The government-pension crisis is the number one budgetary problem in the U.S., stated the Vice President of Taxpayers United of America (TUA).
“The government-employee pension plans of a number of cities are headed toward default, and these sinking pension plans are the underlying reason why some cities already have declared bankruptcy and why more cities may be staring bankruptcy in the face,” according to Christina Tobin, TUA Vice President and Founder of Free and Equal Elections Foundation.
“For the last year, I have been traveling to different states county-by-county, releasing local government pension amounts. I have seen firsthand the dire financial situation that is occurring in cities and counties across the country.”
Reuters noted that so far in 2012, there have been 21 municipal defaults totaling $978 million, versus 28 defaults totaling $522 million for the same period in 2011,” said Tobin.
“A number of US cities have filed for bankruptcy, the most prominent of which is the city of Vallejo, once the capital of California. Municipalities that have either filed for bankruptcy or are just emerging from it include Central Falls, Rhode Island, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Boise County, Idaho, and Jefferson County, Alabama.”
According to the San Francisco Examiner, leaders of Pritchard, Alabama, a city on the outskirts of Mobile, had known since 2004 that the pension fund was scheduled to run dry in 2009. Officials tried to declare bankruptcy, but state law forbids a town from ducking its pension obligations. The city just stopped paying its pensions. Pritchard’s 150 retired city employees were reduced to showing up at City Council meetings begging for money to make it through the Christmas season.”
“As of December 2010, America’s public pensions were underfunded by an estimated $3.6 trillion. The pension problem might be worse than figures suggest, because many cities and states are either ignoring the problem or actively trying to conceal it.”
“It’s now judgment day for the lavish, gold-plated city and municipal government pensions,” said Tobin. “Many retired government employees receive pensions that are higher than salaries in the private sector. Government pension plans are hemorrhaging dollars.”
“According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Pritchard stands as a warning to cities like Philadelphia and states like Illinois, whose pension funds are under great strain.”
“The way to fix the broken pension system is to replace pensions for all new government hires with social security and 401(k)s, and increase current employee contributions,” said Tobin. “The current crop of Republicans and Democrats won’t do it—they’re controlled by corporate and union interests. We need a national movement of Americans from across the political spectrum who will unite and throw them out of office. Then, we will get meaningful pension reform.”