Concerns that might have checked the city and state treasurers, such as the fiscal future of their town or state, paled in comparison with the immediate need of handing a packet across that table. Over and over again, public officers deluded themselves into believing that future economic growth and the attendant revenue would pay for dream packages.

The eventual result, as a Bloomberg News series has detailed, was absurdly high packages for public employees. The California state trooper with the $484,000 compensation package is only an extreme example of a national trend. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages JFK Airport, has 13 employee unions. Some longtime officials of those unions are paid more than $200,000 a year each, as the Empire Center for New York State Policy has revealed. In the meantime, of course, the economy grew far more slowly than predicted, rendering such payments prohibitive.

One consequence has been to divide workers into two classes. First are the older workers who enjoy the sweetheart deals. The second class consists of the workers hired more recently, whether in unions or outside of them, often through contractors. Cash-poor government offices such as the Port Authority turn to companies such as Air Serv because the Air Servs will pay less, those $8-an-hour wages, and offset some of the egregious labor costs generated by top union jobs.

In short, the real opponent of the underpaid, benefit-poor newbie is not the employer. It is fellow overpaid workers.