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The Public Employee Pension Crisis

Friday, May 21, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The issue is growing in visibility and consequence from coast-to-coast: Decades of sweetheart deals between Democratic politicians and public employee unions have left taxpayers with enormous obligations to young retirees. Here’s the start of a front page story in the New York Times:

In Yonkers, more than 100 retired police officers and firefighters are collecting pensions greater than their pay when they were working. One of the youngest, Hugo Tassone, retired at 44 with a base pay of about $74,000 a year. His pension is now $101,333 a year.

It’s what the system promised, said Mr. Tassone, now 47, adding that he did nothing wrong by adding lots of overtime to his base pay shortly before retiring. “I don’t understand how the working guy that held up their end of the bargain became the problem,” he said.

A recent Stanford study pegged the shortfall in the funds needed to pay the pensions owed California public employees at a half trillion dollars.

Mr. Tassone is looking at a very comfortable retirement that will extend for decades, and children not yet born will be paying for it and the millions of other pensions awarded by politicians to their union supporters.

The federal government has to act now to oblige the states to end such giveaways, using the spending power to bar federal funding to states that allow for future pension obligations to top six figures for any retiree. As the UAW bankrupted GM so these public employee pensions are bankrupting the states even as the destroy the possibility of fair deals for future cops, fire fighters and teachers. The excesses of the past 20 years are crippling American productivity and the public sector for years into the future.


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