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Listen to EJ

September 3, 2010

There’s little that is suave or sophisticated about being a policy analyst. Nerdy, wonkish work, it is. (We resemble resent that remark.)

But if there’s a guy who makes it cool to be a number-crunching, report-reading researcher and thinker ­ it’s Edmund J. McMahon.

E.J., as he is known, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a voice of reason on state fiscal and economic policy.

For a long time, he’s been sounding an alarm on the public pension system, but nobody paid much attention. Until now, that is.

The state comptroller yesterday confirmed that the annual return on pension assets has been less than half the targeted figure over the last ten years.

As a result, state and local governments will have to make additional contributions to the system to keep it fully funded.

The only problem is that state and local governments are broke.

What to do? Some want to kick the problem down the road, that is, put off the day of reckoning until later ­and bank better market returns in the future.

Bad idea, says E.J.  We must confront the underlying problem, which is that too many people are eligible for pensions and the benefits are too generous.

EJ is right. He is almost always right, but he’s not in charge. (Can we start a draft McMahon for state budget director movement?)

Unfortunately, there’s little chance that state lawmakers or those seeking statewide elected office do more than lament this situation. But it is clearly something that we’re going to have to contend with in the near future.

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