We here at TEXPERS know that the media live on controversy, confrontation, and schism wherever they can find it. It’s called “making headlines” and that is how they create a product that sells to an audience, that then can be turned into advertising dollars.
We understand that dynamic and we appreciate the work that the media does in bringing issues and events to our attention. We, as free citizens, need the media telling us all what is going on around us. And we realize that, without the sizzle of a sexy headline, people wouldn’t read the newspaper and so there wouldn’t be any newspaper. The headline “20,000 planes took off and landed again safely today” would get boring day after day, which is why the media only focuses on the one that might, unfortunately, crash every year and a half or so.
Such is the case with a story that featured TEXPERS’ activities on its members’ behalf at our summer conference which concluded this week.
The story, “Groups defend public pensions,” provided a summary of my and another TEXPERS’ member comments about special interest groups – all with funding coming from outside of Texas – who have as their defining purpose the dissolution of defined benefit plans for public employees. There’s no ‘give’ in their position: No matter how well DB plans perform in Texas for police, firefighters and municipal employees and the cities they work in, they must be replaced by DC plans, they say. There’s no rational debate or discussion about the matter. Just because some systems have not fared well in other parts of the country, they must be dismantled here, our opponents say.
So, yes, we advised our members about these threats and the reporter dutifully came to the one presentation where some hint of controversy drew him to our conference. We’re not blaming him for doing that. It is his line of work.
But what you should know is that, for the previous three days, more than 500 trustees of pension systems from around the state came to San Antonio to further their education about investments and pension administration so that the burdens on taxpayers for their employees pensions would be as low as possible. They heard from money managers, lawyers, and other pensions, to learn how to operate the best possible pension, on their city’s taxpayers behalf. Dedicated men and women took time from their personal lives to devote their efforts to their colleagues at fire houses, police stations and city halls across our great state. They came to invest their and their fellow’s money as best they can so that after 20 or 30 years of service, at very minimal rates of pay, the public employee could retire securely at least possible burden to their fellow taxpayer.
In our view, this was the equivalent of the 20,000 planes that cross our skies safely each day. It won’t make headlines, but it’s the truth of what really happens with local pensions in Texas. -- Max Patterson