Bleeding America Dry – The Next Big Bailout

Posted: Jan 25, 2011 12:25 PM

Brace yourself for the next big bailout: State government pensions. In fact, this one might make us long for the good old days when our fearless leaders tossed mere billions at clunkers and green light bulbs.

Two years ago, Big Labor boss and president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Andy Stern, bragged, “We just won an election!”

Stern and his ilk were on cloud nine after spending some $450 million to elect President Barack Obama and to install a bevy of Big Labor minions at all levels of state government.

This was at a time when America was already bowing under the crushing weight of a bloated public sector workforce and its guaranteed pensions, health care and other taxpayer-funded goodies. Like leeches, government employees and their unions have attached themselves to the taxpayer trough and won’t let go.

Fast-forward just two years and we’ve now reached full crisis mode. It is estimated that all states combined have as much as $3 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities. Worse, voters in the biggest offending states recently chose to throw gasoline on their fire by electing Big Labor governors.

California’s Democratic Governor Jerry Brown recently declared a state of fiscal emergency in light of his state’s $25.4 billion budget gap. A Stanford University study found that California’s unfunded liability for bureaucrat pensions could be an astounding $500 billion – or six times the entire annual state budget. Nancy Pelosi’s home city of San Francisco alone is shelling out $400 million per year on public employee pensions, which is more than double what it was paying just five years ago.

Recall that it was Jerry Brown – in his first stint as California governor in the 1970s – who gave state bureaucrats the authority to unionize in the first place.

Voters in New York recently elected Big Labor Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo in a state that is facing $120 billion in unfunded public employee pension liabilities. Cuomo, of course, got his Big Labor bona fides from his father, Mario Cuomo, and got the backing of union bosses early his most recent election campaign.

In Illinois, voters put Big Labor Democrat Pat Quinn in the governor’s mansion. Taxpayers in this state are already on the hook for $80 billion in unfunded public employee pension liabilities – more than three times the entire annual state budget (which itself is in $13 billion deficit hole).

The employee pension system is a long-failed model. When private sector companies came to this conclusion eons ago, many of them terminated pension benefits for new hires and grandfathered their obligation out of existence. When the public sector came to the same conclusion, they formed unions and spent billions of dollars electing legislators who promised they would keep bleeding productive society dry at their behest.

And now, productive society has long since run out of blood to give. Should any of these perpetually irresponsible states come begging to Washington for a bailout, they should be run out of town on a rail. Hopefully, our federal legislators learned from the first ill-advised bailouts that it’s a grave error to reward bad behavior. If not, they could consult any parent – or any honest economist.