CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Washington Examiner included Charleston in a report titled "Nine cities that could soon follow Detroit into bankruptcy." The reason:
"Charleston has the worst-funded pension system of any major city in the United States, with only 24 percent of the necessary funds to cover more than $337 million in pension debt."
It added: "Charleston won't be able to look to the state for help. West Virginia is dealing with its own pension crisis -- only Illinois has a lower funded ratio of its state pension plans."
Mayor Danny Jones scoffed at the Examiner analysis, saying Charleston slowly is securing funds to cover future shortfalls in pensions for police, firefighters, City Hall workers and others.
This skirmish spotlights a dilemma facing thousands of local governments across America.
Politicians love to grant government benefits to large groups of voters (gaining future election victories for the politicians) -- but they hate to raise taxes to pay for those benefits (which can bring future election defeats). That's why many government pension and medical care plans are overpromised and underfunded.
When Detroit sank into America's worst municipal bankruptcy, part of the blame fell on posh municipal pensions and medical insurance, and the lack of reserves to cover them. Numerous U.S. states, counties, school districts and cities -- with 19 million total employees -- are in the same boat.