Monday, January 30, 2017

A leak in the pension dam - By Russ Vaughn

For decades, I've watched unions, both private-sector and public-service, collude with the Democratic Party to boost salaries, benefits, and pensions to levels unattainable to the average non-union American worker, all the time wondering, "How the hell are they ever going to keep that going?"  For years, when we encountered one of those big, lumbering, quarter-million-dollar motor homes, my wife and I would joke, "There goes another retired lawyer or doctor."  These days, based on publicly available data, our speculation is that it's likely a retired cop or fireman.
We visited old college friends a couple of years ago at their very nice home on a lush fairway in the desert southwest.  He's a retired public utility worker and union official, while she's a school administrator.  While he was showing me the yard, I spotted a two-story Spanish Colonial-style mansion across the fairway and observed, "Looks like you have some very well-to-do neighbors."  His response was, "That?  Nah, he's a retired fireman."  Today I spoke with my brother in California about this situation, and he informed me that he has seen on open public records that retired fire department captains in his home town are drawing $130,000 per year from the public trough.
Are you beginning to see my concern?
You don’t have to be an actuary to calculate that the American dream many of these generously retired union workers, especially those from the public-service unions, are living is completely unsustainable, assuredly for coming generations, but most likely for current retirees as well.  And that's despite all the desperate attempts by the unions' Democrat cronies to raise taxes, tolls, and public fees to fund the exorbitant salaries, benefits, and pensions of public-service employees and to pressure unionized industries into equally lucrative contracts for their blue-collar workers.
Look at almost any major municipality in the so-called blue states, especially those cities that have been under Democrat control for decades, and you’ll likely find a looming pension crisis; ditto for private sector unions in those same states.  But don't even think about suggesting a reasonable reduction in those salaries, benefits, and pensions to either the totally intransigent unions or their Democrat cronies, who will assure you they have some magical way to accomplish the impossible.  There's a deepening reservoir of impossible-to-keep retirement commitments in those blue states being held back by a dam of desperate and disingenuous Democrat denial.
And now comes what may be a small leak portending that pension dam disaster, which, when it breaks, is going to sweep away generations of American dreams in the fiscal waves and torrents of all that pent up political cronyism and greed.  The Washington Post just reported that an ironworkers union in Ohio is doing the unthinkable: reducing benefits to its current pensioners, some by as much as 60%, to prevent the fund from sinking into insolvency as soon as 2024.  According to the Post, these ironworkers make up only a tiny slice of the more than a million private-sector workers and retirees whose pension funds are predicted to be insolvent within twenty years.  One of the largest, the Central States Pension Fund, which represents some 300,000 truckers, has already tried to reduce pensions but has been stymied in that effort by the federal government, which says the proposed cuts are insufficient to save the fund from insolvency.
It's a good bet that Chicago will be the first major Democrat stronghold to default on its public-service union retirement commitments, but it's a sure bet that it is the entire State of California that is sitting on the nuclear incident of pension plan insolvencies, and when that Democrat unicorn reactor ultimately goes critical and melts down, as it most assuredly is going to do, it will shake this nation.  We can hope it shakes some sense into Democrats and makes unions think twice about getting too greedy, but based on current attitudes, it's not likely.
It will be interesting to see if all those retirees who get their fat pensions drastically reduced will still be voting slavishly Democrat when basic math wrapped around the hard fist of reality smacks them hard in the kisser.