California’s Degrees of Separation from Truth and Accountability


California’s pension woes are constantly making news and the unfunded liabilities of the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) have increased 383 percent in ten years and last year CalPERS was some $100 billion short of funding its pension obligations. Taxpayers are now getting some clues about the reason for this mess. 

In 2016 CalPERS hired as CEO Marcie Frost, who had no college degree of any kind. A degree does not guarantee competence but taxpayers might expect the nation’s biggest state pension fund to demand a degree in math, economics or business administration for its chief executive officer. As it turns out, when CalPERS sought a successor for previous CEO Anne Stausboll, who argued that public employee pensions deserve special protections from cuts, CalPERS did not even list a college degree as a qualification. 

Frost said she was pursuing degrees at Evergreen State College, an educational sinkhole in Washington State, but CalPERS did not ask Frost to complete any degree program. They supposedly hired Frost because of her “commitment to engaging with retirees and public employers,” and her record at the Washington State pension fund, which paid her $139,000. CalPERS paid Frost $387,000 in 2017, the same year she endorsed Charles Asubonten for CalPERS chief financial officer, proclaiming him “an excellent candidate.” Trouble was, the CFO misrepresented his work history and resigned his post. CalPERS then hushed up what the Los Angeles Times called a “disastrously botched appointment.” 

For another botched appointment recall Ana Matosantos, governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pick for state Director of Finance even though she only had a BA in political science and feminist studies, a non-discipline. For financial director, a key post, taxpayers have grounds to expect a proven economist with a PhD. Jerry Brown retained Matosantos for a time then Covered California, the state’s wholly owned subsidiary of Obamacare, hired her for $20,000 a month. 

Meanwhile, back in 2011, Rep. Hilda Solis hailed labor activist John Perez as a graduate of UC Berkeley, which the legislature and official biographies also claimed for the Assembly Speaker and UC Regent. In reality, Perez never graduated from UC Berkeley. Before he dropped out, his major was Chicano Studies, a non-discipline based on The Cosmic Race, a vile racist tract authored by former Mexican education minister Jose Vasconcelos and republished in 1979 by the Chicano Studies department at Cal State LA. Another example of your tax dollars at work. 

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K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at The Daily Caller.

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