Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dick Ingram (Stockholm Syndrome) by John Dillon



Stockholm Syndrome was first coined by Dr. Nils Bejerot, a medical researcher working in areas of patient addiction and a psychiatric consultant to the police in Stockholm, Sweden. In fact, the term originates from a failed 1973 bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, when several would-be robbers kept a number of bank employees hostage, only to release them from the vault some five days later. After release, the captives (one man and several women) described positive feelings for the robbers and, surprisingly, disdain for the police who would have been their rescuers.

The term has come to mean an amalgam of psychological responses to being held captive or hostage; indeed, it has been used to justify the strange and often erratic behaviors of seemingly normal people: Mary McElroy (1933), Patti Hearst (1974), Elizabeth Smart (2010), and... In some cases of the psychological abnormality, the need to identify with the assailant is so overwhelming that the victim actually seeks solutions for and provides assistance to the aggressor.

Once again, after a period of only a few months (since April 2012), Dick Ingram felt compelled to enter the political/corporate fray to suggest cutting benefits as a cost savings for the State of Illinois’ fiscal budgetary woes. In an interview with Crain’s, Ingram is quoted as saying, “Look at every other state that’s done pension reform – what have they done? They’ve changed the COLA because that’s where the cost is” (Marek, Lynne, “Head of teacher pension fund says state will need to cut COLAs”).  

Crain’s article also described Ingram’s remarks as strongly suggesting “that cuts in cost of living benefits are inevitable for more than 360,000 teachers and retirees outside of Chicago” (Marek). Foes to defined-benefit programs seized upon the new hypothesis by Ingram immediately.

Just as in April, leaders of the Chicago business consortium responsible for the earlier attempts to cut benefits via SB 512 (May 2011) and the latest, proposed attempt via SB 1673 (May 2012) were quick to embrace Ingram’s suggestions as a positive response and affirmation of their own position.

In Springfield, Ingram’s comments gave continued sustenance to SB 1673, a bill that would cut benefits in the guise of coercive choices for the public sector employees. Tyrone Fahner, head of the corporate group Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, reacted favorably. Fahner agreed with the idea that more should be done to cut cost-of-living benefits: “There is not a single proposal that does anything to recognize that the COLAs are the largest and biggest driver affecting the viability of the pension, Fahner said in an interview” (Marek).

In fact, it was Fahner who echoed Ingram’s earlier announcements in April at a forum at Loyola University provided by the Better Government Association that “even the head of the TRS recognizes its insolvency,” after Ingram had projected the TRS fund’s inability to pay out benefits for very much longer in his new darker vision of retirement for teachers.
Let’s not forget that corporate leaders and anti-pension legislators were also delighted to use Ingram’s statements a month before the Loyola program regarding the “new reality” and the possibility that a “funded retirement was in itself a benefit.”
In defense, earlier as now, Ingram had made it clear that he was just spinning intellectual considerations, not really offering or promoting affirmations of the proposed cuts in actives’ and retirees’ benefits, cuts vehemently opposed by all five public sector unions (and, hopefully, their leadership). Likewise, he again issued a memo to the TRS Board in which he rationalized his comments as never having advocated or having proposed a change in the COLA for TRS members. In fact, Ingram goes on to note that he could not “propose” such an item because it was already part of a bill being considered (SB 1673) and, therefore, had already been proposed…

It’s not like this hasn’t happened before with Ingram. In fact, Ingram’s comments happen over and over again…  In an editorial in the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday, April 10, 2012, Ingram stated clearly: “Neither I nor Teachers Retirement System is proposing any changes in member benefits, especially a reduction in the current annual cost-of-living adjustment…It is not our role at TRS to suggest a solution to this problem.”
Four paragraphs later, Ingram once again warns that he has told his board significant changes must occur in order to avoid insolvency, and these changes need come from newly generated revenue sources. For the media, he has “outlined possible areas where lawmakers may look for a solution. There are only a few options available and none is very pleasant to discuss – changes in the cost-of-living adjustment, in member contributions, in retirement age, and in the benefit formula as well as increased revenues through taxes” (Teacher Benefits. Voice of the People: Chicago Tribune. 10 April 2012).
A recently drafted letter (October 11, 2012) by President Dan Montgomery of the Illinois Federation of Teachers declares Ingram unfit as Executive Director of TRS. Perhaps Dan Montgomery remembers Ingram’s earlier blunders and fumbling attempts to recover, but it is clear that IFT leadership has had quite enough.
"Mr. Ingram may think he can mislead the members of the TRS Board of Trustees into believing that his remarks do not violate their fiduciary responsibility or their own resolutions regarding TRS advocacy. We have more faith in the board members than that. Mr. Ingram would like the public and other unions to believe his comments are merely an intellectual exercise and not meant to promote his own preferred solutions to the pension crisis… The Teachers Retirement System must work for its members, not the politicians, corporate executives, or newspapers its leaders may be bullied by… He should resign from his position as TRS executive director” (IFT Calls on TRS Executive Director to Resign).

“Once again we have a problem with TRS Executive Director Dick Ingram”: http://teacherpoetmusicianglenbrown.blogspot.com/2012/10/once-again-we-have-problem-with-trs.html


COLA (from the National Association of State Retirement Administrators): http://teacherpoetmusicianglenbrown.blogspot.com/2012/08/costofliving-adjustments-cola-from.html
 

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