“Public pensions are eating taxpayers alive,” Jeff Jacoby writes at the Boston Globe, and nowhere is that more apparent than in my own backyard, San Jose, California:
Around the country governments are facing a tidal wave of pension obligations that they haven’t figured out how to pay for. By some estimates, the states’ long-term unfunded pension liabilities add up to more than $4 trillion. There is no way to meet such a staggering financial burden without sacrificing more and more of the basic services — public safety, education, roads, and infrastructure — that governments are formed to provide. Already some cities — from Vallejo, Calif., to Detroit to Central Falls, R.I. — have been driven into bankruptcy by the unaffordable retirement benefits they have promised public-sector workers. And there has been talk in Congress of crafting a bankruptcy option for states, a proposal that no longer seems as outlandish as it once did.
Everywhere, the writing is on the wall. In San Jose, reported The Washington Post recently, “the roads are pocked with potholes, the libraries are closed three days a week, and a slew of city recreation centers have been handed over to nonprofit groups.” Taxes have been raised, public services cut, and the number of city employees drastically reduced. Yet annual retirement payouts for public-sector workers continue to climb, thanks to lavish pensions that enrich municipal retirees with as much as 90 percent of their former salaries — and court decisions barring pension benefits for public-sector employees from being rolled back.
The result, in San Jose and across the country, is the “startling injustice” of poor and working-class taxpayers forced to make do with less and less so that the gold-plated pensions of public-sector retirees, which already gobble an outsize share of government budgets, can keep devouring more and more.
But hey dude, don’t worry, be happy — “San Jose and D.C. Tie for Highest in Economic Confidence,” Gallup reports today.
Kevin D. Williamson brilliant summed up Detroit’s collapse into bankruptcy last year as “a case of the parasite having outgrown the host.” Certainly, that sums up the potential fate of DC, the home of the rapacious federal government — and quite possibly San Jose as well.