Link to AAUW report: https://www.aauw.org/aauw_check/pdf_download/show_pdf.php?file=The_Simple_Truth
Recently, candidates for office in Iowa have been asked to promise future Iowa public employees that they will make no changes to the Iowa Public Employment Retirement System (IPERS) retirement plan. Instead, politicians need to state clearly that they make no promises to future employees about their retirement benefits. The fact that IPERS is currently underfunded by about $7 billion shows clearly that we already have over-promised benefits when compared to what we expected taxpayers and public employees to pay.
(When government has a defined benefit plan, the participants seem to think that any over-funding is their asset, but any under-funding is a liability of the taxpayers. In the past, when IPERS was over-funded, benefits were increased!)
The way to make sure that we don’t make retirement benefit promises that turn out to be more expensive than we expect to pay is to put new government employees on a defined contribution retirement plan – just like most employees in the private sector. This will cause the unfunded liability to come due over the next 50+ years, but at least it won’t get worse.
In a recent Iowa View essay in the Des Moines Register, Josh Mandelbaum wrote that Republican proposals to move the Iowa public employee’s pension plan (IPERS) away from a defined benefit plan and toward a defined contribution plan are, “ideologically driven”. If by that term he means an ideology under which employee pensions should be financially sustainable and fair to both employees and taxpayers, then count me as ideologically driven also… and that’s a good thing.
In our political/government employment environment, defined contribution plans have mostly been significantly underfunded and unsustainable. In an actuarially sound defined benefit plan, the balance in the fund should have a surplus as often as it has a deficit. But, as we have seen in the past, when there appears to be a funding surplus, politicians increase benefits rather temporarily lowering the contributions paid by both taxpayers and employees. There is a built-in tendency for politicians to over-promise and under-fund because future benefits will not be paid out until many years later. Supporters of the current IPERS system like to say that Iowa has one of the most financially sound retirement systems in the U.S. IPERS is only about $7 billion short of the funds necessary to keep its promises! It has only about 81 cents for each dollar that it owes.
Defined contribution plans can have most of the same benefits, and potentially more, for employees. It does shift significant responsibility and risk to the employee to invest wisely and to not spend retirement money too fast during retirement. But, under a defined contribution plan the employees own the money in their retirement account, and can take it with them if they decide to change employers, and can leave it to anyone they wish after they die.
There will be a significant fiscal challenge that must be met if we were to make the change from a defined benefit to a defined contribution plan: If new employees put their retirement contributions into a defined contribution plan and don’t contribute to the existing defined benefit plan, the already-existing $7 billion of under-funding of IPERS will come due and need to be paid out over the next 50 – 60 years. In a big way, IPERS is still operating like a giant Ponzi Scheme – taking money from new investors to payoff old investors. (Illegal if done in the private sector.) It is time for us to lock-in the under-funding liability and stop making it worse. We need to put new government employees into a defined contribution plan.
A transgendered person should be eligible to serve in the military, just like just like every other man or women, and just like every other gay or straight person. If they are qualified to do the job, then government should not discriminate against them based on their transgendered status. That does not mean the military or taxpayers should foot the bill for sex change operations. Just as being transgendered is not a disease, surgery to to change a person’s sex is not a medical necessity. Transgendered folks will can be completely healthy without a sex change operation. So, sex change operations should be considered elective, and not be required to be covered by any insurance plan, including that of the military.
The Des Moines Register reported today (7/24/2014) that, “An Iowa newspaper editor fired after publishing his views on homosexuals is claiming he was the victim of religious discrimination by his former employer.” He has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Editors of newspapers should not be protected by laws against discrimination in employment based on religious belief. Newspapers are privately owned businesses that typically express the opinions of their owners. They benefit our society by their independent advocacy regarding public policy. They should not be forced by government to employ editors who hold beliefs contrary to their own – especially political or public policy beliefs. Owners of newspapers should be free to fire editors at will, unless they have entered into an employment contract to the contrary. For government to force a newspaper to continue to employ an editor is wrong and is bad public policy.
Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2014/07/23/newspaper-editor-fired-gaystapo/13047733/
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is investigating the Johnston and Grimes fire departments, according to a report today, 9/23/2013, the Des Moines Register. The DOL is looking for wage and hour violations. The two cities share a fire chief, and some of each city’s full time firefighters also work for the other city’s fire department on a “paid on call” basis. The Register quoted the fire chief as saying, “It’s a common practice among firefighters in the Des Moines area to work paid on-call hours for another department to make more money.” The DOL is looking into the possibility that these firefighters should be considered under labor laws as working for a single employer and get paid overtime for excess hours.
Unless the fire chief is somehow forcing the fire fighters to work the extra hours, which has not been suggested, then there should be no question about the legality of the situation and the DOL should butt out. This is simply a case of Cities doing their best to share services and keep costs down for taxpayers, and giving firefighters the freedom to earn extra money. Let’s hope the DOL doesn’t screw this up.