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Jewish World Review August 3, 2001/ 6 Menachem-Av, 5761

Larry Elder

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Consumer Reports

"Fixing" social security -- AS Congress debates "fixing" the Ponzi scheme we call Social Security, consider a few things:

Congress established Social Security with a little-known loophole, allowing states and municipalities to exempt their public employees from Social Security. In 1981, two years before Congress closed the loophole, three counties in Texas opted out and set up their own privatized retirement system. The result? Since 1981, the counties' 5,000 public employees, while taxed at the same rate as Social Security, enjoyed an average return on an investment of 6.5 percent, compared to Social Security's 2.2 percent.

England and Chile also set up privatization plans, allowing those who wished to opt out of the public system. Most chose to, and enjoy significantly higher returns than under the public system.

In California, state employees enjoy the California Public Employees Retirement System, a fund they pay into which invests in stocks, bonds, real estate, as well as dabbling in venture capital. CalPERS is the largest public pension in the United States. All California state employees have 6 to 7 percent of their pay withheld for CalPERS. While the state allows one-third of CalPERS members, like police, exemption from the fed's 6.2 percent Social Security withholding, the remaining two-thirds pay into both. Last year, CalPERS enjoyed a rate of return of 10.5 percent. For the last five years, the fund averaged a 15.5 percent return on investment.

I received a copy of the following letter addressed to Dr. William Dale Crist, Board President of CalPERS:

Dear Dr. Crist: Let us into the state agency CalPERS, the California Public Employees Retirement System, which we have paid for with our taxes and favored with legislative action. Let us in, and let it be retroactive.

Let us in just like the 1.2 million government workers, judges and state legislators from 3,000 state and local agencies.

Let us in. Let us into CalPERS, the taxpayers of the state of California who aren't government employees. Let us retire at 50, or earlier just like state employees. Let us be exempt (as so many of your members are) from Social Security deductions.

Let us have health benefits. Let us have CalPERS Long-Term Care benefits for our parents and parents-in-law just like state employees.

Let us have a special CalPERS home loan program, including the no-payment second loan, so we too can be home owners, with CalPERS home loans up to $1.1 million.

Let us in, the non-government employees and taxpayers, and residents of this state who have given up their personal income (paying the salaries of state employees) to finance your $160 billion financial kingdom, consisting of billions in stocks, equities, securities (funds such as $122 million in IMG's Sports Capital Partners) and real estate (over $11 billion) at home and abroad.

Let us enjoy the benefits of the hundreds of millions of dollars that CalPERS pays to consultants every year.

Let us enjoy the benefits that come from CalPERS investments in practically every major corporation in the world.

Let us enjoy the benefits that come from the hundreds of million dollars CalPERS puts into venture capital funds.

Let us enjoy the malls and high-rises and hotels that CalPERS owns.

Let us reap the benefits of the CalPERS-Enron billion dollar joint partnership.

Let us enjoy the benefits of having California State Treasurer Phil Anglides on the CalPERS Board and the CalSTRS Board as he wheels-and-deals throughout the world ... what a financial genius ... thank God for letting Phil walk upon this earth ... if we could only be so honored as to have his shadow cross us ...

Let us enjoy the benefits of having Willie Brown on the CalPERS Board as he enjoys his CalPERS state legislator's pension along with his mayor's salary.

If you won't let us into CalPERS, then can we get into CalSTRS, the California State Teachers Retirement System, the $100 billion clone of CalPERS? Or perhaps LACERA, the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association? Or UCR, the University of California retirement system? They have nice home loan programs, too, and huge public stock investments.

Or let us into any of the hundreds of state and local government retirement systems throughout this great U.S.A. so we may enjoy the benefits of their stock and real estate portfolios.

Oh, Great CalPERS, let us in! Oh, G-d, give us a government retirement plan, and please let it not be Social Security! -- Andrew Levinson, Thousand Oaks, Calif.

In the beginning, over 40 workers supported one Social Security beneficiary. Soon, with the addition of the 40 million-strong baby boomers, the number goes down an unsupportable ratio of two workers for every one retiree.

Quick, contact the personnel director for the Bush administration. Appoint Dr. Crist to a newly created position -- The Private Social Security Czar.

Oh, P.S. to Andrew, should Dr. Crist respond, get back to us.

JWR contributor Larry Elder is the author of the newly released, The Ten Things You Can't Say in America. (Proceeds from sales help fund JWR) Let him know what you think of his column by clicking here.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate