Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, August 2, 2014

MVNews this week:  Page B:4



Mountain Views-News Saturday, August 2, 2014 





Susan Henderson


Dean Lee 


Joan Schmidt


LaQuetta Shamblee


Pat Birdsall


Patricia Colonello




John Aveny 


Chris Leclerc

Bob Eklund

Howard Hays

Paul Carpenter

Kim Clymer-Kelley

Christopher Nyerges

Peter Dills 

Hail Hamilton 

Rich Johnson

Merri Jill Finstrom

Lori Koop

Rev. James Snyder

Tina Paul

Mary Carney

Katie Hopkins

Deanne Davis

Despina Arouzman

Greg Welborn

Renee Quenell

Ben Show

Sean Kayden

Marc Garlett


GREG Welborn


HOWARD Hays As I See It

Originally printed in August, 
2009. Has anything changed 
your way of financial thinking 
since then?

 With the economic downturn 
and the last national election 
only just in are rear view 
mirrors, there’s still a lot being 
written about the sins of Wall Street and 
corporate fat cats who have purportedly 
abused their customers and their employees. 
Interestingly the abuses of union fat cats 
directed against the rank and file have 
received nary a peep from the national press. 
It’s time we focus a little light on these dark 
corners of arrogance, abuse and corruption.

 Most people don’t understand the 
dynamics at work in the ubiquitous pension 
plan, but it’s a necessary requirement to 
truly comprehend how union leaders have 
exceeded in many instances the worst sins 
ever imagined from corporate chieftains.

 Let’s start with a little pension economics 
101. Unlike a 401(k), a pension plan is 
not a retirement plan governed by the 
contribution that’s made. In a 401(k), 
workers contribute what they want – 
sometimes matched, sometime not, by a 
corporate contribution. The employees 
get to direct the investment choices in the 
plan, and at the end of their employment, 
whatever their 401(k) has grown to is the 
amount they get for their retirement. 

 In a pension plan, on the other hand, the 
contribution is not the defining element. 
Rather, the plan sponsor – usually the 
employer – defines a benefit they agree they 
will pay to every worker who participates 
upon that worker’s retirement. For example, 
an employer might say that they are willing 
to pay 80% of the employee’s last year’s 
salary as a lifetime benefit. The employee 
counts on the fact that when he retires, there 
will be enough assets in the pension plan 
to generate sufficient income to make the 
promised payments for the rest of his or her 
life. It’s a pretty simple concept.

 To make it work, the plan sponsor must 
make enough contributions each year to 
insure that there will be enough assets to 
make the promised benefit payments. The 
federal government regulates these plans 
through the Pension Benefit Guarantee 
Corporation (PBGC) so that there will in 
fact be enough assets in the plan. From 
year to year, the PBGC calculates how much 
should be in each plan and then determines 
whether the assets in the plan actually equal 
100% of this necessary amount or 90%, or 
80%, etc.

 There is some latitude extended so that 
sponsors can manage their cashflow. 
Generally speaking the PBGC allows pension 
plans to be funded to the 80% level before it 
considers the plan to be “endangered”, and at 
65% it’s considered “critical”. So there’s the 
background against which I want to review 
how corporate America has performed vs. 
union America. You see, employers aren’t 
the only ones who can sponsor a pension 
plan. Most unions sponsor a pension plan 
for the workers they represent. As such, 
union management serves in the same role 
relative to their pension plans as corporate 
management does relative to their pension 
plans. So who’s doing a better job?

 As we review the most recent government 
data regarding pension plans and their 
funding levels, it’s with some degree of 
irony that we find that corporate sponsored 
pension plans are on average well above the 
80% level. It is the union sponsored and 
controlled plans that we find significant 
levels of under funding. The country’s 
largest union, the SEIU reported that their 
pension plan was at 74% of its fully funded 
level. Thirteen of the largest Teamsters’ 
plan clocked in collectively at 59%. Twenty 
six of the United Food Workers Union were 
at 58%. These are just a few examples of a 
trend which permeates the union pension 
plan world.

 Sadly, this isn’t the only place where 
arrogance and ill treatment at the hands of 
union leaders can be found. In many of these 
union organizations – taking the SEIU as 
an example, the benefits accorded the union 
officials are substantially better than those 
negotiated for the actual union members. 
In the SEIU, union officers get a 3% cost of 
living increase, the members get none. The 
officers qualify for an early pension at 50, 
but members can’t retire 
early with a pension. 

 As a conservative, I don’t 
easily relegate people into 
prejudiced categories 
like “management” 
(good) and “labor” 
(bad). I believe that 
power corrupts and that 
absolute power corrupts 
absolutely. Accordingly, I am as suspicious 
of the fat cat corporate manager as I am of 
the labor union fat cat. Unless there are 
some checks and balances in the system, 
people with power will tend to abuse those 
below them without power. Our free market 
system is the best system designed to build 
in those checks and balances. In a free 
market, if management of any organization 
abuses its workers or customers, then 
those workers or customers will gradually 
– or quickly – migrate elsewhere, and the 
offending organization will fail or be forced 
to take corrective action. All this works 
beautifully within a system of maximum 
personal freedom.

 Unfortunately, when the government 
interferes and restricts the movement 
of workers or customers, or prevents 
competition from punishing offending 
organizations, you find that more people 
suffer at the hands of incompetence and/
or corruption. The reason that more 
labor union pension plans are severely 
underfunded than corporate pension plans 
is because the government has in one way or 
another restricted worker’s freedom to join 
or not join a union.

 In those instances where getting a job 
means you have to join the union, it’s not 
surprising to find that union management 
doesn’t treat its own rank and file very 
well. It’s only human nature. If a union 
boss doesn’t have to pay attention to his 
members’ concerns or doesn’t have to fight 
for their membership because it’s mandated 
by law, the union boss tends to take members 
for granted. Why would we be surprised 
to learn that those same union bosses 
have allowed the pension plans to become 
severely under-funded? What recourse do 
the members actually have?

 In a corporate pension plan, employees 
aren’t forced to work for that company and 
aren’t forced to stay in the plan. They aren’t 
forced to make contributions they would 
rather not make as they are in unions. As 
we consider whether to change our laws so 
as to shift the balance of power away from 
corporate “management” toward union 
“labor”, we might consider that government 
actions forcing anyone to work for anyone is 
a sure fire recipe for disaster.

 As a conservative, I’m all for a level playing 
field, and I’m absolutely ambivalent toward 
unions and union membership. If workers 
want to form or join a union, that’s O.K. by 
me. If workers want to quit a union and 
work without representation because they 
trust their bosses, that’s O.K. with me. If 
workers don’t want to make contributions 
to a union’s political action committee, 
that’s O.K. with me. And if workers want 
to cast their vote for or against the union in 
private using a secret ballot system, that’s 
exactly what they should be allowed to do. 

 Conservatives don’t see the world through 
the prejudiced lens of management vs. 
labor. We don’t attribute virtue to one 
side at the expense of attributing ill intent 
to the other. We are objective in our 
assessments of right vs. wrong and steadfast 
in support of maintaining a level playing 
field for everyone without government favor 
showered upon one party at the expense of 
another. In the weeks, months and years to 
come, there will be plenty of opportunities 
for these principles to be implemented and 
defended, ironically enough in steadfast 
opposition to the counter productive 
policies of the Obama administration which 
came to power promising support for the 
common man.

 Gregory J. Welborn is an independent 
opinion columnist. He writes and speaks 
frequently on political, economic and social 
issues. His columns have appeared in 
publications such as The Los Angeles Daily 
News, The Orange County Register, The Wall 
Street Journal and USA Today. He can be 
reached at

The more things 
change the 
more they stay the 
same. Read Howard 
and Greg’s 2009 
article and see if you 

This was printed in 
August 2009 with 
but today are not 
the same issues with 
us in other parts of 
the world?


In 1992 I walked 
my precinct for 
presidential candidate Bill Clinton 
and U.S. Senate candidate Dianne 
Feinstein. My neighborhood 
was largely Hispanic, and in one 
household I was invited in to discuss 
the contests. I was asked what I knew 
of Feinstein’s opponent. Tailoring my 
remarks to the audience, I explained 
that the Republican in the race was 
one of those who blamed most 
everything - crime, the economy, 
unemployment, failing schools - 
on Mexican immigrants. My host 
nodded in recognition, saying that 
as one whose family had roots in 
Mexico he found such scapegoating 
to be divisive and unacceptable. 
“Besides”, he added, “it’s those damn 
Salvadorans who’re causing all the 

 I’m a bit defensive on that subject; 
a favorite family member is the 
beautiful bride a cousin brought 
back from El Salvador following 
a stint in the Peace Corps. Since 
moving to Southern California, I’ve 
developed an appreciation for the 
contributions the Salvadorans, Costa 
Ricans, Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, 
Panamanians and Hondurans 
(almost forgot Belizeans) have 
made to the fabric of our region - 
almost 400,000 with roots in Central 
America residing in L.A. County. In 
a nation of immigrants where we all 
have stories to tell, I’ve wondered 
about the stories of those from that 
handful of countries which, for 
most of the last century, comprised 
the most troubled region in our 
hemisphere. I wonder how they 
feel about a chain of trendy clothing 
stores being named “Banana 

 The term “banana republic” 
originated in a short story by O. 
Henry, used to describe a fictional 
country inspired by a trip he’d taken 
to Honduras in the late 1890’s. 
Prior to that, the main allure of 
Honduras to outsiders was its silver, 
which drew Spanish conquistadors 
centuries before. After the turn of 
the last century, it was bananas - and 
the Cuyamel Fruit Co., later merging 
with United Fruit Co., and Standard 
Fruit Co. (now known as Dole 
Foods) basically controlling the land, 
the wealth, the economies and the 
governments of Honduras and its 
Central American neighbors for the 
next fifty years. Major urban areas 
became virtual “company towns”. 
Companies used the leaders and 
militaries of host countries to crush 
populist opposition movements, 
and to stage cross-border incursions 
against neighboring governments 
threatening to exercise more 
domestic control over their affairs. 
In this they often had the support of 
the U.S. military - seeking to protect 
not only the companies’ interests, but 
also our own interest in the Panama 
Canal Zone.

 In the second half of the century, 
armed intervention continued not 
so much on behalf of the banana 
barons but rather as proxy battles 
in the Cold War. Democratically 
elected leaders, such as those in 
Guatemala who said they drew 
inspiration from FDR’s New Deal, 
were overthrown in CIA-backed 
coups. Wealthy oligarchies and 
corrupt dictatorships that protected 
U.S. corporate interests also served as 
a bulwark against left-leaning reform 
movements. Instability in Honduras 
peaked in the 1980’s when, 
after the Sandinistas took 
power in Nicaragua in 1979 
and won a popular election 
in 1983, the U.S.-backed 
Contras, funded by arms 
sales to Iran and drug sales 
through Panama, used Honduras as 
a staging area for its attacks on the 
Nicaraguan government. In return 
for U.S. aid, Honduran officials 
acquiesced as its military joined in 
the notorious Battalion 316, whose 
members were taught the techniques 
of abduction, suppression, torture 
and the “disappearing” of civilians 
by Pinochet’s henchmen from 
Argentina and the CIA. All this 
history, though, is so-last-century; 
Central America is now a region 
of stable democracies and peaceful 
transitions of power - that is until 
last month.

 On June 28, Honduran President 
Manuel Zelaya was abducted by 
the military and flown into exile - 
forbidden to re-enter the country. 
No doubt actions he’d already taken 
were perceived as threatening to 
the ruling elite, such as raising the 
minimum wage by 60%, increasing 
teachers’ salaries and improving 
access to education. The justification 
offered, that Zelaya was attempting 
an illegal revision of the Constitution 
in order to run for re-election, 
didn’t make sense. The measure he 
proposed was a non-binding opinion 
poll to gauge public sentiment on 
whether to have a referendum on 
reforming the Constitution. The 
referendum would appear on the 
same November ballot where voters 
would choose Zelaya’s successor, 
who’d take office in January. 
Ironically, Honduran Congressman 
Roberto Micheletti, installed by the 
military to replace Zelaya, in 1985 
was involved in an unsuccessful 
effort to revise the Constitution in 
order to - you guessed it - allow the 
then-president to run for re-election.

 A distressingly familiar litany of 
events followed; journalists and 
opposition figures detained, a 
media blackout, military and police 
firing at peaceful protesters (tens 
of thousands in a country of 7.5 
million, with at least two killed). The 
Organization of American States and 
the U.N. General Assembly promptly 
called for the “immediate and 
unconditional return” of President 
Zelaya. Our own government 
seemed to kind of hope that maybe 
things would sort of work themselves 

 It might be our history; many still 
in Washington remain nostalgic 
for the days when the legitimacy 
of a government was assessed 
not by its popular support but by 
the extent it allowed human and 
natural resources to be exploited by 
our corporate interests. There are 
personal connections; Honduran 
coup leader Gen. Romeo Vasquez 
is a product of our own School of 
the Americas, joining an alumni 
comprised of leaders of military 
coups and right-wing death squads. 
Campaign advisors for Secretary of 
State Hillary Clinton in last year’s 
presidential campaign are now 
lobbying on behalf of the “new” 
Honduran government.

 It’s comforting to cling to the past, 
but now in the 21st century it’s 
time to be able to state clearly and 
unequivocally that the overthrow 
of any democratically elected 
government by a military coup 
is unacceptable. It’s time to stop 
regarding any nation, especially 
those in Central America, as a 
“banana republic”.

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OUT TO PASTOR A Weekly Religion Column by Rev. James Snyder

Things I have learned in my lifetime

In celebrating my recent birthday, I 
found myself caught up in a case of 
nostalgia. I never imagined I would 
really get this old. Not that I am old, 
mind you, but I have reached the 
point in life I never thought I would when I was younger. 
Had I known I would get this old, I would have saved some 
of the energy I wasted during my teenage years.

 How was I to know that as you got older your supply of 
energy began diminishing?

 When I was younger, I could not sit still for long and no 
matter where I went, I ran. It was impossible for me just to 
walk. Often my mother chided me by saying, “Slow down, 
young man.” But I never could. I have finally come to the 
point where I am in harmony with my mother’s desire. The 
only problem is, I am not a young man anymore.

 Today, I can sit in my easy chair for hours and not even 
move. I keep a little mirror on the stand next to my chair so 
my wife can periodically check to see if I am still breathing. 
Often, the only indication of life is the occasional snoring.

 One thing I have learned in growing older is that my eyes 
are not quite what they used to be. For example, the mailbox 
used to be rather close to the front door of our house. Now, I 
can barely see it from the front door and it takes over an hour 
to reach it by walking. To be truthful, halfway to the mailbox 
I have to pause and catch my breath.

 And, when I look at my checkbook, I can barely see to 
the end of the month. When I was young, I used to hear the 
saying, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Now, my eyes are 
so bad, I cannot see anything to buy for a penny.

 Not only are my eyes going, but my hearing is not quite 
what it used to be when I was young. It is not as bad as it 
might seem. There is a good side to diminished hearing. 
When I am in a crowd with people talking, I can sit back, 
smile, nod my head occasionally and not have to be bored 
with what everybody is saying. 

 Experience has taught me that people are not really 
interested in hearing what I have to say. Rather, they want 
me listening to what they have to say. Usually, people have a 
lot to say and all they require are two ears. It does not have to 
be ears that hear, just ears that appear.

 Most things heard in such circumstances are not worth 
hearing. Perhaps that is the genius of our ears. In aging, 
they develop a little bit of wisdom and after a while, they 
just give up, not hearing anything really worth hearing. I 
cannot remember the last time I heard something under 
such circumstances worth hearing the first time, let alone 

 This brings me to my memory. The best thing about 
memory is, you can remember things the way you want to 
remember them. After all, it is your memory and it should 
be up to you to remember what you want. My memory has a 
way of bringing out the positive to the absolute exclusion of 
the negative. And who wants to dwell on the negative?

 Whoever said you cannot live in the past is probably not 
old enough to have any past worth remembering. And the 
marvelous thing about remembering things in the past is 
that you can remember them as you like. It is your version 
of the past. Some people write journals, I like to trust my 

 As my memory has aged, it has become better, just like 
a fine wine. In fact, my memory is so good I can distinctly 
remember things that never happened. And the details 
I remember are simply astounding. Each time I recount a 
memory I remember new details.

 The Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage has quite a 
different take on all of this. She remembers everything 
that actually happened. She has a photographic memory, 
whereas I have, according to her, a problematic memory. At 
her discretion, she can marshal all of the facts of the incident 
in the order in which it happened. Usually her memory 
throws my memory in a different light.

 No matter how I recount my memory, she always has 
some correction to it. More than once, she has claimed I 
stretched the truth. But I believe, if the truth cannot handle 
some stretching what good is it in the first place? If it is so 
fragile and cannot handle a little bit of stretching, I am not 
sure it is worth remembering.

 As my body gets weaker, my memory gets stronger.

 In the Old Testament, David spoke often of the importance 
of memory. “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy 
works; I muse on the work of thy hands” (Psalms 143:5 KJV). 
For David, in his old age his memory brought him a great 
deal of comfort. “I have been young, and now am old; yet 
have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging 
bread” (Psalms 37:25 KJV).

 My goal is to live each day in such a way that years down 
the road I will have a good memory.

 Rev. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family of God 
Fellowship, PO Box 831313, Ocala, FL 34483. He lives with 
his wife, Martha, in Silver Springs Shores. Call him at 1-866-
552-2543 or e-mail or website www.

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