Detroit and San Bernardino and Stockton, California are in bankruptcy, and across the country the costs of maintaining pensions for city and state employees more than doubled to nearly $84 billion in 2011 from 2002. Yet the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (Afscme) declares that public pensions are “modest,” noting that its average member “receives a pension of approximately $19,000 per year after a career of public service.”
The facts don’t agree. Data compiled from all state pensions show that, for employees who spend a career in state government, generous pensions put retired public workers among the highest earners in their state.
It is true that average public-pension benefits rarely seem extravagant. But these averages are reduced by two groups: older employees who retired many years ago and whose benefits are far less than those of an employee retiring today; and by short-term workers who often receive tiny pensions but almost surely have retirement savings from another job.