Wednesday, September 25, 2013
The hardest thing for politicians to do is to say no to constituents. It hurts them at the ballot box and can end their careers. Yet, that is what is happening in cities across the US where excessive debt is forcing mayors to cut where they can. Some cuts are in pensions and benefits that have gone out of control. No amount of persuasion on the part of public officials, no application of PR principles is enough for unions to agree to a reduction. Mayors argue that these expenditures are bankrupting their cities, but no matter. The proposed restructurings have gone to court where judges will decide. It makes no difference that citizens have made their will known and support a mayor's position. There are limits to persuasion, especially when rights are involved. Unions believe they have earned their pensions and benefits and once gained, a city has no power to take them away. Look for cases like this to rise to the Supreme Court where justices will parse law. Perhaps cities should never have granted such generous terms in the first place, but what was done is past. Today's politicians have to figure out what to do and it is never pleasant to correct the sins of previous office holders.