To celebrate the renewal of my CPL card, I went through the archives of the Tribune to read up on pensions, which are obviously in the news. One of the interesting questions about this latest rash of interest in our screwed-up city and state pension systems is this: is this a new problem? Or the continuation of the same old problem? I think it’s sort of like asking whether light is wave or particle. I browsed around in the 80s, sending us back a nice round three decades to the year I was born, and found no shortage of warnings.
I can’t help but think there’s a boy-who-cried-wolf problem with pension systems that’s baked into how they’re evaluated: The impression I get from reading around on pensions, not just here but throughout the country, is that having 70% of current obligations funded is considered good (please correct me if I’m wrong, either definitely or arguably). Not great, since obviously you can fund them up to and beyond 100%. But 70% is good enough for government work.