Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Insanely High Public Pensions

Last week I came across this article in the WSJ which talks about the insanely high public sector pensions that some individuals are receiving. Here is a brief excerpt from the article:
"Those named are former public employees and their dependents who receive an annual pension of more than $100,000. Atop one list is a former city administrator from the small Southern California town of Vernon, whose annual pension is $499,674.84."
How insane is that? By comparison, the President receives an annual salary of $400K. Look, I am all in favor of people saving for retirement and having a decent pension after many years of loyal service. I think this is entirely justifiable. However, How is it possible or even legal for government agencies and public sector entities to pay such ridiculously high pensions? More interestingly, how is it even fiscally possible for a tiny town like Vernon, CA to support (never mind justify) such an obscenely high pension? According to Wikipedia that town had a population of 91 in the 2000 census. What is going on here?

Leaving aside the town of Vernon for a second, I did some research online to find the database of high pensions mentioned in the WSJ article and here it is. This list contains over 5,000 names of individuals who receive public pensions of over $100K annually, but it only includes individuals from California. How widespread is this phenomenon? Can it be justified that former public "servants" receive such huge pensions, backed by tax payer dollars, while the rest of us are expected to do our best and come up with whatever retirement savings we can scrape together, with or without a company match? Incidentally, do you think that these folks' pensions were reduced when the markets tumbled and the rest of us lost much of our retirement savings?
In California, $100K may not be excessive given the very high cost of living, and especially when such pensions are paid to high ranking former public servants, but some of the examples on that website are dramatically higher. How about some oversight? How about some sanity? Next time you are worried about your retirement savings, maybe you should consider working for the government... The rest of us will pick up the tab.

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1 comment:

TeacHer said...

As a teacher in the wonderful state of Maryland, I will officially be receiving one of the smallest pension payouts among teachers in the U.S. in about 40 years when I retire. Honestly, hearing about big pensions doesn't bother me nearly as much hearing about CEO bonuses and the ridiculously excessive personal spending done by politicians. Civil servants work hard for low pay their entire lives; the least a state can do is give them a generous retirement payout.