Rolling Back Pensions in Detroit and Beyond

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, discusses the decision to allow Detroit to roll back public pensions as part of its bankruptcy and the implications across the nation.


Ross Eisenbrey

Comments [28]



So is it racist for a families to move from a bad neighborhood to a better one? Is it wrong to make decisions that allow for a better life?

What do you call all the racist white yuppies and hipsters moving into formerly sketchy areas in Brooklyn? Just curious.

Dec. 05 2013 04:38 PM
JWilliamPope from Sparta, NJ

Eisenbrey didn't explain why wealthier white residents fled Detroit in the first place.

Dec. 05 2013 01:33 PM
hendry from NYC

Can someone PLEASE explain to me why the banks in this country are "too big to fail", but one of the largest cities isn't ?

Dec. 05 2013 11:44 AM
blacksocialist from BKbaby

scott - or how about racist whites being racist whites... as theyve been all over the country since it's inception.

Dec. 05 2013 11:43 AM

Your guest should be discussing why the middle and upper class left Detroit. Was is due to a lack of jobs, poorly run city government, or maybe rampant crime?

Dec. 05 2013 11:38 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

This pension issue is outrageous. This is money that was contributed by employees for their own retirement and the Detroit City government plans to steal it. And, when they do, the pensioners are going to have serious financial difficulties which will then have to be paid for by our taxpayer dollars.

I think that what needs to happen is that the controllers and bookkeepers in Detroit who were responsible for the financial transactions that put Detroit in bankruptcy ought to be held responsible. Although I doubt whether any of them could pay the pensions of those who will need that money.

I am a bookkeeper and if and when I see that the companies for which I work have financial difficulties, I resolve them BEFORE there is a need to go into bankruptcy. I bring matters to the attention of my bosses. I don't wait until after the fact and then say, "oh, by the way..."

Dec. 05 2013 11:32 AM
blacksocialist from Bkbaby

joyce - i could address many of your points, such as they are, but ill just state that the detroit pensions are far from generous.... on average 19k...

[This comment has been moderated. Please remember WNYC's guidelines to be civil, brief, and on topic.]

Dec. 05 2013 11:28 AM
Joe from nearby

As usual, the banksters have much to do with sucking the blood out of their mark-
"Report Shows Real Factors Behind Detroit Crisis: Revenue Decline, Wall Street Deals Play Largest Roll"
detroitdebtmoratorium [dot] org

They "ripped off Detroit's face."

Dec. 05 2013 11:24 AM
Ron from Manhattan

Wait...did he just say that Detroit's financial problems are not a result of the auto industry decline, and then go on to say that the decline occurred when beginning in the 1950's the auto industry left Detroit to build plants in the suburbs and in Mexico?

Dec. 05 2013 11:23 AM

Brian -- this isn't a detroit is poor segment, it is about whether companies and now, very state itself, should be allowed to rip off pensioners.

Dec. 05 2013 11:20 AM
Joyce from NYC

the guest says -- "the pension fund could have been earning 8%" !!!!!!!

Brian, why are you allowing this magical thinking ??????????

Dec. 05 2013 11:19 AM

Americans make fun of Europeans who famously choke streets with protests.

This is what they are protesting about, folks. Standing up for themselves and their parents.

Dec. 05 2013 11:18 AM
Stephan from Brooklyn

This guy has no real solution. What is the point of the interview? To repeat the same we should pay line?

Dec. 05 2013 11:16 AM
Bob from Westchester, NY

Brian asks how else you can handle the financial deficit. How about more revenue, by raising taxes? Nobody likes to do it, might not be the right thing to do for the local economy, but lets not pretend it's not possible. Every general obligation municipal and state bond in the country is backed by the taxing authority of the issuing entity.

Dec. 05 2013 11:14 AM
Joyce from NYC

Can we tell the truth here?

Can we get some journalism??????????

What has been the pay of Detroit workers when you factor in their GENEROUS pensions. How does that pay compare to my pay?????????????

Dec. 05 2013 11:13 AM

Bankruptcy judge can make a ruling that violates the 'highest law in the land', i.e. the state constitution? Sounds goofy and must lose on appeal.

Dec. 05 2013 11:13 AM
andy from manhattan

This is criminal. How can you change the terms of the contract after you agree to it and people work a lifetime based on that understanding??? There should be some kind of regulation requiring pension funding, if they are promised. I can't get my head around taking things away *after services have been rendered*.

Dec. 05 2013 11:12 AM

This guy has no ideas. "Wall off the pension". Oh, OK. Magical solution.

Dec. 05 2013 11:11 AM
Joyce from NYC

I don't believe this !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"The pension obligations do not have to be all paid now>"

Of course, let's kick the can down the road.

Then the federal government can print $8 billion.

And the dollar can become even more worthless.

Dec. 05 2013 11:11 AM
Geez Power

This isn't a worker rights issue, it's an example of why congress adapted the second amendment. Stand up for yourselves, geezers!

Dec. 05 2013 11:09 AM
Stephan from Brooklyn

Some pensions need to be rolled back. When you have county employees who make into six figures retiring for 20-30 or more years it becomes unaffordable. So what happens? Do you get drop the people who are actively working to pay for those who are no longer? In the past public salaries were low, but you had a pension to fall back. Now the salaries have become in many instances higher than private salaries and the perks have increased or have been abused (ramping up overtime in the final years, double dipping, etc). It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Dec. 05 2013 11:08 AM

@Catherine: Suspending a union worker without pay is part of the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the agency.

If he isn't convicted, or that worker has been cleared of wrongdoing, then he will be given back pay. But it doesn't necessarily mean that he'll get his job back.

Dec. 05 2013 11:06 AM
Glenn from Manhattan

This breakdown in pensions will happen everywhere. You cannot force rates close to 0% on safe investments and expect that a catastrophe won't happen down the line as you force people and governments into risky long term assets. Even well funded ones. Mark my words...

Dec. 05 2013 11:04 AM
Glenn from Manhattan

This breakdown in pensions will happen everywhere. You cannot force rates close to 0% on safe investments and expect that a catastrophe won't happen down the line as you force people and governments into risky long term assets. Even well funded ones. Mark my words...

Dec. 05 2013 11:03 AM

This is a bad and scary happening...NJ state pensioners are in a similarly precarious position as the state is far, far behind its payments into the pension fund. This is the same bs that International pulled on the Hostess bakery union workers.

Another example of robbing people with a pen...Just like the Bush Tax cuts. The surplus being handed out to the already wealthy came from income taxes AND payroll taxes. How much did the rich pay in payroll taxes?

Dec. 05 2013 10:56 AM

I've heard pensions were included in the bankruptcy because they are considered contracts. Wasn't there a fiduciary responsibility on the part of the City and those in office to fund the pensions? Why can't the politicians be prosecuted for not meeting the requirement of fiduciary responsibility? Instead, they just seem to say well we just didn't fund the pensions.

Why is it a contract now but not when the terms for funding were not met?

Dec. 05 2013 10:50 AM
RLF from Yonkers

Detroit, like some other cities has not funded the pension fund sufficiently in part because Corps. have been given tax breaks for 'economic development', hurting small business because they have had to carry the large corps who's promises of jobs rarely materialize.

Dec. 05 2013 10:24 AM
Catherine from Hamilton Heights

Brian, speaking of workers' rights, I think it's cruel that the driver of the MTA train is being suspended without pay. Suspended, yes -- but without pay? He's in the hospital and has to hire a lawyer. He was doing the work he was asked to do -- until he is convicted of a crime, why should he go without pay?

Dec. 05 2013 07:38 AM

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