Tag Archives: Politics & Public Policy

leaving Indivisible Kentucky.

21 Sep

It is with deep sadness that I announce that I am severing my ties with Indivisible Kentucky.

Like many of you, I was distressed at the outcome of the November election. It was clear to me that I had to act, particularly since I live in the home state of Mitch McConnell. When I read the Indivisible Guide in mid-December, I thought I had found a format that might work and began contacting the connections I had made in the social justice community. What appealed to me, in particular, was the section on Diversity and Advocacy:

As you conduct outreach and expand, keep in mind that we’re all stronger if we represent a diverse set of voices and perspectives, and especially when we center the voices of those who are most affected by Trump’s agenda. So please make a conscious effort to reach out to a diverse group of people as you build out your group. Women, members of immigrant, Muslim, African American, Latinx, and LGBTQ communities, as well as people of different incomes and education levels, health and disability statuses, and ages, are some examples of those whose engagement and leadership are especially valuable and needed in this work. This can also be particularly meaningful for those of us who identify across these categories. Resistance needs solidarity to succeed.

My vision was to use the guide to create an intentionally multi-racial, multi-cultural, truly diverse organization in Louisville that would unite people to hold Mitch McConnell (in particular) accountable to all the people.

Along the way, we did a lot of good work. We were first on the scene with regular rallies outside Mitch McConnell’s office. We worked with others in the community to pull together a rally when VP Pence came to town, and then turned around and did it again with Trump did two weeks later. We had Rep. Yarmuth attend a packed meeting. Over 3000 follow the organization on social media.

Unfortunately, however, my vision was not to be. With primarily white, middle-class, middle-aged people in leadership, the people of color who joined us were marginalized and tokenized. We did not center their voices or experiences. Time and again we proved ourselves to be the white moderate progressives who tone-police by telling those who are marginalized to not be so angry, or to just wait, or to follow our tactics. We were patronizing. We did not have enough voices at the table to help us make good decisions in what messaging to use. In short, we were bad allies.

Though we tried to educate ourselves and our followers – through getting online training and having a leadership retreat that focused on ways that we unintentionally participate in and reinforce oppressions like white supremacy and misogyny – it was not sufficient. Perhaps it was because the message of Indivisible appeals primarily to new, white activists who are not fluent in the languages of oppression and intersectionality. Perhaps it was because we were all volunteers and did not have the time or energy to make the needed course corrections. Certainly, it was in part because the crises from the Republican administration kept coming, which kept pushing our education pieces to the back burner as we felt we needed to respond to one crisis, then another, and another, in a never-ending flow of disgusting material coming from Washington. It is difficult, if not impossible, to build a bicycle while also riding it.

Regardless of the reasons, it has become clear to me that I have been unable to lead Indivisible Kentucky, the organization which I co-founded, into the organization I envisioned. Though I am deeply grateful for all those who have dedicated their time and energy towards the ideals of the organization, I regret that it has divided, rather than united and find I can no longer be a part of it.

Kentucky’s pension crisis.

1 Aug

I don’t normally share the papers I write for my graduate studies on this blog, but I think this one is pretty important – particularly for those of us who live in Kentucky.  I wrote this paper as my final for my Public Finance class. Here is the introduction, or click here to download the entire pdf.

A government makes promises to the public and to its employees, but what happens if the government finds itself unable to keep those promises? A private company can go bankrupt, but as of today, states are not allowed to do that.[1] So what options does a state have when they become financially unsustainable? Government intervention in the private market is often needed when there is a market failure. What happens when the government upsets, rather than stabilizes, the economy?

These are the issues facing the Commonwealth of Kentucky right now. The state’s pension system suffers from years of chronic underfunding[2] and they now find themselves billions of dollars shy of what will be needed in the near future. The working number for how much the state owes its pension system has been $37 billion.[3] However, a Moody’s report issued on July 21, 2017 doubled that number to $70 billion in unfunded pension liabilities[4]. To put that in context, the amount the state of Kentucky owes its worker’s pension funds is more than seven times the Commonwealth’s entire $10 billion annual General Fund budget.[5]

Who is this money owed to? More than 8% of the Commonwealth’s population: over 360,000 Kentuckians,[6] including firefighters, police, teachers, city, state employees, transportation employees, social workers, mental health workers, university employees,[7] are counting on these benefits for their future financial security.

Figure 1 [10]

A new study shows that Kentucky’s pension system is one of the most poorly funded in the nation and the Commonwealth is doing the worst at paying off its pension debt.[8] Based on plan information reported through the end of fiscal 2015, the median funded ratio across state plans was 74.6%, but for Kentucky, the funded ratio was only 37.4% (based on earlier S&P numbers), as shown in Figure 1. [9]

Because of the magnitude of the debt and the size of the Commonwealth’s budget, this trend will be difficult to change. But without drastic change, the state will continue to fall behind faster than any other state.[11]

So how did this financial disaster come about? Was it preventable? What are the steps the Commonwealth might take to address it? As Governor Matt Bevin considers calling a special legislative session[12] to address this crisis (and a recently discovered budget deficit from 2016-2017 fiscal year)[13] these are some questions citizens of the Commonwealth might be asking and that are addressed in the following sections of this paper. There have been many books and articles about this issue, this paper hopes to present an easily digestible overview of the various issues and potential paths out of financial collapse that the Commonwealth might take to right its course. Let’s begin with a more in-depth overview of the history: How did Kentucky get into this mess?

To read the whole paper, download it here.


[1] John Mauldin, “Don’t Be So Sure That States Can’t Go Bankrupt,” Forbes, Jul 28, 2016, https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnmauldin/2016/07/28/dont-be-so-sure-that-states-cant-go-bankrupt/#accda622f2d4, (accessed July 27, 2017).

[2] Ben Walsh and Travis Waldron, “Kentucky’s Hedge Funder Governor Keeps State Money In Secretive Hedge Funds,” HuffPost, June 24, 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/matt-bevin-kentucky-pensions_us_594bf56ce4b0a3a837be3d56, (accessed July 27, 2017).

[3] Tom Loftus, “Pension costs just jumped for Kentucky’s school districts, local governments,” Courier-Journal, July 12, 2017, http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/2017/07/12/pension-costs-just-jumped-kentuckys-school-districts-local-governments/467408001/, (accessed July 27, 2017).

[4] Moody’s Investors Service, “Kentucky (Commonwealth of) Update – Moody’s downgrades Kentucky to Aa3; outlook stable,” (July 20, 2017): 5.

[5] William M. Landrum III, Edgar C. Ross and Donald Sweasy, “Commonwealth of Kentucky Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2015,” 141, http://finance.ky.gov/Office%20of%20the%20Controller/2015CAFR.pdf (accessed July 27, 2017).

[6] “Kentucky’s Pension Crisis – Frequently Asked Questions,” (March 2016): 1, https://kypensioncrisisdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/pension-faq.pdf, (accessed July 27, 2017).

[7] Tom Loftus, “Don’t cut our pensions amid crisis, public workers tell Kentucky board,” Courier-Journal, June 26, 2017, http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/2017/06/26/stakeholders-give-their-views-pension-reforms/421347001/, (accessed July 27, 2017).

[8] Ryland Barton, “Kentucky’s Pensions Are Worst-Funded In U.S., Study Shows,” WFPL, September 15, 2016, http://wfpl.org/studies-show-kentuckys-state-pensions-worst-in-nation/, (accessed July 27, 2017).

[9] Sussan S. Corson, “U.S. State Pensions: Weak Market Returns Will Contribute To Rise In Expense,” Standards and Poor, (September 12, 2016): 7, http://www.nasra.org/files/Topical%20Reports/Credit%20Effects/SPGlobalstates1609.pdf, (accessed July 27, 2017).

[10] ibid.

[11] Barton, “Kentucky’s Pensions Are Worst-Funded In U.S., Study Shows.”

[12] A special session would cost more than $63,000 a day, according to the Legislative Research Commission.

[13] Tom Loftus, “Can public pension benefits be cut? Kentucky officials looking into it,” Courier-Journal, July 14, 2017, http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/2017/07/14/can-public-pension-benefits-cut-kentucky-officials-looking-into/434944001/, (accessed on July 27, 2017).

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