Sorry but no Keira Knightley in this tale.
Instead, we have a sordid tale of fiscal rapine and forced fiscal sodomy starring rapist number one: unionized government workers, rapist number two: prostitute politicians and rapist number three: so-called pension overseers. The hero of this affair is Proposition 13, which boldly stepped in to mitigate the rapine and allow for the gluttonous rapists to meet the first tier of their fate... insolvency.
Thankfully, this will not be an isolated incident.Little by little, over many years, the salaries and retirement benefits of San Bernardino's city workers — and especially its police and firemen — grew richer and richer, even as the city lost its major employers and gradually got poorer and poorer. Unions poured money into city council elections, and the city council poured money into union pay and pensions. The California Public Employees' Retirement System (Calpers), which manages pension plans for San Bernardino and many other cities, encouraged ever-sweeter benefits. Investment bankers sold clever bond deals to pay for them. Meanwhile, state law made it impossible to raise local property taxes and difficult to boost any other kind. No single deal or decision involving benefits and wages over the years killed the city. But cumulatively, they built a pension-fueled financial time-bomb that finally exploded.
The chronic mismanagement in San Bernardino, though, is a common feature of local government in California and around the United States. Much power over municipal finance lies in the hands of those with the most at stake — city employees, elected officials and others who depend directly on government for their livelihood. And California is moving to put even more responsibility and funds, not less, in their hands.