Why Americans Love Unions (and Politicians)

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How to retire at 50 from a $56,000 public-sector job and collect $5m in taxpayer-funded pension. (Thanks to James Taranto for the link.) The Chicago Tribune reports on some pretty impressive financial engineering:

Liberato "Al" Naimoli, president of the Cement Workers Union Local 76. He retired last year from a $15,000-a-year city job that he last held a quarter-century ago. Today, Naimoli receives more than $13,000 a month from the city laborers' pension fund even as he continues to earn nearly $300,000 annually as president of Local 76. His city laborers' pension will pay him about $4 million during his lifetime, according to a Tribune/WGN-TV analysis based on the funds' actuarial assumptions.

James McNally, vice president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150. He receives nearly $115,000 a year even though at the time he retired, in 2008, he had not worked for the city in more than 13 years. He was only 51 when he started collecting a city pension. By the time he turns 78, he will have received roughly $4 million from the city laborers' fund.

Dennis Gannon, former president of the Chicago Federation of Labor. In 2004, he began receiving more than $150,000 a year after retiring at age 50 from a $56,000-a-year city job that he had left nearly 13 years earlier. He received his city pension while collecting a salary of about $200,000 from the federation. During his lifetime, the city municipal pension fund will pay him approximately $5 million. Gannon told the Tribune that he was only following the law in filing for a city pension.

The liberal reaction to stories like this is to say, "Small beer compared to Wall Street." That's true--but politically it's still a dumb reaction. The mistake is to think that expressing anger about such stories only plays into conservatives' hands. It's just the opposite: what plays into conservatives' hands is failing to express anger. A little bit of fury from prominent progressives over cases like this would do the left a world of good. Let me know if you ever see any.

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Clive Crook is a senior editor of The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He was the Washington columnist for the Financial Times, and before that worked at The Economist for more than 20 years, including 11 years as deputy editor. Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics. More

Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics.

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