Buz Livingston ignores facts when he alleges that the Walton County Taxpayers Association is less fiscally conservative than liberal Californians. As president of the WCTA, I ask that you permit us a reply to his deceptively using us as a strawman.
The WCTA, apparently unlike Buz, is disturbed that taxpayers in South Walton currently contribute greater than 30 percent of SWFD firefighters' salaries to their pension plan, this over and above the firemen's salaries, benefits, overtime. The WCTA is concerned that SWFD commissioners have given such unaffordable pension benefits to the firefighters and concerned that our firefighters are going to get stiffed at retirement.
On the one hand, Buz says he likes defined benefit plans, while on the other he acknowledges the real conundrum. The pensions promised are unaffordable to both the firefighters and taxpayers, and they are completely out of step with the retirement plans of most non-governmental taxpayers. This of course ignores those taxpayers who have no pension plan at all.
In the private sector, defined benefit plans are an endangered species save for the highest earners, and 401(k) and other plans which guarantee no defined benefit are much more common. These typically have companies contributing less than 5 percent of salaries and wages to their employees' pension plans, and the returns to pension recipients are a function of investment amounts and investment returns.
Governmental employees receive much higher wages and benefits than private sector workers during their careers. This is so because governments large and small have the unilateral power to decree that they shall be first among unequals. They have the power to take our property, our freedoms, our lives, and they commonly do so with little regard for those of us who pay the bills they incur.
The Walton County Taxpayers Association is dedicated to the proposition that government requires watching in order to curb its capricious use of the powers it confers upon itself at the expense of the rest of us. Buz knows better — California is not liberal in the classic sense. It is instead progressive, the modern euphemism for the pejoratives more accurately describing California governance, i.e., socialist and corrupt. CalPERS, for all its size, is its poster child.
Buz is right that the present state of affairs is unsustainable, but then government benefits are but a Ponzi scheme writ large. Must we locally continue to ignore reality until we are forced to repudiate unsustainable promises? Painful adjustments must be made to avoid such an immoral outcome. Loose rhetoric is no substitute.
I too subscribe to John Mauldin's newsletters. He has a great deal more to say about government Ponzi schemes than just that our pension return assumptions are too high. The WCTA, like Mr. Mauldin, wants change, and we understand that is not at odds with our mission. We believe the pension plan to be unsustainable, and the unaffordable benefits need to be reduced to a level commensurate with those afforded the rest of us.
Santa Rosa Beach