Adam was just entering his teen years when I last saw him. His family moved out of state shortly after I was married. His dad was in my wedding party and a great guy. His dad had a great sense of humor. Except for his irrational love of Monty Python, I usually found that we liked many of the same things.
As is common for church members, we had a going away party for the family before their big move. At the party, I happened to mention to him an obscure song by Marty McCall and Fireworks called Adam.
The song is presented from the point of view of the singer blaming Adam for causing this world of woe by sinning in The Garden. The song wonders what the world would be like if the original Adam had not disobeyed long ago. The lyrics include the line,”Adam how I hated you…”
Adam’s reaction to this brief portion of our conversation was really weird. He seemed to take it as if the song was about him, not a guy that lived a few thousand years ago. I tried to get him to understand that it was not about him but I still remember him not letting it go.
Years later, he and I became Facebook friends. On Facebook, I was friends with his parents and since he was now an adult, I became friends with him too. (Subsequently, his folks deleted their Facebook account.) When I viewed his page, what a shock I had. The squeaky clean kid I knew in California was living far away and had become some kind of Goth. Everything was black. Sadly, so was his heart. He was into drugs and had tried several times to commit suicide. He was effectively homeless. I occasionally would look him up on Facebook. Sometimes I would post a Scripture or encouraging word.
How this kid that was “raised right” could end-up so messed-up was tragic. From the outside he had everything: a loving two parent family, an upper middle class home, a good church, education, etc. I remember praying for him often during my breaks at work.
Last week we visited Church of the King in Roseville. My wife and I ran into some mutual friends that we know there. It was then that we learned that Adam had committed suicide. Apparently, it happened months ago but word was circulating slowly all the way to California. I was devastated that this wonderful kid that I once knew had fallen far enough to purposely take his life.
The first chance I had, I checked my phone to see if Adam’s Facebook account was still there. I wanted confirmation. Unlike many that I know have died, his Facebook account was gone. (Note: there is nothing creepier to me than getting an automated reminder from Facebook to wish a dead person a happy birthday.)
Later, I think I found an obituary online, but the site wanted money to access the information. Suicide is not exactly something those left behind like to brag about so I understand that it is hard to find information about one, even in this digital age.
I miss Adam. I think the world was a better place with him in it. I’m sad for his family.
While perusing my twitter account I came across a story on the Woman’s National Basketball Association which I had a feeling was “fake news” however I clicked on it nonetheless. I was completely stunned by the fact it was most definitely not fake news, it was very disturbing. No, not that the WNBA is still around (which was news to the Blog Father since the Sacramento Monarchs went extinct years ago) but the story was a huge bombshell. It features former Stanford Basketball Star Candice Wiggins telling her story about why she—a former 3rd overall pick in the draft and at a young age of 29—has decided to retire effective immediately. As I said the story is very disturbing, I don’t follow the WNBA, nor do I care about it, but for the leagues sake I hope it is false.
Wiggins goes into detail that the league has a culture that is toxic and very, very harmful, specifically saying that she was targeted by her teammates and other players in the league because of her HETEROSEXUALITY. Wiggins added the league is about 98% homosexual…. And well ok, I’m just going to quote her verbatim “”Me being heterosexual and straight, and being vocal in my identity as a straight woman was huge ,” Wiggins told the Union-Tribune. “I would say 98 percent of the women in the WNBA are gay women. It was a conformist type of place. There was a whole different set of rules they (the other players) could apply.” Here is another disturbing line again, verbatim “People were deliberately trying to hurt me all of the time,” Wiggins said. “I had never been called the B-word so many times in my life than I was in my rookie season. I’d never been thrown to the ground so much. The message was: ‘We want you to know we don’t like you.’”
Ok, I know what you are thinking, she probably played with one team, and it was a dysfunctional clusterflip like the Sacramento Kings right? Nope she played on Minnesota, Tulsa, Los Angeles, and New York, so I think she had a pretty good barometer of the leagues players. I will say I am astonished by how smart, and even keeled Wiggins is, I know I would have retired about 6 years ago.
In closing before I make a broader point about her comments I will quote her again “I want you to understand this: There are no enemies in my life,” Wiggins told the newspaper. “Everyone is forgiven. At the end of the day, it made me stronger. If I had not had this experience, I wouldn’t be as tough as I am.” And again “I try to be really sensitive. I’m not trying to crush anyone’s dreams or aspirations, or the dreams of the WNBA. I want things to be great, but at the same time it’s important for me to be honest in my reflections. ”
Wow, Candice Wiggins folks, I’m not even joking she is really special; she left a very lucrative career, and shone a light on everything wrong with it. You go Candice, I know I don’t have to tell you this but use that degree from Stanford and change the world for the better!!!!!!
Ok shifting gears, one thing that comes to mind when reading this article is that it describes today’s political society to a T, INTOLERANCE. Just look at the dynamic in Washington between President Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party, and the opposition. Think about it, if you are a true conservative, you live what Candice did every day.
• You are a heterosexual human being, congrats you are a homophobe.
• Approve of a vetting of persons from certain Muslim countries, congrats you are islamaphobic.
• Claim to support Trump, congrats you are a fascist.
I don’t pretend to know Candice Wiggins, I don’t, but what she described is bubbling up in this country, the opposition driven by teachers unions and students who grew up knowing nothing but safe spaces, pipeline protestors in the Dakotas imported from other states. Conform or else, well, myself and the Blog Father won’t, and you shouldn’t either.
As I wrote to Mr. Winton earlier this week, the political divide in our country is spiritual; Christianity versus Secular Humanism. Man likes to put himself in the place of God.
This is the spiritual divide:
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. I Joh 2: 15-17
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Romans 1: 18-32
The Left is screaming like demons because they are following the doctrine of demons. Their god is government (and power). Trump is dedicated to tearing down many of their strongholds and they aren’t happy. I don’t know where Trump is spiritually, but I’m confident that God is using him to clean-up the mess that has poisoned our country for so many years.
OK, so you may be wondering why I write about this issue after the mandatory evacuation order has been lifted. In short, the danger has not passed; we will be living with this issue for several years.
I know when I find myself on the same side as the Sierra Club that the guys in Sacramento have really screwed-up.
Link: Oroville Dam: Feds and state officials ignored warnings 12 years ago
Voters have authorized tens of billions of dollars in water bonds to be sold in California and no new water storage has been planned let alone built. In fact last I heard the only activity that government was considering was tearing down existing dams servicing San Francisco and far northern California.
In recent months, officials in Oregon, Washington and even California have agreed to spend millions to dismantle colossal dams built decades ago in order to protect native fish species, following legal tussles over water between the federal government, environmentalists, Indian tribes and farmers.
Meanwhile, on the California-Oregon border, in the wake of a dramatic, nationally reported fish kill in 2002, the unlikely coalition of fishermen, American Indians and environmentalists has successfully made its case to tear down four dams on the Klamath River. In this case, the courts, the state and Schwarzenegger himself have indicated support for dam removal.
So voters have authorized billions for water and all we have gotten is agreements to reduce water storage. Meanwhile, maintenance on existing facilities has been somewhere between nil and minimal. Why?
Much of the money in these so called water bonds was never for water storage or infrastructure. Critics tried to point that out but the Party in power drowned-out their criticism. Second, don’t forget how government does budgets. Money dedicated to water simply frees up more funds from the General Fund that can then be spent elsewhere. It does not mean that any additional money will actually be spent on water projects. It just grows government and nothing more.
Now for Oroville Dam; Folks this is a huge mess.
As we all know from seeing the photos, there are two separate problems with the dam now. The main spillway and the emergency spillway.
The main spillway has at least two problems that combined to tear the thing to pieces…and the damage is continuing to compound on this part of the dam’s structure. Not only is there a hole 180 feet wide and 30 feet deep—as of a few weeks ago—but this hole is continuing to erode due to use. The spillway can’t be used anywhere near capacity without totally destroying itself.
What makes it worse is that in some photos, it appears that water is freely flowing under the spillway! If you noticed the photos with the spillway shutoff a few weeks ago, water was coming out of the hole and continuing down the spillway. At a quick glance on the Internet, I can’t find the angle that I think is illustrating this but I’m concerned that this is the case. If there are issues under the spillway due to whatever cause, the calculations for repair just got even more complicated.
The patch job from a few summers ago, has clearly failed and it looks to me as if the entire thing may need to be redone. Whatever repair is selected, it will need to be done in a matter of months not the years that typically accompany government red tape on projects of this scope. In the summer they can only drain water from the hydroelectric plant so once it begins raining next fall that spillway better be ready to roll.
The emergency spillway is clearly a problem and I fear that it may need to be deployed again before summer arrives. The rock bags and other measures taken seem more for show than because they are anything resembling a fix.
In the end, it appears that the choice will be destroy the spillway by increasing the discharge and thus increasing the damage it sustains or loosing control of the structure by deploying the emergency spillway. Hobson’s choice anyone?
My other concern is also a practical one. No engineer on the State’s payroll has ever been involved in overseeing the building or construction of a dam. In fact, I would wager that none of the folks doing the real engineering work to fix these problems was even born when the last dam was being approved for construction. C.C. Myers may not be the guy for this repair but you need someone that can work that quickly.
The irony is that Jerry Brown’s rainy day fund may be needed to save us from rain.
The Best advice that I can offer is stock some emergency rations and be ready to get out of dodge at the first sign of trouble.
G.K. Chesterton’s philosophical opponent, George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying, “Youth is wasted on the Young.” This is one of many ideas that came to mind while reading the latest missive from Jess Winton. Another is a quote that some have attributed to Charles Darwin; “I was a young man with unformed ideas.”
Winton and his father produced a pro-gun film called Targeted: Exposing The Gun Control Agenda. It was released at the end of last summer with the hope to inform folks about the agenda of the Left and to influence the upcoming November election. I have previously blogged about attending the premier of the film with Jesse, his father, and others that were in the film. Link: Targeted
Now, six months after it was released, Jesse Winton has decided to repudiate and renounce the film.
Here are a few excerpts of his essay.
“I regret making Targeted.”
“I spent four years of my life making a project that, for a time, I was proud of.”
“So, I regret making Targeted. I regret that it was fundamentally biased toward a particular viewpoint. I regret that it lacked empathy towards anyone that wasn’t a supporter of the Second Amendment, instead judging their motives as evil.”
I knew Winton and his family while they were making the film and know several folks that were extras in the film. Were this all that Jesse repudiated, I would still be shocked but unfortunately, he has made other more disturbing statements. The only difference is that I got a copy of this statement before he deleted it.
You see Jesse doesn’t have the courage of his convictions to stand by what he says. Twice I found Facebook posts that he initiated where as soon as he was caught advocating positions contrary to the theology of his father, he would delete the posts. One was a full throated defenses of “gay marriage”.
Jesse has left the Calvinist reservation and gone in another direction. Two themes that you will see repeatedly are his proclamation that he is a Libertarian and that he has a hatred of Donald Trump.
“Firstly, hear me say very clearly that … I am staunchly Libertarian. I have a hard time with Conservatism and the ways that it has manifested itself in our culture today.”
OK, what does this statement mean? Winton repudiates both Liberals and Conservatives and thinks that Libertarianism is a better way? Really? To some folks, Libertarians are all about live and let live; in a non-judgmental sort of way. The problem that I have with Libertarianism is that followed to its logical conclusion; it is a repudiation of Christianity. Sin is an integral part of being Libertarian. Prostitution, drug use, abortion, homosexuality, and a host of other things (euphemistically called “victimless crimes”) are perfectly fine according to a Libertarian worldview. However, all these are contrary to Biblical teaching.
Conservatism is not the same as a Biblical worldview but it often comes closer than either Libertarianism or Liberalism. Conservatives and Christians have many things in common. Politically, we both believe in limited government and that morality has a place being codified into law. The civil law exists to protect citizens from harming themselves and others, punishing crime, and defending the nation. All these are anathema to the Libertarian mindset.
Christianity does not allow room for the axiom, “My country right or wrong” or “the ends justifies the means” as some Conservatives seem to believe. The family, Church, and State have clearly defined roles. The Bible does not proscribe one form of human government as superior to all others but it does say that God’s Law is Supreme. Nations and their people are judged on the basis of how well we uphold His Standards.
This brings up to Donald Trump.
“Unfortunately, what we’re seeing now under the Trump administration is the result of years of divisive politics that gave American’s an excuse to not listen to each other. Everyone looked for ways to point fingers, we searched for methods by which we could confirm our own bias, and on a small level, Targeted was part of that. Fortunately, Targeted’s reach was limited. But it still had a reach. And I wish it hadn’t.”
This paragraph is full of nonsense from someone that should know better. Donald Trump is not now nor ever been a Conservative. Trump is outside of traditional political categories. He is President today because he said in effect, “a pox on both your houses” to the Democrats and Republicans in elected office. Trump called them frauds and said somebody needs to get off the track Obama put us on and go another way.
Last time I checked, there was a battle for the hearts and souls of men and the political divide in this country is along spiritual lines even more than policy ones.
If you look at Winton’s Facebook posts (at least the ones he hasn’t deleted yet), you will see that he endorses the Trump = Hitler meme. Last week, he has posted about Trump shredding the judiciary because Trump is not happy with the Ninth Circuit Court. The Ninth Circuit should have been dismantled back when Reagan was President, the fact that Trump is willing to say it is a good thing and long overdue.
Jesse seems to want popularity and praise more than standing for Truth. He reminds me of another film maker that departed from the faith of his father, Frankie Schaeffer.
Another thing that Mr. Winton seems to willfully ignore is that Donald Trump is there because God put him in office. And yes, ditto when Barack Obama was President. Obama was a judgement from God on our nation for rejecting His values. One of the punishments promised in Deuteronomy is the foreigner ruling over us and whether you think Obama was born in Hawaii or not, his values were not American values but something else. Obama was the first openly Communist or if you prefer, International Socialist President.
Whether Trump is another form of punishment or the savior of the American way of life is yet to be seen. So far, I have no complaints in what he has done. Trump seems content for the church and the family to carry-on without interference from the national government and from my perspective that is a refreshing change from the tyranny of the Obama administration.
Winton also spends part of his article dumping on the guests that he had in his movie. This too I find disingenuous. Unlike many bloggers, I spent part of my time in junior high school thru college in the practice of journalism. I know that part of the craft is finding quotations that help your article. You typically either go to an expert in the field or someone involved in the issue which you are writing about. Just because I quote someone does not mean that I agree with everything that person stands for. Case in point is this article when I quote George Bernard Shaw. I would find much more agreement with Chesterton than Shaw on almost any subject but quoting Shaw makes my point in that particular instance.
Speaking again about Targeted, look what Winton has to say:
I regret that it was endorsed by someone who said that Rosa Parks’ contribution to civil rights was “absurdly inflated.” I regret that it was endorsed by someone who’s sense of class prompted him to compare pictures of Hillary and Chelsea with pictures of Melania and Ivanka with the caption “Make America Hot Again.”
Undeniable truth of life #24 comes to mind “Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream of society.”
Winton is using a classic logical fallacy of the Ad Hominem attack.
Arguments of this kind focus not on the evidence for a view but on the character of the person advancing it; they seek to discredit positions by discrediting those who hold them. It is always important to attack arguments, rather than arguers, and this is where arguments that commit the ad hominem fallacy fall down. Link: definition Ad Hominem
Winton chose who to have in his movie either because they were a subject matter expert or because he was able to get quotes to bolster his argument. Attacking their character now is way too late. Jesse, you presented them as experts on the Second Amendment and nothing that you say about them now in your current rant diminishes that expertise.
Just because somebody shares something on Facebook because they think it’s funny is not sufficient grounds to throw them under the bus so Liberals and fellow Libertarians will like you more.
Jesse had a choice to make and he chose Libertarian values over biblical ones. They may appear to start in similar places but they end in very different destinations. Jesse seems content to swap his birthright for a cup of stew and that’s too bad.
In “Ode to the Outlaw”, Gary Paxton wrote about “that prison of freedom called hell” The only people with “freedom” in our society are homeless ones, everyone one else has someone telling them what to do. As Bob Dylan said it, “You gotta serve somebody.” Jesse mistakenly thinks freedom is the ultimate value. Sorry Jesse, God’s Law is the ultimate value not personal freedom.
The ink on President Donald J Trump’s executive order regarding a travel ban from certain countries was not even dry yet when liberal Senator Chuck Schumer went straight to his old bag of tricks to stop it. He went directly to a judge located in the 9th circus court of appeals; err wait circuit court of appeals—without a doubt the most liberal in the country. The country, including most members of the CRA were shocked, how in the world a judge could rule against a sitting president so quickly! This was insanity! Or was it? Really this is the “go to” move in the Democrat bag of tricks 101, the Blog Father and I have seen it for decades.
Liberals know they are smarter then everyone on earth; just ask a grad from Cal Berkeley or any Ivy League institution, they will tell you. Only they are properly equipped to lead the unwashed masses of the world.
I do give them credit for one thing though, when the Left doesn’t get their way they know what to do to remedy the situation.
Witness Proposition 8 in California. A little over 8 years ago, the majority of Californians—albeit a small one—voted in favor of a state constitutional amendment signifying married as a sacrament of unity between one man and one woman. Before the measure was voted on, democrats already had their legal challenge written and the morning following passage, they had a lackey waiting outside the courtroom of their favorite judge to request a temporary restraining order to again thwart the will of the people. The judge of course ruled in their favor and here we are in few years later with marriage between anyone and anybody to anyone and anybody; it’s a free for all for Christ sake!
Frustratingly, not a single person on the Right did anything about it here in Soviet California. Our so called leaders in the party wallowed along and said “by golly gee we will get them next election cycle!” Remember that President Barack Obama won an historical election that night, winning California handily, yet Californians by a majority voted for a gay marriage ban. The Democrat Far Left does not care to turn over their fate to the will of voters in the name of so called fairness or equality. Point being, this is how Democrats have governed for years. When they find themselves in the minority in Congress or because of an election result, they find a friendly judge and immediately file for a temporary restraining order; often before the votes are even counted. Then they have a federal appeal take place in the 9th circus court of appeals. The sad fact is that Republicans in California never learned how to fight back and as a result they are a minority third party today. Because of their failure, most true conservatives have either left the state or become apathetic to our current one party rule.
This will all be changing under anti-CRA, pro-Constitution President Donald J Trump. No wonder the CRA hates his guts and feels Ted Cruz would have been a better choice. Trump took the fight right to the judge who granted a temporary restraining order calling him a “so-called judge.” After hearing the appeals arguments in the 9th circus court of appeals, Trump called the court biased, and pondered his next move, knowing full well the court upholding the temporary restraining order would send the case to a still divided Supreme Court. Trump is smarter than all the democrats (and many of the Republicans) and has moved to fast-track the nomination of his pick for Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. In addition, he is moving to swiftly break up the 9th circuit court of appeals, much like the Blog Father stated in his earlier posts.
There’s a new sheriff in town and it’s fun to watch the way he makes the Beltway Elites scurry about like cockroaches. I’m going to grab some popcorn, this is going to be a fun next four years.
We files our taxes last week, so just for fun I checked on my refund status tonight.
The IRS is promising to give me my refund 8 days after I filed.
However, the State of California is a different story. They promised me a refund within 2 months if I filed electronically and four months if I filed a paper return.
In previous years, my fastest turnaround for a refund from the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) was seven days. Apparently Democrats screw-up everything they touch. Now that they run everything in the State its two months? Too bad there aren’t any tech companies on the West Coast. I guess they can’t write a decent program when Trump has all their brainy people stuck at home or in some backwater airport waiting for permission to travel to the United States.
Based on the timeframe required to process my return, it looks like the State is in worse financial shape than they admit publicly. For paper returns you will literally be waiting until next fiscal year to get your money back.
If you wish to check on your refund, here are the links.
Update: 02-13-2017 Contrary to the statement on their website, Franchise Tax Board did in fact process my return. Actual turn around was less than two weeks. Apparently their time estimates are made by Mr. Scott to maintain the appearance of a miracle worker.
Yesterday’s Super Bowl was a great game on the field but the rest of the show (i.e. the commercials) were lame unless the soundtrack featured Johnny Cash. More on that in a minute.
At my house we skip the half time show and always have. As soon as the teams head to the locker room we hit the Mute button on the remote and pause the DVR so we can fast forward to the beginning of the second half. However, I did tell somebody prior to the game that we didn’t care which team won, we were only watching the game to see which cut of meat that Lady Gaga was going to wear for the half time show.
Much of the rest of the field was attacks on Conservatives, President Trump, or middleclass American values.
The commercials that I recall because of their in-you-face attacks on our way of life were three:
• The 84 Lumber commercial. Their unabashed defense and ever praise for illegal immigration was a clear attack on the President for trying to keep us safe and enforce existing law.
• Audi—portrayed women as chattel (property for those readers residing in Rio Linda) because of the income disparity between men and women. Sorry ladies but bearing children—especially out of wedlock—is bad for your earning power. This is why feminists embrace the sacrament of abortion instead of the Christian institution of marriage. Motherhood should always be before career. Also, in this category, you might want to add the promos for The Handmaiden’s Tale from Hulu. This show is based on a novel about a dystopian society where women are property.
• Anheuser Busch—also got into the immigration dust-up with their supposed origin story. For those that missed it, this beer conglomeration is no longer American owned, it was sold to a European company several years ago. Any connection to Trump supporting Brexit? Makes you wonder.
For readers that may not know, my view of immigration is that we should welcome people that want to come here to be Americans and respect our way of life. If they want to keep their third-world values, live in some ethnic ghetto, and refuse to learn English then go somewhere else. We don’t need more people draining the resources of hardworking taxpayers and living on the dole. We have more than our fair share of home grown slackers living off of other people’s money. If folks want to come here, work hard, and play by the rules then “ya’ll come”.
The best spot during the broadcast was actually in the pregame show. The Ragged Old Flag segment featuring a 1974 song by Johnny Cash was great if you were willing to be charitable about a few things.
1. If you pretend that you don’t know the political allegiances of people in the segment like Harry Belafonte and take them at their word when praising American and the Constitution.
(By the way, does Harry look a bit like Voldemort?)
2. Why does the Fox announcer think we are divided? Only a few well paid malcontents are causing trouble by following the lead of a recently unemployed community organizer.
3. Cash wrote the song during the height of Watergate and thus it can be interpreted as saying the country will survive despite this out-of-control-guy in the White House.
4. The video tries too hard to be inclusive and politically correct instead of just following the story told in the song.
After awaking from my New Year’s celebration I decided to do a little catchup reading. One article that caught my eye was about a pension crisis in Dallas, Texas. The first thing that came to mind was this must be the county workers retirement pension system, I was wrong; this is the police and firefighters retirement pension system. A very small pension fund by comparison to some such as CALPers. However the problem in Dallas is strange, in a sense because Dallas has a booming downtown, cranes and skyscraper construction dot the skyline. People have been moving to Dallas in droves, this is not the case study of a braying Midwestern city struggling with population loss, and the mill or warehouse closing down. This really caught my eye.
Government and private sector accountants have been tussling in Dallas over how large the deficit in the pension funding crisis is, however they do agree on one thing, it’s between one and five billion dollars! Yeah, Billion, like Million but with a “B”. Dallas appointed a pension board about thirty years ago to oversee the investments of this fund; most states and municipalities do this. These board members are supposed to have a fiduciary duty to put the financial needs of the members over any short term profits or accounting gimmicks…they failed. I will go in to their misdeeds later; in the meantime the city is now facing a monumental crisis of epic proportions.
The pension system in most states and municipalities all work the same, work so many years, and contribute a small portion of your check, roughly 1% and you will get a defined payout amount each month for the remainder of your life once you retire. This is true with most pension plans; they are set up in a defined benefit manner not a defined contribution manner. This becomes a problem when the union designs a contract where employees can retire at 50 and collect full benefits until death some 30 years later. The problem is the pension fund essentially becomes a Ponzi scheme as new money is added from current workers that go to pay out the benefits to retired workers.
The fund receives money each month collected from current workers’ pay, and then hopes to invest the money, earn a decent return, and pay out benefits to those collecting retirement. The main problem is these funds always use pie in the sky projections for investment return, with some such as CALPers saying they expect around 7.5% a year! As per usual they didn’t come close to 7.5%, they actually did .41% which is well, awful especially considering the market is at all-time highs. Enough about California; now back to Dallas.
Dallas got creative about a decade ago, they created an option for retired members called (DROP) deferred retirement option program. This option allowed retired members to put their pension check in a separate account, which would be a savings account, with a 10% interest annually credited to it. If you’re scoring at home, once again this is a characteristic of a Ponzi scheme promising pie in the sky returns, risk free mind you. Many retirees participated and I cannot say I blame them, as a 10% risk free return that is likely guaranteed by the municipality or the state is a great option. Then as one would expect problems began to arise, since you can’t guarantee 10% returns while the fund was only projecting to earn 7%.
The fund was beginning to see trouble in 2008, and as a result the board of directors decided to make investments in real estate as opposed to stocks or equities. Investing in real estate is extremely risky, and the bets placed by the Dallas pension fund blew up right in their face. This was to be expected. (If X was tasked with generating a massive investment return, I admit I would have done something similar.) The fund began buying up real estate all over the world, a winery and hotel in Napa, and quite a few investments in foreign countries that were supposed to make up the difference and generate a return that could pay off the obligations to retirees. This solution is not an issue until the value of the real estate holdings drops, and predictably it did. The fund took over $500 million in write-offs over a two year period from 2014-2015. Which is not a problem until those expecting to receive pension benefits find out they may not be receiving said benefits, then mayhem ensues. Mayhem indeed did ensue later in 2016. Further adding fuel to the fire were an agreement to raise the cost of living adjustment by 4% a year rather than pegging the rate to inflation which would have saved over 15-20%.
Remember those DROP accounts? The pension system had over 500 worth more than 1 million dollars, as a result of the shortfall; retirees began pulling all their money out of the system. Who can blame them? It was money and benefits they had earned. As a result, the mayor of Dallas, pension board leaders, and the state have been looking for a solution, including the temporary halting of withdrawals from the plan. Which as per usual from governments and the CRA these days, answers nothing. Panic has set in among retirees and as a result lawsuits have started flying in Dallas, as well as an FBI investigation as well as an SEC investigation. The mayor of Dallas predictably wants a state bailout, which predictably the state government told him politely no thank you. Now he wants to raise property tax by 130% on Dallas residents. Remember this is Dallas, not a small decaying city, but one that is lined with skyscrapers. Stay tuned, and I will report as more details come available.