It was a cry of defiance that should be heard throughout the nation. The people of Cincinnati fought back against the rising tide of public pension scapegoating across the country, casting ballots last month to soundly reject major changes to the city’s public retirement system. Even though that system has funding liabilities estimated at $862 million, an astounding 78 percent of voters said no to an initiative that would have lowered benefits to the system’s current participants, put new hires into a 401(k) plan and required the city to eliminate the funding gap within a decade.

Contrast Cincinnati’s decisive pro-DB public pension action with the ongoing assault on pension plans in Detroit. Both of Detroit’s plans – one for police and firefighters, another for all other city workers – are well funded. Both provide modest retirement income benefits – an average of $19,000 a year for police and firefighters (who are not eligible for Social Security), a little more for other city employees. Yet the city has spent a small fortune to win court approval to enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy so it can gut those plans and reduce retirement income benefits to as little as 16 cents on the dollar.

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