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Now displaying: Category: breaking the piggy bank
Jun 18, 2015

By Ben Yount | Watchdog Radio

In this episode, guest host Ben Yount sits down with John Berlau from the Competitive Enterprise Institute to talk about how the Obama administration is planning to change how Americans plan for retirement.

And how are they planning to do that? By having the government take a larger role in retirement planning, of course.

Are individuals unable to handle their own money? The U.S. Department of Labor seems to think so, arguing in a recent report that most individual investors don't understand how to manage their money or plan for their own retirements.

The paternalism is worrying enough, says Berlau, but its almost comical for the federal government to assume it is more responsible with money than the average American. After all, this is the same government that has bankrupted social security, blown millions on boondoggles like Solyndra, and on and on.

Jun 16, 2015

Breaking the Bank is Watchdog.org’s weekly look at the national public pension crisis, how it’s affecting state and city budgets and what can be done — if anything — to fix it.

In this week’s episode, hosts Eric Boehm and Steve Greenhut take a look at the budgetary conundrum facing New York City, which is considering a $10 million cut in funding for its iconic libraries because of increasing pension costs.

As Stephen Eide, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, put it in an article published this week: "New York City devoted $8.1 billion to pensions—a 152 percent increase over the prior decade. If pension costs had kept pace with the overall budget, which grew 42 percent between 2005 and 2014, the city would have had an additional $3.6 billion to spend on services."

But it's not just libraries that are facing a hit and it's not just New York City making tough choices. As pension costs eat away at a larger share of government budgets, money that could have been spent on other things has to be diverted to pay for public workers' retirements.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Governments spent lots of money on things – like Pennsylvania's liquor stores or, well, most libraries – that could be better off privatized. Perhaps the pension crisis will force governments to make changes they should have considered long ago.

Jun 4, 2015

By Eric Boehm and Steve Greenhut | Watchdog Radio

 

Breaking the Bank is Watchdog.org’s weekly look at the national public pension crisis, how it’s affecting state and city budgets and what can be done — if anything — to fix it.

In this week’s episode, hosts Eric Boehm and Steve Greenhut take a look at a new pension plan being pitched in California by a group of reform-minded public official.
 It would put pension benefit increases in voters' hands, by requiring that any increases to current or future public workers (at all levels of government) would have to be approved by a referrendum.

There are some problems with direct democracy, of course, but when it comes to pensions does it make sense to take the politicians out of the equation?  If nothing else, it's a novel attempt to make California stop digging the hole any deeper.

May 22, 2015

Breaking the Bank is Watchdog.org’s weekly look at the national public pension crisis, how it’s affecting state and city budgets and what can be done — if anything — to fix it.

In this week’s episode, hosts Eric Boehm and Steve Greenhut take a look at the recent state Supreme Court ruling in Illinois that tossed aside a legislative effort to deal with the state's $100 billion pension debt.

Crisis is not an excuse to abandon the rule of law,” wrote Justice Lloyd Karmeier in the court’s majority opinion.

But what if the rule of law is standing in the way of necessary fixes? Do state lawmakers have the right to change the rules (that they previously passed) in order to get out from under crushing debt?

The next state that will try to find out is Pennsylvania, where some of the same legal issues are at play.

May 18, 2015

Breaking the Bank is Watchdog.org’s weekly look at the national public pension crisis, how it’s affecting state and city budgets and what can be done — if anything — to fix it.

In this week’s episode, hosts Eric Boehm and Steve Greenhut take a step back from the usual number-crunching and budget-busting to ask a sociological question: are America's highly-paid public sector workers a new form of royalty?

Okay, they're not going to be wearing crowns anytime soon, but there's a noticeable and growing class divide between government employees and everyone else. It's a situation that has been worsened by the public pension system, which taxpayers must pay into but don't get much in return.

 

May 7, 2015

By Eric Boehm and Steve Greenhut | Watchdog.org

Breaking the Bank is Watchdog.org’s weekly look at the national public pension crisis, how it’s affecting state and city budgets and what can be done — if anything — to fix it.

In this week’s episode, hosts Eric Boehm and Steve Greenhut take a look at one way that pension reform could get accomplished in California, by getting a proposal on the election ballot in 2016.

The big problem? Republicans are worried that putting pension reform on the ballot in a presidential election year will help turn out Democratic voters.  The fear of losing their slim number of seats in Sacramento might stymie any efforts to have a very important pension bill on the ballot.  Can Republicans get out of their own way?

 

May 1, 2015

Breaking The Bank is Watchdog.org’s weekly look at the national public pension crisis, how it’s affecting state and city budgets and what can be done — if anything — to fix it.

In this week’s episode, hosts Eric Boehm and Steve Greenhut take a break from the pension beat to reflect on the crisis that unfolded over the past two weeks in Baltimore. Everything that there is to say about the protests and riots has already been said, but we turn our focus to another aspect of the city - one that is literally breaking the bank: failed economic development projects that bring tourists and riches to a small part of the city while the rest of Baltimore struggles.

Does the city really need to own a $300 million hotel (which lost $5 million last year, alone) or spend $2 billion to redevelop the Inner Harbor while neighborhoods and schools are struggling?  It's not a problem that is unique to Baltimore - politicians everywhere choose white elephant projects over basic city services - but it's a problem that is under-reported as we try to understand the crisis in America's urban communities.

Apr 21, 2015

Breaking The Bank is Watchdog.org’s weekly look at the national public pension crisis, how it’s affecting state and city budgets and what can be done — if anything — to fix it.

In this week’s episode, hosts Eric Boehm and Steve Greenhut are joined by Joe Luppino-Esposito, editor of State Budget Solutions, to discuss some common pension gimmicks used by city and state governments. State Budget Solutions has recently published a report looking at how those gimmicks hurt budgets and taxpayers.

Some of those gimmicks are well-known: we just disucssed pension obligations bonds a few weeks ago on this very program.  But others are less so: like how California is using faulty assumptions (or hoping lots of police and firefighters will die in the line of duty) when it comes to figuring out how long public retirees will live.

Apr 10, 2015

Breaking The Piggy Bank is Watchdog.org’s weekly look at the national public pension crisis, how it’s affecting state and city budgets and what can be done — if anything — to fix it.

In this week’s episode, hosts Eric Boehm and Steve Greenhut take a look at a few states that are working to reform their public pension messes. But so-called "reform" is not really reform if it only kicks the can down the road and doesn't address any of the systemic issues with defined benefit pension systems.

In Kansas, for example, lawmakers approved a risky pension bond that could leave taxpayers with an even higher bill in the future.

Apr 3, 2015

Breaking The Piggy Bank is Watchdog.org’s weekly look at the national public pension crisis, how it’s affecting state and city budgets and what can be done — if anything — to fix it.

In this week’s episode, hosts Eric Boehm and Steve Greenhut take a look at the fine mess in Jeanette, Pennsylvania, where local officials raised taxes in order to restore the funding levels of the town's pension plan. Then, only a few months later, they handed out increased pension benefits that made a bad situation worse.

And in California, where a massive drought continues to cause problems, the state is ready to lend a helping hand. But doing do will include boosting retirement benefits for some public workers. Never let a good crisis go to waste, after all, and never miss an episode of the Watchdog podcast!

Mar 17, 2015

Breaking The Piggy Bank is Watchdog.org’s weekly look at the national public pension crisis, how it is affecting state and city budgets and what can be done — if anything — to fix it.

In this week’s episode, hosts Eric Boehm and Steve Greenhut enjoy a little green beer in honor of St. Patrick's Day and discuss the changing public perception of pension promises.

According to a recent Reason-Rupe poll, 72 percent of Americans are worried that their governments won't be able to afford the pension promises that have been made. Is that the seed for a political push for pension reform? A whopping 80 percent of Americans say they would rather re-negotiate pension promises than raise taxes or cut services, but Greenhut and Boehm explain why the choice is not that clear-cut.

Mar 13, 2015

Breaking The Bank is Watchdog.org’s weekly look at the national public pension crisis, how it is affecting state and city budgets and what can be done — if anything — to fix it.

In this week's episode, host Eric Boehm sits down with Ben Yount of Illinois Watchdog Radio to discuss the ongoing legal battle over pension reform in Illinois. The state Supreme Court heard arguments this week on the reforms, which would not touch retirees' base pensions but would place limits on annual cost-of-living-adjustments.

States like Illinois are stuck between a rock and a hard place because pension benefits are generally protected by state constitutions and cannot be reduced for current workers and retirees. But states that are facing insurmountable pension bills in the coming decades are looking for any way out - the case in Illinois could be an important precedent.

Feb 27, 2015

Breaking The Piggy Bank is Watchdog.org’s weekly look at the national public pension crisis, how it is affecting state and city budgets and what can be done — if anything — to fix it.

In this week's episode, hosts Eric Boehm and Steve Greenhut discuss the practice of  pension spiking — a nifty trick discovered by public sector employees that allows them to sometimes double or even triple their annual pension payouts by scooping up higher-paying positions in the final few months before they retire. It costs taxpayers plenty, and it happens just about everywhere.

In Idaho, an effort to close one such pension spiking loophole is coming too late to stop a highly-paid Democratic appointee from cashing in. Dustin Hurst reports.

Feb 27, 2015

Breaking The Piggy Bank is Watchdog.org's weekly look at the national public pension crisis, how it is affecting state and city budgets and what can be done — if anything — to fix it.

In this week's episode, hosts Eric Boehm and Steve Greenhut take a look at some of the common storylines associated with the pension crisis from coast-to-coast, including some of the games that have been played by public sector unions and politicians to create the mess in the first place.

Also, should the California state pension system have the right to place liens against government property in order to secure pension payments from bankrupt Stockton, California? The pension fund says it should, but a judge disagreed with them this week.

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