Is it “conservative” or “liberal” to be concerned about public employees’ pensions that are devouring state budgets, leaving less and less left over for essential government services?
Usually that’s considered a “conservative” position, although it’s difficult for me to understand how liberals aren’t alarmed by that as well. Occasionally you come across a liberal or two who is. They include prominent California Democrats Willie Brown and Bill Lockyer. The latter said the pensions would “bankrupt” the state, and Brown astutely observed,
“The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life. But we politicians—pushed by our friends in labor—gradually expanded pay and benefits . . . while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages. . . . [A]t some point, someone is going to have to get honest about the fact.”
But don’t get your hopes up. My bet is that not enough liberals will come around to, in Brown’s words, getting honest about the fact. (If they did, wouldn’t they then be considered sellouts to the conservative cause?)
Get this: Just in the past decade, California state pension costs skyrocketed 2,000 percent. That’s 20 fold! At the same time state revenues only went up a measly 24 percent. Many union workers can retire at the tender age of 50, with 90 percent of their pay, for life! 15,000 of them get more than $100,000 per year.
This year alone, reports Steven Greenhut, $3 billion has been diverted from other government services to pension costs.
You can call wanting to fix something like that “conservative”. But in my book it’s just common sense.