You want proof positive that the debate over how to fix
pensions for California public workers is stale and dumb?

How about
this? Ted Costa has the smartest proposal for pension reform out there.

newly filed initiative is long and complicated and, in a few places, crazy. But
Costa, the original proponent of the recall of Gray Davis and frequent filer of
initiatives, has – more than anyone else with a pension proposal – gotten the
big stuff right.

Costa does not propose, as so many
do, to replace the current pensions system with a two-tiered system, with no
pensions for new employees. His initiative would keep the pensions and impose
all sorts of new caps and rules to limit pensions. But the retirement security
of a defined benefit plan is preserved for all.  

Better still, Costa’s initiative
makes the point that any pension plan that is good enough for public workers
should be available to private sector workers. He proposes to create Cal SPERS,
the California Separate Private Employees Retirement System, a pensions fund
into which private individuals and their employers could pay. It would provide
defined benefit plans and be managed by CalPERS. Any U.S. citizen or legal
resident would be eligible.

There are host of practical
problems with setting up a pension system for all like this. But Costa is right
on the big point that public and private workers alike need retirement security
– and a pension. He’s also right that pensions should be the same whether you
work for the state or not.

Costa rarely has the money to
qualify his own initiatives. But this is one measure that should have broad
appeal. It is certainly the standard by which any pension proposal must be

And yes, I can’t believe I just
wrote those words.