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California Dreaming
California Dreaming

California Dreaming

Lessons on How to Resolve America's Public Pension Crisis


192 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Cloth

Cloth, $24.95 (US $24.95) (CA $29.95)

Publication Date: July 2015

ISBN 9781598132434

Rights: WOR

Independent Institute (Jul 2015)

Price: $24.95


California's unfunded public pension liability, when measured correctly, is two to four times larger than official government estimates. The failure to fully fund the pension promises has allowed the current generation to receive public services that they are not fully paying for, pushing the pension problem onto future generations. California Dreaming explains how six reforms would solve the state's pension problem in an equitable, responsible, and moral way: preserving pension benefits already earned, providing competitive pensions going forward, and granting the flexibility needed so that future generations are not paying for deals they did not make.


"Mayors, governors, and other policymakers around the country are struggling to maintain services while paying for the skyrocketing costs of public employee retirement benefits. California Dreaming explains why it is so difficult to solve this problem and identifies a key framework for solutions." —Chuck Reed, former Mayor, City of San Jose, California

"Lawrence McQuillan's California Dreaming is a superb, wake-up call to all those depending on generous pensions from state and local governments—they simply won't be there, or at least in the amounts expected. The book is also a wake-up call to California taxpayers—who will be shocked to learn of the huge tax liabilities they face. McQuillan explains how governments have created this mess and offers sensible reforms to end the crisis and preserve retirement benefits—without bankrupting taxpayers." —James C. Miller III, former Director, U.S. Office of Management and Budget; former Chairman, Federal Trade Commission; former Executive Director, Presidential Task Force on Regulatory Relief

"California Dreaming is a horrifying must-read that exposes the steal-as-you-go policies driving the state (and our country) straight down the tubes!" —Laurence J. Kotlikoff, William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor and Professor of Economics, Boston University; former Senior Economist, President's Council of Economic Advisers 

"Unfunded public pensions and healthcare are the greatest threats to government financial stability in our country. Over 80% of the government bodies in California are headed for bankruptcy for owing more than a half trillion dollars in unfunded pension and healthcare debt. Mounting debt will force the closing of public libraries, parks, and schools. Police and fire services will be cut, streets will be in disrepair, and we will find ourselves living in a Third World country. Lawrence McQuillan's outstanding book California Dreaming spells out these disasters about to happen with perfect clarity." —Richard J. Riordan, former Mayor, City of Los Angeles, California

"California Dreaming is as important as an early warning of an impending tsunami. Ignoring its message would be equally irresponsible. Underfunding fixed pension benefits for California employees with an inadequate portfolio of risky assets will eventually fail catastrophically. Almost everyone, particularly future taxpayers, will suffer. As with a tsunami warning, quick action offers the opportunity of minimizing the damage from current policies. Lawrence McQuillen offers a thoughtful menu of policy reforms which would improve the situation dramatically." —John B. Shoven, Charles R. Schwab Professor of Economics and Trione Director of the Stanford Institute of Economic Policy Research, Stanford University

"Politicians must learn not to make retirement finding decisions for city and state employees and not be able to fulfill them. It is unfair to current and future employees as well as the general public to carry the financial burden of past, unrealistic, unfunded liabilities. California Dreaming is the right book at the perfect time to explain the issues and suggest a realistic approach. The public needs to hold politicians much more accountable or suffer the financial consequences." —Frank M. Jordan, former Mayor and former Chief of Police, City and County of San Francisco, California

"California, the canary in the coalmine for practically all of America's states, faces an enormous and largely unacknowledged crisis in its system of pensions for teachers and other public employees. In California Dreaming, Lawrence J. McQuillan writes that those pensions 'are like tapeworms in the guts of public treasuries.' The result is a shortfall of more than half a trillion dollars. The good news, though, is that McQuillan has the answer—a handful of reforms to fix California's pension problem permanently, and a lesson for the rest of the states in this very important, timely, and well-researched book." —James K. Glassman, Visiting Fellow, American Enterprise Institute; Member, SEC Investor Advisory Committee; former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy; former Publisher, The New Republic; former President, The Atlantic Monthly

"California's policymakers are living in Fantasy Land, as they downplay the depth of the state's pension crisis. In California Dreaming, Lawrence McQuillan does a remarkable service explaining why the public pension systems are broken. He then offers sensible solutions for fixing them, and all California officials should listen. This is a great book for anyone who wants to understand an issue that unless averted will erode public services, destroy budgets and bankrupt our future." —Steven M. Greenhut, columnist, U-T San Diego

Author Biography

Lawrence J. McQuillan is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation at the Independent Institute. He has served as Chief Economist at the Illinois Policy Institute, Director of Business and Economic Studies at the Pacific Research Institute, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Founding Publisher and Contributing Editor of Economic Issues. Dr. McQuillan's books include A Brighter Future: Solutions to Policy Issues Affecting America's Children and California Prosperity: Roadmap to Recovery 2011. He is the author of more than 350 articles in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and other publications.