• ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, February 28

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Man, that seemed like a short month

     NY Teamsters were promised excellent retirement benefits by the unions that handled the pension funds. Now, the pensions are running dry  (New York Daily News)

    [Tim] Chmil is one of roughly 4,000 retired Teamsters across New York State suffering a fate that could soon hit millions of working-class Americans — the loss of their union pensions.

    Teamsters Local 707’s pension fund is the first to officially bottom out financially — which happened this month.

    “I had a union job for 30 years,” Chmil said. “We had collectively bargained contracts that promised us a pension. I paid into it with every paycheck. Everyone told us, ‘Don’t worry, you have a union job, your pension is guaranteed.’ Well, so much for that.” –New York Daily News

    Comment: This is a tragic story. The only silver lining would be to learn from it. Workers’ retirement funds are their own in 401k plans so they cannot be lost like this. The downside is that workers (like me) have to invest their own money and never make as much as the “defined benefit” plans like those promised by the Teamster Local 707.

    But union leader will never, ever, never allow 401k plans if they can prevent them. Why? Because the unions themselves can determine who gets the heavy fees associated with their union funds. Because so much money is sloshing around, the chances for corruption are great. Those who control the pension money can direct it to their brother-in-law or to a friend who promises kickbacks. (Companies used to be able to do the same thing and often invested the money in those own company’s stock to raise the price. That is now illegal.) By contrast, 401k plans are normally very cheap to operate. Unions that control their own pension money can also determine which investments to fund. How do you think Las Vegas casinos were financed in the 1950s? 

    Among the few defined benefit plans still around are those of government employees. After all, the taxpayers have to pay them and, at the state level, cannot lessen the burden by bankruptcy.

    Well-governed states like Indiana have already converted all employees to 401k’s. Some states are unwilling to go that far but are at least putting all new public employees on 401k’s. And then there are Deep Blue states like Illinois, headed for a dumpster fire.

     “With Obamacare in jeopardy, California considers going it alone with ‘single-payer’ system”  (Los Angeles Times)

    The problem, in a nutshell, is that this program would be enormously expensive and California is already in financial trouble.

    In a single-payer system, residents would pay into a state agency that essentially functions as an insurance company. The agency would pay doctors and hospitals when people sought treatment.

    Single-payer has a long, troubled history in California. Bills made it through the Legislature in 2006 and 2008 only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    But advocates say Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) increased support for single-payer by championing it on the national stage last year while vying to become the Democratic presidential nominee.

    New York state unveiled single-payer legislation earlier this month. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) introduced a similar bill in Congress that would expand Medicare to cover all Americans.

    But a 2008 report from California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office found that even with a tax on Californians and the state’s pooled healthcare funds, the state would still be short more than $40 billion in the first full year of single-payer implementation.

    “Where were they going to come up with the $40 billion?” said Micah Weinberg, president of the Economic Institute at the Bay Area Council. “It’s just not feasible to do as a state.”

    Weinberg pointed out that a single-payer initiative was scrapped in a state as liberal and small as Vermont. A single-payer measure on Colorado’s November ballot also failed.

    Comment: The proponents are California Dreamin’ on a winter’s day.

     Tom Perez, new head of Democratic National Committee, must rebuild his party from the bottom up. Opinion writer James Downie says “Tom Perez’s biggest problem as DNC chair: His backers” (Washington Post)

    [The] reason for Perez’s entry and victory was simple: In defeating Ellison, the establishment wanted to rebuke the progressive wing and retain control of the party.

    Therein lies Perez’s — and the party’s — biggest problem. The Democratic Party needs the progressive wing’s energy and new ideas if it is to recover. . . . The fact is that the party establishment doesn’t want to admit its failings. –James Downie in the Washington Post

    Downie’s conclusion:

    Rescuing the Democrats from this deep hole requires grass-roots energy — energy that clearly is most prevalent in the more liberal wing of the party, as seen in the surprisingly successful campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Capturing it means working with outside groups and listening to new ideas, not doubling down on establishment control.–James Downie in the Washington Post

    Comment: Perez is whip-smart, well-educated, and skilled at insider politics.

    He has only a slim chance of winning the Senate. He has a better chance of winning back the House, though he will have to do so with Nancy Pelosi as the facelift of the Party.

    His biggest challenges:

    • Recovering some heft in state politics
    • Integrating the Sanders/Warren/socialist wing of the party without alienated more centrist voters. That would normally be impossible, but their shared opposition to Trump personally and to his agenda will help.

    The oddity here is that Perez is on the party’s far left wing. It’s just that he is not as far left as Bernie Sanders, who, after all, is a self-declared socialist and not a member of the Democratic Party. (He joined only for the presidential race and resigned after it ended.)

     Bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers, vandalism in Jewish cemeteries, and no arrests yet

    These threats are becoming regular events, as the Washington Post reports.

    It was the fifth round of bomb threats against Jewish institutions since January, prompting outrage and exasperation among Jewish leaders as well as calls for an aggressive federal response to put a stop to it. –Washington Post

    In addition to these bomb threats, Jewish cemeteries are being vandalized. Several hundred tombstones were pushed over in Philadelphia, on top of a similar attack last week in St. Louis.

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Tom Elia
     for the NY union pension story
    ◆ Ron Hassner for list of Jewish Community Centers dealing with bomb threats