Active members of the Fund want their contributions. It's their money! They exercised their rights to secure it, to no avail. Last-ditch effort to do so failed when legislators didn't secure the required votes to override veto of enabling legislation.
Appalling how political demagogues cavalierly impose their totalitarian impulse to control active members' money, saying, “We know what's best for you.” At the same time, they're oblivious to the glaring fact that they've failed to resuscitate the now bankrupt pension system. It's marked with 32 years of treating the Fund like a fiscal leper to ensure it stays insolvent. In spite of its glaring failure, it retains the persistent folly that it's okay to sink the entire NMI into bankruptcy. I mean, the litany of failures include the Fund, CHC, and CUC, among others.
The demise of the Fund is their trophy that should be on display this coming 4th of July celebration in Garapan. Yep! It's autograph time!
It's true that active members can buy into an annuity from the U.S. Social Security Administration. They can make this “purchase” by using their savings to pay current expenses and delaying claiming to get a higher monthly benefit at an older age. The savings used is the “price” and the increase in monthly benefits is the annuity it “buys.” But a meeting of the minds to secure active members' consent is the missing link. The tug-of-war therefore centers on demagogues trying to dispose what isn't theirs, as though authorized to do so by members. It's presumptuous at best, ludicrous at worse.
The issue, therefore, must go back to the drawing board to secure authorization for purposes of representation in buying into an annuity of the SSA. I understand it's a better deal than the more expensive ones in private insurance firms. But it has to come from the “consent of the governed.”
This end of the gridlock is the easier side of the issue. It's the fate of current retirees once the Ponzi scheme ceases to exist. Where would the NMI government get the funds to ensure consistent payment of annuities? We can begin by paying up unpaid employer's contribution to the tune of $330 million. Pension payment requires some $90 million annually in local funds.
The Hawaii federal district court's interpretation of “instrumentality” grants the local government basically everything, including a decision to arbitrarily reduce pension benefits or not to pay overdue obligations or both. It's now in the hands of demagogues that make it very unsettling. Figures don't lie, politicians do! Take a quick glimpse at the decision to forego paying its share into the Fund for six years now.
Too, none of the saviors of demagoguery is equipped (education and experience) with the critical financial analysis needed to bring reforms to an arcane pension plan in order that it stays solvent. It's an exercise in the display of obsolescence and irrelevance of exhausted and hollowed rhetoric we now dispose like used cotton balls. Can we honestly trust them after 32 years of purposeful negligence and failure of fiduciary responsibility? What other lame answers have you got after 32 years of sleeping on the job?
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No longer darling of investments
There were days, my friend, when we had basically everything we needed under the sun. Those bright days have slowly dimmed. It's fearfully dark everywhere! Bright days have disappeared into the receding sunset. There's nothing but the wrap of grayish black clouds out west.
No one knows when the break of dawn on investments would rise and shine once more like we used to know it. The water that once floated our boat has equally sunk it, too.
NMI is no longer the darling of investment of the Land of the Rising. Japan and others have taken an exodus into the sunset in recent past. Gone! By arrogance or ignorance, we've severed what was supposed to have been lasting partnerships. It disintegrated into the Ring of Fire.
We stand dazed at the “what might have been” had we said “no” to mañana.
Gone are the days when the apparel industry raked in some $1.2 billion annually. Residual businesses that were established to support it have also gone home.
Gone are the days of opulence, replaced by heavy decline in revenues. We're still boasting lamely with tails tucked between our legs. It's called dystopia-a place where nothing works.
Gone are the days when we supported government operations with locally raised revenues. Did we speak a bit too early (in 1993) ridding the CNMI of U.S. grant funds for operations?
Gone are the days of a generous U.S. Congress. It's taken the CNMI off its “darlings list,” too. Congress isn't ready to pay for our profligacy and not with a $5 trillion deficit. The level of anxiety is high while everybody's lost confidence in government.
If today is the future, what's ours?
Well, it's clear we're no longer the darling of Japan and Asian countries. Uncle Sam isn't so generous these days too. But it's good to quiz him if it isn't equally his responsibility to help, given that he too participated in the ruination of the local economy via punitive and stifling laws and regulations.
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With bankruptcy engulfing the CNMI, how do we navigate the horrendous cost of healthcare, prohibitively costly utilities and other needs while underemployment worsens? Would the projected $102 million for the fiscal year stay its course or has it gone south? When would the elected elite come to the dance floor and waltz the night away singing “Long, long ago?”
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With an obvious dim and bleak future, would incumbent Republicans and Covenant brave regurgitating tired rhetoric as though governance is easily swayed into repeating with failure? Did you forget that governance has patiently and meticulously taken stock of your performance? How do you rate yourself? People, the truth always prevails!
John DelRosario Jr. is a former publisher of the Saipan Tribune and a former secretary of the Department of Public Lands.