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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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  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @03:49PM (#42162635)

    Is it really a good thing for Khan to be involved in politics?

    From the description, it sounds more like civics than politics.

  • Cool (Score:1, Insightful)

    by geek ( 5680 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @03:53PM (#42162657)

    So now that Khan Academy has gone political (I guess it always somewhat was but is now overtly political) I can scratch it off my list for good.

    Seriously, I would like one fucking place to go that doesn't involve fucking politicians telling me what to fucking do. Just ONE place.

    If Khan would like to go over these issues, do it in a political science course, do it in a history course but do it in the past tense as a learning resource. Don't sell the fuck out to political parties and destroy your credibility.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:06PM (#42162733)

    he speculates 'probably took lower compensation while they were working,'

    A long time ago this was true. Public employees accepted lower salaries in exchange for job security, great benefits, and more holidays. But here in the wonderful 21st century, they kept all their bonuses AND get paid more.

    When the economy is good, both public and private salaries rise. But when it's bad, the private sector has layoffs and wage freezes. But the government is working with your money, not their own, and has no problem voting themselves raises.

  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:10PM (#42162771)
    Perhaps if politicians hadn't made promises they should have known the public wouldn't support in the name of self-same public while pocketing campaign contributions from those who benefited the most from those promise, the public would not be desiring to repudiate those promises now that they are finding out exactly what the politicians promised.
  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:22PM (#42162849) Journal

    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.

    Also expect to pay me a shitload more money if you take away my pensions. As a teacher I gave up jobs that would pay $60,000 a year for a job that pays $40,000 a year. Besides a change the only other reason why I would voluntarily do so is because of retirement being taken care of. If you bitch and whine how it is so unfair that I get that and you don't keep in mind your IT jobs pay A LOT MORE so you can afford to save more.

    I will quit and go back into IT as well as many other teachers if you take our pensions away. That was the deal you made upon we agreed to work for less. Who in their right mind would sign up for $70,000 to $100,000 of debt to train for a job that pays $35,000 a year with no pension otherwise? You simply wont find any qualified teachers or any other public servants otherwise.

  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:26PM (#42162885)

    Note that if any CEO of a company managed retirement funds like the state legislature does, he/she would be in jail.

    I know it's en vogue to bash the government without actually doing anything constructive, but when you do so with obviously false statements, it doesn't help your case. GM managed their retirement funds the same way. Which GM CEO is in jail? How's that working out for us?

    And personally, I dislike the lie of "unfunded". They funded them. They just did so at an optimistic growth rate, that couldn't be sustained. From your link, "In California's case, past pension underfunding means reduced funding of current programs. " Note, after you get past the lies in the headlines and lies in the first few paragraphs to piss people off and get them hooked into the subject, the more true statements come out. The underfunding is close to 100 years old. It's been done by every politician by every party (even Libertarian) for so long nobody can remember any other way. The people knew about it, or are so dumb they couldn't vote anyway. I know as an elementary school student in the 1970s, I was aware (the year was 1979, and it was brought up as part of the politics around attacking Carter to set up for the 1980 elections). If a 5th grader had it figured out 30+ years ago, why is it all a big surprise now? The problem existed in 2000, but the economy was going good enough that nobody cared. But 10 years and a few wars later, and the economy is ill, and now it's an issue? You know why? Because the first person to blink gets all the blame. Both parties covered it up as long as possible, hoping it blew up when the other party was in power. Neither party tried to fix it, the only difference is that when it blows up under a Republican administration, they blame the unions, even if there aren't any unions.

  • by mfwitten ( 1906728 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:27PM (#42162893)

    'in all fairness, this was promised to these people,'

    It's easy to promise money, especially when it's not your own money.

    That is the nature of Government; it confiscates resources under threat of violence and then squanders them. Government is a bad company that won't go out of business because it can force you to pay for goods and services even if you don't want them or even if you know they won't be fulfilled.

  • by Freddybear ( 1805256 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:31PM (#42162911)

    Why should politician's promises about pensions be any different than any of their other promises?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:32PM (#42162919)

    I immediately suggest that everybody takes you up on that offer. The public school teachers know what they and their education is truly are worth, that's why they send their kids to private schools disproportionately [] (of-course given their public salaries, looks like they are in a much better position to be able to afford it.)

    sig []

  • by spune ( 715782 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:37PM (#42162947)
    Private employees shirk unionization, then experience pay and benefit cuts, and somehow believe that this is just how the world SHOULD work. Having failed to defend their livelihoods when they had the chance, they become so bitter they demand that no one have decent wages or benefits.
    Public workers have been vigilant in defending their standards of living; maybe you could learn something from them.
  • by mc6809e ( 214243 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:41PM (#42162975)

    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.

    You'd have a point if only taxpayers were allowed to vote.

    In practice, those that collect tax money from tax payers vote for their own representatives that promise to make taxpayers give them more money.

    Taxpayers can vote for better politicians and lose. And they can "reexamine their choices" every two years and still lose. The other side isn't interested in giving taxpayers a better deal. They're interested in maximizing how much money they can take from taxpayers.

  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:42PM (#42162981)

    The civics of, say, giving teachers in Portland a pension at 105% of the income they retired at, per year, with "PERS" that essentially bankrupted the education system?

    There's a (not necessarily too) fine line between education and indoctrination.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:46PM (#42163011)

    Why does society owe you compensation for you choosing a shitty job? When I hear people say things like "I took XYZ job in the last twenty or thirty years and it pays terribly", I react to them the same way as people who are smokers or who have lung-cancer from smoking. Unless you're a hundred years old, you started that addiction (or shitty job) in a time when it was common knowledge just how bad it was.

    Also, I didn't make a deal with anyone. As far as I'm concerned, let it all crumble. (And no, I didn't benefit from the public education system. I succeeded *despite* it -- including dropping out of the ninth grade after being given the same science text-books I'd already used in the fourth grade).

  • by Jiro ( 131519 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:54PM (#42163069)

    Why does society owe you compensation for you choosing a shitty job?

    Because you're retroactively making it shittier. The fact that there's a pension of a certain size was part of their pay--they received some of their pay in salary and some in pension benefits. Retroactively deciding that they don't get it the pension is no better than retroactively taking $25 out of their salary every month, except that since the salary is already in their pocket and the pension isn't it's a heck of a lot easier to take away the pension.

  • by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:58PM (#42163101)

    It is even better when you consider the first thing cut at EVERY company in times of trouble is the pension funds.

    What I don't understand is why we keep letting the people we work for control our medical and retirements.

    If you are under 40 chances are your going to work for 6-10 different major companies in your life. You don't go down the street and work at the local factory for 50 years anymore.

    We really need to pull the companies we work for out of those equations. it will be a nice break for them and it will be better for the rest of us.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:59PM (#42163113)

    Actually at most recent count, the California unfunded liability problem is $884B, and headed upwards, and that is *just* the state employees - cities have similar or worse issues. San Francisco's pension gap is $4.4B, or put another way the taxpayers are on the hook $35,000 per household. The key problem being that the negotiated pension packages assume an 8-12% return on investment in CALPERS/SFERS/etc. No one can live up to that return consistently.

    So now the question is how to handle it. Should the taxpayer cover the gap -- legally they're on the hook. Which is all fine, til we hit a bump like the financial crisis, which starts raising questions about those expected returns and the associated pension games some bad apples have been pursuing (spiking, taking pensions while working other gigs, etc). I don't see how anyone can expect households to fork over an additional $40k and not start throwing public workers and their unions under the bus.

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @05:45PM (#42163445)

    Maybe it's because the world is globalizing, and because of places like China, all unionizing will do us price us out of the marketplace.

    I don't see union detroit doing all that great, do you?

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @06:16PM (#42163617) Journal
    When government screws you over, there's nothing you can do about it, because they are the law. At least when a company screws you over, you can sue them or something.
  • by Genda ( 560240 ) < minus cat> on Sunday December 02, 2012 @06:48PM (#42163839) Journal

    Exactly. I'm in my mid 50s and I've had the honor of working at a couple companies for 5 years, but most jobs I've had since moving up to the Silicon Valley lasted on average from a year and a half to two years. At one level I get your point. Business today won't keep anyone on long enough to get a pension. This is however leading to a real problem. I and a significant number of my friends went to great length to prepare for our retirement only to see the greedy banking industry obliterate our savings by hijacking the economy. On the other end, what threatens to be runaway inflation caused by printing dollars in an effort to fake the world into eating our debt, threatens to turn whatever little is left into rolls of something squeezably soft (ask Mr. Whipple.)

    I'm a boomer on the back end of the boom, but I have no illusions that there are a lot of converging forces that threaten social security and I don't want to have to depend on Social Security or Medicare to survive. What I see is a growingly hostile environment for the graying and gray, and I could imagine a society that marginalizes its aging members, even perhaps helping them leave the world in large numbers to accommodate those who are younger. I also see another possible trend that is equally frightening. Breakthroughs in technology and medicine dramatically increase lifespan and more important vital lifespan. With fewer and fewer young people taking science and technology as professional directions, Those of us with these skills may be pressured (using a number of means) to remain part of the workforce into what might have otherwise been our dotage. This would actually be just fine with me, if the gray didn't somehow become part of a marginalized class. Keeping us around as a slave class to stoke the machine keeping the young'uns in Big Macs and Mood Enhancers, isn't my idea of a utopian society.

    We live in such uncertain and disruptive times, that its difficult to see ahead and make sane plans for the future. Even for those of us who have "made it", there are real concerns about what the future will bring. Our economy and the government manipulating it are utterly unsustainable. Our society will change, either in a planned and intelligent fashion or a catastrophic failure. In any case, There's no guarantee that current wealth will survive an economic reboot. Its time for all of us to begin looking at the obvious trend in technology, society and the environment and begin working to build a workable present and optimal future. Part of this includes giving up on the "I'm gonna cut me a slice" mentality. Managing for personal freedom and civil rights is profoundly American, that should continue, but now its time for us to also be responsible citizens of the world and work towards a world we can all live in together with the maximum happiness and opportunity for personal success and fulfillment.

  • by Genda ( 560240 ) < minus cat> on Sunday December 02, 2012 @06:55PM (#42163883) Journal

    The problem isn't you. its a private sector that continues to squeeze the average worker until he and his family bleed. When they look over at you and see you not bleeding their response is what makes you so special. Worse when the economy is broken and state economies are on or over the verge of collapse, private sector worker begin to see it as y'all being greedy (and your unions) rather than pinning the responsibility for the problem where it belongs with powerful and wealthy men who have used the American Economy as their own piggy bank. All they have to do to succeed, is pit us against one another so we don't notice their hand in our pockets and purses. Honestly, you aren't the problem.

  • by RevDisk ( 740008 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @07:53PM (#42164271) Journal
    Except the young'uns historically are not an exceedingly key voting demographic. The elderly ARE a very cohesive voting block. AARP has approximately 40 million folks. Not something politicians take lightly. Social Security and Medicare will be the last programs to ever be cut. FY 2013 has Social Security at $820 billion, Medicare at $523 billion, Medicaid at $283 billion.

    I don't doubt the elderly will be squeezed on benefits. If you told me that the average person lost money on Social Security, I wouldn't be surprised either. I do know this. I'm 30. I believe folks my age will be lucky to see pennies on the dollar for Social Security and Medicare. Whether it is true or not, this is virtually a universally held belief for folks under 40.

    I don't believe anyone wants to hold the elderly as a slave class, nor do I believe that will happen due to demographics. The young are statistically more likely the ones to become the economic slave class unless they basically refuse to pay for other folks' promises. Therein lays the interesting issue.

    I always had an issue with philosophical and extremely popular notion of passing debt onto the next generation. Thankfully under most circumstances, for individuals, debts are null and void when an estate is settled. But not for governments. Tax revenue shortfalls have been solved by inflating the money supply and borrowing. We have a huge debt that will eventually come due. The last handful of generations have known this and done very little to do with it. I wouldn't be screaming "the young are trying to screw over my generation" when the young are looking at bleak economics, overpriced education, poor job market and several trillion dollars of debt.
  • by mlw4428 ( 1029576 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @08:10PM (#42164381)
    "We really need to pull the companies we work for out of those equations. it will be a nice break for them and it will be better for the rest of us." The only viable option would be government ran healthcare and retirement plans. Sure you could have private industry -- but the overhead (paying executive salaries and whatnot) tends to be far greater then a well-structured government option.
  • by Genda ( 560240 ) < minus cat> on Sunday December 02, 2012 @09:06PM (#42164743) Journal

    The two Bush Presidents dug holes in the wealth of children unborn, and the damage to the future by the later Bush won't even be fully appreciated in my lifetime, other than I know what's left of society is threadbare and broken all over. So the bloody horror that is the Bush debt is something you and I will suffer as long as we live.

    By the way, you overestimate the power of your generations ability to shape social policy in the current paradigm. More and more corporations are at the center of massive social re-engineering. Consider for a moment. Going to a MacDonalds today. How many of the employees are now white and in their 50s? 60s? 70s? That's new. You're looking at someone whose pension imploded and lost everything they had. That person was retired and had to go back to work to keep from ending up on the street. That or they simply couldn't find work, like tens of millions of others and simply had to take what they could. Worse, you can't make a living wage working at MickyDees (or 90% of the other service jobs now available), so that poor bastard is staring straight down the barrel of working 2 jobs to make their Social Security make ends meet for the rest of their life. I would call that a working slave class myself. One last sad thing, these used to be the starter jobs for young people to get work experience and develop a strong work ethic. So now people are being buggered at top and bottom of the age stack

    We've already begun to criminalize poverty. You can't pay a bill, I promise it will snowball so fast that you will think you're on a rocket ride to hell. The minute you start to fail, there are a thousand cuts loss of credit rating, tax debts, fines and penalties, and the banks have gotten the laws passed that will ensure you can't get ahead again, huge interest fees, laws that prevent you from escaping debt. I'm clear that it would only take a few more laws along these lines to force entire classes into a slave labor state. Though it would start out economic, Look at the growing age discrimination going on across the board in business today. You think it would be hard to imagine that people over 60 being assigned mandatory work? I don't. We've gotten to a pretty dark place and I'm not at all certain how we'll avoid the worst if we don't change our course immediately.

  • by Goody ( 23843 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @10:22PM (#42165141) Journal
    Yea, Obama shouldn't have started those two wars and enacted the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, otherwise we wouldn't have that huge debt.
  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:16AM (#42168945) Homepage Journal


    Indeed, this whole thing is sickening to anyone living in Illinois. We're broker than California, yet Quinn wastes millions to brainwash Illinois voters that it's the public employees' fault, after his two felonious predecessors wasted billions feeding their rich political cronies.

    Living in Springfield, I have a lot of friends in state government. Illinois has fewer state workers per capita than any other state. Illinois is the 5th highest state in private company's salaries, but 7th in public sector salaries.

    A Republican has surfaced wanting to run against Quinn, saying "the state employees have to take their lumps like everyone else." They already are, just like the rest of us. Some of them are handicapped, some of them earn so little they're eligibel for food stams. They go to state parks just like you, their taxes doubled just like yours did. They will lose the same services you do.

    The Democrats and Republicans are ganging up together trying to destroy unions. Bye bye 40 hour work week. Bye bye vacations. Bye bye weekends. Bye bye living wages. The rich don't care if you starve.

    Personally, I'm supporting the workers. They're getting fucked badly in this.

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