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Another Blue Pension Crisis: In San Francisco

San Francisco is the epitome of blue America — a city where to be a liberal is to be center right.  These days, it’s a city with a pension crisis: promising too much to city employees and paying too little into the pension fund for years leaves the city of San Francisco with a gaping hole in its budget.

As usual, the public employee unions are at the forefront of ruinous policies.  Reports the San Francisco Examiner:

The more left-leaning members on the Board of Supervisors find their political strength from Service Employees International Union Local 1021, the largest city employee union. SEIU’s influence was exhibited this budget year when it was able to sink a proposal to contract out security positions at city hospitals that would have saved about $4 million a year. The labor group also exerted political pressure in 2010 to get the Board of Supervisors to change a ballot measure provision that would have calculated pensions based on the pay of an employee’s final three years to two years instead.

Projections show pension costs could double by 2014 and reach 31 percent of the payroll.  So: will San Francisco stiff its youth and the poor by cutting services to cover its pension costs — or will it break the promises it made to employees in the past?

Either choice is contemptible, but bad politicians, a complaisant media, inattentive voters and unions too greedy and shortsighted for their own good have brought matters to this pass.

One thing is clear: the busted state of California will not be bailing out the City on the Bay.

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  • Buce

    I wouldn’t get carried away with the blue red stuff here. Vallejo, the poster child for public benefit mismanagement, is an old labor city, soft on union organizing among public employees. But it is also socially as conservative as any place in Calif. SF is less sharply defined but it has an undercurrent of worker-unionists, also socially conservative (remember Eric Hoffer, the stevedore-philosopher?). San Diego, whose pension problems are some of the worst in the state (or nation) is in many ways a deeply conservative place.

  • Jim.

    Do a little more digging — I’m pretty sure there was a scandal a few years back where San Fransisco City Schools could not account for $500 million worth of spending.

    And people thought LA was Chinatown…

  • M. Simon


    That is something I have been hitting a lot on my blog lately. Social conservative /= fiscal conservative. Why so many socons say it does is a mystery to me. Liberals are not the only people living in fantasy land.

  • Rod Rescueman

    How can San Francisco possibly “stiff its youth”? The city doesn’t have youth anymore. The schools are closing left and right because the people of SF are are child-less now.

    Why would anyone want to raise a child there, anyway?

  • Corlyss

    “Why would anyone want to raise a child there, anyway?”

    Because Americans haven’t evolved to the point the English have? I.e., we don’t send our kids away and keep the pets at home.

  • PacRim Jim

    I used to spend a lot of money in SF.
    I no longer go there.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . will SF stiff its youth and the poor by cutting services to cover its pension costs — or will it break the promises it made to employees in the past? . . . Either choice is contemptible . . .”

    One small quibble, and it’s probably just a word-choice quibble at that:

    The two choices that will be available to the city aren’t contemptible in and of themselves.

    What was contemptible was the choice, back whenever it was made and each time it was made, to allow the pension fund to become liable for the promised employee benefit dollars without making the concomitant and required transfer of funds from the city’s available cash into the appropriate fund account.

    They not only said they’d gladly pay tomorrow for a hamburger today. They made sure they left their wallets at home when tomorrow came. That was contemptible.

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