I heard it again this morning–on the WPRO morning show, this time–probably in relation the ProJo’s latest in their pension series on “how we got here” regarding the pension mess (“They Just Broke the City“). Yes, we know we messed up in the past, goes the refrain, but what can we do to make it better in the future? It’s time to stop blaming people and look ahead, etc. It’s similar to the no-blame game being played by the General Treasurer. Try to shove it in the past–bury the blame–and move on.
What is missed is that it is necessary to assign the proper blame so we know how to deal with the problem. If we don’t properly identify the cause, we can’t come up with a fair solution. So when we learn that a union run retirement board did more than it’s fair share to put Providence in it’s acute pension predicament–mostly thanks to COLAs and disability retirements–then we shouldn’t feel too bad when recommending reforms that take a fair amount of flesh out of current retirees. Thanks to COLA’s, for instance, they’ve seen their pension double in 12 years. Pretty good return, no?
The unions didn’t act alone, though. As the ProJo story makes clear, politicians, the courts and, yes, voters did their share and were complicit in constructing this failed system. It’s a “full Rhode Island.”
That’s why, despite the pleas of RI cities and towns, the General Assembly isn’t rushing into any fixes and seems content to sit on their hands until the fall. If they even really do anything then. We were screwed then and we are screwed now. Maybe when the checks stop coming, something will get done.