There was an admonition for those about to go toe-to-toe with a rival: “Don’t write checks with your mouth that your (fanny) can’t cash.”
On Tuesday you may be making decisions that fall into that category. Your rival will be a bunch of old folks, or maybe yourself.
The old folks on the receiving end of checks are retirees. Promises were made to them. Sometimes the promises were more ambitious than they should have been. Sometimes unrealistic assumptions were made. Often the easy path was taken.
If you are considering a county or statehouse candidate, do you know where they stand on Illinois’ public pension crisis? Do they have a plan, other than promising workers even more, raiding or shorting the funds and putting in so little that there is 30-some cents for every $1 of obligation?
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The state and its $111 billion unfunded pension liability is just part of the issue. There are 667 public pension systems in Illinois that cover government workers down to the village dogcatcher, and they in total have $203 billion less than all of us will owe their retirees. State lawmakers made the rules governing those local government pensions.
Federal candidates also face pension questions related to government backing of private pensions. We saw the Teamsters’ pension system fail, the government system intended to back it fall short and a judge say we taxpayers were on the hook to make good the promises those taxpayers never made to Teamsters and others in the Central States Pension System. Now the United Mine Workers of America are in line to be the next group looking for a taxpayer bailout of their pension system.
Oh yes, then there is the 800-pound federal gorilla: Social Security and Medicare. Those may be your retirement, or a chunk of it.
The big three entitlements plus debt interest and Obamacare costs are expected to eat 83 percent of all our national spending during the coming decade. The nation’s debt sits at 75 percent of what the nation produces in a year, and the only other time it was this high was when the whole nation was building a war machine to defeat Hitler and Tojo.
So what are your federal candidates planning to do about it? Kind of hard to build roads, bridges or a comfortable middle class when all your money is tied up in promises.
And you just can’t cash that check.