Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The 1% Pension Edition

I was wondering why there were hits yesterday on my Pittsburgh pension web page..  First off, there is news all around of some big public pensions in Pittsburgh.  Some group says there is someone in town getting $180k/year in public pension benefits.  Before you get all bent over that, I just don't believe it.  Someone misread a number, maybe confused a one-time payout, or possibly just added a zero.   The news today identifies the 180k recipient, who denies it is even close. .   Somehow someone took a $20K number and thought it was $180K.  There is a story in that in that someone presumed a much bigger number was even possible here. So what is actually conceivable elsewhere just isn't here.  Does it really say our public pensions are low on average?

I also take issue a bit if the news is right and it says the names of 37 employees with pensions were released.  37?   There are over 4,000 city of Pittsburgh pensioners alone.   I do not know offhand the number of county pensioners.  So we are talking about well less than the metaphorical 1% of pension payments.  There is not a data story out there that is not misrepresented it if you only focus on the sub-1% extremes in any circumstance. 

Yet even still the news says that 1% covers folks with pensions as lows as $37K/year.  A lot for some pensioners I know, but we are talking top of the top.  There are a few people who retire after very long careers at the top of the pay scale.  So $37K  is the very very top you really need to wonder what the average is.  This is one of those stories that is literally opposite as it comes across because that is the way the press release reads.  Though the obvious error in the 180K number was caught.  Deserves follow up on how the average city pensioner gets by on what they get from the city.  I bet a lot would be surprised.   

So it just isn't possible for any local pension to be anything like that.  The problem with city pensions is not that they are extragagent, but that they were underfunded by so much for so long.  The average payout is actually awfully low.  Police and fire pensioners generally do not get social security so if you see a payment of $2-3K a month, which is average for recent retirees, it is not all that much more than what they would have received from Social Security.  For the city, older retirees, and the pensions of non-uniformed employees average even less.

Want to argue the average numbers? Go start with my pension page and then let's talk.

But on the general topic of what public employees make. I am surprised this was not noticed much locally or in Pennsylvania.  The Sunshine Foundation folks in a recent publication they put out probably did a more objective job and  poked at government employee salaries across a number of states:  Which governments pay public employees the most?

Generally speaking Pennsylvania comes across a lot more frugal than the other states they look at.  But search for the one instance of "Pittsburgh" in the whole report.


Anonymous MH said...

Now we know what mailing list CM is on.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012 9:02:00 AM  

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