Foreign Policy Magazine

Building on Sand

Out of cash and out of options, America’s cities need a new plan—and they might need Washington to design it.

When a debt crisis hits, it can cause ripples in all kinds of unexpected places. Even, it seems, on American beaches.

In decades past, the lifeguards who stood watch over the shores of Atlantic City, New Jersey’s iconic resort town, epitomized good-time summer living. And they did so during the heyday of good-time retirement perks: The former guards have been enjoying government pensions since 1928.

Alas, those prime Atlantic City times are long gone. Now drowning in as much as $550 million in debt, the town can no longer afford to pay the annual $1 million owed to these aged lifeguards. But a proposed state Senate bill might allow

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