With the help of the mainstream media and its rags, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) is yet again using its over $233 in reported investment fund wealth to somehow claim it is in a deficit, despite having an investment return this fiscal year.
(Note here that the actual gross fund balances are generally many billions higher, and were reported as $245,848,527,000 in 2011, and $204,727,543,000 in the 2010 CAFR’s.)
USA Today put out the following story, which was of course originally printed from the false-news clearing house, Associated Press:
“SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The nation’s largest public pension fund collected a dismal 1% annual return on its investments, a figure far short of projections that will likely bring pressure on California’s state and local governments to contribute more money, officials said Monday.
The return reported by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System was well below its projected return of 7.5% for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
The investment returns are critical because taxpayers are on the hook for the difference if the pension funds fail to meet their performance targets.
“The last 12 months were a challenging period for all investors as the ongoing European debt crisis and slowing global economic growth increased market volatility and reduced equity returns,” said chief investment officer Joe Dear. “It’s a clear reminder that we must remain focused on performance, risk and internal controls in today’s financial environment.”
The fund was most impacted by a negative -7% return on global equities. Half the pension’s assets are in equities, Dear said.
The fund, known as CalPERS, runs a $234 billion pension system for more than 1.6 million state employees, school employees and local government workers…”
In this first three paragraphs we can see the entire scam played out in front of us, as told from a master story-teller who is trying to sell sunglasses to a blind man. But even a blind man should be able to read between the lines here…
So far, we have learned that the CalPERS Pension fund has earned a 1% increase in its investment portfolio, which for this year would have been over $2.2 billion dollar in gains on investments. Yes, that’s $2,200,000,000 when spelled out properly. And this is of course reported as bad news!
Simply because CalPERS did not reach its “projected” goal. It wished upon a star, and failed to reach that star. It did not lose value or money, it only failed to miss its desired gains. It still did fine, and has no problems whatsoever meeting its “obligations” to pensioners. In fact, if CalPERS liquidated all of its investments today at today’s market value it could easily pay future pension benefits for the next 15-20 years.
So what’s the problem?
That’s just it, there is no real or tangible problem. You see, governments across the country are crying broke or bankruptcy based on this type of situation – hiding assets with future liabilities, without reporting the future assets that will pay for those liabilities. With billions in assets, all of this hoopla is based on nothing more than throwing a temper tantrum because the CalPERS fund didn’t reach what it wanted to reach this year.
It’s true. Nothing bad has actually happened here, as we will see in a moment. But the government creates any excuse it can in order to collect higher taxes, or to funnel as much taxpayer money into the pension system. Case in point: here the article states that “California State and local governments (will be forced to) contribute more money“. In other words, the government wishes to keep its investment wealth untouched instead of liquidating it to pay for pension obligations to its employees. And so it will raise taxes instead, as the article states here: “taxpayers are on the hook for the difference if the pension funds fail to meet their performance targets.” Remember, taxes fund government. So government contributions means taxpayer contributions, despite the fact that taxpayers receive absolutely no benefits from the pension system, only employees of the government receive pension benefits.
Now imagine if Target, Bank of America, General Electric, or any other corporation out there forced all people in America or in an individual State or local government to pay for its private employee’s pension fund costs. How would that make you feel? Well, that is how the pension fund system works, as this article tells you.
Note here as well that the so-called “loss” on the equity value of stock and investments does not represent a loss of the actual number of stocks or investments. Just because a stock goes down in value for a 1 year period, does not mean that it will stay down. The same amount of stock is still held, and that physical equity has not changed, only this years value.
For instance, the following capital gains for 2010 and 2011 fiscal years were stated by the CalPERS pension fund in its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report:
CalPERS (2011) – $41.1 billion gain in net assets after all benefits paid.
“CalPERS reports 20.7% investment return for fiscal year“
“The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) reported a 20.7 percent return on investments in preliminary estimates for the one-year period that ended June 30, 2011.
This is our best annual performance in 14 years, said Rob Feckner, CalPERS Board President. For the second straight fiscal year, the Pension Fund exceeded its long-term annualized earnings target of 7.75 percent.”
CalPERS (2010) – 13.3 % increase with a $23.2 billion gain in net assets after all benefits paid.
“The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest U.S. public pension, earned a 12.5 percent return in 2010, led by gains in private equity and U.S. stocks, Chief Investment Officer John Dear said.
The $228 billion pension fund earned 17.3 percent from domestic equity and 21.5 percent in alternative investments such as private equity, Dear said today. Its real-estate portfolio lost 5 percent while its fixed-income investments gained 12 percent“.”
Also, in 2009 fiscal year, as with all fiscal years, the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report show the following contributions from employees and separately from taxpayers (government).
And here is a USA Today article with the headline:
“Calpers posts 16.7% gain for fiscal year“
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) — Calpers, the biggest U.S. pension fund, earned a 16.7% return on its investments in its fiscal year ended June 30, (2004) best returns in six years, the fund said Tuesday.
And in 1998, CalPERS reported a record 19.5% gain in its investment portfolio. Yipee!
So the question you might be asking yourself is… Why don’t the taxpayers get a refund of all of that money they are putting into the pension system when there is a good year, when we have to be “on the hook” to support the fund with more taxpayer money in a bad year? Not that this was really a bad year, mind you.
Notice here that I am not mentioning 2008 in this list, and instead giving the reader the impression that CalPERS has gained every year in its portfolio. That is what the news does, you see, but not me. In 2008, Calpers lost a butt-load of asset value to the tune of $58.8 billion due to the financial crash of that time. This was big news of course.
The point here is that a portfolio such as this is designed to acquire as many assets as possible, knowing in advance that those assets will go up and down in the short term, but is designed for the long term. A slow year or a loss is expected every once in a while, of course, and events happen and the economy goes bad and the strengthens again. This is an established reality that any long term investor will tell you.
So let’s here what CalPERS itself says about this years portfolio:
July 16, 2012
External Affairs Branch
CalPERS Reports Preliminary 2011-12 Fiscal Year Performance of 1 Percent
Real estate portfolio earns nearly 16 percent exceeding benchmark
SACRAMENTO, CA – The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) today reported a 1 percent return on investments for the 12 months that ended June 30, 2012, falling short of its benchmark that returned 1.7 percent. CalPERS assets at the end of the fiscal year stood at more than $233 billion.
The small gain – despite continued volatility in world markets and economies – was helped by improved performance of CalPERS real estate investments. Investments in income-generating properties like office, industrial and retail assets returned approximately 15.9 percent, outperforming the pension fund’s real estate benchmark by more than 3 percent.
CalPERS performance was negatively impacted by significant allocations to U.S. and international public equities.
“The last twelve months were a challenging period for all investors as the ongoing European debt crisis and slowing global economic growth increased market volatility and reduced equity returns,” said Joe Dear, CalPERS Chief Investment Officer. “It’s a clear reminder that we must remain focused on performance, risk and internal controls in today’s financial environment.”
CalPERS 1 percent return is below the fund’s discount rate of 7.5 percent, a long-term hurdle lowered recently in response to a steady decline in inflation and as part of CalPERS routine evaluation of economic assumptions. CalPERS 20-year investment return is 7.7 percent.
“It’s important to remember that CalPERS is a long-term investor and one year of performance should not be interpreted as a signal about our ability to achieve our investment goals over the long-term,” said Henry Jones, Chair of CalPERS Investment Committee…
Returns for real estate, private equity and some components of the inflation assets reflect market values through March 31, 2012 (not June 30, 2012). Final performance including the last quarter of the fiscal year will be available after asset valuations are completed.
Investment returns are based on compounded daily earnings over the year, including continuing member contributions and benefit payments, and do not precisely correspond to one-year changes in CalPERS overall portfolio market value.
In another listed report, the CalPERS system shows that “CalPERS Outperformed Its 7.5 Percent Target 13 out of the Last 20 Fiscal Years (FY 1992/93 – FY 2011/12).
So what does this all mean?
Remember, this reported bad thing of an over $2 billion gain in net assets for the fiscal year is being reported after all benefits have been paid out to the employees of this pension fund. And so there is no loss at all for the year, and this gain is all profit for the fund.
Also notice that for the last 20 years, this fund has attained an above average return on investments, 7.7% compared to the desired 7.5%. This is the wonderful aspect of the CAFR – it allows you to see previous cycles so as to not be fooled by media sound bites. Here, CalPER’s confirms the data in the financial statements that prove that this fund is wealthy beyond even the stated CalPER’s long term goals.
Simply put, this whole media frenzy was a false flag scare tactic – utilizing incomplete information for the CalPERS fiscal year report as stated by CalPERS to pre-program the people of California to accept unnecessary and unneeded increases in taxation, and all for a pension fund that will benefit the taxpayers in no way whatsoever.
We will not know the true statement of CalPERS financial situation until the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) is released for fiscal year 2011-2012, sometime in the next couple of months.
The problem is, most taxpayers have never heard of the CAFR, and place blind trust in their government and their media when they report such ridiculously contradiction data-sets as we have seen here from the Associated Press. And as government forces taxpayers to contribute taxpayer money into the public pension systems of the Federal, State, County, municipality, and district funds on an involuntary basis every year, the taxpayer base looses over $900 billion into the either of public pension black hole each year. This is to say nothing of what the employees of government are also forced to contribute.
If Walmart or Haliburton corporations required taxpayers to fund their pensions at no benefit to the taxpayers in any way, there would be riots in the street tomorrow.
And if they tried to get away with trying to convince the people (or for that matter the IRS) that their over $2 billion dollar gain in investments was somehow a bad thing or was somehow a loss requiring more taxpayer infusions into the Walmart or Haliburton corporate structure, there would be attorneys, accountants, CEO’s, and Board members hanging from the nearest tree…
What gives America?
–Clint Richardson (realitybloger.wordpress.com)
–Saturday, July 21, 2012