Public Pension Tension ResponseI’m writing because I’m tired of hearing the media buying into the Politicians claims in regards to the “under funded” pension funds, as recently published by writer Steve Nicklas in the Fernandina Beach News-Leader. The economic downturn has caused people to pay attention to what our elected officials are doing with our money. This extra scrutiny has caused our politicians to cast blame on everyone but themselves, including public employees and what the politicians call their lavish pension funds. Florida’s pension plan is anything but lavish. Public Safety employees collect 70% of their pay after 25 years while general employees collect less with more years of service. The politicians themselves are the ones that have the “Lavish” pension plans, collecting sometimes 100% of their pay after only (2) terms in office. But let’s get back to why and how the pension plans became “under funded”.

Most of the Media has bought into the politician’s deflections without even looking into the matter. Has anyone investigated how the funds became underfunded, has as anyone followed the money, or is everyone just going to sit back and believe the politician? After all, remember, the politicians are the gatekeepers of the pension money. Politicians are also the gatekeepers of Social Security and we all see how that is turning out. When times were good, pension plan investments skyrocketed and accounts grew to astronomical amounts. Now, what do you think the politician’s view of all that money sitting in an account was? We are talking billions of dollars. You know they couldn’t leave well enough alone, just as with social security, right?

I believe the St. Petersburg Times is the only newspaper left in Florida that stills does some tough investigative reporting. If you review their archives you’ll find numerous stories on how the politicians have managed to poorly invest Florida’s pension money. I use the term “poorly invest” but in actuality what they are doing with it is borderline corruption. A couple examples uncovered and reported on in the St. Petersburg Times is the $325,000,000.00 lost in the Enron mess, or there was the $266,000,000.00 that was lost a couple years ago in a defunct construction investment in New York. Or there is their most recent article into how $100,000,000.00 of our Florida State Pension money was recently squandered away in yet another ill-advised investment. The common denominator in all of these huge loses is the ignored red flags by the politicians. Those three deals alone, over a half BILLION dollars, had to have contributed greatly to the now under-funded Florida Pension Plan, right? And who’s to blame, the greedy employees, the unions, the lavish plans themselves?

Remember what I said, nationally – politicians are the gatekeepers of pension monies, very large amounts of money, which as they see it, is just sitting there. Now mix politician with lobbyists and political favors and you get what others will later call, being politically correct of course, “Ill-Advised” investment of the pension money. In other words, the pension money is given to friends of the politicians to “invest” for the State or local governments and or given to a friend of a politician who then brokers a deal between an investment company and State or local government and gets a hefty commission in return, which in the case of the St. Petersburg Times most recent story, the gentleman received 2 million dollars for brokering such a great deal. Meanwhile the pension money intended to be invested, $100,000,000.00 in this case, simply gets squandered away in poor investments and no one is held accountable. When you look into these deals, you don’t have to be a top notch investigator to connect the dots between the politicians and the other parties involved either. When the economy was thriving, these types of deals went virtually unnoticed because huge returns on the “good” investments made up for the shortfalls. With the economy in the tank, the continued “ill-advised” investments have taken their tolls resulting in deficient pension plans across the nation. But wait, its still the greedy employees and the unions fault, right? Yeah, lets blame them, the media will report whatever we say is the problem…give me a break, would ya? We The People are smarter than that, at least I hope so anyway.

On a side note, during their final days in office, Governor Christ, Attorney General Bill McCollum, and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink renewed Ash Williams contract with the State of Florida, at $325,000.00 annually plus benefits, to continue to manage Florida’s Pension Fund. I guess, although overseeing the investment of Florida’s Pension Fund is his job, losing hundreds of millions of dollars in shady investment deals wasn’t his fault? Good grief, People!

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