcome to Year 8 Obamadomini (Year of The One).  And if you didn't know where we are on that calendar, I envy you for not having had to live through this depressing nightmare, and do not envy you the shock you must be feeling at waking up to it.

This additional factoid may seem contradictory at first, but that's because, well, it is:

"Almost 20% of Americans sixty-five and older are now working, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the most older people with a job since the early 1960s, before the U.S. enacted Medicare," Bloomberg reported. [emphases added]

This, of course, presupposes that there are actually enough jobs to accommodate that nearly one out of every five U.S. senior citizens, which seems more than just a bit of a stretch to me.  But then I've been saying for well over twenty-years that I'd never get to retire, because Social Security and Medicare would collapse long before I could ever become eligible to belly up to those two troughs.  Little did I know that I would be prematurely and involuntarily retired long before either could transpire, despite Red Barry's herculean efforts at profligacy.  Life really can be unpredictable, huh?

But only in one direction: downward.  And the U.S. pension cataclysm is eminently predictable, and completely inescapable.

Pity I can't afford a passport.

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