OTRS Funding Dilemma Needs Drastic Solution
The Community Action Project (CAP) recently distributed information about the state’s pensions, focusing on the Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System, which has one of the worst funding records in the nation.
If you pay your hard-earned money into OTRS and you are reading this, then listen up: Do not believe a word you are hearing these days from the pension’s managers. It is in their vested interests to act as if nothing is wrong. The pension fund is borderline insolvent because of a long history of mismanagement and anti-education sentiment in this state. What this means is that you may not have a pension when you retire.
Think about all those years in the classroom and all the retirement money taken from your paychecks, and then, poof, you have no retirement, nothing. That is not hyperbole.
Here are the facts, which are not in dispute: (1) OTRS has unfunded liabilities exceeding $7.1 billion. (2) It is the third-worst funded pension in the country. (3) The problem becomes more difficult to solve as time goes on. (4) The legislature did nothing last year to bolster the fund. (5) It is questionable whether the GOP-dominated legislature will do anything about it this year.
CAP proposes several excellent ideas to improve the pension and other state pensions through more dedicated state funding.
Here are some more ideas:
(1) Allow current educators to take their money out of the system and invest it in other retirement programs without penalty. The state would still match contributions at current levels. It is immoral to force people to pay into a fund that has a serious risk of becoming insolvent.
(2) Combine OTRS with the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System, which, of course, is also in bad fiscal shape. But at least OPERS appears to be operated somewhat better than OTRS, and it is in overall better financial shape. Perhaps combining the two systems would give the new system more investment clout.
(3) Pay off existing OTRS obligations with existing funds and bonds, and move current educators and their money into an entirely new plan.
(4) Appoint people to the OTRS board who understand there is a problem and who want to solve it, not apologists for those who made mistakes in the past. The board should not be appointed based on political expediency but rather on expertise and real vested interests. We need “teacher power” on that board, not “political power.”
The larger problem here is what the underfunding says about the state’s conservative power structure. It says the power structure is absolutely anti-education, anti-teacher, anti-professor, anti-researcher, and, most of all, anti-student.
Newspaper Supports Tyranny
(BREAKING NEWS: A protest against Bush's unconstitutional escalation of the Iraq War is scheduled for tomorrow in Oklahoma City. Click here for more details.)
When President George Bush defies the will of the people this evening and calls for a tremendous, ill-advised escalation of the Iraq war, many news commentators will mention the president is provoking a major constitutional crisis.
But do not count on Oklahoma's largest newspaper to even broach the constitutional crisis issue on its editorial page. In a recent editorial (Troop Surge,” January 9, 2007), The Daily Oklahoman argued that adding more troops to the Iraq quagmire “is a plausible strategy.”
The Oklahoman, echoing the fading talking points of right-wing fanatics and Bushbots, argued, “The president is the commander in chief and must have latitude to make military decisions, based on sound advice, unencumbered by congressional micromanaging.”
Yet, as many politicians and experts have argued recently, the U.S. Congress has a constitutional obligation to provide the American people oversight of a president’s actions, including his war policies. American presidents do not and should not have the power to unilaterally wage war without the consent of the people, who are represented by their elected officials.
The American people have spoken. They did so in the November elections. They want American troops to be eventually withdrawn from Iraq, and they want Bush’s folly to end. A majority of U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators, some of whom are Republicans, have indicated they stand against increasing troop levels. Polls show American people overwhelmingly want a way out of Iraq, not more involvement. They do not want troop increases.
Bush’s speech then will provoke a severe and major constitutional crisis tonight. It will have far-reaching implications in our country. Do we live under the tyranny of one man, a pathetic, perhaps delusional, despot? Or do we live under a representative government with checks and balances? Bush’s speech will implicitly ask the country this question.
Meanwhile, The Oklahoman will support tyranny over democracy, a military dictatorship over representative government, and not one single dissenting voice will be allowed on its pages. It silences voices which favor democracy. It supports tyranny to enable its owners to make even greater profits.