They would offer teachers, cops, and firefighters extremely generous pensions but would avoid raising taxes to fund the resulting future obligations. Grateful workers would vote to re-elect their benefactors, while taxpayers would appreciate the combination of excellent public services and low taxes.
The beauty of the scheme flowed from its demographics: Most of the original public sector workers were young and therefore decades away from retirement, so the crime wouldn't be discovered until long after the architects retired rich and revered.
Now, however, those baby boomer workers are retiring and the scam is revealed for all to see. Even in the absence of a pandemic lockdown, mass defaults on state and city obligations would be inevitable in the coming decade. But with the lockdown, they're coming next year.
So what do the worst offenders do? What they've always done, of course, which is to look for ways to paper over the mess for one more election cycle. Illinois is the poster child for state financial mismanagement, with unfunded liabilities that have grown from virtually nothing to $137 billion in just the past two decades.