At the Belmont Club, Richard Fernandez explores what happens when governments in the Big Blue alcoves of California and Illinois run out of money, namechecking authors as diverse Tolstoy and Mario Puzo in the process:
Rahm Emmanuel in the other Blue stronghold of Chicago was saying things that could have come directly from California’s Little Hoover report. Emmanuel was said to favor cutting benefits not just for new hires, but for existing employees.
while nobody expects a showdown with the unions as bitter as the one gripping neighboring Wisconsin, observers see coming painful negotiations with municipal unions similar to those other Democratic-leaning big cities and states have had to engage in recently.
According to published accounts, the 51-year-old Mr. Emanuel, who takes office May 16, said in a private meeting with union heads in December that he favors cutting pensions of all city employees, not just the new hires.
Like their California counterparts, the Chicago unions expressed the hope that they would be but lightly touched for political reasons.
“Emanuel is a good Democrat. We know that President Obama has spoken out in support of collective bargaining for the union and has come out in opposition of Gov. Walker of Wisconsin,” said Ken Janda, a professor emeritus of political science at Northwestern University in the Chicago suburb of Evanston. “He’s not likely to take any action that will result in any substantial balancing of the budget on the backs of labor unions.”
And that means, according to the iron laws of arithmetic, that the budget has to be balanced on the backs of someone else, probably the tax payers. Neither Chicago nor California may see a replay of Wisconsin, but it will see something. Tolstoy, had he been a professor of political science, might have observed that “all solvent governments are alike; but all bankrupt governments are bankrupt in their own way.”
But the best commentator on humanity’s curious power to believe that patronage can triumph over nature is Mario Puzo. In the Godfather, Don Corleone visits a henchman who is dying of cancer. Yet Genco continues to believe that his disease can be “fixed” — he believes it because everything in his life hitherto could be “fixed”.
As Richard writes, “Like Genco, the day comes when the fires of financial hell cannot be held back.”
And that path is charted in graphic form right here.