Americans for Prosperity – Louisiana’s Director of Grassroots Operations, James Lee.
[Full Disclosure: Sound Off Louisiana‘s founder, Robert Burns, is an active participant in functions organized by Americans for Prosperity’s Louisiana Chapter. While Burns participated in the town hall referenced below and proudly signed AFP’s petition, he was not asked by any AFP official to publish the feature below, and his decision to do so is solely his own, as is responsibility for the feature’s contents].
Warren Buffet who, on Saturday, announced that he has thrown in the towel on the U. S. Airline industry for the second time by selling all of the airline holdings in the Berkshire Hathaway fund he manages, made a phrase very popular many years ago: “Whenever you drain the swimming pool, you soon find out who has been swimming with no swimsuit on.”
Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is firmly convinced that U. S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, by co-sponsoring a measure to provide $500 billion in funds to states and local governments to offset revenues lost as a result of the Corona virus, is essentially attempting to hook up a fire hose and re-flood the pool in Buffet’s analogy. AFP contends financial irresponsibility (particularly entailing funding of pensions and using elevated assumed rates of return for public pensions) would be shielded through this bailout. It would be much like swimming pool water conceals the existence of swimsuits (or lack thereof) by swimmers in a pool. In essence, AFP contends that many states’ financial mismanagement, including Louisiana’s mismanagement, will be concealed via Cassidy’s massive bailout should it become law.
On Thursday (April 30, 2020), AFP-Louisiana, in concert with the national AFP organization, arranged a hastily-called virtual town hall to rally its army of volunteers to oppose Cassidy’s bailout measure. Though there was little time to prepare for the town hall, it was nevertheless attended by 25,000 AFP activists expressing their frustration at Sen. Cassidy and his co-sponsor, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), for sponsoring the measure and urging members to contact their Senators and ask them to actively oppose the measure. AFP also drafted a letter to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. From the letter (emphasis on pension debt is our own):
We should be helping the people who are hurting, not bailing out politicians for irresponsible decisions they made prior to this crisis. But as we’ve seen before, lawmakers are using this crisis to jockey for handouts to pay for their past mistakes in the name of helping those who have been hit hardest.
States that have spent lavishly, borrowed excessively, and ignored looming pension debt should not use the current crisis to shift the cost of those bad policy decisions onto taxpayers in other states.
Illinois is case in point. Illinois has requested more than $41 billion in additional funding from the federal government on top of the $4.9 billion already provided by the CARES Act. Most of this would go to purposes not related to direct COVID-19 response, such as bailing out the state’s failing pension system.
Back to the swimming trunks analogy, let’s take just 1:24 to watch a video of the April 24, 2019 meeting of the Louisiana State Police Retirement Board (LSPRB) wherein its former Executive Director, Irwin Felps, Jr., admits that, unlike most private companies, which use a discount rate of 6% to compute the present value of its pension liabilities, the State of Louisiana uses 7%. What is that the equivalent of? Swimming in that Buffet pool with no trunks! Now that the stock market has hit a snag (i.e. the water has been partially drained from the pool), it’s become obvious that states like New York, Illinois and, yes, Louisiana, have been swimming around in the pool with no trunks (as will be exposed as the system actually loses money from the stock market decline, much less “only” earn 6% instead of 7%). Here’s the video:
April 24, 2019 LSPRB meeting during which then-Executive Director, Irwin Felps, Jr., readily admits that lowering the discount rate for plan assets from 7% to 6% (as Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera advocates and as most private companies already use) would have a “dramatic” adverse impact on the plan’s Unfunded Accrued Liability (UAL).
Sen. Cassidy is obviously engaging in a very thinly-veiled effort to reward horrendously-bad fiscal management on the part of Louisiana’s political leaders by now bailing out that poor management. When we published our feature entailing the 35% raises for certain LSP Troopers, we got an email from a “police officer’s wife” lambasting us and implicitly stating that we lean to be “pro-teacher” and “anti-LSP.” We will remove her identity and reproduce the email at this time:
Sent: Friday, June 7, 2019 5:54 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: LA State Police
I have some questions regarding your story about the LSP. I have been told that the LSP has a self sustaining retirement system. Your article implies that they rely on the state to fund their retirement system. Every few years the state threatens to pool what I have been told was a thriving LSP retirement system with a failing teacher’s retirement system. Does the LSP have it’s own self sustaining retirement system separate from teachers and other state employees and if so how is it funded?
You published several retiree salaries of the very upper echelon but you fail to mention that a starting trooper makes $46,000, about the same as a starting teacher. I assume that you don’t feel like someone who is putting their life in danger to keep you and your family safe is worth $100,000 per year. Maybe you should ask someone who has lost their father, son, or brother in the line of duty how much their life was worth. The average life span of a police officer is 57-66 years. The average life span of the general population is about 78 years. What is 12-20 years of your life worth to you?
Did you know that almost 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life? In fact, more police officers die by suicide than by homicide The ugly truth for our men and women in blue is that their mental deterioration is dismissed as an unalarming byproduct of their job. Research has shown time and again that police officer occupational stress is directly related to higher rates of heart disease, divorce, sick days taken, alcohol abuse, and major psychological illnesses such as acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety disorder.
I understand where you are coming from in the disgust with the method in which the raise was obtained and nobody is going to try to defend the integrity of Mike Edmonson because he has none, but the other 99.9% of the LSP had nothing to do with Edmonson’s shenanigans and that makes the job no less deserving of the salary.
Police Officer Wife
Now, we have no doubt that organizations like the Louisiana State Trooper’s Association (LSTA) have falsely portrayed to their memberships that the system is a “self sustaining retirement system.” That is a complete and utter falsehood! The system receives substantial contributions from taxpayers as their share of contributions to the system! It is that simple! Heck, just listen to what Felps says beginning at the 0:56 mark of the above video (if the discount rate was lowered from 7% to 6%): “The EMPLOYER contribution rate would increase dramatically.” Who is that EMPLOYER? It is the State of Louisiana which, in turn, are Louisiana’s taxpaying citizens. So, the statement that LSP has a “self sustaining retirement system” is nothing short of LSTA propaganda, which that particular organization holds a patent on spreading!
The bottom line is that, whenever the LSP retirement system, Teachers retirement system, and LASERS engage in tactics such as Felps readily admits to above, all they’re doing is camouflaging the true level of the UAL and thus forcing an even larger taxpayer bailout required in the future! It’s that simple, and by Felps’ own admission, that bailout amounts to “billions” of dollars!
We have no idea where this young lady got her commentary about LSP being a “thriving system” (though we suspect it’s from yet more brainwashing from LSTA officials), but the statement that the system is “thriving” is simply false. All anyone has to do is examine its financial statements each year and look at the level of the UAL which, again, has been artificially kept too low by using too high of a discount rate versus that which Purpera advocates and that which private companies use.
Regarding the other commentary entailing us and our attitudes toward LSP, we do not discount for one second the risk LSP Troopers take in performing their jobs. They have the potential to lose their lives on any given day. We do take exception, however, with LSP misconduct, of which we have exposed and absolute plethora in our five years of existence. To suggest that misconduct is limited to only 0.1% of LSP Troopers (or only about 12 Troopers in total) is not even close to being accurate; furthermore, within LSP’s own ranks, they know the problematic behavior extends far beyond 0.1% of active troopers, and it is from them where we get our leads for features, including the feature on the 35% pay raises linked above!
The final thing we take exception to is someone like former LSP Col. Mike Edmonson, who likely has the financial acumen of a bowling ball, appearing before the Louisiana State Legislature conning them into granting those raises based on the utterly false statement that, “It will not cost taxpayers a dime.” It’s disheartening that Legislators lacked the ability (or perhaps the desire?) to vet his statement because, not only have the raises themselves had to be funded through Louisiana taxpayers, but so will the massive increase in the LSP system’s UAL resulting from those massive raises.
It is just that kind of fiscal irresponsibility to which we take exception. Further, we make no apologies whatsoever for doing so. We’re also proud to stand united with AFP in its efforts to stop the Federal bailout proposed by Cassidy. In our opinion, an approval of his bailout proposal is essentially tantamount to re-flooding the Buffet swimming pool and letting the same sort of shenanigans outlined above entailing LSP and the other Louisiana retirement systems continue down the path they’ve taken for decades now!
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