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As Republicans escalate their assault on the benefits and livelihoods of public sector workers, they continue to point to so-called "unfunded" pension programs as a symbol of broken government. But in what way exactly are these pensions "unfunded," and why has the mainstream media done such a poor job explaining how they came to be unfunded? Are all state pension programs unfunded? Whose idea was it to make them unfunded, Republicans, Democrats or state politicians generally? And finally, are there any state pension programs, unfunded or otherwise, that are not facing a fiscal crisis? In this week's episode of The Breakdown, DC Editor Christopher Hayes and economist Dean Baker discuss how public pension funds function and whether or not they're really a main factor in state budget shortfalls.
Dean Baker explaining Public Pensions 101.
Dean Baker on the origins and severity of the public pension crisis [PDF].
David Cay Johnston talks about why reporting in Wisconsin on public pensions has been so bad.
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