Fact-checking pensions op-ed

Charles Wowkanech’s June 3 opinion article blaming the chairman of the State Investment Council (SIC) for the public pension funding crisis needs to be fact-checked (“Unions: Change desperately needed in managing fund”).

The New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission’s September 2014 Status Report found that over three-, five- and 10-year periods, New Jersey’s pension funds had earned average or better returns than peer pensions — and did so with a lower exposure to risk. This trend has continued.

New Jersey’s returns have been better than average for pension funds over the most recent one-, three- and fiveyear periods. Adjusted for risk, they were in the top 10 percent for the past year and the top 25 percent over the past five years.

The report also discussed the dangers of looking to higher investment returns to pay for enhanced benefits. New Jersey adopted this strategy in the late 1990s and suffered a 10 percent loss of irreplaceable principal during the mild 2000-02 recession. If the pension funds had been invested in the S&P 500, they would have lost an additional $5 billion in FY 2008 and $6 billion in FY 2009.

Tellingly, none of the independent rating agencies and financial analysts have suggested greater employee investment control as the solution to the state’s problems. Instead, they have called for higher levels of funding through reduced health costs — the same remedy proposed by the commission, which Wowkanech rejects as “unworkable.” Changes in SIC membership should not be used as an excuse to put off the hard work of finding a realistic solution.

Thomas J. Healey Partner, Healey Development LLC

Editor’s note: The author is a member of the New Jersey

Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission

Your diet can help avert climate change

Are you, too, fighting mad about President Donald Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord? Then let’s fight back three times a day by adopting an ecofriendly plant-based diet.

Yes, our diet is pivotal. A 2010 United Nations report blames animal agriculture for 19 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, 38 percent of land use, and 70 percent of global freshwater consumption.

Carbon dioxide is emitted by burning forests to create animal pastures and by fossil fuels combustion to operate farm machinery, trucks, factory farms and slaughterhouses.

The more damaging methane and nitrous oxide are released from digestive tracts of cattle and from animal waste cesspools, respectively.

In an environmentally sustainable world, meat and dairy products in our diet must be replaced by vegetables, fruits and grains, just as fossil fuels are replaced by wind, solar and other pollution-free energy sources.

Each of us has the power to protest Trump’s failure to maintain America’s leadership in moderating climate change, simply and effectively, by what we choose at the grocery store.

Chris Cerqueira Newark

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