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Khan Academy: the Future of Taxpayer Reeducation? 386

theodp writes "Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has launched a website and gone social on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to educate taxpayers on why they must make good on pension promises to state workers. And, in addition to Squeezy the Pension Python, Gov. Quinn is enlisting the help of Khan Academy, the tax-exempt, future-of-education organization funded by tax-free millions from Google, Bill Gates, and others, to help convince taxpayers that a state-pension-promise is a promise. In the Khan Academy video commissioned by the Governor, Illinois Pension Obligations, Sal Khan concedes that the annual annuity payouts for IL state employee retirees do look 'pretty reasonable' — e.g., $43,591 for the average teacher, $117,558 for a judge — but goes on to argue that 'in all fairness, this was promised to these people,' who he speculates 'probably took lower compensation while they were working,' 'probably stayed in the jobs longer,' and 'probably sacrificed other things' to get these 'great benefits.' 'We're delighted to have his [Khan's] help in enlightening Illinois citizens about how the pension problem came to be,' said the Governor. Of course, not everything can be explained in one video — perhaps other contributing factors like 'pension spiking', lobbyists' maneuvers, sweetheart deals, creative job reclassification, golden parachutes, bruising investment losses, and other wacky pension games will be taught in Illinois Pension Obligations II!"
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Khan Academy: the Future of Taxpayer Reeducation?

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  • Re:School::politics (Score:5, Informative)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:05PM (#42162727)

    Taxpayers that are struggling to feed their families and find jobs for themselves and maintain their workforces shouldn't have to pay for cushy retirements.

    Then they should have voted for politicians better at negotiating contracts, and got what they deserved. The taxpayers are only paying for what was promised by their elected representatives. If there's a problem, the taxpayers need to reexamine their choices for representation.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:12PM (#42162785)

    It's still true in many government jobs. I know some people doing government IT work, and they get paid a lot less than they could make in the private sector. They do it for a mixture of the benefits, and because they're big-data advocates who have sort of an ideological commitment to getting more government data online, so enjoy their jobs. Professors at state universities also have lower average pay than at private universities.

  • by taz346 ( 2715665 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:21PM (#42162839)
    The problem with Illinois pensions isn't the level of benefits. It's that the legislature has been underfunding the pensions for more than 20 years. Legislators and governors have kept tax rates low and spent most of the tax revenues on the general budget, always promising to catch up on pension contributions "next year." As a result, the state's retirement system is now only 36 percent funded. Decent pension fund management would keep it around 80 percent funded. In addition, the legislature gave the state all the responsibility for making pension payments for all local school districts in Illinois except the city of Chicago, letting those places keep property taxes lower rather than taking some responsibility for the pensions they negotiate.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:24PM (#42162869)

    goes on to argue that 'in all fairness, this was promised to these people,' who he speculates 'probably took lower compensation while they were working,' 'probably stayed in the jobs longer,' and 'probably sacrificed other things' to get these 'great benefits.'

    These exact same things happen in the private sector and you know what we do? We either put up with it or we move on to another job.

    I'm so fucking tired of the public sector employees whining about their benefits dwindling while ALL sectors face the same problem.

    Just so you know, I have THE WORST possible insurance provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of MN. I was already paying $500/month for the pleasure. Next year it goes up to $845/month. Am I whining? No, I'm looking for a new job.

  • Re:School::politics (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:26PM (#42162883)

    Except that a big part of this retirement INCLUDES payments and contracts made instead of social security. These employees don't get SS, these ARE their retirement payments.

    These pensions were part of their *compensation package* by contract when they were hired, and just because the state of IL didn't set the money aside like they were supposed to, it doesn't mean they aren't obligated to honor the contracts. It would be no different from the Federal government saying "ok, we don't have enough money for social security even though you paid into it for 40 years, so too bad".


  • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:36PM (#42162933)

    These pensions, like Social Security, were supposed to be funded by the employees themselves and their employer. The employees paid their part of the pension "payroll tax", but the state didn't (and probably spent a lot of the employee contributions).

    It's no different from you expecting SS payments when you retire, since you *paid* for them over your working career.

    That said the government clearly screwed up, they should have raised taxes and cut spending earlier, so it wasn't such a disaster by now. It's a shitty situation for the taxpayer, but not unexpected if you were paying attention for the last 20 years...

  • Re:School::politics (Score:5, Informative)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @08:51PM (#42164655)

    That was my FATHER's generation, not mine!

    NO IT WASN'T. Median job tenure in the 1950's was LOWER than it is today. "Lifetime employment" never applied to more than a small minority. Yet even today, most people spend a median of 21.4 years [] as their longest job tenure. In 1969 the figure was 21.9 years, nearly the same. This "lifetime employment" myth is an example of the "golden age meme" but things really weren't any better back in the "good old days".

  • Re:School::politics (Score:5, Informative)

    by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @11:07PM (#42165303) Homepage Journal

    Let's attempt to be honest here. Each and every presidency since I became aware of politics has left behind a debt greater than the presidency before it. The only exception was Clinton. As much as I despise the man, Clinton, and as much as I despise his "greatest" achievements, as much as I despise Clinton's politics (both of them, actually) his presidency did SOMETHING right.

    But, yeah. Two wars. That put a huge freaking hole in what I'll laughingly refer to as a "budget". Tax cuts for the people who would have paid the lion's share of his wars? That was just adding insult to injury.

  • Actually, no. (Score:5, Informative)

    by raehl ( 609729 ) <> on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:52AM (#42166089) Homepage

    The Civics lesson is that when the government enters into a contract with an individual that it cannot then decide later on that it doesn't liked the contract and legislate to undo it.

    Why not?

    There's this thing in the world called bankruptcy. It's a backdrop to contract negotiation. It basically says that if I make a contract with you that is so bad that you can't sustain the contract, you get to get out of honoring the contract.

    Just because, 10, 15 or 20 years ago, a group of employees managed to convince a politician to give them a contract that no reasonable party could expect to be maintained doesn't mean that now, 20 years later, we can't say, "That was ridiculous. It's going to bankrupt the state and we have to undo it."

    Illinois is a particularly good (bad?) example of this. Many years ago teachers convinced politicians to set up a state-paid teacher retirement system. And they put in things like a formula where the school districts pay into the system based on the salary of the teacher that year, but the retirement payments paid to the teachers (and administrators, superintendents and others are in the same plan) are based only on the highest-paid 4 years of each participants career.

    I'll give to 15 seconds to figure out what happened.

    That's right, unions and administrators all started negotiating contracts where the school district gave participants huge raises in the 4 years before their retirement. Didn't cost the school district much in retirement plan contributions (they're only paying the higher rate for the last 4 years of a 30-year career) and the participants get a huge benefit - a much larger pension for the remaining 20 to 40 years of their lives.... paid for by the state aka the taxpayers.

    When you get down to it, it's just a short step away from a conspiracy to steal money from the taxpayers of the state, and at some point the taxpayers are going to put a stop to it.

If a 6600 used paper tape instead of core memory, it would use up tape at about 30 miles/second. -- Grishman, Assembly Language Programming