May 15, 2011

Note to the State Retirement Board: It's Not Happening

Monique Chartier

On Wednesday, the Retirement Board ordered that Rhode Island taxpayers boost their annual pension contribution by $266 million in a desperate effort to make up for the decades of underfunding of state and local pensions that were far too generous to begin with. By the way, the unfunded liability of public employees' post-retirement benefits is not included in this amount.

South Kingstown Town Manager Steve Alfred pegged it.

"Unsustainable," he said, summing up the new pension payments in one word. What the retirement board did "with the stroke of a pen," he said, was to saddle current taxpayers with the burden of making up for years of insufficient pension funding. "This does not take into account taxpayers’ ability or willingness to pay," he said.

So let's look at those last two items. Bless him for talking about willingness to pay. But we are well aware that the willingness of and, for that matter, fairness to the taxpayer has rarely entered into the consideration of Rhode Island's elected officials when they contemplate contracts and laws which cater to their pet special interest.

Ability to pay, however, is quite another matter. Certainly, along with willingness and fairness, our elected officials have failed to factor revenue realities into too many of the contracts, laws and promises that they made. Unlike the first two items, however, it is not an element that they are able to overcome simply by executing a contract or passing a law.

Shall we review current budget conditions at the capitol and around Rhode Island?

Even after an unexpected and welcome boost in revenue projections popped up this week, the state's annual operating deficit is still north of $200 million.

Providence runs out of cash in late August. And even that is optimistic in that it is based upon a projection that assumes that the city secures contract concessions from city employees and a wholly new revenue stream from non-profit property owners, none of which is a certainty.

Perhaps the scariest news item I saw this week was the Moodys one notch downgrade of Warwick's general revenue bonds. Freakin' Warwick??? With its miles of commercially taxed properties, I always thought of Warwick as even more fiscally stable than Barrington and EG, 100% comprised as they are of multi-millionaires. (Multi-millionaires can hop on their private jets and relocate at a moment's notice; businesses tend to go and stay where there's revenue.)

With regards to the other thirty seven cities and towns, rather than bore you with a complete run-down, I'll simply ask the question: how many of them are consistently running an annual seven-figure surplus that they can funnel towards the Retirement Board's wishful thinking?

As for the capacity to wring additional revenue from Rhode Island taxpayers, the state already has the fifth highest state and local tax burden and one of the worst business tax climates in the country. Prima facie, we're maxed out on revenue and, in fact, we very much need to reverse course on that front.

It's brutally simple. The largest per capita unfunded pension liability in the country is not going to be solved with an increase in contributions. The choices, accordingly, are stark. Write every current and future retiree a check for the amount that they've got in the fund, as former Mayor Steve Laffey recommended yesterday. Or adjust benefits.

The passage of time is not going to amplify these choices or make them any easier. Anyone - politician or union leader - who says otherwise is either grossly delusional or lying. (Speaking of delusional or lying, who organized last week's teacher rally demanding that Providence hire back all teachers? Can I have some of the drugs you're on? They must be goooo-ooood.)

The state is no longer in a position where it can ignore the problem for political reasons. We are now at the point where we can see that state checks - pension, paycheck or both - will bounce. "Down the road" has arrived for the can; there's no place further that it can be kicked.

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You can stick a fork in this state. The only eventuality here is bankruptcy. Take a look at the binding arbitration legislation the union pigs are pushing in the General Assembly as we speak. Does this exhibit any sense of understanding or caring as to the depths of these problems? You'd think the would be embarrassed or ashamed to push such nonsense at this time given what is going on. Nope! These union pigs just don't care. The union pigs are like deranged crack-heads who need their next fix. There is no sense of right and wrong.
Prepare for the worst. This state is done. Thanks a bunch you union crack-heads.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at May 15, 2011 2:21 PM

The union "pigs" are under attack, of course they are digging in, it's nature's way.

End all foreign aid. Use that money to establish universal healthcare for all legal American's. Use the money saved by states and local government on healthcare costs to pay the employees a fair wage and properly fund pensions until current pool of pensioneers dies. Put new hires into 401 K's and end defined benefit pensions. Anybody who did not contribute to their respective pension fund, ie. judges and politicians is out.

Clean out the state house of all assistants and aids. Get rid of mayors and governor's chiefs of staff. If you want to be the boss, be the boss, who ever heard of hiring somebody to do your job? If our leaders are overwhelmed, then they have complicated things too much and will have to find a simpler way to run the government.

Illegal aliens who need emergency life-saving medical care and cannot afford it will be sent back to their country of origin after said life-saving procedures are done with the bill for transport and medical care.

When the country of origin does not pay, keep billing, and adding up their debt. When we get out of this recession and are able to offer economic aid to the aforementioned countries, that aid will commence when their bills are paid.

I've also figured out world peace, but I'll keep that to myself for now.

Posted by: michael at May 15, 2011 5:20 PM

Not sure it would be politically salable to stop preventing children from starving to death in foreign countries in order to continue funding 40-year retirements for people who worked 180 days each for a score of years in suburban schools.

Posted by: Justin Katz at May 15, 2011 7:56 PM

Michael - What do you consider a "fair wage" and why? Are state and municipal employees getting a "fair wage" now? If not, then on what do you base that conclusion?

Do you have any idea what the day to day job of the governor is like? It cannot be effectively performed by a single individual without a support staff. Do you really expect the governor to perform all of his own legal/scheduling/communications/research work by himself, on top of all of his other obligations?

Sending other countries bills for medical care? Your post is a laughable and delusional distraction technique that doesn't address any of the real structural problems crippling the state of Rhode Island. In fact, your confusing narrative doesn't explain why Rhode Island is doing so much worse than other states at all, since all of the "problems" you list apply to every state. My (right to work) state ran a surplus last year. How do you explain that?

I notice that the disability fraud being committed by retirees of your fire department didn't make your laundry list of reforms. Do you consider millions of dollars in fraudulent payouts each year for the next several decades to be economically significant and worth addressing?

Posted by: Dan at May 15, 2011 8:12 PM

When coming from the union stooges "fair wage" is such a subjective term. One thing it does NOT mean is "fair" wage. To them it is: gross overpayment for incompetent bums.
We all know that if we put an ad in the paper for Providence firefighters at one-half the pay and benefits they currently receive, we would have a line of highly qualified people going from City Hall to Attleboro.
Anybody want to bet?
The only question is, why are overpaying now?

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at May 15, 2011 8:45 PM

My post was no more absurd than Laffey suggesting we write a check for $350,000 to every person eligible.

I can't believe you guys actually took that seriously. It was kind of a satirical take on the disaster this society has become. If I had real answers to the current catastrophe I wouldn't be a fireman.

Posted by: michael at May 15, 2011 9:12 PM

Trust me michael, I don't take you seriously.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at May 15, 2011 9:49 PM

Progressivism itself is absurd, so I have no idea what is said in jest and what is said in earnest. I have to assume when you're rambling about rights to universal healthcare and "fair wages" for state and municipal workers that you're being serious because those are the exact same rallying cries that progressive Democrats and the unions have been pushing in RI.

Posted by: Dan at May 15, 2011 11:07 PM

Trust me, Mike,if you're heart stopped beating, or your car stopped suddenly at 60 mph, or your left side stopped working, or you cut off your arm with a power saw, or got stung by a bee and found out you were allergic to bee stings, or if like the thousands of people who over the years I managed to help who didn't think it would happen to them, but it did, you would be taking me very seriously.

Or not, I really don't know the depth of your disdain for firefighters.

Posted by: michael at May 15, 2011 11:07 PM

The Emperor has no clothes...and no cash either. RI's politicians have avoided fiscal reality for so many years they wouldn't know it if it whacked them in the face. Years of union cronyism and liberal nod,nod,wink,wink politics have left the state in a mess. The solution? Missing Linc wants to add more "fees" and the "Retirement" cabal want to tax overtaxed taxpayers even more. As my old boss once said "They been doin' things wrong so long they think it's right".

Posted by: ANTHONY at May 15, 2011 11:57 PM

You know what, Dan, all kidding aside? I have no idea how we got into this mess or if we even have the ability to fix it. I grew up in a union household back in the day when union guys were the most conservative people around, even though then I wouldn't have known what that meant.

I got a job as a firefighter because I wanted to be a firefighter, knew the benefits were good and the pay enough to support myself and hopefully a family. I didn't set the pay, or demand the benefits, that was a condition of employment. As Mike so eloquently states, people would line up for the job at half the price, or whatever. I'll tell you this, I might have taken the job, but never would have stayed, and never would have gotten to the point I'm at now. You need experience in this line of work, nothing else prepares you for what we get into.

Believe it or not, we're actually on the same side for the most part, with some glaring exceptions. I goof around a lot here, not because I don't care about our state, rather the dissenting voices are so over the top with their misconceptions, and I actually used to put a lot of effort into these comments, but nothing ever got through enough for the people commenting here to even consider that they just might be a little bit wrong.

Posted by: michael at May 16, 2011 12:31 AM

Whoa folks. Stop the presses!

Michael says: "End all foreign aid. Use that money to establish universal healthcare for all legal Americans."

That sounds lofty. I actually like that idea. Unfortunately, U.S. foreign aid totals to about $30B on a high estimate, and U.S. healthcare spending totals to 2.35T. So 'cutting foreign aid' will pay for about 1% of a universal health care system. You wouldn't even notice the difference on your bill if we diverted all of the foreign aid.

So naturally, since we can't go after foreign aid, let's go after rich folks...

...Well, my math is turning out not so good on that either... ALL the taxable income is only 5.8T, so we'd have to eliminate 'deductions' as a concept to get below a 50% tax rate on pretty much everyone. Taxable income over $100K is only $1.6T, not enough to cover a universal health care system.

Michael, I'm a proponent of a universal health care system that only covered a -portion- of costs. Everyone hates it, but it's what economists think is the only way to be 'fair' and provide the benefit of market-based economics to everyone. A universal system that only covered 90% of costs would be comparable to a 'middle class' health insurance deal, but it would make everyone put skin in the game, and it would free employers from the insane duty of managing health care for employees.

Posted by: mangeek at May 16, 2011 1:15 AM

Justin wrote; “Not sure it would be politically salable to stop preventing children from starving to death in foreign countries in order to continue funding 40-year retirements for people who worked 180 days each for a score of years in suburban schools.”

Justin how do you relate the federal government sending aid overseas to foreign countries to State of Rhode Island intentionally creating an unfunded liability by not paying into the retirement fund the legal amount of funds that were enacted under law?

If you are going to make a statement of fact at least make sure you understand the facts and not make false assertions. 40 years would make the retiree 102 years and I don’t know many people in Rhode Island that live that long!!!

Yes the State of Rhode Island requires a minimum 180 day school year by law but teachers are not paid for all the overtime hours they put in before and after hours in school and on weekends plus non-contracted 180 school year days during summer breaks especially elementary teachers which build the backbone of a student’s education. If an educator starts at age 19 and goes to 4 year college plus obtains the required State of Rhode Island Master’s Degree within 5 years at their own cost and works 30 years to reach full retirement that equals 53 old years but they can’t start receiving their retirement till age 62 under the current State of RI retirement law. Teachers can retire after 28 years but at reduced retirement rate income.

Best they can do is leave teaching and get another job or take a reduced percentage retirement for the 9 years they have to wait. Teaching anything past 30 years does not add anything to the retirement income.

The new retirement law effective October 1, 2009 is: “For State Employees and Teachers, the law establishes a minimum retirement age of 62 for all members, except those schedule B members who retire with less than 29 years of service; their retirement eligibility still remains 65 years old with a minimum of 10 years of service credit.”

The law freezes service credits earned for members under schedule A as of September 30, 2009. Future accrual of service credits will be earned under schedule B reduced rate meaning maximum retirement rate was lowered from 60% to 75% of average last 5-years.

For members not eligible to retire as of September 30, 2009 the FAS will be based on the 5 consecutive highest years of salary rather than the 3 under current law.

The law changes the COLA from the current 3% compounded annually to the COLA provided under schedule B which is the lower of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or 3% and requires a full 3 year anniversary for receipt.

Effective for all service credit purchase requests received after June 16, 2009, the cost will be determined at full actuarial value, except for purchases of military service and contribution refund paybacks. Maximum purchase is 5 years total.

This happened in the State of Hawaii till the employees and the union went to court and marched through all the state courts under appeal till the state Supreme Court ruled that the State of Hawaii and General Assembly was in error and had to replace all funds not contributed under law and to increase the legal contributions as required under law to make the retirement system whole.

Is this what the State of Rhode Island wants????

According to Monique’s statement; “local pensions that were far too generous to begin with.” My $1,054 a month take home State of Rhode Island pension is “far too generous to begin with” after working 17 years with the State of Rhode Island.

I can tell you this, try to take the $1,054 pension away and we’ll go the route of the State of Hawaii and I was in management special projects and not union. It only takes one person for a class action. If I win, the State of Rhode Island will have to go the route the State of Hawaii has been mandated by court of law so keep stirring the pot! People in Hawaii have long stopped stirring the pot and are paying the price in increased taxes.

AR has a problem of taking the extreme fringe examples and messing with its creditably.

Posted by: Ken at May 16, 2011 1:49 AM

ADDENDUM: "The law freezes service credits earned for members under schedule A as of September 30, 2009. Future accrual of service credits will be earned under schedule B reduced rate meaning maximum retirement rate was lowered from 60% to 75% of average last 5-years."

Should read: The law freezes service credits earned for members under schedule A as of September 30, 2009. Future accrual of service credits will be earned under schedule B reduced rate meaning maximum retirement rate was lowered from 80% to 75% of average last 5-years.

Sorry for typo!

Posted by: Ken at May 16, 2011 1:56 AM

ADDENDUM: "The law freezes service credits earned for members under schedule A as of September 30, 2009. Future accrual of service credits will be earned under schedule B reduced rate meaning maximum retirement rate was lowered from 60% to 75% of average last 5-years."

Should read: The law freezes service credits earned for members under schedule A as of September 30, 2009. Future accrual of service credits will be earned under schedule B reduced rate meaning maximum retirement rate was lowered from 80% to 75% of average last 5-years.

Sorry for typo!

Posted by: Ken at May 16, 2011 1:56 AM

ADDEMDUM: "The law freezes service credits earned for members under schedule A as of September 30, 2009. Future accrual of service credits will be earned under schedule B reduced rate meaning maximum retirement rate was lowered from 60% to 75% of average last 5-years."

Should read:The law freezes service credits earned for members under schedule A as of September 30, 2009. Future accrual of service credits will be earned under schedule B reduced rate meaning maximum retirement rate was lowered from 80% to 75% of average last 5-years.

Posted by: Ken at May 16, 2011 1:59 AM

I don't have disdain for firefighters per se. I absolutely despise the entitlement mentality thats permeates so many of them and that all goes back your union. To get on the force you need no education, and the education you end up with is paid for by the employer. The lack of any required education results in a population of sheep that is tailor made to union brianwashing so prevalent in the firefighting community.
Here you have a group that pulls every trick out of the bag to get on any department; and once they are on you start telling me how lucky I am to have them??!!
Then, as you have done here, you tell me how lucky I am that you might be there to actually do your job - a job that so many others would kill to have at a lot less cost to the taxpayers. Not a way to gain respect, michael.
And then you have the predictable ignorance when anything is questioned about the fire department - "we're running in when you're running out." What's with that - you mean you're doing your f'n job?? Remember, that's the job you signed up for, and schemed to get. Now, for simply doing your job, I should put you on a pedestal. Are you going to tell me that you didn't know the job required running into burning buildings?? It's not like we told you you're sitting at a computer on the phone all day and we changed the job description.
Please tell me, michael, what should I think when I witness all of this BS?

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at May 16, 2011 8:28 AM

Michael, this is a good example of the "ethics" that guide the attitude and behavior of union bosses and their minions. You can take pride if you are not one of them, but you are enabling them by blindly defending the system that they designed and operate.


First couple of paragraphs:

Unionized phone company employees say they were beaten or threatened after they accused their labor bosses of looting their coffers through various scams.

One member of Communications Workers of America Local 1101 said that after he reported a time-sheet padding scheme, a thug beat him so badly his spine was injured.

Another says he found a dead rat in his locker, while a third said a union officer warned that suspected informants should be brought off company property and "taken care of."

The threats come to light as the U.S. Labor Department is probing charges that union bosses lined their pockets at the rank-and-file's expense.

Accusations include an unauthorized 401(k) plan union officers gave themselves funded with members' dues, along with hefty weekly allowances, lavish expense accounts and six-figure salaries, union documents show.

The feds are also looking into allegations that double-dipping union bosses illegally received pay from Verizon and the local for the same hours, sources said.

"This was union greed and that's worse than corporate greed," said Kevin Condy, a reform movement leader of the 6,700-member local that represents mostly Verizon workers in Manhattan and the Bronx. "These guys acted like they felt they were entitled."

And, some members charge, the bosses retaliated when threatened with exposure.

In August, business agent Patrick Gibbons said he received death threats and his office was vandalized after he complained that union bosses were misappropriating cash.

"They were warning me that if I continue to complain about their finances, they would have me killed," Gibbons wrote in an open letter to union members.

Posted by: BobN at May 16, 2011 9:04 AM

Mike, my "scheming involved studying for years, taking five enterance exams, passing physical agility, psycological and background checks and waiting. Again with the here thing. Who ever mentioned running into burning buildings? You, not me. I've actually done it hundreds of times but it is my job, no more, just like the CPR cardiac I do now The city paid to train me. This is a paramilitary orginization, similar to the armed forces. It's not a private sector job. We have rank, and standard of conduct, and orders to follow. That's just the way it is, and it works until a reccession comes and the fingers get pointing.

What can I say, Bob, there are horrible peopkle everywhere, thankfully it doesn't happen to me. Funny you mention the telephone union. My father, and grandfather were members of that union, and both went on to management positions with the full support of the union.

Posted by: michael at May 16, 2011 9:29 AM

Michael - If you listen to our specific objections, we actually don't blame you for most of the problems plaguing your department and union. What we do want you to do is stop with your little schtick of taking to the internet, attention-whoring it up with how you've seen things on the job we can't even imagine - attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, etc., blanket defending your organizations without owning the problems, turning a blind eye to the many "bad apples" and their abuse, staying silent on the egregious nepotism and corruption stories involving organized labor in the state (Iannazzi, etc.), and repeatedly insulting anyone who tries to correct or expose these problems. If you're not a part of the mass fraud, abuse, and waste that is bankrupting the state of Rhode Island - great, but that's not enough anymore. "Don't blame me, I just work here" is a cop out and it enables the problems to persist. By taking to the internet again and again and posting the blanket defenses of the system that you do, you are acting as an obstructionist and that's where the anger is coming from on our end. If you don't take responsibility for your own associations, then nobody is responsible for them and that is not acceptable to us. Everyone in an organization is responsible for the organization. So own it.

Posted by: Dan at May 16, 2011 9:59 AM

Dan, the organization you so arbitrarilly attack is the IAFF, whose members that I know, and most likely the ones I do not are among the best, most honorable, honest people I've had the pleasure of knowing, and working with. This whole ridiculous hero obsession of yours and Mikes and too many others is a product of the media glorifying our profession, which on a good day is actually a dirty job. The people doing the work are doing just that, the work. You are reacting to a media portrayal of the fire service, and maybe a few yahoos, and that is the truth.

If by stating on the internet that I hope the latest alleged pension scammer get arrested that is blanketing my profession with balderdash, then so be it, I'll continue to do so.

The current wave of union bashing will subside, but I will not stand idle while you and a small group of others throw lies and exaggerations onto a situation that needs help, not attacks. This pension disaster affects me much more than you, I've got a lot more invested, and pay more in taxes than most people, due to my firm entrnechment in the middle class.

Posted by: michael at May 16, 2011 10:27 AM

Unions everntually destroy everything in their path--including ironically theor own "members" who become victims as well

Just look at Detroit--a completely hollow city that unions destroyed

RI must file for bankruptcy asap and rip up all union contracts.

Let the unit bosses move on to destroy another place like a pack of termites

Posted by: Doug Misner at May 16, 2011 11:33 AM

"blanket defending your organizations without owning the problems"

That's actually going both ways. Even in pointing out specific abuses, that's being used to blanket every union as bad, and paint every union member as bad. Maybe you'll deny that you do it, but it sure looks like it from what I read. The bad apples are picked out to make the whole group look bad.

Posted by: Patrick at May 16, 2011 12:29 PM

Why so surprised at Warwick's finances. I have been sounding the alarm for years. The administration has done a great job of hidden the real facts.

The Taxpayers' Spin: Reality of pension costs daunting
by Robert Cushman - Warwick Beacon
Apr 14, 2011 |

With Warwick City Council chambers packed with state and local labor leaders, union workers, administration officials, City Council members and taxpayers all listening to experts from the city’s pension and health care actuarial firms testify on the condition of the plans, I posed one simple question to them all.

Can the city of Warwick continue to fund a budget that pays retirement benefits at required actuarial levels, fund annual health care benefits and cost of living increases for active employees, maintain all other municipal programs and services, and also fund the school budget?

Needless to say, not one person responded, yet the answer was quite obvious after listening to the testimony.

Weeks earlier Councilman Steve Merolla submitted a series of questions to dissect the complicated assumptions and terminology used by the firms when recommending the taxpayer and employee contributions needed to fund each plan and identify the unfunded liabilities.

Merolla’s questions demonstrated that many of the assumptions, including the assumed 8 percent annual return on plan investments, are over optimistic and unrealistic and paint a picture that the plans are funded at levels greater than reported.

The experts reported they “may soon recommend the use of a lower investment return rate in connection with future actuarial valuations.” This would result in higher liabilities and higher required contributions necessary to properly fund the plans. It also would have a direct impact on the city’s ability to maintain all other spending priorities including schools.

General Treasurer Gina Raimondo is questioning the same assumptions for the state plans and was quoted in yesterday’s Providence Journal saying the choice comes down to “whether to accept the recommendations and have our system’s assumptions reflect reality.” She goes on to say, “People deserve the truth. Retirees deserve the truth. State employees deserve the truth. We can’t play games. This is about the truth and trust and good, solid financial analysis based in reality.”

In the city of Warwick it is clear, many city leaders along with the unions don’t want to know the truth. They are either content with masking the problem or are too naïve to realize the consequences of not understanding the problem.

It is imperative that city leaders take the time to perform the proper analysis to determine the estimated cost to fund cumulative retirement benefit costs for all employees and determine the effect this funding will have on all other spending now and in the future.

Warwick union leaders and their members need to get their heads out of the sand and demand the truth. After all, they will feel a direct impact when the time comes when plan funds are depleted and the checks stop arriving.

There is no doubt Warwick will face a real financial crisis in the near future and the attacks from union members directed at those calling for proper disclosure only serves to support the politicians in the city that are willing to ignore the problem.

With the administration ready to testify on the savings associated with the mayor’s pension reform legislation, the experts’ reports confirmed that the city would not realize any significant savings. In four years, a measly $49,000 in pension savings will materialize while taxpayer contributions will increase by approximately $6.5 million. In 12 years, taxpayer pension contributions will more than double from $22 million to over $46 million.

Mayor Scott Avedisian, in his inauguration speech, claimed his reforms “will save roughly $2.4 million a year.” Reports indicated that amount wouldn’t be realized until almost 20 years from now in the year 2030. By that time, taxpayer pension contributions will have risen to over $51 million annually.

Based on future actuarial increases in the cost of health care for active employees, that cost is projected to double in the next 10 years from approximately $12 million to over $24 million. Ten years after that the cost will just about double again to $47.5 million.

Incredibly, the cost to fund retiree employee health care costs over the same periods of time is not known since the health care experts were not asked to prepare that information.

All told, the cumulative benefit unfunded liabilities are currently reported well over $600 million. City and schools should have $45 million in the bank to cover future retiree health care costs. Today they have zero dollars allocated.

To meet required contributions for pension and health care benefits for city employees in the current fiscal year, an additional $14 million in revenue is required, equating to a 12 percent increase in the city budget.

In future years the problem will get worse as pension and health care costs escalate beyond the city’s ability to raise taxes high enough to meet the revenue necessary to make required payments, thereby jeopardizing future benefit payments.

Today, for example, with a maximum tax increase and all funds going to the city budget, administration officials have indicated that approximately $8 million to $9 million could be raised. That’s $5 million to $6 million short of the funds needed to meet funding requirements.

At the end of the meeting, one positive conclusion was evident. Based on the experts’ testimony, my question was answered. Without reforms that immediately cut the costs of employee retirement benefits, the city of Warwick will soon approach insolvency.

Robert Cushman ( is a former Warwick City Councilman and former school committee Chairman.

Posted by: Bob Cushman at May 16, 2011 12:58 PM

Patrick - I've been very clear that not every union member is to blame, but every union member does need to accept some proportional responsibility for the organization as a whole and be proactive about and supportive of reform. What we have right now is a situation in which NOBODY is taking responsibility for anything and caped crusaders from the organizations are taking to the internet and making an already difficult reform process more difficult by trying to silence critics.

This is how the diffusion of responsibility is occurring:

The michaels of the organization say, "Don't look at us, we just work here."

The leaders of the organization say, "Don't look at us, we're just representing the michaels of our organization."

The politicians who lavish the organization with unsustainable pay and benefits and maintain its statutory monopoly status in exchange for political support say, "Don't look at us. We're just doing what our supporters and contributors want us to do."

Nothing will ever change until we hold each of the above groups proportionally responsible for the whole.

Actually, since this is Rhode Island, nothing will ever change. Let's just leave it at that.

Posted by: Dan at May 16, 2011 1:38 PM

"Who ever mentioned running into burning buildings?"
Your coddled and brainwashed "brothers", every time someone criticizes their scams.

"This whole ridiculous hero obsession of yours and Mikes and too many others is a product of the media glorifying our profession."
Tell me michael, is it the media who gave some RI fire departments 9/11 as a holiday in their contracts when the NYFD doesn't even get it off? Your shameless brothers hijack every opportunity to create this hero obsession. Half of them have never seen a burning building. But they've seen lots of grocery stores.

memo to michael - you're not fooling anybody with your "Golly gee, I just come in and do my job" crap!

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at May 16, 2011 1:48 PM

Michael, there you go again. You continue to promote the fiction that these union abuses are the exception, whereas the dirty truth is that they are the rule. The persistence of your willful ignorance is quite impressive.

Posted by: BobN at May 16, 2011 2:17 PM

Again, none of you have done this job, including you, Bob. (hows that for making assumptions with no facts) You have no clue what we do. Your accusations are false, and I will swear that in a court of law while standing on a stack of bibles. End of story.

Posted by: michael at May 16, 2011 2:35 PM

Ah, I see. None of us have "done the job" so we have no right to criticize. Where have I heard that before? The RI teachers unions, police unions, fire unions, etc., etc., etc.

Since the only job I have direct experience with is my own, I guess I have no right to challenge how any of my tax dollars are being spent. Isn't that convenient for those who benefit from the status quo?

The state will literally go bankrupt before Michael will accept even the smallest iota of responsibility. And so it will be all the way up the chain. "Don't blame me" will echo in chorus through the halls of every fire house, labor headquarters, and state house office as the entire infrastructure of Lil' Rhody comes crashing down in a mountain of debt. The union bosses earning $100-300k salaries will be long gone already, laughing all the way to their Florida banks.

Posted by: Dan at May 16, 2011 3:02 PM

Blame me? There'e the kicker, Dan, there is nothing to blame. Do you think we all think we're getting away with something? Screw you, buddy. We're working for our pay, blue cross and retirement package, period. The city mishandled our pension fund. Healthcare costs have spiraled out of control. I earn a great deal more than I ever expected to because the city pays overtime rather than hire new people.

Blame me? Hell no. Never, not going to happen. Critisize all day for all I care, plain truth is you and the rest of the gang of malcontents is wrong. Try admitting that. And while you are at it come up with some proof that I am complicit in some far fetched dishonorable scam to bilk taxpayers out of their money. That too is not going to happen. You are wrong, wrong and wrong again. Grow a set already and admit as much.

Posted by: michael at May 16, 2011 3:18 PM

Like I said from the start, stick a fork in it. michael's attitude and moral compass is so pervasive in this state their ain't no fixing it. I am merely positioning myself for the fallout. Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered. That is what I'm getting ready for. RI is the biggest, surest short I've ever seen.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at May 16, 2011 4:08 PM

Michael, you have a simple reading issue. I stated earlier in this thread that while you may not be to blame for many of these problems, you are responsible for your participation in and perpetuation of the failing system and you have a moral obligation to be proactive and supportive of reform efforts at all levels rather than just being another enabler and obstructionist. My point was not that you ARE to blame for all of Rhode Island's financial woes, my point was that you use the tired old "Don't blame me" chorus of RI organized labor and the politicians it perpetually reelects to shirk all responsibility for said participation in the system. Literally nobody is accepting responsibility here. Do you agree that that is a problem?

Consider: Is 25-year-old high school grad Iannazzi Jr. to blame for his receipt of a $90,000 state house salary with zero qualifications? No. The corrupt organized labor leaders who arranged it for him are to blame. He didn't make that hiring decision or set his own salary. However, he does have a moral obligation there, even though he "works" for his pay and benefits. See, the problem is not his "work" per se, but that the compensation for it has no basis in economic reality, just as yours does not. As long as you both continue to cash your paychecks, support the politicians and organizations who give them to you, and join the "Don't blame me" chorus, you will remain just one more component of RI's perpetual economic stagnation. You have stated yourself that you do not understand "why" RI stagnates compared to other states, which is fine, but please do not take to the internet and attack those of us who see the underlying causes more clearly and wish to do something about it.

Posted by: Dan at May 16, 2011 4:32 PM

"You continue to promote the fiction that these union abuses are the exception, whereas the dirty truth is that they are the rule"

Bob, are you saying that the majority (ie. >50%) are abusing the system in the ways that you've mentioned? Out of the millions of union members, millions of people are abusing the system, in the ways you outlined above?

Posted by: Patrick at May 16, 2011 4:49 PM

"We are now at the point where we can see that state checks - pension, paycheck or both - will bounce."
the above makes absolute sense in a sane world...However, progressives are not sane.
I may be proven wrong but I feel that by 2020 this state will have over 10% sales and income taxes plus our property taxes will be firmly in the Silver Medal position just behind New Jersey.
Meanwhile the $170,000 "disabled" crybaby firemen will still be getting their 6% compounded COLA's and 22K a year gold plated health care. Cops and firemen will still be retiring at 41 if they don't "become disabled" first.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at May 16, 2011 5:11 PM

Patrick - 59% of retired firefighters are on full disability pensions, so the literal answer to your rhetorical question is most likely "yes."

Posted by: Dan at May 16, 2011 6:02 PM

I'm not getting into a duel about statistics. I am saying that whether subtle or blatant, financial or violent, intimidation is the union's way of dealing with people. In fact, it is the only tool they have, since both employers and workers would be better off without the union.

Posted by: BobN at May 16, 2011 6:34 PM

"Patrick - 59% of retired firefighters are on full disability pensions, so the literal answer to your rhetorical question is most likely "yes."

What rhetorical question? Bob said it was the rule, not the exception, which tells me that he believes it is more than half.

You cite 59% out on disability, so are you saying that only 9-10% are legit and the other 50% are fraudulent?

Posted by: Patrick at May 16, 2011 6:58 PM

Michael I don't know where you get the energy to go 'round and 'round with everyone. They seem pretty entrenched in their thinking and even facts and logic can't sway them. It's a losing battle.

Posted by: seirra1 at May 16, 2011 6:59 PM

It's kind of amusing actually, and there's only 3 1/2 of them.

By the way, thanks Patrick, for staying objective.

Posted by: michael at May 16, 2011 7:21 PM

What I will find amusing is seeing the pensions of these smug ignoramus' cut.
I'll be laughing as they are crying.
Just remember - I told you so.
Golly gee, man, I just live here. I don't know how all this stuff works.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at May 16, 2011 7:36 PM

MC your frequent posts bring new meaning to the word "ignoramus". You can always be counted on to bring down the level of discourse in the room.
I don't see anything "smug" about expecting what we were promised. Just as non-union folks make decisions to plan for their future (and the future of their kids) so do union members. When you've played by the rules for 10, 20, 30 years and planned according to what you've been told all along it seems a bit callous to say "I'll be laughing as they are crying".
Why is it so difficult for some of you to accept that MOST (yes it's true) union members are not card carrying members of the Left. I know it makes it easier for you to demonize us when you do, those evil progressives and their unions. Not reality. I've yet to meet a cop and very few firemen who are Lefty's. Although it makes it easier for you to make us the bad guys union membership does not define who we are or the political views we hold.

Posted by: seirra1 at May 16, 2011 7:56 PM

I agree with former mayor Laffey.
Send all paticipants in the pension system a check with our apologies that they were promised things that taxpayers can no longer afford.
After this, start fresh with a 401-K type of plan.
Barring this, I feel taxpayers have to take the bull by gthe horns and withhold their property tax payments, so politicians get the message. Obviously, they have not gotten it yet.
Sanford Mantell

Posted by: sanford mantell at May 16, 2011 8:14 PM

Golly seirra, I don't quite understand what you're talking about. I just pay my taxes and go to work everyday. I'm just playing by the rules. Don't blame me for your problems.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at May 16, 2011 9:39 PM

Mike Cappelli, ladies and gentleman, bringing the meaning of the word "inane" to new heights. You make absolutely zero sense as usual. Last I checked I pay my taxes and go to work every day too. And whose blaming you for my problems?

Posted by: sierra1 at May 16, 2011 10:11 PM

Sierra..are you a liberal? I'll bet you are. You like to use hot button words. "Inane","Ignoramus",etc. Here's the bugaboo: The PRIVATE sector pays for the public sector and not the other way around.The dwindling private sector funds everything from pensions to food stamps.The golden goose is about done. They are now being asked to fork over even more "eggs" to the hungry unfunded mandates. Ain't gonna happen....not enough to go around. Now, now a good name calling.

Posted by: ANTHONY at May 16, 2011 11:07 PM

ANTHONY-Not a liberal. As I've said before my union membership does not make me liberal or even Democrat for that matter. I don't think liberals have the market cornered on using the certain words you've highlighted (besides, Mike Cappelli used "ignoramus" first, I guess by your definition he's a liberal too) No one would define them as "hot button" either.
It's not the PRIVATE sector that pays for the public sector. Its tax payers, whether union (public or private) or not. My taxes pay for the teachers, police, fire, sanitation, etc in my community just as the few tax-paying people in the community that I work for pay for my salary. These are pretty simple concepts to grasp ANTHONY.
As for food stamps? That may be an issue we agree on. Why should we pay for food stamps and then pay for the same kids to have free breakfast and lunch at school? Shouldn't their parents, sorry mothers, use the food stamps to give the kid a packet of oatmeal in the morning and then pack a tuna sandwich for lunch? Not to mention the scams run by neighborhood stores.

Posted by: sierra1 at May 16, 2011 11:38 PM

"I don't see anything "smug" about expecting what we were promised."

Yeah A-Hole we the taxpayers were promised a lot. A temporary income tax, temporary sales tax, temporary 1% sales tax increase. Oh, and the phase out of the car tax and a 3.5% cap on property tax levies....
For progressives a promise made is a promise broken.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at May 17, 2011 9:39 AM

This one from Seirra is priceless: "Although it makes it easier for you to make us the bad guys union membership does not define who we are or the political views we hold."

No, what makes it easy to define the political views you hold is when we go to vote and see whose signs you union clowns are holding. But you're not just holding them - you are PROUD to hold them. Those signs have the names of all the politicians that have destroyed this state and lie to everyone. And now you have the balls to whine to us how you're not getting what you were promised. I didn't promise you one thing, pal, so don't cry to me. Go after the people who made the promise. Oh gee, those are the guys your union supports. You got nobody to blame but yourself. Wake up!

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at May 17, 2011 11:04 AM

Seirra - Please don't misunderstand. Nobody here has a problem with unions, at least from a public policy standpoint. A union is simply a group of people with aligned interests. What we have a problem with is corrupt "forced union" legislation that gives unions an unnatural legal monopoly status over a workforce. It's particularly invidious with public unions because of the tendency of these unions to "elect their employers" through the political cycle, as well as the fundamental nature of government and its insulation from market forces. We want right-to-work legislation in RI, ensuring that unions compete on an equal and fair basis and have to recruit members through voluntary consent and transactions. All the corruption and pension problems in RI derive from RI's "forced union" legislation. My current state is a right-to-work state. There are still unions, everybody except labor management is very happy with the arrangement, and my state actually ran a surplus last year. What do you find so abhorrent about that? If you don't, then it's time to get on board with what we are proposing. I've explained this important distinction to Michael literally a dozen or more times and he still doesn't understand it, but I'm confident that you will. We are not your enemy, we are the enemy of the corrupt interests that put the abominable forced union system in place that is now bankrupting the state.

Posted by: Dan at May 17, 2011 11:36 AM

They understand it full well. It's willful ignorance. They want to have it both ways - turn a blind eye to lying and corruption and then complain about it's impact on them. The michaels and Seirra's are cowards when it comes to standing up to the corruption of their "brothers".
It's some sick, immoral cult.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at May 17, 2011 11:50 AM

Dan, I appreciate your reasonable and well thought argument. It's this type of discourse that has kept me a daily follower of Anchor Rising. In principle I don't disagree with what your proposing. I think even up to the 80's unions were necessary. For example, in my department up until that time if you screwed-up you were working for free 4, 8, 16 hours, whatever the chief and mayor felt was appropriate. It was totally indiscrimanant. If they didn't like you (for whatever reason) you were screwed. This is fact not something I'm making up and it wasn't the exception, all departments ran this way. These are areas where unions are valuable. I agree that they have now swung too far in the other direction. I don't have a problem reigning in the unions when it comes to management rights. My problem is this. Why is it the union members job to play watch dog for the elected officials? I would think that job belongs to all constituents (myself included if I live in that community) served by that official. As a union member my job is to make sure my delegation bargains in good faith in my behalf. If an elected official says you can't have a raise for 3 years but I'll give you a .5% in your COLA when you retire at the time these things seemed OK with everyone. Politician looks good-he tell his constituents he didn't give the cops a raise for three years, constituents happy-their government told them they saved money and now the local skateboard park can be built, me-not happy my pay isn't going to increase for three years but I have a stable job with pension in the future. Now that everything is unraveling the Mike Cappelli's and ANTHONY's of the world tell me, "too F'ing bad" (paraphrasing of course). I take exception to that. New hires should not go in the current pension system, create a new system (whatever that may be) that is functional and go from there. I'd hate to say it, but maybe I take a hit (a small one!)because I don't have as much time on the job as some guys with 18+ years. I can't help but feel that there has to be a better way. Both for me as a public employee and as a citizen taxpayer.
Mike Cappelli, plan and simple, you're an imbecile. You're certainately passionate about the issues but don't have the intellect to form logical arguments or rebuttals so instead revert to name calling. All sound and fury signifying nothing? Yeah, that's you. You've probably been banned by local talk radio and have found a place where you can voice your substance free opinion. The next time you bring something constructive and worthwhile to the conversation will be the first.

Posted by: seirra1 at May 17, 2011 3:27 PM

All that sounds reasonable to me. I'm actually extremely impressed by what I've seen in these areas on the federal level. We contribute at least as much as private employees to our healthcare, often more so, which I view as completely fair and reasonable. Our pensions are 401k-style investments, so if the economy does well, we get more, if the economy falters, we get less. No overtime. The most important piece is we have right to work, which means that those who want to join the union do so, and the rest of us can opt out. We have a particularly nasty and counterproductive union led by radical, loud-mouth nutjobs a la Pat Crowley, so I certainly don't want them representing me. The malcontents get to go to their $25 union barbecues and grieve up a storm every time their manager looks at them funny, and I get to simply do my work and hold on to my $500-1000/year that would have gone to those crooks. Everyone's happy except the union bosses who call us "freeloaders" and send out nasty e-mails. I honestly wish them the best and hope they get their act together. My state has a similar arrangement with state employees. The public unions are kept in check by competition with free actors and the moment they overstep their bounds, they start losing members. It works extraordinarily well and would do wonders for Rhode Island. I can't tell you how awesome it feels to open the paper and see that your state has run a surplus and we'll get to pay even less in taxes next year.

Posted by: Dan at May 17, 2011 4:24 PM

What did you say Sierra? Did you say your union doesn't support and hold signs for the liars that promised you everything? No you you didn't - because you know it's true! You union dopes never debate any point that shows you to be the frauds you are. It's you clowns that jump to insults since you can't develop coherent arguments if your life depended on it. At least I mix in some facts - like you union clowns holds signs for the liars and crooks. That is a fact. You deal in fantasy.
It's one thing for you guys to lie to me. But, for crying out loud - stop lying to yourselves!

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at May 17, 2011 4:24 PM

Mike C-I don't know why I take the bait but here goes...I've never seen or heard of a member of my police union holding up a sign for any political candidate at any event or in front of any polling place. In fact, I believe its illegal to do so. I recall a police supervisor in one community doing just that over 10 years ago and getting himself in hot water over it. So the next time you see a member of law enforcement holding a sign for a political candidate do something about it. Take a video, call Jim Taricani, (if its me please call Allison Bologna instead!)Don't just whine about it later. But, the truth is, this is all just the chatter in your head. You don't have any concrete proof of this happening any time in the recent past (or with any sort of frequency that would suggest a concerted effort by a union), you heard it from a guy who heard it from a guy, who read it on the internet.
As far as debating, I think there's been a pretty good give and take between many people on this blog, again that's why I visit on a daily basis. I enjoy the free flow of ideas between people of different beliefs and the comic relief provided by you and a few others.
And the "liars and crooks". I know you can't wrap your head around it but I don't vote Democrat (like 99% of the cops out there)-so I wouldn't be holding a sign for a liar or crook.

Posted by: sierra1 at May 17, 2011 5:45 PM

Sierra when can I expect your union to contribute to my 401-K and IRA? I think it's past due. ANTHONY.

Posted by: ANTHONY at May 17, 2011 8:07 PM

ANTHONY please tell me why I would contribute to your private retirement account. You and your employer do that. Contributions to my retirement account are made by me and my employer (at least their supposed to contribute). My employer just happens to be a government entity.

Posted by: sierra1 at May 17, 2011 9:16 PM

Tommy Cranston-just saw your post calling me an a**hole earlier, pretty classy. As for your laundry list of grievances, as a taxpayer, I'm with you. Again, union member does not automatically mean Progressive.

Posted by: sierra1 at May 17, 2011 10:05 PM

Right Sierra.........contributions are made by you and your employer."At least they are supposed to" You are in denial. Are you doubting the premise?

Posted by: ANTHONY at May 17, 2011 11:28 PM

ANTHONY I can't for the life of me figure out your premise. Is it that my union should contribute to your retirement plan because your tax dollars go to mine?

Posted by: sierra1 at May 17, 2011 11:38 PM

Sierra...the words are yours "At least they are supposed to contribute" re-read your earlier post.

Posted by: ANTHONY at May 18, 2011 12:49 AM

"At least they are supposed to"

Yes. Except that Sierra1's employer cannot fully do so because 1.) he promised his employees pensions that are far too generous in order to make himself look good and 2.) along the way, he's been spending some of the contribution on unnecessary, even destructive, budget items.

Posted by: Monique at May 18, 2011 7:27 AM

The fact is that the Seirra's of the world like to come on here and complain, while their unions go out and support the very politician's that have created these problems.
These are undeniable facts, easily verified. Go to, and check out the campaign finance reports and you see who donated to who. Further, the voting records of the various politicans for the pertinent bills are typically in the newspaper. It is easy to see that the union that "represents" the Seirra's of the world is always donating to the politicians that are lying to him.

Now, I'm not talking about who YOU vote for, Seirra, I'm talking about who your union supports.

Why can't you address this conflict?

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at May 18, 2011 8:10 AM

ANTHONY-yes those are my earlier words, a parenthetical aside, I'm not sure how that's the premise of anything. But I think Monique summed up the answer.
Mike C-As I've said, I've been a long time reader at Anchor Rising but never jumped into the fray until recently. I'm not much of a complainer, I just can't sit idly by while you and a few others carpet bomb the comments section with factually deficient and myopic viewpoints. We all know that every single group has a lobbyist at the state house watching out for their members interests whether it be union, common cause, RIILE, the poverty pimps, etc. Police unions tend to back candidates who are tough on crime obviously. I can't find this you posted. I would be curious to see where the FOP money is going. As for my local PD FOP our executive board policy is to not endorse anyone. As I've posted earlier the only person I heard my president go out of his way to speak positively about was Gina Raimondo. We want the problem fixed just as much, if not more than anyone else. And before you go there,no we did not create the problem, nor were we a party to the problem. Your politicians did and you weren't paying attention.

Posted by: sierra1 at May 18, 2011 9:06 AM

Seirra is in denial. But he' not alone, which is why my first comment is all I really had to say. Prepare for the worst. This state is done. There is no sense of right and wrong. Not even the slightest attempt to hold those responsible accountable; just people providing cover.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at May 18, 2011 10:23 AM
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