Cruel World: George F. Will on the Continuing Crisis

Today’s Washington Post carries a splendid op-ed by George F. Will, discussing my earlier riff on the constitutional dimensions of our unsustainable transfer state. Fortuitously, the print version of the Post features on the same page a frightening piece by Robert Novy-Marx and Joshua Rauh, summarizing their recent findings on underfunded state and local pensions. If we wanted to fund pensions at currently promised levels, they write, “a tax increase of $1,385 per U.S. household per year would be required, starting immediately and growing with the size of the public sector.” The levels of underfunding and, hence, required tax increases vary dramatically by state, from at modest $329 (Indiana) to over $2,250 (New York). That’s a lot of money, but maybe we can tax the rich. Failing that (or draconian reforms that would touch pensions promised to current—no merely new—employees), the funding hole will get bigger with each passing year.

Amazingly, the impending doom at this and other fiscal fronts doesn’t seem to be sinking in with the electorate. Random reader comment on George Will’s column: “Michael Greve is a heartless person who wants to slash and burn Social Security, while we are wasting trillions on military expenditures and foreign wars.”

More gratuitous cruelty: people with that mindset deserve what’s coming to them, soon in this theater.