Meanwhile, Los Angeles goes bankrupt. The population of Los Angeles, unlike those of Chicago and Detroit, has grown substantially since 1950, when about 2 million people lived there; today, some 3.8 million live there. But much of that is fueled by immigration, and LA's rate of population growth has now slowed to a standstill. The city is expected to come up $95 million short of its budget every year until 2017-2018 on the most conservative estimates and faces an unfunded pension liability of $27 billion. That number has increased exponentially since the beginning of the decade, when former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took over. Los Angeles has had one Republican mayor since 1961, Richard Riordan. Its city council has been Democrat for decades.
But Los Angeles is just peachy-keen, according to new Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti. "We're nowhere close to being Detroit," he said recently. "We have a population growth, where we saw their population drop in half. We've got robust industries; they rely on one or two. We have arguably 10 or 12 primary industries here. And we've done the hard work with pension reform that Detroit didn't."
It sounds nice. It sounds reassuring. It sounds false.
Meanwhile, the United States goes bankrupt. Our pension system -- Social Security -- is unfunded to the tune of $9.6 trillion over the next 75 years. When you include Medicare and federal employees' future retirement benefits, that number balloons to $86.8 trillion. And we already have $16 trillion in current debt. As Chris Cox and Bill Archer wrote in The Wall Street Journal last November, "In short, if the government confiscated the entire adjusted gross income of these American taxpayers, plus all of the corporate taxable income in the year before the recession, it wouldn't be nearly enough to fund the over $8 trillion per year in the growth of U.S. liabilities."
This is what happens when three generations of Americans decide to live as though the world is ending tomorrow. They eat, drink and are merry, for tomorrow we go bankrupt. Sadly, that's a self-fulfilling prophecy: Because we live for the here and now, there is no tomorrow.