A how-to manual

For betraying seniors and people with disabilities!

Lesson Number One: Don’t even think about telling the truth. Fact is, the chained-CPI cut you want to push past the American public is a benefit cut, and a pretty big one at that, about $112 billion right out of the pockets of Social Security beneficiaries over the next ten years. It’s hardest on persons most dependent on Social Security’s modest benefits, averaging just $13,600 . It would lower the COLA gradually but inexorably, year after year — a cumulative loss over 30 years of $28,000 for a 65 year old retiree who lives to 95 and receives an average Social Security benefit, or a 30 year old disabled war veteran who reaches age 60. That’s a lot of money and we strongly urge cautious politicians to steer clear of these facts. Certainly, don’t tell them that your vote implies that their current benefits are higher than you think they should be getting. And don’t acknowledge what a cruel cut it is – hurting the most the oldest of the old, those disabled at the youngest ages, and the poorest of the poor.

Call your senator

Via Greg Sargent: “A senior Senate Dem aide tells me that Reid is not prepared to accept the emerging deal yet; he wants to talk to his caucus about it first.”
So, seems like calls to the Senate right now might be useful…

Easy-Bake Oven

We’ve had a lot of bad news lately, but this made me smile. The young girl who started a campaign to get a gender-neutral Easy-Bake Oven for her brother was successful! Personally, I was one of those kids who couldn’t stand “girly” toys, so I’m sure they’re going to sell more of the new model to girls, too:

Hasbro says it will soon reveal a gender-neutral Easy-Bake Oven after meeting with a New Jersey girl who started a campaign calling on the toy maker to make one that appeals to all kids.

McKenna Pope, 13, of Garfield, N.J., got more than 40,000 signatures on her online petition at Change.org and the support of celebrity chefs including Bobby Flay, who backed her call for Hasbro to make a gender-neutral oven and to include boys in the ads.

She was prompted to start the petition after shopping for an Easy-Bake as a Christmas present for her 4-year-old brother, Gavyn Boscio, and finding them only in purple and pink.

Hasbro invited McKenna and her family to its Pawtucket, R.I., headquarters to meet with its Easy-Bake team, and on Monday, they drove to Rhode Island from New Jersey. During the meeting, Hasbro executives showed off a prototype of their newest Easy-Bake: one that’s black, silver and blue.

Hasbro has been working on the new color scheme and design for about 18 months, and decided to invite McKenna to see it and offer her thoughts, said John Frascotti, Hasbro’s chief marketing officer.

McKenna said the company is doing everything she asked, including putting boys in the ads.

“I think that they really met most or even all of what I wanted them to do, and they really amazed me,” she said, adding that Gavyn thought the new design was “awesome.”

Joke of the day

This sounds like my parents.

An old man calls his son and says, “Listen, your mother and I are getting divorced. Forty-five years of misery is enough.”

“Dad, what are you talking about?” the son screams.

“We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” he says. “I’m sick of her face, and I’m sick of talking about this, so call your sister and tell her,” and he hangs up.

Now, the son is worried. He calls his sister. She says, “Like hell they’re getting divorced!” She calls their father immediately. “You’re not getting divorced! Don’t do another thing. The two of us are flying home tomorrow to talk about this. Until then, don’t call a lawyer, don’t file a paper. DO YOU HEAR ME?” She hangs up the phone.

The old man turns to his wife and says, “Okay, they’re both coming for Christmas and paying their own airfares.”

The reformer

Although he sells himself that way, Gov. Chris Christie is not a “reformer.” He simulates being candid, but uses that illusion to cloak a host of crooked problems he’d be hard pressed to explain. And he’s the big hope of the Republican party? Gee, I hope so:

How can anybody fill 88 pages on New Jersey’s fiscal catastrophe and not once use the word “corruption”? That is what authors of the State Budget Crisis Task Force New Jersey Report managed to do.

DIPPERS: Of all factors pushing New Jersey off its own self-inflicted fiscal cliff, the biggest is the hidden pension debt built up over decades.

The report, released Thursday, outlines much of the malfeasance and nonfeasance of state and local politicians over the decades that put the state with the highest taxes in one of the deepest holes of public debt.

But the C-word is nowhere to be found.

Of all factors pushing New Jersey off its own self-inflicted fiscal cliff, the biggest is the hidden pension debt built up over decades.

That totals more than $25 billion based on delusional official accounting.

According to the report, “… the governor and the legislature made major changes to scale back pension benefits, including suspending COLAs for retirees and requiring increased employee contributions. As a result of these changes, the state’s unfunded liability was reduced by 30 percent from $37.1 billion to $25.6 billion, which increased the system’s funded ratio from 56.4 percent to 65.2 percent.”

Unfortunately, official accounting is rigged to hide the true magnitude of pension debt. Based on extrapolation using the state’s own assumptions and data from the latest full-year U.S. Census Survey of State Administered Pensions, I calculate as of this year New Jersey actually is in a $168 billion pension hole.

Yes, New Jersey’s pension problems have their roots in 1997, when Gov. Christine Todd Whitman first began to play games with state pension money to fund (you guessed it) tax cuts. She floated a pension bond that haunts New Jersey to this day, and all NJ can afford to pay is its interest.

And official accounting never includes the cost to taxpayers of abuses such as double dipping.

Those abuses add up in New Jersey and virtually every other state. Defenders of government defined benefit pensions try to claim that while such abuses exist, they don’t contribute much to total pension costs. However, they cannot prove that.

What is proven is that in New Jersey at least, abuse is pervasive.

New Jersey Watchdog editor Mark Lagerkvist found rampant abuse while looking into just one small part of the pension system.

Lagerkvist exposed 60 double-dippers collecting nearly $10 million a year – $4.4 million in pensions in addition to $5.5 million in state salaries.

The administration of self-proclaimed reformer Gov. Chris Christie hired one third of them.

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno made false statements in 2008 when Monmouth County Sheriff to get her chief officer, Michael W. Donovan Jr., nearly $85,000 a year in retirement pay in addition to his $87,500 annual salary.

Under state statute, “Any person who shall knowingly make any false statement or shall falsify or permit to be falsified any record or records of this retirement system … shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

In May 2011, a state pension board requested a criminal investigation of the Donovan matter. The case was referred to the Attorney General’s Division of Criminal Justice. However, the DCJ investigation is riddled with conflicts of interest.

Last week Christie announced Guadagno will be his running mate again in 2013.

Louis Goetting, who collects $229,000 a year from the state – a $140,000 salary as Christie’s deputy chief of staff plus $89,000 in state pension from early retirement actually is a triple dipper. Ironically, Christie hired Goetting in 2010 as a budget guru to help trim the cost of government.

He also received two golden public parachutes – severance packages of $190,000 from Brookdale Community College in 2009 and $180,000 from University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in 2002. Goetting has gotten more than $1.1 million in pension and severance pay – and he still draws a six-figure salary from the state.

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