Public-Pension Deficits: How Big? Can They Ever Be Paid?

Video of this event will be livestreamed online at http://american.com/archive/2010/september/public-pension-deficits-how-big-can-they-ever-be-paid

Pensions for public-sector employees are consuming such escalating shares of state and local budgets that governments are faced with the choice between paying for current police, teachers, and firefighters and paying benefits to retired employees. It could be much worse. Economists increasingly challenge the accounting used by public-sector pensions, arguing that it hides trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities that put budgets and taxpayers at serious risk. Taxpayer risk may be exacerbated as pension funds move their investments into more exotic instruments, such as foreign stocks, hedge funds, and private equity, to try for higher returns. So, how big is the public-pension deficit? As the Governmental Accounting Standards Board reviews public-pension accounting, what should it focus on? What are the possible consequences of these changes? At this event, a panel of retirement experts and public policy economists will address the growing threats to the pension liabilities of states and municipalities.

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