Forty-one years ago we were first exposed to a famous quote by Winston Churchill:
"If you're not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, if you're not a conservative at 40 you have no brain."
Granted, we were slow on the uptake and remained very liberal into our 30s. We'd like to think we are still very liberal on social issues like civil unions and immigration, but the profligate spending of the last half-century disturbs us.
Perhaps what disturbs us most is that promises have been made that are going to be awfully hard to keep. Generous government pensions have been offered to entice people to public service - and funding those pensions could well derail our economy permanently.
When even small entities like Hawaii have pensions that are underfunded by multiples of the annual state budget, and others - like California and Illinois - have obligations that would wave a red flag at bankruptcy, perhaps it is time to stop promising such retirements.
Hawaii has sidestepped the question by requiring state employees to pay more into their pension funds this year, but it is a ruse. For no entity - even when coupled with contributions from participants - can afford defined-benefit pensions that can last 30 or 40 years.
It is impossible to promise a lifetime of income for someone who may have worked as little as 20 years. As an employer, it is like promising two years' salary for every year worked.
When the first defined-benefit plans were adopted widely in this country, the average retiree lived less than five years after retirement. Now it is common for them (or their surviving spouse) to live 20, 25 or 30 years after the last day worked.
The math simply doesn't work.
It will take a cold-hearted conservative brain to fight the battle to convince our young-at-heart liberals that you can't work for 20 years and retire for 30. It is cruel.
But, so is life.
(A version of this editorial has appeared previously in The Maui News.)
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.