EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 1, 2013

Your view: Letters to the editor

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Pension editorial missed on the facts

To the editor:

The Eagle-Tribune’s editorial of Aug. 25 titled, “Pension shortfalls threaten municipal solvency”, has no basis in fact and law. The Eagle-Tribune newspaper has a distinct bias against the many hard-working public employees. The editorial claims that local officials have promised public employees pensions. The Eagle-Tribune gets its information from the Pioneer Institute, a Boston public policy think tank. The Eagle-Tribune does not discuss who funds Pioneer Institute, and who established the organization.

Public employers do not set pension standards, the General Court has established the pension law by the legislative process. The Eagle-Tribune printed, “The problem stems ‘from a promise them anything’ mentality of the municipal leaders in negotiating labor contracts with employees.” Pensions in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as set by state law as enacted by the Massachusetts Legislature.

The Eagle-Tribune claims the Pioneer Institute is giving grades to the many different retirement boards throughout the commonwealth. Lawrence received a grade of F because it’s only 39-percent funded yet the system going to be fully funded by the year 2038. Andover Retirement Board received a grade of D even though it’s 50-percent funded and was downgraded because the system will be fully funded by the year 2040. Andover was scheduled to be fully funded at an earlier date, but town officials persuaded the retirement board to move the date back to 2040, whereas the town would be making smaller payments to the retirement system. Incredibly, the Methuen system received a grade of C with 47-percent funded system. The Eagle-Tribune’s argument is illogical.

The Eagle-Tribune tries to make a comparison between private sector workers with public sector employees by using the argument of 401(k) investment programs. The 401(k) program is not available to the public sector employees. In a typical 401(k) program, the employer contributes considerable amount of money to the worker’s account. That employer contribution to a 401(k) investment is not available to a public employee.

Generally, the private employees’ retirement benefits’ package is greater than then a public sector employee retirement benefits. Municipalities in this commonwealth do not contribute into the Social Security program. Public employees cannot collect Social Security payments because of the federal pension offset statute. Private sector employees can collect Social Security payments, employer-funded pension plans and the 401(k) savings account. Cost of living adjustment is applied to the full amount of Social Security payment and the entire inflection rate. The public retirement system only applies the COLA raise to the first $12,000 and is limited to 3 percent of the inflation rate.

The public sector employee pays a greater amount to the retirement system than the Social Security tax paid by private sector workers and their employers. The Eagle-Tribune wrote, “But public sector workers enjoy ‘defined benefit’ plans, under which for a modest contribution from each paycheck ...” Pursuant to Massachusetts law public sector employees appointed to their positions after July 1, 1996, pay 9 percent of their weekly pay plus an additional 2 percent of earnings more than $577 a week. Public sector employees appointed after Jan. 1, 1984, pay 8 percent of their weekly pay plus the 2 percent. Again, the Eagle-Tribune has distorted the law and facts.

The Eagle-Tribune claims the pension programs may drive some municipalities into bankruptcy. This is simply not true. The town of Andover has over as $12 million in reserve funds, doesn’t have to pay into a 401(k) program, doesn’t pay the Social Security tax of 6.25 per cent and has an outstanding AAA bond rating.

I have written it before and I am now writing it again, the Eagle-Tribune must start reporting the news and stop slanting the news.

Fred W. Sunderland Jr.


Liberal policies perpetuate black poverty

To the editor:

Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream. Today’s liberals have forgotten exactly what that dream was. It was not quotas and racial preferences. It was not welfare, and government housing. It was not single parenthood, and the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” It was for his children to be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

For the professional race hustlers of the left who stole his dream, Jesse Jackson, who kept his blood-soaked shirt to use as a prop to launch his own career as a racial divider, or Al Sharpton, who lied about a white police officer raping a young black girl to launch his career, the legacy is about consolidating their own power at the expense of their own people.

In 1962, the black marriage rate was 84 percent, the black illegitimacy rate was 23.6 percent. Fifty years of government dependency has changed that calculus. Today the marriage rate is 36 percent; the illegitimacy rate is 71.2 percent.

Forty years ago Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote his seminal “The Negro Family: A Case for National Action.” In it he decried that 24-percent illegitimacy rate as the “root cause of all social ills in the Black community.” He was immediately denounced by leftist social scientists, who claimed that illegitimacy was not a concern because the government was there to provide money. They also claimed that the government could not insert itself in the life of blacks; they had been through so much. Moynihan was correct. Now 40 years later, we see the direct progression of those social scientists’ policies — Detroit!

Five years ago, Bill Cosby was roundly denounced for proclaiming one simple truth: that the best thing young black could do to lift themselves out of poverty was to complete school, to get and hold a job, to not have kids until married. These pathologies, encouraged by government policy and programs for 50 years have wrought poverty and destitution upon the black population.

It is high time for an honest conversation about government social policy. Leave out the intentions. They never materialize into achievement. Deal with the results.

Mark Acciard