|Mad Max Meter Update|
The Mad Max Meter (or M3) is an indicator on a scale of 1 to 100 where every uptick heads toward the chaos and free-for-all madness of a Mad Max world. A disaster and chaotic world can rise in not only incidents, i.e., terrorist incident, natural disaster, etc., but also by increments.
Pulitzer-winning journalist Chris Hedges said in an exclusive interview. "It doesn't look good. But exactly how it plays out and when it plays out, having covered disintegrating societies, it's impossible to tell."
Pensions, underfunded pension liabilities and other public union debt is taking an increasing portion of the available tax revenue from city and state budgets. Eventually, the cities and states can't hammer the local property owners for more money so they draw from other programs. That's when they trot out the usual political banter of cutting 'police, fire, schools and letting criminals out of jail'. But why don't the politicians cut their own entitlements and publicize that? The political fodder would make a good story for them in trouble economic times and useful PR. Because they don't really want to cut their own golden egg.
In 2001, about 30 percent of the city's property tax levy went into paying down the pensions of its retired police and firefighters. In 2011, 70 percent of it will go toward pensions, even as recent years have seen cuts to other services that draw their funds from the same source, including the Decatur Public Library.
This year the library eliminated the Bookmobiles in the face of cuts exacted upon it by the city council.
Despite such austerity, costs continue to rise due to increasing unfunded liability, caused by higher-than-expected costs that must be paid off at a mandated minimum rate. According to city data, Decatur faced about $10 million in unfunded liabilities to its police and fire pension systems. In fiscal year 2011, the city's unfunded liabilities for police and fire pensions are expected to total about $80 million.
Mad Max Meter: 17