The future has arrived in Prichard. The city has simply stopped paying pension benefits.
Among the many horrible aspects of this is that, here again, laws applied vigorously to the private sector don't apply to the government:
Companies with pension plans are required by federal law to put money behind their promises years in advance, and the government can impose punitive taxes on those that fail to do so, or in some cases even seize their pension funds.
Companies are also required to protect their pension assets. So if a corporate pension fund falls below 60 cents’ worth of assets for every dollar of benefits owed, workers can no longer accrue additional benefits. (Prichard was down to just 33 cents on the dollar in 2003.)
And if a company goes bankrupt, the federal government can take over its pension plan and see that its retirees receive their benefits. Although some retirees receive less than they were promised, no retiree from a federally insured plan in the private sector has come away empty-handed since the federal pension law was enacted in 1974. The law does not cover public sector workers.