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To understand more of the human toll of the Detroit bankruptcy, check out Stand with Detroit. It's not just the stories of retired city workers like Juanita Scott, who:
... worked in the City of Detroit Health Department for 19 years. Her pension is $754 per month, but by the time she pays for her car insurance, health insurance, and her house payment, she has just $300 left.

“I don’t understand it. I can’t see how the governor is going to allow this to happen. We worked hard. I came to work every day.”

It's also people like Hector Smith, general manager of Steve's Soul Food, who says “If they take away their pensions, if they start cutting jobs, it’s gonna cut into a large percentage of not only our business, but other business that are in the city of Detroit.”

Continue reading below the fold for more of the week's labor and education news.

A fair day's wage

  • Ugh. Scott Walker is getting his wish.
  • Apple will increase its American manufacturing, opening an Arizona plant that will employ 2,000 workers.
  • As signs that so-called right to work is unpopular in Ohio go, this is a good one:
    Ohioans for Workplace Freedom, supporters of a so-called “right to work” law in Ohio reached a major milestone in October: they have collected 100,000 signatures to get the measure on the November 2014 ballot.

    Here’s the thing: they need at least 385,000 signatures to get on the ballot, and they’ll also want to far exceed that number to account for duplicates or invalid signatures

    Click for a reminder of how long it's taken them to collect those 100,000 signatures.
  • Go Guitar Center workers:
    Following in the footsteps of colleagues in New York and Chicago, employees at a Guitar Center store in Las Vegas voted on Friday to unionize. If the federal labor board ratifies the election, the store will be the third location in the Bain Capital-owned music equipment chain to go union this year.
  • Damn union thugs.
  • A community union for Pittsburgh?

Education

  • Ohio charter horror story:
    A new Columbus charter school failed to pay its employees last week, leading some educators to walk off the job, its founder said yesterday. [...]

    Ward and former teacher Tina Geygan also said the school has struggled with a bedbug problem, and the food vendor had quit providing student lunches because it hadn’t been paid.

  • Chicago teachers are fabulous:
  • Long Island education superintendent says no to student data-harvesting.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 10:55 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Don't they get it? Detroit is mainly African-Amer- (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave, palantir, jbsoul, Larsstephens

    ican. The governor is a white conservative Republican.

    Republicans don't care about the people of Detroit!

    •  The real racists (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hmi

      Kwame Kilpatrick is black.  He was the duly twice elected mayor.  And he was a crook who along with his cronies looted the city.

      How dare you claim someone doesn't care because of their race.

      You and people like you are a large part of the problem.

  •  Detroit and Berlin have many similarities (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    palantir, peregrine kate, jbsoul

    But Berlin is doing much much better now.  The Germans want Berlin to recover but do we really want Detroit to recover or we just sold this great city down the river?

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 11:31:50 AM PST

  •  Add Apple: (4+ / 0-)

    The Goldwater Institute, a Free-Market Stink Tank in Phoenix, wants to know what incentives were granted to Apple in order to lure them to AZ. It's a good question, no matter who asks it.  ☛ Phx. New Times

    The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

    by Azazello on Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 11:32:24 AM PST

  •  What are the Detroit Public Employee Unions (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave, Sparhawk, jfdunphy

    proposing to get the funds to pay for these pensions?

    Possibilities include combinations of the following:

    Higher taxes in Detroit.  

    Sell assets that Detroit owns.

    Reduced services in Detroit and public employee layoffs.

    Michigan pays through reduced services and higher taxes.

    Other Detroit creditors are to get less than what current law says they should be paid.

    The Federal Government pays through reduced services, higher taxes or increased Federal debt.

    Move current employees and early retirees to Obamacare so Federal subsidies partially pay for their health benefits and give these employees higher pay to offset their higher out of pocket cost.

    Something else?

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 11:47:45 AM PST

    •  The Detroit pension trust fund (6+ / 0-)

      is solvent for quite some time to come.  There is no rush to come up with a solution - other than Orr pulling pensions into the bankruptcy as "unsecured debt", which is total horseshit.   Earned pensions should be considered secured debt - it's not like the employer didn't get the work they were supposed to in exchange for that pension.  The fact that we allow pensions to be considered unsecured debt in this nation is an abhorrent perversion of the social contract and just plain reflects a lack of morals.

      The "unfunded liabilities" Orr is reporting are looking through an "infinite horizon" over the next half a century or more - such as like the "unfunded liabilities" costs thrown around in Social Security arguments.  And this doesn't even consider that the unfunded liabilities Orr claims are disputed in the first place, because the funds own actuaries state it's almost fully funded.  The report Orr is using to claim the pension trust fund is underfunded is based on artificially low discount rates, non-standard actuarial tables, and as admitted in the report itself - a bunch of baseless "guesstimates" - literally using the word "guesstimate."

      If the funds actuaries are actually correct with their calculations - and I suspect they're closer to the truth than Orr is - then there really isn't much of anything that needs to be done at all.

      The larger issue than pensions is retiree health care costs over time, because like most employers, Detroit did not pre-fund these costs.  As such, most employers who offer health care to retirees have similar long term issues.  As such, the question shouldn't be "What is Detroit doing about it?", but "What are we, as a nation, doing to fix this systemic problem?" - IE:  single payer, which solves these issues permanently.

      •  Near as I can tell (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk

        the local Democrats and the unions looted the pension funds by making improbably rosy predictions and then using the imaginary surpluses to pay 'bonuses' to current retirees (among other things). Then both city and unions lied to the workers about where things stood. One of the 'jokes' now is that part of argument is over whether there ought to be an imputed rate of 7% return, instead of 8%—the joke being that neither figure represents real-world returns by a considerable margin.
        http://online.wsj.com/...

        Another joke: in the midst of all this, the unions have gone to court to demand continuance of the "13th month" payments that have dug the hole in the first place. http://www.crainsdetroit.com/...

        I'm not sure what report uses the term "guesstimate," but I don't find that word here [see especially p. 17 ff.]: http://www.detroitmi.gov/...
        or in either of the Milliman reports.

        See also:
        http://online.wsj.com/...

        http://dealbook.nytimes.com/...

        •  So (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens, jbsoul

          you're going to go with what the WSJ says - that an 8% discount rate is problematic, and a 7% rate - what Milliman uses - is more appropriate?  Tell me, what is the long term average rate of return of the fund?  Hint:  over that 8% discount rate currently used.

          As far as the "bonuses" paid out, were they the wisest thing in the world to do?  No.  However, the funds own actuaries consider them in their calculations - which still shows the fund is basically solvent, even continuing to pay them.  Bear in mind those "bonuses" are paid in large part due to the fund exceeding that 8% discount rate each year.

          And finally, if you don't see the "guesstimates" in the Milliman report, you aren't looking very hard - look for the acronym VRPG - code for "very rough preliminary guesstimate."

          No offense, but you might want to try getting your news from someplace other than the WSJ and other financial rags on this, because as with all pension reporting, they don't strive to paint a picture of anything other  than pensions being "broken."

          •  Coupla things (0+ / 0-)

            1) I get my news from various sources, including reading the reports. That's not necessarily identical and limited to what I link.

            2) Are you getting your info from source other than the unions? If not, consider whether they are not subject to their own prejudicial assumptions and conclusions. You might also think about the self-interest of the funds actuaries and how that might make their self-reporting just a tad rosy.

            3) Pension funds in general have actual average returns of something in the 4-5% range. Please show me where I can see that Detroit's actual historical returns have been nearly double that—this would truly be another Detroit miracle. And after that, please explain why anyone would assume such a rate of return going forward (beside pulling a number out of a hat, I mean).

            •  You're clueless. (0+ / 0-)
              Pension funds in general have actual average returns of something in the 4-5% range.
              This is indicative of that.  Having followed pension fund news around the nation for a very, very long time, no fund gets returns that low nor sets their discount rates that low.

              You sound like one of those people who thinks that because you're lucky to get 4% in your 401k as a part time, uninformed, neophyte investor that all investment works that way.

              In other words, you're very uninformed about how pensions work.

              And no offense, but if you think I get my information "from the unions", you're even more naive than I originally thought.

              •  Get a clue (0+ / 0-)

                Start here, with a nice long article about the vagaries of pension accounting and nominal vs. real returns—and the bill of goods you've been sold about returns thus far.

                http://www.businessinsider.com/...

                Under the new GASB rules, governments will be required to use more appropriate investment targets than most public pension plans have been using, bringing them more in line with accounting rules for private-sector plans. Pension plans can continue to use current investment targets for the amounts the plans have successfully funded; but for the unfunded amounts, pension plans must use more reasonable investment forecasts, such as the yield on high-grade municipal bonds, currently running between 3 and 4 percent. From my perspective, not requiring reasonable investment forecasts on already funded accounts is still unrealistic, but the new GASB rules are a major step in the right direction, and I applaud GASB for taking a very politically difficult stance.

                Moody's has also proposed new rules to require states to use more appropriate investment targets. Their new rules require pension plans to use investment targets based on the yield of high-grade, long-term corporate bonds, currently just over 4 percent. (Source:http://illinoispolicy.org/...)

                and here: http://www.reuters.com/...
                At least three of the nation's largest U.S. public pension funds have already announced returns of between 1 percent and 1.8 percent, far below the 8 percent that large funds have typically targeted.
                •  Sigh. (0+ / 0-)

                  Here's an idea for you:  Instead of reading this, that, and whatever - and oh boy! - throwing up links making it so it looks like you have a clue - go take a look at the CAFRs for some of the nations larger pension funds like CalPERS or NYSLRS.

                  Now - this might take some work on your part, because long term average numbers aren't published - but look through 10 years of CAFRs and aggregate the overall rate of return for that time.  Then do so for 20 years.  Then do so for 30.  

                  For example, the much maligned CalPERs has a 10 year rate of return of 8.48%, a 20 year rate of return of 8.58%.  Numbers are not readily available to calculate a 30 year return on the CalPERS site, since at-a-glance numbers only go back to 1990.  Going to 1990, the rate of return for CalPERS is 8.71%.

                  Do the same for NYSLRS, and you'll find much the same - a fund routinely getting long term ROIs that are greater than the published discount rate.

                  Part of the problem in dealing with people like yourself is that long term numbers are not simply a Google search away - they actually require work, work that you're not willing to do.  Why funds don't just straight up post them, who knows?  But it makes dealing with people like you all the more difficult, because you think your Google skills and link referencing makes you, well, knowledgeable.  It doesn't.

                  To address your individual issues - the GASB now stating that "unfunded liabilities" should be calculated using a discount rate that matches muni bonds, well, you appeared to gloss right over this sentence:

                  Pension plans can continue to use current investment targets for the amounts the plans have successfully funded;
                  So what does that mean?  It means GASB expects only projected "unfunded" benefit amounts calculated over the infinite horizon utilize muni bond rates.  This does not mean all actuarial calculations should, nor does it mean that the funds overall discount rates are too high.  What it does is try to give an ultra- conservative estimate of what unfunded liabilities are.  So if you think this means anything of importance to overall discount rates, again, you expose your own lack of knowledge.

                  Secondly - articles like the Reuters article you point to - showing 1 year performance and whining that they funds didn't hit their projected discount rate for that year are red meat for folks like you, but in reality don't mean much in actuarial terms.  Discount rates must be hit over the long term for funds to function properly.  Short term is less problematic.  For a clear example - see above where I give you CalPERS long term ROIs.

                  Listen - you repeatedly reflect your ignorance on pensions and willingness to buy in to whatever you're being spoon fed.  You've shown that you have nothing other than Google skills so far.   Quit while you're behind.

                  •  Actuarial terms (0+ / 0-)

                    Thanks for the advice, but I actually do read the links I post and have been following this issue closely for about the last 2 decades, with particular attention to the accounting standards involved. That was the theme of my original post. What is clear to me, and denied by you, is that the accounting standards by which these funds are claiming high returns and surpluses are crappy, and that even the accounting profession is at long last making some headway in getting changes. Historical long term returns on investment, adjusted for inflation, for historical growth of GDP and other cost erosions, never, ever, bears out the optimistic bases for pension returns such as are claimed and projected in Detroit.

                    Instead, you cling to your imaginary hopes for some set of future returns based on precisely the quality of guesstimates you complained about earlier. The only difference is that you like some set of results better. The Calpers example is particularly unfortunate, given its roller-coaster performance over the past few years (1% return in 2012, but things are getting better all the time, you say). And I would point out that it has a built-in bias (like other large pension funds) against showing lowered projected returns (now at an unlikely 7.5%) precisely because that balloons its unfunded liabilities.

                    •  /facepalm (0+ / 0-)
                      What is clear to me, and denied by you, is that the accounting standards by which these funds are claiming high returns and surpluses are crappy, and that even the accounting profession is at long last making some headway in getting changes.
                      Utter nonsense.

                      There is no issue with the accounting standards, other than a manufactured one.  Pensions have been around for over a century as a retirement vehicle, and have been managed much the same since their inception.

                      In every single case where a pension fund has "massive unfunded liabilities, the issues can be traced back to one of two items, or a combination of both:

                      1.  Mass underfunding of pensions - with ECRs not being paid in in a timely manner and being allowed to grow over time.

                      2.  Extremely poor investment strategies.

                      No where does any professional actuary point to bad actuarial practices.  You know who does?  Pundits and armchair quarterbacks without actuary skills.  

                      Funds that are properly funded in a timely manner and that use prudent investment strategies are still near 100% funded, even after the recession.  For example, the NYSLRS is one of them.  Pew routinely rates the NYSLRS as one of the strongest funds in the nation when it comes to funding of accrued liabilities.  Why?  Thanks in large part to New York being unique in that the state constitution requires full payment of that years actuarially calculated ECR each year.  There can be no monkey business, no putting off contributions or a portion of contributions until a later date.  The 30 year ROI for the fund is over 9%.  So to claim that you've spent 2 decades "closely following pensions", and yet not understanding these very basic issues again reflects you don't quite understand what you're reading.

                      You're welcome to your beliefs, but they reflect a desire to take the word of right-wing stink tanks, pundits, and the Wall Streeters that stand to make a fortune if they can convince the public that the "pensions are bad" narrative is correct.

                      Personally, I expect liberals to be a bit more skeptical of such narratives - for starters because of who is selling you those narratives in the first place.

                      •  If there is no problem with accounting standards, (0+ / 0-)

                        then I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why they are being changed.
                        http://www.gasb.org/...

                        Nor why Europe and almost all the rest of the world follows different standards: http://papers.ssrn.com/...

                         

                        U.S. public funds face distinct regulations that link the liability discount rate to their expected return on assets rather than to the riskiness of their promised pension benefits. Accordingly, they behave differently from all other pension funds. In the past two decades, U.S. public pension funds uniquely increased allocations to riskier investments to maintain high discount rates (especially as more members retired), thereby camouflaging the degree of underfunding
                        .

                        Tell you what—I'll take my face out the palm just as soon as you remove your head from the sand.

                        •  You keep going back to that (0+ / 0-)

                          seemingly without understanding what, exactly was changed.

                          Do you really not understand that GASB did not recommend a change in discount rates used for funded liabilities?  Do you not understand the difference there?  Do you not understand why the change was recommended for unfunded liabilities?

                          Look - let's approach this another way:  What would happen to a Wall Street fund manager if he or she was only able to get an ROI for the funds he manages over the long term that equated to little more than the "risk free" return one gets with muni bonds?  How long would that fund manager last on the Street before getting fired?

                          To look at it another way, how many financial planners tell their clients that they should expect and plan for no more than the "risk free" muni bond rate in their 401k planning?

                          You're giving far too much weight to the whole "past performance is not an indication of future performance" thing.  In the world of neophyte, armchair investors, that's certainly the case - one should take performance with a grain of salt.  However, in the world of professional investment and money management - where people work full time to analyze the markets and particular investments, if you cannot, long term, get better than the "risk free" ROI you'd get with muni bonds, you simply don't have a career.  The point of these folks having a job - and Wall Street existing in the first place - is not just to beat muni bonds, but to beat the markets themselves.  Even the long term investing in an index fund would do better than a 7.5% or 8% discount rate - there are tons of stories out there on the web reflecting this.  Basically, betting that you cannot beat muni bonds is betting that the nations financial markets are going to fail, and do so worse than they've ever done, including the Great Depression.

                          My suggestion for you is this:  Read this report from David Serota - who does a far greater job explaining what's really going on that I ever could.

                          Don't just sit there without exercising your critical thinking skills.  Challenge your beliefs and see what happens.  You might learn something.  If you're a liberal, you should especially consider doing so if simply because of who it is that is selling you all this information in the first place.  Do you really trust right wing think tanks on this?  How can you even consider yourself a liberal if you don't even question what these people are telling you?

                          Let me give you an example of how they work:  As you've pointed out, CalPERS got a low ROI of ~1% last year - and those you're reading are, of course, acting like it's a 5 alarm fire because, well, it matters.  Now, go back and find commentary from the same stink tankers about the prior year where CalPERS pulled in 23% and look at what their narrative was.  Was it the same?  Did they hold up that 23% ROI as an indication that the pension fund was fine?  Or did they marginalize it by saying "It's the long term ROI that really matters, so this means nothing."?

                          Think about that - these people have to change their narrative when they don't get the negative data they need to complain about these things.  As such, why on Earth would you blindly trust what these people have to say?

                          As I noted above - pensions have been managed this way for over a century.  If somehow, the way they have been managed like this was problematic, how the hell did they stick around so long?  They should have folded like a Madoff-ran Ponzi scheme decades ago - shit, even further back long before we were born -  if you follow that line of thinking to it's logical conclusion.

                          The signs are there that your beliefs aren't as rooted in rock-solid reality as you think they might be.  But you refuse to see them.  Why, I don't know.  Maybe you've been drawn in by the class war/appeal to emotions aspect of those with pensions versus those without.  Maybe you're not as liberal as most people on DK.  Who knows.  But I implore you to look deeper than just stink tank and financial rag analysis of pension problems, because otherwise, you're cheating yourself out of knowledge you might otherwise have and that might otherwise cause you to challenge your current opinion

                          •  Reality (0+ / 0-)

                            The Sirota report does not say what you want it to say. You would like to to say that pensions are not seriously underfunded. Yet Sirota does not deny that. All that Sirota actually says is that there are sources of revenue that could and ought to be used to make pension contributions, but which are not, and that pension funds have been used as piggy banks by politicians. which is neither news nor anything that I'm contesting. [I ignore his unfounded and unprovable hope that good times are coming which will fill up those coffers]. My original point was that the Detroit pension funds had been looted. However, part of what made the looting possible was, IMO, loony assessments of the health of these funds.

                            You ask that I exercise critical thinking, but you seem to me to have a very naive view of pension managers and their abilities to consistently beat the markets. This comes in part, it seems, from believing in the first place that they have done all that much better. Instead, consider this much-cited study, which was where I got the 4-5% ROI figure I used earlier—the real average rate of return, not the misleading nominal figures. http://crr.bc.edu/...

                            In sum: public pensions are underfunded and over-promised, and both their historical accounting and future expectations are inflated. This is first of all simple arithmetic and has little to do with liberal or conservative bias. It may well be that liberals and conservatives have fights to pick over both the causes of this mess and what ought to be done, but the arithmetic is non-ideological and entirely inflexible, and the calculations show a severe crunch coming.

                            I expect that Detroit and San Bernardino are just iceberg tips poking through. I now await the looming fight over public pension contributions in my own city of New York—in which our new and very Progressive mayor will almost certainly have to do the math and push back against union demands for pension increments. And if he declines to push back, it is a near-certainty that our very Democratic governor, who has already done the math, will make it plain that this is a non-starter. But that's math for you.

                          •  Your study (0+ / 0-)

                            results in a "page not found" error.

                            But to bottom line it:  stop calling yourself a liberal, because you're no such thing.

                            You completely ignore what Serota actually says, and go back to the conservapundit view that pensions, in and of themselves, don't work and can never work.

                            Clearly, you're a teawingnut who fancies themselves a liberal.  We're done.

                          •  Well (0+ / 0-)

                            you were done awhile ago. And BTW, your perceptions of my political opinions are precisely on a level with your understanding of pension issues. Have a pleasant evening.

                          •  A final thought. (0+ / 0-)

                            Go back and look at the likes your comments garnered here.

                            You're in the minority, slick.

                            Keep telling yourself that you know something and convincing yourself you're not as brainwashed as a run-of-the mill teabagger.

  •  "Let Detroit go bankrupt" (0+ / 0-)

    Hi guys. Admittedly I haven't been following this story very closely, but could somebody help me understand?

    As we all know, Mitt Romney famously suggested that the solution to the Detroit problem was to let them go through managed bankruptcy. Instead we bailed out the auto industry and saved GM.

    But the city went bankrupt anyways. So was spending all that money on a bail out really the right call?

    Thanks!

    •  Bailing out the auto industry (6+ / 0-)

      colloquially called "Detroit", didn't do anything to help the city itself - nor was it intended to.

      But it most certainly did help GM get through and become profitable again - and saved tens of thousands of jobs.

      So I'm not sure what you're trying to get at here.

      •  Detroit (and all cities) only survive... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CSPAN Junkie

        ...because of private business in the city. Private business pays 100% of the bills 100% of the time.

        If GM was saved, Detroit was saved.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 01:28:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Nonsense. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens, jbsoul, Zinman

          Objectivist economic psychobabble, especially given that the auto industry is not the entirety of Detroits economy.  Most of the factories - and the automotive workforce - are in the suburbs, not the city proper.  So under your theory, what, exactly, are they paying if they aren't even located there?

          /facepalm

          •  Re (0+ / 0-)

            Great. If Detroit has other industries it will only help the city. We disagree somehow?

            Most of the factories - and the automotive workforce - are in the suburbs, not the city proper.
            So, the city has no factories and no workforce either. Is there any wonder why the city is in financial trouble? You can't run a city on public workers alone. Someone needs to actually pay the bills. The city is run by and for the benefit of private workers who live there.

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 02:33:36 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              jbsoul

              that the city needs to attract other industries, however, now we're moving O/T from the original point -  that the auto bailout did nothing to help the city, nor was it meant to.

              You can argue libertarian based economics all you like, but I'm not going off the rails into that argument with you.

  •  Ed Shultz is doing a great job getting the TPP (3+ / 0-)

    story out there.  Hope he keeps it up.

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