Curiously when voters and some legislators decried the huge bonuses for bankers and Wall Street operators, especially those who had benefited from government bailouts, the answer was that firms were contractually obligated to abide by previously drafted agreements. Yet when cities and states struggle with budgeting shortfalls, contracts with municipal employees are not considered sacrosanct and in fact often become targets for deficit reduction by fiat.

Local and State officials have a habit of ignoring measures they dislike regardless of whether or not they are legally obliged to observe contractual obligations. They often short payments to funds that ensure retirement benefits for pensioners in lieu of tax breaks for corporate benefactors and other political supporters. Rather like the strange arithmetic Wisconsin’s Governor Walker has used to justify his charge that municipal workers are at the root of the state’s financial pressures rather than the fact that he handed out tax breaks to corporations and various supporters approximately equivalent to the shortfall he claims the state faces.