Whenever a failed CEO is fired with a cushy payoff, the outrage is swift and voluminous. The liberal press usually misrepresents this as a hypocritical "jobs for the boys" program within the capitalist class. In reality, the payoffs are almost always contractual obligations, often for deferred compensation, that the companies vigorously try to avoid. Believe me. I've been on both sides of this kind of dispute (except, of course, for the "failed" bit.)
So where's the liberal outrage with a story like the pension swindle in El Monte, California? This is about a dying town, with a per capita income of $10,316 and a quarter of its population below the poverty line, that is paying a pension to one of its retired (at the age of 58) city managers of more than $250,000 per year. Adjusted for inflation. With medical for him and his wife. And survivorship benefits. And too which he contributed nothing.
Or another retired city manager who collects $216,000 per year, allowing him to "take some things off his bucket list" such as golfing at the Old Course at St Andrews. And it looks like the public is paying for more than just green fees. His retirement came shortly after being swept up in an anti-prostitution sting operation.
More broadly, with Trump's cabinet nominations and his presidency, there is currently an enormous amount of discussion about conflicts of interest in the public sector. All of these discussions completely ignore the most flagrant example.
Many politicians, especially Democrats, get elected with huge support from public sector unions. When it comes to negotiating the compensation of public employees, the unionists sit, in essence, on both sides of the table. The politicians buy the support of the unions with public money. The favorite coinage for this corrupt bargain is pension and other retirement benefits since the real cost of the bribery is easily obscured with bogus assumptions, especially about expected investment returns. The end result is public pension plans that are underfunded by trillions and the occasional bankruptcy like Detroit.
This is such a glaring conflict that I have tried to find if there are any laws against it. So far, I have found nothing. I have, however, found an Atlantic article by a clearly leftwing journalist who started off very sympathetic to public unions but who had a Damascene moment when he was a reporter in a small California town:
Over the next couple years, I nevertheless came to see the several downsides of the union's influence. Contract negotiations were held in private, with the City Council representing Rancho Cucamonga residents and union reps representing the firefighters. This posed a structural problem, for the interests of elected officials weren't particularly aligned with the public, whereas the union negotiators had a personal stake in whatever compensation package was adopted. To be more specific, if a City Council member behaved in a fiscally irresponsible manner, it wouldn't matter for at least a few years, by which time ambitious pols would have moved on to a county post or the state legislature. And lavish compensation packages could easily be obscured by combining what appeared to be a reasonable salary, the only number the public was likely to hear, with exorbitant pay for overtime or over the top fringe benefits.
But if a City Council member crossed the fire union? The consequences were immediate. As soon as the next election rolled around, they'd face a well-financed challenger. On his campaign mailers, he'd be photographed flanked by handsome firefighters. On weekends, friendly guys in fire-coats would go door to door on behalf of their would be champion. "We're very concerned that Councilman X is endangering public safety by refusing to do Y," they might say. Or else, "Challenger Z is a crucial ally in our effort to make this city safer." The incentives were clear.
The left goes nuts when a private company is contractually obliged to use its own money to pay off a failed CEO. Or the leftists dust off their little-used copies of the Constitution and start quoting the Emoluments Clause when there is the prospect of a foreign visitor to the presidential inauguration taking a bag of peanuts from the minibar in a Trump hotel. But when leftwing politicians collude with their public union supporters to rack up unpayable pension bills in the trillions, we get...crickets. So I ask...where's the outrage?