Walsh describes a scene during which the State Treasurer was explaining to a group of retired firefighters why their pensions might well be reduced. Someone claimed the state was "reneging on a moral obligation."
Walsh wrote that the Treasurer, Ms. Gina M. Raimondo said Rhode Island had a choice:
"It could pay for schoolbooks, roadwork, care for the elderly and so on, or it could keep every promise to its retirees."
She asked the crowd "is it morally right not to provide services to the state's most vulnerable citizens?"
Good question, but the wrong one. We can assume the retired firefighters (and cops) kept their part of the deal under Rhode Island's rules of engagement. They put out fires and arrested bad guys for the requisite number of years and have a right to expect the state to live up to its end of the bargain.
The right question is: If the geniuses who invested the state's pension funds were receiving only about two percent return on their investments rather than the 8.4 percent the plans were based upon - why shouldn't they bear the brunt of the shortfall, not the retirees?
The lesson here is: Rules of engagement are not set in stone; they are written in sand. An economic wave or political wind will easily erase them and he who owns the sand can write new rules, any time he wants, to suit his changing needs.