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Welcome To The Third World: This Pension Thing Is About To Get Real - John Rubino (16/1/2017)

Though it may not be instantly clear, in the above quote Michael Lewis is talking about public sector pensions and how over the course of several decades, mayors and governors across the US have colluded with police, firefighter and teachers unions to promise outrageously-generous benefits and then failed to put aside enough money to pay for them.

As a consequence two things are happening. In dozens if not hundreds of cities and towns, services are being cut to the bone to pay for ballooning pension benefits, and – when even these cuts prove inadequate – pensions are being drastically reduced.

Which in turn means two other things. First, life isn’t nearly as easy or pleasant as it used to be in a lot of places, as library hours are cut, trash piles up and police response times lengthen. And second, hundreds of thousands of public sector workers who expected to retire comfortably are staring at major lifestyle shrinkage.

To which a reasonable person might yawn and say, sure the numbers look grim. But they’ve looked that way for a long time and outside of Chicago, American life is still pretty good by Greek, Venezuelan or Russian standards. So go away until something tangible actually happens.

Point taken. But this might be that time. Beginning with Dallas, where the city is actually taking money back from plan recipients…


…and moving on to Kentucky, where if a funding level of 16% for the state employees fund isn’t an imminent crisis, then nothing is:



Things are if anything even bleaker in the private sector:


Some other relevant headlines:

CalPERS Cuts Pension Benefits For First Time

Ohio workers face precedent-setting pension and retiree health cuts

Teamsters’ Pension Plans Seek Massive Cuts to Retirees to Stay Solvent

Chicago’s massive unfunded pension deficit could swallow the city

And this, remember, is happening at the tail end of a 30-year bull market in bonds and a 7-year bull market in stocks, which took the main asset classes held by pension funds to record valuation levels. So the rubber truly meets the road during the next recession when stocks will, if history is a reliable guide, drop by 20% or more. The current gaps in thousands of pension funds will become gaping holes, and the experience of Teamsters and Dallas cops will be replicated across the country.

Click here for the previous posts in this series.




John Rubino runs the popular financial website DollarCollapse.com. He is co-author, with GoldMoney’s James Turk, of The Money Bubble (DollarCollapse Press, 2014) and The Collapse of the Dollar and How to Profit From It (Doubleday, 2007), and author of Clean Money: Picking Winners in the Green-Tech Boom (Wiley, 2008), How to Profit from the Coming Real Estate Bust (Rodale, 2003) and Main Street, Not Wall Street(Morrow, 1998). After earning a Finance MBA from New York University, he spent the 1980s on Wall Street, as a Eurodollar trader, equity analyst and junk bond analyst. During the 1990s he was a featured columnist with TheStreet.com and a frequent contributor to Individual Investor, Online Investor, and Consumers Digest, among many other publications. He currently writes for CFA Magazine.


The author is not affiliated with, endorsed or sponsored by Sprott Money Ltd. The views and opinions expressed in this material are those of the author or guest speaker, are subject to change and may not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sprott Money Ltd. Sprott Money does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, timeliness and reliability of the information or any results from its use.

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