5-5-15 – It’s So Easy to Waste Other People’s Money

by Rob Roper

Like so many policies we see in Vermont, here is an example of a small minority of loud activists pushing to force an overwhelming majority into doing something colossally stupid, and that the majority knows darn well is colossally stupid. In this case it’s divesting state pension money from fossil fuel investments.

According to an article in Vermont Digger, Few State Employees, Retirees Opt for Carbon-Free Investments, out of 48,000 eligible active and retired individuals given the option of choosing a “carbon free” mutual fund, 171 state employees have voluntarily done so. Now, that’s a laugh-so-hard-the-milk-comes-out-your-nose statistic.

Why don’t they want to invest in a carbon-free mutual fund? Because it’s a terrible investment! As the article points out, “Over the past five years, the funds have earned returns below the benchmark of similar investment accounts that include fossil fuel companies.” The purpose of a pension fund is not to make a political point. It is to provide for people’s financial needs in their retirement, and Vermont already has over $4.5 billion in unfunded pension and retiree benefit liabilities. (See Vermont’s Unfunded Pensions and Retiree Health Care Benefits by David Coats.)

Remember, these are employees and retired employees of a state that is forcing us to do things like buy renewable energy at multiples of market value. What percentage of Vermonters would do that, do you think, if given a choice? 171 out of every 48,000? The lesson is that it’s easy to make political points with when other people’s money is on the line. When it’s your own money, you make decisions more practically.

It also shows that our “representatives” in state government are not really interested in representing the interests of an overwhelming majority of our citizens. Digger reports, “The Senate Government Operations Committee is drafting a bill, S.28, that would require the state’s pension managers to divest retirement holdings from the world’s 200 largest publicly traded fossil fuel companies by 2020.” And there is a similar bill in the house.

A policy nobody wants and the state can’t afford. Is this what democracy looks like?



{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeanne Norris May 5, 2015 at 11:07 pm

gosh I don’t blame them either!! Why would you want your investments to be in junk stocks and investments.. seems kinda dumb!!


jim bulmer May 8, 2015 at 10:03 pm

Hey Rob, I’ve got a hot tip for these guys and they can get in on the cheap. It used to be known as Solander. These green companies are real growers, especicially with us tax payers footing the bill. When inmates run the institution, this is what you get.


Mark Shepard May 9, 2015 at 1:38 am

“It also shows that our “representatives” in state government are not really interested in representing the interests of an overwhelming majority of our citizens.”

And why should we expect representatives to be a representation of Vermont when the ridiculously long time-wasting sessions prevent 99% of Vermonters from being able to consider serving in what was supposed to be a “citizens” legislature.



Doug Richmond, Underhill May 27, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Choice is good, fossil fuels, or carbon free funds. Policy holders voted 99+% for fossil funds

More choice?!! How about the law saying that all workers may join unions, but the employers, including business, towns, and gov’t employers may NOT be required to withhold, collect or forward union dues to the union bosses. Let each worker decide, and pay for his/her own decision.

Choice Rocks !!


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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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