I have been talking for some time now about the growing public pension crisis. My friend Greg sent me a sobering article from yesterday's Wall Street Journal which tied together the points I have been sharing with others in my conversations about this topic - the public pension crisis is a public safety crisis.
Let's back up a bit and talk about the public pension crisis. From the WSJ article:
Police pensions are among the worst-funded in the nation. Retirement systems for police and firefighters
have just a median 71 cents for every dollar needed to cover future liabilities, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data provided by Merritt Research Services for cities of 30,000 or more.
The combined shortfall in the plans, which are the responsibility of municipal governments, is more than $80 billion, nearly equal to New York City’s annual budget.
Broader municipal pension plans have a median 78 cents of every dollar needed to cover future liabilities, according to data from Merritt. The 100 largest U.S. corporate pension plans have 85% of assets needed on hand, according to Milliman Inc. data as of March 31.
And so in municipalities choosing to pare back police pensions to help out the municipal budget, the predictable comes to fruition:
In short, when cops quit, response times increase: in San Jose, response times for what the city classifies as "Priority 2" calls is almost twice as long (19 minutes) as the target response time (11 minutes).
This problem is not limited to police pensions. Firefighters and emergency medical services employees face the same challenges.
As response times go up, as experienced public safety professionals leave for other career opportunities, the public will be faced with less timely assistance from first responders.
Note I don't blame cities for wanting to reign in the cost of these pensions. Some of these pensions are simply not sustainable and were either mismanaged or negotiated with public employee unions using unsustainable funding formulas.
Yet the public will suffer as a result, either through higher taxes to pay the pension obligations, longer response times due to reduced staffing of first responders, or both.
I have said on a number of occasions - we need to become our own first responders. Be ready to deal with the emergencies the first responders face daily, so that we can mitigate the problem prior to their arrival.
Learn CPR. Get fire extinguishers and know how to use them. Upgrade your home's security system. Learn first aid. Put a weather radio in your home. Have a plan to deal with power outages. Consider buying a gun and taking a defensive firearm course.
Preparedness is good citizenship. And we all need to be good citizens.
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