‘Social justice’ types also victims of CalPERS’ arrogance, incompetence

The people running CalPERS constantly pat themselves on the back even as they join in a dishonest effort to downplay the pension crisis with disinformation and shady accounting. This is just what their most powerful patrons — public employee unions — want them to do. But the “social justice” set of the political left, which nominally includes unions, is also a victim of CalPERS’ arrogance and incompetence. It turns out that CalPERS basically ignored directions from the Legislature that it divest its investments in firms involved in the Sudan genocide, one of the dearest causes of the celebrity and campus left. That’s my CalPERS!

This is from a San Diego CityBeat story from last year that just came to my attention this week. CalPERS may have changed its ways since, but the story is still a hilarious commentary on how it works:

Since the mid 2000s, dozens of states have passed legislation requiring public pension funds to shed investments in companies working in Sudan as well as Iran, an increasingly hostile threat to global stability and U.S. national security. Most pension systems have reported fairly smooth transitions to what are sometimes described as “terror-free portfolios.” …

In California, the narrative goes a bit differently. At the end of December, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) staff presented an estimate of what it spends annually “complying” with mandates to divest from companies in Sudan and Iran. The total bill: $550,000. …

CalPERS has a funny definition of “compliance.” It has not divested any stock nor honored the short “do not invest” list it released in 2006, complaining it would hurt the fund. In fact, CalPERS’s board passed a policy in February 2009 stating that it would not divest from companies as the law demands, period. …

CalPERS argued that writing “engagement” letters to the companies was sufficient.

CalPERS’s latest reports to the legislature, dated Dec. 31, 2010, indicate they have made little progress. As of Nov. 30, 2010, CalPERS had $23 million invested in two companies operating in Sudan which it says are immediately subject to divestment and $347 million invested in companies in Iran that also must be divested.

When does the crack-up begin on the left? When do the social justice types figure out they’re totally being used? When do they notice that budget cuts always punish the poor and needy much more than public employees?

As a libertarian lite who wishes social issues would just disappear, I understand the view that the right’s coalition is incoherent. But the left’s should be seen the same way. The “social justice” set has being used as camouflage in California for years and years and years, and you’d think eventually that George Clooney, Ramona Ripston or the UC Berkeley Faculty Senate would figure this out.

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