Pensions are America's Ticking Time Bomb

You know the union bosses' spending and benefits orgy is coming to an end when liberals like Fareed Zakaria of Time Magazine recognize the dangers unfunded pensions that union activists and pro-big labor politicians have created: "A day after Governor Scott Walker won his recall election, the New York Times wrote, "The biggest political lesson from Wisconsin may be that the overwhelming dominance of money on the Republican side will continue to haunt Democrats." Democrats have drawn much the same conclusion. "You've got a handful of self-interested billionaires who are trying to leverage their money across the country," said David Axelrod, Barack Obama's senior campaign strategist. "Does that concern me? Of course that concerns me." Warren Buffett calls the costs of public-sector retirees a "time bomb." They are the single biggest threat to the U.S.'s fiscal health. If the U.S. is going to face a Greek-style crisis, it will not be at the federal level but rather with state and local governments. The numbers are staggering. In California, total pension liabilities--the money the state is legally required to pay its public-sector retirees--are 30 times its annual budget deficit. Annual pension costs rose by 2,000% from 1999 to 2009. In Illinois, they are already 15% of general revenue and growing. Ohio's pension liabilities are now 35% of the state's entire GDP.

Pensions are America's Ticking Time Bomb

You know the union bosses' spending and benefits orgy is coming to an end when liberals like Fareed Zakaria of Time Magazine recognize the dangers unfunded pensions that union activists and pro-big labor politicians have created: "A day after Governor Scott Walker won his recall election, the New York Times wrote, "The biggest political lesson from Wisconsin may be that the overwhelming dominance of money on the Republican side will continue to haunt Democrats." Democrats have drawn much the same conclusion. "You've got a handful of self-interested billionaires who are trying to leverage their money across the country," said David Axelrod, Barack Obama's senior campaign strategist. "Does that concern me? Of course that concerns me." Warren Buffett calls the costs of public-sector retirees a "time bomb." They are the single biggest threat to the U.S.'s fiscal health. If the U.S. is going to face a Greek-style crisis, it will not be at the federal level but rather with state and local governments. The numbers are staggering. In California, total pension liabilities--the money the state is legally required to pay its public-sector retirees--are 30 times its annual budget deficit. Annual pension costs rose by 2,000% from 1999 to 2009. In Illinois, they are already 15% of general revenue and growing. Ohio's pension liabilities are now 35% of the state's entire GDP.

Change in Wisconsin

Change in Wisconsin

 Newly elected Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is not backing down from a fight to protect taxpayers.  Walker has proposed reforming the state's collective bargaining laws to protect taxpayers.  The Wall Street Journal takes note:  Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker has laid out an ambitious agenda, such as turning the department of commerce into a public-private partnership and lifting the cap on school vouchers. But his boldest idea may be rescinding the right of government employees to collectively bargain. Mr. Walker floated the idea last week in response to union opposition to his modest proposal to require employees to contribute 5% of their pay to their pensions and to increase their health-care contributions to 12% from as low as 4% today. Even along the Left Coast most state workers contribute 10% of their salary to pensions. The Republican estimates that these changes would save the state $154 million in the first six months. Over two years they'd reduce the state's $3.3 billion budget gap by nearly 20%. The ability of public workers to form unions and bargain collectively is a phenomenon of the last century when state and local governments were relatively small. But it has proven to be a catastrophe for taxpayers, as public unions have used their political clout to negotiate rich deals on wages, pensions and health care. California governor-elect Jerry Brown greased the wheels for his state's long fiscal decline when he allowed collective bargaining during his first stint in the statehouse in the 1970s. Republican Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana and then Governor Matt Blunt of Missouri rescinded collective bargaining by executive order in 2005, and the change made it easier to cut spending and restructure government services. In Wisconsin, the legislature would have to rewrite the Employment Labor Relations Act, but Republicans will control both the assembly and senate and have the political incentive to go along with Mr. Walker.Rescinding public collective bargaining rights restores a better negotiating balance between taxpayers and government employees who ostensibly work for them. Political officials are no longer on both sides of the bargaining table—representing taxpayers in negotiations with the unions while seeking union cash and endorsements when running for re-election.