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Tags: Palestinians | Call | Slain-Rabbis | Terrorists | Obama Travel Gouges Taxpayers | States Pension Gap at 4.7 Trillion | Cleta Mitchell Receives Freedom Center Award

Palestinians Call Slain Rabbis 'Terrorists'; Obama Travel Gouges Taxpayers; States' Pension Gap at $4.7 Trillion

Sunday, 23 November 2014 03:47 PM

Insider Report

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. States Have Unfunded Liabilities of $4.7 Trillion
2. Taxpayers 'Gouged' by Obama's Unnecessary Travel
3. Cleta Mitchell Receives Freedom Center Award
4. Palestinians Call Synagogue Victims 'Terrorists'
5. Colleges Offering Three-Year Degrees to Save Money
6. Homeowners' Confidence at All-Time High

1. States Have Unfunded Liabilities of $4.7 Trillion

State-level public pension plans are underfunded by a massive $4.73 trillion this year, according to a new report from State Budget Solutions — an amount equal to more than $15,000 for each American.

"This spells trouble for the millions of baby boomers who are quickly approaching retirement age and expect to collect the pensions promised to them by government officials," writes Joe Luppino-Esposito, author of the "Promises Made, Promises Broken 2014" report.

"State taxpayers who are not government employees will also feel the pinch, which could result in reduced government services as larger and larger portions of the states' budgets must be allocated to cover the public pension shortfall."

California carries the largest unfunded liability, $754 billion, followed by Illinois ($331 billion), New York ($307 billion), Texas ($296 billion), and Ohio ($289 billion).

But these large states have larger numbers of public sector employees, so simply looking at the total figures can be misleading. A better indicator of pension plan health is the funding ratio, which compares assets to liabilities.

By this yardstick, the Illinois pension plan is in worst shape, with a funding ratio of just 22 percent — it has assets of $95 billion, about 22 percent of its liabilities of $426.6 billion. Other states with low ratios are Connecticut (23 percent), Kentucky (24 percent), Alaska (25 percent), and Mississippi (27 percent).

The most well-funded state is Wisconsin, with a funding ratio of 67 percent.

On a per-capita basis, Alaska has an unfunded liability of $40,639 for each resident. Illinois has a liability of $25,740 per person, followed by Ohio ($25,028), Connecticut ($24,080), and New Jersey ($22,491). The lowest figure is in Tennessee, $6,500.

One reason for the huge unfunded liability numbers is that officials rely on overly optimistic returns on the investment of assets, Luppino-Esposito asserts.

Also, states are often guilty of not making the necessary annual contributions to the pension funds.

"State Budget Solutions found that in recent years several states have reduced the annual required contribution to the pension funds, or just skipped the payments altogether," the report notes. "New Jersey is the latest state to pull off this budget gimmick, reducing this year's payment by a whopping $4.2 billion as a way of 'balancing' the state's budget."

Editor's Note:


2. Taxpayers 'Gouged' by Obama's Unnecessary Travel

President Obama's Labor Day 2014 weekend trips for fundraising, personal business, and politicking ran up a tab of $1,539,400 in taxpayer-paid transportation expenses.

That disclosure comes from U.S. Air Force records obtained by Judicial Watch in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed the day after Labor Day.

Obama began his Labor Day weekend by flying to Westchester, N.Y., on Friday, August 29. While there he attended two fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee.

Later that day he took off for Providence, R.I., for a fundraiser at a private residence, where tickets cost up to $32,400. The event was Obama's ninth fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this year, Judicial Watch noted.

The trips to Westchester and Providence cost taxpayers $527,192 for transportation alone.

Obama was originally scheduled to fly back to Westchester on Friday night, spend the night there, then return to Washington after attending the wedding of White House chef Sam Kass and MSNBC host Alex Wagner on Saturday. But he changed his plans at the last minute and flew to Washington instead.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said this change allowed Obama to "sleep in his own bed, do a little work tomorrow, spend some time with his family, and then travel back to New York."

Flying to Washington, D.C., instead of Westchester required an additional 1.4 hours spent on Air Force One, which added $295,227 more in taxpayer dollars to bring the total cost of the round trip between New York and D.C. to $358,490.

Obama wrapped up his Labor Day travel by flying to Milwaukee, Wis., on Monday, where he made a campaign speech at Laborfest 2014. This cost taxpayers $653,718.

"This Labor Day back-and-forth shows President Obama seems to confuse Air Force One with Uber," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

"President Obama abuses not only taxpayers with this unnecessary travel, he strains an already overstretched military and a Secret Service that is in crisis and can't even guard the front door of the White House.

"The new Congress could do worse than to reform presidential travel so taxpayers aren't gouged by candidates and campaigns benefiting from the political use of Air Force One."

Editor's Note:


3. Cleta Mitchell Receives Freedom Center Award

Prominent attorney Cleta Mitchell, a specialist in election law, has received this year's Annie Taylor Award for Courage from the conservative David Horowitz Freedom Center.

The award is given annually to people who have demonstrated unusual courage in adverse conditions.

Mitchell has been in the forefront of efforts to bring lawsuits against the Obama administration over the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service.

She is a Washington, D.C.-based partner at the Foley & Lardner LLP law firm and the former president of the Republican National Lawyers Association.

Mitchell has served as legal counsel for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the National Rifle Association.

David Horowitz told Newsmax: "I picked Cleta Mitchell for this award because she is a fighter, a defender of the Constitution, and an American hero."

She received the award at the Freedom Center’s 20th anniversary Restoration Weekend in Palm Beach, Fla., Nov. 13-16. Among those in attendance were Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and Sens. Jeff Sessions and Ron Johnson.

Mitchell told Newsmax: "I'm very honored to receive this award from the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Fighting against the odds and standing for truth and principle are what David and the center do every day. So to be honored in this way by this distinguished organization — on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Restoration Weekend — and to share the honor with a true patriot, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, makes this honor all the more special."

Previous winners of the Annie Taylor Award — named after the woman who in 1901 became the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel — include Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

According to its stated mission, the David Horowitz Freedom Center is "dedicated to the defense of free societies whose moral, cultural, and economic foundations are under attack by enemies both secular and religious, at home and abroad."

Editor's Note:


4. Palestinians Call Synagogue Victims 'Terrorists'

Palestinian leaders reacted to Tuesday's killing of five Israelis in a Jerusalem synagogue by calling the murder victims "terrorists" and characterizing the synagogue as a "command center."

The victims included three Israeli-American rabbis and one British-born rabbi, who died at the scene, and an Israeli police officer who later died from his wounds. Seven other Israelis were injured when two Palestinian cousins entered the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue and attacked victims with meat cleavers and a handgun before being shot dead by police.

The militant Palestinian group Hamas described the attack as "a quality development in the confrontation with the Israeli occupation," the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. "The organization welcomes the terror attack, an appropriate and functional response to the crimes of the occupation."

Hamas spokesman Sheikh Aal Radhwan called the four murdered rabbis "the greatest terrorists in that racist state. These are no civilians. They are terrorists," according to the Middle East Media Research Institute, which translated the comments of Palestinian leaders.

Radhwan said rabbis "represent the greatest terrorism against our Palestinian people and our holy places. They are terrorists because they are occupiers, because they are extremists, and because they are oppressors."

Hamas Political Bureau member Osama Hamdan said the attack "is the kind of act that defends the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and condemns the Israeli crimes," according to CNS News.

He added: "According to all the international laws the settlers are not civilians. International law defines them as armed militias."

Sultan Abu Al-Einein, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, praised the attack on his Facebook page, calling it a "heroic operation" and posting graphic pictures showing dead Jews wearing prayer shawls. He called the two dead attackers "martyrs."

Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf called the attack "the natural result" of Israeli "violations" in Jerusalem.

Tawfiq Tirawi of the Fatah Central Committee, a prominent Palestinian political party, charged that "the responsibility for the Israelis killed lies with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, his government, and his settlers. The responsibility also lies with America, which helps Israel."

Abu Ahmand Fouad, deputy secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said: "That synagogue is a kind of command center for the planning of acts of aggression against our people and our holy places. This is no prayer synagogue."

And Palestinian political scientist Abdul Sattar Kassem said: "This operation was symbolic because it was carried out in a synagogue. For the Palestinian people, synagogues represent Israeli settlements and extremism."

Netanyahu ordered authorities to demolish the attackers' homes, and authorities promised action to revoke the permit for the wife of one assailant to remain in Israel.

As the Insider Report disclosed last week, several Jewish groups have condemned Abbas for inciting violence in Israel and the West Bank rather than seeking to quell the hostilities.

Editor's Note:


5. Colleges Offering Three-Year Degrees to Save Money

With the cost of earning a four-year bachelor's degree continuing to rise, some universities are offering a common-sense solution to save money — three-year degree programs.

Purdue University, the University of Iowa, the University of South Carolina, and at least 22 private college have introduced three-year options.

College tuition has tripled over three decades, adjusted for inflation, The Washington Post reports. The average annual cost for full-time undergraduates enrolled in a four-year degree program stood at $23,872 last year.

Colleges generally charge students in a three-year program the same per-year tuition as other students, but the three-year students often face additional charges for summer courses and added classes during regular semesters that the students need to complete their degree.

Nonetheless, the additional fees are lower than the cost of a fourth year at school, and students avoid a fourth year of housing and meal expenses, The Wall Street Journal observes.

And these students can enter the workforce and begin earning money a year ahead of their four-year classmates.

Purdue estimates that Indiana residents who complete their degrees in three years save $9,290, while out-of-state students can save up to $18,000 because they face higher tuitions.

There is one problem with the three-year concept, however. Federal law stipulates that if students are in school for two regular semesters and received the maximum amount from a Pell grant for those terms, Pell won't cover additional summer classes. Many students can't afford to spend summer at college without the grant money.

Daniel Hurley, associate vice president for government relations and state policy at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, is not a fan of the three-year programs.

He told the Journal: "We need to do a much better job graduating students in four, five, or six years than we need to focus on getting a fraction of students through in three years."

Less than 40 percent of first-time, full-time students who entered college in 2006 graduated in four years; 59.2 percent graduated within six years.

Editor's Note:


6. Homeowners' Confidence at All-Time High

The percentage of American homeowners who expect the value of their home to increase in the next year has hit 40 percent — up five points from October, a new poll reveals.

That's the highest level since Rasmussen Reports began polling on the question in April 2009.

The Rasmussen survey found that just 13 percent of respondents think their home's value will go down in the next year, while 44 percent believe it will remain about the same and 3 percent are not sure.

Back in November 2012, only 24 percent thought their home would increase in value in a year.

Asked if they believe the value of their home will rise or fall over the next five years, 55 percent said it would rise, 11 percent think it will go down, and 26 percent expect it to stay about the same.

Rasmussen found that 64 percent of homeowners think their home is worth more than what they still owe on their mortgage, tying July's all-time record, while 24 percent say it is not worth more.

Back in June 2011, just 45 percent thought their home was worth more than they owed.

The survey also disclosed that 64 percent of homeowners believe their home is worth more today than when they bought it, 16 percent say it is worth less, and 19 percent say it is about the same.

Other findings by Rasmussen Reports include:

  • Only 6 percent of homeowners have missed or been late on a mortgage payment over the last six months, and just 4 percent say they are likely to miss or be late with a payment in the next six months.
  • Nearly half of respondents expect interest rates to rise next year.
  • 77 percent of homeowners bought their home more than five year ago, while only 2 percent bought it in the last year.
  • 58 percent believe homeowners who are struggling to make increased mortgage payments should sell their home and buy a less expensive one, while 22 percent believe the government should assist them in making payments.

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Editor's Note:


Editor's Notes:

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Insider ReportHeadlines (Scroll down for complete stories):1. States Have Unfunded Liabilities of $4.7 Trillion 2. Taxpayers 'Gouged' by Obama's Unnecessary Travel 3. Cleta Mitchell Receives Freedom Center Award 4. Palestinians Call Synagogue Victims 'Terrorists' 5....
Palestinians, Call, Slain-Rabbis, Terrorists, Obama Travel Gouges Taxpayers, States Pension Gap at 4.7 Trillion, Cleta Mitchell Receives Freedom Center Award, Colleges Offering Three-Year Degrees to Save Money, Homeowners Confidence at All-Time High
Sunday, 23 November 2014 03:47 PM
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