Monday, April 8, 2013

Liars, Cheats and Thieves

“…Reputation depend[s] more on what we conceal than what we reveal… Make sure someone else is blamed. A convenient scapegoat should always be kept around…” (Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power, 201).

We might assume all Illinois legislators would not want to prove their contracts are worthless, especially when the “most basic purposes of the impairment [of the pension] clause [Article XIII, Section 5] as well as notions of fairness that transcend the clause itself, point to a simple constitutional principle: government must keep its word” (Laurence H. Tribe, American Constitutional Law).

There are those among us, however, political opportunists like Biss, Harmon, Connelly, J. Cullerton, Cross, Nekritz, Senger, Durkin, Jones, M. Davis, K. Burke, Bellock, Mussman, Sandack, Schmitz, T. Morrison, Ives, Sosnowski, Willis, Dillard, Radogno, Demmer, Madigan and others who want to abandon “the fundamental principle that the rules of the game for contracting parties are not to be changed midstream… This is especially hard to comprehend when public employees have diligently and faithfully paid their contributions while their government employers have failed to pay their required share, but not for some Illinois legislators who need a scapegoat to cover up their own mendacious thievery over the decades.

“Indeed, for decades, states have treated pension systems as a credit card to pay for government services and avoid tax increases or service cuts... For lawmakers, it is simply politically more palatable to unilaterally cut pension benefits for public employees and retirees than to raise taxes, cut services, or both…” (Eric M. Madiar (2012). Public Pension Benefits Under Siege: Does State Law Facilitate or Block Recent Efforts to Cut the Pension Benefits of Public Servants? ABA Journal of Labor & Employment Law, V. 27, no. 2, 179-194).

Had Illinois lawmakers funded the public employees' retirement plans throughout the decades, there would not be a pension debt crisis; however, Illinois lawmakers have consistently failed to make the annual required contributions to the state’s pension systems because they could pay for essential services and their pet projects without raising taxes by simply pilfering money reserved for the public employees’ pension funds. 

Furthermore, state legislators have refused to correctly amortize the pension systems’ unfunded liabilities; thus, they are willing to sabotage the public employees’ retirement plans and the State of Illinois’ future economic solvency through more calculated mismanagement and fiscal irresponsibility.

Without a doubt, past Illinois lawmakers created the state’s fiscal debacle, and many current policymakers are as devious as their predecessors. Many of them choose to jeopardize the public employees’ retirement plans through their so-called pension reform by contesting teachers’ constitutional rights and cutting their benefits, even though revenue and pension debt reforms are the legal and moral solutions.

Instead of protecting public pension rights and benefits, which have a legal basis under Illinois State Law; instead of restructuring the state’s revenue base to pay for the state’s growth in expenditures and its reckless accumulation of debts and obligations, many current policymakers would rather challenge the Illinois constitutional provision (Pension Protection Clause) and diminish (and predictably destroy) the public employees’ defined-benefit pension plan, their health care benefits, and their cost-of-living adjustments.

None of their pension reform bills address the exorbitant pension debt created by past legislators. Thus far, pension reform bills have included raising public employees’ retirement ages, capping earnings for final pension calculations, freezing cost-of-living adjustments from the House of Representatives and forcing public employees (and retirees) to choose between a COLA or uncertain health care benefits from the Senate: “The best deceptions are the ones that seem to give the other person a choice: …victims feel they are in control, but [they] are actually your puppets. Give people options that come out in your favor whichever one they choose. Force them to make choices between the lesser of two evils, both of which serve your purpose. Put them on the horns of a dilemma: they are gored wherever they turn” (Greene, 254).

In Illinois, ethics and laws do not matter to liars and thieves whose political policies are created for the corporate elite. It is important to recognize that insidious attacks on public employees’ pensions are also aligned with the undemocratic, corporate dismantling and closing of public schools for privatization through unaccountable, biased charter and bogus simulated schools. These assaults are concomitant with the dictatorial Race to the Top and unreliable value-added modeling for rating schools and teachers’ effectiveness and students’ learning, and with counter-productive merit-based pay knotted to standardized test scores. These onslaughts are also related to the oppressive stripping of collective bargaining and due process rights, the despotic destruction of public employees’ unions, the propagandized demonization of teachers, and the disparate distribution of wealth through so-called “shared sacrifice.” 

-Glen Brown

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