Sunday, February 13, 2011

Follow those stories and infinitives are overrated

Too many things in orbit today..

PG digs into other city pension issues.  Feel free to crowdsource yourself with what I have put on my iPension page.  I'm sure there are some other stories in there.  The issue remains a lot more basic; why is so little information on the pension system made public.  The current online presence for the pension office is a sublime exercise in minimalism.  If you look really hard you can find a 2009 'newsletter' on the state of the pension system.  Anyway, I don't quite have time to keep that iPension page updated and am more than willing to hear ideas on how to get help to expand it.

Tyler Brûlé's new urban/news/culture fusion show on BloombergTV briefly covers East Liberty's Conflict Kitchen.  He forgot the 'h', but who's complaining. 

Buzz over the latest story on all things Braddock, this time in the NY Times Magazine which gets closer than most at observing how the stylized facts do not quite match the reality we can measure.  We're about to get a 2010 census results, and one of the first things we will all obsess on are population counts of lots of places.. I suspect the population being referenced for Braddock is higher than it really is these days. 

Stories of yet another R running for county executive.  Who knows how to handicap any of this now?  We go from virtually never seeing a contested countywide Republican primary to a 3 or 4 way race (has Drozd actually announced officially?).  With McCullough's entrance, you can look back at the race where he won the county at-large seat, coincidentially one of the few contested countywide primaries in decades and the pattern of the McCullough-Acklin results.  That and someone did predict McCullough would run for County Executive some time ago.

Good oped on workforce issues facing the region and the state.  Maybe I will just rerun the graphic I had posted once of the occupations of Pittsburgh.

Speaking of opeds:  I keep telling you, its Yunz, not Yinz and others agree.  To answer the question of when 'Yinz' became popular, I still think it was the "New Yinzer" magazine that really put it into the vernacular.  Wasn't the origin of course, but when it became the default.

It probably wasn't quite necessary for me to get caught up in this story on adult education in the state,. but a point I generally make is that we often talk about "Pennsylvania" as one big homogenous place when in fact it just isn't.  Relevant to this topic, here is a quick table showing the proportion of the population (age 25 and over) who have a bachelor's degree or higher, by county, within Pennsylvania.  This really is quite an amazing range of values between the high and low end of this.  What I take from it is that it just does not make a lot of sende to talk about Pennsylvania as a whole when it comes to education issues. Not much in common between Fulton and Chester counties here:


Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

The numbers in the P-G pension piece, even if we elect to classify them as "inefficient", don't seem to add up to anything close to that which would make a scratch in the real crisis. (Then again if the "crisis" is this artificially imposed deadline of getting to 50% by 1-1-2011 or else getting taken over by the stae, then it may ironically fall within that envelope ... but not in terms of real fund solvency crisis.) We are talking about a shortfall of the better part of a billion dollars, and considerations like a few million in fees and salaries get wiped out by utterly the tiniest, quirkiest investment decisions.

Of course, it's possible the real complication is that those expensive-seeming-to-you-and-I fees and salaries result a certain stultification of our investment management processes. So it becomes a legitimate story again through the backdoor.

And finally, as you write, there's the matter of why you've got to be Rich Freaking Lord to gather this information. Pension officials must eschew dwelling on the past just like water officials.

Sunday, February 13, 2011 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

Bram, don't forget the power of compounding. $3 million was, at least until the recent infusion of sorta-assets, over 1% of the pension fund. A 1% drag on annual returns becomes very significant in the long run. Not the whole picture, to be sure, but enough to care about.

That was indeed a nice op-ed on the local jobs situation. It probably doesn't make sense to assume NO unfilled jobs at any given time, but it does seem like there is some low-hanging fruit specifically in terms of jobs requiring some post-HS education/training short of a 4-year degree. And hopefully the optimistic picture they painted with respect to local school districts starting to adopt best practices with respect to post-HS preparation is accurate.

Sunday, February 13, 2011 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

Pa is indeed not a homogeneous land. The adage used in politics is that Pa is Philly at one end, Pittsburgh at the other, with Alabama in between.

And the chart showing the disparity of college grads across the state doesn't tell the whole story. A very large number of kids from the "Alabama" section go to college (my local school, Laurel, brags that 90% of its grads go on to post grad education of some sort) and never return because most of the jobs that require a college degree and pay well are in the two urban centers of the state.

I would like to see a chart showing what percentage of high schools grad go on to college from each county. And then another chart showing the percentage that stay within 25 miles vs what percentage that leave the area of their high school matriculation. Maybe add a chart showing what % of eight graders graduate from high school.

Sunday, February 13, 2011 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I do hate the Carville characterization.

Sunday, February 13, 2011 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

I'm sure that Mr Carville meant it with the greatest affection.

Sunday, February 13, 2011 1:24:00 PM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

BrianTH - We couldn't expect to reduce the $3M overhead to zero, at most maybe by half ... so maybe you get $1.5M to compound with. Don't get me wrong, waste not want not, but it's still a pretty glancing and indirect blow.

Sunday, February 13, 2011 1:42:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I dunno... by the standards of the debate in December, it does add up to something. Everyone kept talking about the 30 year cumulative numbers. 1.5mil over 30 years at the assumed 8% rate of return is $185 million. Goes a long way toward where they need to get.

But Bram is right in a sense.. this isn't the core of the problem. Maybe they need to get rid of the assumed 8% return which is much closer to being the core problem.

Sunday, February 13, 2011 1:48:00 PM  
Anonymous DBR96A said...

What many people forget about James Carville's statement is that he was simply analyzing voting patterns, not cultural patterns. Central Pennsylvania is politically conservative, much like Alabama. It doesn't mean the restaurants in central Pennsylvania serve sweet tea and grits.

Sunday, February 13, 2011 2:52:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

I agree it isn't the core problem, but even saving 0.5% annually in management fees would be a big enough deal to care about independently.

Sunday, February 13, 2011 6:40:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I agree with BrianTH about the .5%, and not in the ironic way I agree about the cable cars.

As for the primary, I'm thinking of voting for McCullough. In politics, stealing from old people is a welcome reversal.

Sunday, February 13, 2011 6:56:00 PM  

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