Retiree health care may overwhelm gov’ts

The bill is coming due for years of generous benefits bestowed upon the nation’s public employees, and it’s a stunner: hundreds of billions of dollars over the next three decades, threatening some local governments with bankruptcy and all but guaranteeing cuts in services like education and public safety.

This opens an good AP story on what is destined to be the next classic story on the pathology of government’s incentives to get things wrong. Some tidbits:

“A surprising number of public entities didn’t even make informal estimates of long-term costs prior to the new accounting rules,” Whitworth said. . . . “When the numbers are produced, they’re going to be shocking,” said Ronald Snell, director of state services for the National Conference of State Legislatures. “They’ll be in the hundreds of billions, and it’s definitely something that policy-makers are going to have to take notice of and act upon. … There are consequences of decisions made in the past.”

I’ll say. It is always tempting for today’s politicians to make decisions that create benefits now and push the costs off to the future. And we are learning just how many of them succumb to that temptation.