Obamaland Pension Meltdown Update


Kevin D. Williamson
NRO
July 17, 2010

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And so it was prophesied: Illinois is headed into a public-pension death spiral even sooner than predicted. The Land of Obama leads the way.

The state of Illinois — broke, overleveraged, and still refusing to get its accounts in order — is up to something interesting: selling bonds to meet its pension obligations. As one of the many states that refuse to set aside adequate money to fund its public-employee pensions, Illinois is headed to the debt markets to raise $3.7 billion for pension liabilities to get it through the year. This is a double dip: In January, Illinois sold $2.4 billion in bonds for pension obligations. Actually, make that a triple dip: It sold $10 billion in bonds to fund its pension liabilities in 2003. “States don’t traditionally fund their pensions with debt,” says CNN in a nice bit of understatement, “but the practice frees up other money that can be used for operations.” The double whammy here is that Illinois’s pensions are in trouble because it already spent the money it needed for its pension contributions in past years on other spending: Which is to say, Illinois is borrowing money it will have to repay eventually to repay the pension money it already spent to pay for other spending it couldn’t afford then and can’t afford now. If you’re wondering where Barack Obama developed his fiscal finesse, you don’t have far to look.

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