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Dispatches from the Garbage State

AMIRI BARAKA: "Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed 


Generation Greed and Student Loans

Yet another alleged scam is in the news. One that is, frankly, no surprise. Nor is it a surprise that the alleged ringleaders were from Long Island, where a grifter culture seems to have taken root that is draining both Nassau and Suffolk Counties and New York City alike. So what is the likely outcome of this investigation? My guess is that most of the older perpetrators will get away with it. And as a result, in an over-reaction, future generations of legitimately disabled New York City police officers and firefighters will have difficulty getting the benefits they actually deserve. To make up for the financial damage that older generations have caused. Consistent with 1,000 other examples all across our society.

Rather than write about something that is already in the news, lets move on to a possibly related subject. Every wonder why the terms of student loans are so draconian with regard to adjustment in bankruptcy? Why young borrowers who get in over their heads and face setbacks are essentially sentenced to a life of indentured servitude without parole? You guessed it. The system is beating on them in reaction to another generation that set out to beat the system. Generation Greed.


The 2012 Census of Governments: Some Work, Some Knowledge

Starting soon the U.S. Census Bureau will begin posting the results of the 2012 Census of Governments. That effort occurs every five years. And as I have the previous three times it was undertaken, I intend to download and compile this information for state and local governments in New York City, the rest of New York State, and related areas. Because I believe it is important that this information be made available in a way that makes fair and relevant comparisons between places possible.

No one else seems to work very much with this data. And to me, that is a problem. Shouldn’t the compilation and publication of this information be institutionalized somehow? Shouldn’t someone else in this city have the knowledge I have gained in 20-plus years of working with this dataset? Therefore I once again offer, to those with the interest and ability, the opportunity to work with me in compiling this information over the next year. If you are interested, I’m not hard to find with a little effort. Or people could just compile the data themselves after studying the background information and spreadsheets I produced five years ago, which I have posted here.


Gatemouth Grab-Bag [2013 General Election Analysis - Part Four]

Out  of what little remains of my lingering sense of obligation to both of my readers, I promised myself I’d finish up my observations concerning the November election results before the year ended, but I didn’t promise it would be particularly interesting (though I would have to note that I share the blame for this with the voters).



Orthodox Pundit Roundup Continues [2013 General Election Analysis Part Three]

As I previously noted, in attempting to do my year-end round of stories on the local election returns, I was stymied by the fact that Orthodox Pundit had already beaten me to some of the best stories and has already said a lot of


A great man, an even greater hypocrisy (part 2)

This is the second part of Rock Hackshaw's three-part column reflecting on the passing of Nelson Mandela.

If you haven’t read part one of this three-parter then I suggest you do so. These columns are being written in response to what I see as the media hypocrisy surrounding Nelson Mandela’s death: there is a context and there are specific themes.  



New York City Police and Firefighter Pensions: Somebody Call OSHA

This is my third post on a tabulation of Census Bureau data on public employee pension plans in New York and New Jersey over the decades. The first was on the separate pension funds for teachers. The second was on the large plans that cover most state and local government pensions in the two states. This post is on the separate pension plans for New York City and New Jersey police officers and firefighters. Although they have different benefits, police officers and firefighters in the rest of New York State are covered by the same state pension system that covers most public employees, and data for police and fire is not reported to (or collected by) the Census Bureau separately.

The data show that the New York Police Pension Fund Article 2, the New York City Fire Department Article 1B Pension Fund, and the New Jersey Police and Firemen's Retirement System are deep in the hole. In the most recent year for which data is available they paid out the equivalent of 8.0% to 10.0% of their assets, but those assets ought to be sufficient to pay all of the benefits owed to current retirees, most of the benefits owed to those soon to retire, and some of the benefits owed to younger workers. And given how generous pension benefits are for New York and New Jersey’s police officers and firefighters, that means there ought to be enough money in the funds to pay monthly benefits for decades. There isn’t. And in the case of the NYC firefighter’s fund there hasn’t been for decades. The charts and discussion are here on Saying the Unsaid in New York.


If Mario Proccacino Was Alive Today, He'd Be Turning in His Grave [2013 General Election Analysis, Part Two]

In our last visit together, we began our exploration of the November election returns with a look at the most interesting local race; we now turn our attention from the undercard to the main event:



The death of a great man highlights an even greater hypocrisy

This is the first of Rock Hackshaw's three-part series on the passing of Nelson Mandela.

In this country, whenever I want to find the best coverage of unfiltered news on cable television, I go to CSPAN. For the most part you only have to bring your intellect to the viewing chair. It seems as though most of the other networks aim to either indoctrinate or proselytize. I doubt that’s an objective at CSPAN.



Pensions for Non-Teachers: A Slightly Different Road to Ruin in New York City

New York City and New Jersey have more than one pension plan for public employees. There are separate plans for teachers and related workers, for police officers and firefighters, and big plans for just about everyone else. My prior post in this series, which this post will assume the reader has read, was about the New York City, New York State, and New Jersey teacher pension plans, with the New York State plan covering teachers in the part of the state outside New York City. This post is about the big plans for most public workers: the New York City Employees Retirement System (NYCERS), which also covers New York City transit workers, the New York (state) Public Employees Pension and Retirement System, which also covers local government workers (including police officers and firefighters) in the rest of New York State, and the New Jersey Public Employees Retirement System.

I thought this post would be written very quickly, because the trends and situation would be the same as it was for the teachers. But when I put data from the database of long term Census Bureau data into the same charts that I used for the teacher pension plans, I found that wasn’t the case for New York City. The various retroactive pension increases and incentives over the years had less of an effect on inflation-adjusted NYCERS benefit payments than they did on benefit payments by the Teachers Retirement System of New York City. But NYCERS is nonetheless only slightly better funded than the NYC teachers pension plan, because the extent of taxpayer pension underfunding has been greater. Indeed, unlike the pension plan for NYC teachers, NYCERS never really got out of the hole after the big pension increases under former Mayor Lindsay in the late 1960s. Further discussion and a spreadsheet with a series of charts are here on “Saying the Unsaid in New York.”


A Belated Report on the 2013 NYC Primary Electorate

It’s a little late but I wasn’t able to really dig deeply into the NYC Primary numbers until recently, so here’s some of what I found by matching the 2013 Primary voter history to the Prime New York Voter File.

A Surprisingly Large Number of Non-Prime Democrats Voted



20 Minutes With Mandela That Changed My Life

Nelson Mandela During Historic 1990 Visit To New YorkIt was one of the moments I have cherished my entire life. The crowning achievement of a career. An audience with Nelson Mandela that first requires some initial perspective.


Deutsch Uber Alles [2013 General Election Analysis, Part One]

GATEMOUTH (December 20, 2009): Listening to the complete Aladdin Recordings of Charles Brown; essentially what the King Cole Trio would have sounded like if they were black



Teacher Pensions: The Road To Ruin in New Jersey and New York City But Not (Yet) The Rest of New York State

As noted in my previous post, I have downloaded and arranged all the data the U.S. Census Bureau has collected since 1957 on currently active public employee pension plans in New York and New Jersey. I wanted a historical record of how future generations were left with this mess, a record older generations and the political class have little incentive to compile. This is the first of a handful of posts using this data; hopefully someone else will do even more with it sooner or later. This post is about the New York City, New York State, and New Jersey teacher pension plans, which also cover some related employees.

The data shows that in New York City the road to ruin was paved primarily with a series of extremely expensive pension benefit increases, employee contribution cuts, and one time “incentives” that vastly inflated the amount the NYC teacher pension plans paid out. Not shown by this data is a similarly large increase in the cost of retiree health insurance, as the city was forced to pay retirees for many additional years before Medicare picked up most of the burden. The pension benefit increases for the New Jersey teacher pension plan and the New York State teacher pension plan, which covers teachers in the rest of New York State, were not as frequent or as costly. New York City taxpayers may have also underfunded the city teacher pension plan, relative to the state, after a New York State Court of Appeals decision prevented the state pension plans from doing the same. The NYC teacher pension plan has also had lower investment returns over the long term. In New Jersey, taxpayer pension funding virtually disappeared starting in the mid-1990s, and is the primary cause of the crisis there. Further discussion and a spreadsheet with a series of charts are here on “Saying the Unsaid in New York.”