The Confiscation of Pensions by State and Local Governments

Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.
If you have been reading the press and watching the news lately, you may have noticed that cities like Detroit and Chicago and states like Oregon have looked to use pensions as a means of balancing budgets. Pensions were set up so that workers of all kinds could invest part of their salaries in a pension which was controlled by law with fiduciary experts who were supposed manage those pensions, with strict guidelines governing the actions of the managers who could be sentenced to prison terms for fraud and other misdeeds. One of the states leading the move to provide pensions for public workers was Wisconsin, until Scott Walker became the Governor, and decided to use those monies to balance the state budget. Scott Walker is a member of ALEC, a secretive organization made up of Corporations, Lawyers, Legislators, millionaires, billionaires, and mostly Republican Senators and Representatives, at both the State and National levels.

Cities like Chicago and Detroit have confiscated pension funds through bankruptcy and other means to build sports arenas. A federal judge ruled that in the instance of bankruptcy, that a city such as Detroit could confiscate pension funds to pay for the misdeeds of organizations such as ALEC, city managers, corporations who set up operations offshore to escape federal regulations and taxes, and use pension monies to pay for the misdeeds of others. In short, it appears that retirees, and union workers have no rights to the money that was set up for their retirement.

Several administrations, starting with President Reagan and including Presidents Bush, President Clinton and President Obama have turned a blind eye to the plight of union workers except when looking for donations for campaign funds. We have Raume Emanuel, the Mayor of Chicago, Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan and also the former Superintendent of Chicago Public Schools who have denounced Public Schools in favor of Charter Schools where teachers must work ten hour days and are not allowed to join unions. Supposedly the teacher’s unions protected inept teachers from being fired, so the way to fix the problem was to create Charter Schools and work to eliminate unions including teachers’ unions and industrial unions as well. In addition, since our industrial complex has been sent offshore where workers are paid so little that they cannot feed their families, that leaves the few existing unions pension funds to be plundered by persons like Walker and Emanuel in order to build sports complexes in both Chicago and Detroit as well as in other cities.

In order for the Republican Party to gain traction they have lost in recent elections, they have refused to raise the minimum wage, and have allowed corporations to fire workers who try to join unions. One of the most prominent of these is Walmart, which until recently had been a member of ALEC, until it withdrew its membership because it feared more adverse publicity because it sells more guns than any other corporation. The latest Republican fiasco is to eliminate unemployment for workers who have been unemployed for more than a year. This will leave people who have not been able to get jobs in the United States because those jobs have been shipped offshore. Like WallmartMcSrooge, we have RepublicanMcSrooge, a party which has abandoned the Middle Class workers in the United States.

Detroit Michigan–The Demise Of A Great Industrial City

Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.

I have never visited Detroit, but, after viewing Anthony Bourdain’s account of the city, I was saddened that American Companies had abandoned this city in order to find cheap labor in other parts of the world. This city was responsible for manufacturing our war machines when the Allied Forces were on the brink of collapse during World War II. It would have been unpatriotic and dishonorable to have abandoned this city at that time because the workforce was not only one of the most highly skilled in the United States, but that workforce was highly paid, unionized, and had pensions to support them when they retired. Now that Detroit has filed for bankruptcy, the promises of retirement with dignity has become a source for bailing out years of mismanagement of the city and the lack of patriotism by the companies for relocating the operations where slave labor and sweatshop conditions abound.

During several administrations, both Republican and Democratic, the nation entered into NAFTA, WTO, GATT, IMF, FTAA, MAI alliances with countries all over the world to accomplish two things: 1) Allow corporations to avoid taxation in the United States, and 2) provide corporations with the world’s cheapest labor so that these same corporations could then import those goods back into the United States duty free. President Clinton was one of the most ardent supporters of NAFTA and the other list of Treaties and the demise of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 which separated Banking and Investing institutions that had led to the Great Depression of the 1930’s. In 2008 we entered a period of meltdown with the combined Bank/Investment debacle where we had Banks and Insurance Companies such as AIG which were too big to allow to fail. To make matters worse, when TARP monies were transferred from the Treasury to the Banking/Investment firms, huge bonuses were awarded to the same executives who gambled away the monies entrusted to them in the stock market and in derivatives, a new form of gambling in the stock market. Even our Congress was involved by using insider information to invest in the stock market which could get a private citizen sent to prison. Congress passed a law to prevent the use of insider information to make them wealthy, but I have read that the law has been quietly rescinded.

The move to use monies from pension funds to bail out state and municipal treasuries continues. The Governor of Oregon has lowered the States’ commitment for the funding of pensions in order to use the money to balance the budget. We have individuals in highly paid positions who used outside sources of money to pad their pensions, such as the former Athletic Director of the University of Oregon, which has impacted the State of Oregon Budget. The Governor and his buddies in the Legislature passed this resolution, that has now been challenged and referred to the State Supreme Court.

In almost every instance, it has been the lack of appreciation for highly paid, skilled, and union workers which has led to the demise of our industries in the United States. Even within the United States, the move to avoid union labor has been to move industries from highly unionized states to the South where there are no unions. Most of the foreign car companies who manufacture cars in the United States are located in the South. Boeing, which has its home office in Seattle, when building the Dreamliner had to call in its contracts for parts which were scattered all over the world, because they had no quality control over those parts. This problem led to cost overruns because of the lack of quality control, so they had to use their union labor in Seattle, who were highly skilled and also highly paid to build the Dreamliner. It seems to have escaped their attention that in the long run, highly skilled and highly paid workers, are worth more than unskilled workers, because they are planning to relocate some of the manufacturing to non-union workers in North Carolina where they had poor quality control along with unqualified foreign contracts in the early stages of manufacturing the Dreamliner.

Finally, we need stringent laws to protect the pensions of those retired workers who spent the life in industry and other occupations. We need to have workers who are skilled and loyal, and who can look forward to good pay. Corporations like Walmart do not allow their workers to join unions, but yet Waltmart has asked their own workers to give some of their money for the support of their own employees who cannot make a living wage. Walmart, Inc. needs to be renamed WALSCROOGE, INC. WE need a new form of patriotism and commitment by the National, State, and Local governments to provide for the education and support of workers both union and non-union, so that the ordinary citizens can have a chance at the American Dream where we all succeed together through shared commitment and sacrifice.

USELESS HEARINGS IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

By Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.

One of the most costly and time consuming practices in the House of Representatives are hearings held by some disgruntled member of the House into some real or imaginary abuse by the other party. Darrell Issa of California has wasted tax our money in fighting every piece of legislation passed by the Democratic Party when they were in the majority during the first two years of President Obama, when the Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act, also so known as ObamaCare.

If the Speaker of the House had any control over his Republican Members, he would appoint a hearing committee to look into members such as Issa to either do something positive to add to the overall good of this nation and or resign as the head of this committee. Issa made his fortune by attaching anti-theft devices to cars in California, and it appears that this fortune addled his brain so that it is totally dysfunctional. He is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee which is supposed to investigate waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal bureaucracy. It is unfortunate that he is unable to recognize his own waste, fraud and abuse in his own hearings where he abuses persons who do not agree with his point of view.

The Affordable Care Act and Its Website

The amount of news the press and all the members of our government have been giving to the website for signing up for health care is amazing considering that we have powerful computer systems and very adept programers, who, when called upon, can do amazing work. For example whenever a new computer system or an update to computer program is needed both Apple Computer and Microsoft can hire the talent needed to get a system running without much problem. I am certain that if Apple and Microsoft had been asked they could have been successful in building an interactive page in which people could sign up for a health care program of their choice. WordPress.org is an example of an organization which brings out updates of the program which enables me to type this post without giving much thought to whether or not my readers will have problems with signing on and reading the post. This version I am using now is Version 3.7 which I downloaded yesterday. It will work on any computer system as far as I know. I use it on three different Apple Power PC models dating from the year 2000 to 2009, and a 2012 Mac Mini which uses an Intel Processor.

The expectation that Kathleen Sebelius, the current Secretary of Health and Human Services, should be fired because the website for signing up for Health Care is not working properly is stupid and demeaning. I have worked with computers for years, but when I set up this website I had difficulties for about two years. Most of the problem
was my own inexperience with websites. I called Bluehost techincal staff numerous
times for help. I simply did not follow directions because I either forgot or I did not know they were important. My primary problem was not disabling the plugins which allow this blog to function as I want it to function so it would crash and I would have to go looking for my posts on the internet. I would then have to reformat each post so that it would be visible to my readers. I am finding that I still have many things to learn, but at present I take one task at a time and work on it until things work as I expect them to work. I talked recently with a friend of mine, who is a very bright person, who told me that he had never become computer literate. He spent is career teaching and coaching as a High School teacher, but I would not condemn him because he never became computer literate. So let us give Kathleen Sebelius a break, because I am certain the the bugs in the program to sigh up for Health Care will be successful very soon.

If you are unable to sign up for The Affordable Care Act, you can always visit your local Social Security Office and ask for help. Also, you can go to a state exchange, it does not have to be your state, and sign in on that exchange. California has very good exchange and has signed up millions of people. So, if you are currently without health insurance so there is no need to panic. I learned this information by listening to a TV program and not from the House of Representative or Senate critics.

Blaming The Messenger

The answer of the day for education is to abolish labor unions which support teachers in the public schools so that teaching as an occupation can support not only a family but support a retired teacher as well. At present our governor in Oregon–Gov. Kitzhaber–is doing his very best to make teaching an occupation of last resort. He wants to use pension funds to fund the general budget even though during the last two years the retirement fund has returned about 1.5 and 2.8 billion dollars to the state of Oregon. He is calling the legislature back into a special session in order to cut the income of current retirees and future retirees even more than he did in the regular legislative session. Gov. Kitzhaber is supposedly a democrat, but he operates more like the infamous Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin who was struck by a similar bolt of lightning in going after pension funds of all labor unions. One wonders if he has been paid off by one of ALEC’s billionaires such as the infamous Koch brothers. Some of our state representatives and state senators from the Republican party have been. If you want to check for yourself, all you have to do is look up ALEC for your own state. I have done this for the State of Oregon and found that most of the senators and representatives who are members of ALEC are republicans. In the State of Oregon we have many democratic senators and legislators who are democratic in name only because for the most part they fly under the political radar. Gov. Kitzhaber, in his non-governor role, is a medical doctor but he loves politics much more than doctoring. He will also draw a pension when he retires for his 12 years as Governor of the State of Oregon. He may run for another term and very likely has spent time in the Legislature as well.

All public employees for state and local governments are members of the Public Employees Retirement System. This includes water districts, fire districts, state and local police, firemen, judges, college and university employees and many more. The largest sector used to be public school employees but at present there are no teachers on the PERS board. One of the biggest benefactors was the Coach and Athletic Director of the University of Oregon. When no one was paying attention, his salary included much more than was in his contract as coach and athletic director. He left the state with an income of about $45,000 a month or $540,000 per year. He has been gone from Oregon for several years and now works for some sports organization drawing an additional salary. His monthly salary is about equal to my yearly salary retirement salary, and under current law his salary is taxable in the state where he now resides and he gets an annual increase from the PERS in Oregon.

One of the paradoxes of this whole problem with pensions is that many of the recipients never bargain for their retirement benefits. Principals, Superintendents, and other like members of the management are on the other side of salary negotiations during bargaining. But as soon as the bargaining is completed the administrators get a nice increase in their salaries based upon the teachers’ salaries. At the State Universities level, there is no collective bargaining. If one is even suspected of trying to bargain, if that person does not have tenure, their contract will not be renewed. I spent three years as an administrator and got a double increase each year until I got at the top of the salary schedule. Judges, clerks, and many others who get PERS benefits never bargain for their salaries. College and University professors are supposedly paid on their ability to write, publish, get grants for research, and sometimes teach, but the whole system defies all logic. A professor may simultaneously teach, write, research, and administer, so many have no incentive to involve themselves in collective bargaining.

A final note on my view of the teaching profession is I really enjoyed teaching and had success in that role. I never liked administrative work because I sat for hours listening to administrators spout total nonsense. I thought many times of the outfielder for the Yankees who got so bored he would stand on his head, interacting with the fans in the stands, but I took the easy way out and did something I enjoyed and went back to teaching. Our politicians need to be contacted and told forcefully to quit trying to balance their bloated budgets on the backs of members of PERS, and do something meaningful such as working for a living. Teachers and other employees who work for a living are the messengers of our civilization, so stop Blaming the Messengers and robbing them of their retirement incomes.

A Historical Innovation

New innovations are usually stimulated by a problem that is important to an industry. The development of the computer came about during the nineteenth century as the result of the need for accurate star charts and maps as England developed into a world power. It was relatively easy for a ship to navigate from north to south because north of the equator the North Star provide a reference point. South of the equator the ships could navigate using the Southern Cross. The early Vikings stayed relatively close to shore so they were able to explore much of the known world including China where Viking artifacts have been found. The Vikings also explored the coastline of North America and possibly South America. When ships started to explore by sailing east to west they could easily get lost because the star and planetary charts were not dependable. Great Britain responded by creating a governmental entity called the Board of Longitude in 1714 which existed until 1828. A loss of several ships a few years before 1714 was the primary reason for the creation of a Board of Longitude.

About 1819, three elite graduates of the University of Cambridge were hired to work on charts and maps which required tedious calculations by hand. John Hershel, George Peabody, and Charles Babbage were hired to do this work but found it so tedious that they hired a mathematical savant whose primary talent was to do mathematical calculations in his head. Babbage was so vexed by the monotony of the work that he exclaimed, “It is too bad we do not have a machine to do the calculations for us.” He started on a lifelong quest to develop a mechanical computer to do such calculations.

He was advised by his friends to write up the idea and let others work out the details.
He was determined to proceed on his own and set up a workshop where he hired skilled machinists to develop a mechanical computer. His first machine was Difference No.1, followed by Difference No.2, which to my knowledge was never actually built, and finally the Analytical Engine which was completed by his son after Babbage died.

The following are some of the outcomes of Babbage’s efforts to build a mechanical computer:
1. Machine tools with fine tolerances because if multiplications and additions were to be done by mechanical means the gears had to be machined to fine tolerances.
2. Mechanical drawings which previously did not exist were developed and are still used in all kinds of industries. Mechanical drawings are now done on computers using sophisticated programs.
3. Punch cards to carry out mechanical calculations with a high degree of accuracy. Metal punch cards were already in use by the weaving industry which Babbage found when he toured England and Europe to learn the latest techniques in manufacturing. A company now known as IBM used punch cards for the 1890 census in the United States.
4. Babbage hired very skilled workman to carry out his work. One was named Enfield who became wealthy because he introduced spiral grooves in rifles and other munitions. The Enfield rifle was famed for its accuracy because it spun the bullet while in the barrel of the gun and greatly increased its accuracy. I recently learned that the Enfield rifle was used by the Confederate Army during the seige of Vicksburg. When the Southern soldiers surrendered to Grant’s Army they stacked their rifles as they left Vicksburg. Among those rifles were the newest Enfield rifles which the Northern Armies had never seen. Grant was happy to use these for the first time because they were breech loaded, more accurate, and safer than tamping black powder and lead bullets down a barrel.
5. Mechanical computers were still used in university labs during World War II.
6. The first semi-electronic computers used old style radio tubes to power the computers, but they were slow, generated great amounts of heat, and needed a great amount space.
7. The addition of a video screen such as I am now using to type this post was used by Xerox in their Palo Alto research Laboratory. Steve Jobs visited this laboratory and incorporated it into his first computer. He also visited the University of California who were using a computer language developed jointly with ATT&T called Unix. He adopted the Unix system which put it at odds with MS-DOS computers used by Microsoft which became the dominant computer system.
8. When Steve Jobs was fired from Apple he started his own computer company called NEXT which Apple purchased when Jobs was rehired as CEO of Apple. The NEXT computer used Unix as its operating system with one difference–it used Intel processors instead of the computer Power PC processors developed by IBM, Motorola, and Apple. When IBM failed to provide Apple with the most advanced computer processors, because it sold most of them to Sony and Microsoft, Jobs stopped using the Power PC processors and purchased Intel’s processors and ported over the Unix operating system to the computers using Intel chips. By doing this innovative switch, he was able to run both Apples’ operating system and MS DOS, the operating system used by Microsoft. A program called Parallels is a software program which allows both Apple software and Microsoft to operate on an Apple computer using Intel processors without rebooting the computer. I now have an Apple MacMini computer which has an Intel processor so I could use both Microsoft and Apple software on the same computer. At present, I still have four Power PC Mac computers which are still very usable, but the software written for these computers is slowly becoming obsolete because the market for them is very small.
9. The process of innovation continued with printers and the internet which allowed paper copies and high speed communication which now spans every country. Internet speeds have increased dramatically from the early telephone to coaxial cable which I use. Typewriters have basically become extinct with the use of the word processor which is part of every computer program. Electronic mail in the form of emails and faxes have replaced the teletypes which were used for many years. Many newspapers and magazines are now available in digital forms so that the print media has given way to reporters who work for blogs such as the Huffington Post. Blogs such as this one allow me to communicate with anyone who cares to subscribe. The social media has allowed groups of people to communicate with one another. I have one in which many of my family members subscribe.
10. The last innovation I read about in the latest Popular Science Magazine describes the use of three dimensional printers which allow the production of human body parts which in the future can be made to order for a particular person since one size does not fit all. This is still in the development stage as far as I know.
11. I recently received a Kindle Paper White so I can now read digital books in low light, no light or bright sunlight. There are applications so that one can also read the books on the computer, but I like reading in bed and my Kindle is small enough, about 6 inches by 4 inches and can be read horizontally or vertically. Some of the novels are 99 cents, others like the Lewis and Clark expedition funded by my relative, President Thomas Jefferson, are more expensive.
12. I was once asked where I got my information for my blog. Most of it is out of my own head, but I also use the internet to look up information on the articles I write. For this post I referred back to the dissertation I wrote for my Ph.D. My dissertation was entitled Charles Babbage, Philosopher, Reformer, Inventor: A History of His Contributions to Science, by Walter Lyle Bell(1975). This took me about 4 years to complete because I had to get some of my materials from the British Museum. I had to wait almost 9 months to receive materials from Great Britain because the postal workers went on strike for the first time in British history. I also had to use interlibrary loans through the library at Oregon State University, which also took extra time. My Major Professor went to Denmark on a leave of absence while I was writing the first, second or third drafts, so that took extra time. Also, the dissertation is 393 pages so the length alone was time consuming.

Automobile Safety

Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.

Chrysler is now a private corporation whose directors thought they were immune from lawsuits caused by faulty parts for cars manufactured when the company was a public corporation. The directors of the new private company must have forgotten that they received money from the United States government to bail them out of bankruptcy. Their refusal to fix the gasoline tanks was a stupid decision because in assuming the Jeep brand, which has been the most successful in producing income for the previous public corporation and the current private corporation, it shot itself in the foot. Can you imagine the pain and suffering caused by the victims who survived a rear end collision and caused the gasoline to fill the entire passenger compartment which then ignited and either burned its victims alive or permanently scared the surviving passengers for life?

Any automobile which has a gasoline tank without a firewall between the gasoline tank and the passenger compartment can drench its passengers in a severe rear end collision. The answer to this problem is a fuel cell which is lined with a neoprene rubber lining which will not rupture under severe collisions. No race car is allowed on the track without an approved fuel cell. In looking at costs, a 22 gallon fuel cell costs about $850.00, from a company named:

RACER PARTS WHOLESALE
411 Dorman
Indianapolis, IN 46202

Monday through Friday, 8:00- 5:00 EST
Local: 317-639-0725
Toll-Free: 800-397-7815

info@racerpartswholesale.com

All the major car manufacturers, including Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, and foreign manufacturers support the race car circuits and know about the safety requirements for race cars. So if you own a car without a closed off trunk such as a Jeep, I would put pressure on the car companies of the cars you own to prove that you have a safe gasoline tank in your car. Remember, we now have a Federal Consumer Safety Agency, thanks to the efforts of President Barack Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren from the State of Massachusetts, who would have been appointed to head this agency except for the opposition of the Republican Party. She ran against Senator Scott Brown and won in the election when he chose to question her Cherokee Indian Heritage because she could not prove it on paper but had known it from the oral tradition handed down through her family. I have the same problem because the family tradition is that my grandmother was part Cherokee Indian. I have spent much time looking through the rolls of the Cherokee, Choctaw and other Indian rolls without success.

If you use the web browser, OmniWeb, you can find the names, address, and telephone numbers of all the Federal Agencies. Call or write to them and inquire about the safety standards for your model of automobile. Remember your safety and those of your family and friends are at stake. The life you save could be your own as well as people you do not even know–this is known as “paying forward.”

The Addictive Personality

An addictive personality can take many forms other than addiction to food, drugs, alcohol, and sexual addition. We have all met people who obsess over each object having a proper place, so that when entering a room they will get upset if something is out of place. I notice this addiction because I have trouble keeping track of my own possessions which are not lost but seem to be where I left them. I tend to have a horizontal method of filing so that papers get scattered across my desk or work area. I have files, but I do not always put them in the proper place. Another form of addiction are list makers, who can drive those around them crazy if the day does not proceed according to their list. I know of one person who has a mental list that has to be followed or he gets very upset and constantly has to tell those around him about his list.

I saw an old movie recently about two people who got married where the man was already an alcoholic. He offered her a drink which she refused. When he persisted she told him that she had no interest in drinking, but she always had a supply of chocolates. He ordered her a drink flavored with chocolate and got her started on alcohol, so that she replaced a relatively harmless addiction with one which ruined her life. It is the latter kind of addition that I will explore in this article because additions which ruin the life on an individual and which make those around them miserable are ones that need to be treated by skilled counselor.

Power is another kind of addiction which causes those in charge of a company to try to dominate those around them. Politicians are often addicted to power and can be easily purchased by billionaires who use them for favors which furthers their own quest for power. In my professional life in education, I met many of these people. We had one member of our staff who would throw up prior to coming to a staff meeting as he plotted how to manipulate the other members of the staff. If you caught him in a lie, he would reply that he was not the same person as he was when he lied, because each day he became a new person. He chose one acolyte who was willing to sell his own soul with the promise to get a promotion from an Assistant Professor to a full Professor by doing as he was told. He went from an Assistant Professor to a full Professor in two short years without doing anything but following orders. The senior Professor was eventually fired by the President of the College for sending demeaning letters to the President. His acolyte eventually became Dean of the School of Education as the College became a State University. The acolyte traded his soul in his quest for power.

Prestige is another form of addiction. Since I lived in a University town, we had many wives who sought prestige through their husband’s career. We had one wife of a medical doctor who complained about the members of the University who were addressed as Doctor, but who had earned a Ph.D. rather than an M.D. What the woman did not realize was the the first degrees were Doctors of Divinity. D.D. Next came the Doctors of Philosophy or Ph.D. which was more of an all inclusive form of recognition and includes a wide range of disciplines such as physics, mathematics, philosophy, etc. Later, we had Doctors of Education, or E.D., and lastly Doctors of Medicine or M.D. which also cover a wide range of specialties which stemmed from the first surgeons who were originally barbers. Doctors of Veterinarian Medicine are the most difficult of all doctoral medical degrees to obtain, because the number of degrees granted per year is limited to the top candidates because the demand is limited and the pay is not on par with other medical specialties.

Money is not evil, but people who have and excess of money will usually associate only with those who have money. Occasionally those who have lived all their lives as wealthy individuals will use their money to help others, but because the pursuit of money can become an addition, it can also become a source of snobbery, isolation, and lack of tolerance for those who are not wealthy. There are exceptions where those who are wealthy will form a foundation to use their excess money to help those who are poor, disabled, and those who lack the means to get an education.

Lastly, the kinds of addiction are limitless. One last addiction that is shown on television are the addiction to hoarding all kinds of objects. Some of the hoarders will completely fill their living space with all kinds of objects, both new and old, and have to hire people to come in and get rid of the excess objects so that they can have access to an orderly living space. There are also people with multiple additions to wealth, drugs, power, prestige, food, and to toys such as cars, boats, homes, etc. Many people with addictive personalities never seek help for their addictions to the extent that they make those around them unhappy and unloved.