Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

October 27, 2013

Public Eye

wage liberation

If Right to Work doesn’t seem like enough of a euphemism, then try out the latest catchphrase from the American Legislative Exchange Council, “Wage Liberation.”

The conservative group’s latest push is really pension reform, mainly in the form of privatizing and/or cutting private pensions.

The Indiana Public Retirement System has already acted to liberate some teachers from their pension funds, by voting to privatize an annuity option. Instead of a guaranteed 7.5 percent rate of return, the teachers choosing the annuity would receive market rate returns, which vary. Right now, the market rate is around 4 percent to 4.5 percent.

The big proponent of privatizing/cutting pensions is hedge fund billionaire John Arnold, who has teamed up with the Pew Charitable Trust to indict public pensions as a huge unfunded liability.

Critics say Arnold’s message, which has some truth to it, is severely undercut by the profit Arnold’s brethren on Wall Street stand to make if public pensions are privatized.

In Rhode Island, where significant pension reform has already been enacted, the state’s bill for financial management went from $11 million to $70 million, while the state pension funds’ rate of return failed to beat the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.

Then there are significant questions about how transparent the investments become, once they’re privatized. It’s worth remembering that in Kokomo, the late “wealth manager” Richard Schwartz almost gained control of the city’s pension funds. The Indiana Secretary of State’s office is currently collecting complaints from the victims of a Ponzi scheme allegedly run by Schwartz.

Seeking a second term

Although the start of filing for the May primary election is still three months away, Republican Mark McCann has announced he will be seeking a second term as Howard County Prosecutor.

McCann was first elected in 2010 and was unopposed in the general election. He previously served 16 years as chief deputy prosecutor during the term of Jim Fleming.

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