Half the sorrows of the world, I suppose, are caused by making false assumptions.
H. L. Mencken; Selected Prejudices, page 78
The Christie-Freeze roadmap to pension reform in New Jersey breaks down to three steps with the first two both necessary and possible:
- Get rid of the defined benefit concept with the state picking up the $200 billion shortfall which they will get from….
- Moving the cost of teacher pensions and health benefits back to the localities who will pick up the $200 billion needed from…..
- Saving on the cost of health benefits for their employees.
Yes defined benefit plans need to go away for public sector employees since politicians and their enablers will always underfund them. Likewise localities should be picking up all costs for their school districts rather than negotiating benefits that oblige income-tax payers.
But believing that local governments will generate their $200 billion to kick off this process by a combination of higher employee contributions and instituting wellness programs is nuts. There is a better way.
Assembly Bill A4164, introduced on February 5, 2015, calls for requiring the “Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization, and Consolidation Commission” to recommend a process for the dissolution of county government.
There’s your $200 billion savings to make the Christie-Freeze plan work but what is obvious to the rest of us is not so obvious to politicians looking out for themselves. For example, Linda Stender may one day vote on A4164 which would almost certainly eliminate her other job. She is not alone as county government in most of New Jersey is the engine of a gravy train stoked with low-show jobs, no-bid contracts, and make-work projects that are bleeding taxpayers dry but fueling the spoils system.
Mencken sums it up nicely later (page 83) in that essay from which the quote above was taken:
What is any political campaign save a concerted effort to turn out a set of politicians who are admittedly bad and put in a set who are thought to be better? The former assumption, I believe, is always sound: the latter is just as certainly false. For if experience teaches us anything at all it teaches us this: that a good politician, under democracy, is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar. His very existence, indeed, is a standing subversion of the public good in every rational sense. He is not one who serves the common weal; he is simply one who preys upon the commonwealth. It is to the interest of all the rest of us to hold down his powers to an irreducible minimum, and to reduce his compensation to nothing; it is to his interest to augment his powers at all hazards, and to make his compensation all the traffic will bear.
The Christie–Freeze plan can work but eliminating county government is an essential first step to generate the tax savings, even if most politicians don’t want to see it that way.