A writer must “know and have an ever-present consciousness that this world is a world of fools and rogues… tormented with envy, consumed with vanity; selfish, false, cruel, cursed with illusions… He should free himself of all doctrines, theories, etiquettes, politics…” —Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?). “The nobility of the writer's occupation lies in resisting oppression, thus in accepting isolation” —Albert Camus (1913-1960). “What are you gonna do” —Bertha Brown (1895-1987).
“Teachers have staged protests in recent weeks in West Virginia,
Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado and Arizona. Some are fighting lawmakers who want
to scale back their pensions. It's no secret that many
states have badly underfunded their teacher pension plans for decades and now
find themselves drowning in debt. But this pensions fight is also complicated
by one little-known fact:
“More than a million teachers don't have Social Security to fall back on. To
understand why, we need to go back to Aug. 14, 1935. That is when President
Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the original Social Security Act. ‘This Social
Security measure gives at least some protection to at least 50 million of our
citizens,’ Roosevelt intoned.
of those 50 million citizens, one big group was left out: state and local
workers. That was because of constitutional concerns over whether the federal
government could tax state and local governments, says Alicia Munnell, director
of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. ‘So, in the 1950s,’
Munnell says, ‘there were amendments added to the Social Security Act that
allowed governments to enroll their workers.’
“And many did, leading
the Social Security Administration to trumpet in one 1952 promotional film that
‘most American families are now able to ensure for themselves an income that is
guaranteed for life.’ Most American families ... except for a lot of teachers,
says Chad Aldeman, editor of TeacherPensions.org. ‘Fifteen states do not offer
all of their teachers Social Security coverage,’ Aldeman says, ‘and that means
about 40 percent of the workforce is not covered.’
percent of all teachers. That's more than a million educators, in Alaska,
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri,
Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas.
these teachers aren't benefit-less. The law requires that states that opt out
of Social Security give teachers a pension that is at least as generous. ‘On
the whole, teachers who don't get Social Security aren't necessarily
disadvantaged if they work a full career and get a full pension,’ says Andrew
Biggs, who studies retirement issues at the American Enterprise Institute.
there are still risks, Biggs says. For one, many teachers don't spend a full
career in the classroom, and some states' pension plans take a decade before
teachers see any real benefit. ‘You know, in theory, you could work for 10
years as a schoolteacher, come out with very little on the pension end, but
also not have earned any credits toward getting any Social Security benefits,’
other words: 10 years of work with little retirement savings to show for it. There
is another big risk for teachers who don't get Social Security — even the ones
who spend a lifetime in the classroom. Many states that long ago opted out of
Social Security have also underfunded their pension plans, badly. ‘We're kind
of worried now,’ says Munnell of Boston College. ‘In some places, they're
actually going to run out of money.’
"Attorney General William Barr delivered a redacted version of the Mueller report to Congress and posted the special counsel's findings online Thursday morning, April 18. The document's publication followed a Justice Department press conference that critics and Democratic lawmakers denounced as an effort to spin Mueller's findings and protect President Donald Trump" (Common Dreams).
“Scientists have obtained the first image of a black
hole, using Event Horizon Telescope observations of the center of the galaxy
M87. The image shows a bright ring formed as light bends in the intense gravity
around a black hole that is 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun.”
(CNN) Only a skull and a pair of trousers
remained after a suspected rhino poacher was killed by an elephant and then
eaten by lions in Kruger National Park, South African National Parks said.
The incident happened after the man entered
the park with four others to target rhinos, according to a parks service
statement released Friday.
His family were notified of his death late
Tuesday by his fellow poachers, and a search party led by Kruger's regional
manager, Don English, set out to recover the body. Rangers scoured on foot and
police flew over the area, but due to failing light, it could not be found.
The search resumed Thursday morning and, with
the help of added field rangers, what was left of his body was discovered.
"Indications found at the scene suggested
that a pride of lions had devoured the remains leaving only a human skull and a
pair of pants," the statement said.
Glenn Phillips, the managing executive of
Kruger National Park, extended his condolences to the man's family.
"Entering Kruger National Park illegally
and on foot is not wise, it holds many dangers and this incident is evidence of
that," he warned. "It is very sad to see the daughters of the
deceased mourning the loss of their father, and worse still, only being able to
recover very little of his remains."
The four individuals who joined the illegal
hunt were arrested Wednesday by the South African Police Service, and officers
continue to investigate what happened.
The African rhino is targeted for its horn because
of the belief among some who practice Eastern medicine that the horn has
benefits as an aphrodisiac, making it more valuable than cocaine in parts of
Of special concern is the black rhino, which
is considered critically endangered after its population tumbled from about
65,000 to 1970 to 2,400 in 1995, according to Kruger National Park.
Conservation efforts have since boosted their numbers, and the world's
remaining 5,000 or so black rhinos live
predominantly in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
In 2016, there were between 349 and 465 black
rhinos living at Kruger and between 6,600 and 7,800 white rhinos, who also
suffer from poaching, South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs said.
Kruger is considered an intensive protection
zone, and the government employs a range of resources to deter poaching,
including aircraft, dogs, special rangers and an environmental crime
Of the 680 poaching and trafficking arrests
made in 2016 by South Africa Police Services, 417 were in and around Kruger,
the department said. In September, the department announced that six men --
including two syndicate leaders, two police officers and a former police
officer -- had been arrested for trafficking in rhino horns.
the 21 years from 1969 through 1989 there was only one year that inflation was
less than 3.3% and the average annual rate of inflation was just over
6.2%. In making the decision in 1989 to change our annual increase
from three percent simple to three percent compounded, the members of the
General Assembly made what they felt was a reasonable assumption that inflation
would continue and that it would grow at the rate that it had been for more
than 20 years. Since state pensions had not kept up with inflation
they would provide a necessary increase, but they did not ask anyone to pay for
it because they assumed it would not really be expensive. The change
would cost the state, but they assumed it would still run behind
inflation. And growing inflation would mean the state would collect more
tax revenue’ (Bob Lyons, former Trustee for the Teachers’ Retirement System of
further elevated inflation rates, the General Assembly granted a change from 3%
simple to 3% compounded COLA in 1990 to the retirees in TRS.
1990, (high of 4.1% in 2007 and low of .1 in 2008) the average inflation rate
for the country has been overall 2.4%. As Mr. Lyons writes, ‘The
reality is that the change from 3% simple to 3% compounded did just what it was
supposed to do and it has more than protected us from inflation.’
he’s right. On average, thus far, we are looking back nearly 30
years with a .6% positive break. And in our current media
environment of people turning on each other rather than to each other, this
COLA correction seems unacceptable to those who criticize the Illinois ‘Pension
Problem’ as simply an issue of too many benefits. The finger pointing by the
Tribune and other anti-union organizations ignore the truth: the cost of pension
would not be so overwhelming if there were no debt payment as a result of
decades of avoiding payments.
Madiar, the former Chief Legal Counsel for Senate Leader John Cullerton and
author of a thorough exegesis ‘Is Welching on Public Pension Promises an Option for Illinois?' speaking before the City Club of Chicago, once reminded his audience: ‘Our
current pension disaster cannot be blamed on salary or pension cost
increases. Between 1985 and 2014, pension funding liabilities grew
by $97 billion. Benefit increase only counted for 8%, or $8 billion
of that growth. Pay increases were actually less than actuaries had
assumed they would be. And the actually helped bring down the unfunded
liability by $1.3 billion. The state's failure to fund the system
accounts for 49 or 47% of that growth. So simply out, the main
reason we are in this mess is for insufficient pension contributions’ (City
Club of Chicago).
like any Zen Balance question, we are all awash in what may decidedly come
again in another inevitable wave. Okay, so now maybe we are .6
ahead. Now. But in the 15 years before the 3% compounded
(1975-1989), we were battling an average of 6.7% inflation – or a 3.6%
disadvantage even if pensioners had compounded COLA’s.
the General Assembly didn't foresee a lessening of inflation or the Great
Recession, but they understood what continued rampant inflation was doing to
it’s not pensioners that created the fiscal problems at the state or municipal
levels; it is and will always be the avoidance of funding the pensions that now
comprise the interest-laden debt which must be serviced yearly. As
Bob Lyons also wisely points out, ‘The truth is that this year 76% of the 8.5
billion going to pensions is to make up for the continuous past underfunding of
the five systems. If Illinois pensions were fully funded, all it
would take to fund the pensions for all current employees would be just a
little more than two billion dollars. The so-called pension problem in
Illinois has in reality not been caused by the cost of our pensions, but by the
failure to fully fund them’…” (For the complete article by John Dillon, click here).
May 8, 2015, the Illinois Supreme Court delivered the judgment of the court,
with opinion. All seven justices concurred in the judgment and opinion (Doris
Heaton et al., Appellees v. Pat Quinn, Governor, State of Illinois, et al.,
Appellants)]. There are two interesting footnotes in the judgment on pension
reform litigation regarding COLA: "By way of comparison, data published by
the Social Security Administration show that Social Security increases, which
are tied to the cost of living, averaged 3.98%, nearly a percentage point more
than under the Illinois formula, between 1975 and 2014 (page 4)."
(http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/COLA/colaseries.html.). "While the automatic
annual increases have sometimes exceeded changes in the cost of living, these
judgments are not cost of living adjustments, and as indicated earlier in this
disposition, the increases have actually lagged the average increases granted
by the Social Security Administration, which are tied to the cost of living"
the Cost-of Living Adjustment (COLA) of the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement
Pension Code: 40 ILCS 5/16-133.1) (from Ch. 108 1/2, par. 16-133.1) Sec.
16-133. (Automatic annual increase in annuity):
(a) Each member with creditable service and retiring on or after August 26,
1969 is entitled to the automatic annual increases in annuity provided under
this Section while receiving a retirement annuity or disability retirement
annuity from the system. An annuitant shall first be entitled to an initial
increase under this Section on the January 1 next following the first
anniversary of retirement, or January 1 of the year next following attainment
of age 61, whichever is later. At such time, the system shall pay an initial
increase determined as follows:
(1) 1.5% of the originally granted retirement annuity or disability retirement
annuity multiplied by the number of years elapsed, if any, from the date of
retirement until January 1, 1972, plus
2% of the originally granted annuity multiplied by the number of years elapsed,
if any, from the date of retirement or January 1, 1972, whichever is later,
until January 1, 1978, plus
3% of the originally granted annuity multiplied by the number of years elapsed
from the date of retirement or January 1, 1978, whichever is later, until the
effective date of the initial increase. However, the initial annual increase
calculated under this Section for the recipient of a disability retirement
annuity granted under Section 16-149.2 shall be reduced by an amount equal to
the total of all increases in that annuity received under Section 16-149.5 (but
not exceeding 100% of the amount of the initial increase otherwise provided
under this Section).
Following the initial increase, automatic annual increases in annuity shall be
payable on each January 1 thereafter during the lifetime of the annuitant,
determined as a percentage of the originally-granted retirement annuity or
disability retirement annuity for increases granted prior to January 1, 1990,
and calculated as a percentage of the total amount of annuity, including
previous increases under this Section, for increases granted on or after January
1, 1990, as follows: 1.5% for periods prior to January 1, 1972, 2% for periods
after December 31, 1971 and prior to January 1, 1978, and 3% for periods after
December 31, 1977.
(b) The automatic annual increases in annuity provided under this Section shall
not be applicable unless a member has made contributions toward such increases
for a period equivalent to one full year of creditable service. If a member
contributes for service performed after August 26, 1969 but the member becomes
an annuitant before such contributions amount to one full year's contributions
based on the salary at the date of retirement, he or she may pay the necessary
balance of the contributions to the system and be eligible for the automatic
annual increases in annuity provided under this Section.
c) Each member shall make contributions toward the cost of the automatic annual
increases in annuity as provided under Section 16-152.
(d) An annuitant receiving a retirement annuity or disability retirement
annuity on July 1, 1969, who subsequently reenters service as a teacher is
eligible for the automatic annual increases in annuity provided under this
Section if he or she renders at least one year of creditable service following
the latest re-entry.
(e) In addition to the automatic annual increases in annuity provided under
this Section, an annuitant who meets the service requirements of this Section
and whose retirement annuity or disability retirement annuity began on or
before January 1, 1971 shall receive, on January 1, 1981, an increase in the
annuity then being paid of one dollar per month for each year of creditable
service. On January 1, 1982, an annuitant whose retirement annuity or
disability retirement annuity began on or before January 1, 1977 shall receive
an increase in the annuity then being paid of one dollar per month for each
year of creditable service. On January 1, 1987, any annuitant whose retirement
annuity began on or before January 1, 1977, shall receive an increase in the
monthly retirement annuity equal to 8¢ per year of creditable service times the
number of years that have elapsed since the annuity began.