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So you may have noticed I took a few days off there. I stayed off my e-mail (as much as I could) and recreated a bit. Thanks for the patience.

A couple of points:

  • U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa is hosting the Café San Diego today. I’m quite interested in it. Soon after U.S. Attorney Carol Lam was asked to leave her post, many turned to Issa’s criticism of her as a way to explain it. But then, I was rather intrigued to learn that even Issa was starting to pile on criticism for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ handling of Lam’s dismissal.

I’ll be interested to see what he says today about it all.

  • A reader tells me to keep the county of San Diego’s pension investment earnings announcement in perspective. DJ points out:

The $1 billion return last year (actually $957 million, according to the NC Times) represented a 13.6% return on investment (also according to NC Times).

Can you guess what the S&P 500 index fund return was last year? 13.62%.

CALPERS, in contrast, enjoyed returns of 15.74 % in calendar year 2006.

So, maybe it wasn’t such a great year comparatively. I’ll still maintain that, as they always tell me, these snapshots don’t matter. It’s the long term that we’re arguing about. In the long term, these good years need to be as good as possible because not every year is going to be like this.

And, that’s what we’re learning.

As the county pension systems’ CEO Brian White said in that North County Times story, the shortest of terms hasn’t been so bright.

White said that the association had not taken any official accounting of its first-quarter 2007 returns, but said it had been “a difficult month.”

  • Finally, I thought I would respond to another reader on my last post about the county pension.

Reader “Southof8” wrote this:

Scott: Methinks that all of this “attention” to pension funds and their performance (or lack of it) are really more about a political agenda (yours included) that seeks to weaken collective bargaining (at least indirectly) in the public sector. It’s a legit issue but why don’t all of the “nay-sayers” just tell it like it is: they don’t like unions, collective bargaining and want everyone who receive benefits (wages and fringes)through such a process to lose them—maybe because you and others don’t enjoy the same?

Let’s make something clear: I don’t care if public employees get pensions. I’m happy for them — always have been.

My main problem has always been this: When governments and politicians want to appease their employees, they have exhibited a tendency to, in place of giving them straight raises, offer them deferred-compensation deals.

In other words, they say: We don’t have any money to give you now because we don’t want to ask people to raise their taxes, but we’re going to give you a pension increase. A pension increase is basically a way to give a raise but defer the cost of it to the future.

So the politicians get the best of both worlds, they can appease their politically powerful employee unions at the same time they don’t have to pay the political price of asking residents for more money.

Problem is, somebody has to pay for it someday. If taxpayers have been strapped with major obligations whose ultimate burdens were never openly described to the public, I think it’s my job to keep reminding people how it happened.

And finally, go ahead and give out as many pension benefit enhancements as you want. Just be straightforward and honest about how much it’s going to cost residents.

Also, I think we should, indeed, rethink the way we pay public servants like police. Right now, in the case of the city of San Diego, for instance, I’ve written that it would be good to re-examine how we compensate our cops.

Currently, the compensation for police has been backloaded to their retirements. They get great retirements at a relatively young age. If we reapportioned that and put some more of the reward for being a cop at the beginning of their career, rather than the end, we might be able to attract more quality young recruits right now.

If I have a political bias, it’s along those lines.

Let me know if there’s anything you want me to look into this week. I’ll see if I can do it.

SCOTT LEWIS

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