Author Archives: America Today
Fred DuVal, candidate for governor of Arizona for the party that wants to completely CONTROL your life, is taking a page out of the Soviet/Barack Obama playbook. He’s calling on Arizona to move “forward” by electing him.
“Forward” has deep historical and political context. The slogan “Forward!” was originated by European Marxists and radicals. It was to reflect the march of history, right past capitalism and into socialism and communism.
Another Marxist, Barack Hussein Obama, has used the “forward” lingo as well.
Furthermore: Vladimir Lenin founded the publication “Vpered” (the Russian word for “forward”) in 1905. Soviet film-maker Dziga Vertov produced a propaganda documentary titled, “Forward, Soviet.”
America has collected enough evidence to know better. The socialists and Marxists have moved us backwards. In fact, they have us pointing in reverse — through their control of the lives of millions of people in numerous cities and states, and the control they exert over media, schools, colleges, institutions and foundations. They want to punish, to marginalize you just for disagreeing with them.
Don’t be fooled. Do not vote for comrade DuVal, who doesn’t really have a clue about advancing us forward as a state or a culture.
The Navajo Nation Council’s Naabik’iyátí’ Committee has endorsed socialist Fred DuVal, representing the party of CONTROL for Arizona governor. This is hardly surprising, but it is sad that Native Americans continue to support the socialists who have kept them on a cycle of dependency, economic stagnation and hopelessness for decade after decade. The last thing Native Americans need is more socialist policies and more dependency on government.
Indian reservations are pockets of poverty where unemployment, social problems, and alcoholism abound. If the party of CONTROL was actually helping Native Americans we would have seen changes for the better by now. But reservation life and the problems that grip them have changed little since the 20th century.
No, Fred DuVal will not change that.
But Fred DuVal – if elected governor – will do his best impersonation of Barack Hussein Obama. That will be disastrous for men, women and children in Arizona.
It will be wonderful for Planned Parenthood and for those who benefit from Arizona’s over-spending of money it doesn’t have. We will likely see more of what happened under fellow traveler Janet Napolitano: gimmicks, smoke and mirrors and unsustainable spending and debt.
And speaking of Planned Parenthood, DuVal is already campaigning for youths to do end-runs around parental consent laws protecting under-age girls from the profit-driven abortion mills.
DuVal and Democrats talk a good education game. But public education has gone down, down, downhill because of their over-influence on K-12, public colleges and universities and the governing boards that control them.
If DuVal is elected in November, you can kiss prosperity good-bye. You will work longer into the year before you stop working for “Uncle Fred” and can begin keeping your own money to spend on your family’s needs. Fred will be fantastic for Big Government, Big out of control Government in your face.
The party of CONTROL will step all over the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Its members do whatever they think they can get away with. The socialists are taking our country and our culture down. We are not progressing as a nation, and it’s because of them.
Sadly, there are also too many Republicans who are running Left and that is to the state’s detriment.
Vote for FREEDOM.
Just heard on the radio that several school board elections have been cancelled in Arizona. That’s because there are so many uncontested elections. Which is to the detriment of Arizona and its students. There are too many leftists serving on, some entrenched on, our school boards, advocating for the same old wrong-headed policies that promote political correctness over real learning and education.
Also in the news lately: Jeff Scott of Phoenix Radio 1100 A.M. crowed about Arizona’s three large state universities all ranking in the top 30 of the latest LGBT university ratings. Speaking of PC over-riding real education and learning! That is sad.
Think of how students struggling with same-sex attraction and gender confusion would actually be helped if this was the newscast: Arizona ranks high nationally as a leading provider of counseling for those struggling with gender and sexuality issues.
Proposition recommendations by Americans for Prosperity Arizona Chapter:
- YES on Arizona Proposition 122: Rejection of Unconstitutional Federal Actions — Prop 122 will provide Arizonans with a way to protect themselves from overreaching and harmful federal policies. AFP-Arizona strongly endorses Prop 122.
- YES on Arizona Proposition 303: Use of Investigational Drugs, Biomedical Products and Devices — Prop 303 would allow terminally ill patients in Arizona to procure experimental drugs that have not completed the full FDA trial process (but have been deemed safe by FDA). AFP-Arizona strongly encourages citizens to vote YES on Prop 303 to protect the health and safety of terminally ill patients and strike a blow for the freedom of individuals to make their own health care decisions.
- NO on Maricopa County Proposition 480 - Prop 480 would spend $935 million to fund new and updated facilities for the Maricopa Integrated Health Systems. If passed, the proposition would result in a significant property tax increase, especially on small businesses. A typical small business with $1 million in assessed valuation will end up paying $7,800 for this bond measure. Maricopa County taxpayers already greatly subsidize health care for the less fortunate, and there are already sufficient health care options, including vast private hospital systems, available to Maricopa County residents. Prop 480 has little accountability for how the money is used, and it would subsidize government health facilities in unfair competition with private health care enterprises.
- NO on Pima County Proposition 415 – Prop 415 would issue $22 million in bonds for the expansion and renovation of the Pima Animal Care Facility. Pima County taxpayers are already being subjected to a property tax levy increase of $45 million, or approximately $50 on a typical house, and the Animal Care Center has already received a $1 million increase in its operating budget for expanded shelter operations, medical treatment, and spay/neuter programs.
- YES on City of Phoenix Proposition 487 - Prop 487 would solve the City’s nearly $1.5 billion unfunded pension liability problem by moving new employees to a plan similar to the 401k plans that are common in the private sector. Prop 487 would fix the City’s scandalous $190 million pension spiking problem by limiting the excess pension benefits given to current employees.
By John Semmens – Semi-News — A Satirical Look at Recent News
The U.S. troops President Obama has ordered into West Africa to help in the battle against Ebola are receiving a scant 4 hours of training about the virus. Soldiers who have had the training have characterized it as “frightening.” “We will be exposed with minimal protective gear.” “If you get it you’ll probably die a horrible death.” “It’s far worse than getting shot or even blown up.”
United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) spokeswoman Caree Vander-Linden insisted that the skimpy training was “appropriate for the mission. We’re basically trying to warn the troops to be cautious, to not take undue risks. It’s not that much different than the more typical training teaching them how to avoid being a casualty of enemy attacks.”
Of course, the typical training related to enemy action is usually measured in months rather than hours and is more inherently connected to the normal military mission. Nevertheless, Vander-Linden asserted that “the ability of our armed forces to cope with emerging non-traditional threats is part of President Obama’s planned transformation of America. This projected battle against Ebola will serve as good experience for troops when they are asked to take on the even greater threat of global climate change.”
The inadequate training being given to the troops didn’t dissuade a trio of Democratic Representatives from urging that these troops give direct care to Ebola patients. Reps. Keith Ellison (Minn), Karen Bass (Calif), and Barbara Lee (Calif) contend that “only by putting US troops on the front line of danger can our nation begin to make a down payment on the reparations we owe for slavery. A key byproduct of the exposure to our troops will be an enhanced incentive to increase funding for the CDC to help find a cure. As long as the vast majority of the victims are Africans the American people can afford to remain relatively indifferent. But when their sons and daughters are suffering and dying from this virus their attitudes will change.”
President Dispatches Seasoned Political Operatives to Stem Ebola Crisis
President Obama took decisive action on the growing Ebola crisis this week by appointing two well-traveled political operatives to key roles. On the national front, he named Ron Klain his special Ebola Czar. At the same time, he tabbed Adrian Saenz to manage events on the ground in Dallas—site of America’s “patient zero.”
The fact that neither man has any expertise in any medical field, much less in infectious diseases, took many observers by surprise. Republican Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas called the appointments “puzzling. When I called for the naming of an Ebola czar I thought the fact that a person selected should have the appropriate medical background would go without saying. Boy was I wrong. The President has chosen to address this grave health situation by deploying a pair of Democrat political hacks. I fail to see how this will help.”
Klain has most recently been Chief-of-Staff for Vice-President Biden. He also has experience as a lobbyist and was instrumental in securing a half-billion dollar government subsidy for the failed Solyndra solar panel company. Saenz has most recently served as Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and has also worked for numerous Democratic Congressional candidates.
Presidential Press Secretary Josh Earnest attempted to bridge the credibility gap by emphasizing that “the medical issues are a minor technical aspect of the larger picture. What the President and the country needs even more desperately is someone who can work to restore the people’s faith in their government. These men are skilled in crafting messages that resonate with average Americans, as is amply demonstrated in their previous success in helping elect Democrats to office.”
In related news, Earnest tried to explain Center for Disease Control Director Tom Frieden’s seemingly incoherent assertion that a person can’t get Ebola from riding on a bus, but could give it to someone else on a bus. “Getting people to use public transit is critical to our policy of diverting people from driving their own cars.” Earnest said. “Reassuring bus riders is a crucial part of stemming a stampede out of public transit. The odds of an uninfected person encountering an Ebola carrier on a bus are small. So a person shouldn’t shun using a bus out of an irrational fear. On the other hand, a person who is infected shouldn’t wantonly expose others. So, yeah, if you suspect you may have Ebola, don’t use public transit. It makes perfect sense to me.”
Houston Persists in Effort to Stifle Speech
Though the City of Houston has backed off its demand for local area ministers to submit copies of their Sunday sermons to the City’s attorneys, it is now demanding copies of any non-sermon speeches they may have made.
Mayor Annise Parker, Houston’s first openly lesbian mayor, defended this blatant invasion of freedom of speech, arguing that “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) is the law of this land. No one is entitled to speak out against the law, especially not church leaders.”
“Churches have special exemptions from government taxes,” Parker pointed out. “As a quid-pro-quo for this benefit they ought to respect and teach respect for the duly enacted laws of the community—you know ‘render unto Caesar’ and all that. The City has a right to ferret out those who have violated this quid-pro-quo so that targeted corrective action to revoke these special exemptions may be undertaken where warranted. The requested copies of speeches will help the City distinguish which churches have violated their obligations under these exemptions.”
First Lady Frustrated in Efforts to Motivate Democrat Voters
First Lady Michelle Obama showed signs of increasing impatience with the Democrats’ voter base in her efforts to drum up enthusiasm for the Party’s candidates. “Too many of the voters who helped put Barack in office seem to be asleep at the wheel for these mid-term races,” she complained.
Michelle speculated that “poor diet may play an even bigger role than we thought. I mean, if a person is overweight feasting on junk food, getting up to go to the polls and vote may be too daunting a task. We’ve done all we could to try to eliminate impediments to voting. More voters than ever had been freed from having their time taken up having to go to a job to earn a living. We give them public housing, food stamps, even free cell phones. Why can’t they make the minimal effort to give Democrats their vote?”
In related news, another court struck down another state’s voter ID requirement. In this case, the Arkansas Supreme Court negated a state law requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls. “It is hard enough to get the indolent segment of the population to make the effort to vote,” the court ruled. “Requiring them to show the same type of ID they must show to purchase liquor is an intolerable and unnecessary burden. Not taking the voter’s word that he is who he claims to be is an unconstitutional infringement on the right to vote.”
Guatemalan President Blames US for Illegal Immigration from His Country
Guatemalan President Otto Perez says the recent influx of illegal immigration to the US from Central American nations is America’s fault.
“Look, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvadore are veritable cesspools,” Perez admitted. “Who wouldn’t want to leave? Compare this to welfare obtainable in the United States if you are poor and you have a strong motivation to try to get there. With President Obama’s open border policies its practically an invitation to make the arduous journey north.”
As an alternative to mass migration, Perez suggested that “more generous foreign aid to our counties in the south could dampen the need for us to export our excess poor. First, if there are meaningful financial rewards for our government officials the incentive to take steps to discourage this traffic will be enhanced. Second, if we distribute a small share of the foreign aid in the form of benefits to our impoverished citizens perhaps they will see less need to try to escape the deploring conditions in our countries.”
“The ball is in your court Mr. Obama,” Perez taunted. “Pay us now or bear the consequences later.”
US War on ISIL Gets Name
After several weeks of debate on what the US bombing campaign against ISIL ought to be called, the Obama Administration has settled on “Operation Inherent Resolve.”
Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey explained that “though the phrase has been dubbed ‘squishy’ by some, it embodies a basic truth about the campaign. We are trying to tread a fine line here. Those favoring the annihilation of these terrorists are urging us to go outside the bounds of the President’s thinking. The President wants an accommodation with Islam. The fear is that if we annihilate these jihadis we will alienate a billion Muslims around the globe.”
“The aim, as President Obama has clearly stated on numerous occasions, is to ‘degrade’ ISIL, not destroy it,” Dempsey declared. “If ISIL were destroyed there would be no authority left with which we could reach an accommodation. A plan to destroy ISIL could have been described as ‘explicit resolve.’ However, the more complex objective of holding back our response to keep it within the parameters of the President’s philosophy implies a sort of resolve. So, the ‘inherent resolve’ is the best compromise moniker we could come up with.””
Colorado Governor Plays “Extortion Card” in Bid for Reelection
Unfavorable trends in recent polls have spurred Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper (D) to threaten to release mass murderer Nathan Dunlap from prison if he is defeated in the November 4th election. Nathan Dunlap killed four people at an Aurora Chuck E Cheese restaurant in 1993.
“If I am reelected I’ll be too busy with other work to have the time to commute his sentence and let him out of prison, “Hickenlooper said. “Should voters turn me out, though, well, I probably won’t be too busy to consider commuting the sentences of Dunlap and other long-suffering inmates of our state prison system.”
University Officials Crack Down on Free Speech
University officials at Southern Oregon University (SOU) threatened students with disciplinary action for having the temerity to pass out copies of the US Constitution on campus last week.
“Freedom of speech is not without limits in our society,” according to SOU Director of Student Housing, Tim Robitz. “If the students who want to hand out copies of the Constitution would only read the document they’d see that it is Congress that shall make no law abridging freedom of speech. There is no mention of the SOU administration in that document. So we are not similarly prohibited from abridging this freedom if we deem it necessary.”
“The fact that the University has set aside a special free speech zone in a designated location on campus shows that we have done more than we have to to facilitate the rantings of the discontented,” Robitz contended. “Complaints from malcontents that the designated space is small and inconveniently off the main pathway demonstrate a lack of gratitude for the privileges we have extended to them.”
Robitz also criticized “the arrogance of those who assume that right is on their side. Not everyone is a fan of free speech. Many students have come to me to express their fear of being confronted with discomforting political points of view. Don’t they have an equal right to be protected from having to listen?”
NIH Deflects Criticism of Spending Priorities
GOP critics of government priorities in how tax dollars are spent have latched onto the National Institutes of Health investment in studying why lesbians are fat as a sign of the agency’s poor judgment.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex) says “the more we learn about the decisions made by this Administration, the worse it sounds. Back in 2008 the incoming Obama Administration was advised that it should take stronger measures against a possible Ebola pandemic. Instead, they divert scarce resources to studies like this.”
NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins defended the allocation of resources. “The number of obese lesbians in this country easily exceeds the number of Ebola patients,” Collins observed. “Using our limited resources toward efforts to serve this larger cohort doesn’t seem out of line to me.”
“On top of this, let’s not forget that even for those who have contracted the Ebola virus the suffering is relatively brief,” Collins asserted. “On the other hand, obesity is often a lifelong problem that can produce decades of mental anguish and physical and emotional pain. So, no, I don’t think the NIH’s priorities are out of whack and I deplore the political opportunism of those who would like to make it appear as if they are.”
A Satirical Look at Recent News
John Semmens is a retired economist who has written a weekly political satire column for The Arizona Conservative since 2005. He says working on his satires is one of the ways he tries to honor the liberties that our nation’s Founding Fathers tried to protect.
Please do us a favor. If you use material created by The Arizona Conservative, give us credit, and DO NOT change the context. Thank you.
The Arizona Conservative has just withdrawn its endorsement of Republican Mark Brnovich, candidate for Arizona attorney general. Brnovich just issued a statement in support of judicial activism and same-sex “marriage”:
“Today’s court order and recent rulings that preceded it have voided Arizona’s voter-approved definition of marriage. State and local officials now have an obligation to put aside politics and personal feelings and uphold the law in accordance with the court’s decision.”
This is clearly NOT the type of attorney general we need. Instead of capitulating to radical leftists who did an end-run around the people — and 1.2 million voters who enacted marriage as one man and one woman — Brnovich has shown that if elected AG he will not fight the radical Left, but will instead roll over and go along with the radicals.
Arizona deserves better. We need an attorney general who will fight the same radical interests which have captured the Democratic Party. Once again, we see another Republican candidate more intent on corralling Democrat votes than party base Republicans.
Furthermore, the state and local officials Brnovich urges to set personal feelings aside have been thrown to the wind. Among those public officials are Christians who believe same-sex “marriage” is sin and who have First Amendment protection against having to issue wedding licenses and perform same-sex “weddings.” State officials need to recognize and protect religious freedom and the Constitution — now more than ever after today’s stunning judicial activism by Judge Sedwick.
We regret having endorsed Brnovich and strongly repudiate his capitulation to the Far Left and activist Judge Sedwick. We need an attorney general who will fight for justice.
The out of control, tyrannical, activist courts are … out of control, tyrannical and activist again!
Voters, you’ve been had!
U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick has thrown out all the 2008 votes that enacted a state constitutional marriage amendment recognizing marriage as the union of one man and one woman. He ruled that a recent decision by the Ninth Circus appeals court to redefine marriage applies to Arizona.
This is un-American. Arizonans should be outraged!
There is no place in a court of law for activists like Judge Sedwick or any of the other judicial activists who have been destroying marriage in recent months by overturning the will of millions of Americans who defined marriage in fair and honest elections. These judges need to be impeached or voted out.
What will follow is blatant fascism by homosexual activists and their friends in the political party they’ve captured – the Democratic Party. Christians and non-Christians alike who define marriage as one man and one woman will be punished merely for disagreeing with same-sex “marriage” and special rights for people struggling with same-sex attraction and gender confusion.
We are already seeing this all across the country. And this is why the Arizona Legislature passed 1062 earlier this year to strengthen protections for Arizonans who don’t want to be forced to endorse behavior they disapprove of. Of course, we remember that homosexual pressure groups, along with their cowardly media friends running cover for them, intimidated the bejabbers out of Governor Jan Brewer and stampeded her into vetoing the bill.
With the latest activist antics in Judge Sedwick’s court, we can now expect people to lose their jobs over refusal to perform same-sex weddings. Photographers, florists, bakers, and others involved in wedding venues can now be severely punished and harassed by left-wing local and state office holders for not agreeing to endorse the message of same-sex marriage. It’s happened from the Atlantic coast to Hawaii. Why wouldn’t it happen here?
A run-away, out of control government will come down with all of its weight and fury on honest people following their consciences. Some will be fined and burdened by unconstitutional demands. Others will be forced out of business. They will receive hate mail, hateful phone calls, and threats. It will be a feeding frenzy for those on the radical Left.
You see, same-sex “marriage” and religious freedom cannot co-exist. Non-discrimination laws and radical left-wing dogma will over-rule the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the Founding Fathers who wrote the First Amendment. The Bill of Rights means absolutely nothing to the Left.
This is a sad day in Arizona. A black day.
In November of 2008, a total of 1,258,355 Arizonans voted to enact marriage as one man and one woman in the state Constitution. A single man, a man with incredible hubris, threw that out. This is the America we live in today. It is not the America of James Madison and the Founders who penned the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Not by a long shot.
We are not alone. This is happening all over America. Tens of millions of voters have been disenfranchised.
And this is the cost of allowing the party of CONTROL, the Democrats, to pack the courts with Constitution-challenged activist judges.
All that’s left is for radical scavengers to clean up the scraps – demonizing anyone who disagrees. Take our word: persecution is coming, fascism will warp into high gear among Arizona’s hardcore leftists. You disagree with the homosexual agenda? Okay, consider yourself a target for the fascists.
A final word to Judge Sedwick and the other activists who have co-opted the courts and disenfranchised the people: when you come to a gate in the road, before removing it take time to consider why it was put there in the first place.
* * *
VITALLY IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR CHURCHES AND PASTORS
It is crucial you update church policy on rental of church facilities to protect yourselves from litigation when someone asks you to officiate over a same-sex “wedding” or to rent church property for a same-sex “marriage.” Consult an attorney with expertise in religious freedom law. Don’t wait. Do it now!
VITALLY IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR BUSINESSES
If you are asked to provide a service or a product for a same-sex “wedding,” and you are opposed to doing so on religious grounds, do not respond to the homosexuals’ request until first consulting an attorney. This will help you avoid a legal entanglement that could land you in hot water or potentially force you to go out of business. Don’t wait. Do it now!
The Arizona Conservative is endorsing candidates for public office in the Grand Canyon State in advance of the November 4 general elections. Voters have two choices: candidates who will champion FREEDOM for the individual and those who will push policies that deny and reduce personal freedoms – the candidates of socialism and excessive government CONTROL of your life. Whom do you want in office? Those who will protect your constitutional freedom, or those who would expand government and take away more and more of your freedom, controlling more and more of your life? Your vote will impact every facet of American society and culture. Please make informed and intelligent decisions. Vote on values and principle, not on personalities and negative advertising. Compare what candidates actually say and how they have legislated previously; if you do this, you will find that many candidates from the party of CONTROL will not be as truthful.
|Governor||Doug Ducey||Fred DuVal|
|Secretary of State||Terry Goddard|
|Attorney General||Republican candidate removed for supporting same-sex “marriage”||Felicia Rotellini|
|State Treasurer||Jeff DeWitt|
|Supt. Of Public Instruction||Diane Douglas||David Garcia|
|Mining Inspector||Joe Hart||Manuel Cruz|
|Congress-District 1||Ann Kirkpatrick|
|Congress-District 2||Martha McSally||Ron Barber|
|Congress-District 3||Gabriela Saucedo Mercer||Raul Grijalva|
|Congress-District 4||Paul Gosar||Mikel Weisser|
|Congress-District 5||Matt Salmon|
|Congress-District 6||David Schweikert|
|Congress-District 7||Steve Gallardo, Cesar Chavez|
|Congress-District 8||Trent Franks||Helmuth Hack|
|Congress-District 9||Wendy Rogers||Kyrsten Sinema|
House: Karen Fann
Senate: Connie Uribe
Senate: Kelli Ward
Senate: Sylvia Allen
House: Brenda Barton
Senate: Irene Littleton
Senate: Steve Smith
House: Vince Leach, Mark Finchem
Senate: Andy Biggs
House: Eddie Farnsworth, Warren Peterson
Senate: Don Shooter
House: Darin Mitchell, Steve Montenegro
Senate: Gail Griffin
House: David Gowan, David Stevens
Senate: Nancy Barto
House: John Allen
Senate: David Farnsworth
House: Kelly Townsend
SenateA Steve Yarbrough
House: J.D. Mesnard, Jeff Weninger
House: Jill Norgaard
Senate: Joseph Hobbs
Senate: Kimberly Yee
House: Paul Boyer
Senate: Debbie Lesko
House: Rick Gray
Senate: Judy Burges
House: David Livington, Phil Lovas
Senate: John Kavanaugh
House: Jay Lawrence, Michelle Ugenti
House: Rusty Bowers, Justin Olsen
House: Shawna Bolick
Senate: Gary Cox
The Phoenix City Retirement Plan cost taxpayers $28 million in 2000 while it cost $110 million in the 2012 fiscal year and $253 million in 2013. In the face of this ballooning of city pension costs, Phoenix voters overwhelmingly approved two propositions that reformed the retirement system of city employees, Proposition 201 and 202, in 2013. Supporters argue that the measure will save millions of dollars for the city in the long-run and will put a stop to exorbitant pension payouts caused by pension spiking. Supporters also argue that Prop. 487 will provide a stable, sustainable retirement system to new employees and any current employees that wish to switch to the new system. Many are worried that the current system is unsustainable and will drag the city into bankruptcy, following the fate of cities like Detroit and San Bernardino.
Phoenix city councilmen who support Prop 487 said …
|“||I am a strong supporter of pension reform, and you should be, too. Facts: 50 Phoenix retirees will be getting $183 million by the time they are 75. A librarian took $280,000 in cash at retirement, and then started a pension of $102,000 per year. This creates strain on public safety, senior services and libraries. The initiative is not perfect, but it does two things: First, it ends all forms of pension spiking. Second, it moves new employees to a 401(k) retirement system, just like yours. Pension reform saves taxpayers millions, stops the abuse and creates more predictability in budgeting.||”|
|—Sal DiCiccio, District 6, Ahwatukee and east Phoenix|
Vice Mayor Jim Waring, who represents District 2 – northeast Phoenix – on the city council, said:
|“||I support the pension-reform initiative. It will end pension spiking. It will save the city millions in the long run. It will fundamentally change a broken and prohibitively expensive system. Real reform is desperately needed. The March 2013 ballot issue may save taxpayers up to $600 million, but no real reforms were enacted and the financially ruinous status quo persists. In this case, voters will have the chance to make real reforms. If we don’t act, rising pension costs will continue to cause budget deficits and reductions in public safety.||”|
|—Vice Mayor Jim Waring, District 2|
Supporters of the initiative respond to opponents’ arguments that the initiative could remove death and disability benefits from employees by simply saying the claims are unfounded and false. Scot Mussi said, “This one is just a flat-out lie. It has absolutely nothing to do with death and disability benefits.” He went on to say that the initiative does not prevent the city from offering a separate disability-benefit and death-benefit program for new workers and that the initiative explicitly does not effect current employees who choose to stay in the current pension system. Some supporters also say that the city could easily buy insurance plans for certain employees instead of funding a pension system under Prop. 487.
Reason foundation, a policy research organization espousing libertarian values, also released an analysis of Proposition 487. The report shows significant financial benefits for the city under the initiative, including possible savings of $31 million in the first year and $399.3 million over the next 20 years.
Many supporters of pension reform are motivated by a desire to end the use of “pension spiking,” a practice in which city employees convert certain benefits such as unused sick time or saved vacation pay to boost the salaries on which their pensions are based or extend their credited length of city service. Some were further upset by the fact that some employees, such as firefighters and police officers, are allowed to use pension spiking while other rank-and-file employees are limited or restricted from the practice. Some city employees filed suit against the city when they were denied the ability to spike their pensions when other employees were permitted to use the increasingly controversial practice. The city argued in court that it is not legally bound to let employees include unused sick time in their pension-benefit calculations but began allowing it voluntarily in 1996 and can change their position at will.
Several reports released by the Arizona Republic highlighted the pension spiking of executive-level public-safety officers and managers. The reports featured 10 public-safety retirees that had increased their lump-sum retirement benefits to over $700,000 and their annual pension payouts to more than $114,000 per year. According to backers, the proposed pension reform initiative would prohibit the practice of pension spiking.
A study by the Arizona Republic estimated a $12 million dollar cost to the city taxpayers per year from spiking practices, when using overtime and premium pay to boost pensions was counted as spiking. City officials denied the study because they claimed overtime and premium pay were part of base salaries and not a “perk” and, therefore, should not be counted as spiking.
Columnist Robert Robb is the one writer at the Arizona Republic who isn’t in the tank for the Left. He provides this fair assessment of Proposition 487 …
There’s a good debate to be had about Proposition 487. Unfortunately, the opponents are choosing not to have it.
Prop. 487 would change the retirement program for new City of Phoenix workers from a defined benefit to a defined contribution system. Under a defined benefit system, workers are guaranteed a portion of their final salaries, in public systems usually around two-thirds, as a retirement benefit. Under a defined contribution system, taxpayers put a certain amount of annual pay into something similar to a 401(k). The retirement benefit depends on what the employee contributes and how well the investments do over time.
The question of whether a defined benefit or a defined contribution plan is more appropriate for public employees is as much philosophical as it is practical or actuarial. And the question is who should take the investment risk.
In a defined benefit plan, taxpayers guarantee the benefit and thus take the investment risk. If investments do worse than expected, taxpayers have to make up the difference. In a defined contribution plan, what taxpayers owe is fixed. The investment risk lies with the employee.
There are, however, also practical issues. Most public employee defined benefit plans are seriously underwater and straining government finances. Certainly that’s the case with Phoenix’s.
The Phoenix retirement plan only has assets to cover, based upon assumed market performance, about 64 percent of benefits owed. The unfunded liability is north of $1 billion. The cost of the program to the city has been escalating rapidly.
In addition to requiring new hires to enter into a defined contribution program, Prop. 487 would ban spiking (artificially boosting the pensionable salary with ancillary benefits) and other supplementary pension programs.
Proponents and opponents dispute whether the near-term effect of Prop. 487 would be to save the city money or cost it more. In reality, there’s no way to know. Knowing that requires knowing what the stock market will do over the next 20 to 30 years. And despite the pretenses of actuaries, that’s unknowable.
But two things are knowable. First, if there is a near-term cost, it is because switching to a defined contribution program for new hires requires the unfunded liability of the defined benefit program to be dealt with rather than kicked down the road.
And that raises an equity question. Opponents of Prop. 487 want to keep new hires in the defined benefit system so they can help pay off the unfunded liability for current workers and retirees. But that’s not how these systems are supposed to work. If past city governments and workers contributed too little, why should new hires have to contribute more to compensate? Shouldn’t the cost of that past mistake be more broadly socialized?
Second, it is knowable that passage of Prop. 487 will, over time, reduce and ultimately eliminate taxpayer risk for the performance of the stock market.
There are legitimate arguments against Prop. 487. There may be transition costs. Some contend that public employment is intended to be more secure than private-sector employment, so it is appropriate to shield public employees from investment risk regarding their retirement.
Rather than make these arguments, however, the city and its labor unions have gone into cahoots in a pettifogging campaign of misdirection.
The city council adopted ballot language stating that passage of Prop. 487 would prohibit the city from contributing to the retirement system for police and firefighters. Public safety employees aren’t in the city retirement program. They are part of a separate state system.
Prop. 487 plainly says it doesn’t apply to cops and firefighters. No fair interpretation of its operative provisions would find that it does. And it would be superseded by state law if it did. It’s a non-issue.
More recently, the pettifoggers are claiming that Prop. 487 might jeopardize public safety death benefits. Again, it categorically excludes cops and firefighters. It also only applies to retirement benefits. No judge in the history of jurisprudence, going back to the days of Hammurabi, would hold that dying is the same thing as retiring.
For voters, the issue presented by Prop. 487 should be straightforward: Do they think taxpayers or public employees should have the investment risk for the latter’s retirement income?