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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Fox on 15th (a.k.a "The Washington Post") Continues Its Campaign Against Public Pensions

Fox on 15th (a.k.a "The Washington Post") Continues Its Campaign Against Public Pensions

Sunday, 20 March 2011 07:54

The Washington Post continued its attack on public pensions with a front page story that focused on Costa Mesa, a small California city, that it reports is laying off half of its workforce to cover the costs of its pensions. The article then goes on to imply that Costa Mesa is in some way typical of the situation facing state and local governments across the country, telling readers that in 2009, 58 percent of state and local pension funds were less than 80 percent funded. (It is worth noting that the rise in the stock market since its trough in 2009 will have eliminated much of the reported shortfall.)

According to the information presented in the article, Costa Mesa is far from typical. The article claims that 20 percent of the city's revenue will be needed to pay retiree benefits in a few years. The national average is close to 3 percent.

The article also focuses on the pensions of police officers. These pensions are far more generous than those of most public employees. The pensions of non-security personnel average around $20,000 a year. Generally workers have to put in 30 years with the government to receive their pensions, so the cases of these workers retiring with full pensions in their early 50s are rare. Also, nearly a third of state and local employees are not enrolled in Social Security so their pension will likely be their only regular source of retirement income.

Comments (3)Add Comment
written by Terrence, March 20, 2011 9:11
"The pensions of non-security personnel average around $20,000 a year."

Is this the average pension for all retirees including those who worked only a short time? Does it include a lot of zero pensions for people who worked only a few years -- or part time employees?

What we really want to know is the average pension of an employee who worked full-time a substantial length of time, e.g., at least twenty years.

The statistic you cite sounds like it might be very misleading.
Pensions average $20,000, Low-rated comment [Show]
written by PeonInChief, March 20, 2011 3:52
Bill H--

Most pensions are paid from a combination of employee contributions, employer contributions and investment income. The taxpayer (as employer) pays only the employer portion, as employees pay their portion from their wages. (I assume that you're not expecting government employees to work for nothing.)

In some cases public safety pensions (police, fire, prison guards) don't require an employee contribution, but those are the exception.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.