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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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  • Ooh, this is grand! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @03:57PM (#42162675) Homepage Journal

    Enlist an educational facility (regardless of what type it is) to run your re-education campaign.

    Listen, whether you are for the public education or against it or have no opinion on it one way or another, you have to admit that this type of action by the Governor is questionable at the least.

    Personally I advice everybody to take a step back and ask themselves this question: did I promise anything to anybody? Did I promise to be a tax slave in a system that was set up without any of my participation? Did I vote back then when Teddy Roosevelt and FDR and Hoover and Nixon and Carter and everybody in between, all the rest of the socialists were pushing for their agenda?

    OK, so if YOU voted for it, you may feel some form of obligation to pay for it. However tens to hundreds of millions of unsuspected individuals were born and died and were born again in a system that fleeced them dry, prevented the economy from working with these exact types of policies.

    You should be opposed to any of this on the general principle alone, never mind the fact that you have no money to do any of it.

    The unfunded liabilities to all the pensioners in the system, the SS and Medicare and then State liabilities, they are running around 222 Trillion dollars in USA (that's not the 16 Trillion public debt, it's something else, and it's not the contingency liabilities, most or all of which will hit once the real fiscal grand canyon takes place).

    No no no, do not let yourself to be re-educated this way. You can think whatever you want, but you didn't sign for it unless of-course you were the one voting for any politician who promised it.

    The people who voted for Barry Goldwater DID NOT SIGN UP FOR IT. The people who voted for Ron Paul and Gary Johnson DID NOT SIGN UP FOR IT.

    In fact even the people who voted for Reagan didn't sign up for any of it, though he still ended up fleecing them.

    Don't fall for it, in fact consider your options of moving OUT OF ILLINOIS very very carefully, because the taxes will be going up and the economy of that state will be collapsing all on its own, never mind the union.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:00PM (#42162703) Journal
    I'm not sure about Illinois, but in California, the problem isn't current pension payouts. The problem is the payouts we've promised to future retirees are sorely underfunded. In the late 90s the state legislature made the calculation that the stock market would keep going up and up, and expected that the DOW would be around 30,000 right now. Add to the problem that CALPERS hasn't made the best investments, and California has a $500billion unfunded liability. []

    Note that if any CEO of a company managed retirement funds like the state legislature does, he/she would be in jail. I don't know if Illinois has a similar problem, but I do know enough about politicians to think Governor Quinn is not telling the whole truth.
  • Re:Cool (Score:0, Interesting)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:14PM (#42162797) Homepage Journal

    Do you know that Somalians fought against these exact policies by their former communist government? Do you know that people came to USA to escape their own tyrannical governments in the past? Actually if the things keep going the way they are going now, it will make perfect sense to move out of USA and actually go to Somalia.

    The way things are going, USA just may have to undergo a similar armed conflict that Somali has gone through 20 years back when it ousted its Communist regime. Sure, the country is poor now, but it actually has a stable enough currency and parts of it see quick technological progress. They have nearly perfected the system of private liability insurance, private court system, property rights, they are working out a system that at least corresponds to their technological prowess.

    However here is a thought: people came to USA running away from their own former tyrannies, just maybe some of them decide that this time there is no Terra Nova to run to (though many will skip to various regions in Asia, Australia, South America, Africa maybe), but there is definitely enough both: space in USA and likeminded, freedom seeking people, who very likely will want at least part of their country back. While you say: go back to Somalia, I expect some of them will say: you should go back to Somalia prior to the conflict that ended its communist regime.

    I think it just may happen in our lifetimes (unless Barry decides to drop a missile from a drone on some of our heads), that USA will be split at least once, and I can imagine a southern State or two, that may like that idea and will be willing to try it out.

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

    by spune ( 715782 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:23PM (#42162861)
    These state workers paid into their pension accounts over the course of their careers; they have reduced their lifetime earnings by dozens of thousands of dollars to fund their pensions. The state is responsible for providing matching funds for their pensions, but only rarely has actually paid up fully. Teachers and social workers are funding their own "cushy" retirements. Or at least they're trying to, but their funds keep getting stolen by lawmakers.
  • by udachny ( 2454394 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:27PM (#42162895) Journal

    At least the countries stand up for eachother,

    - yeah, what you mean by that is that Germany pays for the food while various Southern States live off of other people's charity (credit).

    How is Greece doing, by the way? I am in Germany right now, I know people who go there on vacations, apparently on the islands they are not treated as 'nazis' the way that Merkel was greeted back in October this year []. You know, a leader of a country that actually gives out cash to the socialists.


    And as to your assertion that European countries are the 'proper' ones, it's funny. It's funny because of how many Americans ran away from those proper countries for freedom. Not for free education, free social assistance (welfare) or free food.

    No, for individual freedom of being able to live and not be harassed by their tyrannical governments.

  • Bad move khan (Score:2, Interesting)

    by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:44PM (#42162991)
    I can think of all kinds of people with some silly opinion that want to call it educational but at some point it is propaganda. I could create a mathematically correct lesson on linear algebra that also disparages some group purely sticking to factual data.

    At the same time there is factual data that some may want to hide because of embarrassment that has educational value. So the hard question is the motivation of the offense not the offended. People living in Quebec were offended when a magazine recently pointed out how corrupt their province is; yet the recent huge corruption scandal shows that it is really really corrupt relative to Canadian standards. So if I create an offensive math lesson it probably means that offensive propaganda was the goal and thus the lesson should be eliminated. If I create a lesson on topical Quebec politics which if done correctly will be embarrassing to Quebeckers it should stay.

    So the intent of this union "Lesson" appears to be propaganda so regardless of any factual content it should be eliminated.
  • Re:School::politics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ATMAvatar ( 648864 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:53PM (#42163061) Journal

    You're quire obviously trolling, but I'll explain anyways. He didn't say he took a shitty job. He said he took a job whose compensation package traded immediate income for a stellar retirement package. It's no different than taking a slightly lower paying job anywhere else for alternate benefits (like free gym memberships, free snacks at work, extra vacation, flex time, etc.).

    If the state doesn't want to foot the bill for the extra benefits, they will be stuck paying the increased income required to attract anyone decent. It's on the state that they chose not to bank the income difference to pay for the pensions. Quit making this out like the teachers are to blame.

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

    by Skuld-Chan ( 302449 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @05:30PM (#42163309)

    Why is that such a bad thing? I work for the state of oregon and I'm under pers. The idea is we pay into that pension fund - they re-invest it (making more money) and pay it out.

    I already take a 20k a year pay cut for working for the state - 105% seems reasonable for doing that.

  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @06:59PM (#42163919) Homepage Journal
    There are couple things here to put pensions in context.

    First, pension such as these are specifically created to engender employee loyalty when one cannot do so by immediate compensation. So pensions defer compensation. Often the employee and employer contribute. Contribution is not a complex thing. It just requires the will to pay what was promised. Just like all those homeowners who bought at elevated prices. The banks still want them to pay. Pensions are the same thing. Firm and governments that do not commit fraud just have to keep the pension money in place.

    Second, it is evident that pensions were negotiated to keep wages low while money was clearly available to pay workers, but were used instead to pay executives. For example, the head coach at U of Illinois to reportedly guaranteed 1.4 million dollars a year. If he screws up and get fired he will be eligible for millions of dollars to buy out his contract. I will repeat, unlike any other employee at a university if he fails he gets paid to fail. Now, I don't mind him getting paid, but if the state has no money, let him get paid on commission. Pay him whatever a lecturer gets at the university. If he meets goals then pay him more. Make the incentives require growth in revenue, not doing a bad job so that you get free money. But by blaming pensions, and not excessive pay for people who aren't required to do work, one can continue with a system that rewards insiders.

    Pensions are also popular in situations of high inflation. A pension plan can result in lower payments to employees than if they were compensated in full in the first place. For instance, I put in 10 dollars and the company puts in 5 in 1975. I retire in 2000. In 2010 they are still paying my a pension. However, the 15 dollars that was put in in 1975. is now worth $4. Of course inflation is not as high as it once was, so pensions are now worth more than they once were, which is why some are in trouble. They assumed high inflation.

    However,inflation still works to the benefit of the state. For example a teacher working 25 years who retired in 2000 with a salary of 50K might have a retirement of 40K. In most cases, states are no adjusting for inflation, so that teacher has seen her real pay fall to 30K. Current teachers are still paying in at current real dollars. School executives are still paid in real dollars with real bonuses that are paid immediately in real dollars, not deferred inflation reduced payments. So where is the problem?

  • Re:School::politics (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Genda ( 560240 ) <> on Sunday December 02, 2012 @08:21PM (#42164457) Journal

    Now you're talking about fair... I get it, I really do. However, the mess we're in on every front was 100 years in coming with the exception of the triggering events caused by the idiots in the Whitehouse from 2000-2008 and the greedy buggers on WallStreet who precipitated a disaster constructed purely out of greed and self serving. There's nothing strange about the government spending the money of future generations. We have only recent paid off the VietNam war and we'll certainly be paying off the two Bush wars from colonies on Mars. Double digit inflation in the 70s put folks on fixed retirement incomes in the real danger of starving to death (it became a cliche' of the times, folks were reduced to eating dog and cat food.)

    So if you're going to tie retirement payout to economic conditions, then by all means make the public sector pay wages comparable to the private sector so we can assure that good teachers are made available to our children While you're at it, put a tight rein on administrators wages and compensation, cut back on that waste see how much difference it makes in about 10 minutes.

    In the end this is all moot. The problem isn't teachers are greedy. The problem is that the wealth has been sucked out of the middle class and its sitting in banks in Caribbean and Netherlands to avoid state and federal taxes so its not supporting the government and its not moving the economy, its just being hoarded and we are all feeling the shocking vacuum of American wealth. If that money were plowed back into the economy, there would be tremendous new wealth and nobody would be complaining about teachers or firemen. They only stand out in relief because the workers of the private sector have been bled, and we want those guys over there getting benefits to suffer the way we are. That's not however a sane conversation, that's an indignant five year old screaming because they aren't getting any. The problem is with the people holding the purse. The greedy bastards who've taken the wealth and then stashed it in banks in the Caribbean and Netherlands to avoid taxes. So that money sits, not supporting the government or feeding the economy. It just contributes to the growing economic vacuum in the United States and we all get just a little bit hungrier. So anyone who doesn't support taxing the rich needs to consider that there will soon be insufficient wealth left here to sustain a viable economy... The printing of money is just slight of hand to hide the fact that the wealth has already been pumped out. It would behoove us all to turn this around.. supply side has had this effect before. Perhaps now would be a good time to reinstate Glass-Steagall, implement a progressive flat tax (no dodges or loopholes) and end the Corporate entity as we know it.

    Its time for a more free market, separation of business and state and making representation/public service a normal part of everyone's life experience. Take away the professional politicians. Oh... and we need to have IBM train Watson to handle business and financial law in this country to take the element of personal greed, self serving and idiocy out of the equation. As we get closer and closer to a working AI, place more and more government functions under its control, with the purpose to optimize and enhance human success, happiness, abundance and growth. We need to begin removing the darker aspects of primate behavior from our systems of governance and economy.

  • Re:School::politics (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Genda ( 560240 ) <> on Sunday December 02, 2012 @08:37PM (#42164559) Journal

    You and the rest of us, I've watched my income literally shrivel from a high in 2001 of over $100,000 to under $20,000 last year. Between the gutting of personal wealth at the hands of Corporate America on the one side and the desperate attempt by Government to keep itself alive by printing money on the other, the middle class is being completely squeezed out of existence. This is a profound shift in the nature of what America is. It was a bastion of personal freedom, open markets, and governance postulated on a Constitution ensuring the rights and freedom for all. Over the last 30 years we've morphed into something different and deeply darker. We've become a nation of Corporations owning and operating a subsidiary Government whose purpose is to tighten the grip on human rights and freedom to make absolutely certain that those same corporations can and do squeeze every last penny of value from the American Public, and ultimately set them to labor endlessly for the benefit of a shocking few. These are neither men of wisdom or dignity. For the most part I see despots, sociopaths and men crazed by wealth and power living in some coke and hooker daze of hubris and self worship. This thing is broken and I pray that we can fix it without burning the whole thing down to the ground. I'll be honest and say I have deep concerns.

  • by Dak Halliday ( 2786177 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @10:32PM (#42165187)

    Hate to have to say this about Illinois Governor Quinn.

    I don't think Illinois Governor Quinn intends to honor any promises made to Illinois retirees. Typically, retirees took below market wages for decades in exchange for promises of a decent pension with cost of living (COLA) increases to partially compensate for inflation, and paid health insurance. Employees had to accept hefty deductions for the pension itself and additional deductions to fund a COLA. The State was supposed to match those contributions. In addition, many employees were asked to forgo eligibility for Social Security. This was so the State wouldn't have to kick in their required Social Security contribution.

    I've read the legislation Quinn and his allies have been trying to run through. He wants to sock retirees with the full cost of health insurance, and make them forgo their COLA. Some of these retirees are making less than $12,000 annually, and may not be able to keep their homes if Quinn's proposals go through. Governor Quinn asked the families of retirees to talk to them over Thanksgiving dinner. My kids told me that I should not agree to give up any part of my retirement benefits. They weren't sure they could afford to support me. They said I should not trust Governor Quinn.

    It turns out that the State hasn't been making their matching contributions, and in some cases the State may actually have side-tracked employee deducted contributions. In addition, the State of Illinois has been promising tax breaks to wealthy corporations - promises they can't make good on if they have to pay what they owe retirees.

Loose bits sink chips.