Dear NCPERS Members:
As a community, public pensions have come to understand that there are some journalists who will never give us a fair shake. Nevertheless, I found Mary Williams Walsh's of The New York Times latest column to be jaw-droppingly crass. ("Coronavirus Is Making the Public Pension Crisis Even Worse," April 2, 2020).
It takes a certain kind of nerve-chutzpah, some would call it-to launch such an attack in the middle of a crisis, when people are dead and dying and nations are spending tens of trillions of dollars to beat back a pandemic. If Walsh's only contribution is to report on the trumped-up "crisis" within public pensions, readers of The New York Times deserve better. We all do.
While we aren't in charge of that decision, but we have let the editors know our opinion. Our Letter to the Editor we submitted on April 2 is reprinted below. If it isn't published by April 6, we will post it as a comment and I hope all NCPERS members will "recommend" our comment.
April 2, 2020
To the Editor:
While I'm hard pressed to think of a single time Mary Williams Walsh has ever published a balanced, let alone positive, thought on public pensions, her latest column is jaw-droppingly crass. ("Coronavirus Is Making the Public Pension Crisis Even Worse," April 2, 2020) In the middle of a crisis, when people are dead and dying and nations are spending tens of trillions of dollars to beat back a pandemic, her contribution to the public discourse is that the public pension sky is falling.
News flash: Governments and businesses are working frantically against a health threat no one yet fully understands while tirelessly endeavoring to stabilize the global economy. In the midst of it, however, public pensions continue to do our part. Pension systems are issuing checks as they always do, providing stable income to retirees, powering spending in communities, and providing revenue to governments. They are a source of calm and confidence in the midst of chaos. All this is happening at a time when the stability that pensions provide is in woefully short supply.
The very essence of public pensions is long-term thinking. Pensions are in it for the long haul. For a more than 150 years, public pensions have steadily delivered modest but reliable retirement income to millions of dedicated public servants like the nurses, doctors, and EMS personnel who are on the coronavirus frontlines. Pensions have withstood and rebounded from crisis after crisis. Their focus right now is on helping members through the turmoil and delivering on their promises.
If Ms. Walsh's contribution is to report on the trumped-up "crisis" within public pensions, maybe she should take a breath and save precious space in The New York Times for truly valuable reporting on the coronavirus crisis.
Hank H. Kim
Executive Director and Counsel
National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems