Barry Horstman of the Cincinnati Enquirer continues his hot streak of great articles on bad government with today’s piece on California voters taking the public pension problem into their own hands and getting reforms on the ballot. Horstman been a leader in researching and breaking the increasingly bad news about the state of the City of Cincinnati’s own pension system, so I think this piece should be seen as an instruction manual for Cincinnatians on how they, too, might try to solve the problems their political “leaders” are afraid to address.
Things start off promisingly enough for the reform crowd:
Perhaps the most closely watched pension issue on the ballot in California this fall will be a proposed charter amendment that would force San Francisco’s 26,000 public workers to contribute a larger percentage of their salaries toward pensions and also pay more for health coverage.
“Among elected officials, pension reform is the third rail of politics,” said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, the measure’s point man. “So the serious changes needed to bring pension costs under control probably are going to have to come on the ballot, not through legislative action.”
Love it. The free ride needs to end. Public sector workers can’t continue to draw crazy benefits at the expense of the rest of us. I am also intrigued that the ballot measure is being led by a public defender. Is he a City of San Francisco employee? Is he a sober enough realist that he’d be willing to make his own road harder to keep the system solvent?
But things get less promising:
A proposal in Bakersfield that would reduce pension benefits for future police officers and firefighters, downgrading the current “3 at 50” plan – under which retirees are eligible for 3 percent of their final salary for every year worked starting at age 50 – to “2 at 50.”
This sounds terrific, but it only impacts future employees. Solving part of the problem is good, even if it’s not going to be realized until 20-30 years down the road, when today’s new recruits are turning 50. But the reality is that the pension system for Bakersfield is probably going to be in trouble long before that, and some sort of settlement will need to be reached with current payers and beneficiaries.
But then you hear what the Bakersfield police union boss has to say:
“I don’t know that I buy into this non-sustainable argument you always hear,” said Todd Dickson, president of the Bakersfield Police Officers Association. “You could say that about any number of programs. We’ve already made concessions on pay and our health plan. All we have left is this decent retirement program.”
And after you get done stabbing pins into your voodoo doll, you whisper your encouragement to the people of Bakersfield. What a schmuck. His logic is basically, “Hmm, I don’t believe in empirical facts and even if I did, there’s a bunch of wasteful programs, why should we be the first ones kicked off the government teat?” I’m looking forward to California legalizing pot this fall, watching crime fall off and then seeing blowhards like this guy, who probably hasn’t passed a PT test in 25 years, get fired.