Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Regarding a Town Meeting Sponsored by Senator Michael Connelly and Representative Grant Wehrli on June 23rd


“… [Most politicians] lie, cheat, and cut ethical corners quite often when [they] think [they] can get away with it, and then [they] use [pseudo] moral thinking to manage [their] reputations and justify [themselves] to others. [They] believe [their] own post hoc reasoning so thoroughly that [they] end up self-righteously convinced of [their] own virtue… Yes, [they] are often selfish and a great deal of [their] moral [and] political behavior can be understood as thinly-veiled ways of pursuing self-interest...” (Jonathan Haidt, Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business)

Last night, John Dillon, David Madsen, Todd Mertz, and I attended a town hall meeting sponsored by Senator Michael Connelly (a politician since 2009) and Representative Grant Wehrli (a politician since January 2015) in Naperville.

It is true most politicians do not concern themselves with the examination of evidence, the real causes of the state’s financial problems, and the best solutions for crucial issues. They are concerned about their party’s agenda, their reputation and re-election, and maintaining their power and influence in their communities. To accomplish this, they like to use simple power-point slides that deliberately omit significant causal explanations for the state’s lack of revenue and pension debt that were caused by incompetent, irresponsible and corrupt politicians.

They like to cast the issue of teacher pensions, for instance, as an object of their bias to elicit mindless, hair-trigger responses from their supporters. They will not talk about how politicians have stolen public employees’ pension money over the decades to pay for the state’s needed services. They will not talk about the faulty back-loaded pension ramp that has increased the service debt to eighteen percent of the state’s budget.

Most politicians do not provide relevant and accurate scrutiny of the issues at a town meeting because they prefer to use fallacious reasoning when alluding to their favorite scapegoat. They prefer to denigrate teachers’ pensions and cost-of living-adjustments instead through use of biased selected instances that falsely extrapolate a particular pension amount of one member to all group members. But they do make it quite evident to their audience that the State of Illinois should not have upheld its constitutional contract with public employees through their not-so-subtle asides about the recent Illinois Supreme Court Ruling on May 8, however.

Indeed, most politicians have no qualms about hurting the lives of people who are not responsible for the state’s lack of revenue and pension debt because most politicians do not view their own conduct from a standpoint of values and interests of those they hurt. They do not want to talk about legal and moral ways to increase the state’s revenue. We must have reform first before we restructure revenue,” they tell us.

Undoubtedly, they prefer to isolate and offer up the middle-class for hardship and create a dispossession by way of intentionally-diminishing laws when they tell us they support Governor Bruce Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda: a plan that advocates violating the Illinois Constitution once again through pension reform, a plan that creates so-called “empowerment zones” to diminish collective bargaining rights under the guise of “giving local communities a voice,” a plan that will allow municipalities to file for bankruptcy, a plan that will prohibit only labor organizations from making contributions to campaigns of office holders and ban union agency and fair share fees, a plan that will cut unemployment compensation and benefits for injured workers, a plan that will take six and one-half years to reach a $10 minimum wage for millions of workers while perpetuating special exceptions and windfalls for wealthy benefactors...

Most politicians do not care about what is legally and morally right. They do not care about obligations to others – about the fair distribution of the tax burden, about constitutional guarantees, about demanding more for public employees, retirees, and union workers than they are willing to demand for themselves and their wealthy accomplices. Unfortunately, this is also the case in Naperville.

For more on this dog and pony show, click here for John Dillon’s perspective. 


  1. I was at the meeting. The first thirty minutes, Representative Wehrli and Senator Connelly used a slideshow devoted to Governor Rauner and his Turnaround Agenda which they made clear they supported. They talked about how wonderful he is, how courageous, and how accessible he is to his constituents. In the Q & A portion, a constituent told of attending a gathering where constituents waited to tell the governor how his policies hurt them. He told of how Governor Rauner avoided them by driving around the back of the venue where he would see wealthy donors and entering at the rear entrance. It was an example of the governor NOT being accessible to ordinary people. Now both Representative Wehrli and Senator Connelly defensively when confronted with the truth, claimed they did not speak for Governor Rauner, when to all appearances that was what they were exactly there to do...speak for Rauner.

  2. Other Comments from Patricia Herrmann:

    "The whole meeting was a Rauner lovefest. The enemy was Madigan and the strategy was Chicago v. Downstate. It was clear [Connelly and Wehrli] were slippery. It [also] looked like an initiative to back Rauner's possible shutdown of the state."

  3. Rather than being reactive let's be proactive and take the legislators to court for harassment and bullying because that's what you're doing to the senior citizens in the state of Illinois court we go. Today

  4. At meetings such as this there is a need to have at least one constituent give a concrete example of a real-life situation that proves the opposite of their propagandized versions of reality.
    One person needs to tell the king's underlings that they and the king have no clothes.
    Even the king's present followers will eventually feel naked.

  5. Connelly and Wehrli, et al. should read the 38-page Illinois Supreme Court Decision on May 8th before promoting Rauner’s so-called turn-around agenda:

    “…The United States Supreme Court has made clear that the United States Constitution ‘bar[s] Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole [citations].’ (Internal quotation marks omitted.) United States v. Winstar Corp., 518 U.S. 839, 883 (1996).

    “Through Public Act 98-599 [SB 1], however, the General Assembly addressed the financial challenges facing our State by doing just that. It made no effort to distribute the burdens evenly among Illinoisans. It did not even attempt to distribute the burdens evenly among those with whom it has contractual relationships...”

  6. No dog-&-pony show at Reps. Fine & Gabel's (Dems both) Town Hall. Just a very clear explanation of the situation, & a visual consisting of a piece of paper given to the legislators by the gubernatorial staff: one side, everything that Rauner wants before he'll even discuss the budget (on the right side).
    Several of us attended, and we came away feeling knowledgeable, & that our reps. are going to fight for what's right (& constitutional).

    1. Here's a perspective according to Jonathan Haidt:

      "People don’t adopt their ideologies at random, or by soaking up whatever ideas are around them. People whose genes gave them brains that get pleasure from novelty, variety, and diversity, while simultaneously being less sensitive to signs of threat, are predisposed (but not predestined) to become liberals. They tend to develop certain ‘characteristic adaptations’ and ‘life narratives’ that make them resonate—unconsciously and intuitively—with the grand narratives told by political movements on the left (such as the liberal progress narrative).

      "People whose genes give them brains with the opposite settings are predisposed, for the same reasons, to resonate with the grand narratives of the right (such as the Reagan narrative). Once people join a political team, they get ensnared in its moral matrix. They see confirmation of their grand narrative everywhere, and it’s difficult—perhaps impossible—to convince them that they are wrong if you argue with them from outside of their [moral] matrix…"