When it comes to retirement and pension benefits, federal, state, and local government officials have all been humming the same mantra: never pay for something today if you can put off paying for it until tomorrow. Unfortunately, tomorrow is here.
The federal government is on the hook for $41 trillion in unfunded obligations for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and state and local governments owe an additional $1.5 trillion to their state employees for health and pension benefits.
The national reality of these promises started hitting home this year when the first of 80 million baby boomers filed for her first Social Security check, but the painful reality of these promises has become even more acute in California with the bankruptcy of the city of Vallejo.
To make matters worse, this problem was caused by more than lack of planning. The main reason pension promises in Vallejo and other cities and states has been so excessive is due to demands from labor unions for retirees to receive Cadillac pension and health plans.
And who’s stuck with the bill racked up by myopic politicians and big labor? The taxpayer, of course. The politicians who made and union bosses who lobbied for the unaffordable pension promises years ago are no longer on the scene to be held accountable because by now they’re retired—probably with very nice pension packages to boot.