Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Update on Pension Reform Lawsuits Against the State of Illinois


  1. Back in 2010, I said that there would be a pension reform law, unfair and unconstitutional though it may be. The pressure to find an easy out would simply become inexorable. And lo and behold, a bill passed - in less than a day, which I also predicted. Batting 1.000 so far, let me prognosticate a bit further: We will win on the circuit level (indeed, the law is clearly unconstitutional and the judge will have to rule in our favor) but we will lose at the Supreme Court level. Given that the General Assembly would not simply give up and start to figure out how to collect $100 billion dollars in tax revenue if the law was thrown out, the tacit understanding would be that one of two things would happen. Either they will come back time and again until they have a law that does meet constitutional muster (for example,by taking away retiree health insurance unless retirees agree to the pension cuts) or simply begin working to eliminate the pension protection clause in its entirety, which would have popular support, or more support than raising $100 billion dollars in revenue from 12 million people, at any rate. Given that they are the final arbiter here and cannot possibly want to be tagged with the responsibility for such a painful political outcome as re-opening this hornet nest, it is clear to me Illinois Supreme Court will take the path of least resistance. If I am wrong and Illinois Supreme Court does rule this bill unconstitutional, the result will simply be more attempts to cut pension benefits, and not to raise revenue. I only pray that in its closing days, Obama's Administration finds some way to help us with a back door bailout of some type. (During the financial crisis of 2008, many such things happened often overnight.) Otherwise, I'm planning on pension 30-40% less. That's life. It's often unfair. The one upside will be I won't have hear how overly generous my pension is anymore.

    1. Dear Richard,
      Read my previous post's commentary for a more optimistic appeal. If you're correct, perhaps a non-violent revolution is our united response.

    2. Speaking strictly from a "tactical" perspective, the use of "non-violent" was uncalled for.

    3. Dear Sig,
      Considering my viewpoint on gun control, I had to avoid any possible ambiguity and vagueness.

  2. Well, Glen, I'm not happy about it either, but I tend to see a wide variety of economic and social forces at play. From dismal job growth to the unrelenting pressure of the bond market to a nearly unremitting ignorance of how pension work, it all simply is too much to overcome.

    1. Bill Moyers: “The most encouraging sign is that 71 percent of the public believe the system is profoundly corrupted by the power of money. Ninety-six percent of the people believe it’s ‘important’ that we reduce the influence of money. Yet 91 percent think it’s ‘not likely’ that its influence will be lessened. Think about that: People know what’s right to do yet don’t think it can or will be done. When the public loses faith in democracy’s ability to solve the problems it has created for itself, the game’s almost over. And I think we are this close to losing democracy to the mercenary class.

      “There are people fighting back—that’s encouraging. Bill de Blasio’s victory in New York came about because long years of work by community organizers and advocates laid the groundwork for fighting back against the policies that rolled out the hospitality mat for billionaires and plutocrats while increasing the number of poor people.

      “What today’s activists—the low-wage workers fighting Walmart, the immigrant rights activists, the Moral Monday activists in North Carolina, those fast-food workers who have stirred admiration and collegiality among serfs at large, and many more—have in common is a conviction once expressed by Robert La Follette: ‘Democracy is a life, and requires daily struggle.’ If it weren’t for them, I would despair. There’s a scene in Conrad’s The Secret Agent when the anarchist grows despondent over whether even the detonation of a bomb might arouse Londoners: ‘What if nothing could move them?’ he asks. It’s the people who are doing the nonviolent organizing at the grassroots that make me think there’s still hope.”

    2. Dear Richard,

      It is not "too much to overcome" unless we do nothing.

      Until we do something about today’s corrupt state politics that perpetuate an unethical “winner-take-all” economy for wealthy egomaniacs at the expense of everyone else, we will remain victims of both Republican and Democratic legislators who align their interests with Money and who pass laws that sustain their political opportunism and concentrated economic privilege and power.

      Until we do something about today’s deregulation and tax reductions for the wealthy minority that are the result of organized political action by and in support of the wealthy sector, we will remain victims of insidious financial reforms (like breaking a constitutional contract with public employees) that will not resolve the deficit problems but accommodate and reinforce the enormous inequality of organizational resources of corporate self-seekers.

      Until we do something about today’s political and economic tyranny and the lack of accountability for destroying a representative democracy and a just economy, we will remain victims of Super PACs and their vast resources of money and influence committed to reforming the rules and policies that will adversely affect the lives of the middle class and disenfranchised.

      Until we do something about this polarization between the rich and the rest of us that protracts corrupt policy-making for “special-interests” patrons, where donations create obligations, allegiances and reciprocities, we will remain victims.

      And what should we say about the fact that unions are also "special interest" groups with lobbyists who have to compete like jockeys on a filthy "fixed" race track that is impossible to win because the legislative game is rigged by the highest bidder? What are we going to do about our quiet indifference and acquiescence that sustain this politically-bankrupt state of affairs?

      “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. The social demands of unions early in the twentieth century that gave the working class weekends off, the right to strike, the eight-hour day, and Social Security have been abandoned” (Chris Hedges).

      Until we do something about our slowly weakening unions that continue to play this corrupt game of politics, thereby supporting either the Republican and Democratic parties which are one and the same “Money Party” corrupted by briberies (so-called campaign funding) made legal, we will remain victims.

      “[Moreover, until we do something about House Speaker Michael] Madigan, [who] controls far more than just half of one of the three branches of Illinois government [and who] holds a second job as the chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois [and controls all legislation in Illinois], a third as the boss of Chicago’s 13th Ward, and a fourth as a name partner and the chief rainmaker of Madigan & Getzendanner, (Together, they make up what one former Cook County elected official calls ‘the Madigan Political Industrial Complex),’” we will remain victims of complicity.