Wednesday, June 22, 2011

State Pension Plans And Hedge Funds Make Us All Miserable

Well, my evening is hereby ruined.  I was planning to have some fun watching videos of dancing cats or some such aimless baloney, but I had to go scanning financial headlines first.  It's a habit I just can't break.  Today I scanned some headlines that indicated I would be just miserable if I kept on reading.  Now I can share my misery with my readers.   

Let's read about desperate state pension fund managers drastically increasing their bets on hedge funds.  They feel compelled to roll the dice, swing for the fences, and do whatever it takes to increase their chances of meeting impossibly high discount rates that will fund future payout liabilities.  I stopped rolling my eyes long ago whenever I heard hedge fund managers spout their sales mantras of "equity returns with bond risk."  That kind of nonsense unwound many a hedge fund in the liquidity crunch of 2007-2009 and only the Fed's easy money policies saved the remainder. 

If reading about stupidity in finance doesn't make you miserable, paying higher taxes to fund it certainly will.  State and local government pension funds are so underfunded that the tax increases needed to save them will destroy taxpayers.  Let this sink in.  The extra taxes needed to maintain upper middle class lifestyles for municipal employees will eliminate the rest of the middle class within one generation. 

The easy fix is to eliminate defined benefit plans for government workers and pay out pensions that funds can support today, at sustainable levels, until they can be phased out in favor of defined contribution plans.  Nothing in government is that easy.  That means we'll do things the hard way with municipal bankruptcies, shutdowns of vital public services, and/or confiscatory levels of taxation. 

There you have it.  Now I hope you're all as miserable as I am for seeing once again just how much pain America is about to take thanks to its legions of useless professional money managers.  Misery loves company.  I also love keeping company with attractive women but there aren't any within arm's length right now.  That makes me even more miserable.