A French proverb tells us that only fools and children speak the truth.
Many children grow up believing in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. It obviously isn’t because they researched the issue on what happens to their teeth after they put them under their pillows or how a sleigh run by reindeers can fly all over the world in one night.
Someone told them to believe it.
I believed in these things as a kid because it felt good. I liked to believe that someone was thinking about me and giving me rewards.
It was all plausible to me because I did not give the details of any of these myths much of a thought.
For most of us where I grew up, these were among the first things that someone (i.e. adults) told us to believe. The beliefs of the tooth fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were our first official theories.
We laughed off any suggestion that they were not real. After all, everyone we knew believed in them, so we did, too. Anyone who said anything to the contrary was not with us. They were just foolish.
The best theory in alternative to the official one was, of course, the theory that adults were lying to us about where the money we would find underneath our pillows or gifts under the Christmas tree would come from. Our parents – lie to us?
It was a lie to help us enjoy our childhood, long before we became adults ourselves and faced big responsibilities. The lie made us feel safe. Never mind it was barely plausible.
But the white lies didn’t stop there. And it wasn’t just being lied to, either.
We learned to lie and accept lies out of comfort. I could not stand eating certain vegetables as a child. I also learned my mom feared looking old. So, at around the age of eight, I lied to my mom by telling her she looked 30 (she was 31 when I was born) to get her approval to skip the vegetables.
In high school, I had a date with a girl who offered no opinions, thoughts or ideas on anything during our dinner. I should have told her that I did not want to see her again. Instead, to avoid the discomfort of dirty looks from her friends who were in my classes, I waited for her to tell me that I was not a high priority.
I don’t know who told the lie that I just needed to get a bachelor’s degree to get a good job. But I felt conditioned to believe it. Then I discovered the cold truth when I took a job shortly after college graduation that did not even pay minimum wage and for which I slaved to try to please a boss who could not be pleased.
We are simply conditioned to avoid truths that would wake us from our slumber of comfort. We are conditioned to respond negatively to unpleasant truths.
I had trouble believing any of my English ancestors held slaves. My family wouldn’t do that! But I couldn’t help but notice a black man named Edgerton Hartwell while watching National Football League games. There were so few blacks in England during the time my ancestors were there, the proof that people I am related to owned slaves stares back at me.
The issue here is not really the truth. It is comfort. Few will risk stepping out of their comfort to speak up for the truth. It is so much easier to stay asleep and tell ourselves that at least we aren’t foolish.
I have trouble communicating with people who do not appear to care about facts. One well-meaning acquaintance approached me, a public employee, and told me that the Los Angeles Times had run an article about how CALPERS (California Public Employee Retirement System) had based its projections about public pensions on the assumption that the Dow Jones would reach 25,000.
Given that the Dow Jones has never been especially close to this number, this sounded like CALPERS had made a tremendous mistake. He implied that the taxpayers are being asked to pay too much toward public employee pensions and perhaps even saying that people like me should agree to reductions.
I researched and found what I believe is the article to which he referred. Here is the relevant excerpt, from the Orange County Register, a newspaper not known to be friendly to public employees:
"CalPERS, which in 1999 advocated retroactive pension increases based on assumed rates of investment returns that essentially required the Dow Jones industrial average to reach 25,000 by 2009, is backed by taxpayers whether its projections are right or wrong."
I looked to see where CALPERS had actually made a statement or had implied that the Dow Jones would need to reach 25,000 by 2009. So I went straight to the law that enacted the pension increases in 1999, SB 400. Here is a portion of the bill where proponents say why they support it:
If this benefit package is enacted, the state contribution will fall initially in 2000-2001, to 1.07% of payroll, or $103 million, due to the initial impact of the accounting change, but will increase significantly thereafter, to 4.65% of payroll in 2001-2002, or $465.6 million. The employer rate will level off in subsequent years, eventually falling below 3% in 2008-2009, but the employer contribution amount will remain in the $379 million range. CalPERS, however, believes they will be able to mitigate this cost increase through continued excess returns of the CalPERS fund. They anticipate that the state's contribution to CalPERS will remain below the 1998-99 fiscal year for at least the next decade. Overall, the benefit equity package is the equivalent to about a 2% to 2% increase in normal costs.
If no changes in benefits are enacted, and current assumptions hold, the employer rate will continue to decline, to below 2% of payroll by the 2002-03 fiscal year. State contributions will decline from the $1.2 billion paid in 1997-98 to $112 million in 2005-06, a decline of about 90% in less than a decade. With the enactment of this bill, the state will not realize all of these currently projected savings. The CalPERS Board of Administration, however, has agreed to increase from 90 to 95% the assets considered in its valuation of the plans, and shorten the amortization of the excess assets to 20 years, to help mitigate the impact of the benefit enhancements on State employer contributions.”
I have put in bold what I think are the most important excerpts. The comments mention state contributions (i.e. taxes to go towards funding of the pensions) to decline at least until about 2009 because of “excess returns of the CALPERS fund.” I am still unclear about where the number 25,000 in connection to the Dow Jones came from.
At the time of the bill’s writing, CALPERS had gotten exceptional returns. The Dow Jones had cited CALPERS for a 20.1% return in 1999-2000. At around that time, the USA Today had said that “strapped” governments had “looked to pension funds.”
The point that critics make is not without merit. When CALPERS investments go poorly in a given year, the state uses taxes to fulfill its obligations to the pension funds. To guarantee pensions in this manner may not be the best idea, they say.
I can, as a taxpayer and as a public employee (who chooses not to belong to any union), identify with some of the calls for reform. Recent hires at my and other cities are promised a lesser pension if and when they work a certain amount of years (typically 30) and reach a certain age (55 or 60). The base of pension that one receives could be adjusted to their mean salary rather than their highest salary. Annual pensions could be capped at $100,000.
These reforms would not likely upset the obligation of the state to fund the pensions. We need a good dialogue between those who are concerned about taxes and those who serve the public. It all begins with identifying the problem, the most relevant facts and the most just solutions.
Planes without Passengers, the 2nd edition takes from the first edition the proven theory that no hijackings took place on 9/11 and goes further by concluding that the passengers were really agents who assisted with the plot.
The book's conclusions are based primarily upon two facts: (1) the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), which maintains information on all commercial flights in the United States, in its original form, stated clearly that while United 175 and United 93 were scheduled to fly and flew on 9/11/01, American 11 and American 77 were not scheduled and did not fly and (2) ACARS, a system much like electronic mail and GPS, shows that United 175 and United 93 were flying over the Midwestern part of the United States long after their supposed "crashes" on the east coast.
Agents pretending to be passengers were seen at the Cleveland Hopkins Airport late that morning. They walked toward A NASA building to make calls to the media to straighten out an impression many had that the Internet reported that United 93 had landed in Cleveland.
The author says in the Afterword that the United States' public is not ready to hear this message. People talk about corruption in high places and how they want change but most are ultimately too comfortable with the status quo to change it.
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You will find this chapter in Dean T. Hartwell's JUST-RELEASED book A Fan's Folklore: Six Seasons of Triumph, Tragedy and Tough Luck out later in 2012. Click here!
Dean Hartwell's fourth book, Facts Talk but the Guilty Walk: the 9/11 No Hijacker Theory and Its Indictment of Our Leaders is now available on Amazon and other retailers. He has also authored Planes without Passengers: the Faked Hijackings of 9/11, Dead Men Talking: Consequences of Government Lies, and Truth Matters: How the Voters Can Take Back Their Nation.
Dean has a law degree and works for a local public agency in Southern California.