Skip to main content

News has recently broken about the Alameda, CA, County Administrator, Susan Muranishi, who will retire with $420,000 annually from her pension and benefits. While public outrage is widespread, it is, sadly, accompanied by little thought or analysis.

One of the problems plaguing our government is a form of corruption called “the revolving door”. A public official who is responsible for regulating private industries will make recommendations and enforcement decisions favorable to those industries in hopes of getting a well-paying job when they leave government service. Like all people, they want to make a lot of money, but as public employees, they are almost never paid commensurate with people in similar positions of responsibility in the industries that they regulate. Their public salaries encourage them to think about how they can make more money later.

In fact, 423 important officials in the Obama administration have used their government positions to get through that revolving door. As anyone would, they want to get out of their low-paying public service jobs as fast as they can in order to get where they can make real money.

Corporations, on the other hand, have an interest in keeping the pay of public employees low, and it isn’t necessarily about keeping their taxes low. Their interest is that if public employees are hungry, they are easier to bribe.

However, Ms. Muranishi did not have that pressure on her. She worked for 38 years in the public interest and there has never been any indication that she performed her job in other than an exemplary fashion. She managed a very large organization that is responsible for serving the needs of 1.5 million people -- a tremendous responsibility. And she did it well enough that they kept her on year after year. Perhaps her $420,000 salary seems like a lot to those of us who have not escaped the oppression of the plutocrats, but it is far less than what is earned by people in similar management positions in private industry.

I say congratulations to Ms. Muranishi, and thank you for your service. I hope that you have a peaceful retirement and a good life. You deserve it!

We should pay all of our public employees, especially those who are responsible for legislation, regulation, and administration, much more than we do now. If the public wants their employees to be answerable to them instead of to corporate bribery, then the public should pay their employees like they mean it.

Originally posted to Juarez Traveller on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 08:15 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

Poll

I think we should pay our public employees more.

53%56 votes
6%7 votes
1%2 votes
38%40 votes

| 105 votes | Vote | Results

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  LOL (19+ / 0-)

    Perhaps her $420,000 salary seems like a lot to those of us who have not escaped the oppression of the plutocrats, but it is not unusual for people in similar positions in private industry.

    She didn't work in the private industry, so there's no reason for her to expect/receive a private industry-like pension.

    Regardless of how you try to frame it, a $420,000 annual pension for a public employee is absolutely fucking crazy.

  •  The horroe...NOT! (10+ / 0-)

    This retired public employee made $94K before taxes when he took early retirement in 2010, and now gets ~70% of that as my pension. The most I could get would have been 80%, which had meant I would have had to work until this year. Anything more would have come from cost of living adjustments, but I would still only get 80%. Administrators and commissioners get paid more, so they can expect to have a larger pension come retirement. Oh, and anyone who has a problem with me retiring at 55 ought to know that this rule was instigated to give younger City of Chicago employees a chance to step up and move up. Unfortunately, as long as I worked for the City, my superiors would never hire any new kids, as I was so productive!

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 08:43:07 PM PDT

    •  So should we assume that... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW, eXtina, johnny wurster, Kevskos

      this woman was paid in excess of $500,000 per year in her job?

      •  Assuming a similar requirement, yes... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Trix, Chi, Kevskos, tommymet

        ...but like I said, I don't know what Alameda's pension system looks like, nor do I have any information on her salary prior to retirement. I'd freak out, maybe, if I discovered she had been paid less than what she receives from her pension.

        Oh, and from what I've read, only the upper management types get anything like a pension in private industry.

        Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

        by JeffW on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 08:55:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  According to the linked article, her current (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Chi, Kevskos, Odysseus

          base salary is $302,000. Perks are on top of that. Apparently she'll continue to receive the same amount.

          According to state records, Muranishi makes a base salary of nearly $302,000. But with more than $121,000 in other compensation, including equity and longevity pay, a performance bonus, and car allowance among other things, her annual salary now tops $423,000. That's the highest for any county administrator in California.
          http://abclocal.go.com/...
          •  Sounds like someone is confusing salary... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Chi, tardis10, Sue B

            ...and pension. I'd worry more if it was someone in Cook County, IL, but I'd still be unable to do much about it.

            I'd just have to say I wish her well, and hope she does good with her money.

            Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

            by JeffW on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 09:03:59 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  working for the government is not working for (4+ / 0-)

    private industry so what is the point of comparing them as if they are the same thing?

    but it is not unusual for people in similar positions in private industry.

    "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

    by eXtina on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 08:52:58 PM PDT

    •  Ask yourself these questions: (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW, Chi, tardis10, MaikeH, tommymet

      1) Is it fair to penalize people for working in government jobs by paying them less than they would make in the private sector?

      2) Do you want good people working as public servants?

      3) Do you want honest people working as public servants?

      Answer those questions, then we can talk.

      •  and gov't should budget like families do (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Susan G in MN, Kevskos, wmtriallawyer

        - see, I can make irrelevant comparisons too.

        "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

        by eXtina on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 09:18:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  When government sells something and turns a (4+ / 0-)

        profit and pays employees out of the profits, then we can talk

        "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

        by eXtina on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 09:19:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  You forgot one! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wmtriallawyer, Odysseus

        4) Do you want the same profile of profit-maximizing, self-centered people working in government as you get in the private sector?

        I'm no Rand Paul but given the choice between having county administrators receive a $420K pension and not having any county administration, I'd go for the latter.

        You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

        by Rich in PA on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 05:05:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I am a public servant. So's my wife. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Odysseus, gfv6800, JeffW

        And as lawyers, I can tell you that if you paid us what we are worth in the private sector with our experience (along with all of our colleagues), your government would go broke quite quickly.

        To answer your questions:

        1. We don't consider it a "penalty" to work in government jobs.  We chose our line of work because we love what we do, and we felt the call to serve.

        2. We are good people.

        3. We are honest people.

        Seriously, I'm offended when you imply that somehow a higher salary would make us good and honest, as if we aren't already.  There's a LOT that can be done to reform the inner workings of government that attract people...and little of it has to do with money.

        Cake or DEATH? Oh, I'll have cake, please.

        by wmtriallawyer on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 06:17:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I hear you. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JeffW

          I'm a public employee as well, but part of the problem we run into in my area (information technology) is that the jobs pay so much less than private sector that we have a hard time filling them.  Then we go grab people with H1B visas, and people gripe that we're not giving jobs to US citizens.

          It doesn't take a pile of money to get good, honest people to work in the public sector, but when you're paying half (or less) of what the same job in the private sector pays, it's hard to attract people to your agency.

          "I don't want a unicorn. I want a fucking pegasus. And I want it to carry a flaming sword." -mahakali overdrive

          by Silvia Nightshade on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 08:18:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I wonder how many... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eXtina, Kevskos

    of those 423 "important officials in the Obama administration" who've left for the private industry earn in excess of $420,000 per year in their new jobs.

    Far fewer than implied, I'd imagine.

  •  It's pretty high but if you read the article (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, tardis10, Kevskos

    to the end, the average is $98,000 which isn't that high for the area.  And that is much higher than those that are being attacked in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and other states which are very modest and inadequate without supplemental or couple income to survive.

    It's rightwing cherry picking for publicity purposes and will probably shortly, if not already, be sent through rightwing email lists.

    More: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it?

    by blueoasis on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 09:01:36 PM PDT

  •  The examination is warranted. The Supervisor of (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BigAlinWashSt, VClib, eXtina, Kevskos

    a National Forest comprised of a couple million acres of public lands containing several thousand miles of roads, countless lakes and rivers full of endangered fish, a bunch of campgrounds, several ski resorts, a ton of other uses of public land, and a host of different issues that will land him or her in Federal District Court on any given day and who oversees a couple hundred employees and a couple hundred vehicles and several administrative sites comprised of many offices and employee residences, earns at the big end about $140K per year and will retire at around 65% of that....

    ...it's all relative, but I can think of a number of people managing tremendous responsibilities who would be thrilled to earn a quarter of this in retirement...

    "In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile..." - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

    by Jack K on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 09:02:42 PM PDT

    •  Forest Service? Worked for them for (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jack K, Kevskos

      20 years.  Actually the Regional Forester which is responsible for much more than that wouldn't even be in the ballpark with this situation, nor are any federal government employees.  This happens at the county and city levels based on local bargaining agreements.

      "I'm an antiwar propagandist as accused by democrats. Not even republicans have called me that."

      by BigAlinWashSt on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 09:18:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Still do myself... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JeffW, BigAlinWashSt, Kevskos

        ...well over 30 years and counting.  I thought about going with the RF, but the Forest Supervisor is the next step down "the line" and is more of an on-the-ground hands'-on manager than the Regional Forester...

        "In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile..." - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

        by Jack K on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 09:33:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Cool. I worked ten years with DOD before (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Kevskos, Jack K

          transferring to the FS, RO in Portland, R6. Was the Regional Classifier.  Retired in 2007.
          Ya, Forest Sup was a better comparison.  I've seen these city and county retirement figures before usually based on old agreements that haven't kept up with the pay systems.  Imagine a pension of $420K.   You would have to have an 401K of $15 million to get that.

          "I'm an antiwar propagandist as accused by democrats. Not even republicans have called me that."

          by BigAlinWashSt on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 09:46:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  good point - this woman is a county (0+ / 0-)

      employee not a federal employee, a county doesn't have unlimited ways to raise revenue to pay such a pension like federal gov't does

      "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

      by eXtina on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 05:55:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Equating the issue of public employee salaries (6+ / 0-)

    with this absurdity gives the wrong comparision.  Retiring on this type of pension is ridiculous for a public employee.  But that's how it's going in many places while the many public employees get the shaft.  Money flows to the top and it's doing that in government as well.  
    This from a retired federal govt employee (Compensation Analyst) on a pension for life, or until the US goes broke.  I disagree with this as well, it's too exorbitant.  Public service was not intended to make millionaires.  This comes from trying to fit both public and private service in the same shoebox.  

    "I'm an antiwar propagandist as accused by democrats. Not even republicans have called me that."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 09:03:23 PM PDT

  •  LOL, and she's going to be eligible to collect (3+ / 0-)

    Social Security inside of four years.

    I hope she can get by till then.

    •  Except, if she did NOT contribute to SS... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gooserock, Chi, Odysseus

      ...during her tenure with the county, windfall will only give her a fraction, assuming she contributed at least 40 quarters to SS.

      I was short 10 quarters when I started with the City, and had I gone to work for a consulting firm after my retirement, I wouldn't expect much from SS. Of course, I had worked for three consulting firms prior to starting with the City of Chicago, and since I can do quite nicely on my current pension, I saw no reason to do so.

      Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

      by JeffW on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 09:17:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Depending on what state you're in, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW

      you may not contribute to SS while you work for the city/county/state/whatever.  I work for the state of Ohio, and I don't pay into SS, I pay into OPERS instead.

      "I don't want a unicorn. I want a fucking pegasus. And I want it to carry a flaming sword." -mahakali overdrive

      by Silvia Nightshade on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 08:22:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  At the Economic High Water Mark for The US People (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, Chi, Odysseus, Nattiq, Silvia Nightshade

    the 50% top marginal income tax kicked in at about $300,000 of today's dollars income.

    So when Americans last had a fair economic chance, this public employee would've surrendered half her top 150k of compensation and therefore likely would never have demanded or been offered such extreme compensation.

    Disclaimer, I'm on a public employee pension btw which earns me about 800 a month and the obligation to work for a living for the rest of my life.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 09:30:17 PM PDT

    •  Why (0+ / 0-)
      So when Americans last had a fair economic chance, this public employee would've surrendered half her top 150k of compensation and therefore likely would never have demanded or been offered such extreme compensation.
      Why?
      Assuming 50% tax on income more than 300,000$, if you compare someone who got paid 299,999$ and 450,000$, the 2nd person still took home 75,000$ more than the first person. So why would they have not wanted the better pay?
  •  Where's Sparhawk? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Silvia Nightshade

    He loves eviscerating retired public employees.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 09:40:44 PM PDT

  •  I am in favor (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devis1, Rich in PA, Kevskos, Odysseus, tommymet

    of public employee pensions. Higher amounts for high end administrators? Sure. However, that's probably 3 potential employees whom Alameda County won't be able to hire because they are spending over $400k on her.

    I have two kids in public schools, I have seen our city and county laying people off, and I know how our system in general is hurting for money. I have a hard time justifying paying a pension that high when they are simultaneously laying off teachers, parks employees and various other public workers. Given the need to balance retirees and current / future hires I don't think a cap would be unreasonable.

  •  Hard to judge. (5+ / 0-)

    The article is short on any details that would allow someone to make an informed judgment about it.

    I know jack about Alameda County, but employees with pensions typically pay some portion of their salary into the pension fund. Ergo, the benefit is in part deferred compensation. If she was in the job for 38 years, that is a hell of a long time to build up a pension benefit.

    As for the base salary: How big of a budget did she manage? How many employees did she have? That would give you some sense of proportion as far as her salary.

    My S.O.'s mother was a county administrator for many years. She oversaw a budget of about $1.3 billion and 3,000 employees. When she retired in the early '00s her salary was around $125,000 and her annual pension is a little less than that.

    For a good private sector comparison you look at private non-profit salaries, not the equivalent in for-profit businesses. In my S.O.'s mother's case, directors of some of the large local health and human services non-profits were being paid anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000/yr more than she was - and these were organizations with at most 1/10th the budget and staff she had.

    Average out the salary and the pension benefit and in totality it's a median expenditure for a non-profit executive.

    Meanwhile, if you want to be outraged - want to know who the highest paid state employee is where I live? It's the University basketball coach.

    Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

    by Joe Bob on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 11:52:38 PM PDT

  •  Pension for Alameda County official (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tardis10, JeffW

    I wonder what Jamie Dimon's retirement package will look like?

  •  This is so ridiculous that I'm finding it hard... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, JeffW, BigAlinWashSt

    ...to believe it's offered in good faith.  It looks a lot more like something I'd say in bad faith to discredit the very idea of public service.  

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 05:02:37 AM PDT

  •  Pales compared to Fed Contractor mgmt. pay (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Silvia Nightshade, JeffW

    From Gov't Executive
    The Office of Management and Budget in April announced the new statutory cap of $763,029 on contractor pay, a 10 percent hike over the previous limit of $693,951 for the top five employees. The new cap was based on a formula set in 1997.

  •  Odds are, she could have retired awhile back (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kevskos, JeffW

    I bet what happened was that Murinishi was eligible for retirement several years ago.  They wanted to keep her as an employee, but couldn't pay her much more than what she would have made just sitting home collecting a pension.  So, she effectively worked for very little and backloaded her pension as deferred compensation.  And that's how the numbers got ridiculous.  

  •  "Decent" salary? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BigAlinWashSt

    "Decent"?!?

    More like indecent.

    I'm not one to throw public employees under the bus (I AM one, as is my wife), but even as a high earning public employees (lawyers) this pension is the public employee equal to a CEO golden parachute. It's nuts.

    Cake or DEATH? Oh, I'll have cake, please.

    by wmtriallawyer on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 06:12:23 AM PDT

  •  Has anyone ever applied for a public sector job? (0+ / 0-)

    The requirements are insane. You almost always need a bachelors degree if not a masters AND years of experience.

      If the same was true for the private sector they would be getting paid a little bit more too.

    ¡Cállate o despertarás la izquierda! - protest sign in Spain

    by gjohnsit on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 06:15:04 AM PDT

  •  Need more facts (5+ / 0-)

    The facts as reported don't make much sense.  I've never heard of a public sector pension being equal to one's final  salary.  In the federal government, for example, the maximum is 70 percent of high three, and that's after 35 or more years of service.  

    I have no ideal how California counties handle their compensation, but this does not look typical by any stretch of the imagination.  However, there may be more to the story.  I'm always skeptical of these "anecdotes" that make public employees look bad.  The facts often tell a different story.  

    •  Actually, it is 66.25% after 35 years and (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW

      2% per year after that up to a maximum of 80% at 42 years. There is also a significant reduction if you take a survivor benefit, which virtually all married retirees do.

      It should also be pointed out that  Those numbers are for employees covered by the Civil Service Retirement System.  in 1984 CSRS was discontinued and replaced by the Federal employees retirement system (FERS). Anyone hired in the last 28 years is covered by  FERS, which only provides a pension equal to 1% per year for each year worked.

      But your point is well taken about this article.  While generally it would appear that many state and local retirement plans are much more generous than the federal retirement system, it is hard to imagine there is any plan where your retirement benefit is equal to your salary.

      Further, affiant sayeth not.

      by Gary Norton on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 08:39:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site