Brooks: Public sector unions have hollowed out America

Writing today in The New York Times, David Brooks looks at the question of why New Jersey cannot afford to build the ARC tunnel:

New Jersey can’t afford to build its tunnel, but benefits packages for the state’s employees are 41 percent more expensive than those offered by the average Fortune 500 company. These benefits costs are rising by 16 percent a year.

New York City has to strain to finance its schools but must support 10,000 former cops who have retired before age 50. California can’t afford new water projects, but state cops often receive 90 percent of their salaries when they retire at 50. The average corrections officer there makes $70,000 a year in base salary and $100,000 with overtime (California spends more on its prison system than on its schools).

States across the nation will be paralyzed for the rest of our lives because they face unfunded pension obligations that, if counted accurately, amount to $2 trillion — or $87,000 per plan participant.

This election may be America’s last chance to throw the unions’ allies out of office and shore up states’ and cities’ finances for the future. Some states — like California — might already be lost causes, but that’s not so everywhere. The public needs someone who isn’t in bed with the public-sector unions to be negotiating against them.

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