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NYT Admits Union Pensions Aren’t Sacred


An editorial in the deep blue New York Times on the Stockton, California bankruptcy case offers a peek into the future. The Times editors are suggesting that retired public sector unionized workers may have to accept cuts in the unsustainable pensions that union leaders foolishly negotiated and that pandering politicians foolishly promised.

The Times can’t quite come out and say it directly; this is as close as the Grey Lady can bring herself to the unpalatable truth:

Retirees, especially those who were awarded unsustainably generous pensions and health care benefits, should also come to the table by forming a committee, as the bankruptcy judge recently suggested.

For those who can’t read the delicate prose here, the Times is saying that retirees are going to have to take one for the team. The only reason to “form a committee” is to make the process of cutting your pension and health benefits more orderly and efficient. We suspect that not even the massive moral weight of an NYT editorial will persuade the unions to hold still for a haircut; as long as their lawyers can fight this in court, they will.

The Times is writing as if Stockton is a unique situation, but while Stockton’s problems are aggravated by local problems, it’s painfully clear that the Stockton bankruptcy is a harbinger of more municipal meltdowns. Detroit’s retired workers may also soon have to “form a committee” and “come to the table.” We’ve advised Illinois state workers to assume that their pensions aren’t safe and to start saving money to make up the shortfall. There will be more haircuts to come, and many could be in New York.

The Times editorial should serve as a warning to organized labor and to Democrats generally.  The blue coalition breaks up when the money runs out, and gentry liberals like the authors and readers of NY Times editorials will not stand by labor’s side when the going gets tough. Keeping Democrats together as the blue model continues to run down will be an increasingly difficult task.

We live in interesting times.

[Aaron Kohr /]

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