I just got a fantastic e-mail from a reader responding to my previous post about the county’s pension system’s burden on taxpayers (and Dianne Jacob’s attempt to paint her and her colleagues as victims of Wall Street rather than willful participants in a fiscal atrocity).

I always read your articles and find them insightful. However, the sentence:

“This means fewer services offered by the county or some kind of new tax.”

misses the real issue.

This is what bureaucrats want you to think. The real answer lies in asking better questions.

He makes a fantastic point. I will not always defer to that simplistic assumption. As Jacob herself says, we might be able to make benefits more palatable to taxpayers. The pre-2002 benefits she couldn’t help but change were sustainable and they gave employees a strong cushion.

She and the rest of the County 5 forced us into this false choice between services and taxes. It’s up to her to get us out of it — and benefit cuts or efficiencies are certainly other options.

Finally, another interesting point. The county, of course, is not the only pension fund to eat it over the last few months. How government agencies can possibly justify investing in such a way that it’s even possible to lose 30 percent in such a short period is beyond me.

But the Santa Barbara County Employees’ Retirement System proactively is trying to gauge what it will be going through because of what happened. The results are nauseating. Wonder if either of the two local independent public pension funds will be studying it like this. If so, grab some anti-motion sickness pills quick.


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