- Quick Facts
In the worst possible form of kicking the can down the road, at the worst possible time as well (given the lofty overvalued condition of the stock market), To Pay New York Pension Fund, Cities Borrow From It First.
When New York State officials agreed to allow local governments to use an unusual borrowing plan to put off a portion of their pension obligations, fiscal watchdogs scoffed at the arrangement, calling it irresponsible and unwise.
And now, their fears are being realized: cities throughout the state, wealthy towns such as Southampton and East Hampton, counties like Nassau and Suffolk, and other public employers like the Westchester Medical Center and the New York Public Library are all managing their rising pension bills by borrowing from the very same $140 billion pension fund to which they owe money.
Across New York, state and local governments are borrowing $750 million this year to finance their contributions to the state pension system, and are likely to borrow at least $1 billion more over the next year. The number of municipalities and public institutions using this new borrowing mechanism to pay off their annual pension bills has tripled in a year.
Public pension funds around the country assume a certain rate of return every year and, despite the market gains over the last few years, are still straining to make up for steep investment losses incurred in the 2008 financial crisis, requiring governments to contribute more to keep pension systems afloat.
Nationwide, the cost of public retiree benefits has soared in recent years, and states including California, Connecticut and Illinois have been borrowing to pay, or even deferring, their pension bills. Many states are worse off than New York. New Jersey is still paying off bonds issued in 1997 to close a hole in its pension system.
But New York appears to be unusual in allowing public employers to borrow from the state’s pension system to finance their annual contributions to that system.
In Poughkeepsie, which is contributing $3.6 million into the state pension system this year and borrowing nearly $800,000, Mayor John C. Tkazyik, a Republican, said rising pension costs and new federal accounting requirements for retiree health coverage could have dire consequences.
“It could bankrupt the city,” Mr. Tkazyik said, adding that the city had cut its work force, to 367 from 418 employees, in four years as it struggled to compensate.
Only with the most perverted actuarial math can anyone fund a pension plan by borrowing from it.
Unfortunately, it’s not just cities that are borrowing money from plans to fund them. New York state borrowed $575 million in the current fiscal year, and $782 million in the next, under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed budget.
The True One Percent
The following video may come across as a bit over-the-top in terms of presentation, but the examples are accurate.
Link to video: Government Employees: The True 1%
Public Pension Ponzi Scheme
As I have commented on numerous occasions, defined benefit pension plans are going to bankrupt numerous cities and states. Several smaller cities have already gone bankrupt over union salaries and pensions.
Numerous other cities are on deck. The public pension Ponzi scheme will fly apart as soon as one major city declares bankruptcy to get those pension benefits tossed out in court.
Realistically speaking, numerous cities such as Los Angeles, Houston, and San Diego are already bankrupt, as are second tier cities like Oakland, Newark, Cincinnati, and Baltimore and others too numerous to list, they just have not admitted it yet.
Simply put, pension promises have been made that cannot and will not be kept.
In the meantime, defined benefit plans need to end, city services privatized or eliminated, Davis-Bacon and prevailing wages laws scrapped, national right-to-work laws implemented, and at the top of the list, collective bargaining of public union workers need to stop immediately.
It’s time to abolish collective bargaining, a practice that makes slaves out of everyone. I make the case in …
Clearly, huge battles loom over these issues.
About the author: Mike “Mish” Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for Sitka Pacific Capital Management. His top-rated global economics blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis offers insightful commentary every day of the week. He is also a contributing “professor” on Minyanville, a community site focused on economic and financial education. Every Thursday he does a podcast on HoweStreet and on an ad hoc basis he contributes to many other websites, including UnionWatch.
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