Fox's Eric Bolling and Stuart Varney attacked New York Police Department (NYPD) officers' pensions, blaming pension obligations for the shrinking police force. But both Bolling and Varney have argued in the past for a smaller public sector workforce, and regularly blamed pensions for budget shortfalls while ignoring the effect of the economic downturn
On the July 17 edition of Fox & Friends, host Eric Bolling spoke with Fox Business Host Stuart Varney about the decline in number of NYPD officers. As The New York Times reported in 2009, the severity of budget cuts caused the New York City police force to "shrink through attrition to 34,304 members, about 6,000 fewer than in 2001." Varney blamed "the pension crisis" for the decline, claiming:
VARNEY: The number of police officers has come down from 40,000 to just 34,000. Meanwhile, we have got 27,000 who are receiving pensions and another 12,000 getting disability. So there are more people -- more police officers -- retired and not working than are working and the cost of that retired group is astronomical so we can't afford a fully staffed police force and crime is up. The pension crisis rolls on.
Bolling responded by specifically blaming the pensions the officers earned by protecting the public for the layoffs. However, the decline of the number of NYPD officers is due to a drastic decline in tax revenue as a result of the economic downturn.
In the aforementioned 2009 article, the Times explained that "after years of struggling to lure top-quality recruits" the NYPD experienced a large increase in applicants due to competitive base salaries and the recession, but that "the department has been unable to fully take advantage of the surplus of talented applicants because of hiring restrictions tied to the city's budget crisis."
The budget crisis the Times is referring to is a direct result of falling tax revenue, not NYPD pensions. A September 22, 2010, Wall Street Journal article explained that New York City continued to cut its budget and freeze hiring to combat a growing deficit that stemmed from "serious declines in its tax base in recent years." In fiscal year 2010 "tax revenues remain[ed] more than $4 billion below the peak pre-recession levels."
Budget concerns have affected police departments throughout the United States. An October 2011 Department of Justice report found that continued budget restrictions and cuts will make it difficult "to provide policing services at the levels that citizens are accustomed to receiving."
Government agencies across the country have been hit with comparable cuts and hiring freezes. As graphs provided by the St. Louis Federal Reserve indicate, since the recession began in December 2007, state governments have shed more than 79,000 jobs and local governments have shed more than 404,000 jobs.
Like the decline in the number of NYPD officers highlighted by Bolling and Varney, hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs have been lost because of recession based budget cuts by state and municipal governments, which suffered through massive declines in tax revenue during the recession.
Additionally, the duo has dismissed the severity of these revenue-based public sector job cuts. In a July 16, 2010, Fox & Friends appearance, Varney questioned the need for government spending aimed at counteracting state budgetary shortfalls, claiming public sector jobs, like teaching positions, "weren't in jeopardy." In a July 16, 2011 appearance on Fox News' Bull & Bears, in response to unemployment among federal workers, Bolling exclaimed, "Great. Fantastic. Get Rid of Them. We Don't Need Them Anyway."
Given their history, it is no surprise that Bolling and Varney would attack NYPD police officers and the pensions they earned protecting New Yorkers. It is surprising that the pair expressed concern about the number of public workers at all.