Mailbag: Public employee pensions not the problem

February 10, 2011

Re. "Sounding Off: Cuts needed to balance city's budget" (Colin McCarthy, Forum, Jan. 31): In a recent opinion piece, Planning Commissioner Colin McCarthy expressed legitimate concerns about the long-term health of Costa Mesa's budget. Just as other cities and counties across the state continue to struggle through the recession and are bracing for the impact of the state budget, Costa Mesa also faces serious challenges this year.

But several premises in the piece are misleading and demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of how government and pensions work. And instead of providing informed, constructive solutions, Mr. McCarthy's response continues the divisive canard of opportunistic politicians against public employees.

For example, Mr. McCarthy's assertion that only 20% of the budget pays for services, while 80 percent pays for employee salaries, is completely false. Salaries pay for employees, and employees provide vital services to the public.


When you cut employees, you cut services. That's why layoffs not only impact the economy by forcing even more people onto the unemployment rolls, they also deal a tremendous blow to the community.

Additionally, an unfunded pension liability is not the same as debt. It's an estimate of future pension costs based on actuarial assumptions. The idea that a state or local government should have all that money in a bank account now to pay for those future costs is as ludicrous as suggesting a homeowner should have enough money in the bank today to pay off his entire 30-year mortgage.

Nick Berardino

General manager, Orange County Employees Assn.

Santa Ana


Joe Bell thanks the readers

I've never done well writing thank-you notes. My heart is always there, but performance leaves much to be desired. So at least I've been consistent, and properly embarrassed, at the tardiness of my profuse thanks for the warm and often elegant — in house and out — response to my retirement from Daily Pilot columning.

It's seldom that we get an honest look at how others see us, especially when those who are pleased to see me gone were thoughtfully mute. For a brief few weeks, I entertained the possibility that some Pilot reader might suggest that my statue replace Ronald Reagan in the lobby of the new Newport Beach City Hall.

Support for that movement has probably passed now, but I have a stack of mail and clippings in its wake that I can warm myself by — along with my Angels tickets.

It was my intention to thank personally each and every one of the generous letter-writers and editors who took the time to say goodbye to The Bell Curve. But it went the way of most of my good intentions, ending here with a kind of form love letter.

You know who you are, and I tip this glass to you today for offering me the loyalty, and the platform, for the past 10 years to express views that hopefully provide balance for consideration in this conservative community.

That's in good hands now, so I'll say thank you once again.

Joe Bell

Newport Beach

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