States haven't reduced pension liabilities much
American taxpayers know that because of federal overspending, their children and grandchildren will inherit a national debt of $16 trillion - a sum that will come right out of their standard of living.
Fewer voters are aware that their offspring also face a big problem on the state level - a combined nearly $1 trillion shortfall for public employees' pensions.
Michael Corkery of the Wall Street Journal reported recently that since 2009, 45 states have reduced pension benefits for teachers, police, firefighters and other public workers. But most states have only tinkered around the edges of their problems, trimming a total of only about $100 billion, leaving a $900 billion hole they will expect taxpayers to fill in the coming decades.
Here is the rundown of the study prepared for the Journal by researchers at Boston College:
* 31 states have trimmed pensions only for new hires, which means no savings will be realized for decades.
* 23 states have increased the contributions required of current and new employees.
* Nine states have reduced benefits by suspending cost-of-living adjustments.
* Three states have cut benefits of current workers.
All of which means that taxpayers in most states won't see much lessening of their burden during their own working lifetimes.
But many current private sector workers and retirees have already experienced changes in the pension promises that were made to them. Obviously, that disparity could have political implications.
States could lighten the burden their taxpayers face, of course. There's no reason not to scale back benefits - raise contributions, raise retirement ages, change formulas - for current employees who are two or three decades from retirement.
Legislators who refuse to perform their budgetary function are going to have increasing difficulty explaining why public-sector benefits are so superior to those that prevail in the private sector that supports them.