STUMP » Articles » STUMP 2023: Back to Basics on Public Finance (and More!) » 14 January 2023, 17:16

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

STUMP 2023: Back to Basics on Public Finance (and More!)  


14 January 2023, 17:16

For 2023, I have two specific educational projects for the blog in mind, both of which will be reworkings of things I have done before. And building newer information into them.

As with my podcast, STUMP: Death & Taxes, the focus will be on public finance and mortality trends, but these items will be on making core concepts more accessible more broadly.

Yes, I will still be posting on current events that intersect with my expertise and interests (and especially sumo!), but the point will be to build up a set of resources for me and others to use with a broader public.

In this post, I will address the public finance issue (which includes public pensions).

Public finance: an important part of democracy

I know people aren’t really feeling the love for the democratic process right now.

Rather than going over recent political events, let us take a huge step back and think of what we can do as individuals as things currently are.

There are two aspects: knowledge and action.

Action at the national and state level will feel beyond most people, and yes, I know various political groups will try to tell you “GIVE US MONEY!!!” as a method of action at those levels.

My recommendation is to get active at your most local levels – school boards, city councils, library volunteer groups. These are relatively small groups, they are close to your interests, you can get on top of your issues, and, unfortunately, these small groups are apt to get captured by one very motivated person because nobody else is interested in getting involved.

Get involved locally.

One of the biggest issues, of course, is money – local budgets, financial statements, bond issues, etc.

The thing is, many people get intimidated by the specialized language and concepts around public finance. So I will attempt to help people be able to understand these and read the various standard public financial reports. Then that will help you be able to be involved in public finance on a local level.

But you should also understand the financial situation at the state and national level, and what that actually means.

No, not so that you get taken in a crypto scam.

But that you have some perspective.

Also, I do like to provide historical perspective as well – public finance can be very destructive to polities.

For those who already know public finance – what is the value for you?

I know many of the people who read my blog are at least as knowledgeable as I am on these items.

What’s in it for you?

Two bits — one of the activities I plan on is to profile the many resources (and people) I recommend for those who want to beef up their public finance understanding.

If you happen to write or have podcasts or have videos that educate the public on these subjects, please email me: (Some of y’all, I’m already planning posts — watch out for the upcoming post on Liz Farmer next week!)

The second item, though, is more common: most of the people I know who know a lot about public finance do not write for the general public. If they write (or do podcasts or videos) at all, it’s generally for people who already have a lot of knowledge in the sphere. It’s not a bad thing.

Look, I remember being in math grad school, and it’s the easiest talking with people where you have fully-shared context. The easiest people for me to teach are actuaries, because we share jargon, professional standards, inside jokes, and an entire culture.

Similarly, if you’re someone who works in/with public finance, and you don’t want to do the work of explaining a concept to someone, you can re-purpose whatever I’ve done on the subject. Heck, run it through chatGPT and try to have it redo it in your style of writing or something. I don’t care. As long as it’s effective.

Prior primers

To give you an idea of the stuff I will be looking at, yes, it will be very heavy on public pensions.

But I do have other items as well.

April 2021: Public Finance: Full Accrual Accounting and Governmental Accounting Standards Board Testimony [looks like they took down the video]

Jan 2022: Original Sin (or Pandora’s Box) and Public Finance and Pensions

Jun 2022 podcast: Pension Obligation Bonds

Jul 2020: Public Pensions Primer—How Discount Rates Work

April 2015: Public Pensions Primer: Places to Start — the Public Plans Database

Sep 2020: Happy Labor Day! Pension Retrospective: Pension Primers, POBs, MEPs, and More!

But that was then… I do realize I may need to take a few steps back so that people know what they’re looking for to begin with. Just the financial statements themselves, for instance.

The public should be involved in public finance

I accumulate multiple actuarial-related issues at, my news aggregator. (My most common item being looking at the horribly inverted yield curve.) I do not comment on items there – just accumulate news items and other people’s commentary as I’m thinking about issues.

But unlike many, I’m not trying to argue that only the intelligentsia should be talking public finance.

Money is being taken from the public: in the form of taxes, in the form of revenues via casinos, in the form of traffic violation fines, in the form of lottery revenues… and I could continue.

The public, in a broad sense, should be able to talk about all of these in an informed way.

I would like to help the public do just that.