Public Employee Pensions in 2012, 2002 and 1993: Census Bureau Data

The Governments Division has released data on state and local government pension plans for FY 2012, and I have downloaded and compiled it for that year and a decade and two decades earlier. The data shows the arrival of a crisis in public employee pensions, with soaring public employee retirement costs causing or threatening municipal bankruptcy and leading to tax increases, service cuts, and reductions in benefits for future (and in some cases current and past) government employees. All this has shown up in the data between FY 2002 and FY 2012, although most of the decisions that led to the crisis were made in the previous decade.

The data shows that the people of New York City are among those who have been made worst off as a result of the rising cost of public employee pensions. There is more pension drama elsewhere simply because those living there are unwilling to live with the high tax burden and low public service levels (including 50 years of lousy schools) that have been imposed on New Yorkers since the 1970s. Those imposing that burden in New York benefit from low public participation in state and local government, something our state politicians go to great lengths to encourage. To show how and to what extent people are being affected, I have produced a spreadsheet that has tables with data for New York City and the Rest of New York State, and state and local government combined in all the other states and the U.S. as a whole. That spreadsheet, a series of charts, and commentary may be found below.

The spreadsheet with the data is here. I suggest downloading it and keeping it for reference.

Census Pension Data 2012 2002 1992

The tables are in one worksheet (tabs on the bottom, the “Tables” worksheet to the left). I haven’t bothered trying to set it up to print – it’s too awkward and varies from computer to computer. But the panes are frozen to allow one to shift over to the different data items to the right (the data as downloaded is further to the right), and down to all the different states below, without losing the titles. I would have provided pension data for 1992 rather than 1993, but the 1992 data is not readily accessible on the Census Bureau website, and the amount of detail decreases the further one goes back.

While the table has data for all 50 states, for the FY2012 charts I have limited the comparison to the U.S. average, New York City, the rest of New York State, the adjacent states of New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, two states thought to be in deep pension trouble, Illinois and California, and three states thought to be more fiscally sound, Minnesota, North Carolina and Texas. The charts with data over time, for FY 1993, FY 2002, and FY 2012, are limited to the U.S., New York and New Jersey. The dollar value data in those charts has been adjusted for inflation to make the years comparable. I’ve tried to keep the same format throughout to make the charts easier to understand.

Let’s begin our discussion with how much public employees in different places get in pension benefits, as measured by the dollar value of taxpayer pension contributions per active public employee pension plan participant in FY 2012.

Chart 3

Since the City of New York is going through union labor contract negotiations we’ve been treated to a one-sided “negotiating in the press” campaign by the unions, to convince people how much more the city’s public employees deserve and how much less people should expect in return. One thing no one wants to talk about is how much city workers are already getting in retirement benefits. Pensions cost city taxpayers $24,340 per active city worker in FY 2012. Just for pensions. For comparison, in 2012 the median cash income of all full time workers living in New York City was $48,900 for males and $45,100 for females, according to the American Community Survey. Most do not get any retirement benefits at all, save for a 401K or IRA they pay for themselves.

For all public pension plan participants in the U.S., the average taxpayer cost per public worker in FY 2012 was $7,029, or less than one third the amount in New York City. For the pension plans of the State of New York, which cover not only state employees but also local government employees in parts of the state outside New York City, taxpayer contributions averaged $7,704 per active public employee. None of the states where the burden of public employee pensions has become a big issue had a burden anywhere close to that of New York City taxpayers. New Jersey taxpayers didn’t even contribute at the national average. No other state had a taxpayer burden in excess of $15,000 per public worker, and only Alaska, where oil revenues pay for it all, had a burden in excess of $14,000 – still far less than the $24,340 per public worker in New York City.

Chart 4

The taxpayer cost of pensions per active public worker has soared in recent years in New York, while increasing more moderately in the U.S. as a whole. In the 1990s New York and many other states had retroactively increased public employee pensions, but although the pension plans started paying more out, taxpayers didn’t pay more in because the stock market bubble allowed politicians to claim pension plans were overfunded. Instead, many places reduced taxpayer contributions to public employee pension plans. Thus by FY 2002 most of the decisions that would lead to soaring pension costs had already been made, although the crisis keeps being exacerbated by an ongoing unwillingness to pay in enough to catch up and, in New York, by additional retroactive pension increases.

In FY 2002 the taxpayer cost of pensions was just $5,100 per active NYC public employee, down from $8,600 in FY 1993 and about one-fifth the level of FY 2012.   The taxpayer cost per active public worker in the New York State pension plans was less than $500 in FY 2012. This may explain why taxpayers in the rest of the state are shocked by a pension burden that is one-third what NYC taxpayers have to pay – it is up from almost nothing. New Jersey taxpayers were also kicking in next to nothing in FY 2002, at less than $1,000 per active worker. The US. average taxpayer cost per public employee was $5,025 in FY 1993 and $3,687 in FY 2002. From that FY 2002 low the cost doubled over the decade to FY 2012 adjusted for inflation, a decade when most taxpayers’ incomes were falling behind inflation.

Speaking of incomes, as I showed here

In FY 2011 the average state and local tax burden in the U.S. was 10.3% of the total personal income of everyone in the United States. It has been at about that level with modest variation for many years — decades. I’ll be updating that data (and other state and local finance data) when the finance phase of the 2012 Census of Governments comes out later this year. So how much of that 10.3% of income paid in taxes went to state and local government public employee pensions?

Chart 1

The answer, for the U.S. as a whole, was 0.74% of personal income in FY 2012. Combining the statewide cost of taxpayer pension contributions for state workers, and the cost of local government pension in each area, the cost of public employee pensions was 2.12% of the income of New York City residents, about triple the U.S. average, and 0.97% for the Rest of New York State, somewhat above the U.S. average. In no other state did the taxpayer burden of public employee pensions exceed 1.5% of state residents’ personal income. Excluding Alaska, with its oil revenues, Illinois was next at 1.4% of Illinois residents’ personal income. New Jersey taxpayers were only kicking in 0.48% of their personal income for public employee pensions in FY 2012, less than the U.S. average.

Higher pension costs mean more of people’s incomes being paid in taxes for less in public services and benefits. Of course these are the average taxpayer costs of public employee pensions as a percent of income, but some people pay in more and others pay in less. For example, New York’s retired public employees pay zero state or (in New York City) local income taxes on their pension incomes, and are thus exempted from contributing to the very burden they have created.

Chart 2

The cost of public employee pensions increased by 1.5% of the income of New York City residents from FY 2002 to FY 2012. That is the increase in their tax burden and/or the extent of service reductions city residents have had to shoulder over the past decade, with nothing in return. The increase was just 0.39% of taxpayer income in New Jersey, 0.88% of income for the Rest of New York State, and 0.30% of income for the United States as a whole – less than in New York City, and taxpayers in these areas were contributing less of their incomes for public employee pensions to begin with.

That’s what the taxpayers are contributing. What about the public employees?

Chart 3a

The data show that while New York City taxpayers are made to kick in far more for public employee pensions than taxpayers elsewhere, New York’s public employees kick in less. Nationally, public employees were expected to kick in about 30.0% of the cost of their pensions in FY 2012, on average. The figure for active members of the NYC pension plans was 9.6% of total contributions, with active members of the NY State pension plans making only 6.2% of total contributions. The only states where public employees kicked in less for their own pensions than those in New York were Nevada, Oregon and Utah. New Jersey’s public employees made 43.9% of the total contributions to that state’s public employee pension funds in FY 2012.

In New York, moreover, as a result of a series of enrichments for those cashing in and moving out, with a partial offset of benefits taken away from future public employees, most of New York’s public employee pension contributions are made by younger workers. Those older, those who got the best of all the political deals over the years, pay little or nothing.

Chart 4a

In some states public employees make a lower percent of total pension contributions because they got a better deal at the expense of taxpayers. In Wisconsin, for example, the employees made just 4.5% of total cost of pension contributions in FY 1993 and 2.3% in FY 2002, but were made to pay in 53.4% of those contributions in FY 2012, following controversial pension reforms.

In other some states the share of pension contributions made by public employees is higher than average. This may be a result of the higher employee contributions in general, because the employees have a less good deal and taxpayers a better deal. As in North Carolina, where the employees paid for more than half the cost of their pensions in FY 1993, FY 2002, and FY 2012.  But there are other possible reasons for public employees making a large share of total contributions.

Public employees may be providing a large share of total pension contributions simply because taxpayers are kicking in so little, not because the employees are paying so much. In FY 2002 public employee made 74.2% of total pension contributions in New Jersey, not because they were kicking in more but because taxpayers were kicking in next to nothing. The same may be said of the higher share of total pension contributions made by public employees nationwide in FY 2002. To the extent that employees have been made to pay more, that happened later. The employee share was higher in FY 2002 because taxpayers were paying in less.

There is a third reason why public employee contributions may have kicked in an increased share of contributions in FY 2002. Because the employees were “buying back” past years of extra contributions required to retire earlier under retroactive pension enhancements. That explains the relatively high share of pension contributions made by the public employees on NYC from FY 1995 or so to FY 2002. City workers were allowed to retire at 57 instead of 62 if they paid in 1.85% more of their paychecks during their careers. While the city’s teachers were not required to “buy back” the additional pension rights for the years they had already worked, other city workers were required to “buy back” those rights. That temporarily inflated employee pension contributions in NYC.

The higher taxpayer contributions required to pay for those additional years in retirement were not made at the time, because the unions and politicians falsely claimed that the added employee contributions would be enough to offset the additional years of pension payments (and the additional years of retiree health insurance). But current city taxpayers are paying for the deal now, nearly two decades after it was cut.

So that is what taxpayers and public employees are paying for public employee pensions. What about what the pension beneficiaries are getting?

Chart 5

The data shows that the average New York City pension fund beneficiary received $38,647 in FY 2012, plus Social Security for those collecting. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, recall that from 2000 to 2012 public employees could retire and start collecting benefits after working for just five years, and though their pension payments would be small if they worked fewer than the minimum number of years for a full pension, they would still be entitled to retiree health insurance for the rest of their lives. For those actually working the minimum number of years for a full pension, and retiring in recent years, pension payments are far higher. Although New York’s pension payments have been partially adjusted for inflation since 2000, moreover, payments to those who retired decades ago at lower salaries are still lower than the payments to more recent retirees. This Census Bureau data, however, is the pension data we have available for comparison with other areas. So let’s see what it shows.

The data shows that New York City’s pension recipients received far more than public employee pension recipients in other states. But the difference is smaller for benefit payments out to beneficiaries from the pension plans ,than it is for payments in to the pension plans by taxpayers. The U.S. average pension plan payment was $25,354 per pension beneficiary – New York City was 65.6% higher. But New York City’s taxpayer pension contributions into the plans were three times the U.S. average. The average payments per beneficiary were $26,850 for those receiving benefits from the New York State pension plans, and $29,880 for New Jersey – all far below the pension payments in New York City, though above the U.S. average.

In no state did the average pension benefit payment per beneficiary approach the level of New York City, but in several states, including Connecticut and Rhode Island, the payouts were over $30,000. Bear in mind, however, that in many states at least some public employee pensions do not receive Social Security, so the pension payment is the only retirement income they receive. Not participating in Social Security saves taxpayers the 6.2% employer contribution. And in many states, including California, public employee pension income is taxed at the same rate as private sector pension income and work income. In New York, public employees receive Social Security in addition to pensions, and all that income is free of state and local income taxes.

To further put this in perspective, NYC’s median household income was $50,895 in 2012, according to the American Community Survey. Add the mean pension benefit of $38,647 for former NYC public employees, to income from other family members and subsequent jobs, and later the income from Social Security, and it is clear that the average beneficiary of a NYC pension was better off than the average person paying for it. Though many of the pensioners live in the suburbs or Florida rather than NYC.

Chart 6

Adjusted for inflation the average pension benefit payment has increased across the nation, but it has increased far more steeply in New York City and the Rest of New York State. As I’ve discussed in other posts, this is due to big pension increases to adjust for inflation passed as part of the retroactive pension increase in the year 2000, something that was not promised when the employees were hired (or in some cases even while they were working), and not paid for at time.

In addition to its public employees getting more money in retirement, New York City’s former public employees get that money for more years. The city’s police officers and firefighters can retire with a full pension after 20 years, and then get paid a pension and retiree health insurance for perhaps another 40 years. The city’s sanitation workers, transit workers, and teachers (aside from those hired recently) can work just 25 years and retire at 55, collecting another 25 years on average. In 2003 New York City transit workers went on strike while demanding a pension at age 50 after just 20 years of work.   Moreover, the unions have cut political deals for pension “incentives” over the years, to temporarily allow retirement years earlier than workers had been promised. All those extra years on permanent vacation are hugely expensive. In fact the early retirement age, and resulting large number of years collecting a pension and retiree health care, and not the level of benefits or the number of years required to earn a pension, is the most costly aspect of public employee pensions in New York.

Chart 11

In FY 2012 New York City had just 1.27 public employees on the job (some of which were in seniority posts and providing little in services) for each person receiving pension benefits. The national average was 1.59; the average for the rest of the New York State was 1.46. New Jersey averaged 1.43 public employees on the job for each receiving benefits. Needless to say, most Americans cannot expect nearly as many years in retirement as years worked. If their employer provided it, the customers – including active and retired public employees – would take their business elsewhere for a better deal, and they would end up with no job at all. If they had to save for it themselves, few would decide to live in the poverty that many years of not working would require. In fact, most Americans have not been willing or able to save enough to pay for even a moderate retirement after a long working career. One or more years retired for each year working is something that can only be attained at other people’s expense.

While New York City’s ratio of active to retired workers is low, there are some states that were worse off. The ratio of active to retired public employees was 1.24 in Connecticut, 1.20 in Pennsylvania, 1.13 in Rhode Island, 0.89 in Michigan and 0.91 in Alaska. Connecticut has been one of the few states with a shrinking population in recent years, as taxpayers seek to flee that burden. Pennsylvania has the oldest population, on average, of any state, and Rhode Island is close. In Michigan the collapse of the auto industry has caused young workers to move away, leaving retired public employees and their burdens behind.

Up in right wing Republican Alaska, perhaps the flush of oil production money made it easier to promise rich public employee pension benefits without hitting up other taxpayers, at least in the short run. Just as the flood of tax revenues from Wall Street during bubbles did so in Democratic New York City. Ordinary people and younger generations will pay the price in the future if Alaska’s oil production goes down, or Wall Street is no longer able to rip off the rest of the world to the same extent. In the Generation Greed era, generational inequity is bi-partisan. Pension benefits keep going up, even if income sources such as these go down, leaving the politically powerless to suffer the consequences.

New York City has had lots of retirees, and not as many public employees, for some time, because it’s population has not grown that much in the past 70 years. In a rapidly growing suburban or Sunbelt locality or state, on the other hand, there is a small number of retirees – left over from a low-population, rural past – and a large number of active workers, on the job to serve a larger number of taxpayers.

In fast growing Nevada, for example, there were 4.8 active public employees per retiree in FY 1993 and still nearly 2.0 active employees per retiree in FY 2012. In fast growing Texas, there were 4.2 active public employees per retiree in FY 1993 and still 2.5 active workers per retiree in FY 2012. In the short run, rapid growth can mask the true cost of public employee retirement benefits, if those benefits are underfunded, because a large number of taxpayers are carrying a relatively small number of retirees. This allows lower taxes with better public services, until the retirement bill for the larger, post-development workforce can no longer be shifted to the future.

Once an area is fully developed and rapid population growth slows, the ratio of active to retire public employees falls to fully reflect the ratio of years of work required relative to number in retirement allowed under pension plan rules. This was a big part of the financial crisis that hit New York City in the 1970s, and that is hitting other places – including post WWII-suburbs and parts of the Sunbelt — now.

Chart 12

New York City had just 1.39 active public employees per retiree in FY 1993, compared with 1.27 in FY 2012. Not much different. But the ratio fell from nearly 2.0 to under 1.5 in the Rest of New York State, from nearly 3.0 to less than 1.5 mostly suburban New Jersey, and from 2.6 to 1.6 in the U.S. as a whole. In California slowing population growth, as land west of the mountains has become built out in metro Los Angeles, San Diego, and the Bay Area, has reduced the ratio of active to retired public employees from about 2.2 in FY 1993 to less than 1.5 in FY 2012.

In theory the ratio of active workers to beneficiaries (and even taxpayers) shouldn’t matter, because public employee pensions are supposed to be funded while the employees are working, and paid for out of investments after they retire. So those retirees shouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime. Taxpayer pension contributions should only be made to fund the retirement benefits active workers are earning by providing services today.

But it hasn’t worked out that way for three reasons. First, retiree health insurance benefits, a growing cost, were never pre-funded to begin with. In rapidly growing areas (the Suburbs, the Sunbelt) this was a huge short-term windfall for taxpayers, with a large number of current public workers being promised benefits, but only a smaller number of retirees from the rural, low population past actually getting them. For many suburban localities and Sunbelt cities, that windfall for older generations is turning into a crushing burden for younger and future residents, particularly since Obamacare will tax the “Cadillac” health insurance plans that public employees often receive.

Pension costs, the subject of this data, have been affected by two past trends. Public employee unions used their political muscle to get their pensions retroactively increased, to the point where investment returns cannot pay for pensions because taxpayers had only pre-funded the pensions employees had been promised to begin with. And taxpayers failed to pay enough to pre-fund the pensions that public employees had been promised to begin with. The degree of guilt, between public employee interests and taxpayer interests, varies from place to place.

Chart 7

As of FY 2012 taxpayer pension contributions had soared to more than 80 percent of pension benefit payments in New York City. Most taxpayer pension contributions today, perhaps all of them, are going to pay benefits for retirees, leaving little or nothing being set aside for today’s workers – tomorrow’s retirees. Only a small share of NYC’s pension fund benefit payments are being funded by investment returns, since interest rates on bonds and dividend payments for stocks are at low levels.

The only state where taxpayer pension contributions were as high or higher, compared with pension benefit payments, was higher was Nevada. That is a rapidly growing state where taxpayers are properly paying extra for the pension benefits being earned by the large number of current public workers, not the smaller number of existing retirees. Nevada is pre-funding pensions for its workers, while New York City is trying to catch up with the money owned to existing retirees, before State Assemblymember Peter Abatte and the rest increase the amount of money existing retirees get even more.

For the U.S. as a whole, taxpayer pension contributions averaged 44.2% of pension benefit payments. The average for the rest of New York State, where localities are being allowed to borrow their contributions from the pension fund because the cost would otherwise be “too devastating” relative to the expectations of taxpayers and service recipients, was 41.9%. New Jersey taxpayers were kicking in 27.6% of the state’s pension benefit payments in FY 2012.

Chart 8

Taxpayer pension contributions have exploded relative to benefit payments in New York City and the Rest of New York State over the past decade. Because taxpayers are having to catch up with a level of benefit payments that was increased long before. In the U.S. as a whole, on the other hand, the increase has been much smaller. In part because politicians have been unwilling to face up to the disaster they have created, and force taxpayers to face the higher burden and diminished services that will result. That will just make it worse in the future. It is generational financial gang rape practices on a large scale.

With rising benefit levels and inadequate contributions by taxpayers and employees alike, pension plans have been forced to sell off assets to pay benefits – leaving no assets to throw off income to pay for future beneficiaries, including today’s workers. For private sector workers managing their own retirement savings, investment advisors once advised spending no more than 4.0% of retirement assets in year one of retirement, to ensure they did not run out of money. In today’s lower return environment, many now argue that that is too high. Public pension funds probably require even more assets relative to initial payments, because public employees are given so many more years in retirement. But the ratio of benefit payments to assets is far worse in many of them.

Chart 9

New York City’s pension plans ought to have enough in assets to pay for all of the future retirement benefits of those already retired, most of the benefits of those near retirement, and some of the benefits of younger workers. In FY 2012, however, pension benefit payments equaled 9.7% of assets. Meaning that on average the city’s pension plans only had enough in assets to pay benefits for a little more than ten years at the FY 2012 rate. For the New York State pension plans, benefit payments equaled 6.3% of assets in FY 2012. The U.S. average was payments at 7.5% of assets. In New Jersey, pension benefit payments equaled 11.9% of assets.

Basically, the average U.S. pension fund is in the hole, and those places with higher benefit payments than average as a percentage of assets are in a crisis. By this simple measure, in addition to New Jersey, pension plans in Alaska, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina were about as bad off, or worse off, than NYC’s pension funds. New York City’s residents and businesses may seek to flee the soaring taxes and collapsing services and benefits associated with Generation Greed’s pension pillaging, as in the 1970s, but this time there will be fewer places to flee to.

It is worth nothing that in California, pension benefit payments equaled just 6.4% of pension assets in FY 2012, not a good ratio but better than the U.S. average, only slightly worse than fast growth Texas and North Carolina, and about the same as for the New York State pension plans. There is a lot of noise and pain in California, but only because politicians, pension plan administrators and the people are slowly, haltingly, confronting their pension disaster and moving to fix it. Rather than continuing to lie and making it bigger by covering it up, as in New York and New Jersey. People like to say the Golden State is dysfunctional. Nature, which has blessed it, may curse it with earthquakes and droughts, but otherwise I wouldn’t bet against it.

Chart 10

FY 1993 was before the stock market bubbles (1990s, up through 2007, and today), before most of the retroactive pension increases, and before the worst of the pension underfunding. At that time pension benefit payments were 7.1% of assets in NYC, compared with 9.7% in FY 2012, 4.8% in the Rest of New York State, compared with 6.3%, 5.3% in New Jersey, compared with 7.5% — and 6.2% in New Jersey, compared with 11.9%.   Aside from New Jersey, the increase in this ratio does not seem horrible, when compared with pre-pension disaster conditions.

This, however, ignores two realities.

First, re-inflated asset values are currently hiding the extent of pension underfunding, but those high asset values are associated with lower future returns. The average stock paid a dividend of 2.84% of the stock price in December 1992, less than the long-term average of 4.3% but far more than the 1.85% today. The interest on a ten-year U.S. Treasury Bond? It was 7.01% in 1993, but just 2.35% in 2013. Interest rates may rise, leading to better returns in the future, but that would cause the value of the stocks and bonds public employee pension funds already hold to crash, as I discussed here.

If you want an updated view from an “official source,” read this article.

Second, the ratio of retirees to beneficiaries is much higher, with more retirees and higher benefit payments coming in the near future. For a more sophisticated analysis that adjusts for the demographics of each pension plan I recommend, to an extent, this analysis.

It claims the average U.S. public employee pension plan (how weighted, I do not know) was 72.0% funded in 2013, the same as the year before despite (temporarily) soaring stock prices. That is, in addition to the pension benefits earned in the future by current workers, today’s and tomorrow’s taxpayers will have to pay for 28.0% of the benefits they were granted in the past, with nothing in return.

There are two problems with this.

First, the analysis simply accepts whatever each pension plan uses as an estimate of future investment returns, rather than adjusting future returns downward for the fact that asset values have temporarily bubbled upward. Pension plans have typically used “smoothing” to adjust for asset value ups and downs, but that process has degraded into a politicized way to cover up problems.

Second some pension plans, and some places, are in much worse shape than average, as shown in the tables in the back of the report. For example, this source reports the New York City teacher pension plan was only 55.6% funded, compared with 87.5% for the New York State teacher pension plan (which covers teachers in the rest of the state) and 57.1% for the New Jersey teacher pension plan. For general employees, New York City’s pension plan was just 66.0% funded, compared with 88.5% for the comparable New York State plan and 62.1% for New Jersey. The funded ratios, according to this source, were 64.9% for NYC Police, and just 52.7% for New York City firefighters, but 89.5% for police and firefighters in the Rest of New York State, and 73.1% for New Jersey. If I were doing these estimates, all these pension plans would be admitted to be in even worse trouble. New Jersey’s funding ratios presumably look better than New York City’s because of even more unrealistic estimates of future investment returns.  The fact that the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College did not use a single future rate of return, its own which it is prepared to justify, shows why pension plans have an incentive to lie about this assumption.

Many small public pension funds are in trouble, and many small cities may go bankrupt as a result. But. as the report shows, few major pension funds are in as much trouble as New York City’s fire and teacher pension plans, and despite their sky-high level of taxpayer pension contributions today and above average contributions in the past, city residents face a diminished future as a result.  The decisions that have put us in this position were generally made by the Governor and state legislature of New York, including representatives from New York City. Why did they do this to us?

Chart 13

In 2002, 1.4 million New York City residents cast votes for the Governor of New York State. Far fewer cast votes for the state legislature, and many of those who did vote were simply voting a party line. The number of active and retired New York City employees equaled 47.0% of that total in 2002, and 53.4% of that total in 2012.

So those who are or are expecting to be on the receiving end of public employee pensions, and are thus likely to favor retroactive increases if they purely selfish and incapable of even enlightened self interest, could theoretically have comprised more than half the electorate in state elections. And while not all of them voted or lived in the city, the public employee union share of campaign contributions and foot soldiers is far higher. No wonder New York politicians cynically cut deals to retroactively increase pensions.

That being the case, however, why didn’t politicians, back by the unions, simply force taxpayers to pay up for those pension deals in the past, rather than shifting the cost to the future? Because of fear that all those other New Yorkers eligible to vote who do not bother to do so might show up and vote. Because if those apathetic non-voters they knew what was being done to them, and what the future held for them, all those legislators would have been voted out. That’s why public employee pensions are being underfunded even today. And why in New York they continue to be increased. And once that happens, the consequences for the future and younger generations are terrible, and irrevocable. So the grabbing continues.

Last year I posted a database of Census Bureau data for individual public employee pension plans in New York and New Jersey, going back as far in time as I could (1957 for some data items), for the use of some future “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” after Generation Greed’s pension evil has caused a collapse that finally brings a reckoning. I have updated that database for FY 2012, and plan a series of posts on it. For those who want to use the data, it is here.

Pension Data Long Term NY NJ