Like the weather, everybody's complaining about it but no one does anything to ease the heavy downpour or salvage the torching of vegetation from the scorching heat of summer.
Could we consistently live in a dystopia-meaning, where nothing works-where the simple folks get the perfect screw at day's end, daily?
It's mind-boggling the attitude to ignore taking a look at the forest over the trees, so to speak. Today, new ad hoc proposals have been placed on the table to salvage the fund while ignoring all else. But they fall way short in terms of resolving the long-term solvency and fiscal trauma that now paralyzes operations of the central government.
Arguably, they are doing something about it. But is it the answer or is it just another pending victim of unintended consequences headed for red ink or bankruptcy shortly? While we discuss these issues, I might note that it isn't surprising what politicians tell us wrongly convinced it's the right thing to do. Hardly do we see them use principle-based reasoning as they spout off exhausted redundancy gift wrapped in convenience.
Sure, you can argue while cringing that the proposed loan on pension obligation bond won't saddle posterity with debts. But at day's end it becomes a CNMI debt, doesn't it? So where's the truth in the superficial rationalization that it isn't? Why the perversion of clarity and the truth on an already messy issue that includes the government's open defiance of a court order to pay up its share?
Now, suppose the NMI succeeds in procuring pension obligation bond to the tune of about $300 million. Let's assume too that the current debt is paid off. Is the NMI free from a new pile of humongous debt? Or is it not simply a replacement of an old debt with a new $300-million debt service taxpayers must pay at about $30 million per year? Does that leave much for other obligations or public services?
Furthermore, when it eventually slides into a government debt, it also includes contribution from taxpayers who have nothing to do with the insolvency of the Fund. In other words, where's the justice of forcing taxpayers in private industries to pay up so retirees could get paid? Are they beneficiaries of the loot? Would the Division of Revenue and Taxation ably delineate private sector employees to absolve them of a forced contribution? It's taxation without representation in its ugliest form.
In a recent recommendation, the Commonwealth Retirees Association sought the establishment of a commission to dispose of the fate of the Fund with real expertise. I couldn't agree more given in that none of the people on either side of the street is equipped with the wherewithal to do any justice ascertaining the Fund's solvency over the long-term.
The founding of the commission would have allowed it to untangle the work of the ill-fated law (Public Law 3-99 authored by Gov. Benigno R. Fitial as speaker) that included allowing non-payment of employer's contribution by the NMI government, among other egregious excess. The same law provided for a body to decide on pension level pay. This was never implemented such that even overtime pay and those who never contributed to the fund are factored into getting paid unearned pension today.
It also granted a 6 percent Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) since 1984, money the bankrupt Fund can ill afford. This and the non-payment of employer's contribution eventually led to a bankrupted pension program. It goes to show how politicians tell us all the wrong things convinced it's the right thing to do. Retirees should insist upon the author of PL 3-99 if he has any rock solid solution to the mess fostered by his ill-conceived law that lacks foresight. No wonder the NMI owes the Fund some $332 million today!
Now, there's an administration proposal to sell developed public land to cover debts owed the Fund. This is a politically savvy approach to absolve one's messy creation in 1984 so calculated to lure landowners of public land to taking full responsibility of an ill-fated decision that culminated in a $300-million debt.
Would this ascertain the solvency of the fund over the long-term? What if 30 years from now the fund turns financially unsustainable once more? Do we sell more public land solely to cushion the fund? What about other essential services like money for hospital operations, medicaid, medical referral, education, public safety, and scholarship?
These are serious fiscal and economic issues we no longer could bluff with the polished mañana we used to render what eventually became piles of “unintended consequences.” We beg of our men of wisdom to pitch-in today with fully thought out answers.
A new epidemic?
In a soul-searching bit to understand the grand display among politicians sporting Deaf, Mute and Blind syndrome, I've gone to places quizzing the simple folks for their views. I mean it's good to hear differing takes on how governance views its elected officials. I refuse to use the term “leadership” for it would be tantamount to the perversion of diction.
Said a young man in his mid-50s: “I know some of these folks as classmates. It boggles the mind that they graduated from high school after writing down correct answers I've passed on to them. The teacher acquiesced it because they were his pets, but whatever happened to the essence of learning? Perhaps therein lies your answer why the shallowness from our geniuses on the hill”. I think it's called social promotion!
The guys sitting around the table chimed in flushing their discontentment. Said one, “Imagine my friend whose job was pulling cable lines now braving a profession on policy-making completely oblivious to the task at hand. So you end up with the worse people in a chamber who have no clue that the discussion of substantive issues entail educated views with clarity and the use of intellectual integrity every inch of the way”.
Retorted another in tongue in cheek, “Eh, don't use words like 'intellectual' or 'integrity' or concepts originating from first principles or the concept of the supremacy of laws. Talk about dog tagging, cockfights, panty laws, and bicycles because that is the way these guys connect with mundane issues, di ba? No heavy stuff or you'd lose their interest as they turn blue thinking that the biblical Exodus is a big bird at the zoo in Honolulu.”