My latest City Journal California article argues that Stockton is not only financially bankrupt, but it's morally bankrupt also. I compared the city to a wastrel family that squandered its money on new cars and TVs, then stiffed its creditors when times got tough. As I wrote, referring to an objection filed by the insurer for the city's creditors,"Stockton utterly failed to confront its pension obligations. 'The City has admitted that, for many years, it provided unsustainable and above-market wages and benefits to employees,' Assured's attorneys explain in the filing. 'The City's recent short-term deals with labor do nothing to brighten the City's long-term prospects, because the City refuses to tackle its most serious economic issue--rising pension costs under the CalPERS system.'" In other words, Stockton chose to protect the new toys for its city employees, and is merely using bankruptcy to evade its financial obligations.
Note some of the comments, which argue that Stockton just couldn't help itself. Adding the moral dimension is what angered some people. Yet for many years, Stockton "invested" in ridiculous benefits for city workers and in those downtown redevelopment projects that promised to reinvigorate the city's central core, but did nothing of the sort. Even complaints about binding arbitration ring hollow. The unions have rigged the game so that none of it is anyone's fault, but look at what has happened to any effort to eliminate binding arbitration. This is the result of public-employee union power and a lack of responsibility by politicians who are supposed to represent the public and not just the unions that help elect them. Yet, it's no one's fault. Stockton is a victim. Sounds a lot like what an irresponsible person would say after running up the credit cards.