Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Voting for Patrick Quinn or Bruce Rauner in Illinois: A Lose-Lose Scenario

Are we going to continue our connivance with the corrupt political system of Illinois where public employee unions can endorse a governor who does not care about breaking a constitutional contract with retirees and public employees; a governor who will challenge the State Constitution again if he is re-elected (when the pension theft reform bill is not upheld); a governor who indicated he will shift the State’s contributions to our retirement accounts from the State to local school districts with his “No, not right now” blunt retort to a question asked by the IEA President Cinda Klickna at the April 14, 2014 forum?  

Moreover, will Quinn stop cutting money for core service areas (health care, education, human services and public safety) if he is re-elected? Will he address the State pensions’ unfunded liability, the faulty pension ramp, and the State’s flawed, unfair tax policy if elected? Will he stop corporate welfare? We all know the answers to these questions.

Should we continue to deceive ourselves in believing Quinn is “the lesser of two evils,” and we have no choice because Rauner is a more repugnant choice (even though he is as objectionable as the Quinn/Vallas dual!)? We should know the answers to these two questions.

So why do we continue to perpetuate a dishonest political system and, thus, destroy our representative democracy? Why aren’t we fighting against political hypocrisy and depravity in Illinois? Why aren’t we challenging the Democratic/Republican One-Party Money System, this fraudulence that continues to compel public employee unions to donate, and to waste, large sums of union membership’s money in order to compete in the State’s plutocratic circus of corruption? Do you remember the recent Dillard fiasco that cost four million dollars?

If we vote for Quinn and he is re-elected, he will emphatically sign the next pension theft reform bill that will certainly impair and diminish public employees' pensions. He will do this with the same glee and with the acquiescence or mutual assent of our beleaguered union leadership to alter retirees’ and public employees’ contractual rights and benefits (even though there are thousands of non-union retirees!).

Furthermore, Madigan and Quinn will shift the State’s contributions to local school districts, thus, neutralizing teachers’ collective bargaining rights (again) because most school districts will not have enough money to pay for anything except teachers’ retirement plans, and cash-strapped districts will not be able to pay retirement contributions at all without raising property taxes. (Don't forget Quinn signed union-backed Senate Bill 7 which boasts anti-union attacks on collective bargaining, tenure, and teacher evaluation, to name just a few).

If we vote for Rauner and he is re-elected, it is alleged he will also destroy collective bargaining rights for teachers; he will sign into law a hybrid 401 (k) plan for (new?) teachers (if Madigan approves!); he will promote merit pay for teachers, create more charter schools, and rollback the State income tax… 

Moreover, will Rauner modernize the state’s antiquated, unfair tax policy and, thus, address the state’s structural deficit? Will he increase contributions to core services? Does he have a plan to address the State pensions’ unfunded liability and faulty pension ramp?  Like Quinn, he has no plans.

When Rauner reiterates his platitude, “We need to make the economy grow in Illinois,” he means more Edge Tax Credits and other lucrative tax breaks and loopholes for businesses, more allocation of taxable income for corporations, and more corporate use of offshore tax havens for himself and his billionaire and millionaire associates...

What is evident is that both candidates care less about working-class people they are supposed to represent; both candidates care less about solving the state’s most important problems. 

Here's a metaphor to ponder:

There are three legs of the sturdy chair we call the Teachers Retirement System of Illinois. Each leg is considerably important for the stability of the Teachers Retirement System.  Investments and returns comprise its first leg; teachers’ contributions secure its second leg; the State’s “normal” contributions support its third leg.

Quinn or Rauner will weaken the stability (or legs) of the Teachers Retirement System. We cannot allow another election between two awful candidates like Quinn and Rauner four years from now. The unions’ leadership, and their membership, must prevent this catastrophe from ever happening again.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Chicago Teachers Union to be asked to Endorse Pat Quinn by George N. Schmidt/ We Need a Fighting Opposition by Fred Klonsky

Chicago Teachers Union to be asked to Endorse Pat Quinn by George N. Schmidt 
“At Wednesday's House of Delegates meeting, the Chicago Teachers Union will be asked to once again endorse Pat Quinn for governor. In 2010, I gave the speech that helped us get the votes in the House of Delegates for the Quinn endorsement. This time I will oppose it for reasons just about everyone knows. 

“It's time for all of us to end these abusive political relationships with sleazy Democrats just because someone once again is playing Big Bad Wolf with the Republican candidate. Everyone should remember the civics and constitutional law lessons we teach our kids. 

“There are three branches of government, and if our 'friends' are supposedly running the Illinois House and Senate, then having a reactionary Governor Bruce Rauner will not destroy either our interests or Illinois. Big Bad Wolf stories have got to end, just as Lesser Evilism needs to be challenged. Otherwise, we continue to get frauds like 'Vallas/Quinn'" (George N. Schmidt, Editor of Substance News). 

We Need a Fighting Opposition” by Fred Klonsky

“I believe that the state union's leaders have created an anti-Rauner panic-machine. That panic-machine has made us quiet servants of the Madigan and Quinn anti-labor Party. Falling for the panic-machine is not only a waste of time. It is counter-productive.

“In spite of Pat Quinn running a lousy campaign, even if it were run better, our leadership wants uncritical support for an anti-labor governor. Quinn has the worst labor record of any governor in 50 years. Yet this record goes un-criticized because any criticism of Quinn helps Rauner. And Rauner is Satan. This line of illogical reasoning is nonsense.

“The problem, as I see it, is that when there is a crisis, we go missing. There is a crisis in the state, and rather than see it as an opportunity to build a fighting opposition, we argue what those who have created the crisis argue: ‘Vote Quinn.’ Stick with those who screwed us? That's the leadership's vision. How can that possibly be ours?

“I am asked by people, ‘What are we to do on Election Day?’ That's the wrong question to ask. Voting takes a few minutes. The real issue is what we are going to do before and after the election. I believe something new must be built. We must create a new political landscape, as Karen Lewis says, both electorally and in our union. 

“Did you know that 300 IEA RA delegate seats go unfilled every year? It will take time and we may not convince everybody right away, but we need to fill those seats with people who believe in a fighting union. And win a few hundred more. This can be done.

“I talked to the newly-elected president of the Massachusetts Education Association this summer at the NEA RA, and that is exactly what they did and won. Progressive, active IEA members need to help fill those empty delegate slots and work with other actives in other locals to do the same. If we believe that Klickna and that bunch are misleaders (and I do), than what I tell members is that we need to replace them” (Fred Klonsky, Blogger and Activist).

Friday, August 29, 2014

Patrick Quinn and Bruce Rauner: just a few quotations and commentary from the IEA forum held on April 14, 2014

For your perusal:   here are a few interesting excerpts from the IEA debate on April 14, 2014 and my [bracketed] informal thoughts:

Quinn: “My mom worked for 33 years at a middle school [as a para-professional], a public school in Illinois. Our family believes in public education.” [However, I (Governor Quinn) also believe in stealing money public employees have earned for retirement so I can continue to give exorbitant tax breaks to wealthy, extortionate corporations that support me, and so I can also continue to ignore the state’s seriously-flawed revenue structure and pension debt problems]. 

Quinn: “I believe in investing in public schools… With the help of the IEA, I was elected in 2010.” [Despite the fact that I have severely cut the budget for public education while serving as governor, the IEA and other unions will support me unconditionally in 2014 since Dillard lost!].   

Quinn: “I believe in making sure that our teachers have a properly-funded pension as governor. I’m the first governor in a very long time to pay every year the proper amount of money into the pension fund.” [Though I have borrowed money to fund the system, I have also shorted TRS (its actuarial requirement) over $3 billion; thus, the state’s debt service continues to grow. Moreover, even though I did not uphold Article XIII, Section 5 (Pension and Retirement Rights) of the Illinois Constitution (after all, why should I?), ‘I didn’t create the (pension) problem. But I’m here to solve it. I know that I was put on earth to get this done,’ and I got it done! Of course, if I have to do it again, I will despite union funding. You can bet on it!].

Quinn: “I made a decision [to sign Senate Bill 1], and we’ll let the courts decide whether it was the right decision or not… We’ll accept whatever decision [the Illinois Supreme Court] makes. If that particular law is not upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court, we’ll go back and work with you [the IEA and other union leadership] on a law that will be upheld.” 

[Though it did not matter to me in December last year whether I upheld my oath of office and challenged Article XIII, Section 5 of the Illinois Constitution, I am looking forward to signing another bill (perhaps just like Senate Bill 2404) into law with the approval of the Illinois General Assembly and the IEA and other unions of the coalition, so I, the General Assembly and the unions can legally diminish and impair both the retirees’ and current teachers’ constitutional rights and benefits, via another faulty attempt at consideration].

For a more developed and formal response than the short commentary I provided here, please review: Constitutional Issues Concerning Senate Bill 2404; please also review: Beware of the Trojan Horse that [Was] SB 2404 and the Concept of “Consideration”in Illinois Senate Bill 1.
Rauner: “You [teachers] are the most important profession in our society.” [And that is why I want to put all of you in a 401(K) so my vulture capitalist friends and I can make even more money off of your pension earnings (like I did in the past). Who cares if you are not eligible for Social Security benefits, or that a defined-contribution savings plan shifts all of the responsibilities and all of the risk from the State to you and; thus, your benefits are not guaranteed for life? After all, you should have control of your insignificant investments even though you’ll run out of money in a few years after your retirement; that’s if you’re lucky]!

For a more developed and formal response than the short commentary I provided here, please review: Defined-Benefit Pension Plan v. Defined-Contribution Savings Plan. 

Rauner: “After my parents and grandparents, the number one person in my life… was my third-grade teacher… I think about her all the time, [especially when I am making a disproportionate amount of money as a billionaire, private equity businessman and venture capitalist]. 

Rauner: “Quinn has broken his promise to you [public employees]… Years ago he said he would not change your pension, and he did! Years ago he said, ‘I will treat education funding as the top priority.’ What did he do? He cut education funding when he did not have to… We are a wealthy state. We’re 49th of 50 states in support for education… I am the one political candidate… who does not want to change the deal [a cavalier expression for constitutional contract?] for existing retirees or the existing accrued benefits in the pensions… I want to create a second pension plan in addition to (‘on top of’) the existing pension plan.” 

For a more developed and formal response, please review: The Hybrid Pension Plan as an Alternative to HB 5754 and Four Important Issues.

A Question Klickna had asked Quinn and Rauner: “Do you support shifting the employer’s contributions to our retirement accounts from the State to the local districts?”

Quinn: “No, not right now, [but if I am re-elected, then I mean, yes].” 
Rauner: “No.”
For a more developed and formal response, please review: Pension Cost Shift.

To quote a dear insightful friend and indefatigable activist: 

“I will not join the over-the-top Rauner panic instigated by union leaders who spent four million dollars on ALEC's chairman [Kirk Dillard]…  Not one word of criticism of Quinn, the most anti-labor governor in 50 years? Tons of speculation about Rauner, but not a word about what the next four years of Quinn might look like? 

“…If you feel compelled to vote for that pension thief, go to it. But [do not] suggest it is an obvious political act, as if those of us who view it differently are just too blind or stupid to get it is to put it bluntly: total bullshit… 

“[Indeed], voting takes a few minutes. Vote or don't vote as you wish. The differences are small and each is worse depending on the issue. What matters is what we build before and after… (Fred Klonsky).

I hope you have clicked on the links that I have provided for you. They offer a more developed and appropriate response than the short commentary I provided here.

Finally, Fred is right. We should start now and “build” a progressive base for a candidate that truly represents the working class. It is unfortunate our unions did not support such a candidate several months ago. As the author and brilliant activist Chris Hedges once stated: “Unions, organizations formerly steeped in the doctrine of class struggle and filled with those who sought broad social and political rights for the working class, have been transformed into domesticated partners of the capitalist class. They have been reduced to simple bartering tools.” Of course, Hedges had not heard about the Chicago Teachers’ Union at that time.

All Quotations are from the following link:    
Bruce Rauner and Gov. Quinn Face Off in First Debate