Free Minds & Free Markets

The Public Sector Pension Crisis

Will your state pay what its politicians promised? Almost certainly not.

Will you be able to retire? Maybe not.

Will your state pay what its politicians promised? Almost certainly not.

Politicians in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Illinois are especially irresponsible when it comes to not funding pension plans, but most every municipality has promised more than it will have.

"The money hasn't been set aside for years and years," says City Journal editor Daniel DiSalvo in my new internet video. "Nobody was paying attention."

His colleague Steve Malanga complains that the media rarely report on the coming crisis.

"To a certain extent, I have sympathy with the media, because the media's looking for what happens next," says Malanga. "This is not something that's going to happen next week."

But the collapse is coming. Current retirees may find their pension check is cut by 10 percent or 50 percent.

"We just don't have enough money, and the amount of money that we have to put into this is just mountainous," says Malanga.

Neither party wants to make the tough choices involved. "Both Democrats and Republicans have incentives to short the pension fund," says DiSalvo. "For Democrats, if we can not put as much in, we can free up more money for greater public spending on public programs that we think are good. If we're Republicans, we probably want to cut taxes."

"Ten years from now, they're gonna have a problem," says Malanga. "But 10 years from now somebody else is in office!"

Some pension plans are promises that should never have been made, but few politicians will say that. At most, they talk about making small changes to "keep our promises."

Small changes won't be enough.

Detroit and several California cities already ran out of money and declared bankruptcy.

"At some point, your debts are so great that you can't afford to provide basic services to people," says Malanga.

"Police force, fire protection—all will be on the chopping block," added DiSalvo.

Instead of making cuts now to avoid crisis later, some politicians increase retirement benefits.

New Jersey passed 13 separate benefit enhancements between 1999 and 2003.

I assume politicians make these unsustainable promises because powerful municipal unions demand them.

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  • JWatts||

    "Many assumed their investments would grow by more than 7 percent per year."

    7% wouldn't have been too unreasonable if the investment funds weren't buying low paying bonds. The long run return for the stock market is around 7%. However, the California state Pension plan (CalPers) tried to justify exceptionally low contributions by municipalities on the basis of 9% assumed gains. Indeed, they've just (2017?) reduced their expected gains to 7%.

  • JesseAz||

    Pensions were hit quite a bit with bad aggressive growth stocks and strange investments like art. They were mandated to safer investments but kept the 8% growth rate assumptions.

  • netizen||

    Actually no, they're promising risk free benefits so the underlying investments should be as risk free as possible. That means fully funded with appropriately dated treasuries, no playing double or nothing with someone else's money. Of course operating honestly like this would be expensive enough to end defined benefit plans, they simply don't appeal without shifting risk onto the taxpayer then pretending the risk doesn't exist.

  • Echo Chamber||

    Assets should match the timing of the liabilities.
    A mix of stocks / bonds / weird stuff is appropriate, but the expected rate of return should match that mix.
    Also, one year's excessive gain / loss shouldn't be used as the reason to under / over fund the following year's contribution

  • vek||


    Every time they had a few good years, they'd raid funding them... Then be shocked when it fell behind during the next recession. The level of incompetence is mind boggling.

    In all fairness, other than switching to a more 401K style scheme... They could be almost entirely in the stock market. IN THEORY they should never have to draw down the main fund. It should just sit there, and most current payouts could come from the cash coming through the door. So going full on aggressive would make sense. If they ever did have to draw it down, it should be small and temporary, so staying aggressive would probably still make sense.

  • JesseAz||

    The pensions inputs are only part of the problem, maybe half. The other problem is the assummed pension growth rate, waiving pensioner inputs while working, and the balloon increases to output from stacking sick and overtime final years. Then you have issues like boston FD where half the pensioners retire as disabled for stubbing a toe. It is unsustainable. There are already cities and locations using nearly a third of their budgets to pay people no longer working. Only liberals are this bad at math.

  • Philadelphia Collins||

    "retire as disabled" Bingo...all income after that is tax free. Municipal employees have been doing this all over the country. Such noble sacrifice.

  • Rich||

    Current retirees may find their pension check is cut by 10 percent or 50 percent.

    Right. Well, maybe retirees with dementia.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    "There's plenty of money to pay our people."

    Now that's funny!

    Oh, wait. He's not joking, is he? I'd ask where he thinks all this money is, but I've learned that you never ask anybody on the Left that question if you expect a coherent answer.

  • RG||

    Too many people are innumerate. Was debating a friend about CEO pay. I used GE as an example, if the CEO didn't get paid a dime in salary, and that money was spread across all GEs workers, it resulted in about a $50-100 dollar annual raise per employee.

  • Libertymike||

    Given GE's performance, perhaps the CEO, the CFO, the COO, the entire Board of Directors, and, indeed, all of management should not only forfeit their salaries, but should dig into their pockets and spread some more to the workers.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Spread evenly across GE's workforce, it wouldn't make a significant difference. If you nullified the compensation of all of GE's CxOs, and distributed it evenly across the rest of GE's work force, it might come to $0.25/hour.

  • RG||

    And you would now have a senior management team with no cash compensation. It'd be interesting to see the talent that comp structure would attract.

  • JoeB||

    Better than the current crop!

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    And assuming 40hours/week and two weeks vacation, that comes to $0.025/hour to $0.05/hour. That's right, it's less than 5 cents per hour.

  • sarcasmic||

    True libertarians need to ask only one question: What does Trump say?

  • JesseAz||

    What event happened to you recently? You're making less and less sense lately.

  • sarcasmic||

    Nothing happened to me. I haven't changed. What did change was libertarianism. It changed from a philosophy of liberty to one of Trump. I got left behind.

  • JesseAz||

    Well that's a lie. You seem unable to separate trump the person from his actual policies. That's okay, a lot of people seem to be incapable of that. The only areas in which trump has been less libertarian than any of the last dozen presidents is trade and immigration. But even that would be a general rationalization. Trump has offered to increase legal immigration if we cut down on illegal immigration. Open borders is not a prerequisite for libertarian ideals since a rational libertarian, hello Reason, can also mitigate their desire for flow of production with the knowledge of a welfare state. Illegal immigrants asking for asylum now have a higher benefit than legal immigrants since their green card wait time is 12 months is granted asylum instead of 2 decades. On tarriffs, we've always had managed trade. Trump recognizing that fact is not less libertarian than being locked into uneven trade agreements under Obama.

    Where we are more free is taxes, regulations, prison reform (underway), and a reduction of the power of the administrative state.

    Youve merely become emotional to words, so you can't argue with reason anymore. And it has definitely gotten worse over this last year.

  • sarcasmic||

    No, it's not a lie. Anyone who disagrees with Trump on anything is accused of disagreeing with Trump on everything, and of not being a true libertarian. Anyone who doesn't want government to do something doesn't want government to do anything, and is really an anarchist. Anyone who doesn't support Trump's xenophobic immigration policies wants completely open borders. There is no middle ground. Anyone who doesn't support Trump's trade war hates Trump and thinks the status quo is perfection.

    This place has become Trumpian echo chamber. And yes, it has definitely gotten worse over this last year.

  • dangfitz||

    I disagree. This is one of the few places where I see criticism of Trump that isn't of the "illegitimate cheetoh haired sexist/racist" variety. See "Trump is Building a Wall of Bureaucracy", "Trump's Misleading Statement On Obamacare Is a Sign That Republicans Have No Idea How to Talk About Health Policy", "Migrant Caravan Hysteria Returns", "Trump's Thinking on Trade War? He Wants Them to Suffer More - But who, exactly, will be suffering?" "No More $1 Yoga Pants as Trump Aims Trade War at Global Postal Treaty", "I Don't Hate Trump Because He Is 'the Average American in Exaggerated Form.' I Dislike Him Because of His Policies and Temperament." and "The Winningest Losers in Trump's Trade War - The president's agenda hurts American consumers and businesses", which are just what's currently on the front page of I didn't see any that could be categorized as supporting Trump at the moment. Going back to 10/19, there is one, "Trump Orders 5 Percent Spending Cuts Across All Federal Departments", but the subtitle is, "But there are at least three good reasons to be skeptical this will happen".

  • vek||

    I'm not like that at all.

    I happen to disagree about letting in tons of half illiterate peasants from third world countries... But people that say reasonable things about immigration policy, I am more than willing to have a rational conversation with. People who ARE for open borders, like most of the Reason staff, and a number of commenters... Well, I think they're wrong, and they're idiots. A 1st world nation cannot exist with open borders in the world as it exists now. So choose: Open borders, or a 1st world nation. I choose a 1st world nation. Convince me otherwise! International freedom of movement as a right, and a good in and of itself, is not enough to convince me to throw away all 1st world nations, even if it is the moral position.

    I disagree with Trump on plenty of things. However the knee jerk reactions from left-libertarians is ALMOST as ridiculous as from outright leftists.

    When Trump offers more skilled immigration in exchange for less low skilled and illegal immigration... That's what most Americans SAY they want in polls. It's not xenophobic. So when Reason or a commenter goes the LITERALLY HITLER route... It's kind of ridiculous.

    Sane arguments against specifics, I can talk about. LITERALLY HITLER arguments are just retarded.

  • vek||

    And I SURELY don't confuse Trump with a libertarian. He has been more libertarian on some things, and less so on others, than recent presidents. Not supporting certain Trump policies has nothing to do with being libertarian, or might even be required by a purist reading of libertarian principles... BUT not supporting other policies, the ones that are libertarian leaning, would make one a shitty libertarian.

    Overall, I'd rather have Ron Paul! But we got Trump. And all things considered he's been better than other recent presidents on a number of things, and not really any worse on much at all. So it is what it is.

  • retiredfire||

    Ron Paul would implement amnesty.
    No greater incentive exists to attract more third-worlders to flood the country.

  • Heraclitus||

    A promise is a promise. People make career decisions based on those promises. If those pensions get slashed then we need a surcharge tax on estates, capital gains, and a higher tax on the upper brackets. Cutting those promises is the same as theft if others don't sacrifice. If we truly don't have the money then the sacrifice needs to be spread around. If the sacrifice is not spread then cutting promises is just plain ol' theft.

  • RG||

    The tax payers didn't make the promise.

  • retiredfire||

    The taxpayers elected the people, who made the promises.
    By that reasoning, no taxes should have to be paid, because the taxpayers didn't make any of the other government obligations.

  • sarcasmic||

    If the sacrifice is not spread then cutting promises is just plain ol' theft.

    The promise itself was based upon plain ol' theft.

  • retiredfire||

    "The promise itself was based upon plain ol' theft."
    Assuming all government outlays were "based upon plain ol' theft."
    Pension contributions are just part of the compensation package. No different that salary, vacation, sick leave, etc.

  • Rossami||

    1. I didn't make the promise so why should I have to sacrifice when that promise is broken?

    2. Why are you holding public pensions to a higher standard than you hold private pensions? Or are you saying that you will personally sacrifice some of your pay every time a private corporation goes bankrupt or has to cut its private pension benefits?

    3. Just like those with public pensions made career choices based on promises about the future, I made my own career choices based on promises from politicians about estate taxes and other tax rates. Is changing those promises "the same as theft" from me? If not, why not? What makes untrustworthy promises from politicians about taxes any different from untrustworthy promises about pensions?

  • Mickey Rat||

    Negotiating unreasonable benefits with administrators who cannot be held accountable when the bill comes due has unfortunate consequences to the union members holding the bag.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    "A promise is a promise."

    You mean like "Read my lips- no new taxes" or "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor- period"?

  • I'm Not Sure||

    And as long as I'm doing quotes, here's another response to "A promise is a promise"

    "You fucked up... you trusted us!", "us" being your government bosses, of course.

  • dangfitz||

    I disagree. This is one of the few places where I see criticism of Trump that isn't of the "illegitimate cheetoh haired sexist/racist" variety. See "Trump is Building a Wall of Bureaucracy", "Trump's Misleading Statement On Obamacare Is a Sign That Republicans Have No Idea How to Talk About Health Policy", "Migrant Caravan Hysteria Returns", "Trump's Thinking on Trade War? He Wants Them to Suffer More - But who, exactly, will be suffering?" "No More $1 Yoga Pants as Trump Aims Trade War at Global Postal Treaty", "I Don't Hate Trump Because He Is 'the Average American in Exaggerated Form.' I Dislike Him Because of His Policies and Temperament." and "The Winningest Losers in Trump's Trade War - The president's agenda hurts American consumers and businesses", which are just what's currently on the front page of I didn't see any that could be categorized as supporting Trump at the moment. Going back to 10/19, there is one, "Trump Orders 5 Percent Spending Cuts Across All Federal Departments", but the subtitle is, "But there are at least three good reasons to be skeptical this will happen".

  • dangfitz||

    Oops; meant for this to show up as a reply to a different comment. Please ignore here.

  • dangfitz||

    +1 ;)

  • JesseAz||

    Unfunded or unrealistic promises aren't actually promises, they are platitudes.

  • D-Pizzle||

    "If those pensions get slashed then we need a surcharge tax on estates, capital gains, and a higher tax on the upper brackets."

    Yeah, throttle the economy. That'll do the trick.

  • Sevo||

    Heraclitus|10.24.18 @ 9:17AM|#
    "A promise is a promise."

    A fraudulent contract is a fraudulent contract, lefty ignoramus.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    If I promise to give you the Moon and you make career decisions based on that promise, you are a moron and deserve what you get.

  • dchang0||

    The promise itself was based on theft (taxes that could not be sustained).

    So the "cutting those promises is the same as theft" argument doesn't work.

    The failure to transfer stolen goods is not theft.

  • retiredfire||

    It is more than a promise - it is a contract.
    See: US Constitution, Article 1, Section 10: No State shall ... make any ... Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts..."

  • GoatOnABoat||

    Unions share a big part of the blame too, not just politicians. Must be nice to get a cozy government job with a guaranteed pension while the rest of us working slobs have to struggle to save for retirement.

  • BillyG||

    Some politicians hoped that a rising stock market would fund their promises. Many assumed their investments would grow by more than 7 percent per year. Do you make that much on your savings? I don't. Seven percent seems like wishful thinking.

    I do. But then again, what do you mean by 7 perecent growth? My actual expectations (and I've been meeting them) are 5% above inflation. It's mostly invested in the S&P 500, if the market goes down like in 2008 I'll have enough income from dividends and cash savings to tide me through to a recovery.

    It helps that I live below, not just within, my means too.

  • JesseAz||

    You're part of the problem! Saving money is bad. Spend Mortimer, spend.

  • DarrenM||

    The fund I'm in gets 7%. I figure 5% growth on top of 2% inflation.

  • vek||

    Over the long haul 7% in all stocks isn't entirely unreasonable, as I believe they're not factoring in inflation + 7%. The problem is they started with higher expectations than 7%, and underfunded to begin with.

    If they got them on the level TODAY, and then had contributions to keep it level, that 7% figure would probably about work out over the long haul. But they'd need to be almost 100% in stocks, no bonds or anything lower yield. And they'd have to have a system in place to ride out recessions without having to liquidate to fund payments.

  • BillBrennan||

    California firefighters are, I believe, the highest paid in the country. In my small city the average compensation is $225,000 and the average pension is $128,000. They get 13 holidays +3 personal days, 13 sick days and after a few years get 4 weeks vacation. Three percent of their work is actually fighting fires 85% is ambulance duty.
    Over the past few years the chief and his assistant chief have averaged over $350,000 per year in compensation.

  • Moo Cow||

    Do they have a parade to thank the taxpayers every year?

  • D-Pizzle||

    Probably a parade for which they are paid double-time-and-a-half.

  • vek||

    Yeah, some gigs are nuts. My grandpa retired after 40+ years as a teacher, and got a so-so middle classish sized pension. Probably more than he should have from what he put in I'm sure, but nothing crazy like that. Police and firefighters just get SHOWERED with cash, it's insane.

  • retiredfire||

    I hope you realize that that "average compensation" includes what is supposed to be contributed to their pension fund, BUT ISN'T.
    It also includes things like their medical insurance payments and the pay that goes to cover those sick, and vacation days, because with a firefighter, someone has to fill that vacant spot - they don't run on fewer people because some of them are sick, injured, on vacation, etc.
    They don't get all that money in their paychecks.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    I was told by a financial adviser friend that regulation passed in the wake of the housing crisis would drop the long term performance of the stock market from 8% to 7%. For some of my investments that has panned out almost exactly. My 401K has never hit those levels of performance on the balanced investments regardless of the rated risk.

    It's frustrating, though I am grateful for the portion of my investment that saw 8% growth for 30 years and 7% growth for the last 10.

  • Moo Cow||

    Thats too bad. T Rowe Price Capital Appreciation is 61% stocks 39% bonds and cash and has a 10 year return (9.30.2008-9.30.2018) of 10.96%.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Amazing. My 401k doesn't offer that... :(

  • vek||

    Honestly... Just go for an index fund of some sort. I'm sure they must include one of those in your plan. For the most part, no other types of funds tend to out perform them LONG HAUL anyway. They will for a time, and then they'll fall on their ass during the next recession.

    I don't trust stocks though anyway. I'm all about investing your own money privately. Even in sleepy real estate markets, with 20% down on rental properties, it is common to make dramatically higher returns since you're leveraged... But have very little downside potential if they're positive cash flowing properties in cities with stable or growing populations. All depends on your time horizon though, as that play works out a lot better if you are in it for the long haul.

  • ||

    Since government employee unions give primarily to Democrats, who in turn increase retirement benefits for those government employees, what exactly is the incentive for Republicans to bail out or rescue these pensions instead of letting them go bankrupt?

  • Lost in the Woods||

    "Malanga and DiSalvo argue that the only honest way to fix it is to reduce benefit levels and switch to individual retirement accounts like private sector 401(k)s"

    This is essentially correct. At least in the public sector, the problem cannot be solved with tweaks to benefit levels, funding levels, assumptions about market returns, investment mix, etc. Instead, it would appear that the entire concept of a public sector pension is fatally flawed, because it requires politicians, union bosses, etc. to be responsible stewards of other people's money, which they are not. Instead, the responsibility will have to ultimately reside with the employees. They will have to plan for their own retirement and will have the incentive to do so, absent the 'pension plan'. Yes, this requires them to act like adults, financially speaking, but that is not too much to ask.

  • vek||

    Yeah, some places have been crazy. My aunt, who was an RN, worked at the Napa State Mental Hospital for awhile... I believe she mentioned off hand once that she was pulling down over 200K a year there, because it's a shit gig nobody wants to work. She quit after a few years because even at that she didn't want to deal with it... But I wouldn't be surprised if she'd kept at it there if she'd have cracked 300K some of those years, with regular raises and the like.

  • vek||

    Forgot to mention, she is making around $75K a year now that she's retired... Plus full health care of course. I forget where she switched over to after the mental hospital, but IIRC it was some other pseudo government RN gig somewhere.

  • Uncle Jay||

    Not a problem here.
    Just sell Illinois, Connecticut, and New York to the Saudis and the Chinese, and all will be well.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  • Uncle Jay||

    Mexico can have California.
    Oh, wait...

  • JoeB||

    You can't buy votes with 401Ks. Never happen.

  • Dave Boz||

    "There's plenty of money to pay our people."

    That's actually true. Governments can, do and will cut back on everything else - note the number of taxes on the ballot for "roads, infrastructure, police, fire, etc." None of these ballot items is for "pensions." But that's where the money went, so now you have to tax yourself some more to get municipal services. If we don't vote for the tax increases, we get no services but employees get their pensions. There is plenty of money, as long as you don't do anything but pay pensions and benefits. Government exists to serve those who work for it, so that's where the money will go.

  • dchang0||

    I found out recently that our tiny little town has a few employees earning $300,000/year or more.

    It used to be that the argument in favor of generous public sector pensions was that because public sector salaries were so low, they had to be generous with the pensions to attract workers.

    But now, the salary AND the benefits are far better than the equivalent worker in the private sector by an order of magnitude.

    This is obviously not sustainable and will crash. Total Ponzi scheme.

  • vek||

    I have an idea: Pay people comparable salaries, for comparable work in the private sector... And offer then comparable benefit packages to what the same qualifications would earn in the private sector.

    I know it sounds CRAZY, but since they still end up with far more stability in terms of not getting canned, I'm pretty sure they'd have no problems getting employees. Getting so so medical and a 401K would not create problems getting mid range desk jockey type employees for government gigs, because that's as good as it gets for that type of work anyway.

    It's really not that tough...

  • Art Gecko||

    The sad fact is that they probably WILL honor their un-honorable obligations... on the backs of the taxpayers. Costa Rica is starting to look better and better.

  • vek||

    Honestly, I think how these things needs to be handled will vary from situation to situation.

    If a pension system in X state just needs to slash stuff 10% to make the math jive... Make the pensioners eat 100% of it, phase it in so that people closer to retirement or already retired get less fucked, and people who have more time to plan for the reduced rates can deal with it.

    If a pension plan in Y state is 50% underfunded... Weeell they're gonna need sharper cuts, phasing in faster, and god forbid I even say it... Maybe to make up some of that by screwing tax payers some. But paying 100% of what was promised should be off the table completely.

    Also, what level of total benefits should be considered. Fucking some employee receiving a $150K a year pension down to $100K is a lot less "mean" and brutal for the pensioner than slashing a $50K a year pension down to 0, right? So high dollar pensions should perhaps be cut more than low ones as a % maybe?

    It's a giant mess because these assholes mismanaged shit. But we should still try to be REASONABLE when deciding who gets fucked, and how hard. The devil is in the details, and varies from area to area. Bottom line is sane, reasonable, and realistic changes need to happen STAT, because it only gets worse the longer it is unaddressed.

  • retiredfire||

    Why should the pensioners have to "eat" any of it?
    They all made their required contributions. It was feckless politicians, who didn't meet their obligations.
    Taxpayers elected those politicians, without a care as to what they were going to spend money on, or maybe because they were going to spend it on something the majority liked.
    The issue has become that the promises made to employees have been considered a contract and not something about which a politician can say: "too bad, so sad". It is an obligation they have to honor and, just like anything else they spend money on, the taxpayers end up picking up the tab.
    Maybe electing the wrong people should have some consequences.

  • Rossami||

    Are you going to pick up the tab when those same feckless politicians raise taxes after promising not to and ruining my life's savings in the process?

    Yes, electing the wrong people should have consequences but there is no principled reason why those consequences should only fall of the non-public-union constituency.

  • D-Pizzle||

    I'm sure your firefighters union played no part in electing those "wrong" people, did they?

  • vek||

    Because that's how it works in the private sector? And that's just how shit goes down in the real world.

    The thing is, it's not like these were reasonably negotiated contracts. Politicians literally got bribed off by unions, then showered benefits FAR above and beyond anything comparable in the private sector onto their workers. Promises that EVERYBODY EVEN AT THE TIME knew were impossible to keep. The unions knew this too, but apparently hoped people would just let themselves get kicked in the nuts and pay... But a lot of taxpayers aren't having it.

    The money is not there now, it's never been there, and it never will be there. If you cut these pensions down to something reasonable, like what comparable positions would have got them in the private sector... What is there to cry about? It's like complaining that the free BMW you thought you were getting is going to end up being a free Ford... Boo hoo.

    Sucks that the promise was broken... But MAYBE you should have had the brains to know that it was inevitable if you were in a state that was underwater with their pension fund? Maybe you should have had the brains to demand it get squared decades ago when it was more easily fixed?

    If government fucks up, the pain is getting spread around. There's no reason tax payers need to take ALL the kicks to the balls.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    I think a not entirely improbable possibility is that the government pensioners will decide that since they are getting shorted we should all share in the pain and they'll raid our private sector 401K plans to shore up their retirement.

  • retiredfire||

    I wonder how many commenters, here, have given a thought to the most ubiquitous, and guaranteed-to-be-fully taxpayer funded "defined benefit" plan out there?
    I'm talking about Social Security. Not one where the rate of return might not meet expectations, because that expectation is ZERO.
    Yet, once it becomes "bankrupt" and all the money borrowed from the fund has been paid back so that benefits can continue, and then that runs out, the general fund will have to pick up the tab and cut elsewhere, or see massive federal tax increases.
    These public sector pension plans are, at least attempting to pay their own way - if the employers were living up to their obligations - and investing the money that they have.
    Meanwhile almost everyone is making contributions to FICA, that invests NOTHING, but will be expected to pay out those "defined benefits" and that would have the country in a general uprising if those were converted to 401k type plans.
    And, don't forget, many of these public sector pensioners have not put money into SS and will not be taking any payments from it. It is all they have.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    They should consider themselves lucky if they get an EBT card.


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