Oregon's $22 billion pension hole: How did we get here?

Oregon's $22 billion pension hole: How did we get here?

The most frequently asked questions about the financial fiasco in Oregon's public pension system are: What happened? Why did it happen? Who created this mess?

Public employee unions like to blame the Wall Street bankers who helped trigger the 2008 global financial crisis. The resulting stock market meltdown cleaved 27 percent off the value of the pension fund's investments, and its funded status tumbled from nearly 100 percent to about 70 percent.

Their other go-to scapegoat is public employers, because they've failed to make adequate contributions to fund the benefits they've promised employees.

At the other end of the spectrum are the critics who blame the Public Employees Retirement System's overly generous and unsustainable benefit levels. They see featherbedding by politicians looking to benefit constituents and themselves, self-dealing by public employees in charge of the pension board, irrationally exuberant economic assumptions.

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