Lifestyles of the Rich and Unionized

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to some of most wealthy retirees in America. Joining their ranks this month is Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi, who will retire with an annual pension of $423,644 a year. That works out to a little over $35,000 a month.

From Matier & Ross on we learn:

According to county pay records, in addition to her $301,000 base salary, Muranishi receives:
- $24,000, plus change, in "equity pay'' to guarantee that she makes at least 10 percent more than anyone else in the county.
- About $54,000 a year in "longevity" pay for having stayed with the county for more than 30 years.
- An annual performance bonus of $24,000.
- And another $9,000 a year for serving on the county's three-member Surplus Property Authority, an ad hoc committee of the Board of Supervisors that oversees the sale of excess land.
Like other county executives, Muranishi also gets an $8,292-a-year car allowance.
Muranishi has been with the county for 38 years, and she's 63. When retirement day comes, she'll be getting a lot more than a gold watch.
That's because, according to the county auditor's office, Muranishi's annual pension will be equal to the dollar total of her entire yearly package - $413,000. She also has a separate executive private pension plan, for which the county chips in $46,500 a year.

It is almost impossible to fathom the looming avalanche of long-term pension obligations for state and local governments, especially in California, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York. These state employee unions have guaranteed their members extraordinary benefits packages.

From Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee we read:

Moody's Investors Service, which rates the creditworthiness of state and local governments, has proposed a new way of evaluating public pension liabilities that lowers the "discount rate" -- in effect the assumed future earnings of pension fund investments -- to the level of high-grade corporate bonds, similar to the rate private pension systems use.

It also adjusts other accounting techniques that public funds use to minimize liabilities, such as spreading investment losses over many years.

The result of such changes, Moody's says, is that the $766 billion in unfunded liabilities that U.S. pension funds claim triples to $2.2 trillion and if the firm adopts the proposed system for credit ratings, it will amp up pressure on those funds to get more money from taxpayers and/or employees.

That would imply that California, with about 12 percent of the nation's population, could have an unfunded pension debt approaching $300 billion, plus another $100 billion for retiree health care. That's big money in anyone's book.

Who pays for this legal pillaging of our state coffers? We all do, not only in escalating taxes, but also in reduced state services for police, fire, roads, and infrastructure. There are also reductions in medical and mental health service, reduced hours for state parks, and higher tuition at our state colleges and universities. And, unlike the Federal government, states and local governments cannot simply print money; they must painfully soak local businesses and individual taxpayers to make up for the inevitable shortfalls ahead.

Congratulations, Ms. Muranishi you hit the retirement lottery jackpot. The only interesting question is how long will your gold-plated pensions continue, without going bankrupt?

If you experience technical problems, please write to