Public Pension Puffery: 12 half-truths that deserve to be debunked in 2012

Girard MillerBy Girard Miller | Governing Magazine — One of my pet peeves in the ongoing debates over public pension reform is the way partisans on each side try to pitch half-truths and myths to support their arguments. The other side seldom believes any of these, but they help rally the allies on the speaker’s side. Sometimes the press naively re-circulates these fallacies, which leaves the general public even more confused about what to believe. There’s an old saying in politics that if you tell the same lie long enough, the public will eventually believe it — and that apparently is the mentality of lobbyists on both sides. In an effort to start the new year with a clean slate for public debate, I’d like to set the record straight on a dozen of the most glaring fallacies and silly slogans.

This is a lengthy column, so readers can click on to any one of these topics to jump to that subject:

1. “The pension mess was caused by greedy people (from the other side), not us.”

2. “There’s no crisis. The stock market will recover and then there is no problem.”

3. “The solution is to replace pensions with 401(k) plans, like the private sector.”

4. “Experts consider 80 percent to be a healthy pension funding ratio.”

5. “Only 15 percent of pension costs is paid by employers. Investment income pays the lion’s share.”

6. “My pension contract is protected by the Constitution and can’t be violated.”

7. “States are already fixing the problem with reasonable pension reforms.”

8. “The solution is collective bargaining. There is no need for drastic legislation.”

9. “This is a $3 trillion problem when you measure it using honest (risk-free) math.”

10. “We earned more than 8 percent in the last 25 years, and will do so again.”

11. “The average public pension is $23,000.”

12. The $100,000 pension club.

So let’s look at each of these myths, misrepresentations and slogans, one-by-one. Read the entire article . . .

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