by James Surowiecki December 23, 2013
’Tis the season for taking retirement benefits away from public workers. In Detroit, an emergency manager has steered the city into bankruptcy, in part to avoid its pension obligations. In Illinois, the legislature just passed a bill cutting pensions and raising the retirement age for state workers, in the hope of saving a hundred and sixty billion dollars in pension costs over the next thirty years. And these moves are only the most dramatic instances of a broader trend: between 2009 and 2012, forty-five states passed some kind of pension reform. Pensions are supposed to be dull and reliable. But they’re now the locus of bruising political battles.
The reason is simple: though plenty…