Last week, Detroit declared bankruptcy, becoming the largest city in U.S. history to take such drastic action in the face of financial insolvency. A declaration of bankruptcy isn’t what most people think it is, though: it’s not just a statement of “we’re broke!” It’s actually a way for the city to clear its slate of all financial obligations and not pay the retirees it owes.
What are the largest financial obligations the city facing? Pensions. $3.5 billion worth of pensions, to be exact.
Yes, Detroit owes former government employees — teachers, firefighters, cops and more — a whopping $3.5 billion in current and future payments. Except Detroit doesn’t have $3.5 billion to pay the pensions. The city is in a state of economic collapse. Remember, the U.S. government used billions in taxpayer money to help General Motors move its manufacturing offshore to countries like China. As a result of economically-insane actions and criminal mismanagement, a city that used to be the hub of industrial output in America has become a ghost town of abandoned buildings, crumbling infrastructure and financial destitution.
But even as all this was becoming apparent, the government workers there continued to collect fat paychecks and pensions, all based on the promise that endless population growth would out-pace the rise in pension obligations. Many pensioners are owed over $100,000 a year from the government, and this is true across California, Illinois and many other states as well.
Chicago, for example, owes $19 billion in pension payments that it doesn’t have, and the city of Los Angeles is more than $30 billion in the hole. The story is much the same in every major U.S. city.
As the Detroit Free Press now reports:
Early this year, the Pew Center released a survey showing that 61 of the nation’s largest cities — limiting the survey to the largest city in each state and all other cities with more than 500,000 people — had a gap of more than $217 billion in unfunded pension and health care liabilities. While cities had long promised health care, life insurance and other benefits to retirees, “few … started saving to cover the long-term costs,” the report said.
daily alternative | alternative news – Most government pensions to be confiscated within a decade