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Monday, January 9, 2012

Pension Puffery

...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.


Click here to go to the article, Pension Puffery at Governing.com
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Botched Paramilitary Police Raids: An Epidemic of "Isolated Incidents"

"If a widespread pattern of [knock-and-announce] violations were shown . . . there would be reason for grave concern." —Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in Hudson v. Michigan, June 15, 2006. An interactive map of botched SWAT and paramilitary police raids, released in conjunction with the Cato policy paper "Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids," by Radley Balko. What does this map mean? How to use this map View Original Map and Database

Key

Death of an innocent. Death or injury of a police officer. Death of a nonviolent offender.
Raid on an innocent suspect. Other examples of paramilitary police excess. Unnecessary raids on doctors and sick people.
The proliferation of SWAT teams, police militarization, and the Drug War have given rise to a dramatic increase in the number of "no-knock" or "quick-knock" raids on suspected drug offenders. Because these raids are often conducted based on tips from notoriously unreliable confidential informants, police sometimes conduct SWAT-style raids on the wrong home, or on the homes of nonviolent, misdemeanor drug users. Such highly-volatile, overly confrontational tactics are bad enough when no one is hurt -- it's difficult to imagine the terror an innocent suspect or family faces when a SWAT team mistakenly breaks down their door in the middle of the night. But even more disturbing are the number of times such "wrong door" raids unnecessarily lead to the injury or death of suspects, bystanders, and police officers. Defenders of SWAT teams and paramilitary tactics say such incidents are isolated and rare. The map above aims to refute that notion.

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