Social Security Benefits vs. Public Pensions

When discussing the issue of public employee pensions, it is easy to suggest that these pensions are necessary because public employees usually don’t earn a social security benefit. While this is true, it ignores the startling disparity between the value of a social security benefit and the value of the typical public employee pension. And it isn’t hard to make the comparison.

If you go to the Social Security online “Estimated Social Security Retirement Benefit” table, you will see what you may expect to receive from social security when you retire, based on how much you earned in your last year working. A person making $65K per year, retiring on their 66th birthday, will begin to collect a monthly social security benefit of $1,609, or $19,308 per year.

In California, public employee pensions typically are calculated based on how many years the employee works, times a set percentage that usually ranges between 2.0% and 3.0%. As an example of how this would work, here are some apples to apples comparisons with social security, i.e., a public employee who enters the workforce at age 22, works for 44 years, makes $65K per year, and retires on their 66th birthday. At a 2.0% per year pension factor – which is the low end of the scale for public employees – this person will qualify for a pension equivalent to 88% of their final salary, based on 2.0% per year times 44 years worked. This equates to a monthly benefit of $4,766, or $57,200 per year.

Using the same assumptions – the same number of years working, and the same earnings during their years working – the 2.0% per year benefit will provide a public employee with a retirement income that is nearly three times better than what a private sector social security recipient will receive.

The high end of the pension benefit scale for public employees is reserved for those engaged in high-risk occupations such as police officers, correctional officers, and firefighters. While according to CalPERS own actuarial data, these individuals actually, on average, have lifespans slightly longer than the average worker – the theory is they live somewhat longer because they retire earlier and endure less financial stress – there are nonetheless compelling reasons why people who are first responders and take risks to safeguard the rest of us should earn a premium for this. The question is how much of a premium is appropriate.

A public safety employee who enters the workforce at age 22, works for 44 years, makes $65K per year, and retires on their 66th birthday – earning a 3.0% per year pension factor – will qualify for a pension equivalent to 132% of their final salary, based on 3.0% per year times 44 years worked. This equates to a monthly benefit of $7,150, or $85,800 per year, a retirement income 4.5 times better than what a social security recipient would earn after working the same number of years and earning the same amount of money.

There are countless nuances to this – public employees generally retire earlier than age 66, for example, which means they don’t qualify for as high a benefit as the comparisons made here would indicate. But early retirement also means fewer working years to set aside funds for the retirement benefit, and who doesn’t want to retire early? Many retired public employees who are still in their early 50′s collect pension incomes well in excess of social security, and are young enough to embark upon lengthy second careers.

Defenders of the public employee pension benefit – which is between 3.0x and 4.5x better than the social security benefit – claim there is little cost to the public for this disparity because most of the funds necessary to pay for this benefit are proceeds from investments by public employee pension funds, and not the burden of the taxpayer. There are several serious problems with this argument.

As argued in-depth with earlier posts, including Pension Funding and Rates of Return, The Razor’s Edge – Inflation vs. Deflation, Pension Rhetoric vs. Pension Reality, Sustainable Pension Fund Returns, California’s Personnel Costs, Maintaining Pension Solvency, and Real Rates of Return, the public employee pension funds have been overestimating how much they can earn on their funds. CalPERS still has an official projected rate of return of 4.75% after inflation. In the long term, it is unlikely CalPERS, or any other pension fund with hundreds of billions of invested assets, can earn an inflation-adjusted annual return of more than about half that. And if your fund earns half as much per year, without splitting hairs, it is roughly accurate to say your annual contribution rate to that fund has to double, in order for these defined retirement benefit promises to be met. This painful readjustment is happening now, and is one of the primary reasons our cities and counties are sliding into bankruptcy.

Another problem with this argument is the implication that investments of taxpayer sourced funds should yield returns to public employees, but not to taxpayers. Why are public employee pension funds pouring money into speculative investments, and showering the benefits of those investments onto the public sector workforce when the returns are good, then holding the taxpayer accountable to make up the difference when the returns are bad?

There’s more: Why are these quasi-government entities, using taxpayer’s money, being permitted to own shares in private sector corporations in the first place? Why aren’t more restrictions placed on the influence public employee controlled pension funds have on our corporations through becoming major shareholders? Isn’t this just another subtle but significant government encroachment on private property?

It’s important to note that the disparity between public sector pensions and social security is only one glaring example of the disparity in overall compensation between the public sector workforce and the private sector taxpayers. In most cases, public sector employees now make more in base pay than their counterparts in the private sector who have similar skills. They also receive more vacation time, sick leave, personal days, “comp” time, job security, annual cost-of-living increases, medical benefits, retirement medical benefits, auto allowances, low-interest loans, and more. The pension examples cited here, by the way, are conservative – they don’t take into account pension “spiking,” or the commonplace practice of fraudulently claiming additional disability benefits in retirement. There is a staggering cost for all this. The idea that we can continue to increase benefits to government employees, and finance this through increased indebtedness and higher taxes, is utterly unsustainable and morally bereft.

Ultimately the problem with public sector pensions goes beyond issues of financial sustainability, and like the entire compensation package public sector employees enjoy, becomes a question of fairness. For economic reasons, but also to be fair, the solution to government deficits is to lower the base pay and benefits to all public employees across the board.

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26 comments to Social Security Benefits vs. Public Pensions

  • Charles Sainte Claire

    Dear Mr. Ring

    I pay 5% into Pers and the State has traditionally paid about 15%. I would be more than happy to split that to 10% 10% to keep Calpers solvent, provided the State was not allowed to take pension “”holidays”. I think that would take care of most of the problem. The state doesn’t allow spiking.

  • Fred Gunther

    That’s not much of a concession. The majority of small businesses (who create most of the jobs in this country) do not contribute 10 percent of their employees annual salary to a pension or 401k fund. Your answer belies how out of touch you are with reality.

    If you want retirement, contribute like every employee in the private sector must do. Don’t expect the taxpayers to pay for your retirement it is not their responsibility.

  • I agree with Fred. The jobs in the private sector have proven to be much more volatile than a position in the state or county governments. Private sector workers have to look out for themselves by putting money away in the various IRA plans that exist. However, those have proven to be very risky themselves. My own IRA savings has been cut by at least a third of its total due to the recession, et al. When I started my working career, many private sector companies had a “pension” plan. That was long since halted, and all you had left was to invest in an IRA. We didn’t understand at the time what a loss to our retirement that was. Dial in the fact that alot of jobs have been outsourced, and sent overseas by these “American” companies, with no regard for those whose careers they had destroyed. I’m speaking about people like Carly Fiorina, who got bonuses for outsourcing and laying off thousands. I pray we don’t reward her more by voting her into some government office where she will be able to get a pension, paid for by the very people she put out of work.

  • Dan Burns

    Instead of getting mad at local, state and federal pension systems we ought to look to our employers for better compensation. It used to be that many larger private employers provided pension plans as well, also provided better contributions to 401K programs, now they all cry poor mouth yet continue to pay their CEO’s and upper management teams inflated salaries and compensations when the average worked is barely getting buy. You want people to retire well; they keep the economy going, spending their retirement on luxury buys such as RV’s, boats, trips and on their grandchildren. And quite frankly Social Security could operate a whole lot better, especially if we’d stop paying people who don’t contribute to it, and stop government from dipping into it every time there is a preserved need such as foreign wars and bail outs.

  • Ralph

    So I’ll hopefully be a social security recipient at age 66. I keep on hearing that this is an entitlement. I and my employer contribute approximately 13% of my income to this yearly. I can’t receive this until I am 66. Governement retirees can start receiving full pensions when they reach a certain # of years service,. Why is that not considered an entitlement and why isn’t the government threatening to cut these benefits. Some retirees start collecting this in their early 50′s.

  • boprn

    Charles makes a good point – splitting the cost difference and forcing the state into paying what it is supposed is a good idea.

    Fred on the other hand does not know how govt employees compensation works, therefore does not understand costs & savings associated with it. Of course this doesn’t stop him.

    Fred says “The majority of small businesses (who create most of the jobs in this country) do not contribute 10 percent of their employees annual salary to a pension”. Well Fred, you do. The social security, workman’s comp, unemployment insurance and so on add up to about (wait for it) 10%. Before you go saying the state contributes to all those (wait for it again) – it doesn’t for MOST employees. Instead the state puts money into CalPers where it grows and pays retirement benefits that have been compounded by market interest. The state later enjoys the jobs and income taxes generated by retirees spending that compounded retirement.

    An idea – how about we all realize that the pension catastrophe is one that was made for a reason. The reason is clear if you look for it. Just look under the rock of your nearest elected Republican.

  • steve

    Your math is incorrect sir. You wrote that a public employee could receive 132% of their pay at retirement. You didn’t do your homework, and your statement is completely false. The cap is 90%, you cannot exceed that.

    and what policeman or fireman works til they are 66??? there are a few chief officers that work the desk into their later years but only about 1%.

  • Editor

    Steve – the example was intended to be illustrative, not literal. Of course we don’t see public employees working until they’re 66, but don’t you see how THAT sounds? The rest of us work till we’re 66. Why can’t public safety employees who are past the age where they can chase down criminals or carry victims down a ladder just transfer to less strenuous jobs in their departments? Why can’t they go into forensics, or data-mining, or provide logistical backup, or do administrative work? And while there may be caps at 90% – frankly I’d like to see evidence of this, you could be right – what about “spiking,” where the 90% applies to a salary base that is well above the actual average salary the retiree had been earning in their final years of work?

    What is your overall point? Are you suggesting that public sector pensions, which accrue at anywhere between 2% to 3% per year, are NOT 3.0x to 4.5x better than what people with similar salary histories receive via social security?

  • boprn

    Ed,

    Here is something I posted on the SacBee. Wanted to get your thoughts on such an idea. It may appear out of context here, as it was in response to other posts…

    ——————
    Defined benefit pensions should be limited to a yearly ceiling of 100k/year. The employee/employer would contribute to the CalPERS system for the first 100k of pay per year. After 100k/year of pay, there would be no contribution by either the employee or employer. The employee would be free to put additional money into their own 401k or 457. It would provide fair pension benefits that would be capped. The 6% or so that the employee would normally put into CalPers for any amount over 100k can still be invested. Its a win for everyone, stabilizes the pension system, and makes a hybrid system as suggested by some watchdog groups – but it is only making a hybrid for the richest workers. The ‘regular’ employees would be protected by a traditional defined benefit pension.

  • Editor

    Boprn: The concept of having the hybrid model kick in at some pay threshold makes sense. I have never agreed with scrapping the defined benefit entirely – after all, even if you move every public employee onto social security, you are giving them a defined benefit of sorts. And as you say, not abandoning the pension system as it’s currently set up provides an opportunity to stabilize the fund instead of liquidating it. But the key challenge remains the required contribution rate as a percent of pay. This requires addressing additional variables – what inflation-adjusted rate of fund return is it realistic to project, and what accrual per year will be provided (2.0%, 3.0%, etc.). In-turn, you have to determine what portion of the annual fund contribution will be made via withholding vs. by the employer (taxpayer). So capping the amount of participation by employee based on a ceiling of $100K, or whatever, is a good idea to reduce financial exposure, but what do you think about these other factors?

  • boprn

    Ed,

    Glad you like the idea.

    \"what inflation-adjusted rate of fund return is it realistic to project\"

    I\’m sticking with CalPers best guess. The markets have produced at that rate, on average, since CalPers inception. Guessing the future is impossible. Of course I believe that that the markets will easily outpace the CalPers rate due to devaluation of the dollar.

    Accrual rates.

    Non safety 2.125% @60
    Safety 2.375% @55

    -Both with retirement vesting after 5 years.
    -Medical vesting after 10 years (50%) with full medical vesting after 20 years.
    -Would maintain the ability for military vets to convert 4 years service credit. Member pays for all costs.

    Contribution rates -

    They would vary depending on safety vs non safety. For non safety make it a 50/50 split. For safety make it a 33/67 split.

    On the 100k cap. I would adjust it for inflation going forward based on CPI. That said CPI numbers are manipulated, and that can make it an inexact science.

    Over the 100k cap, the member is still free to put away (tax deferred) into a 401/457 fund. There would be NO EMPLOYER MATCH. Since most govt employees have access to both 401/457, they can put away quite a bit. It really leaves it to the employee on how good of a retirement check they will have. There is the base amount coming from CalPers, but after that its on the employee. This provide financial stability for members, and the govt. It allows flexibility. It also provides a system where retirees don\’t end up dependent on some sort of welfare – costing tax payers again.

    Fair enough?

  • Ed

    Federal workers do not get a pension. They use to get a Civil Service Annuity where the program was eliminated by Reagan in the 80s. Employees were required to contribute 15% of the salary into a fully funded fund. Employees had to contribute into the system for 25 years to be vested. If they worked less than 25 years, they got a zero annuity and zero Social Security benefit for the time they worked.

    Approximately, 50% of the federal workforce is considering part time. They are laid off one day each year to be kept in part time status. They only get Social Security benefits even though they may worked for the federal government more than 30 years.

    While salary and pensions in California seem high compared to a poor state like Texas, the cost of living and housing prices are very high. How does one buy a house in many areas making $65K a year when a starter house costs $700K. Maybe so-called conservatives should lower housing costs another 80%

  • Editor

    Ed: I would be interested in reviewing the sources for some of the claims you are making about retirement security for federal workers. As far as the price of homes – this is a familiar argument put forth by public worker unions. “We need to ensure that our teachers and firefighters can afford to live in the communities they serve.” In places like California, the problem with that reasoning has long been simply this: NOBODY can afford to live in these communities. That reality was deferred through zero-down, low introductory rate loans, and because so many people fell for that scam, housing prices that were already too high got even higher. Read the latest post for ideas how to fix this:
    http://civfi.com/2011/01/18/how-to-revive-californias-economy/

    The premise is this – deregulation and lower taxes will LOWER the cost of living. The irony is profound: Public employees could afford to live well on less money, if they made less money.

  • Rex The Wonder Dog!

    While salary and pensions in California seem high compared to a poor state like Texas, the cost of living and housing prices are very high. How does one buy a house in many areas making $65K a year when a starter house costs $700K. Maybe so-called conservatives should lower housing costs another 80%
    ================
    Oh brother- I want to live on 5th Ave in Manhatten, so if I work at McDonalds there, do they have to pay a wage that allows me to live there???? Please. Or what if I work at Starbucks in Bel Air, do they have to pay me a wage that allows me to live in Bel Air??

    Your comment is so ridiculous and easy to shoot down it is like taking candy from a baby.

    The median wage in the state is $33K, that is far below the median gov wage of $59K. Stop whining. If you want to live in CA, go to school and get an education that allows you to earn an income to live where YOU think you deserve to live.

    No one owes you a home in CA, or anywhere else.

  • boprn

    Ed
    January 21, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    Federal workers do not get a pension.
    ———

    Why o why are people allowed to post misinformation?

    The federal defined benefit pension was reduced in the 1980′s from 2% per year to 1% a year. With this change came the addition of the TSP (thrift savings plan) which is much like a 401k. The employee can contribute to it, tax deferred, and the employer (fed govt) matches. Forget what the match goes up to.

    The police/fire at fed level is at 1.7%/year. You must do a COMPLETE 20 years to get that 1.7%/year. If you were to do, say..10 years, you would be reverted back to the 1%/year.

    Ed (Ed R… I mean)….how come you let people post things that are not true, or at least correct what they posted? I gave up on this site a while back due to the bold faced lies posted by some. If you were to address the posters who are here trolling, you may get a better clientele. You know, the Rex’s and TL’s of the world.

  • Editor

    Boprn: It’s hard to fact check everything that gets posted – ok, I could do that, but it’s a slippery slope, since “facts” themselves are often open to debate. After all, don’t the big storms this week in America’s northeast (and Australia’s northeast, for that matter) “prove” that humans are causing global warming?

    In any event, when “Ed” posted the comment “Federal workers do not get a pension.” I immediately questioned that – in the very next comment you will see I asked him “Ed: I would be interested in reviewing the sources for some of the claims you are making about retirement security for federal workers.” When a commenter states something that seems a bit far fetched, and that was, I encourage them to provide links to the data they are referencing. That seemed sufficient to me. I do delete comments that are completely off topic – such as when the insults start flying without even some substantial point of fact or logic included.

  • Jim

    Quick everyone race to the bottom.

    If we as a people don’t all start hanging together against these multinational corporations who are manipulating everything, we will most assuredly hang separately.

  • Mike

    Taxpayers should never be on the hook for any pension plan- PERIOD. Everyone should be in the Social Security System, especially all government employees. Why should they be excluded and leave the rest of us to support all of society’s unfortunates and dead weight?

  • Rex The Wonder Dog!

    Quick everyone race to the bottom.

    ===================
    No, it is a race for the public sector employees to the bottom of the private sectors pockets.

  • Samr

    This article is a pretty bad and blatant misrepresentation of the facts.

    See :
    http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/27/~/how-pensions-affect-your-social-security-benefit

    how does the 132% pension payout of a public sector employee getting no or little ss benefit compare with a private sector employee collecting a pension AND social security benefits that are not impacted by the pension?

  • Editor

    Samr;
    If everyone in the U.S. had pensions, I suppose you would have more of a point. But as it is, only about 20% of private sector workers in the U.S. have pensions in addition to their social security. And the pensions they receive aren’t anywhere near as generous as public sector pensions. On the other hand, in California, for example, 40% of the state and local government workers also receive social security.

    As for this question: “how does the 132% pension payout of a public sector employee getting no or little ss benefit compare with a private sector employee collecting a pension AND social security benefits that are not impacted by the pension?,” I assume you are referring to this paragraph in the article:

    “A public safety employee who enters the workforce at age 22, works for 44 years, makes $65K per year, and retires on their 66th birthday – earning a 3.0% per year pension factor – will qualify for a pension equivalent to 132% of their final salary, based on 3.0% per year times 44 years worked. This equates to a monthly benefit of $7,150, or $85,800 per year, a retirement income 4.5 times better than what a social security recipient would earn after working the same number of years and earning the same amount of money.”

    Are you kidding? Social security recipients get, on average, about 33% of their working salary when they retire. Public sector employees get, on average, get a pension equivalent to about 66% of their working salary when they retire – twice as much. And since public sector employees on average earn a salary that is 50% greater than the average private sector salary, their pensions, on average, are MORE than twice as much as the average social security benefit. And again, using California as an example (I don’t know the figures for other states), 40% of public sector workers ALSO get social security, and only 20% of private sector workers get a pension in addition to social security.

  • Mike Runner

    Aren’t we comparing apples to oranges? For those people who receive a pension through their 401K, the social security is ‘extra’ and a good portion of it will be taxed back.

    So really we are looking at people who receive only social security as an income versus those who receive a public employment pension. In this case it’s unrealistic to expect social security to come anywhere near the pension levels.

  • Editor

    The point of this article is to compare taxpayer funded retirement benefits. Taxpayers, collectively, support social security as well as public sector pensions. When you isolate these two versions of taxpayer funded benefits, several points emerge:

    - Total social security payments to 80% of the retired population is roughly EQUAL to total public worker pension payments to the other 20% (many nuances here, for example, because government workers retire early, they are on track to represent 30% of the retired population even though they are only about 20% of the working population)

    - Public sector pension funds ARE 401Ks. They are giant 401Ks. The fact they are professionally managed and are so big is actually contributing to market instability, because they are making massive, high-risk investments in a desperate attempt to maintain their 7.75% projected rate of return. This is unsustainable and was a contributing factor to the asset bubble and subsequent crash – and they are continuing this behavior.

    - The taxpayer covers the downside risk of government worker pensions, yet receives social security benefits that on average are 1/5th the value of government worker pensions.

    - If the argument for government worker pensions is that investment returns cover most of the cost (and this is no longer true, if it ever was), why aren’t ALL taxpayer funded retirement benefits, i.e., social security AND public sector pensions, invested in the market? The answer, of course, is that such a move would create even more chaos and instability in our investment markets, and turn over an even greater share of national wealth over to Wall Street gamblers.

    - The social security fund can be made solvent simply by incrementally increasing the rate of payroll withholding, possibly lowering benefits slightly, implementing means-testing, and raising the cap on withholding. Social security is fundamentally solvent because it has a pay-as-you-go funding model. Government worker pensions, on the other hand, will be revealed to be totally insolvent as soon as the pension fund managers admit they cannot earn a real rate of return of 4.75% per year (most of them currently project 7.75% per year with a 3.0% per year inflation assumption). And even if they could do this, they would be doing it by pulling profits out of the market at the expense of individual investors.

    It is quite interesting that government workers (and their unions) are the accomplices of Wall Street, with their pension funds acting as Wall Street’s collection agent, yet they blame Wall Street for the economic mess we are in. It is ironic that government workers (and their unions) embrace a big-government agenda that undermines the health and growth of the private sector, yet they count on profits in the private sector to translate into equity values increasing by 7.75% per year to fund their pensions.

    The biggest problem with public sector pensions, and the agenda of government worker unions, is that instead of trying to advocate – using their overwhelmingly dominant political and financial power – policies that will LOWER the cost of living through smart deregulation and smaller government, they are only using their political muscle to negotiate ever higher pay and benefits for themselves. That is, their political agenda creates a higher cost of living, then they use their political power to compensate themselves accordingly, but leave the rest of the workers to suffer higher costs with stagnant compensation. There is a win-win model here, but they ignore it. Could it be because these special interests, the government worker unions, are in cahoots with the crony capitalists who want more regulation so they can squelch competition, and the Wall Street bankers who use their financial chicanery to siphon profits out of the market and kill off small investors?

    Food for thought, Mike.

  • Mike

    In Ohio school employees pay 10% and the LOCAL school board pays 12% into the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System (STRS, which are earned compensations. STRS holds about 75 Billion dollars due to investments and diligent management of funds. The state of Ohio on the other hand has a deficit of about 20 billion dollars due to poor Management and unearned entitlements given to many who have never worked, yet the state insists on telling STRS how to manage their system. In the 90′s when the private sector was earning matching funds, stock options, bonuses, etc. no one wanted to be a teacher, in fact President Clinton started a program just to recruit young people in to the teaching profession. Teachers require a high level of education, an extreme amount of patients and understanding and a passion for the job they do.

    If you think you are paying to much for your kids teacher then consider this: the average cost of educating a public school student is about $9,000 a year. Take a look at your property tax bill for last year and compare that with what it costs to educate the number of kids you have multiplied by $9,000 each. The difference between what you pay in property taxes and what your three kids cost ($27,000 per year)is made up by private and business property owners in your school district who have no children.

    One last thing, you want to go for low cost then lets cut out all the extra curricular activities. I know we think we are entitled to them and that the district employees should just manage all of them as part of their jobs, but consider this: other countries like Germany have no HS football, cheerleaders etc. I guess we have choices to make.

  • Jack Taxpayer

    Good try Mike. I can’t speak to Ohio public school teacher compensation, but if it is anything like California, the reason we have budget deficits is because teachers make too much. In California, the AVERAGE K-12 teacher’s salary is nearly $70,000 per year. To work 180 days per year, and retire after 30 years with a pension equivalent to 75% of their FINAL salary. Are you kidding?

    As for your comment about the STRS fund being “diligently” managed, your comment reflects a naivete that is common among participants in public sector pensions, and even among the union leadership who “negotiated” these supposedly sustainable benefits. What is the projected long-term rate of return for your STRS funds? It is probably nearly 8% per year, or 5% per year after adjusting downwards for inflation (the “real” rate of return). These pension funds are now trying to maintain that rate of return through hedge funds – which leverage their investments, basically increasing the risk of a very low return in exchange for shooting for a much higher return. Because most hedge funds get their money from public sector pension funds, they are scooping money out of the market (one hedge fund wins, another loses), which increases the instability of our markets, helped blow up the asset bubble that is still deflating, and crowds out small investors such as those of us who aren’t lucky enough to be among the anointed, super-entitled, unionized public employees.

    And to tie these first two thoughts together, when you take a person who makes nearly $70,000 per year, and also pay them (remember, 75% of final salary) an average pension of over $60,000 per year during their 30 years of retirement, because these STRS funds are NOT going to deliver 8% returns, your real required annual pension fund contribution as a percent of salary becomes nearly 50%. Add to that the health benefits and you have a total annual compensation for a public school teacher in California of about $110K per year. When you consider that those of us in the real world work 50 weeks per year, compared to a teacher who works maybe 35 weeks per year, and normalize for the 15 weeks of extra work, the true annualized total compensation of a public school teacher in California is nearly $160K per year. This is a crime against taxpayers. Period.

    As for your claim that it costs $9,000 per year to educate a public school student – the very idea is ludicrous. Even if that actually were the cost, today, to educate a public school student in, say, Ohio, it doesn’t mean it has to cost that much. The reason we need small class sizes is because the teacher’s union has pushed for policies that deliberately undermine the ability to manage a classroom, such as “mainstreaming” learning disabled and disruptive students. The union also makes it impossible to fire poor teachers, which, all else being equal, means you need smaller classes to hopefully get a better educational outcome. If you paid teachers a salary commensurate with their ability and the hours they work, plus enlarged classrooms by putting disruptive students in reform schools and learning disabled students in special schools (thus gaining economies of scale and keeping costs even for these challenged students in line with the costs for normal kids), you could probably drop the cost per year to educate a student by 2/3rds. And as you may know, there is very little correlation between the amount of money we spend on public education and the educational outcomes.

  • BoxerRob

    Only one blip above on the H-bomb fact here. A big chunk of public sector retirement pensioners collect social security checks also. Most via spousal status. Some had side jobs which collected SS taxes. It only takes a few years of working to qualify for SS. States are required by fed law to coordinate benefits for such double qualified folks. State compliance is very poor.