Monday, April 15, 2013

Pensions and Pensees

The invaluable Walter Russell Mead noticed something:
An editorial in the deep blue New York Times on the Stockton, California bankruptcy case offers a peek into the future. The Times editors are suggesting that retired public sector unionized workers may have to accept cuts in the unsustainable pensions that union leaders foolishly negotiated and that pandering politicians foolishly promised.

The Times can’t quite come out and say it directly; this is as close as the Grey Lady can bring herself to the unpalatable truth:
Retirees, especially those who were awarded unsustainably generous pensions and health care benefits, should also come to the table by forming a committee, as the bankruptcy judge recently suggested.
For those who can’t read the delicate prose here, the Times is saying that retirees are going to have to take one for the team. The only reason to “form a committee” is to make the process of cutting your pension and health benefits more orderly and efficient.
I don't think you'll see a lot of enthusiasm for any committee work, so to speak. It's coming, though -- as we've discussed before, public sector pensions are in trouble at nearly every level of government and there's going to be one hell of a reckoning, coming sooner than later. And as Mead reminds us, the team may not be what the public sector unions think it is:
The Times editorial should serve as a warning to organized labor and to Democrats generally. The blue coalition breaks up when the money runs out, and gentry liberals like the authors and readers of NY Times editorials will not stand by labor’s side when the going gets tough. Keeping Democrats together as the blue model continues to run down will be an increasingly difficult task.

It's a whole lot easier to support the unions in the abstract than it is in the particular, especially if it's your own money on the line. And gentry liberals aren't any more fond of paying up than plutocrats.

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