Recent reports have highlighted the demise of the middle class. There are more than 400,000 members in my pension plan who are getting their pensions cut by as much as 57 percent (“New law threatens to slash pensions,” Dec. 14). Thousands of these people live in Minnesota. Failed oversight by the federal government, mismanagement by pension trustees, and the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 (affixed by parliamentary maneuver to a budget bill by Republican Rep. John Kline of Minnesota and former Democratic Rep. George Miller of California) are largely responsible for these cuts. We were willing to forgo wage increases in order to receive a pension upon retirement. Wage theft is the only way I can describe what is happening to us. Perhaps the American dream truly has died.
Chuck Justice, Woodbury
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Kline is retiring as the representative from Minnesota’s Second Congressional District in 2016. He will be retiring with $165,000 plus from his U.S. House position plus his Marine Corps ranking of colonel after serving 25 years, plus full medical and Social Security pension. He will be taking and receiving a huge compensation package from the taxpayer coffers annually. One of the many things he is leaving behind in his service as a representative is the 50-percent-plus reduction in retirement benefits from the Teamsters Central States pension funds for hundreds of thousands of retirees nationwide, including 15,000 from Minnesota. He suggests it is an all-or-nothing plan for the recipients. He claims he was able save some of their benefits.
Kline’s service in the military will be remembered and appreciated, but the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act will not be forgotten and will continue to live on as a part of his legacy.
Don Kerr, Woodland
Indeed, without divestment, this is yet another threat to pensions
Former legislator Kate Knuth (“Pondering pensions at the Paris negotiations,” Dec. 8) clarifies very nicely the central issue for Minnesota’s state pension funds: the State Board of Investment needs to begin to divest from fossil fuels for the financial stability of the pension funds.
The agreement struck on Saturday at the climate talks in Paris shows the commitment of 186 countries to lower their carbon emissions enough to keep global temperatures at or below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Scientists are warning that a much safer increase would be 1.5 degrees.
In order to keep temperatures at these safe levels and avoid catastrophic climate change, 80 percent of the reserves held by fossil-fuel companies will have to stay in the ground. This means that all that unburned carbon will become categorized as stranded assets. Our pensions cannot afford this risk, and our hardworking public employees do not deserve it. And we have excellent alternatives. Renewables are the energy system of the future and the market is reflecting that more and more each day. Studies show that fossil-free investment funds are performing as well as and in some cases even better than investments in the fossil-fuel industry. If you agree, please join our efforts at MN350.org or DivestInvestmn.org.
Emily Moore, Minneapolis, and Patty O’Keefe, St. Louis Park
Moore is a member of Divest-Invest Minnesota. O’Keefe is divestment coordinator at MN350.
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This is no time for hysterical investment moves out of energy investments. Knuth suggests that pension plans divest themselves of fossil-fuel investments and reinvest in the “energy transition,” whatever that may be. Many coal and mining stocks have lost favor over time, so this is nothing new.
The market has likely already responded to the ramifications of any projected progress toward climate-control agreements. Any progress will allow energy companies to adjust to the transition over time as current needs continue to demand all current energy resources. Good companies already diversify into many areas and may feel minor impact over time. Companies will consolidate for strength and meet the challenges of new technologies and full utilization of resources.
The market will adjust over time, and a panic run on pension investments is uncalled for.
Michael Tillemans, Minneapolis
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I have two beautiful, smart grandchildren, and I worry that the planet we’re leaving them is going to be in crisis, with species extinction, massive storms, rising seas, unprecedented human migration and ice-cap disappearance, among other huge changes. There isn’t much I can do about this, as one person, but I can do something.
As one of my grandchildren’s presents, they are receiving three promises from me, and I hope they hold me to them: I will use 15 percent less household energy, drive 15 percent fewer miles and eat less red meat. (The last one is hard to quantify, so they will have to take my word for it.) These are not only “math word problems” for them, they are also a challenge for me, because I already try to conserve. But I can do better, and I shall. If not, there will be consequences, but that’s between me and the kids. And if many others joined me, we would make a real difference.
Mary McLeod, St. Paul
Enrollment experience confirms that system is not sustainable
After just completing the health insurance enrollment process for 2016, I feel compelled to comment on just how crazy our system of health care has become. During the enrollment period, there have been several newspaper and TV news reports about how the insurance providers can’t make money in the individual market or how there is a concern over the migration of policyholders from platinum, gold and silver policies toward bronze-level policies.
There has been very little reported, however, on the plight of the unfortunate souls who find themselves in the individual private insurance group. Yes, if your income falls below the designated level for your age group and size of family, you may qualify for some level of government assistance or tax breaks. However, for those who make just a little too much — in our case $62,900 — then you are on your own.
So what does that mean? It means that you are required by law to purchase a product that will cost you somewhere between 25 and 40 percent of your gross income before you start enjoying the features and benefits of the product.
In what world is this considered affordable?
Yes, it is easy to not think too much about this when you are not faced with having to shop in this market. But beware — about 50 percent of the policies sold to date are to people between 55 and 64 years old. So if you plan to retire early or are forced into early retirement, you will need to beef up your savings to get you to the promised land (Medicare).
We all know that the only way to gain control over this runaway train is to do what nearly every other industrialized country has already done.
We need universal health care in this country.
Gary Staples, Plymouth
Ticket policies are wrong
My turn to select seats in the new Vikings stadium came up months ago. I wanted non-stadium-builder-license seats, was told they weren’t for sale yet and passed on the SBLs. In a hard-sell final push to sell the dregs of the remaining SBLs, I’m now told that non-SBL seats will be sold first to SBL seat buyers and if they buy them all, too bad for me.
This is no way to treat a 15-year season-ticket holder. First priority to buy non-SBL seats should be given to fans that passed on SBLs or bought fewer SBL seats than they held in the Metrodome, in order of their standing on the original priority list.
One other thing: Dome season-ticket holders were told we’d not be punished for not renewing our tickets to sit out in the cold in TCF Bank Stadium during the construction interim. I didn’t renew this year for that reason and found out what not being punished meant — my 15 years of seniority would be wiped out and reset to zero. I don’t think that’s fair, either — I’d hate to see what being punished would have meant.
Peyton Barclay, Batavia, Ohio