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Pension Despair
In Chicago, If You Have A Pulse, You Owe $20k

Every man, woman and child in Chicago is carrying $18,596 in pension debt, the largest per-person liability in the nation and nearly double that of New York City, ranked number two. The Chicago Tribune reports:

“We note that the state passed a sizable pension reform package in December, which should help ease the state’s portion of this burden going forward,” the report stated. “However, the magnitude of the per capita liability facing Chicago residents is expected to remain immense going forward, barring additional pension reforms on the local level.” […]

The study looked at the pension debt for the 25 largest U.S. cities and Puerto Rico. The island commonwealth was second in pension debt at $9,987 per person. New York City was next at $9,842. The median pension debt was $3,550 per person.

Even worse, the study apparently excludes pension debt being carried for various other municipal agencies:

Chicago’s per person number is even worse than the Morningstar report found — [president of the non-partisan Civic Federation budget watchdog group Laurence] Msall noted the $18,596 figure does not include pension debt at the CTA, Chicago Park District, Cook County Forest Preserve District and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. In Chicago, the per-person pension debt for City Hall pension funds was alone is $7,149.

The citizens of Chicago carry at least twice the pension debt load of Puerto Ricans, and so far the only silver lining is a rather modest and insufficient state-level reform bill currently being fought by a formidable league of powerful unions in the courts. That’s not exactly an escape valve.

There aren’t many victories in the long history of wars on arithmetic. Chicago is suffering a particularly painful defeat.

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  • Anthony

    “There aren’t many victories in the long history of wars on arithmetic.” Where’s mine has been a Chicago motto since Big Bill Thompson (if not before). The Feed’s theme brings to mind political concept “dirty end of stick”. That is, average citizen by voting prearranged preferences offered in election after election seems to always get rooked (taken). The point here is not to highlight Chicago taxpayers but to illuminate what most citizens get by voting along ethnic, religious, regional and national-origins lines (the constituents in the home municipality or state in some way get the dirty end of stick – simple arithmetic).

    • Andrew Allison

      Human nature?
      “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” ― Alexis de Tocqueville

  • Bruce

    Each Chicagoan may owe $18,600, but it’s worse than that. What percentage of the population is paying in to Chicago’s coffers in a meaningful way? Paying sales tax on purchases from your welfare check is not “meaningful.” The people that can pay will get fleeced even worse and many will leave. The only other partial solution is to gut the pensions. It may come to that. Will Chicagoans stop voting Dem as a result of this? Of course not.

    • free_agent

      You write, “Paying sales tax on purchases from your welfare check is not “meaningful.””

      It’s actually worse than that. If you extract extra taxes from people on welfare, you’ll just have to raise their payments, because we’re already paying them about as little as we dare (however you define that). The real question is what percentage of the population has enough money that we can realistically expect to be able to extract more taxes from them. That’s probably about the better-paid half of the people who are employed, which must come to roughly 25% of the population. Let’s conservatively assume that adding the non-city pensions to the tally would raise WRM’s number to $20,000, that really comes to $80,000 for every people who can realistically be taxed. Which is a big number, given that one can avoid that debt by simply moving out of the city proper.

  • Anthony

    Republican/Democratic formulation too simplistic as well as categorization of tax payers – the voting public goes wrong in whom it accepts as plausible candidates (not men/women of proven knowledge, ability, and purpose but those who appeal to various unexamined prejudices). Pension crises is just one example of the self defeat of average citizen.

  • charlesrwilliams

    Ridiculous. Any citizen can take the subway to Evanston and evade the debt. The liability attaches to Chicago real estate since that can’t be moved.

    • William Ockham

      And that is the exact dynamic that converts Chicago into another depopulated Detroit.

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