Saturday, July 28, 2007

One of the best uses of "It's Clinton's fault" ever!

Say what you want about Republican Christine Todd Whitman, she's always long gone before her malfeasance hits the fan. It wasn't just political ambition that made her burn rubber driving away from the governorship of New Jersey to head the EPA in the first George W. Bush administration (and we know what a fine job she did in the aftermath of 9/11).

Here's a prime example of one of Whitman's gargantuan fiscal messes. This is from the New York Times [emph added].
$58 Billion Shortfall for New Jersey Retiree Care

In 1994, New Jersey decided to stop setting aside money in a fund to pay for health care for its retired public workers. The savings paved the way for a big tax cut.
You know, I do vaguely remember the $6.34 "tax cut" I got that year.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of public workers were being told that as long as they worked 25 years, the system would provide virtually free health care for them when they retired, often when they were as young as 55.

No one added up the cost — until now.

Things were going just fine with the retiree healthcare fund until Whitman decided to pull a Grover Norquist.
From 1987 through 1994, New Jersey was one of only a handful of governments that went to the trouble of setting aside money for retiree health care. Gov. Christine Todd Whitman stopped the practice the year she took office, along with cutting back on pension contributions.
So how exactly did the Whitman administration pitch this deal?
The official explanation was that inflation in health costs had subsided and that setting aside money could create a bigger reserve than was needed. Also, her administration noted, the Clinton White House was working on a national health plan.

Not long afterward, though, health inflation went to double digits, and the Clinton initiative collapsed. But by then, New Jersey’s lawmakers had grown accustomed to using retiree-health dollars to balance the budget, which was required under the State Constitution.
It's Bill Clinton's fault, the bastard. He didn't get that national health plan passed.

You can't expect a governor to wait until a controversial, long-shot, heavily lobbied-against national health plan actually passes in Congress before dismantling a state's retiree healthcare funding.

And you certainly can't blame a governor for wanting to avoid the incredible embarrassment of actually creating a surplus.

And just what have New Jersey legislators been doing about this situation for the past decade? Absofuckinglutely nothing.
When New Jersey stopped funding its retiree health plan 13 years ago, it also stopped trying to keep track of the cost. That created the illusion that the long-term obligation was zero, not billions of dollars, and made it easy for the state to enhance its already rich benefits.
I wonder how I can "create the illusion" that I've paid my state income taxes for the year.

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